We Converted to ‘Dudeism’: What It’s Like to Follow ‘The Big Lebowski’ Like an Actual Religion
For 25 years, fans of The Big Lebowski have quoted the lines, shared the memes and shit-talked the Eagles with reckless abandon. Such die-hards definitely still abide the Dude, and so do we, which is why we’ll be spending the next five days celebrating a quarter century of Lebowski. So grab yourself a White Russian, lay back on your favorite rug and take it easy — just like, you know, the Dude.
Like the Dude himself, Dudeism, a religion based around taking it easy, has been around for roughly two decades (give or take a couple of years on either account). It was founded in 2005 by journalist Oliver Benjamin (aka The Dudely Lama), and it’s based on the very legitimate and very ancient practice of Chinese Taoism, which Wikipedia succinctly describes as “a set of Chinese traditions and religions which emphasize living in harmony with the Dao. The Dao is generally defined as the source of everything and the ultimate principle underlying reality.”
In other words, Dudeism is basically Taoism through the lens of The Big Lebowski.
Although it might seem like some kind of joke, Dudeism practices are dead serious. In fact, many practitioners credit Dudeism with legitimately helping them through anxiety, PTSD and addiction — a la the six converts below, who explain how The Big Lebowski and its patron saint, the Dude, serve much more as spiritual beacons to them than mere celluloid entertainment.
Ed, 37, Environmental Worker, Dudeist Since 2018: I didn’t see the movie until a buddy of mine at work mentioned going to Lebowski Fest. I watched it and thought it was pretty cool. That same buddy at work had also mentioned Dudeism. He thought it was a joke, but I looked into it and it caught my eye. Four or five months prior, I’d quit drinking because it had gotten out-of-hand. That’s what I was using to hold back my PTSD from my time in the Marines, and after quitting, I was trying to find more of a balanced way of doing things.
Dudeism helped me find a sense of not giving a shit. I no longer needed to let that stuff from my past affect my daily life. The way the books about Dudeism explain it is, that shit is in the past and what I needed to understand was how to do things in the moment. Dudeism is really about not taking anything too seriously. Sure, things are going to suck sometimes, but it’s only going to suck for a little while. You’ll be alright in the end.
Kenny, 32, Paralegal, Creator of the Dudeism Discord Server and Moderator on the Dudeism Subreddit, Dudeist Since 2016: To a lot of people in Dudeism, it’s not really about the movie. Prior to finding out about Dudeism, I didn’t even know about The Big Lebowski.
In my spare time, I watch YouTube videos about different religions. New religions, old religions, the history of the Bible — I’m just into religion. My mom was Baptist and became Wiccan later in life, and I was partially raised by my aunt too, who was Catholic. I grew up Christian-ish, but later in life, there were things about Christianity that didn’t make sense to me. So I was looking for religions that would fit me. I found Dudeism, and I got ordained right away. I was already kinda into Buddhism, and Dudeism didn’t care if you smoked weed or how you felt about God.
Dudeism is basically Taoism with a bit more weed, though some Dudeists don’t smoke at all. It’s about being in the moment, and going with the flow. Meditation is big for a lot of people in Dudeism. The difference between Dudeism and the stuff it’s based on is that it’s more palatable to a modern audience. It’s based on a modern mythos rather than an ancient mythos. It’s easier access.
What I also like about Dudeism is that it’s all-encompassing. There’s a section of the website called “Great Dudes in History,” and it includes Jesus Christ, the Buddha and Lao Tzu, the creator of Taoism. But it also includes modern people like Quincy Jones, Julia Child and, of course, the Dude.
Life is so much easier when you don’t take it so seriously. In a culture where people are down each other’s throats and everyone needs to chill a little, Dudeism is that. It’s the religion for its time and place.
The funny thing is, for the other people like me, who found the religion first and then watched the movie, The Big Lebowski is disappointing on the first watch. The first time you watch it, you read into it too much. It wasn’t until I took a more Dudeist approach to the movie where I didn’t try to take it too seriously that I started to love it.
