Written by Aurora E. L. Turkenburg
By popular demand: a blog on Pastafarianism, also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (the FSM).
Pastafarianism, also known as “The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” surfaced in 2005 after an open letter was written by the prophet Bobby Henderson that opposed the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas schools. In this open letter, Henderson states:
“I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. […] It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories.”Henderson, B. (https://www.spaghettimonster.org/about/open-letter/)
The two other theories mentioned above are the theories of Intelligent Design and Evolution. The second is one you might have heard of: it is the theory of Darwin, which states that humans evolved from primates over a course of time, changes in DNA, and natural selection. This you would know as evolution. In this theory, there is no need to explain the existence of animals, the earth and the universe in a religious sense.
The theory of Intelligent Design, however, states that all of the abovementioned evolution is of intelligent design – that is to say, could only be thought of and executed by (a) God. This theory was created by the Christian thinktank Discovery Institute based in Washington, USA, and has since been used by Christians to substitute Darwin’s theory of Evolution.
But true Pastafarians believe neither theory. As you can read in the quote above, they hold true that it was the Flying Spaghetti Monster who created all.
But is Pastafarianism a religion? To answer this question we must answer the unanswerable question: What is religion?
It should be said that my definition of religion is rather wide. It encompasses mainstream/institutionalized religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism just as well as it encompasses spirituality, new-religious-movements, and fiction based religions such as Tolkienism (as documented by LUCSoR Professor Markus Davidsen). In fact, even fandom I consider religious. There are many examples of how one might consider hardcore fans of sports clubs religious, but more on that subject in my next blog.
While this wide definition, naturally, entails that there will always be religion to find – a good thing for a Religious Studies student – it does not require pure belief in order to consider something religious. Shocking. Instead, this definition harbors in it not only a belief, or faith, or rituals, or scripture, or meaning-making, or dogmas, or dress-codes, or prophets, or art, or weekly mass.
My definition harbors a wide combination of those beliefs and actions.
And as such, it encompasses the FSM. Interestingly, it is the FSM itself that states belief is not required for ordination. The only things one needs are a name and $49 – to pay for the Minister’s ordination package. This package, as a true priest would require (this is a joke), holds a business card, a bumper-sticker, and a certificate of ordination.
However, if we are to ask ourselves if Pastafarianism harbors some of the mainstream characteristics of religion – it actually does. The FSM has 2 scriptures, called The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and The Loose Canon, both written by Henderson (the prophet), that detail rituals (involving colanders and pasta, usually), dogmas, holidays, and beliefs. Religious headwear is also available: the colander.
Who knew colanders could be useful upside down?
But what about the Netherlands?
An interesting case is that of TU Delft P.h.D’er Michael Afanasyev, who wanted to ‘promote’ (defend his P.h.D) wearing a pirates’ costume he considered a religious dress of the FSM. Other court-cases include the battle with local municipal authorities on having one’s passport photo taken while wearing a colander on one’s head.
What is your take on Pastafarianism? Had you heard about the religion before? Tell me in the comments.
I think it’s an interesting piece, especially as I’d heard of FSM before. So, amist all rumours, a blog piece would’ve been clarifying. Sadly, I don’t have any new information now, which I think is a missed opportunity for two reasons. You start out strong by first laying the groundwork for what qualifies as religion/religous. It would’ve been helpful if the requirements of which were also made explicit, like a religous checklist of sorts. Second, I also would’ve loved to have read more about the FSM dogma’s and the like. I know they wear colanders, but I’m missing contexts. How do they meet up? How do they even call their gatherings (I’d imagine they say ‘we’re going for pasta’)? What are some of the phrases they quote from the The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? What sort of a prophet is Henderson? Especially the court case sounded interesting, more about that! So, regarding the latter, I’d say I’m missing some context as well. Anyway, these were my two cents. Hope to read more in the future! – Kalimero
Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. I am sorry you did not learn anything new. It should be said that this blog was intended for those, unlike yourself, who had not done any research into the religion of FSM. Then regarding your questions. For a religious studies student/scholar like myself, giving a full definition of religion is almost undone. That is, naturally, because there are about 300 different ‘tick off’ lists to choose from, all of which are faulty in some sense. However, if you would like to do some research on the topic of defining religion, I would be happy to send you a list of publications on the subject. Some may undoubtedly be found on Google Scholar, so I would suggest you start your research there. Then, regarding Noodlemass – as the gatherings of FSM are called – it should be said that in most countries these meetups are not official but instead clandestine in nature. However, FSM has been granted the right of mass in Germany, Templin – where the mass is called Nudelmesse. As you can see, the title of the services changes per language – although I like your suggestion of ‘going to pasta’ very much! Then regarding the prophet of the FSM. While I cannot answer your question, as I do not know him personally, there is a mini-bio available on the official site of the FSM (https://www.spaghettimonster.org/about) (scroll down all the way and you will see). As you will read and see, the prophet is a “hammock enthusiast” among other things. Once again thank you so much for your input, as it will improve my writing. I hope you will learn something from my next blog – on Islamic Religious Online Comics, which will come online next week on Monday.