All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for He and His Noodly Appendages reign supreme in the highest.
Though it has existed in secrecy for hundreds of years, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster became a well-known internet sensation in 2005. The religion was initially brought to public attention by Bobby Henderson, a “concerned citizen” from the state of Kansas. The full doctrine of the Church can be found here, outlined in Henderson’s letter to the Kansas State Board of Education following the KSB decision to allow Intelligent Design to be taught in place of Evolution in public school science courses. In brief, Henderson insisted that multiple theories of Intelligent Design be taught, not just the Christian version. The fundamental goal of the letter was to prove the ludicrous nature of declaring Intelligent Design empirically proven.
However, the Kansas State Board of Education turned a deaf ear to Henderson’s plea. From Laurel Narizny’s “Ha Ha, Only Serious: A Preliminary Study of Joke Religions,” she writes, “after several months with no reply, [Henderson] posted [the letter] on his website, venganza.org.” Quickly, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster became an internet phenomenon.
Venganza.org now serves as home base for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, with CSFM news updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and information on how to become a member. However, while venganza.org is the first and final domain of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it spread across the internet like a spilt pan of marianara predominantly because of sites like Boing Boing, Something Awful, Uncyclopedia, and Fark.com.
Narizny’s essay goes on to state the most likely reason for the religion’s rapid popularity was a contest started by Boing Boing:
“The popularity of the FSM religion, called Pastafarianism, seems to have been sparked by a challenge put forth by the well-known website Boing Boing: “We are willing to pay any individual $250,000 if they can produce empirical evidence which proves that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” The reward was later raised to $1million. Pastafarianism was also featured on other popular websites such as Fark.com and has since engendered fan sites, such as the International Society for Awareness of theFSM. It has also generated an enormous amount of hate mail, including death threats, all of which Henderson has posted on his website.”
Because of this online evangelization, thousands of self identified Pastafarians currently believe in His almighty power, and the numbers increase every day. In a world in which people feel isolated from political and religious ideologies, satirizing the real identity of that which we disagree with a mock virtual identity is increasingly commonplace. Controversial identities in particular open doors for online communities to develop. This is especially the case when an identity is asserted in response to a controversy that exists in the real world (ie, Creationism).
Henderson’s letter claims that while a belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster may seem zany, it parallels the exact arguments Creationists implement in defense of Intelligent Design. For example, Henderson postulates that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, one who tampered with the scientific evidence backing Evolution with His Noodly Appendages in order to give scientists false results. He also cites “several lengthy volumes” of FSM religious texts as an authority, and states that “if the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead on another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.”
After uniting Pastafarians all over the world, the internet slowly evolved into the very Church that houses all documented FSM scripture. Uncyclopedia.org offers the most in depth explanations of CSFM rights and rituals. The internet is scattered with verses for prayers such as “Hail Meatsauce” and the “Our Pasta,” the difficult to master “noodle dance,” and a creation story involving a tree, a mountain and a midget. Pirate regalia is the official dress, and it is possible to become an ordained FSM minister for $30. The religion is so popular that there are even various Pastafarian Sects that dispute the specifics of official FSM dogma. All this to point out the absurdity of substantiating a belief with man made proofs.
While the CSFM certainly is parodying many aspects of literalist religions, it expresses a desire to be taken seriously. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not in any way attacking other religions, but simply allowing people who don’t subscribe to any belief system 100% literally to endure the burden of extremism in a lighthearted way. The CSFM encourages people of all religious backgrounds to join, and does not consider you any more or less devoted to the Flying Spaghetti Monster even if you don’t believe in every (or any) single teaching. That being said, it is true that a majority of CSFM members do consider themselves either agnostic or atheist.
Molly Lambert’s “The Internet Is Magic: Exploring the Wonderful World of My Little Pony Fandom in Bronies” comments on this type of identity, saying, “a preformed identity dictates that you have certain attributes you may not have yet, but just want to have. And say you feel alienated in your own culture — the Internet can feel like a utopian alternative, a place to create the society you wish existed.”
This is not to say that the non-religious wish they had faith, or that the CSFM is a way for them to institutionalize a lack thereof, but can rather be seen as a general response to extremism at both ends of the spectrum. Many people who don’t have a religion feel uncomfortable expressing their beliefs unless they are around other like minded people. Even then a non-religious/agnostic/atheist individual falls susceptible to the fangs of the acrid “New Atheist,” who pledge to criticize with voracity any belief that is not pure disbelief. With extremists on either side of the argument, the mock virtual persona of Pastafarian is a fun way to express a commitment to moderacy.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster provides users all over the globe an ability to unify unconventional belief/value systems through an expansive virtual community. Formed in response to the real world, the CSFM allowed once isolated thoughts to become available to a massive audience, open for true democratic debate as to their worth, and thusly thrust into the hearts of thousands. We gain identity from a sense of unity, and with the ability to unify disbelief, the internet provides a safe haven for persons who don’t feel comfortable in their real life communities to express themselves in an apt and hilarious way.
We’ll close this sermon with the words of Our Pasta:
Our Pasta, who “Arghh” in the colander, Swallowed be thy sauce. Thy serving come, Thy strands be wrung, On forks as they are on spoons. Give us this day our garlic bread, And forgive us our starchiness, As we swashbuckle, splice the main-brace and cuss, And lead us not into Kraft parmessan, But deliver us from Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, For thine are Meatballs, and the beer, and the strippers, for ever and ever. R’Amen.