I always like the opportunity to pass along good news, so I’m very pleased to report that Lindsay M Miller finally got her Massachusetts driver’s license. The issue is that she is a Pastafarian — a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. As part of her religious observances, she wears a colander on her head. By Massachusetts’ law, people cannot wear head coverings unless they are “for medical or religious reasons.” Clearly, the colander is part of her religion. This really isn’t a hard case and that may be why it only took two months to resolve the matter and get the driver’s license picture seen on the left.
The reason this is even an issue is because people feel confident about old and large religions. When I was a kid, I used to hear that the Mormon Church was actually a cult. It was just a way for one religion to delegitimize another religion. Of course, the problem is even more extreme with things like the Satanic Temple and Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. They seem as though they aren’t actually religions but just groups designed to make fun of religions. The problem with that thinking is that there is no reason to make that distinction.
What is a religion? Truly, I don’t think it is any different than any other group or organization. The Catholic Church and the Elks Lodge and a bowling team are really all the same. But I will admit, that religions normally deal with more fundamental ontological issues. But this has been one of my great disappointments with most religious people here in the US: they aren’t much interested (or even aware of) ontology. And so that really does make them nothing fundamentally different from the Karaoke events at Double Decker Lanes.
According to Wikipedia, the Pastafarians believe, “The central creation myth is that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe ‘after drinking heavily.'” I don’t accept this. It is utterly contrary to what we know from negative theology. The problem is that so are the creation myths of every other religion that I know about. The best explanation that I’ve ever heard of the Christian creation myth is that God created the universe in the same way that Mozart created The Marriage of Figaro: as an act of pure creativity. The same can be said of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
So, are the Pastafarians making fun of religious people? To some extent, I’m sure they are. But mostly, they are just having fun. They are making sense of the world in a way that speaks to them. (Wikipedia: “The Pastafarian conception of Heaven includes a beer volcano and a stripper (or sometimes prostitute) factory. The Pastafarian Hell is similar, except that the beer is stale and the strippers have sexually transmitted diseases.”) The complaints that some religious people have about the Church of the Fly Spaghetti Monster are the same as the complaints they have of all other religions: that they don’t take the complainer’s religion seriously enough.
But in all my life, there is nothing that I feel the need to defend against mockery. I’m a big Don Quixote fan. If people mock the books or my love of them, it means nothing to me other than that they are people of very little taste. This is why I think more and more that a lot of religious people are lying about their beliefs. They really do think that the Bible (or whatever other book they follow) isn’t telling them the truth. And it terrifies them to see other reasonable people thinking that those beliefs are silly.