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Alternative Religion Directory

As I’ve wandered the net, talked to folks on-line or in the real world (however you define that), I’ve run into a number of alternative religions. You’ve probably heard of some of the largest: Druidry, Asatru, Wicca. Others you might not have run across. It occurred to me that those of us who aren’t swimming in the mainstream need a directory. I decided to make an attempt. If you have something to add to the list or a correction to be made, please email me. Understand that I’m doing this with good intent and limited time/knowledge, so if I’ve gotten something wrong, take it with a grain of salt and send me a correction.

Note that I list a contact organization when possible. Unless I specifically list it as an official site, I make no claim that the group listed is the greatest, most official group available for the religion, it’s just the best I found at the time. And if I list a site as “official” it’s their claim, not mine. If there are others that would be more appropriate, let me know.

Some of the religions in this list are “serious” alternative religions and some are parody religions and there are some that ride both sides of the line. To define my terms a bit, by “alternative” I mean a religion that does not fit in as an Abrahamic religion (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) and is likely to have been developed/organized/created in the last 100 years or so, some of them in the last 10 years. For the “serious” ones, in addition, there’s a core aspect that is about connecting followers/believers to some form of divinity, deity, spirituality, or some form of macrocosm. A “parody” religion may have its start as a reaction to another religion, to poke fun at or point up a perceived absurdity. Since some “serious” religions were begun as a backlash or reaction to another religion (Lutheranism comes to mind), it isn’t the split that puts one into one or another category, but the intent of the founder(s). I am explicitly not categorizing the religions I list here, but emphasizing that I’m including a wide range. You can make up your own mind. That’s rather the point, ya know.

There is another category I want to mention: cults. Many minor religions have been accused of being a cult. So what does that term mean, anyway? According to Merriam-Webster, a cult is “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.” Spurious is “of illegitimate birth” or “outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities” or “of falsified or erroneously attributed origin; of a deceitful nature or quality.” Most of the definition becomes moot if you are working with the concept that non-orthodox can be a good thing. It’s only that last definition that starts to get to the heart of the matter. The connotation of “cult” is of a group that is unhealthy or downright dangerous for its members or those around them. I highly recommend taking a look at Isaac Bonewits’ “Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame” (ABCDEF), which gives good guidelines for determining whether a group is likely to be a truly bad idea.


Asatru
Church of All Worlds
Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Church of the Subgenius
Discordianism
Druidry
Hot Tub Mystery Religions
Jedi Church
Moorish Orthodox Church of America
Scientology
Thelema
Wicca
Zenarchy

Asatru

Contact group: The Troth
Description: Asatru worship the Germanic/Norse deities and follow the Nine Noble Virtues. If Odin All-Father or Thor or Freya call to you, if runes interest you, look into Asatru. You may also hear the term “Heathenism”. The Troth represents one version of Heathenism, there are multiple.


Church of All Worlds
Contact group: Church of All Worlds Official site Description: Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land inspired this group. May you never thirst.


Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Contact group: Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster official site Description: Also known as Pastafarianism, the Church of FSM was originated in response to intelligent design and the Kansas School Board’s proposed changes to the school science curriculum.

Church of the Subgenius

Contact group: Church of the Subgenius Official site Description: The Church of the SubGenius is a religious group satirizing religion, conspiracy theories, UFOs, and popular culture. The odds are, you’ve seen Bob Dobbs’ picture somewhere.

 

 

Discordianism
Info page: Discordian.com Description: What happens when the Goddess finds you, and her name is Eris? And you’re in a bowling alley? You may also want to go read the Principia Discordia to get the low-down on the Sacred Chao, Malaclypse the Younger, and the basis of all things Discordian.

Druidry
Contact group: Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) official site Description: There are several Druid organizations, the ADF seems to be the most active, but that may just be local to my area. NeoPagan Druidry is based in Celtic traditions and is (taken from the ADF site) “polytheistic nature worshippers, working with the best aspects of the Pagan religions of our predecessors within a modern scientific, artistic, ecological and wholistic context using a nondogmatic and pluralistic approach.”

Hot Tub Mystery Religion
Info page: N/A Description: A group of artists and visionaries started the [Eulessynian] Hot Tub Mystery Religion in Euless, Texas in 1991. Inspired by trends in ontological anarchy, the HTMR eschewed dogma in favor of free association, sensual ambience, and personal/ group experimentation. Some shared working assumptions included the idea that gnosis is superior to blind faith, and that initiation can occur spontaneously, resulting in catharsis in the right circumstances. The hot tub or hot spring was idealized as a perfect vehicle for shared spiritual experience, one that harmonizes the four elements of classical philosophy. By 1993, the HTMR was recognized as a kindred body by the Brooklyn branch of the Moorish Orthodox Church of America and assumed a dual role as the first MOCA branch in Texas. In 1997, a Hot Tub Mystery Religion presentation was featured at the annual CESNUR (Center for the Study of New Religions) Conference in Amsterdam. By 1998, the Moorish aspect was formalized with the creation of the Khalwat-i-Khidr, a hermitage of the MOCA which has continued to work in tandem with the HTMR. Maxims of the HTMR include,”How much fun can you have before someone tries to stop you?” and a quote from the mystical German poet Novalis,”Play is experimenting with chance.”

Jedi Church

Contact group: Jedi Church official site Description: From the website: “The Jedi church has no official doctrine or scripture. The Jedi church recognizes that all living things share a living force and that all people have an innate knowledge of what is right and wrong.” As they say on the site, it is more like the movies gave terminology to something that was already a belief, rather than the belief growing out of the movies.

Moorish Orthodox Church of America
Contact group: Moorish Orthodox Church of America, Diocese of New Jersey Description: The Moorish Orthodox Church seems to meld Eastern Christian, Islamic, Sufi, Tantra, and probably several other things, together to form a unique religion. Don’t make any assumptions, I found a Crowley quote, cyber chapels for Moorish Gay, Lesbian, and Two-Spirited saints, etc.

Scientology
Contact group: Church of Scientology official site Description: Originated in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology is neither the first nor last book-inspired religion. This religion is in the news more than most on this list, due to some high-profile adherents. If you’re interested, go to the site and learn something about it.

Thelema
Contact group: Ordo Templi Orientis U.S. Grand Lodge Description: The O.T.O is “dedicated to the high purpose of securing the Liberty of the Individual and his or her advancement in Light, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Power through Beauty, Courage, and Wit, on the Foundation of Universal Brotherhood.” Thelema is based on the revelations given to Aleister Crowley as written in the Book of the Law. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

Wicca
Info page: Circle of the Silver Phoenix Wicca FAQ Description: There are thousands of pages on Wicca, but no central reference or official, overarching group. This link is to a FAQ on my group’s website. Look there and at other pages on this site for what I think is a good starting point.

Zenarchy
Info page:Impropaganda on Zenarchy Description: According to Wikipedia, “Zenarchy is a political philosophy put forth by Discordianism co-founder Kerry Wendell Thornley in a book of the same name. It is a counter-cultural, Zen and Taoist-inspired theory of politics. Thornley defines it as follows: ZEN is Meditation. ARCHY is Social Order. ZENARCHY is the Social Order which springs from Meditation. As a doctrine, it holds Universal Enlightenment a prerequisite to abolition of the State, after which the State will inevitably vanish. Or – that failing – nobody will give a damn. “