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Bob Dobbs

Church of the SubGenius

This is considered a parody religion that satirizes religion,, unidentified flying objects, conspiracy theories, and other paranormal beliefs. This religion gained prominence in the 1980s and 1990s when it was based out of Dallas, Texas. It’s an active religion currently on the Internet. In 1980 the publicity arm of the Church of the SubGenius was formed called The SubGenius Foundation. The Foundation's president is "Reverend" Ivan Stang (Doug Smith) and the Vice President is Dr. Philo Drummond (Steve Wilcox). In 1988 there was said to be 3,500 members and in 1990 that figure jumped to 5,000. By the year 2003 it was said to be close to 10,000 members.

How the Church Started

In 1980 the church published their first pamphlet. This found acceptance in the underground pop culture of college campuses, in the underground music scene, and eventually on the Internet. The Church of the SubGenius claims to have been founded in 1953 by J. R. "Bob" Dobbs called the "world's greatest salesman.” He was seen in many of the "can you draw this" ads commonly found in the back of comic books in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Church is often called an offshoot of the tenets of Discordianism but the member’s state that the organization developed on its own with the SubGenius first pamphlet which is known as The World Ends Tomorrow And You May Die! It was written by Ivan Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond. The church gained the interest of many writers, artists and musicians interested in the group as it developed


As the Internet developed in the 1990s there was a renewed interest in the church resulted in many homemade websites devoted to the church. There was also two newsgrouops called alt.slack and alt.binaries.slack. Later there was a third newsgroup called alt.binaries.multimedia.slack. The current SubGenius webpage is maintained by Ivan Stang. There’s a weekly radio show called the Hour of Slack which is a staple on many college campuses.

Late 1990s Early 2000s

In 1996, Stang and Steve Bevilacqua, owner of the Flying Lemur Bookstore in Cleveland, Ohio, worked together to manage the corporate entity of the church, the SubGenius Foundation Inc. This effort helped to revive the church through the late and into the early years of the 2000s. Bevilacqua retire from church management in order to support his wife. The first X-Day gathering also took place at Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, New York in 1996, and the annual church festival continued there until 2011, when it moved to the Wisteria Campground in Ohio.


Composer Frank Zappa wrote in his autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book that he agreed with many of the beliefs of the church but he didn’t want to join as a full member of the church. Comic book author Warren Ellis has stated the influence of the church on his writings.

Church Philosophy

The church is an order of Scoffers and Blasphemers, dedicated to Total Slack.  They parody many New Age terms and Scientology ideologies.  The central belief in the church is the pursuit of Slack, which generally stands for the sense of freedom, independence, and original thinking that comes when you stop worrying about personal goals. The organization portrays itself as place for blasphemers, mutants, disbelievers, rebels, outcasts, hackers, and freethinkers. It’s a place for people who consider themselves out of the mainstream society. A member of the church is called a "SubGenius", the plural of which is "SubGenii.” The church is a satire that mocks religion. The church is incorporated as a profit-making enterprise and is known for blatant appeals for money from believers and non-believers alike. Anyone can become an ordained SubGenius minister by paying a fee of US$35 for a lifetime membership and there are no other requirements for it.  The church encourages humor, comedy, parody, and satire far more than most religious faiths. This belief is probably why the church is seen on one level as an elaborate joke.


SubGenius gatherings, or Devivals, can be seen as a combination of religious preaching, stand-up comedy, and rock concerts. When the local members of the church hold a Devival in their area, it typically occurs at a popular nightclub.

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