In Chapter 10 of his 2012 book Atheism and the Case Against Christ, Matthew S. McCormick provides a list of "gods and religions in history that have fallen out of favor." Between the Chinese deities Jade Emperor and Ji Gong on this list sits Jar'Edo Wens, an exotic-looking nonsense phrase some Australian guy added to Wikipedia seven years prior.

The blog Wikipediocracy recounts the genesis of a wholly fictional Aboriginal deity, created by an anonymous Australian prankster—presumably named Jared Owens, get it?—who published a Wikipedia article for Jar'Edo Wens and added an entry about the god to the site's page on Australian Aboriginal mythology in 2005. Thanks to Wikipedia's immense and often indiscriminate ability to disseminate facts and factoids alike, Jar'Edo has spread its gospel of humility and learning to the furthest reaches of the internet in the years since then.

The brief Jar'Edo article read:

In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Jar'Edo Wens is a god of earthly knowledge and physical might, created by Altjira to oversee that the people did not get too big-headed, associated with victory and intelligence.

(A person working from the same anonymous IP address also attempted to add a god called "Yohrmum" to the list, in case there's any doubt that Jar'Edo was a work of fiction.)

According to Wikipediocracy, Jare'Edo Wens is the longest-running hoax in Wikipedia history; its article sat on the site for nine years before it was recognized as fiction in November 2014 and finally deleted earlier this month. But by then, the internet had already accepted Jar'Edo as real.

In addition to Atheism and the Case Against Christ author McCormick—a professor of philosophy at Sacramento State—Jar'Edo managed to dupe the editors of several non-English Wikipedias, many of which still list him alongside legitimate Aboriginal gods. (Here's Jar'Edo on the Russian, Polish, French, and Turkish sites.) Wikipediocracy also notes a 2013 sci-fi novel called The Captain's Propensity: The Andromeda Incident II with a character named Jar'Edo Wens, though "whether that's a coincidence, a knowing wink, or an attempt to reuse the name of a genuine Aboriginal mythological figure for dramatic purpose is an open question."

It doesn't stop there: Jar'Edo also turns up in online dictionaries, spammy-looking sites about religion, rhetorically-challenged debates in the comments sections of news articles, Yahoo! Answers threads, and, of course, vaguely "spiritual" Tumblrs.

Someone on DeviantArt seems to have earnestly carved a sculpture out of an avocado pit in Jar'Edo's honor, seen in the photo above. Translated from French, the artisan's caption reads: "Jar'Edo Wens - spirit of the earthly knowledge." Incredibly, our spirit of earthly knowledge also makes a brief but crucial cameo in this piece of Sailor Moon fan fiction.

Who is the mysterious man behind the deity? Googling "Jar'Edo Wens" reveals a number of posts on RuneScape-related websites under the name, an artifact from a text-based role-playing game, and the forums of the online gaming site Newgrounds. In hopes of getting an answer, I've sent a message to every Australian named Jared Owens on Facebook.

Update: Matthew S. McCormick offered the following comment.

Well, my point in using that list of gods is that they are all fictional creations, in one way or another, so this doesn't create a problem for my book really. Religions, and other sources disseminate false information, I argued, and the ideas take a life of their own in history. Wikipedia obviously has its limitations too. Thanks.

[Image via NOOyox/DeviantArt]

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