What Are You Laughing At?
“Chuck Norris sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Chuck roundhouse kicked the devil in the face and took his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn't stay mad and admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play poker every second Wednesday of the month.”
“Filming on location for Walker: Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris brought a stillborn baby lamb back to life by giving it a prolonged beard rub. Shortly after the farm animal sprang back to life and a crowd had gathered, Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked the animal, breaking its neck, to remind the crew once more that Chuck giveth, and the good Chuck, he taketh away.”
“Chuck Norris cannot swim. Every time he tries, he ends up walking on water.”
“On the 7th day, God rested.... Chuck Norris took over.”
Based on the religiously charged diction, it is no surprise that the Internet fad has spawned a fledgling parody religion: The Official Church of Chuck Norris (which is referenced by Wikipedia in “Parody Religions”). While the site is billed as “the culmination of Chuck Norris ‘fact’ lovers into a Church setting,” it is really just another source to locate Norris jokes. Loosely based around “worshipping” God Chuck, the Church is all in the name of good humor. No complaints here. The jokes are funny, and I say keep them coming (click here or here for more, though I caution the easily offended).
But I question the motivation behind some of the more serious parody religions listed—churches like the Church of the SubGenius and Discordianism. These parody religions have billed themselves as real religions, complete with real symbols, “real” histories, and real and passionate followers. While they acknowledge the illegitimacy of modern organized religion, they combat it by creating belief systems that are just as fake as popular alternatives. Perhaps someone else finds this hypocritical? It seems that these groups should be organizations of like-minded people—not religions—that either give up on all religious belief or try to discover the truth about reality. From David Chidister’s study of contemporary religion in Authentic Fakes, we find that some parodies come to this conclusion on their own. For example, the founder of the Holy Order of the Cheeseburger (HOC), who once described his religion as “an alternative to crazy religions with an even crazier religion,” closed his website upon realizing that he was no longer prepared to offer invented beliefs as reality (208).
The other parody religions on the internet would be wise to follow the HOC’s example and stop misleading people into believing that they are something when they are not. Or, if they prefer, they can continue as groups that look and act like religions so long as they don’t claim to be religions. Whatever the choice, the answer cannot be to further dilute the already tainted character of religion by aimlessly tossing in new and openly invented belief systems.