Strangest Actual Religions

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Claude Vorilhons, a French race-car driver, started Raelism and derived it from the honorific name given to Vorilhons, by aliens who abducted him before revealing the true origins of mankind. Whuttt? Claude (or Rael, as he was dubbed) was taken to a distant planet called Elohim by the aforementioned aliens, where he was honoured enough to meet great philosophers and religious thinkers throughout history, including Jesus, Confucius, Buddha and Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism). In addition to revealing that life on earth began when humans were created from alien DNA 25,000 years ago, the aliens also informed Rael that the Earth should expect their arrival in Jerusalem in the year 2025. Only 8 more years to go!

The Aghori or Aghouri is a Hindu cult that is considered to have split off from the Kapalika order in the 14th Century AD. Many Hindus condemn the Aghoris due to their cannibalistic rituals. Followers of this cult carry a kapala, which is a cup made from a skull! These bizarre people will eat anything from rotten food to animal faeces. In order to achieve the highest citadel of enlightenment, the Aghori will perform horrendously crude rituals. The finality of their rituals is attained from eating the decaying flesh of a human. The roots of the Aghori date back to ancient times. An Aghori ascetic who went by the name of Kinaram is responsible for the present-day rituals and beliefs of the cult. They believe he is a re-incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Based in Japan, this exceedingly odd group is scared witless by the presence of electromagnetic waves in the modern world, blaming them for climate change, environmental destruction and other worldly ills. This took place in 1994, and there have been multiple publicity-attracting acts since, such as the 2003 attempted abduction of an Arctic seal which had appeared in a Tokyo river. The group reasoned that electromagnetic waves were the cause of this seal’s strange appearance, and that returning it to the Arctic would avert the coming doomsday.

Universe People
Like Raelism, this is another alien-inspired religion. This Czech group bases its beliefs on extraterrestrial communications with founder Ivo Benda from 1997 onward. According to Benda, aliens have a fleet of ships orbiting the Earth at any given time, led by a being named Ashtar who watches the people of the Earth, ready to transport good and loyal followers to another dimension. Space tourism enthusiasts might be a huge chunk of their followers.

The Church of All Worlds
The largest neo-pagan religion in the world, the Church of All Worlds was set up in 1962 by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (nice name!) and his wife, Morning Glory (good lord!). Taking its name from Robert Heinlein’s Strange in a Strange Land, followers worship the Earth itself in the form of Gaea, as well as assorted gods from a range of other religious pantheons (mostly Ancient Greece). Oberon as head of the Church, goes by the title of ‘Primate’, while followers are known as ‘Waterkin’.

Star Wars created several fans, but a religion is just taking it all a bit too far. Most people are aware of the basic tenets of the Jedi from their own viewings of the movies – light side/dark side, intangible force that binds the universe together etc – but there are some who actually follow these beliefs in real life. Jediism has no central organisation, although the Texas-based ‘Temple of the Jedi Order’ has issued a code for believers called ‘The 16 Teachings Of The Jedi’. It’s probably the weirdest, considering that it binds fictional values from a movie series as well as beliefs from Asian religions like Buddhism and Taoism.

Creativity Movement
The Creativity Movement is a white separatist organization that advocates ‘Creativity’. The use of the term creator does not refer to a deity, but rather to the followers themselves. The movement is atheistic hence there is no mention of deities and churches. It was founded by Ben Klassen in early 1973. After Klassen’s death, ‘Creativity’ almost died out as a religion until the New Church of the Creator was established three years later by Matthew F. Hale as its Pontifex Maximus (high priest), until his incarceration in January 2003 for plotting with the movement’s head of security, Anthony Evola (an FBI informant), to murder a federal judge.

The Bullet Baba’s Motorbike
Not really a religion, but this is the only spiritual movement in the world where idolatry extends to a vehicle. Villagers of Chotila in Rajasthan have erected a shrine for the motorcycle and its dead owner Om Banna, on National Highway-65. This unusual shrine has a Royal Enfield 350 cc motorcycle as its deity along with the photo of Om Banna, popular as Bullet Baba, who died in a road accident at this very spot. But here’s the supernatural bit – the day after the motorbike was taken under police custody, the vehicle reappeared at the crash site. According to locals, it has happened several times and now several people visit the concrete pedestal where it now stands covered in garlands and holy threads. It is worshiped along with the picture of the former owner, as well as tree that was near the scene of the accident.

