Flying Spaghetti Monster

‘Christianity’ is not a religion

‘Christianity’ is not a religion. This was ruled today by the Dutch Council of State’s Administrative Jurisdiction Division (Raad van State). Therefore, wearing a cross by adherents of Christianity cannot be regarded as an expression of religious belief. According to the judgment, the satirical element of Christianity is so predominant that it does not meet the criteria of “cogency, seriousness, cohesion and significance” that the ECHR applies when interpreting the freedom of religion. Christianity lacks the required seriousness and cohesion. The Administrative Jurisdiction Division recognises the relevance and significance of the right to freely express (satirical) criticism of religious dogmas and institutions. Such criticism, even though it does relate to religion, cannot, in itself, be considered as a body of thought that is protected by the freedom of religion.

The English press release:

The Dutch press release:

Tomorrow, the Dutch Council of State’s Administrative Jurisdiction Division will publish a verdict in a similar case, discussing whether ‘Islam’ can be considered a religion. It is widely expected that the verdict will be the same. Rulings on other religions are due next week.

The statement above is, of course, nonsense. It is absurd to think that the highest court in a democratic country would issue such a verdict, violating the separation of Church and State. Sadly, it is the reality. The first alinea is a direct quote by Bart Jan Van Ettekoven, chairman of the Dutch Council of State’s Administrative Jurisdiction Division. With one subtle difference – he is referring to Pastafarianism, the belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just took the liberty to replace “Pastafarianism” in his post with “Christianity”.

Yesterday the Dutch Council of State ruled that Pastafarianism can not be considered a religion. According to the ruling, the “lack of cohesion is illustrated by the relationship set out in Henderson’s letter [considered by Pastafarians to be their Revelation] between the decline in the number of pirates since 1800 and global warming”. Imagine other faiths being judged by this standard, where lack of consistency and coherence in holy texts is grounds for dismissal as a religion. How many ‘true’ religions will be left in the world?

Flying Spaghetti Monster

Should freedom of religion apply to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Photo by Lars van den Brink

This post is based on an article I published in the Dutch Christian magazine “De Nieuwe Koers” (“The New Course”). I wrote this article in response to an op-ed, in which a theologian, a rabbi and a professor in law all three claimed that freedom of religion should not apply to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Taede Smedes is a religion philosopher, a theologian, and a publicist. He wonders whether Pastafarianism is a religion or a parody. This suggests that it’s a choice – you can be a religion or a parody, but not both. Taede Smedes himself is “a religion philosopher, a theologian, and a publicist” – all at the same time. Protestantism, for example, is a religion, that started as a protest. It went as far as to adopt Protest as part of its name. Is it a protest or a religion? If Taede Smedes and Protestantism can be many things at the same time, why can’t Pastafarianism be a religion AND a parody simultaneously?

Lody van de Kamp is a rabbi. Based on Pastafarian use of symbols to represent their deity (spaghetti and meatballs, which can be vegetarian, too), the rabbi claims that Pastafarianism is merely a parody on religion, and freedom of religion is not intended for parodies. Hinduism has millions of gods, in the weirdest shapes. Is a Flying Spaghetti Monster really stranger than a god who has the pink body of a man, four arms and the hear of an elephant? Or does the rabbi claim that freedom of religion is not meant for 1.5 billion Hindu’s? Lodi van de Kamp asks Pastafarians not to claim ‘rights that they do not grant others’. But it is he who does not grant Pastafarianism recognition as a religion. Pastafarianism has holy texts, holidays, rituals, millions of followers and world-wide recognition. What else does the rabbi need to recognize Pastafarianism as a religion?

Sophie van Bijsterveld is professor in Religion, law and society at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. She finds it absolutely just that the Dutch court did not recognize Pastafarianism as a religion or a view of life. Pastafarianism supposedly lacks sufficient ‘seriousness’. First of all, she’s got the facts wrong. The Dutch court, in fact, recognized Pastafarianism as a ‘view of life’, putting it on par with atheism, pacifism and humanism. But even if it didn’t – in Austria, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and other countries Pastafarianism is recognized as a religion. The Holy Colander is accepted as religious headgear in these, and other countries.  In New Zealand and Canada Pastafarian priests can conduct legally binding wedding ceremonies. Apparently, in all these countries Pastafarianism is viewed as sufficiently ‘serious’. What makes the Netherlands that much different than New Zealand or Austria? How come the seriousness of Pastafarianism stops at the Dutch border?