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A parody religion or mock religion is a belief system that challenges the spiritual convictions of others, often through humor, satire, or burlesque (literary ridicule). Often constructed to achieve a specific purpose related to another belief system, a parody religion can be a parody of several religions, sects, gurus, cults, or new religious movements at the same time, or even a parody of no particular religion – instead parodying the concept of religious belief itself. Some parody religions emphasise having fun; the new faith may serve as a convenient excuse for pleasant social interaction among the like-minded.
One approach of parody religions aims to highlight deficiencies in particular pro-religious arguments – following the logic that if a given argument can also be used to support a clear parody, then the original argument is clearly flawed. An example of this is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which parodies the demand for equal time employed by intelligent design and creationism.
Occasionally, a parody religion may offer ordination by mail or on-line at a nominal fee, seeking equal recognition for its clergy/officiants – under freedom of religion provisions, including the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution – to legally solemnise marriages. Parody religions also have sought the same reasonable accommodation legally afforded to mainstream religions, including religious-specific garb or headgear. A U.S. federal court ruled in 2016 that Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster ("Pastafarianism") is not a religion, but Pastafarianism or "The Church of the Latter-Day Dude" (Dudeism) have been accommodated to some extent by a few U.S. states and by some other countries.
Several religions that are considered as parody religions have a number of relatively serious followers who embrace the perceived absurdity of these religions as spiritually significant, a decidedly post-modern approach to religion. For instance, in Discordianism, it can be hard to tell whether even these "serious" followers are not just taking part in an even bigger joke.
List of notable parody religions
Parodies of particular beliefs
The following were created as parodies of particular religious beliefs:
|Eventualism||A satire on Scientology-like religions which appeared in the movie Schizopolis|||
|Invisible Pink Unicorn||A parody of theist definitions of God. It also highlights the arbitrary and unfalsifiable nature of religious belief, in a similar way to Russell's teapot.|||
|Kibology||A humorous Usenet-based satire of religion|||
|Landover Baptist Church||A satiric parody of Fundamentalist Christianity.|||
|Last Thursdayism||A joke version of omphalism that argues that the universe was created last Thursday, created to demonstrate problems with unfalsifiable beliefs, and the variant Next Wednesdayism inspired by John Landis's running movie gag See You Next Wednesday.|||
|Pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster||A parody of intelligent design, creationism, and religion in general, as a modern version of Russell's teapot.|||
|Tarvuism||A spoof religion that British comedians Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper invented for the television show Look Around You that parodied instructional religious videos such as those of Scientologists and Christians.|||
|First Church of the Last Laugh||The spoof religion behind the annual Saint Stupid's Day Parade in San Francisco.|||
The following post-modern religions that may be seen as elaborate parodies of already-existent religions:
|The All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jesters||A social club founded by Peter I of Russia. It often got into controversies for mocking the church.|||
|Bokononism||A fictional religion from Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, which promotes harmless comforting lies called foma. Its principal text, The Books of Bokonon, is a parody of the New Testament. See also the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan.|||
|Church of Euthanasia||The Church of Euthanasia is a "non-profit educational foundation devoted to restoring balance between Humans and the remaining species on Earth." The Church uses sermons, music, culture jamming, publicity stunts and direct action to highlight Earth's unsustainable population. The Church is notorious for its conflicts with Pro-life Christian activists.|||
|Church of the SubGenius||Founded in 1979. Often regarded as a parody of religion in general, with elements of fundamentalist Christianity, Zen, Scientology, new-age cults, pop-psychology, and motivational sales techniques amongst others, it has become a movement in its own right, inspiring several books, art exhibits, rock albums, conventions, and novelty items.|||
