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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

"Touched by His Noodly Appendage" by Niklas Jansson, August 2005.
A parody of Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam", this depiction is the
brand image for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

In May of 2005 the Kansas State Board of Education and its State Board Science Hearing Committee met to change the teaching methods of evolution and the origin of life in high school classrooms.  These hearings were arranged by the Christian Board of Education whose agenda was to use intelligent design (ID) in the curriculum.  The hearings attracted lots of interest and were attended by the major players in the ID movement.  They were boycotted by the scientific community, who rejected the concept that ID was science.  The Board of Education adopted the teaching of ID over the objections of the State Board Science Hearing Committee.  But on February 13, 2007, the Board reversed itself.

In January 2005, just months prior to the hearings, Oregon State University physics grad Bobby Henderson sent an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education with his own theory, which he claimed was equal to ID.  Enter the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM).  Henderson's thinking was that since ID used ambiguous references to a "Designer", then any conceivable party could be that figure, including the FSM.  A new parody religion was born, taking its place alongside Russell's teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

A hand-crafted model of the FSM.

In May, 2005, hearing no response from the Kansas State Board of Education, Henderson posted his letter on his website.  Pastafarianism, as the belief in the supernatural creator FSM is called, became a huge internet sensation.  Since then he has published responses from Board members, hate mail, and death threats. Within a year he received more than 15,000 emails about the FSM, which he stated were 95% supportive.  His website had more then 350,000,000 hits and used 700 gigabytes of bandwidth a month.  The open letter was printed in many newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Sun Times, and received worldwide attention.

The FSM "fish" emblem is a parody of the Christian Ichthys symbol.

As the concept gained popularity, the satire became popular with bloggers and internet humor websites.  An International Society for Flying Spaghetti Monster Awareness emerged, along with other fan sites.  In August of 2005, Boing Boing offered a $250,000 prize (later upped to $1,000,000) of "Intelligently Designed currency" to anyone who could produce empirical evidence that Jesus is not the son of the FSM.  The challenged sparked even more interest in the FSM.

Henderson's book, entitled The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, was released in March of 2006. The book presents the beliefs of Pastafarianism, and includes a creation myth, a propaganda guide for proselytizing, and pseudo-scientific proof.  The FSM is invisible and undetectable.  It separated the waters from the heavens on the first day; on the second he created land, as he couldn't swim for long and grew tired of flying.  The land featured a beer volcano, which the FSM overindulged in.  Hung over and in a drunken state he went on creating, including Man.  Man and Woman lived in the Olive Garden of Eden until the FSM caused a global flood from a cooking accident.  The book was well-received for its irony and humor, and was nominated for the Quill Award in Humor that same year.

The Gospel, written by the prophet
of Pastafarianism, Bobby Henderson.

Mosey the Pirate received ten stone tablets from the FSM, but dropped two of them climbing down from Mount Salsa.  The Eight "I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts" that survived address a number of behaviors, but the loss of two of them accounts for Pastafarians' weak morals.  The cause for the Earth's flaws is from the FSM's intoxication.  Every Friday is a holy day, and prayers are concluded with the affirmation, "Ramen".  September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Official logo.

Pirates are big with Pastafarians.  In his original letter to the Kansas State Board of Education, Henderson argued that global warming and natural disasters are the direct result of the shrinking number of pirates since the 1800s.  This parodies the belief that the high number of natural disasters is the result of lack of respect for the deity worshipped by religious groups.  In 2008, Henderson pointed out that all the pirate activities in the Gulf of Aden were proof of his theory because Somalia has both the highest number of pirates and lowest carbon emissions in the world. Pastafarians believe pirates were peaceful explorers, and the connotation that they were thieves and outcasts came from misinformation spread by Christian theologians from the Middle Ages and Hare Krishnas.

Satirical diagram included in Henderson's open letter.

Currently The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has thousands of followers, most from college campuses and Europe.  The Associated Press calls Henderson's website, "a kind of cyber-watercooler for opponents of Intelligent Design". Missouri State University, since October of 2008,  holds an annual convention called Skepticon on campus which includes Pastafarians.  Atheists and skeptics give speeches and debate Christian experts.  It's touted as the "largest gathering of atheists in the Midwest".

The American Academy of Religion at their 2007 annual meeting featured four talks regarding the FSM, which examined the elements necessary for a group to be considered a religion.  On Kiva, the non-profit website promoting microfinance, Pastafarians are in competition with a Mormon faction to best all the other religious groups in the number of loans issued via their team efforts.  As of September 2010, Pastafarians had funded more than $380,000 in loans.

The popularity of the FSM shows that belief in creation is arbitrary and that one view is as good as the next.  As supporters and free thinkers alike have said, the onus of proof is on the believer.
All images courtesy of Wikipedia.

1 comment:

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