the nature of the human condition, there is a reluctance to accept that
our existence concludes on our death bed and the debate over how we
continue after the last beat of our heart has become the intersecting
point of most major religions. So, although irrational and improvable,
the inclusion of a belief in life after death cannot be considered
bizarre. The word bizarre must be reserved for those belief systems that
step knee-deep in the irrational and improvable in this life.
of those included here attract the word “bizarre” for their own
incredible assertions, while others do so for the outrageous way in
which their own bureaucracies or the authorities around them behave. So
the following list has been assembled from the tenth to most bizarre
with a view to noting those that have spun on more eccentric orbits than
the vast majority faith-based belief systems.
as a method of escaping the material demands of the modern world or as a
way to escape the hardships of poverty, sports has a vital and
meaningful role in life. The people who reach the highest level of any
sport receive the adulation and affection of a broad range of supporters
and devotees. So it may be no surprise that the World Game has spawned
its own bizarre spiritual phenomenon with, at the head of it, the one
unquestionable champion, Diego Maradona.
the celebration of the great man’s thirty-eighth birthday, a handful of
fanatics in the city of Rosario founded the Iglesia Maradoniana, that
is, the Maradonian Church. As with all great movements, and soccer
games, the beginnings were slow and the participants took time to
instigate the path to their goal, so it wasn’t until 2001 that the first
official meeting of the church was held. Less than ten years later,
Iglesia Maradoniana boasts a membership of over 80,000 drawn from over
other systems of belief that must use weekly gatherings to maintain
their momentum and passion, the Maradonian Church has only two
significant periods of structured worship each year. On October 29th and
30th, worshippers celebrate Noche buena y Navidad Maradoniana,
Maradona, Christmas Eve and Christmas, which acknowledges the birthday
of the one true football God. Then on June 22nd, Las Pascuas
Maradonianas, Maradona Easter, is celebrated to commemorate the day that
Argentina defeated England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals with
Maradona scoring the two goals for his country.
Iglesia Maradoniana sets out some important tenets for her members and
these can be largely reflected in the Ten Commandments of the church:
1. The ball must not be stained, as D10S has proclaimed;
2. Love football over all things; 3. Declare your unconditional love of football; 4. Defend the colors of Argentina; 5. Preach the words of “Diego Maradona” all over the world; 6. Pray in the temples where he preached, and to his sacred mantles;
7. Do not proclaim the name of Diego in the name of a single club; 8. Follow the teachings of the Maradonian Church; 9. Let Diego be your second name, and that of your children; 10.
“No see cabeza de term y sue no se the escape la tortuga.” (Meaning
“don’t be a hothead and don’t let the turtle escape you”)
is a clever play on the Spanish word for God, Dios, with the inclusion
of the jersey number of the infallible one of the football world, but
the church is not all tongue in cheek. Like many followers, one of the
Ten Apostles of the church has been quoted as saying, “The church isn’t
just a bit of fun. This is a serious celebration of our eternal love for
God. I may have only been part of the church for two years but I was
While there are those who will always see as bizarre the passion of
sport that leads grown men to proclaim Maradona as God and, although
Diego Maradona himself is reluctant to acknowledge his deity, perhaps
the truth is hidden in one of his most famous or infamous moments on the
soccer pitch. The second of Maradona’s goals in the quarter-final of
the 1986 World Cup has long been revealed to have been scored with his
hand. But when this was put to the incarnate God himself, his response
was simple, that the triumph was assisted by the “Mano de Dios”, the
Hand of God.
