When Jeff Bridges starred as ‘The Dude’ in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, I bet he didn’t know that his character would one day inspire a whole new religion. Seven years after the film’s release, Oliver Benjamin was watching it with a large group of people in Thailand, when he says he was ‘transformed’. Soon, the Church of the Latter-Day Dude was born in the hip resort town of Pai; a modern-day hippie-style religion, where it’s okay to do pretty much as you please. Today, Dudeism has over 100,000 ordained Dudeist priests all over the world, and Benjamin is the Dudely Lama. It’s interesting to note that over 75 percent of the followers are male.
One look at the religion’s official website, and you’re bound to think it’s a joke. But it isn’t, the Dudeists are actually pretty serious about being ‘cool’. Dudeism also borrows some of its philosophy from Chinese Taoism, and their idea is pretty simple: Just take it easy, man. Life is short and complicated, they say, and nobody knows what to do about it. So, don’t. Sounds pretty good, but I do wonder if it’s really that easy to be chilled out all the time. I suppose it’s for people like me that they even have a ‘Take it Easy Manifesto’ written by Arch Dudeship Rev. Dwayne Eutsey.
Benjamin spent about 10 years of his life backpacking around the world to “avoid being brainwashed by the machine of industry.” He searched all the while for his kind of religion, but found that it didn’t exist. And so he created his own, on the lines of The Big Lebowski, a movie that spoke to him in more ways than one. “Following Dudeism helps you keep in mind what’s important in life, what actually makes people happy instead of what makes them insane.” Although, the website describes Dudeism as the world’s slowest growing religion, and Benjamin himself admits that they’re not really serious competition to Christianity. “Money is power. Dudeists don’t tend to be the upper crust of society. So we’re never going to compete with wealthy religions like Christianity”, Benjamin says.
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The Dudely Lama does have other plans for his creation, though. He wants to get more women in, and also start a Dudeist dating service. I doubt Dudeism really qualifies as a religion, but it certainly does sound very cool. And ordination is free, so I suppose there’s no harm in giving it a try.