The Dutch secularism has been challenged since the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster engaged a legal battle to be recognized as a religion. What might seem to be a complete nonsense for outsiders is actually a fight for a religious freedom and equality in the Dutch society. Many of the 12 000 members of the church registered in the Netherlands are meeting obstacles when wearing their religious headgear, a spaghetti strainer, in ID photos.
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 Church – www.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 religiousheadgear, 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, andpublish my thoughts on the Pastafarian view of the world. I hope my writingswillinspire Pastafarians and non-Pastafarians everywherein 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.