Aetherius Society
This is basically a combination of a bit of Christian dogma with Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish beliefs, mixing them all together with a healthy dose of ufology (study of UFOs and extraterrestrial life, in case you were about to Google it). The 650 or so members of the Aetherius Society strive to prevent the total annihilation of the Earth. They claim multiple disasters have already been prevented through the use of prayer and ‘Spiritual Energy Batteries’, which hold within them healing energy generated by psychic abilities. They are still waiting for the ‘Next Master’, who’s apparently some kind of Mega Jesus, descending from the heavens in a flying saucer and possessing great magical powers.

Happy Science
Japanese businessman Ryuho Okawa founded the religion after quitting a career in finance in New York. On a mission to bring peace and happiness to the world, he does this in part by supposedly channeling the spirits and teachings of various religious figures and prophets. According to him, Archangel Gabriel will touch down on Earth in the future and in the city of Bangkok, of all places. If Gab ever does make it, we will surely put out an article on what he can do in the Thai capital.

Worshippers of Satan can broadly be categorised as spiritualists for whom Satan is an actual deity and atheists for whom Satan is a figure symbolising crisis of faith, individualism and free will. Certain sects are notorious for their activities. Like the ‘Beasts of Satan’ committed murders in Italy between 1998-2004. The ‘Order of Nine Angels’ affirmed human sacrifice (1960s). The public practice began with the establishment of the Church of Satan in 1966.

The Rastafari believe that the Ethiopian King Haile Selassie is the God of All. The aim of the religious movement is to restore pride in African identity which suffered because of the forces of colonialism. They proclaim Zion as the original birthplace of mankind and reject ‘Babylon’ or the world of materialism. Bob Marley is one famous Rastafari who followed the principles of Rastafarian lifestyle including ritual use of marijuana, avoiding alcohol and wearing one’s hair in dreadlocks.

Iglesia Maradoniana
Diego Maradona is a legend to say the least. His fans started a religion for him in the year 1998 and has more than a million followers in more than sixty countries. The supporters of the Maradonian Church count the years since the football legend Maradona’s birth in 1960. T he use of the neo-Tetragrammaton, D10S as one of the names of Maradona is popular with this group. D10S is a portmanteau word which fuses 10 (diez in Spanish) which is Maradona’s t-shirt number, and dios which is the Spanish word for God.

Aum Shinrikyo
Founded by Shoko Asahara in Japan (1984) who claimed to be “the lamb of God”. He claimed that he could cleanse his followers of all sins and help them survive the End of the world-a nuclear Armageddon of which the USA would be the harbinger. The usage of literature like Assimov’s ‘Foundation’ trilogy and Nostradamus’s writings can be seen in the doctrines. The group was labelled a terrorist organisation after it perpetuated the Tokyo subway sarin attack which led to the death of twelve and injuring thousands.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has only one dogma- No dogma! Bobby Henderson’s open letter to the Kansas School Board marked the official beginning of this ‘religion’. The letter demanded that the theory of Intelligent Design and more specifically the theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be taught to students along with theories of Evolution. He reasoned that this must be done to appease the monster and used graphs showing relation between pirate population and national disasters to prove this. Seen by some as a satire against religion, the adherents claim that satire is intrinsic to religion.

Frisbeetarianism is the universal belief that when you die your soul goes up onto the roof and stays there for eternity as described by the comedian George Carlin and that “the soul stays stuck up there until someone knocks it down with a long pole and your new life begins”. Some people think it is a rouse of sorts to honor Carlin, a Catholic who was educated at New York City parochial schools and thought organized religion was “the biggest bullshit story ever told.”

Though people are mostly skeptic about the identity of Vampirism as a religion, the adherents believe it is. Vampirism is derived largely from the depiction of vampires in popular culture especially Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ (1897). Vampires can be described as active vampires-who indulge in feeding on blood from a human or an animal and psychic vampires- who indulge in feeding on another person’s aura. Sexuality and its representation have a big role to play.

Cao Dai
A highly political religion by nature, the Vietnamese religious group of Cao Dai formed an army during the Japanese occupation of Indo-China in 1943. The Army was disbanded in 1955-56 by the premier Diem because of its opposition to him. The religion believes that there ar e 36 levels of Heaven. They further believe that of the 72 planets having intelligent life, Level 1 is closest to Heaven while level 72 is closest to Hell with Earth being positioned at level 68. The symbol of the religion is the left eye of God.

Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth
Obviously spelling is not a fundamental part of this religion! Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY) was founded in 1981 by members of Psychic TV, Coil, Current 93, and a number of other individuals. The ever-evolving network is a loosely federated group of people operating as a unique blend of artistic collective, and practitioners of magic. TOPY is dedicated to the manifestation of magical concepts lacking mysticism or the worship of gods. The group focuses on the psychic and magical aspects of the human brain linked with “guiltless sexuality”. Throughout its existence, TOPY has been an influential group in the underground Chaos magic scene and in the wider western occult tradition. TOPY’s research has covered both Left-hand path and Right-hand path magick, various elements of psychology, art, music, and a variety of other media. Some of the influences on the network have been Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, and Brion Gysin.

