What is a religion anyway?

Michael Afanasyev - priest in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Michael Afanasyev, a.k.a. Doctor Spaghetti

Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Michael Afanasyev. I live in the Netherlands, I am married (with children), and I am an engineer (geohydrologist to be specific). I am also a priest in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We call ourselves Pastafarians. Pastafarianism is perhaps not the most well-known faith, but it is certainly one of the most fun ones. In case you’ve never heard of us, check out the main website of our Churchwww.venganza.org.

Since Pastafarianism is a relatively unknown religion, we are often met with suspicion and I feel we’re not being treated fairly. A common example are the official pictures everyone has to take for use on driving licenses and ID-cards. Most people have their picture taken bare-headed. However, if you are wearing some religious headgear, like the Sikh tulband or the Muslim hijab, you are usually allowed to wear it on your official picture as well.

The traditional headgear of the Pastafarians is the colander, for obvious reasons – it is used to drain spaghetti. Sadly, Pastafarians are not always allowed to keep their colander on official pictures. The claim is that Pastafarianism is a satire, a ‘joke religion’, and that we are therefore not supposed to enjoy the same rights and benefits as other religions. I find that a weird argument. All of us have multiple identities. I am a man, a husband, a father, an enigneer – and I can be all these things at the same time. Sure, Pastafarianism is a satire, and a joke. But it is a religion, too. We just use humor as a big component of our spiritual philosophy.

But what is a religion anyway? According to the European Court of Human Rights, something is a ‘religion or belief’ if it has ‘attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance’. This definition, however vague, has been used to recognise Hinduism, Scientology, pacifism, atheism, Buddhism, Druidism and many other movements as a religion. Recently, several courts in the Netherlands have denied recognition of Pastafarianism as a religion, citing this definition as a justification. According to these judges, Pastafarianism has not yet attained this mysterious ‘certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance’.

I feel it is my duty as a priest in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to contribute to the spiritual growth of our community, so that we can attain that ‘certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance’, and achieve universal recognition as a religion. To promote this goal, I have started this website. Here I will share updates on my personal struggle for the recognition of my religion, and publish my thoughts on the Pastafarian view of the world. I hope my writings will inspire Pastafarians and non-Pastafarians everywhere in their struggle for emancipation, and that together we can achieve what we all deserve – freedom and equality.

P.S. Guest contributions are, of course, welcome, as long as you keep them short and polite.

2 thoughts on “What is a religion anyway?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s