> "Man is certainly crazy. He could not make a mite, and he makes gods by the dozen." -- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Lord of Montaigne
What a strange topic for a product recommendation list, and yet what strange creatures we are. We do indeed invent gods by the dozen, so let's pour one out for Montaigne, arguably history's first "blogger." Not only do we invent gods and ways to worship them, we even do it for a goof, just to be silly. Even the joke deities tend to get taken seriously over time, which provokes the question: How do religions get rolling, anyway? Apparently, all we need are rumors which become legend, legends which become myths, and then the myth gets a church and a 501(c)(3) tax status.
The pantheon of parody religions is a fascinating one. The Hacker's Dictionary makes reference to "Ha ha only serious," a characteristic of geeks taking an ironic joke and applying it with a grain of truth within. That applies to parody religions: Even the joke ones have a point, which is to hold up a funhouse mirror to everyone's precious, precious beliefs and show them how stupid they are for insisting everyone else take them seriously too. On the other hand, some religions start out as jokes and end up with non-ironic devotees, with practitioners thinking maybe they've stumbled upon the accidental truth this time.
That's the only way we ever arrive at truth, is to stumble on it accidentally.
You see, anything is possible. This is based on our current reigning public smart-ass, John Oliver, who responded to his misadventures with televangelists by creating this religion. Check it out, he actually ticks all the legal boxes for creating a religion by the standards of the US tax code right there, live on stage.
Oliver's OLPE was later disbanded because it was a hysterical joke which goaded people to start taking it seriously. Viewers started sending in donations and gifts. There's a video on that event too, and we're not going to embed it, because while it is hysterical, it's also so NSFW that we can't pollute this site with its presence. Follow the YouTube breadcrumbs and seek ye the truth.
We could have made this whole list out of Bob J.R. Dobbs merch. The Church of the Subgenius is huge, huge, HUGE! They're the only parody religion whose deity appears in the context of both the Linux distro Slackware (named after "slack") and in albums by the Southern California ska-punk band Sublime. That's called reach!
This book is as good an introduction to Subgenius as anything else save their own site. It sounds just like Subgenius teachings: "Make strangeness work for you!" "Jehovah is an alien and still threatens this planet!" "Insane manifesto for correct human behavior!" "A fanatical attack of fanaticism!" By the way, there's a whole movie, Arise! The Subgenius Movie (1992), whose review is waiting for you to discover it over at the maddest movie site on the web, 366 Weird Movies.
The religion is Dudeism, and few religions offer you such a simple way to honor your deity as to wear the very vestment they once sported. Jeff The Dude Lebowski has inspired a whole Generation (X) to emulate his laid back beliefs after they were brought to the public eye in the cult classic The Big Lebowski (1998). And yes, this is the cardigan:
So if you slack through life milking white Russians and listening to Creedence, this is what you need to tie the ol' wardrobe together. There are even Lebowski-fests to help you get your Dude on. Just, you know, don't mistake the cosplay for the identity, because you wouldn't want to fall into the trap of treating objects like people, man.
Here's a refresher course in Lebowskiness:
In the earliest days of the proto-Internet, the pasta deity was already awakened. The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) has been the ultimate manifestation of parody deities, and his devotees - Pastafarians - have made more civil rights headway than most upstart churches. They've fought for the right to wear a colander on your head in your driver's license photo. They've sued for the right to post public religious endorsements. They've forced religious panels to take them seriously.
That's good news, because the FSM, more than any other parody religion, has taken on the important mission of enforcing true religious equality. Even in countries that profess freedom of belief, you have to fight noodle and meatball to get equal time for anything but the One Big Religion in charge. And so the FSM must go on, enlightening all with His Noodly Appendage, until we are all united in the big marinara bowl as recognizing we are all equal, like breadsticks. R'amen!
