The most amusing of the fiction-based religions that I have encountered thus far is hands down the First Reformed Church of SpongeBob Squarepants. The church was established in 2004 and does not require members (referred to as Absorbants) to replace their religion, but rather acts as a philosophy to apply to one’s own beliefs. While I am 95% positive this is designed as a satire religion comparable to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the site at least presents several valuable ideas in fairly memorable ways.
Central to the religion is the fundamental concept of YAP, standing for Yellow, Absorbent, and Porous. All the essential features when one considers a sponge, both the artificial and the natural ones.
The first of these concepts is Yellow, referring to connection between the colour and the lack of a backbone. Indeed Spongebob, like the real world sponges, is an invertebrate (incidentally, those natural bath sponges are technically the skeleton of some of the world’s simplest animals). Invertebrates by definition do not have a backbone. The sponge in particular is the epitome of animal simplicity as its level of organization is simply at a tissue level such that even simple organs or even germ layers have developed. One can even take a living sponge, destroy it in a blender, and in a few days the sponge will have reorganized itself into a new sponge. This ability allows for remarkable flexibility such that the animal to adapt to a wide variety of situations the world may throw at them. To emulate this flexibility in our own psyche, we need to accept the world for what it is and be flexible to changes that come our way instead of trying to resist them.
Sponges are also notably absorbent. Living sponges will spend their entire lives continually taking in sea water and filtering out the materials which facilitate their continued survival. This idea could be interpreted in regards to our personal development as a willingness to take in what the world has to offer. Be open to opportunities, learn as much as you can! Equally important and intertwined with the idea of absorption is expulsion. Everything which we take in (including this sermon) must be assessed for its merit and that which is valuable may be retained while that which is false or unhelpful can be removed.
Finally, sponges are porous. Their tissues have a complex water vascular system such that they are permeable. In life, we inevitably will come across criticism. We are then given a choice: do we hold on to the past and let it continue to damage us into the present, or do we let it pass through us in the interest of reducing internal conflict? That is not to say that we completely ignore the setbacks life brings, but simply do not let them destroy us.
The church further helps the reader out by identifying a number of life strategies which may help in a student’s endeavors to embrace the YAP way: (1) Setting Boundaries. Know your limits, do not try to overexert yourself which may result in more harm than good. (2) Reverence. Treat others with respect. (3) Self-Esteem. Trust in yourself and don’t let your fears and uncertainties prevent you from living the life you want to live. (4) Affirmations. Assess the truth in things and continually endeavor to reject that which is false. (5) Gratitude. Be thankful for what you have and those which have influenced you developing into who you are. (6) Coping Skills. Life is uncertain and instead of trying to exert control over it we need to learn how to adapt in the interest of avoiding internal conflict. (7) Compassion. Central to the life of a Jedi (though admittedly sometimes lacking in forum posts), this quality facilitates connections and harmony between living creatures.
I am, of course, not trying to convert the Temple of the Jedi Order to the Temple of the Spongebob Jedi Order, but these ideas, even if meant for a satire religion, have merit and the potential to have a positive influence on our lives. After all, Star Wars itself is very much an act of fiction, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons that can be taken from them in order to improve our lives. Works of fiction can help to open our minds to new ideas and new ways of thinking which may benefit us in ways far beyond the limitations of the original material.