Nation of Yahweh
The Nation of Yahweh is a predominantly African-American religious group that is the most controversial offshoot of the Black Hebrew Israelites line of thought. They were founded in 1979 in Miami by Hulon Mitchell, Jr., who went by the name Yahweh ben Yahweh. Their goal is to return African Americans, whom they see as the original Israelites, to Israel. The group departs from mainstream Christianity and Judaism by accepting Yahweh ben Yahweh as the Son of God. In this way, their beliefs are unique and distinct from that of other known Black Hebrew Israelite groups. The group has engendered controversy due to legal issues of its founder and has also faced accusations of being a black supremacist cult by the Southern Poverty Law Center and The Miami Herald. The SPLC has criticized the beliefs of the Nation of Yahweh as racist, stating that the group believed blacks are “the true Jews” and that whites were “white devils.” They also claim the group believed Yahweh ben Yahweh had a Messianic mission to vanquish whites and that they held views similar to the Christian Identity movement.

The Church of the SubGenius
The Church of the SubGenius is a parody religion that promotes slack, while in a meta-commentarial way, satirizes religion, conspiracy theories, UFOs, and popular culture. The church claims to have been founded in the 1950s by the “world’s greatest salesman” J. R. “Bob” Dobbs. “Bob” Dobbs is depicted as a cartoon of a Ward Cleaver-like man smoking a pipe. The church really started with the publication of SubGenius Pamphlet #1 in 1979. It found acceptance in underground pop-culture circles and has been embraced on college campuses, in the underground music scene, and on the Internet. An important SubGenius event occurred on July 5, 1998: X-Day. The Church had been predicting that on this day the world would be destroyed by invading alien armies known as the X-ists (which is short for “Men from Planet X”). When the event didn’t come to pass, the church administrator who predicted it was tarred and feathered – but allowed to continue on as administrator. Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) is a SubGenius minister. Patrick Volkerding, the founder and maintainer of Slackware Linux, is also a SubGenius affiliate, and he has confirmed the Church and “Bob” inspired the name for Slackware.

Toraja’s Aluk
Toraja’s indigenous belief system is polytheistic animism, called aluk, or “the way” (sometimes translated as “the law”). In the Toraja myth, the ancestors of Torajan people came down from heaven using stairs, which were then used by the Torajans as a communication medium with Puang Matua, the Creator. The cosmos, according to aluk, is divided into the upper world (heaven), the world of man (earth), and the underworld. At first, heaven and earth were married, then there was a darkness, a separation, and finally the light. Animals live in the underworld, which is represented by rectangular space enclosed by pillars, the earth is for mankind, and the heaven world is located above, covered with a saddle-shaped roof. Other Toraja gods include Pong Banggai di Rante (god of Earth), Indo’ Ongon-Ongon (a goddess who can cause earthquakes), Pong Lalondong (god of death), and Indo’ Belo Tumbang (goddess of medicine); there are many more.

The earthly authority, whose words and actions should be cleaved to both in life (agriculture) and death (funerals), is called to minaa (an aluk priest). Aluk is not just a belief system; it is a combination of law, religion, and habit. Aluk governs social life, agricultural practices, and ancestral rituals. The details of aluk may vary from one village to another. One common law is the requirement that death and life rituals be separated. Torajans believe that performing death rituals might ruin their corpses if combined with life rituals. The two rituals are equally important. During the time of the Dutch missionaries, Christian Torajans were prohibited from attending or performing life rituals, but were allowed to perform death rituals. Consequently, Toraja’s death rituals are still practised today, while life rituals have diminished.There are three methods of burial: the coffin may be laid in a cave or in a carved stone grave, or hung on a cliff. It contains any possessions that the deceased will need in the afterlife. The wealthy are often buried in a stone grave carved out of a rocky cliff. The grave is usually expensive and takes a few months to complete. In some areas, a stone cave may be found that is large enough to accommodate a whole family. A wood-carved effigy, called Tau tau, is usually placed in the cave looking out over the land. The coffin of a baby or child may be hung from ropes on a cliff face or from a tree. This hanging grave usually lasts for years, until the ropes rot and the coffin falls to the ground.

In the ritual called Ma’Nene, that takes place each year in August, the bodies of the deceased are exhumed to be washed, groomed and dressed in new clothes. The mummies are then walked around the village.