When being driven from a religion, one ends up in some far-afield places.
Okay, let’s backtrack. Just say that I was once a fundamentalist Christian and am no longer. No big whoop. That’s not what’s important here. What is important is that once you are in the marketplace for new gods, you can find some real boutique treasures.
With however many billions of people there are in the world, that makes up billions of different points of view. Now, those points of view blend together, so between one point of view and another very different point of view, there are a lot of hues. There are always unique perspectives buried between the two opposites, but rarely a clear point of difference.
The fun thing about this are the outliers. Since God seems to enjoy enormous amounts of privacy and doesn’t want to make their presence known (aside from showing their glory and love in the Western world in the form of deep sales discounts and excellent parking places.) the blanks are filled by we poor apes who have a lot of fear and free time.
Since the art of belief seems to be more about hunches than evidence, some hunches go wild. If you don’t have any particular dog in the race, you can get some serious fun out of religion. Yet in this fun, you can also find some deep truths.
For instance, there is the only religion I know of that was created in a bowling alley.
A lot has been written about Discordianism, usually from people on the outside who read about it briefly and think, “well, this’ll get me a few cheap jokes.”
Let me write about it from the inside.
First of all, Hail Eris! All hail Discordia!
Eris is the Greek Goddess of chaos, previously known primarily for causing the Trojan War. The predominant thought from Discordianism’s creators was that since chaos exists, someone had to have put it there. From there, they sought someone to blame. Hence, Eris.
Much of Discordianism is counter-cultural language play, participated in by the clever and bored. These include apostates, heretics, atheists, semantic weirdos, theists, drop-outs, drop-ins, drinkers, thinkers, the angry, the joyous, the faux-weird, wanna-bes, had-to-have-beens, hipsters, dipsters, dipshits, geniuses, and others of that ilk.
That it can be either a joke disguised as a religion or vice versa doesn’t really matter. There are some core doctrines that are actually helpful.
Dig past the silly that keeps people at the surface and the core of the ideas is about perception. Their “law of fives,” for instance. On the surface, it is the bald statement that everything is in some way related to the number five. It can be taken as a silly declaration – a spoof of superstition.
But the rule of five is also about your ability to shape your perceptions according to what you believe. Everything IS in some way related to the number five, depending on your cleverness. You can see “fives” everywhere if you creatively look hard enough.
So this rule highlights a truth about perception. The perceiver perceives what the thinker thinks. Once you have accepted a dictum and made it your focus, what you perceive bends towards that thought. It’s like how you feel like you see more food commercials than normal when you are hungry. Because you are focused on hunger, your mind is picking up on the commercials that contain food and discarding the other commercials as so much noise.
So there is the truth in the joke.
One of my favorite bits is for Discordian Evangelists. This is the official guide on how to “witness” to non-Discordians. Although in its approach it is satirical, the core idea is solid.
The SOCRATIC APPROACH is most successful when confronting the ignorant. The “socratic approach” is what you call starting an argument by asking questions. You approach the innocent and simply ask “Did you know that God’s name is ERIS, and that He is a girl?” If he should answer “Yes.” then he probably is a fellow Erisian and so you can forget it. If he says “No.” then quickly proceed to:
THE BLIND ASSERTION and say “Well, He Is a girl, and His name is ERIS!” Shrewedly observe if the subject is convinced. If he is, swear him into the Legion of Dynamic Discord before he changes his mind. If he does not appear convinced, then proceed to:
THE FAITH BIT: “But you must have Faith! All is lost without Faith! I sure feel sorry for you if you don’t have Faith.” And then add:
THE ARGUMENT BY FEAR and in an ominous voice ask “Do you know what happens to those who deny Goddess?” If he hesitates, don’t tell him that he will surely be reincarnated as a precious Mao Button and distributed to the poor in the Region of Thud (which would be a mean thing to say), just shake your head sadly and, while wiping a tear from your eye, go to:
THE FIRST CLAUSE PLOY wherein you point to all of the discord and confusion in the world and exclaim “Well who the hell do you think did all of this, wise guy?” If he says, “Nobody, just impersonal forces.” then quickly respond with:
THE ARGUMENT BY SEMANTICAL GYMNASTICS and say that he is absolutely right, and that those impersonal forces are female and that Her name is ERIS. If he, wonder of wonders, still remains obstinate, then finally resort to:
THE FIGURATIVE SYMBOLISM DODGE and confide that sophisticated people like himself recognize that Eris is a Figurative Symbol for an Ineffable Metaphysical Reality and that The Erisian Movement is really more like a poem than like a science and that he is liable to be turned into a Precious Mao Button and Distributed to The Poor in The Region of Thud if he does not get hip. Then put him on your mailing list.