The Church of All Worlds
for belief can come in a variety of ways and not every spiritual leader
can hope for a “Road to Damascus” moment to point them toward their
true calling. But Oberon Zell-Ravenheart founded the Church of All
Worlds through a novel, if not bizarre, means by basing his neo-pagan
religion on – a novel. While many religions accommodate and assimilate
the belief systems around them, few pick up whole slabs of fictional
religions and make them their own.
on a religion from “Stranger in a Strange Land”, a science fiction
novel by Robert A. Heinlein, the Church of All Worlds includes aspects
of Science Fiction, elements of Greek Mythology, handfuls of
contemporary fiction and a healthy smattering of Druidry. Of course, the
growth of a system of belief from Science Fiction can hardly be
considered bizarre, unless others like Jediism and Scientology were to
be labeled bizarre as well.
the Church of All Worlds has tried to remain contemporary and has now
dipped into more current fiction to create The Grey School of Wizardry,
which has remarkable similarities to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry from the Harry Potter novels. Educational supplies can be
purchased through Magick Alley and its Grey Council boasts an extensive
list of practitioners including the longest continuously-practicing
Wiccan in the world, who had “a mystical experience in the arms of his
first fiancée” and was initiated soon after into Gardnerian Witchcraft.
Perhaps this system of belief would seem less unusual if everyone who
had a mystical experience in the arms of their lover immediately entered
a branch of Witchcraft.
a Sacred Mission that works towards the reawakening of Gaia, the Church
is firmly grounded in neo-paganism, yet some choices of language are
surprising. Lurking Bear is a noted member of the Grey Council, an
associated website carries a slogan that may well have been borrowed
from a bar, “May You Never Thirst!” and the co-founder and wife of
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart has taken a name that clearly represents the
beauty of the rising day or the rising of Oberon, in Morning Glory
Zell-Ravenheart. So it makes sense that the Church is administered by
two bodies, the Board of Directors and the Fun Committee.
cynical would suggest that the use of such language and the inclusion
of pop culture references and structures are all ploys to make the
Church a commercial success, more so than a spiritual one. But, in maybe
the most bizarre twist of all, the annual fee to enroll in the online
Grey School of Wizardry is a negligible $30 for students under eighteen
and $60 for those over eighteen. The cost to move from one level to the
next is similarly negligible, which can only lead one to believe that,
regardless of the bizarre conglomerate of fiction and fantasy, Oberon,
Morning Glory and others of the Church of All Worlds are sincere in
their beliefs and intentions.
Circle Of Friends
Groening was a miracle-healer and teacher, who made few professions to
greatness or god-likeness. He came to prominence in Germany in the
latter half of the 1940’s, having survived World War II as a benign
opponent to the Nazi Movement. As a healer, Groening drew on the divine
energy of God to help cases of chronic illness and he encouraged his
followers to “not be credulous” but to “convince yourself”.
all, there was little of Bruno Groening and his work that was bizarre,
until he passed away in 1959. It was then that the Circle Of Friends
took his humble insistence that his followers be sure of their faith to a
radical level. To this end they began to document healings that they
could attribute to Groening, demanding reports from doctors, medical
professionals and veterinarians before and after the healing to justify
process was thorough and admirable, but somewhere in the midst of it
the followers devised new and unusual approaches to the “Heilstrom”, the
divine energy, that Groening had used. It was “realized” that, for the
energy to work effectively, members of the congregation could not sit in
any configuration but a series of even and parallel rows that all faced
the photograph of Groening. This was so that the flow of the energy
would be most efficiently channeled.
at meetings was restricted to those tunes recognized to have shared the
vibrational qualities of Groening’s “divine energy”. Cut flowers were
symbols of death and could be placed near the photograph. Only potted
plants could be used as these were still filled with the energy of life.
the Circle Of Friends has spread, the pressing focus of its members has
moved away from the sharing of spirituality and the empowering love of
God to the need to record, document and lodge healings that can be
proven as the intercession of Bruno Groening. While there can be no
doubt that the work of Groening himself was remarkable, the current
standard of achievements dwells somewhere in the midst of chickens
laying more contented eggs.
history spiritual leaders have had their words, works and intentions
modified and mollified to accommodate the whims of their followers. The
Circle of Friends may be representative of the bizarre bureaucratic
interpretations made by many stumbling followers that impose a system of
belief on the work of great people.
the diversity of beliefs, either bizarre or banal, there are few that
reject the opportunity to exclusivity. However, Ayah Pin succeeded in
being both bizarre and banal while working enthusiastically to gather
all believers of just about anything. This multi-denominational appeal
was even more admirable given that his Malaysian home was in the very
bosom of Islamic fundamentalism.
