Chapter 23 The Messiah is a Salesman, Yet Consumerism is a Con(spiracy): The Church of the SubGenius, Work, and the Pursuit of Slack as a Spiritual Ideal

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
Carole M. Cusack
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The Church of the SubGenius, usually regarded as a “parody religion,” offers a sophisticated critique of Western values focused on resistance to a consumerist conspiracy. This article draws on Guy Debord’s contention that the capitalist spectacle has replaced the religious worldview, rendering everyday life mysterious and the acquisition of goods compulsive, and argues that, when stripped of science fiction tropes, the Church of the SubGenius’ vision of a world in the grip of a totalitarian materialist conspiracy is largely realistic. Yet, this ‘rational’ rejection of consumerism is undermined by the portrayal of J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, the salesman messiah, based (partly) on L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), and the science fictions trappings of the extraterrestrial conspiracy. It is argued that humor is the key to making sense of the Church, as it integrates the bad taste, shock value, and contrariness of the religion into an effective spiritual path of resistance.

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