Ha Ha, Only Serious: A Preliminary Study of Joke Religions
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Not all spiritual activity is commonly acknowledged as “religion.” In a broad sense, religion is defined as the various ways humans negotiate their relationships with the transcendent, whether alone or in communities. The struggle to reconcile traditional pre-modern religious ideas about the world with the postmodern worldview, heavily influenced by the “deep play” that uses humor to break the hold of logic on the human mind, has given rise in the past sixty years to a new phenomenon: joke religions. A synthesis of occulture, counterculture, carnivalesque inversion, and vernacular reactions to institutional religions, joke religions are “authentic fakes” that are simultaneously authentic religions and humorous satires of other religions. They can be subdivided into satirical religions such as Discordianism—-sincere religions, focused heavily on deep play, that can provide genuine religious experiences—-and parody religions such as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster—-insincere, atheistic, extended parodies. Since there are virtually no scholarly works about joke religions as of yet, this paper is intended to be a starting point for future research.
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