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Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (b. 1942) co-founded the Church of All Worlds, a Pagan religion based on Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) in 1962. In 2004, inspired by J. K. Rowling’s Hogwart’s from the Harry Potter novels, he founded the Grey School of Wizardry. The Grey School’s four Houses, (Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines and Gnomes) parallel Hogwarts’ Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Its website has Potteresque features, such as ‘Magick Alley’ from which textbooks and school equipment may be purchased. The Grey School is not explicitly Pagan, but teaches wizardry and magic independent of religion. Robert Ellwood argued that since the 1960s fictional wizards have attracted Westerners because they present as leading an authentic existence, possessing gravitas and power, liberated from modern values. This chapter investigates the appeal of the Grey School, seeking to evaluate both its fictional sources and its real-world impact.

In: Fictional Practice: Magic, Narration, and the Power of Imagination
In: The Medieval Presence in the Modernist Aesthetic


Early studies on leaving new religious movements (nrms) exhibited deficiencies found in research on religious conversion and apostasy, such as: a tendency to distinguish pre- and post-conversion identities; and the assumption that to leave was simple. Terms like “recruit” for “convert” and “affiliation” and “disaffiliation” for “conversion” and “apostasy” showed nrms were seen as social movements or “cults,” and not “real” religions. Leaving, apart from cases involving “brainwashing” and deprogrammers, was rarely of interest. From the 1980s research on joining and leaving nrms became more nuanced. Leavers (like joiners) are not identical; some retain faith but not membership, others abandon both.

Open Access
In: Handbook of Leaving Religion

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.

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
In: Handbook of Religion and the Authority of Science
In: Handbook of Islamic Sects and Movements