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"A Profound Kind of Religious Activity"
Since its inception in 2005, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has taken on a life of its own: Pastafarians now rally to protest further injustices against common sense (Scientology being a favorite target); FSM sightings are pouring in, and children are instigating religious debate by insisting on their constitutional right to wear the garb prescribed by their religious beliefs, which, in the case of Pastafarianism, is an eye patch.
"If this is what I believe in, no matter how stupid it might sound, I should be able to express myself however I want to," said Weaverville, North Carolina, high school student Bryan Killian. His school's administrators disagreed, refusing to recognize his eye patch as a protected religious article. Killian was suspended from school until he agreed to return sans the Pastafarian accoutrement.
Although easily dismissed as an attack against organized religion, leading scholars suggest The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may be something else; something as justifiably religious as the religion it seems to be rebelling against. Late last year, The American Academy of Religion met in San Diego to convene its annual theological conference. On the menu: Pastafarianism.
"Though many monsters may inspire terror or serve as scapegoats for psychological or cultural conflicts, monsters can also inspire laughter," reads the lead-in to the discussion based on the paper "Evolutionary Controversy and a Side of Pasta: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Subversive Function of Religious Parody." "This laughter may be no less subversive than terror, calling attention to and mischievously ridiculing mythic narratives, beliefs, and widespread cultural faiths that are held sacred. As 'Pastafarians' (loyal followers of the FSM) pledge their religious allegiance to an alternative creation myth inspired by a tangled amalgam of noodles, they seek to confound those who believe metaphysical cosmologies should be actively taught in science classrooms alongside evolutionary theory, offering a potent example of how monstrous humor can be used as a popular tool of carnivalesque subversion."
The paper's author suggested The Church of FSM was created intentionally to be rejected, prompting broader debate on the nature of religion in the process. He praised the church for its "epistemological humility."
"[Pastafarianism is] quite clearly confronting order with disorder," suggested another panelist, religious scholar and author David Chidester, "a profound kind of religious activity that we often overlook."
"Even fake religions do authentically religious work," said Samuel Snyder, author of the paper "Holy Pasta, and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion." He referred to community-forming activities, facilitating exchange of ideas and beliefs and spiritually bolstering their members. Likening, in effect, the wearing of a T-shirt embroidered with the phrase "WWFSMD?" (What Would Flying Spaghetti Monster Do?) to attending mass. A bit of a stretch? Perhaps. But the Pastafarians weren't the first to suggest science was simply God's practical joke.