Kingdom, the commune and sect founded by Ariffin Mohammed, who was
later known as Ayah Pin, was open to most religions as Arrifin
proclaimed himself the reincarnation of the gods of Islam, Christianity,
Buddhism, and Hinduism. In contrast to the paranoid machinations of the
State endorsed religion that worked itself into a lather trying to
silence it, Sky Kingdom pursued a convivial and ecumenical approach to
religion. They even went so far as to host a Christian group, which was a
rare and dangerous venture in an environment where the rule of Sharia
law was so powerful.
evidence of this power, Sky Kingdom and its followers were subject to
continuous persecution and often members were arrested and charged with
offenses under Sharia Law. Appeals against prison sentences and fines
were lodged on the basis that those charged had renounced Islam and so
were no longer subject to Sharia Law. However, the federal court
dismissed the appeals on the basis that the guilty parties were Muslim
at the time that they had committed the offenses.
Aside from the bizarre behavior occurring around it, Sky Kingdom must be
acknowledged as having one of the most bizarre places of worship
imaginable. In their typically inoffensive style, they constructed a
two-story teapot. Cream in color and complemented by a proportionally
sized blue vase, these building were designed to symbolize the “love
pouring from heaven” and the purity and purifying properties of water.
Sadly, there was no Brahman bull-sized teabag in Ayah Pin’s disciple’s
dream, which was the inspiration for the architecture.
similarly impressive big, yellow umbrella provided shade in the
compound as “a place for people to take shelter beneath God”. There was
also some tenuous link in the umbrella to the nine planets of Hinduism,
but some visitors found that hard to spot.
from the Besut Land Office demolished the buildings of Sky Kingdom on
August 1st, 2005, using bureaucratic justifications to confiscate the
land. Ayah Pin was forced into exile in Thailand and, even though the
remnant members of the commune elected a new leader, they now live in
such fear that they turn off all the lights in the commune should a car
be heard approaching at night.
that springs into the mire without a bean of hesitation has to be the
Pythagorean Circle of Friends. While Pythagoras was a master
mathematician and a charismatic philosopher and teacher, he also drifted
into the realm of the mystics. So great was his fame that he
established a commune, consisting of the inner circle, or Mathematikoi,
and an outer circle, the Akousmatikoi. Both levels of followers were
devoted to his teachings and the more they praised his name, the
stranger the rules became.
wasn’t long before he considered himself semi-divine and persuaded his
followers of the reality of reincarnation and the transmigration of the
soul. He reportedly was convinced of this when he saw a man beating a
dog and called for the beating to stop because he recognized the voice
of deceased friend in the yelps of the dog.
as you would expect of Pythagoras, he quickly pointed out that if
people could be reincarnated in animals, then eating them was not really
polite. Vegetarianism was the order of the day, although probably
something green with a Greek dressing would have been the order most
days, but lentil soup could have been questionable. Lentils are close to
beans in the legume family and beans were banned by the big man, but
more of that later.
The Pythagoreans system of belief recognized that, at its most basic,
reality is mathematical in nature. This was reflected in music,
astronomy and, of course, mathematics. The numbers themselves held
meaning, such as,
one is the number of reason
two is the first female number, that of opinion three is the first true male number, the number of harmony four is the number of justice five is the number of marriage (2+3) six is the number of creation (2×3)
also helped that all numbers were rational, so even nature could be
explained rationally. But when one of his followers, Hippasus, proved to
Pythagoras that the square root of two was irrational, Pythagoras did
the only thing a rational religious leader could. He had him drowned.
other rules of Pythagoreanism were that one should never stir the fire
with an iron, never touch a white cock and never pick up what has
fallen. However, there were others that probably were more worrying in
the days of Pythagoras than they are now, such as, women and men are
equal and all property should be communal.
