A parody religion or mock religion is either a parody of a religion, sect or cult, or a relatively unserious religion that many people may take as being too esoteric to be classified as a "real" religion. One parody religion can be a parody of several religions, sects, gurus and cults at the same time.
In some parody religions the emphasis is on making fun and being a convenient excuse for pleasant social interaction among like-minded, e.g. the Church of the SubGenius.
Other parody religions target a specific religion, sect, cult, or new religious movement. With some parody religions only ex-members of the specific group being parodied may understand it or be interested in it.
Other parody religions are aimed at highlighting deficiencies in particular pro-religious arguments — the thinking being that if a given argument can also be used to support a clear parody, then the original argument is clearly flawed (an example of this is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which parodies the equal time argument employed by Intelligent design Creationism).
In 2001 following an Internet campaign, the fictional Star Wars "religion" Jedi became a parody religion as 0.7% of the UK population stated their religion as Jedi in the official census (see Jedi census). Similar campaigns in other countries also took place.
Several religions that are classified as parody religions have a number of relatively serious followers who embrace the perceived absurdity of these religions as spiritually significant, a decidedly post-modern approach to religion. The most notable of these religions may be Discordianism. With Discordianism, it may be hard to tell if even these "serious" followers are not just taking part in an even bigger joke. This joke, in turn, may be part of a greater path to enlightenment, and so on ad infinitum.
Parody religions are almost never recognised by existing organised religions.
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.|||Stephen F. Roberts
Many atheists, most notably Richard Dawkins, use parody religions such as those of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn — as well as ancient gods like Zeus and Thor — as modern versions of Russell's teapot to argue that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the atheist.
Dawkins also created a parody of the criticism of atheism, coining the term athorism, or the firm belief that the Norse deity Thor does not exist. The intention is to emphasize the claim that atheism is not a form of religious creed, but instead merely denial of beliefs. A common challenge against atheism is the fact that atheism is itself a form of "faith", a belief without proof. The theist might say "No one can prove that God doesn't exist, therefore an atheist is exercising faith by asserting that there is no God." Dawkins argues that by replacing the word "God" with "Thor" one should see that the assertion is fallacious. The burden of proof, he claims, rests upon the believer in the supernatural, not upon the non-believer who considers such things unlikely. Athorism is an attempt to illustrate through absurdity that there is no logical difference between disbelieving any particular religion.