Do-it-yourself religions that were created as parodies of established faiths are taking on a life of their own, as members find a sense of spirituality and community through participating, reports Reason magazine (May).
RW has reported on the growth of satirical religions, many of which start on the Internet, but Jesse Walker writes that many of these so-called “free religions” are actually “blurring the boundaries between art and faith.” He cites the example of the Dallas-based Hot Tub Mystery Religion, which started out when its founders dreamed of creating a work of performance art that “would occupy every sense, driving the audience into a transcendental state.” Today the 100-member group borrows freely from Roman paganism, Islamic heresies, Jewish mysticism, Philip K. Dick’s Gnostic science fiction and even a novel from G.K. Chesterton.
Walker writes that “Such playfulness marks the so-called free religions.” Under this header one finds Discordianism, the “non-Prophet Irreligious Disorganization,” devoted to the Greco-Roman goddess of disorder and the Moorish Orthodox Church, which borrows from Afro-American Islam. Observers, such as Jewish mystic Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi, believe that these free religions are one-generation phenomenons since they are not based in the household and families.
Walker concludes that there is nothing unusual about people leaving behind beliefs they dislike and creating syncretic religions. “What is new is the ease of the former, the speed of the latter, and the extent to which the two have combined.”
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