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Faith takes strange forms on the Web

Chin up Scientology. For years you’ve been ridiculed for thinking 75-million-year-old alien souls possess humanity, but some religious "beliefs" out there make even that sound plausible.

There’s the blob of pasta that created the universe in four days before taking a long weekend; the invisible pink unicorn that raptures socks; the belief that the universe was created last Thursday.

The number of devotees to these and other so-called "beliefs" has grown exponentially in recent years, thanks almost entirely to the Internet. Even on the Army’s online forums, a place where religion is a more popular topic than guns, these wacky ideas get play.

Are they legit?

As legit as any other religion, adherents say. This makes a lot of people — especially practitioners of traditional religions — a bit upset.

It’s easy to see why. Parody religions misappropriate religious tenets in premeditated acts of parody.

Take, for example, Last Thursdayism. The idea is a spinoff of "young-Earth" creationism, a belief that the universe was created by God 6,000 years ago with the appearance of being more than 13 billion years old.

Last Thursdayists believe the universe was created last Thursday, but appears to be older because of a divine hoax. All of so-called history, including our memories and the mold on the cheese in our refrigerators, were fabricated by the creator to make us think we’ve been here for years.

Actual young-Earth creationists seethe at the idea.

"The fallacy in this parody is that it fails to recognize that the creation of something out of nothing will inevitably appear to the naive to be older than it actually is," pans Conservapedia, a Web site that caters mostly to evangelical Christians. "A creation of a man, for example, would appear to a naive observer as though he existed for decades."

Last Thursdayists concur wholeheartedly.

Taking a more tongue-in-cheek path to enlightenment, Pastafarianism is sort of the new kid on the parody block.

It started like this. In 2005, Bobby Henderson posted an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education, "agreeing" with intelligent design. He proposed a parallel version of the "theory" using arguments made by ID proponents — with a catch.

"I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," Henderson wrote.

Just like any other metaphysical deity, the FSM cannot be disproven by scientific means (the Invisible Pink Unicorn, which is paradoxically both invisible and pink, has been "proven" to exist using the same logic — she hasn’t been disproven, so she must exist).

So-called believers in the FSM, IPU and Last Thursdayism willingly admit the absurdity of their claims. But people buy into it anyway.

Henderson’s "The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" — a sort of Bible parody that claims pirates are the FSM’s chosen people — was ranked number 2,359 Friday on the online store Amazon.com. The store’s top-selling Bible ranked 9,207.


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