Pythagoreanism lived on for centuries, but the stringent rules were
probably going to be the death of it, as they were for its founder.
Pythagoras, when being chased by soldiers came to field of beans. With
the choice of trampling the sacred legumes or facing death, he chose to
abide by his own laws and was speared where he stood.
a belief system was to gain the title “bizarre” simply because it
acknowledged the divinity of a man, then everything from Christianity to
Buddhism would have to be included. With the proportion of the human
race that would be included, it would almost be bizarre, or at best
weird, to not hold such a belief. But the belief system of Yaohnanen
tribe on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu can be considered
bizarre on the basis of whom they worship as their deity.
These natives are convinced that Prince Philip, consort of Queen
Elizabeth II, is the embodiment of a spirit that was born of the volcano
of their island, the pale-skinned son of the mountain spirit. This is
the same Prince Philip renowned for insensitive and racist comments such
as, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed” (to a
group of British students in China), “It looks as if it was put in by an
Indian.” (Commenting on an old fuse-box in a factory) and “Still
throwing spears?” (Asked of an Australian Aborigine).
Yaohnanen tribesmen carry out ceremonies and rituals including a
special festival on June 10th, Prince Philip’s birthday, to which
neighboring tribes are invited. Their expectation is to see the Prince
return to them and when he doesn’t they, like all good disciples, know
that his spirit is with them even if he can’t be there in person.
basis of the Yaohnanen belief is rooted hundreds, perhaps thousands of
years ago in the tale of the son of the mountain spirit who ventured
across the seas to find a powerful woman to marry. Unlike themselves,
for they were only human, this spirit would have pale skin. In the late
1950’s to early 1960’s, the devout Yaohnanen became aware of a tall,
pale-skinned man who had married perhaps the most powerful woman on
earth and they began to pay homage to Prince Philip.
1974 their faith was strengthened by a visit by Prince Philip and Queen
Elizabeth II. This was seen as the son of the mountain spirit returning
to show them his wife. Prince Philip is well aware of the cult and,
while not encouraging perceptions of his “god” status, has sent
photographs and other gifts to the tribe including one of himself
holding a ceremonial club.
Pointing to the photograph the chief proclaims, “He’s a god, not a man.”
consideration of a “System” of belief, Solipsism does struggle with
some of the more obvious features of other systems of belief. There is
no ritualistic adherence to dogma, no ceremonial sequence of rites and
no prayerful adoration of a deity. This is largely because the Solipsist
believes their every whim is dogma, their daily routines are the rites
of their belief and that they are as close to deity as anything is going
short, Solipsism is the belief that the world and everything in it is
the construction and product of one mind, that of the Solipsist. The
rest of the world doesn’t really exist until the Solipsist thinks of it
consciously or unconsciously.
Descartes laid the groundwork for Solipsism through his introduction of
“methodic doubt” into the world of philosophy and, in turn, his
questioning of all our physical senses until he resolved the search for
existence in the brilliant “I think, therefore I am”. Unfortunately, it
was only a small, but enormously bizarre leap for the Solipsist to
transform this five word pillar of philosophy to “I think, therefore I
only am!”, possibly followed with “So you can all sod-off until I think
about you again.”
course, Solipsism is a very convenient system of belief because most of
the world’s, and indeed life’s, major problems can be dismissed with,
“I’ll think about that tomorrow when I have time and if I don’t get
around to it there’s no great bother as it never really existed anyway.”
the introspective Solipsist would have a great deal more trouble in
facing the suffering and torment of the world as they would have to
question why they keep thinking of such horrid things. Given the chance,
most of us would like to see the world full of light and happiness and
only our worst enemies would be banished to famine and tsunamis. How
then can the Solipsist live with themselves when they see hunger in
developing countries and terrorism?
