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11 Upstart Religions Rooted in Pop Culture

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Fans of movies, books and even animated mice have translated their love for specific brands of pop culture into cults, organizations and federally recognized religious groups, with varying degrees of seriousness and success.

1. The Sect of Gadget Hackwrench

Golly. If you’re going to worship one of the main characters from Disney’s long-canceled Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, Gadget is probably the best option. A group of Russian individuals, apparently ignoring the fact that her inventions usually failed at particularly inconvenient moments in nearly every episode, decided that the animated begoggled tinkerer was worthy of more than mere admiration.

Membership activities for the Sect of Gadget Hackwrench include plastering large Gadget stickers all about Russia, singing to and playing music for a Gadget poster under the cover of night, having group meals (attended by said poster), and maintaining utter devotion to a cartoon mouse. Followers, when asked “But… why?” say Gadget Hackwrench is “strict, cute, optimistic and her level of technical knowledge is unachievable for a mortal being.”

2. The Church of the Latter-Day Dude

Maybe you think building a religious sect from the philosophy of a fictional movie character is silly. Yeah, well, y’know. That’s just, like uhh… your opinion, man. And 150,000 ordained Dudeist priests would disagree.

The self-proclaimed “slowest-growing religion in the world,” based on Dude Lebowski from The Big Lebowski, is just like Chinese Taoism, “before it went all weird with magic tricks and body fluids.” So sit back, abide, and whatever you do, don’t call female Dudeists “dudette.” That’s not cool.

3. Matrixism / New Matrixism

Do you have your own hacker alias and a lingering suspicion that our world is a simulated reality? You may be a Redpill. That’s OK! The terms of Matrixism clearly state that students of the science and philosophy of the Matrix need not renounce any other religious views (or sports, or even pornography) in their quest to become the One. So go ahead and ponder the semi-subjective, multi-layered nature of reality, have a sandwich with Neo, but try to brush up on your quantum physics basics and elementary calculus skills before deciding if you really want to know whether the matrix is real. This 1968 Matrix Theory textbook, an official “tool” of Matrixism, should help. For deeper philosophical reading, see The Promulgation of Universal Peace, which New Matrixists cite as the earliest explicit reference to the Matrix—way back in 1911.

4. Jediism

If you’re thinking of becoming an ordained clergyperson of the Jedi faith, put away your childish dreams of lightsaber battles and Obi Wan cosplay. According to the official site for The Temple of the Jedi Order, “We are real Jedi… George Lucas' Jedi are fictional characters that exist within a literary and cinematic universe.” True Jediism is for those who wish to be instruments of peace and as such all practitioners must agree to live by the Jedi Creed and an adapted list of beliefs from ReligiousTolerance.org. A 2001 census in Australia recorded 70,509 self-proclaimed Jedi Knights, but nearby New Zealand holds the record for highest per capita rate of Jedi citizens, with 1.5% of the population listing themselves as such in 2001.

5. Arceism

The Arceism Facebook Page

If you choose Pokémon, you can also choose to join the semi-serious (mostly-not) community of polytheists who worship Legendary Pokémon as deities and believe the world was created by Arceus, who was emerged from an egg in a place where there was nothing. Collecting Pokémon memorabilia is also strongly encouraged.

6. Society of Cylon

Cylonism is a sort of philosophical takeaway from Battlestar Galactica. Odds are most members of the Society of Cylon more closely resemble the thirteen humanoid models than the robotic Centurions (or the reptilian race of creatures who created them), but at any rate there’s no focus on the destruction of humankind; rather the Society focuses on the responsibility of all sentient beings to secure a healthy future for the human race, with a focus on scientific progress and the advancement of “liberty and knowledge of humanity.”

7. Church of All Worlds

It turns out that a book about the first man from Mars to make his way to Earth can change the world, or at least the way some people look at it. When Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was published in 1961, there was no expectation that a fictional church founded in the novel would be recognized in real life by the federal government six years later as a legitimate religion. The Church of All Worlds is a neopagan organization based on spiritual and social concepts outlined in Heinlein’s work, emphasizing “living in harmony with Nature, self-actualization, deep friendship and positive sexuality.”

An interesting subsidiary group had a few minutes of fame in the 1980s after creating unicorns by manipulating the horn buds of (goat) kids. Ringling Brothers adopted a few and took them on tour.

8. The Church of Ed Wood

The followers of Woodism look to the life of late film director Ed Wood for guidance, seeing him as a savior and a religious entity. And if you’re wondering: Yes, they are “TOTALLY serious,” or so claims a pop-up on the church’s site, EdWood.org. Created in 1996 by Reverend Steve Galindo, the Woodists just want to “lead happy, positive lives.” And if 3,000 global members of the Church of Ed Wood can’t convince you that this is a Real Thing, that’s okay, too. Galindo says, “We don't expect you to believe in Woodism. We expect you to respect the OUR belief in Woodism.”

9. Juggalo Faith

A 2011 FBI report might call them a “loosely organized hybrid gang,” but fans of Insane Clown Posse call themselves juggalos and each other family. But sharing a love for face paint and (alleged) random acts of vandalism isn’t enough to classify a group as a religious organization. For that, there’s JuggaloFaith.com, a group of Faygo soda-baptized ninjas who carry the quasi-mystical message of the Dark Carnival to juggalos everywhere. The site features regular sermons and counseling from a group of volunteer “reverends,” who just want you to know that the message of the Carnival, behind the horrorcore and onstage Tila Tequila assaults, is “the gospels of Jesus Christ.” ICP’s stance on this message wavers a bit, saying liner notes from The Wraith: Shangri-La and lyrics in both "Miracles" and "The Unveiling," while overtly religious, aren’t “hidden messages.”

10. Festivus

OK, so the Seinfeld-inspired observance isn’t so much a religion as it is a holiday, but a strange legal precedent means that if you happen to be serving jail time, you can probably air your grievances in court to get better food. After a plea in the name of “healthism” failed, California inmate Malcolm Alarmo King was awarded double portions of kosher meals after arguing his case for better dinners as a requirement for followers of Festivus. He’s since served his term and, thanks to a Festivus miracle, has been released. No word on whether he practices the Feats of Strength every December 23rd.

11. Missionary Church of Kopimi

While file-sharing isn’t precisely grounded in pop culture, it’s highly likely that the majority of files shared are culturally popular. The Church of Kopimi, a congregation comprising filesharers who would rather not face jail time for downloading Napoleon Dynamite, gained recognition by the Swedish government in 2011. According to Isak Gerson, the founder of Kopimism, “information is holy and copying is a sacrament.” The group’s sacred emblems are CTRL+C and CTRL+V. Despite its official registration, Kopimi isn’t expected to halt any government crackdowns on illegal sharing sites like The Pirate Bay.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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