July 7, 2019
You might not have heard of the Trans-Universal Zombie Church of Blissful Ringing yet, but this growing religion is currently the fifth biggest belief system in Slovenia.
The church was formed in 2013 in close relation to the 2012-13 anti-government protests. Originally the Church of Blissful Ringing added “zombie” to its name after the then ruling SDS of Janez Janša labelled the protesters as zombies in its Tweets.
In 2014 this indigenous Slovenian church was registered with the Office for Religious Communities of the Ministry of Culture under the number of order 46.
It currently has around 12,000 members, which makes it the fifth most popular religion in Slovenia, after the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, Christian Orthodox and Lutheran Church. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the current numbers of the other four religions date from the year 2002. After that the Government Statistics Office switched to a much cheaper register-based census (2011), which no longer provides data on citizens’ religious affiliation or ethnicity.
Since its inception the Church mostly operates democratically via its Facebook page. Its holy book was published in October 2014.
A compendium of articles, dogmas, gospels, revelations and other truths explains what the Church is all about and also forms the basis for theological contemplation of its followers.
Translation: Article 20; Every Trans-universal Zombie Church of the Blissful Ringing believer’s duty is ringing bells and creating blissful sounds with pans and holy pots. (Archpriest Rok, June 20, Zombie Year 1, 7 hours and 17 minutes after the resurrection)
But is there an afterlife? The church believes there is.
It was later explained that going to “Heaven in their own image” means that Heaven is what each of the undead considers it to be. If for someone Heaven is a Rammstein concert, that’s where they will end up after they die. Also, there is no Hell.
As it turns out, the Temple of Corruption and Original Sin actually means the National Assembly Building (i.e. Parliament). In the early years of its conception, the church held its holy mass in front of the Parliament building every Wednesday, while at the same time collecting donations in clothes and food for the Red Cross and Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth.
The new Church was met with a mixed response from the public.
A sociologist of religion Marjan Smrke, for example, stated for Delo, that the church is more of a parody of religion than a religion, but that such parodies are as old as religion itself, citing Roman Catholicism as a parody of original Christianity as an example. According to Smrke, the Zombie Church belongs to a new generation of parody religions, such as Pastafarianism and Jediism.
The Ministry also received a protest letter from the Catholic Institute for Family and Culture of Life (KUL), who expressed offence at the Ministry’s decision to register the Church, claiming that the Zombie Church was in fact a “nonreligious” community. KUL saw the recognition given to the Church as part of the Minister Uroš Grilc’ broader “Christianophobic” plot: “In accordance with the secular doctrine of a hateful attitude towards religious communities, with the aforementioned registration the Minister encourages public mockery of religious communities and the spread of prejudices against religion and religiousness in general.”
Gregor Lesjak, the director of the Office for Religious Communities, also replied to KUL’s complains that a joke religion was added to the list of the true religious communities. In an article by Delo, Lesjak was quoted emphasizing that the Zombie Church met all of the required criteria and explained that the law does not call for verifications of “religiousness”.
The problematisation of religiousness with the emerging new religious communities rests, according to Lesjak, on three misconceptions. The first misconception is a belief that the State is a guardian of the sacred: “The State is not the guardian of the sacred, religious communities are.” Secondly, the registration does not mean that the state issues a certificate indicating that the group’s religious teachings are genuine, appropriate or true. Gaining and keeping the trust of their followers is something that rests with the religious institutions themselves. And thirdly, it is not State’s task to tell its citizens what kind of things are good or bad to do, like a mother would tell their child. The State offers its citizens various legal forms of organisation under equal terms. If it turns out that a group of citizens has chosen a form of organisation that hindered the development of their own plans, the responsibility for that rests entirely with the group, not the State.
In an interview for MMC, Rok Gros, Archpriest of the Zombie Church and the Keeper of the Pot and Pan, didn’t deny the similarity with the Pastafarianism, being quoted as saying “we don’t discriminate against anyone. Members of any other religion are welcome in our church, Pastafarians included.” However, he strongly denied that the Church was making fun of anyone, or that the Church was not a real one.
For Sobota info, Gros stated that “Calling us a parody is one of most serious insults to us. We are a very serious church.”
We too had some questions for the Church, specifically how many members does it currently have, whether it gets any public funding and whether it is true that the Church has managed to spread to Croatia. The Church replied with the following explanations.
Our church has 12,000 members.
We do not receive any public funding, despite the fact that even the court decided that the Ministry of Health violated legislation by religious discrimination for not granting our pro bono clinic in Nova Gorica a status of humanitarian institution, the legal basis for bids on tenders.
In Croatia we have Archpriest Domagoj I the Lionheart, who takes care of spiritual needs of our believers in Croatia (marriages, holy masses…)
Best regards and Bell be with you.
Archpriest Rok, founder, Keeper of the Pot and Pan, July 1, 7 Zombie Year, 3 hours and 4 minutes after resurrection
For more on Trans-universal Zombie Church of Blissful Ringing, click here for its webpage, where you can also join.