The Church of the SubGenius is a religious group that satirizes religion, conspiracy theory, UFOs and popular culture. Originally based in Dallas, Texas, the Church of the SubGenius gained prominence in the 1980s and 1990s subculture, and currently has a large presence on the Internet. Publicly accessible cited figures from 1988 indicated a membership of 3500 at that time and "more than 5000 by 1990.
Because of its similarities to the tenets of Discordianism, The Church of the SubGenius is often described as a syncretic offshoot of that belief. However, its members state that the organization developed on its own with the publication of SubGenius Pamphlet #1 (also known as The World Ends Tomorrow And You May Die!) by Reverend Ivan Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond, the original SubGenius Foundation. The original group, using such pseudonyms as "Puzzling Evidence", "Susie the Floozie", "Palmer Vreedeez", and "Pope Sternodox", forwarded their literature to a number of underground pop-culture figures such as R. Crumb, Paul Mavrides, the New Wave rock group Devo, and Erik Lindgren (producer and president of indie label Arf! Arf! Records in Boston), who embraced it and incorporated it into their work. Crumb's promotion of the Church through his comic book series Weirdo brought many new members into the fold, including artists, musicians, and writers. Their efforts resulted in the publication of the Book of the SubGenius in 1983, followed by Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob" in 1990, Revelation X: The "Bob" Apocryphon in 1994 and The SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack: The Bobliographon in 2006. The popularization of the Internet in the mid-1990s brought a new surge of interest in the Church, resulting in dozens of home-made, elaborately decorated web sites and two Usenet newsgroups, alt.slack and alt.binaries.slack. (A third newsgroup, alt.binaries.multimedia.slack, was created on March 12, 2005.) Ivan Stang maintains the official SubGenius home page at http://www.subgenius.com today. The Church's weekly radio program, the Hour of Slack, is a staple of many college radio stations.
In 1996, Rev. Stang and Steve Bevilacqua worked together to manage the corporate entity of the Church, the SubGenius Foundation Inc. Their efforts helped to bolster the Church's revival through the late 1990s and early 2000s, until Bevilacqua had to retire from Church management in order to support his wife, Rachel Bevilacqua (see Legal matters). The first X-Day gathering also took place at Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, NY in 1996, and the annual Church festival has continued there through the present day.
Such high-profile names as Paul Reubens ("Pee-wee Herman", who placed a picture of "Bob" in every episode of Pee-wee's Playhouse), Magic Mose & his Royal Rockers, featuring 'Blind Sam' (who actually gave a free advertisement to the Church on the back of one of their EP's), David Byrne, Mark Mothersbaugh, Penn Jillette, Robert Anton Wilson, science fiction authors Rudy Rucker and John Shirley, and actor Bruce Campbell have become SubGenius ministers. Composer Frank Zappa says in his autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book that he agrees with many of the beliefs of the church but refrained from joining as a full member. Comic book author Warren Ellis has stated the influence of the Church on his writings, though as of 2007 he has not yet admitted if he actually sent the $30 membership fee. Patrick Volkerding, the founder and maintainer of Slackware Linux, is also a SubGenius affiliate, and he has confirmed the Church and "Bob" inspired the name for Slackware.
It is claimed waggishly in church doctrine that Dobbs inspired L. Ron Hubbard to create his own cult when he remarked to him that the general public may be pink, "but their money is green Ivan Stang also claims that in 1986, an official SubGenius ordainment for Hubbard was paid for and mailed to his address—only two weeks before the Scientology founder's death
These terms, used in a manner that deliberately parodies Scientology and New Age terms, reflect the Church's appeal. It portrays itself as an organization for "mutants, blasphemers, disbelievers, rebels, outcasts, hackers, freethinkers," and people who generally consider themselves outside the "mainstream" of society. The organization is widely seen as a satire that mocks organized religion, or as the church describes itself, "a cynisacreligion."
In a manner that mocks the nature of many non-profit religious organizations, the Church is known for blatant appeals for money from believers and non-believers alike. The Church is incorporated as a profit-making enterprise, and declares itself to be "the only religion that is proud to pay its taxes." Anyone can become an ordained SubGenius minister by paying a fee of $30 US for a lifetime membership. No other requirement is laid upon prospective members, though the cost of ordination separates the Church from the Universal Life Church and other paper churches that offer ordination to all comers. The Church of the SubGenius is known for a standing offer that stems from the ordainment fee: "Eternal Salvation or TRIPLE Your Money Back!" The organization claims that if an ordained SubGenius minister dies and finds himself standing at the gates of "Normal" or "Boring" Hell, he will be personally greeted by Church founder J. R. "Bob" Dobbs Himself and receive a refund check for $90.00, along with a booklet titled, "How to Enjoy Hell for Five Cents an Eternity," which costs $89.95.