|The Cult of Kek||An internet religion associated with 4chan's /pol/, the far-right movement known as the "alt-right", and online supporters of 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump. Adherents satirically worship a cartoon frog called "Pepe" as the reincarnation of the Egyptian deity Kek, a harbinger of chaos and destruction.|||
|Dudeism||A religion based on the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, in which the titular character, also known as "the Dude", is revered as a guru. The adherents consider the religion a modern form of Taoism.|||
|Discordianism||It is based on the book 1965 Principia Discordia. Its principal deity is the goddess of chaos Discordia (Greek Eris).|||
|Dinkoism||Dinkoism is a parody religion that places Dinkan, a comic character from Malayalam Children's magazine Balamangalam, as the one true God and the creator of the Universe. It is very similar to Pastafarianism that worships The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Dinkoism was organized by some independent social welfare groups of Kerala, India as a means to mock blind faith and creatively criticise religious intolerance. It had its origins in the social media. Its principal deity is also Dinkan.|||
|Flying Spaghetti Monster||A parody established in 2005 in Kansas to mock religious teachings in schools.|
|Gadgetology||Founded in Russia around 2010 by Nizhny Novgorod, this religion venerates the cartoon character Gadget Hackwrench from the syndicated Disney animated cartoon series Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. The religion has formed three non-exclusive currents: Traditionalist, Progressivist, and Apocalyptic.|||
|Googlism||A satirical church which advocates naming the search engine Google a god; due to nine perceived similarities between it and the common definitions of what makes a deity.|||
|Igreja Evangélica Pica das Galáxias ("Dick of Galaxies Evangelical Church")||Originated in Brazil, it is a satirical parody of Brazilian evangelical churches. The leader of the "church" is the self-proclaimed Apostle Arnaldo (who had the titles of "pastor" and "bishop" and intends to have the title of "vice-god"). Arnaldo is a former member of the Reborn in Christ Church who left the religious organization due to allegations of money laundering against the church's leadership and created his own "church" on YouTube as a form of humorous criticism of evangelical churches in Brazil. In May 2021, his YouTube channel had 964,000 subscribers. On May 27, 2018, Arnaldo was interviewed by Danilo Gentili on the TV show The Noite com Danilo Gentili on SBT.|||
|Iglesia Maradoniana ("Church of Maradona")||It was formed by an Argentine group of fans of the late association football player Diego Armando Maradona. The adherents baptize themselves by slapping a football, which is a reference to the 1986 "Hand of God" goal.|||
|Jediism||In 2001 following an Internet campaign, the fictional Star Wars "religion" of the Jedi became a parody religion in several Commonwealth countries as 1.5% of the New Zealand, 0.4% of the Australia and 0.7% of the UK population stated their religion as Jedi in the official census (see Jedi census).|||
|Kopimism||An internet-based religion based on the belief that file sharing is a sacred virtue which must remain protected. It was given recognition by the Swedish government in January 2012. It was founded by a philosophy student, Isak Gerson.|||
|Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption||A religious movement for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to satirize prosperity theology and the way the IRS deals with churches.|||
|Matrixism, or The Path of the One||A new religious movement inspired by the 1999 movie The Matrix. It appeared online in 2004. The adherents claim belief in a multilayered subjective reality and await the return of their prophet, the One.|||
|Silinism||The official religion of the micronation of the Aerican Empire, which holds a giant penguin named Forsteri as its central figure.|||
|Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence||A drag performance group that lampoons religion to raise awareness for mostly LGBT causes.|||
|United Church of Bacon||Founded in 2010 in Las Vegas to protest discrimination against nonbelievers, it had 25,000 members in 2020.|||
|Zone Theory||A parody of religion and self-help books by comedy duo Tim & Eric.|||
Usage by atheist commentators
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.— Stephen F. Roberts
Many atheists, including Richard Dawkins, use parody religions such as those of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn – as well as ancient gods like Zeus and Thor – as modern versions of Russell's teapot to argue that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the atheist.