there is often a temptation to sneer and ridicule beliefs that diverge
from the norm, it is important to maintain an objective view of the all
credos as being genuine attempts by religious leaders to satisfy the
spirituality of their followers. Such a spirit is essential to see the
Oneida Community, established in New York State in 1848, as John
Humphrey Noyes’ honorable effort to bring a true sense of Christianity
to the world; without this spirit he may be seen as just a dirty old
theological basis of Noyes’ community is as supportable as many sects
that separated from the Church throughout history. Among his teachings
was the claim that Jesus actually returned to the world in 70 AD One
could expect that this would have been sound cause for a significant
shift in many teachings and developments of Christian teachings, but
Noyes didn’t seem to take advantage of the profundity of this. Rather he
turned his teachings towards the nature of relationships in the
most significant of these appear to be Complex Marriage, Ascending
Fellowship, Male Continence and Mutual Criticism. The most thoughtful
married reader would have to be thinking that marriage is complex enough
as it is, how could Noyes make it even more so? He did this by removing
the monogamist basis of marriage. In fact, everyone in the community
was married to everyone. This meant that every member could share their
member with every other member and, indeed, should. If two people
appeared to be becoming exclusive, they were separated for a specific
length of time to let the passion dissipate.
recognized that this was especially important with virgins and the
young. To avoid virgins associating only with other young people,
Central Members, who were older and could provide more adequate
spiritual guidance, would select a virgin to introduce to the mysteries
of Complex Marriage. Through this process of Ascending Fellowship, the
young were taught the attitudes and process of the Community.
Oneida Community was built on a tenet of equality and women were given
all the same rights as men, including the right to select a virgin the
process of Ascending Fellowship. However, only women who had passed
through menopause could take on this role. This was because of the
teachings that valued every seed and abhorred unwanted pregnancy.
teaching was formalized in the practice of Male Continence, which was
the suppression of ejaculation for any purpose but procreation. Unlike
the Withdrawal method of birth control or simple abstinence, Male
Continence was couched in a community that actively encouraged sexual
intercourse, but discouraged wanton ejaculation. While many scoff at the
notion, statistically it is worth noting that the live birth rate in
regard to total population in New York State in 2009 was 1.26%, but in
the Oneida Community of 250 people in the 1850’s the same comparison was
16% with 40 live births.
the eccentric and rigid nature of the practices of Oneida, it would be
understandable that a process to maintain the principles was essential.
The one employed was Mutual Criticism, through which a member could be
confronted with the criticism of one of the many committees of the
community or of the community as a whole. These were almost always
directed toward the ways in which the member had detracted from “family
unity” and the consequences were often humiliating experiences.
the 1850’s, 60’ and 70’s, the community grew and new communities were
founded, but with the succession of John Humphrey Noyes’ son, Dr.
Theodore Noyes, to the leadership of Oneida cracks began to appear. His
agnosticism was probably a stumbling point, but of greater concern was
the rigidity of his rule and many community members were disaffected. By
1879, the concept of Complex Marriage had to be abandoned and the
communities dispersed into the general population.
a system of belief, Oneida seemed to move away from the more heavily
religious aspects of other bizarre examples, but the practices and
principles of the community certainly demanded a dedication comparable
to the most devout.
Church Of Euthanasia
argument over the reality of Climate Change and Global Warming may rage
around the world, but it is hard to find opposition to the concerns
raised around over-population. So great is the problem that China, a
country whose standing as a superpower is built on the size of its
population, has conceded to implementing the infamous One Child Policy.
This policy limits couples to one child and imposes fines and even
forced sterilization in the events of subsequent successful pregnancies.
