Most Obscure Religions That Actually Exist
Believing in something bigger than ourselves is the basis of human spirituality. Since the dawn of humanity, we’ve used belief in a higher power to give us direction and keep us going in tough times. We’re often brought up with a certain religion, but once we grow up, it’s up to us to decide what we believe in. For some, it takes a quirkier turn. There are dozens of unusual religions that are so obscure, most people have never heard of them.
Some of these off-the-beat religions began as jokes before attracting a following. Others give off culty vibes. Either way, they’re interesting, and as long as they’re not hurting anyone, who are we to judge? Of all the unique religions, these just might be the most unusual.
Frisbeetarianism might be the weirdest religion in the world. That's fitting, because it was invented as a parody as part of an act by American comedian and actor George Carlin. He came up with Frisbeetarianism as a bit of a joke to explain what happens when you die. He described it as a frisbee getting stuck on the roof, with your soul rising up and getting stuck on the ceiling.
The best option after that is to get scooped up in a holy event called "The Ascension," during which all the souls are collected to join an ultimate frisbee game in the sky. This obscure parody religion is particularly popular among players of disc and frisbee golf.
Church of Maradona
The Church of Maradona, also known as the Iglesia Maradoniana, was founded in Argentina. Soccer player Diego Maradona was so popular there during the 1990s that fans created a religion to worship him.
Since 1998, the church's followers have used the symbol D10S, mashing up the Spanish word for God, Dios, with Maradona's shirt number, 10. The religion was founded on Marandona's 38th birthday, and Maradonians follow a different calendar, counting the years since Maradona was born in 1960. If he were still around today, he'd be quite flattered.
Subud, an acronym of Susila Budhi Dharma, is an obscure religion that was founded in the 1920's in Indonesia. It was launched by a spiritual leader named Muhammad Subuh, who believed in the concept of latihan. This is a ceremonial experience that guides practitioners to a state of being deeply in tune with God, experiencing a sense of calm and inner peace as a result.
Latihan is usually practiced for an hour twice a week. People who practice Subud are encouraged to use the practice of latihan to guide them to any religion that calls to them. In that sense, it's more like a spiritual practice to guide followers in the right direction rather than a stand-alone religion.
Ever heard of Zoroastrianism? We hadn't either, but it's actually one of the oldest monotheistic religions on record. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in Iran around the sixth century BCE. Zoroastrians believe in a benevolent deity called Ahura Mazda. The religion one of the first to introduce the idea of heaven, hell, angels, demons and judgment in the afterlife.
Zoroastrianism was the official religion of Persia from 600 BCE to 650 CE, but today, less than 100,000 people follow it.
Yes, Jediism is a real thing. It was invented around 2001 by fans of the "Star Wars" series after a number of people listed their religion as "Jedi" on the national census. The movement started out as a joke, but many fans view it as a new age religion following the moral code of conduct followed by fictional Jedis.
Jediism sets aside the sci-fi elements of the series and focuses on mindfulness and other Jedi teachings. As silly as it sounds, some people take it seriously. A Temple of the Jedi Order was even registered in Texas in 2005.
A religious movement followed by thousands of Star Wars fans all over the world, Jediism (or the Jedi Church) is a new religion that incorporates the fictional teachings of the Jedi. They believe that The Force is a very real power in the universe. In 2013, Jediism was actually the seventh largest religion in the UK with an incredible 175,000 followers.
Temple of the True Inner Light
The Temple of True Inner Light might run into some issues with the law. Those who practice it believe that entheogens, psychoactive substances that bring about altered states of perception, mood and consciousness, are not just sent from God, but are God.
It's not uncommon for entheogens, like mushrooms and other psychoactive drugs, to be used as part of religious or spiritual practices, but the Temple of True Inner Light treats magic mushrooms and similar substances as a source of divine wisdom.
Happy Science is an alternative Japanese religion founded by Ryuho Okawa back in 1986. It became an officially recognized religion in 1991, although it has since been labeled as a cult.
