There are many odd churches in the United States. Not content with the availability of houses of worship for every major world religion, the United States has to have more. We even have churches for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a construct designed by militant athiests to attack the religious belief of Creationism.
And then there’s the Church of the Subgenius. This one is distinctive for a simple reason: it’s an anarchistic church.
It has doctrine. It has a belief structure. It openly advocates for its believers to disbelieve, or to generate alternative branches of doctrine. Above all, it’s weird.
It’s impossible to accurately describe it as a true religion or a parody religion, because it varies from devotee to devotee. It incorporates portions of various religions… Jehovah 1 is the primary God, but he bears more than a passing resemblance to Xenu of the Scientologists. The Lovecraft-created Yog-Sothoth is another deity, as is the Greek goddess of discord, Eris.
And, of course, even as it denounces other religions, it also encourages people to embrace the faith of other religions even as it admits that it is a fraudulent scam.
J.R. “Bob” Dobbs is credited as the father of the religion, inasmuch as he was the person contacted by Jehovah 1 in the 1950s and given rules to convince others to follow. “Bob”, however, decided to found the Subgenius church instead. Of course, all of this is told by “Ivan Stang” and “Philo Drummond”, who admit to actually starting the religion in the 1970s and further assert that the image of “Bob” was merely clip art from the Yellow Pages. But they don’t state that in every interview, merely some of them. In others, they insist that Bob was real, and died in 1984. Or 1991. Or never.
Pop culture is an important aspect of the Subgenius, and they incorporate many analogues and references to it while at the same time insisting that it is a scam designed to coerce people into working for a living.
This is all acceptable, because the primary truth of the Subgenius is that there is no absolute truth. And one of the greatest ways of showing that you actually understand the value of Bob is to be willing to kill Bob, except that he’s already dead, maybe. Or maybe it’s the concept of Bob that existed.
The primary rules of the Subgenius are to not work, instead generating energy of “not-work”, known as Slack. And, of course, to further the empowerment of all of the people in the world who are descended from Yetis.
None of it makes any sense, nor is it really supposed to. Subgenius beliefs strongly embrace conspiracy theory, because those, in the eyes of many Subgenius members, don’t really make any sense either… but they sound almost as if they should if you let their proponents explain themselves for long enough, exactly like the Subgenius.
Prominent members (or associates, or friends) have included Mark Mothersbaugh, the lead singer of Devo; Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman; Robert Crumb; and David Byrne of the Talking Heads.
There have been books, including a fiction anthology, “Three-Fisted Tales of Bob.” There have been games. There have been Devivals (sort of like a revival, just… ridiculous). And there has even been a movie.
Yeah, not much can be said about that one.
Although it’s soon to be joined by another movie. To demonstrate the love that this bit of intentionally bizarre lunacy has generated, a documentary has been funded via Kickstarter to the tune of $206K. It’s due out in October, but because this is the Subgenius, that… really doesn’t mean much.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite pop culture meme?