Some people find it hard to believe that these strange registered churches and cults even exist. Here are the top 6 most bizarre religions and cults in the world, noted for their wild origins and sometimes destructive (but humorous) beliefs. They are simply a few out of hundreds from all around the world that deviate from the more ‘mainstream’ religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
The Church of Maradona – Honoring Football and D10S
The Church of Maradona was created by extremely devotional Argentinean fans to honor the football player, Diego Maradona, who they strictly believe is the greatest football player in the history of the sport.
The ‘Church’ was started by a few fans from the city of Rosario on the player’s 38th birthday (October 30th, 1998). Three years later it had its first major gathering and to date, there are over 100,000 members from all around the world.
What do followers of the Church of Maradona practice? All followers count the years since the player’s birth in 1960 and call him D10S, which translates to “Dios”, the Spanish word for God. The number “10” correlates to Maradona’s jersey number. Members of the bizarre religion use ‘AB’ for “After Birth” to measure time. So as of now, the year would be considered 60 AB (After Birth). There are also ten commandments, some of which include “Let Diego be thy name, and thy one of your children,” “Declare your unconditional love of football,” and “The ball must not be stained, as D10S has proclaimed.”
Pastafarians – The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Few religions have been as popular as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, easily one of the most bizarre religions in the world. It is a ‘parody’ religion created by Bobby Henderson in 2005.
After the Kansas State Board of Education ruled to include intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in school curriculum, Henderson decided to introduce a supernatural creator (the spaghetti monster) that technically fits the profile of ‘God’ and used it to show that the intelligent designer (which has always been ambiguous) can be anything. In this case, it was a flying spaghetti monster. Since then, the bizarre church became one of the most widely used arguments against the teaching of intelligent design in schools.
Believers (Pastafarians) treat the Church as a legitimate religion and the core belief is that there is an invisible force (the monster) that created the universe after “drinking heavily.” Other beliefs include that all the evidence for evolution was planted by the Spaghetti monster and that Hell consists of stale beer and that all the strippers within it have STDs. Pastafarians also have an event called “Holiday” during the Christmas season – with no specific date or requirement of customs. This is a satirical rejection of dogma and centralized belief structure – another reason why this religion, though bizarre, has been instrumental in the culture war between science and religion.
Before criticizing this Church, consider that it is just as absurd as the alternative mainstream choices, and it says so in a statement on the cover of the ‘cult’ movement’s new book, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: “If you don’t like us, your old religion will most likely take you back.”
Bobby Henderson simply did what a lot of people wanted to do but did not think was possible.
Scientology – How Bizarre Can Bizarre Get?
Scientology has received a lot of controversy and has been spoofed countless times, such as in South Park. The reality is that Scientology’s beliefs are just as empirically obsolete as many of today’s major religions. Except that its beliefs are even stranger than commonly held ones by modern society. But is it a bizarre religion or a bizarre cult?
Well, for one, Scientology is exempt from tax in the United States and other countries, which is one of the perks religions get. In Canada, the Church isn’t recognized and Germany decided to ban the organization because it believed it served a more commercial purpose and conflicted with the German Constitution.
A few facts. Scientology was created by L. Ron Hubbard in 1952. The central belief is that all people are immortal spiritual entities that no longer remember their true ‘nature.’ Followers seek to relive forgotten past events to free themselves from limitation through spiritual rehabilitation called auditing. Some of these services have been criticized for being fraudulent to its members in terms of costs and that the beliefs (such as thetans, or souls, which lived on different planets before Earth and reincarnate) are too peculiar to be remotely possible. Many have defined Scientology as a cult instead. The Church even regards psychiatry as “destructive” and that it must be abolished.
If a religion or cult leads people to believe things like that, perhaps more controversy is better. Religions may have gone on different paths but the ideal religion should not demand monetary payment for spiritual resolution.
Jediism – The Force in the 21st Century
Come on, practically every fan of Star Wars once had the idea – what if there was an actual religion for all Jedi to follow? A code of conduct based on the laws of the Force that fit the struggles of everyday life on planet Earth. Well, Jediism exists. It’s a bizarre religion since it takes root from a fictional philosophical code from a science fiction movie made over thirty years ago.
Jediism as a faith is as viable as any modern religion, considering the central dogma of the Light side. Followers of Jediism ponder on the Dark side as well as the Potentium Theory of the Force (the ‘gray’ area), which states that there is no Dark or Light side at all and that the actions of individuals are dependent on his own morality. The code has arguably been like a blend between Buddhism and Taoism. Many of these lessons apply realistically to life and the fact is that there are thousands of followers of the Church of Jediism.
There are three aspects of the Force – the Personal Force, the Living Force, and the Unifying Force. Perhaps the message behind the religion is how similar these aspects are to real physics (even theoretical physics). In January of 2008, the Holyhead chapter of the Jedi Church was founded, started by Barney and Daniel Jones. It is said to have up to 400,000 members, and it’s simply one church out of many around the world.
The Church of Euthanasia – How to Kill Yourself
Now here’s a religious cult that differs from the rest on this list. Bizarre? Check. Dangerous? Double check. The Church of Euthanasia was founded by Reverend Chris Korda from Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The main goal of the organization is to highlight the fact that the world’s population is unsustainable.
But how exactly does that work? The Church (main website) asserts voluntary means to reduce the human population. This means involuntary methods like murder are forbidden but suicide, abortion, cannibalism, and sodomy are its four principle pillars. No wonder why they get into so much controversy with the public, especially pro-life Christians.
Well, they’re right. Humans do need to figure out a way to sustain population and keep the ecosystem protected. But after the Church placed instructions on “how to kill yourself” (by asphyxiation using helium gas) on its main website in 2003, a 52 year old woman from St. Louis, Missouri ended up committing suicide. Ensuing legal threats forced them to remove the instructions.
The goals make sense but the methods will have trouble being accepted by the world.
Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph) – Terrorist Cult
Aum Shinrikyo, founded by Shoko Asahara (currently awaiting execution) in 1984, is one of the most dangerous cults. The group carried out a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subways in 1995, making them infamous to most of the world instantly. The members of the cult were frequently accused of holding followers against their wills and forcing them to pay donations. The cult’s headquarters (located in Kamikuishiki) contained explosives, biological warfare weapons (such as the Ebola virus), and others. But the most dangerous item was the stockpiles of chemicals that could have produced enough sarin gas to kill four million people. Luckily, they were discovered by police.
The cult has been labeled as a terrorist group by several nations, such as the United States, Canada, and the EU. Not all cults are harmless after all. This one is an example of how powerful and far-reaching a group of people can get.
Cowan, Douglas E.; Bromley, David G. (2006), The Church of Scientology. In Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael (eds.) (2006), Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America, 5, Westport CT: Greenwood Press, pp. 169-196, ISBN 0-275-98712-4
Cohen, David (23 October 2006). “Tom’s aliens target City’s ‘planetary rulers'”. Evening Standard.
Alexander Kouzminov Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West, Greenhill Books, 2006, ISBN 1-853-67646-2 . Kuzminov, who is defector from the biological weapons department of the KGB, asks why Aum Shinrikyo were allowed to open an office on Flotskaya Street in Moscow, where many offices of KGB/FSK were secretly located. The sect was also allowed to operate freely on Moscow TV.