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I was born a Jew, but I didn’t stay that way for very long. My mother was a Lutheran with strict German parents. My father was a Jew who actually had family connections to the founders of Israel. There are streets and monuments dedicated to our family members throughout the country. True story.
The German side of the family didn’t exactly get along with the Jewish side, and by the time I was five years old my parents had had enough of the in-fighting and bickering. They decided to quit going to temple.
They joined the Unitarian church, which was the “feel-good” sanctuary in the area. The building was designed by Ron Dirsmith, a renowned architect who also designed the Playboy Bunny Jet’s interior and the infamous grotto at Hugh Hefner’s Los Angeles mansion.
Yes, the happy vibe was everywhere at the church, evidenced not only by the congregants who all seemed to shop at the same store and created a veritable landscape of turtleneck-wearing, pipe-smoking men and vivid-pantsuit-wearing women, but also by the building’s curved free-form walls and the large boulder the minister stood behind and used as his podium.
It was all so hip. So cool. So modern.
Unlike virtually every other religion ever created, this church seemed to have no rules, no guidelines, and no commandments other than to be kind to your neighbors. So, for a 5-year-old, it was pretty nice. Especially the lasagna after the service. Much better than learning about Moses and eating matzo.
But this switch to the feel-good religion also made life a bit more complicated. On every intake form—at school, at camp, at the doctor’s office—there was always a question about religious preference, but never a box to checkmark “Unitarian.” It was as if we didn’t really exist.
Which leads to the question “Who decides whether a religion is real?”
Scientology is a real religion, right? If you do a Google search, you will find Scientology holds humans have had innumerable past lives, some of which were in extraterrestrial cultures. Scroll down a bit and you’ll find “How much does it cost to be a Scientologist?” The answer, by the way, is $650 for the beginner’s course. Personally, I’m not a big fan of religions that combine aliens with money. I believe creatures from other planets should be free for all to enjoy.
Raëlism is a relatively new religion that was formed in 1974 and also has an alien connection. Raëlists believe a humanoid species of extraterrestrials is responsible for the genesis of the human race, and figures including the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad were alien-human hybrids. Mind you, I’m not making any judgments here.
There even is a religion devoted to a retired soccer player. Fans of Diego Maradona founded Iglesia Maradoniana, a church devoted to “the best player of all time,” in 1998. The group’s followers now number more than 1 million. Score!
Who’s to say what is a “normal” religion and what is kooky? I heard there’s one religion in which the devout ritualistically consume the flesh and blood of their leader in order to appease their god, and there are half-naked statues of him being tortured to death throughout each church building. Crazy, eh?
Happy holidays to all.
Randall Huft is president and creative director at Innovation Agency, an advertising, branding, and public relations firm specializing in the cannabis industry. While working with blue-chip companies including AT&T, United Airlines, IBM, Walgreens, American Express, Toyota, and Disney, he discovered what works, what doesn’t, and how to gain market share.