Tom Cruise is pitching for Scientology; Madonna sings the praises of Kabbalah. Strange religious groups (or cults) are in vogue in today's Hollywood. But when it comes to bizarre rituals and crackpot beliefs, even Scientology can't hold a candle to the Church of the SubGenius, a new religious movement set to take Hollywood by storm.
The Church of the SubGenius is a popular organization often seen as a "parody" of religious cults, including Scientology, the Raelians, the Unification Church, and racist hate groups such as Christian Identity. The organization is widely seen as a satire that mocks organized religion, or as the church describes itself, "a cynisacreligion." It was founded in 1953 by a mysterious figure named J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, whose smiling, pipe-smoking image has been seen worldwide in chip art, graffiti, tattoos, and rock albums from performers ranging from Devo and George Clinton to Sublime.
A number of celebrities are SubGenius ministers, including former Talking Heads singer David Byrne, Penn Jillette, Robert Anton Wilson, and Pee-Wee Herman. A number of comic book artists praise the group's teachings, including legendary "underground" artists Robert Crumb and Paul Mavrides, along with Bob Burden (whose works were recently adapted into the motion picture "Mystery Men"). Mavrides was art director of the 1999 documentary "Grass," whichy featured Woody Harrelson and many other celebrities.
The Church is also heavily featured on the weekly KPFA-Berkeley radio program, "Less Than an Hour, More Than a Show," which features SubGenius performers Hal Robins and Philo Drummond.
In May of 2006, the group made an offer to UK pop rock star Robbie Williams to join its ranks, in response to Williams' announcement that he intended to start his own bizarre UFO cult.
The Church has issued a prediction that invading aliens from outer space will arrive on Earth on July 5th, 2007 (or "X-Day"), and that only the ordained members of the Church of the SubGenius will survive the oncoming cataclysm.
However, the Church promises all members they will get their money's worth. The Church has a standing offer: "Eternal Salvation Or Triple Your Money Back."
The Church of the SubGenius has been no stranger to controversy since its foundation, and the upcoming X-Day celebration promises to be no different. In the late 1980s, members of the Church were accused of spreading a virus in Macintosh computers known as the "Peace Virus." Numerous articles have been written on the Church in such noteworthy publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wired Online, Boston Globe, U.S. News and World Report; and broadcast reports have been produced by CNN and NPR. In April 1999, officials of the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts shut down an official SubGenius Devival gathering in the belief that the Church was affiliated with the Trenchcoat Mafia (the organization blamed for the Columbine high school shootings), though authorities later realized the association was mistaken. In its January 1, 2000 issue, a Time magazine poll declared J.R. "Bob" Dobbs the biggest fraud of the 20th century.
The Church received additional media attention in 2006 when one of its high-ranking members, known in SubGenius circles as Reverend Mary Magdalen, became involved in a legal battle for custody of her son due to her membership in the Church. This case has been covered in such popular online sites as Boing Boing, Fark, and Wikinews (Wikipedia's news reporting service). Reverend Magdalen is being represented by the law firm of Lipsitz Green Fahringer Roll Salisbury & Cambria, LLP.
In an interview with CNN, Church business manager Reverend Ivan Stang said, "We're probably the only cult that admits we're ripping them off every day, and teaching them to enjoy it."