I’m reading Carole Cusack’s excellent Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith and am delighted to have discovered the Hot Tub Mystery Religion, intriguingly described in this 2003 Reason.com article by Jesse Walker:
Atheists have long regarded religion as, at best, a collective work of art, but in the last century that view has grown popular with churchgoers as well. Many Christians and Jews today will declare that the Bible is a collection of myths and metaphors, not literal truths, and some will aver that there is more than one path to God. Neopagans and others take this nonliteral and eclectic approach and run with it, freely fusing classical mythologies, tribal spiritual practices, and even popular fiction, all of which would be mutually exclusive if they were regarded as, to borrow a phrase, the Gospel truth. At the far end of the spectrum are those who do not merely regard religion as a human creation but actively identify themselves as its creators. The Hot Tub group actually began as an art project, becoming a more spiritual endeavor only gradually. If it is unusual, it is only because it is so radical. Most people do not feel the need to be the authors of their own religions, though quite a few are happy to be the editors.
I’m currently designing an online course on the histories, theories and practices of poetic faiths, and the Hot Tubbists perfectly illustrate part of my thesis; if they hadn’t actually existed, I might have been tempted to invent them.
Further reading on the Hot Tub Mystery Religion:
An essay by one of the founders