Happy Science believers follow Okawa's teachings, practicing four principles of happiness: Love, wisdom, self-reflection and progress. They also believe in the existence of heaven, hell, angels, demons, reincarnation and extraterrestrial life. Okawa claims to be the current incarnation of God, a deity named El Cantare. This, combined with their controversial political party, gives Happy Science believers a bad name.
Discordianism is better known by a catchier title: The Religion of Chaos. It was a parody religion launched in the 1960s by Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, who went by the pseudonyms Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst and Malaclypse the Younger.
It has similarities to Zen philosophy, only it centers around the concept that order and disorder are nothing but illusions. It's hard to say how many practicing Discordians exist because Discordians are also welcome to practice other religions. Regardless, the Religion of Chaos lives up to its name, claiming that every human on Earth is a Pope, and there are five classes of saints, two of which include only fictional beings.
Church of the SubGenius
The Church of the SubGenius is another parody religion satirizing more common religions. It was built on the philosophy of J.R. Dobbs, a salesman from the 1950s, who is viewed as a prophet. The religion wasn't founded by Dobbs but by a fan of his teachings, American writer and filmmaker Ivan Stang.
The Church of SubGenius teaches followers to move away from commercialism and the concept of absolute truths. Instead, they focus on the obscure idea of "slack," a vague principle purported to bring about effortless goal achievement and comfort.
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Universe People sprung up in the 1990's. It was founded by Ivo Benda, who also goes by his "extraterrestrial" name Astar. According to Benda, he had made contact with multiple alien civilizations, and the entire religion is inspired by alien life.
The Universe People movement is mostly about spreading good vibes and swearing off modern technology, but they're also heavily steeped in conspiracy theories. In the early 2000's, the group encouraged people to prepare for potential attacks by lizard people from outer space.
Pana Wave is a Japanese movement founded in 1977 combining elements of Buddhism, Christianity and New Age philosophy. Its primary focus, however, is warning the public about the dangers of electromagnetic waves. According to Pana Wave followers, electromagnetic waves are the cause of climate change and most other modern problems.
They've also gotten themselves into hot water from time to time. In 2003, they claimed that an Arctic seal who showed up in a river in Tokyo had been misled by electromagnetic waves, and that an apocalyptic event would occur if the seal wasn't returned home. They tried to steal the seal and return it to the Arctic, but they failed.
Prince Philip Movement
It doesn't get much stranger than this. The Prince Philip Movement is a religious sect practiced by the Kastom people who live in small villages on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
It's essentially a cult that sprung up after Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the country of Vanuatu in 1974. Since their visit, the people there have viewed Prince Philip as a divine spirit, worshiping shrines decorated with framed portraits of him.
Rastafari, also known as Rastafarianism, developed in Jamaica during the 1930s after the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia. Followers believe Haile Selassie to be God, claiming that he will return members of Black communities living elsewhere back to Africa to live naturally.
It has evolved over the years, but it centers around Africa as a source of identity, encouraging followers to wear dreadlocks and stripes of green, yellow and red to set themselves apart from non-believers. They also endorse the use of marijuana as a spiritual aid.
Pastafarianism sounds a lot like Rastafarianism, but it's ridiculous. It's also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and it's a parody religion. It stemmed from a letter penned by Bobby Henderson to the Kansas School Board in 2005, protesting the board's choice to teach intelligent design instead of evolution in public school science programs. He said Flying Spaghetti Monsterism might as well be included too, and it quickly became an Internet sensation.
Pastafarianism is symbolic of opposing the teaching of intelligent design in public schools and encourages a less serious approach to religion and spirituality. The religion's website is confusing but highly amusing.
Church of Euthanasia
Last but not least is the darkest obscure religion of the modern world. Founded by Reverend Chris Korda and Pastor Robert Kimberk in Boston in the early '90s, the Church of Euthanasia is the first religion that's anti-humanity.
The Church of Euthanasia is exactly what it sounds like: A religion that promotes mass suicide as a solution to overpopulation, climate change and other environmental concerns. Yikes. If you ever see a creepy sticker reading “Save the Planet—Kill Yourself,” on a lamp post or bulletin board, now you know where it came from.