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Exploring the real-life religion based on 'The Big Lebowski'

Oh, The Usual – I Bowl. Drive Around. The Occasional Acid Flashback.” – The Dude

The Coen Brothers’ 1998 magnum opus is one of the funniest and fascinating crime comedies ever created which presents a hilarious revision of the overused tropes of detective noir films. The Big Lebowski stars Jeff Bridges as the iconic “Dude”, an enigmatic slacker who is propelled forward by life’s absurdities on increasingly bizarre misadventures. Inspired by the work of Raymond Chandler, The Big Lebowski was relatively less successful at the time of its release when compared to other productions by the filmmaking duo. However, it has grown into a cult-classic with an actual cult to boast of!

Over the years, the world has seen the birth as well as the evolution of a new religion that is inspired by the philosophy of The Dude. Despite its appearance of being a mock religion based on popular culture references, “Dudeism” is a coherent framework of thought that promotes a modern form of Chinese Taoism which is an intersection of Lao Tzu’s philosophy, Epicurus’ thoughts and The Dude’s charismatic irreverence for the hyper-anxiety of modernity.

Founded by a journalist named Oliver Benjamin in 2005, Dudeism insists that such a way of life has existed since the beginning of human civilisation. It lists “The Great Dudes in History” as proof of the versatility of its philosophy, citing examples ranging from Jesus Christ and Buddha to Walt Whitman and Kurt Vonnegut. Dudeism reassures its followers (who call themselves “achievers” as a joke) to take it easy. Since the human condition is infinitely absurd and resists any kind of logical interpretation, the only logical response is to kick back, relax and enjoy the ride.

While explaining the central beliefs of Dudeism, Benjamin said: “I studied yoga in India, I studied Buddhism in Thailand, I studied Javanese mysticism in Java but none of them really encapsulated a worldview that I thought actually meshed with modern times. Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man … that is to say, abide.” The religion even has an official organisational name – The Church of the Latter-Day Dude and it is estimated that more than 600,000 Dudeist priests have been ordained worldwide.

Advertised as the “slowest-growing religion in the world”, Dudeism offers the chance for anyone to be ordained for free on their website. In addition, they have free undergraduate and advanced studies at their newly-opened Abide University where people can explore the intricacies of Dudeism. Since its conception, there have been scholarly essays on Dudeism and intellectuals have examined whether it is merely a collection of hippie hypocrisies.

The call for people to re-examine their priorities in a materialistic system is in no way a new one. Dudeism is bridging the gap between the obscurity of the mystical world and popular culture by building its legacy on The Dude which has contributed to its popularity. When Bridges was asked about what The Dude would think of Dudeism, he said: “He’d be flabbergasted. And he would dig it.”

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