As you know, I have been publishing my old “Letters from the Publisher” from back when The Magical Buffet was a monthly e-zine because the letters didn’t migrate over to the new blog format. Most of my letters aren’t worth republishing. However there are a few that share some of my more personal thoughts that I wanted new readers to have access to. With that said, here is my “Letter from the Publisher” from May 2008.
What defines a religion? What is the nature of faith? Does religion require genuine faith or can it get by on a set of rituals and a community that acts in sync? Guess what? I can’t answer those questions! I think everyone has their own opinion to those sorts of questions, so I can’t, and won’t, pretend that my thoughts on such topics are answers. But what’s great is when something happens that makes people ask themselves these kinds of questions. Which brings me to the subject of this month’s Magical Buffet Mythology, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
It’s true that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created out of an act of annoyance by founder Bobby Henderson. Specifically a letter of protest that he wrote to the Kansas State Board of Education, that he then also posted on the website www.venganza.org. Essentially it was a sarcastic piece explaining that he fully endorsed the idea of intelligent design being taught as a science, but if they were going to do that, he needed to stress the importance of the inclusion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster creation theory, which is certainly as valid as intelligent design. (Do yourself a favor and read it on the website, my sum up doesn’t do it justice at all.)
This has led many to say that Henderson is mocking faith, and to sum up most of the hate mail on the website, that he’s a jerk. Obviously, I don’t agree. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and its adherents, Pastafarians, serve a vital purpose. They force people to examine their beliefs and the double standards that exist in a country that is supposed to believe in a separation of Church and State. In March 2008, Pastafarians in Crossville, Tennessee successfully won city approval to place a Flying Spaghetti Monster statue next to the Courthouse, and proceeded to do so. If it’s good enough for the Ten Commandments, then it’s good enough for the adorable Flying Spaghetti Monster. They make schools ask themselves, what is science, and what is spiritual? And, they do it all with a wonderful sense of humor and a pirate’s accent!
Is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster a “real” religion? Well, they have a definite belief system, a rich mythology, and academic endorsements. People say they are Pastafarians, and are subject to harassment and threats, like many other religious groups. They do not have a not-for-profit status like most religions, but since many religions profit greatly from their followers anyway, I can’t hold that against the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The American Academy of Religion hosts discussions of the Pastafarians at their annual meetings.
I can’t speak for everyone reading this, but I for one have been touched by His Noodly Appendage!
I wrote this letter for the month I decided to feature the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the deity for the Magical Buffet Mythology. I wanted to explain its inclusion, and use it as a touchstone to discuss the nature of faith. In reading this letter now, and the profile I wrote up for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I realize I really didn’t do the FSM, or it’s church, justice. Honestly, I don’t know if I can do any better now. The thing with the Flying Spaghetti Monster is, either you get it or you don’t.
I love how the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has taken on a life of it’s own. Pastafarians challenge the idea of what makes a religion a religion, work tirelessly to uphold America’s separation of church and state, and endeavor to maintain the integrity of science. All of that awesomeness comes wrapped in an adorable little ball of spaghetti with a bunch of followers who talk like pirates.
What’s not love about this?
I still remain touched by His Noodly Appendage!
By the way, that awesome illustration of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was done by Will Hobbs back when I first published the Flying Spaghetti Monster article. It’s so adorable I couldn’t resist featuring it again here.