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Church of All Worlds

Hey, wait a second – you mean it's another religion based upon the writings of a science fiction writer?!? Yep, you betcha…except that this particular one is based on a good book, not pulp fiction.

The Church of All Worlds was the brainchild of Tim Zell, a true child of the 1960s who decided to found a religion based upon Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. Zell's philosophy was integrated into paganism when he wrote the Gaia Thesis, which placed an emphasis on "non-possessive love and joyous expression of sexuality as divine union" (in other words, good old fashioned free love). In true pagan fasion, he renamed himself Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, and has promoted himself as a true "wizard," to the point where he is sometimes seen by outsiders to pagandom as the real-life counterpart to Aldus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books…a comparison he enjoys and encourages. He's demonstrated a flair for showmanship, though this backfired in the early 1980s when he got in trouble with the media over a "unicorn" he had provided to the Ringling Bros. circus.

(The "unicorn" was a goat that had been surgically altered to have one single horn on its head. Technically the goat hadn't really been harmed: Goat hornbuds are only on the skin when born. The inside half of each bud was reattached in the center of the forehead, swapped so the curving would grow inward and make a straight horn. [1] Curiously, PETA didn't mention Zell at all in their ongoing campaign against the circus, using instead the claim that Ringling had received the goat from a serial killer. [2] That would have made Ringling Bros.' deception seem all the more heinous.)

However, the fortunes of the Church of All Worlds have waxed and waned with the rise and fall of the magazine Green Egg, which had two incarnations. The first series, which lasted through the 1970s, popularized the Church of All Worlds and caused CAW "nests" to spring up all over the place. But when Zell retired to Oregon, the magazine folded and many of these "nests" folded up and blew away. Green Egg was re-launched in 1988 with new publishers, and this second incarnation was highly praised and widely read and referenced within paganism. The magazine still lost money, however, and it folded for good in 2001. Fortunately, by this time the Internet had gone mainstream, and along with many other cults and faiths, the Church of All Worlds moved online.

In a bid for attention, the Church and Zell have pushed the idea that they are a real-life Hogwart's School for Wizards (though in a manner that avoids trademark violation), with Zell himself being noted for his resemblance, both in appearance (unintentional) and dress (intentional) to Aldus Dumbledore.

The Church supports itself through membership dues and membership packets, though apparently anyone can declare themselves a member if they want to be one.