On first glance the Church of the Subgenius seems to be just another cookie cutter cult movement that’s managed to maintain popularity for a surprisingly long period of time. The organization will offer ordination to almost anyone, it accepts any creed, seems to be made primarily of artists and self-styled “freethinkers,” and perhaps worst of all the Church of the Subgenius is guilty of using made up, New Age sounding terms to describe its mission and what members can hope to get. For those who turn up their noses and walk on past, thinking that you have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull a fast one like this… the joke is on you.
A slightly closer look at the Church of the Subgenius reveals an organization that’s meant to be one, big, sarcastic joke. From the use of made up New Age terms to the taking up of church names like, “Reverend Buck Naked,” or “Suzy the Floozie,” the entirety of the Church of the Subgenius is meant to act as a parody of modern society’s rules and orders, and the insanity that may seem to guide them. Corporate America, organizated religion and even the educational system are all subjects of the joke that is the Church of the Subgenius, which boasts roughly 10,000 actual members who get the joke.
What is the joke though? Well, everything. For instance, the Church of the Subgenius is listed as a for-profit organization, proudly proclaiming itself the only church that is happy to pay its taxes. Membership and ordination aren’t free, but they require a one-time, $30 membership fee. This custom cleanly separates the Church of the Subgenius from many of the online churches that will ordain anyone that applies free of charge. If you read the Book of the Subgenius though, that’s when the real confusion begins. Reading like a parody of scientology, the book claims that all humans are descended from the Yeti, though later editions of the book will completely re-write this origin story. The book also claims that all people are born with a mystical force called Slack, which you gain from accomplishing goals and remaining independent. When you bow to the authority of others though, or let your thoughts be controlled, then you lose some of your personal Slack and must regain it. It’s kind of like Scientology, except with a full realization of how ridiculous the whole organization sounds and without expecting anyone except those who missed the point to take it seriously.
So before you go digging into conspiracy theories, and setting up boards to connect the 1980’s and 1990’s popularity of the Church of the Subgenius to Illuminati or the Free Masons, remember that the organization is meant to be a farce. It’s pointing out how self-styled New Age philosophers, so-called freethinkers, hackers, rebels and modern day pilgrims are often, when you peek under the grit and noise, nothing more than people trying to join a group, fit in, and be thought of as cool.
“The Church of the Subgenius,” by Anonymous at Religion and Spirituality
“The Church of the Subgenius,” by Anonymous at Museum of Hoaxes