When confronted by the eratz-50’s, conservative, smiling face of Bob, the Christ/figurehead/leader/symbol/prophet of the Church of the SubGenius, complete with Reagan-youth hair and a pipe dangling from his mouth with all the casual jauntiness of a hip swinger, it’s hard not to laugh the whole religion off as a practical joke. Surely, this cannot be serious.
The Reverend Ivan Stang, Co-Founder of
The Church of the SubGenius
But that’s just it. With the Church of the SubGenius, the joke is very serious.
What religion doesn’t have iconography? Christians have the crucifix and the Jesus fish. Catholics have the bleeding, tortured form of Christ on the Cross and Scientologists have their own gold crucifix with a star at its center.
The Church of the SubGenius hits you with iconography like the impact of a thrown cream pie to the face. Flying saucers discharging disintegration beams into burning hordes of retreating humans, the grinning mug of Bob, a cross with a pipe dangling from its side, smiling, black-eyed demonic figures looming in like a nightmare, even the symbol of JHVH-1, with beetling, menacing eyebrows, a winged one-eyed pyramid hovering out of his forehead, and a large clawed hand tearing the roof off a house.
So the real question is asked: Where does the joke end and the religion begin?
The Church of the SubGenius is very quick to get your money as fast as possible. The only sin in the Church of the SubGenius is to not send them $30 to become a member for life, thus guaranteeing personal salvation. In fact, the religion claims, if you die and end up in some boring hell, Bob Himself will appear before you and give you a check for $90 and a booklet entitled, “How to Enjoy Hell for Five Cents a Day.”
This business of making money is not disguised in the least. You can get their bible, “The Church of the SubGenius,” several other books including “Revelation X, The Bob Apocryphon,” monthly publications, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers.
But the core of the religion is the idea that every religion is a potential rip-off, and that the goal of any human get-together is to laugh it up. Even the origin of their religion is nothing more than a mutant hybrid of every other belief system you might come across.
J.R. “Bob” Dobbs was a drilling bit salesman until one day he saw a vision of God, or “JHVH-1” on his television, and proceeded to spread the word about slack. Slack is the ultimate goal of the Church, to realize that day-to-day existence is a waste of time and the pursuit of serious fun is the only worthwhile, attainable goal.
Bob realized that amongst normal humanity (referred to as “Pinks”) are descendents of the Yeti, a super-race created by aliens called “X-ists,” and anyone joining the Church of the SubGenius is a Yeti, and therefore superior to the unwashed masses. Bob eventually died in a conspiracy reminiscent of the assassination of J.F.K., only to be resurrected over and over again.
This parody is a constant, enabled by a bewildering cast of characters and events due to the open-source nature of the glossary of terms the Church of the SubGenius espouses. Jesus is there. So is Satan. Godzilla makes an appearance as the deity “Fastitocalosaurus.” There are also “Green Energy Demons” (which are strange creatures that appear when you stare into a light bulb too long and look away) and “The Bleeding Head of Arnold Palmer,” a plaster golf-trophy head of the famous world-cup champion golfer, Arnold Palmer, smeared with red paint, which is the oldest and most powerful object in the universe.
But what religion is complete without its Armageddon? The SubGenius have “X-Day”, when “Xists,” servants of JHVH-1, will travel to Earth in flying saucers to save the SubGeniuses from death when the planet is blown up. Aboard these saucers are “Sex Goddesses” that will reward the true believers. D-Day was supposed to happen on July 5th, 1998. Some claim it did, but JHVH-1 rebooted Earth to give everyone a second chance. Others believe that the original prophecy was read upside-down, and the real D-Day will be in the year 8661.
If the Church of the SubGenius has a holy day, July 5th is it, and on this day believers congregate at “Devivals” to celebrate with punk music, commercialism, stand-up comedy, religious satire and self-parody. There are even baptisms, where people can have their sins washed away…and receive new ones in return.
There is a Zen-logic in the Church of the SubGenius that makes it too big to merely describe. Look it up yourself at www.subgenius.com, and no matter what you believe, if you send $30 you will be saved…or triple your money back.