(Why 7, you ask? Well, at the divinity faculty, we love a bit of symbolism. Biblical scholars understand the number 7 to symbolise perfection (think 7 days of creation, 7 feasts of the Lord). Apply the same logic to my writing and here follows a faultless 7 point blog).
- There really, truly, honestly, genuinely, actually exists a group identifying as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Think Papier-mâché spag bol statues and people dressed up as spaghetti and meatballs….. One follower even petitioned to wear a colander on his head in his passport photo, arguing on the basis that Muslim women are permitted headwear.
- In the USA, the Prosperity Gospel movement is gaining popularity. It argues that to believe in God to be blessed with Prosperity, or in other words, Christianity makes you rich; to have a healthy bank balance is to be loved by God. It fits rather conveniently with the pursuit of the American Dream, if you ask me.
- During the 18th century, Mother Ann Lee led the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, more commonly known as the Shakers. She preached celibacy to the extent that when two women ‘amused themselves by attending to the amour of two flies’ she ordered them to be stripped naked and whipped.
- TB Joshua is a millionaire ‘Prophet’ in Nigeria. He claims to have powers of healing, making him a popular man in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. Due to fears of spreading the highly contagious disease, people from infected Sierra Leone have been asked not to cross the border in search of healing. As a consolation, Joshua ordered 4000 bottles of ‘blessed’ water to be airlifted into Sierra Leone.
- Aimee Semple McPherson founded the Foursquare church (a Pentecostal Christian denomination) in1923. During her career, she allegedly healed thousands, was the second women ever to have a radio broadcasting licence, had three husbands (rejected her fourth proposal) and fabricated her own kidnapping; quite the diva.
- Since the invention of the internet, Cyber churches have been booming. In the Second life Cyber church, you begin by picking an Avatar and building an imaginary world. Here you can listen to sermons, attend church services and discuss your faith with other Avatars. Picture Sims, the religious version.
- Jediism really took off in fame after an email campaign in Australia petitioned to have it included in the 2001 census. In 2009, Daniel Jones, founder of the International Jedi movement, was removed from a North Wales Tesco for refusing to put down his hood.