We have made our way to one of the oldest of the enlightened orders, Discordianism. This belief started with the tome, Principia Discordia, so ancient that its first edition was published via Xerox printer in 1963. Like the Subgenius, Discordianism has deep roots in popular culture. Its Erisian calendar is an accessible mode in the Linux command line program ddate. The last few books of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series references Discordian tropes. It even counted the late Pope Robert Anton Wilson among its followers, as referenced in Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy. And lest you doubt his Pope status, here's the man himself witnessing in a radio interview:
Note that Wilson references the emperor Norton in explaining Discordianism. Joshua Abraham Norton was a guy who hung out in San Francisco in the 1800s, who went around declaring himself an emperor, printing his own currency and issuing decrees and everything. Everybody just went along with him on this, because people will believe any story as long as you tell them it happened in San Francisco. Norton is one of the patron saints of Discordianism, along with several even less corporeal examples such as Bokonon, the mad prophet of the novel Cat's Cradle by papa Kurt Vonnegut. We could go on all day.
While we're mentioning religions sparked by fiction, there is one deity that stands head and tentacles above the rest. There are pages of Cthulhu items listed on Amazon, but this figure is especially well-suited to grace your home shrine. Cthulhu is, of course, the deity created by mad prophet H.P. Lovecraft. We're sure he needs no introduction here, but your humble author has one ready for you anyway in case you need a primer on Lovecraft's writings.
There are almost certainly no non-ironic worshipers of Cthulhu. We think. We hope. Nevertheless, Lovecraft's nightmare embodiment has spawned the Cthulhu Mythos, and repeated references in film, TV, video games, comics, and ten billion Internet memes. Fictional deities and religions are normally exempt from this list because we were supposed to be focusing on parody religions, but Cthulhu is sometimes treated this way for a goof. An actual Cthulhu would find this belittling.
What Have We Learned?
Why do we make up so many religions, anyway? If we really needed religion, shouldn't we just stop at one and settle on it? Well, it turns out that any intelligent life form may develop superstition as an inevitable side effect of being sapient to the point of being able to contemplate its own death. Which explains why nobody is exploring the galaxy right now. Hey, that solves the Fermi Paradox, case closed!
The bottom line is the constant that people are crazy freaks. You can fight against it, try to stand out as Mr. Enlightened Rational and be the killjoy poop of the party, or you can own the crazy and make it your own.
I'm starting a cult, would you like to join?
The Cult of the Temponauts:
Time travel is possible, but once it's invented, history keeps getting realigned so that we never get around to discovering it, pushing the invention date further ahead in history. So our world appears to have random events happening all the time, but it's actually the result of time travelers from the future coming back to change their past (our present) because they had to prevent something different from happening.
Sometimes their timing is too clutch. Remember the 2018 Hawaiian false missile alert? That was one example of the exact point where the timeline forks. Every stupid event in history can be explained this way. Why did we have Hitler? Because he got so sick and tired of assassination attempts that he ambushed the next time traveler and took his time machine, so now you have time-traveling Hitler.
But what about the time the late Stephen Hawking threw a party for time travelers and nobody showed up? Well, time travelers have better things to do than hang out in somebody's apartment in the early 21st century. There are Roman wine-and-boar orgies hosted by Caligula to attend back there! Also, no offense to Stephen Hawking, but the scientist who invents time travel will automatically become the most famous scientist who has ever lived. You have to admit, time travel beats every other scientific feat we've accomplished so far. That outshines Newton, Einstein, Galileo, Feynman, and even the inventor of the fidget spinner. Whoever invents time travel can be sure they'll never be alone again, from all the people from the future stopping in to visit them.
There, you cannot disprove this theology. We can not prove that time travel will never be invented, and literally, everything that happens, including the appearance of disproving the possibility of time travel, can be explained by time travelers coming back to reshape their past (our present) on the fly. The timeline we end up with is just what we get after they're done pruning the history tree.
To become a practicing member of the Cult of the Temponauts, you don't even have to let me know since I'm not in charge. Send a message to the future, in whatever long-term medium you care to use (#temponaut). Instead of praying to invisible deities, pray to the Temponauts in the future to help you pass that exam or win that rugby match. If you didn't get what you wanted, obviously something else even more important had priority.
Why not? They have a lot of time on their hands.