Church of All Worlds


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Church of All Worlds

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The first neo-Pagan earth religion in the United States to obtain full federal recognition as a church, in 1968. Based on Robert Heinlein's science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), an organization known as Atl (Aztec word meaning both "home of our ancestors" and also "water") was started by Tim Zell and Richard Christie, then college students. The group's interest in innovative political and social change was further developed by Zell and formalized into the Church of All Worlds, a church with a lack of dogma concerning god, the afterlife, and any concept of retribution.

As in Heinlein's book, the church was organized into groups known as Nests. It broke ground by being the first such organization to apply the term "pagan" to itself and other ecology-conscious groups of the 1960s. In 1968, Zell began publishing a church journal called The Green Egg, which, after a hiatus from 1976 to 1988, is now back in publication.

The church had no dogma; hypocrisy was considered the only sin, and the only crime was interfering in the free will of another. By 1974 there were nests in more than a dozen states. But two years later Zell remarried and left the church, and over the next ten years a number of leader's succeeded him. The church's headquarters in St. Louis was disbanded within five years of Zell's departure, although a few nests remained active elsewhere.

By the late 1980s, The Church of All Worlds was active primarily in California. It had merged with Nemeton, a neo-pagan organization, and later spawned subsidiaries such as the Holy Order of Mother Earth, dedicated to agrarian and magical living. Eventually the Zells returned to inject new life into the organization and the church began to grow and recover its former popularity. It had, however, undergone a metamorphosis, becoming more Wiccan in that its focus centered more on the Horned God and the Earth Mother, and the celebration of the eight seasonal festivals.

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