When I was a fundie, that was exactly the method I was taught.
I think at the core of the core of the core of this whole religion is the ability to declare yourself the high priest/priestess of your own madness. It is a way to feel in control of your being out of control. So regardless of whether there is or isn’t a god, you can at least frame things in a way to make life a little more interesting.
Incidentally, I am declaring that everyone who reads this is now a Discordian Pope. Now that you are, I am immediately excommunicating you. Please take the time and do the same to me.
The Church of the SubGenius
If Discordian seeks to make a joke out of religion, The Church of the SubGenius seeks to monetize the joke. The long and short of it is that the holy center of it all is J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, the universe’s greatest salesman. “Bob” is the way out of the chaotic slime pit of society, and he guarantees your eternal salvation for only $35.00, or double your money back.
Discordianism had its pop-art absurdist origins in California. In contrast, The Church of the SubGenius had its origins in fire-and-brimstone Texas. The upshot is the humor is earthier and broader, and the tone of their “Book of the Sub-Genius” is more like a pentecostal revival than pop-art.
In fact, Sub-Genius “devivals” are being held to this day.
The point of the SubGenius is to struggle against the “pinks,” who are generally anyone in society who accepts social norms. The goal of the religion is to obtain “Slack,” which is like the Tao in as much as the Slack that can be defined is not Slack. Imagine lazing freely in the afternoon doing your favorite kind of nothing, needing to accomplish nothing, with a beer in your hand and the type of adult you are most attracted to rubbing your feet. That approximates Slack.
The conspiracy ramblings, the absurdist monologues, the whole approach is there to be funny, but at the core it is a call to action outside of the options we were all given. If given a multiple choice test with the answers under A, B, C, or D, a SubGenius would choose “M” and write the answer as “Go fuck yourself, pink boy!”
A good example of this attitude is the slogan, “Don’t just eat a hamburger. Eat the HELL out of it.” It’s a call to an action beyond action – to live hard and enjoy everything around you. To take something as mundane as eating a hamburger and aggressively enjoying every bite.
Incidentally, yes: I paid my $35.00. We’ll see if I get double my money back after I die. Is it all a scam, you ask? I sure hope so!
I’ve sometimes considered religion to be another form of tribalism – a means to take an idea and build a fence around it, separating insiders from outsiders as a means to control people. Whereas if a religion was actually true, everyone would be a member of that tribe whether they believed or not. Regardless of whether or not someone believes the Earth is flat, everyone is living on a round world.
Absurdist religions like Discordianism or The Church of the Subgenius are keenly aware of this tribalism and so seek to destroy these separations by creating dogmas that are so absurd that it is impossible to take them too seriously.
No “holy war” will EVER be fought among Discordians or SubGeniuses. If anything, SubGeniuses will do holy “wrastlin’,” which is Texan for playful wrestling.
Discordians declare each other apostates all the time, but that is the point. Discordians “stick apart.”
There is no way that I could call either of these the “true” religion, and I don’t think its adherents could honestly do so either. But that’s not the point. In some way, salvation was found here for enough people to make a difference. If I am wrong in my suspicions and there actually IS a god/gods, who is to say they are not working through this?