Flying Spaghetti Monster

Pastafarians, evolution and philosophical naturalism

One of the fun and exciting, but also challenging aspects of being a priest is that you are sometimes asked deeply existential questions, and people actually expect a well-thought and meaningful answer. Fortunately, I have read a great amount of books, and have a deep pool of background knowledge to drain on, even when asked (completely out of the blue), whether I believe in evolution and naturalism.

The answer to the first question – whether as a Pastafarian I believe in evolution – is quite easy. Obviously not. That is – I believe we can observe evolution and it’s consequences. But I believe it being the work of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that just made it seem that evolution exists, whether in reality it is the FSM that is pulling the strings. Since we have no way of communicating with FSM directly, nor do we have a way of proving that proposition, we can merely believe in it, in the spiritual sense. In practice, we can handle as if evolution does exist as a stand-alone feature of life as we know it. It is a bit like Newton’s laws and the Relativity Theory. We know that everything is relative, that matter and energy are equal and that light is both a particle and a wave. But for (almost) all practical purposes, Newton’s laws are rather sufficient.

With regard to naturalism, things get slightly more complex. The question regarded not naturalism in literature, over the existence of which there is no discussion (as far as I know). Rather, I was asked to address the Pastafarian view on the philosophical concept of naturalism, the idea that our conscience arises from our physical brain and that the spiritual soul does not exist. According to the person who asked me that question, if we assume naturalistic evolution of consciousness as a by-product of survival of the fittest, then our brains have evolved to survive and not to discover truths. Therefore, we can not trust our brains with philosophical questions because our brains have not been designed to think. As a consequence, we can not trust our ideas about atheism (among other things) and if we come up with rational arguments against (or for) the existence of a Creator, these arguments are worthless, since they can’t be trusted.

Firstly, I think that the struggle for survival is won by those organisms who detect truths. Is it a dead log or a crocodile in the water? Are these mushrooms poisonous? The detection of such facts is rather essential for your survival. Natural selection promotes truth-finding, and our brains are designed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster (who concealed this as evolution) to find out what is real and what is not.

Secondly, I think that this line of thought is rather futile. I believe, most of all, that the world around us is way too beautiful and interesting and exciting to discover it, without making a fuss about who or what created it – God, Flying Spaghetti Monster or a seemingly random sequence of events known as evolution. Instead of spending time pondering such grave issues, you’d be much better off laying on the beach, reading a good book, having a walk or giving attention to your loved ones.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and have a beer. Cheers.

Image by Rodrigo Menezes
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?