The Church claims that true SubGeniuses are not actually human, but rather are descendants of the Yeti. According to Revelation X: The 'Bob' Apocryphon (published in 1994), SubGenii are actually the mutant offspring of a forbidden sexual union that took place millions of years ago between a resident of Atlantis and a human; at that time, humans were little more than a slave race. The resulting offspring was the catalyst that led to the fall of Atlantis. SubGenii often refer to one another as "Yeti" (or yetinsyny), though this origin story is generally not well known outside of the Church itself. (The term yetinsyny was appropriated from the artist Stanisław Szukalski, whose Behold! the Protong posited that Communists and other people Szukalski disliked were descendant from such unions.)
The Church has said that the name "SubGenius" has nothing to do with intelligence, of a level below genius or otherwise. It appears to be an effort to repudiate pretentiousness. (However, in a purposely contradictory fashion, they have also claimed that they are "SubGenius" because being a genius is not very fun.) The term may have something to do with the general unhappiness and absolute slacklessness of the self-proclaimed super-genius, Wile E. Coyote.
"Bob" was killed in San Francisco in 1984 (though former Church members state this was just a publicity stunt). Since that time, he has been killed and subsequently returned from the dead many times, though the Church denies any similarity between this claim and the Biblical account of Jesus's resurrection. The Church guards the trademark and copyright on "Bob's" image, though his face has been used by many artistic figures, showing up on such places as albums by the rock band Sublime and George Clinton; the movie The Wizard of Speed and Time by Mike Jittlov; in the graphical character set of the Atari ST computers; printed on CDs for Slackware Linux (up to the Version 3 days); on the set of Pee-wee's Playhouse, in British comic 2000AD, inside the strip Robo-Hunter, and in Devo's video for the song "Love Without Anger". "Bob" made an appearance in the comic The Badger, his form having been taken by a demon who commented at one point "Do? I'm going to beat you to death with this pipe." He also made a brief appearance in Marvel Comics' Slapstick as a coffee store clerk.
The Church has recently adopted a new symbol called the "Dobbs Icon" (Also known as the sacred ikon), which is a stylized cross with three bars and a pipe, placed in a pattern that matches the eyes, nose, mouth, and pipe of "Bob"'s image. This symbol resembles the patriarchal cross as it is possibly a parody.
Nothing is more central to "Bob" than his pipe, which is said to be filled with the mysterious substance known as habafropzipulops or "frop," (not a common drug) which may contain either mystical, hallucinogenic, or Divine powers. The pipe may also allude to surrealist painter Rene Magritte's famous work, The Treachery of Images, which features an image of a pipe and the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe). According to the church, the image of "Bob" and his pipe are often seen on random objects, possibly to herald things to come or as an omen, or possibly for no reason at all.
The number 13,013 (usually seen as "13013") is the Number of "Bob", or the Mark of Dobbs.
In its January 1, 2000 issue, a Time magazine internet-based poll named J.R. "Bob" Dobbs the #1 "Phoney Or Fraud" of the 20th century.
The Linux distribution Slackware is named for Slack. The card game Chez Geek uses Slack to keep score; the object of the game is to accumulate Slack counters until one player wins by reaching his or her Slack Goal. One of the cards that a player can use within the game to gain Slack is the Book of the Subgenius.
Reverend Stang has argued that X-Day is a religious holiday for the Church, and members of the Church should take the day of July 5th as vacation or holiday: "...if you can't get off the planet, at least get off from work."
Additionally, in the e-mails sent out by the SubGenius foundation to confirm orders made at their online store, mention is made of a holiday called "Xistlessnessmess", which falls on December 25. Furthermore, it has been asserted that "Bob" has died and been reincarnated at least 366 times throughout history & prehistory, thus every day is "Bob"'s birthday (and cause for celebration).
CHURCH FESTIVAL SCENE OF TERROR GUNMAN OPENS FIRE, WOUNDING WOMAN, 2 MEN VIOLENCE: MOTHER OF MAN'S CHILD IS THE APPARENT TARGET.(News)
May 18, 2008; Byline: Kerry Cavanaugh and Harrison Sheppard Staff Writers GRANADA HILLS -- A parolee wielding a semiautomatic rifle walked into...