One could almost say that being a Nerd is itself a kind of religion: We have rituals and observances (conventions, TV show marathons, RPGs) prophets (Gene Roddenberry, Isaac Asimov, Stan Lee) holy scriptures (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse), saints (Bruce Campbell, Joss Whedon, Felicia Day), schisms (Star Wars canon vs. EU, Kirk vs. Picard, Transformers G1 vs. Beast Wars), and relics (Action Comics #1, the Boba Fett with the firing rocket pack) — even apostates and devils (George Lucas, Michael Bay)! And most of all, we have the scorn of non-believers who do not share our views and choose to mock what they don’t understand.
Some nerds, however, have taken the next step and formulated their own singular faiths — complete with their own uniquely nerdy deities. The faiths themselves represent a broad range; some are clearly satirical, some are utterly absurd, others are pseudo-serious, and a few even are completely earnest. Thus, we present a look at eight of the nerdiest theologies in existence.
Please note that TR neither promotes nor condemns any particular religious creed. If descriptions of individuals and organizations who take a skewed, perhaps irreverent stance on religious faith is offensive to you, you might wish to consider skipping this list.
8) The Church of the Last Laugh
Founded in 1979 by Ed Holmes (a.k.a. Bishop Joey), the FCLL came about when Holmes and his friends were pondering the fact that, compared with earlier civilizations, the day we call April Fool’s Day is relatively unimportant and often ignored. Thus, they created the holiday of St. Stupid’s Day and built around it the First Church of the Last Laugh, a parody faith that recognizes stupidity as a human universal, and thus consider it holy. Followers practice Stupid rituals and take The Pledge of Stupid:
I pledge allegiance, to the illusion, and to the pyramid scheme, for which it stands. One species, in denial, with error and excess, by all.
7) The Church of Google
We gotta admit — this one makes a scary amount of sense.
Ontario native Matt MacPherson started the Church of Google based on the concept that Google is as close to a god as we have on Earth: It’s nearly omniscient, close to omnipresent, and potentially immortal. It even answers prayers (in the form of search inquiries)! And the volume of hate mail the Church’s site has received is a testament to how many people see it as a palpable threat to traditional religion (or perhaps simply how many people have no sense of humor).
6) The Cult of Gadget Hackwrench
Currently, the Russian followers of Gadget Hackwrench have no official website, and have released no mission statement, manifesto, or other sort of coherent dogma or creed for the worship of their mechanically-inclined animated goddess from Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers. Quite honestly, the article TR did a while back about these offbeat worshipers pretty much says everything that is known to the general public. Readers who have further interest are welcome to go to Russia and find out for themselves. We’d love to know how that turns out (if anyone ever sees them again, that is).
5) The Church of the Latter-Day Dude (a.k.a. Dudeism)
Yep, somebody started a religion based on Jeff Bridges’ character from The Big Lebowski. That somebody is Oliver Benjamin, a Los Angeles journalist who started the Church in 2005 as essentially a modernized form of Taoism. The Church claims roots in not only the Tao, but Zen Buddhism, the early teachings of Jesus Christ, and Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Epicurus. As one might expect, Dudeism preaches relaxation and passivity in response to the dominant ethic of aggression and conflict. Over 70,000 Dudeist priests have been ordained as of March 2010.
4) The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
2005 saw the birth of another Internet-based faith that’s growing in popularity: The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Oregon State Physics graduate Bobby Henderson wrote an open letter to the Kansas Board of Education concerning the issue of teaching “Intelligent Design” theory in public schools. He argued that if said theory was to be taught, then by their logic his “theory” of creation at the hands of a giant alien entity made of spaghetti and meatballs was equally valid. After all — Intelligent Design doesn’t specify the nature of the Intelligence that directed the creation of the universe, so why not a Flying Spaghetti Monster? Since then, the Church has grown into something of an internet phenomenon and inspired such similar satirical deities as the Invisible Pink Unicorn and the Almighty Purple Llama (though partial credit should go to Carl Sagan’s “Dragon in my Garage” essay) The “Pastafarians”, as they call themselves, are also responsible for the popularity of “Talk Like A Pirate Day.” Pirates are holy to the followers of the FSM, for reasons we don’t have space to explore.
Discordianism is one of the oldest and most well-known religions on this list. It honors the Greek goddess Eris, goddess of strife and discord (a.k.a. Discordia to the Romans, or Kali in the Hindu Pantheon) The modern version was first introduced in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s counterculture classic The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and codified as a religion by Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley — known to the Discordian community as Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst. As to what Discordianism truly is/means, there is no better description than this paragraph from the Encyclopedia Dramatica:
Discordianism is best described as a religion, apparently. Invented by a Star Trek nerd and two filthy hippies last Thursday when they got bored playing imaginary video games, it is, to nobody’s surprise, almost 100% bona fide bullshit, and just like most bullshit fucking religions, it has a bunch of retards who actually take it seriously.
The jury’s still out concerning how serious the Discordian religion actually is — perhaps it’s best to think of it as a joke — but an earnest and sincere joke.
How could we have a list of nerd religions without giving the Church of the Jedi their due? This may be the only faith in history that first rose to international prominence as a practical joke. In 2001 an email campaign in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand urged people to write in Jedi as their religion of choice on that year’s census. Well, it worked, and whether the majority of participants were in earnest or jest has ceased to matter — Jediism has been recognized, albeit in some cases reluctantly, as an official religion. In the U.S., there are two established Jedi Churches whose clergy can perform legal weddings.
As far as doctrine goes — think of Eastern Mysticism plus the code of chivalry, though particulars vary from church to church.
1) The Church of the Sub-Genius
The Sub-Genii are the Catholic Church of mock theology. Originating back in 1979 with the publication of The SubGenius Pamphlet #1 by church founder Rev. Ivan Stang (Doug Smith), The Church of the Sub-Genius venerates a Godhead known as J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, the greatest salesman who ever lived, the “Sultan of Slack” and the key doctrinal principal of the Sub-Genii. Slack represents freedom from societal constraints and the stress of ambition (similar to Dudeism, but much earlier). The Church has many traits in common with Discordianism, and they even share some followers — though there is debate concerning which pseudo-faith influenced which.
Beyond its history and influence, the Church of the Sub-Genius deserves its place at the top of this list for its impressive roster of nerd luminaries who count themselves as members or admirers: R. Crumb, Paul Reubens, Frank Zappa, and Warren Ellis all cite the Church as an influence in their work (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse featured several pictures of “Bob” in the background).
As for members: DEVO frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, Penn and Teller’s Penn Jillette, David Byrne of Talking Heads, Robert Anton Wilson (writer of the aforementioned Illuminatus Trilogy), Slackware Linux founder Patrick Volkerding, the great Mojo Nixon and BRUCE EFFING CAMPBELL all count themselves as Disciples of Slack. Many of these notables are also Ministers in the Church.