Dawkins also created a parody of the criticism of atheism, coining the term athorism, or the firm belief that the Norse deity Thor does not exist. The intention is to emphasize that atheism is not a form of religious creed, but merely denial of specific beliefs. A common challenge against atheism is the idea that atheism is itself a form of "faith", a belief without proof. The theist might say "No one can prove that God does not exist, therefore an atheist is exercising faith by asserting that there is no God." Dawkins argues that by replacing the word "God" with "Thor" one should see that the assertion is fallacious. The burden of proof, he claims, rests upon the believer in the supernatural, not upon the non-believer who considers such things unlikely. Athorism is an attempt to illustrate through absurdity that there is no logical difference between disbelieving particular religions.
Notes and references
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- "David Kantor, Michael Hampton". June 29, 2014 – via NYTimes.com.
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- "Pastafarians: Finding God on world wide web". The Times of India. 28 May 2010. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
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- Dumas, D (4 September 2010). "Look Around You: Science Video Reductio ad Absurdum". Wired (magazine). Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Thill, Scott (17 January 2009). "Education Spoof Look Around You Schools Adult Swim". Wired (magazine). Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "St. Stupid's Day Parade mocks economic and religious institutions". 1 March 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Farquhar, Michael (2014). Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia. Random House Trade Paperbacks. pp. 38–. ISBN 978-0-8129-7905-3.
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- Peter Knight (2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
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- Neiwert, David (May 8, 2017). "What the Kek: Explaining the Alt-Right 'Deity' Behind Their 'Meme Magic'". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
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- "The man who founded a religion based on 'The Big Lebowski'". CNN. 20 March 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Christopher Penczak (2006). The Mystic Foundation: Understanding and Exploring the Magical Universe. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-7387-0979-6. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- KC Archana (5 April 2016). "What is Dinkoism? Why are many Keralites worshipping a superhero mouse?". India Today. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019.
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- "Googlism: The Reformed Church of Google". Retrieved 2019-10-19.
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- "Official page". Apóstolo Arnaldo (in Portuguese). Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "Bispo Arnaldo arrebanha 'fiéis' com boca suja, cerveja e crítica a igrejas". storia.me (in Portuguese). Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "Entrevista com Bispo Arnaldo | The Noite (27/03/18)". YouTube. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "Igreja Evangélica Pica das Galáxias - YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "Diego Maradona's 48th birthday celebrated by Church of Maradona". The Telegraph. London. 30 October 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Jedi 'religion' grows in Australia". BBC News. 27 August 2002. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
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- "No place for Jedi in survey". The Guardian. 14 February 2003. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Sweden recognises new file-sharing religion Kopimism". BBC News. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "John Oliver's Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption Church". www.ourladyofperpetualexemption.com.
- Kreps, Daniel (September 14, 2015). "John Oliver Shuts Down Fake Church Over Unsolicited Semen". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
- George D. Chryssides (2011). Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-8108-6194-7. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "The Aerican Empire". www.aericanempire.com.
- Ivan (April 15, 2017), "10 Micro Nations You Didn't Know Existed", Gazette Review, retrieved 2019-03-04
- Fitzsimmons, Tim (April 20, 2019), "Drag troupe 'The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence' mark 40 years of 'dragtivism'", NBC News, retrieved April 26, 2019
- Pellot, Brian (July 31, 2014), "United Church of Bacon: May the Lard be with you", Charlotte Observer, Religion News Service, retrieved 2020-07-22
- Brown, Andrea (June 22, 2020), "Need some scratch? Pig out on $5 bacon-scented lottery tix", HeraldNet, retrieved 2020-07-22
- Collins, Sean T (July 7, 2015), "Going Weird: An Interview With Tim & Eric About Their New Cult Satire 'Zone Theory'", New York Observer, retrieved 2019-03-04
- Dianna Narciso. Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism. p. 6. ISBN 1-932560-74-2.
- Dawkins, Richard (2006). "Chapter 2: The God Hypothesis". The God Delusion. London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-05548-9.
- Richard, Dawkins. "Let's Hope It's A Lasting Vogue". On Faith. Newsweek. Retrieved 2016-02-20.