Adam Trowbridge, 38, Author of the Forthcoming The Dude’s Guide to Life, Dudeist Since 2018: Dudeism is like an add-on. You can add it on to Christianity, you can add it on to Buddhism, you can add it on to Taoism. You can mold it to suit you. I consider myself a Dudeist second. It’s an add-on to my yogic path.
The movie is like that too, because, throughout the movie, everyone sees something different in the Dude. Maude sees a man to impregnate her, the Big Lebowski sees a bum, Walter sees a best friend. People see different things in him, and he just goes along with all of it.
Jake, 42, Statistician, Dudeist Since 2017: I discovered Dudeism by accident. I was asked by a couple of friends to marry them dressed up like the Dude. I said, “Okay, cool, I’ll do that.” I went online and found out that Dudeism is a thing and that you can get ordained in it. Things snowballed from there.
During the pandemic especially, shit was real heavy. We were all thinking about life and death, and I started reading a lot about absurdism and all kinds of different things. I have a buddy who is a Buddhist — robes and all — and I would text him questions about Buddhism: “What do you think about this?” “What do you think about that?” He would answer them, and I thought, “That really sounds like the dude.” Our conversations got me thinking about Dudeism, which is something I knew about, but had never really taken seriously before. I started reading more into it, and this whole idea of abiding. What does it really mean to abide? What does it mean to take it easy? That’s when it shaped my worldview.
One of the things I like about the Dude is that he used to be a firebrand. He was one of the original authors of the Port Huron Statement, he was in the Seattle Seven. He was an activist in his youth, and I was in my youth at one time, too. But as I got older, I realized that there’s not a lot that I can do. It’s not that I don’t care — I’m not a Nihilist — but you have to be willing to abide. There’s enough cruelty and injustice in the world where you can’t change it all, and if you’re a person who cares, that will fill you with dread.
The only logical outcome from that is that it all doesn’t really mean much, and if it doesn’t mean much, then what’s the point? The point is hanging out, bowling, having a drink — sitting on the back porch watching my kids play while having a glass of wine. That’s what it’s all about. That’s abiding. Abiding is the ability to find calm in the chaos.
Mother Duderior, 53, Artist and Crafter, Contributor to The Abide Guide, Dudeist Since 2010: Years ago, I saw this thing in the back of a movie magazine, and I thought, “Someone’s based a religion on a movie? What an idiot!” But the next night, I noticed The Big Lebowski was on TV and figured I’d give it a look. Before the movie ended, I had signed up as a Dudeist.
I joined before the Facebook groups and all of that. The only chat group was on the website. That’s where my user name came from. “Mother Duderior” popped into my head, and I thought, “I’m having that.” A lot of people call me “Mama D” or “El Duderina.” Never Dudette — never! We’re all dudes. “Dude” is all-inclusive and non-gender specific. The term dudette is diminishing. I’ve had quite a few arguments online about that.
I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and Dudeism has helped me with that. I had a lot of anger issues at the world and myself, but I’m a lot calmer now. I do breathing exercises, and I attend a small guided meditation group. To use an inevitable movie quote — I’m calmer than I was. In stressful situations, I often ask myself, “What would the Dude do?”
Unfortunately, much of what the Dude does is illegal where I live in Scotland.
Rev J.B., 41, Between Things Right Now, Dudeist Since 2020: I first saw The Big Lebowski in 2001, and I loved it. Then, when I was rewatching it in 2020, I thought, “The Dude’s got a good lifestyle.” I started looking around online, and sure enough, people were talking about it. That led me to subreddits about Dudeism. I saw that 800,000 people have been ordained as Dudeist Priests, so I got ordained and bought a couple of books and T-shirts.
I had been a hothead, always letting things get under my skin. A long time ago, my dad asked me, “Is this the hill you want to die on?” I never understood it then, but I do now. I was always ready to get out of the car and take the hill, but I don’t do that no more — the hill doesn’t need to be taken. When things get hectic in my life, Dudeism gives me cool so I don’t Walter out.