Church of Euthanasia takes a “What’s done is done?” attitude to
children already present, but steps up the bizarre scale by promoting
the use of suicide, abortion, cannibalism and, of course, sodomy as
means of addressing the population issue. Proclaiming itself as “a
non-profit educational foundation devoted to restoring balance between
Humans and the remaining species on Earth”, the Church of Euthanasia is a
vocal opponent to everyone from anti-abortion groups to those Jonathon
King described as giving “the rotting the dead the will to live, go on
and never die.”
by the Rev, Chris Korda in Massachusetts, USA, the Church of Euthanasia
has only one commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Procreate”. However, it does
stress that all of its principle pillars, suicide, abortion, cannibalism
and sodomy, are only supported as voluntary means of achieving the
Church’s goals. This means that the Church does not sanction murder,
rape and involuntary sterilization and cannibalism is limited to only
eating people who are already dead.
The Planet, Kill Yourself” is a standard slogan and bumper sticker, but
this and other similarly catchphrases paled into deathly insignificance
against the Rev. Korda’s music video release, “I Like To Watch”. Using a
blend of hard-core pornography and footage of the collapsing World
Trade Center, Rev. Korda struck a discord with almost every level of
society and provided invaluable publicity for the Church of Euthanasia.
to this, the Church had only really come to prominence through its
conflicts with anti-abortion activists, an appearance on the Jerry
Springer Show entitled, “I Want To Join A Suicide Cult” and through the
demise of a 52-year-old woman who followed the Church’s directions on
committing suicide by asphyxiation through the use of helium. In the
wake of legal threats against the church as contributing to the death of
the Missouri woman, the Church of Euthanasia removed the pages giving
instruction in suicide from the website.
asked why he doesn’t kill himself, Rev. Korda answered with the tongue
in cheek manner that seems to throw a playful gloss over the many
disturbing recommendations of the Church of Euthanasia and explained
that, “I’ll kill myself when I feel like it. Suicide is OPTIONAL,
bizarre nature of Heaven’s Gate can be measured through either the
quantity or quality of the cult’s remarkable behavior. From its
beginnings as a seed sown during the near-death experience of one of the
founders, Marshall Applewhite to the extraordinary end of thirty-nine
members literally in the wake of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, Heaven’s Gate
captured the imagination of its members and the stunned attention of the
recovering from a heart-attack, Marshall Applewhite faced a near-death
experience and came out of it believing he and his nurse, Bonnie
Nettles, were the chosen “Two” witnesses of the events of the Book of
Revelations in the Bible. From there they formulated a belief system
that recognized that the Earth was doomed to be “recycled” and the only
way to survive this process was to escape from the Earth itself.
led to a number of possible courses of action, including the building
of a spacecraft out of old tires and other secondhand material, which
was an interesting echo of the “recycling” theme, and a secret method
for members to achieve a level of consciousness above human. But the
path chosen was the most bizarre. Thirty-nine members elected to hitch a
ride on a spaceship that was hiding in the brilliant tail of the Comet
Hale-Bopp and that was carrying Jesus.
Applewhite was sure that there was no way to reach their goal in their
current form and persuaded the other thirty-eight travelers that would
have to relinquish their humanity to make the voyage. He also convinced
them to all wear the same uniform, which was predominantly black, but
for the armbands reading “Heaven’s Gate Away Team” and the white patches
on their brand new Nike tennis shoes. Perhaps the footwear was to cover
the prospect that, rather than Jesus, the spacecraft carried the Greek
Goddess of victory, or maybe his last words to his disciples were, “Just
of those appalled by the mass suicide questioned the philosophy behind
it. But Applewhite had foreseen this concern and he had explained the
seeming inconsistency in his teachings by drawing a comparison to the
Jewish sect at Masada in 73 AD, who were faced with violation and
violent death at the hands of their Roman besiegers and chose death by
their own hands as a dignified means of escaping the inevitable. In this
way he justified the willful exit of the body as a purposeful attempt
to reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
the tragedy of thirty-nine deaths caused by misguidance and
misunderstanding is terrible, there can be no doubting that the
charismatic and bizarre beliefs of Marshall Applewhite must be
acknowledged among the most disturbing.