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5 of the Most Popular Religions Based on Fictional Works

As spiritual leaders go, you could do a lot worse than the Dude.

by Claire Downs

Current events may have you praying to the heavens for a brighter future or asking yourself, “Is this real life?” Unfortunately, it is, despite Trump’s team of mythical demons wreaking havoc on American democracy on the daily. While it would be nice to be in an alternate timeline, the best thing you can do is enjoy some good ole-fashioned escapism. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reading, watching, and indulging in fictional works like crazy since Nov. 9.

Some people take escapism to another, higher level, by adopting serious religious beliefs based on popular works of fiction. (Popular works of fiction besides the Bible, that is—heh.) Here are some of the most popular belief systems ripped directly from the minds of brilliant screenwriters and novelists. Who knows, maybe one of them has the secret to figuring out how to remain zen in our new regime. Are they bullshit? Maybe. But so are most religions.

Temple of the Jedi Order

Though the newest Star Wars film is titled The Last Jedi, Jediism is a faith with booming membership. Last month, when the Charity Commission for England and Wales ruled it would not give official religious status to the Temple of the Jedi Order, followers of the faith busted out their metaphorical lightsabers in resistance. According to a recent New York Times investigation into the Order, anyone can join up by making an account online and completing an eight-step program. From there, applicants meet one-on-one with a Jedi master.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

This religion, based on J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, is in its budding stages. Two graduates of Harvard Divinity School, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, are using Rowling’s novels to search for answers—just like one would do with a sacred text. Their podcast of the same name regularly tops iTunes’ Religion & Spirituality listing. Finding a spiritual connection in secular fiction is “unorthodox and radical and something there’s been a real need for,” commented one listener. The pair employs the Jewish practice of Havruta, which examines the stories through philosophical questioning.


Science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard was quoted in 1948 saying, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, start a religion.” Hubbard did just that. Though he broke the Guinness World Record for most published books by an author (1,084), he also founded Scientology. A lot of critical things have been written about Scientology, but I’m scared of their lawyers, so I’m not saying anything at all.

Church of All Worlds

Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land is the inspiration behind beliefs helds by the Church of All Worlds. The members of this neopagan faith, who call themselves “waterkin,” wish to reawaken Gaia and reunite her with her Earth children through stewardship and responsible consciousness. Tribal communities called “nests” meet several times yearly, and CAW also publishes an online pagan newspaper, Green Egg.


I’m pretty sure that the Coen Brothers never set out to be prophets when they penned The Big Lebowski (1998), but Dudeism (a.k.a. the Church of the Latter Day-Dude) has ordained over 350,000 Dudeist priests worldwide. Founded in 2005 by journalist Oliver Benjamin, the religion combines elements of Taoism, Epicureanism, and Transcendentalism, under the guiding principle that “life is short and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it…that is to say, abide.” If you’re wondering, Dudeists believe 4/20 to be the High Holiday.


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Claire Downs is a writer and comedian based out of Los Angeles. She's written for Nickelodeon, VH1, Funny or Die, and Hello Giggles. You can follow her on Twitter @clairecdowns. She prefers Indica to Sativa, in case you're wondering.



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