"Parody Religions" and the Command to Compare
Keywords:parody religion, first amendment, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Neo-American Church
The term “parody religion” is used to describe movements that deliberately mimic the elements of established religions and are intentionally absurd. It is generally assumed that people create and participate in parody religions primarily for their own amusement. However, the participants of parody religions occasionally demand to be taken seriously by invoking the legal rights and privileges that Western democracies afford to traditional religions. This article examines two such cases involving The Neo-American Church and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It is argued that the true function of parody religions, as demonstrated by these cases, is not simply to entertain, but to force a public conversation about the definition of religion. When practitioners of parody religions demand the legal rights afforded to traditional religion, they are issuing a public challenge to articulate how exactly religion is defined. Furthermore, ardent practitioners of parody religions frequently have a political agenda and feel that the legal system’s unstated criteria of religion unfairly benefit particular established religious institutions.
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