Down in New Zealand, the government has now recognized the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to officiate wedding ceremonies. They are still waiting to be allowed to register as a nonprofit religious organization. At least, that’s what The New Zealand Herald reported over the weekend, First Pastafarian Wedding on the Way. So good for them! Weddings are solemn occasions, and they become even more so when colanders and pirate costumes are involved.
I understand that for actually religious people — especially those of the literalist bent — groups like the Flying Spaghetti Monster represent a bit of a challenge. How does one distinguish between, say, Christianity and Pastafarianism? Usually, any attempts come down to nothing more than: “Well, the idea of a flying spaghetti monster is just silly!” But is it really? Here is what Christianity is in its most basic form: humans are born sinners; to rid them of their sins, God impregnated a woman so his death would wash those sins away; those who accept the martyred demigod get to go to heaven. That is silly to anyone who hasn’t been indoctrinated into it.
The similarly inclined Satanic Temple creates an even bigger problem for Christians, because it uses the exact same mythology, but turns it on its head. So all that Christians can do is say that the Satanic Temple is wrong and “evil,” but they can’t dismiss it as silly. I’ve long been of the opinion that the Satanic Temple offers much better moral guidance than any of the Abrahamic faiths. But the response to it by Christians is to dismiss it because the book they’ve been given says that Satan is bad. Obviously, the Satanic Temple views things very differently. This leaves Christians with nothing but tradition on their hands: this is what they were taught and what their parents believed, so it must be right.
Ultimately, the big knock against both of these religions is that their followers don’t really believe it. But this reminds me of something I heard Robert M Price say. Christian apologists explain away earlier cults that were pretty much the same as Christianity by saying, “Satan knew Jesus was coming so he created these cults just to confuse people.” Price remarked, “What is this?! Salvation through gullibility?” Nonetheless, people claim that freedom of religion means freedom for Christianity and not for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But what they are saying is that just because the followers of the former are deluded, they should get some kind of special rights that those with less common belief systems should not.
The reason that we have freedom of religion is because people’s religious believes have traditionally been a major source of oppression. And that’s certainly true for atheists and agnostics and mystics. It’s probably even more true for them. So let’s suppose that the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster really are just involved with it because they are atheists. They still deserve religious protection for the same reason that theists need it. What’s more, why is it that atheists have to hire some professional to get themselves married when their theist friends can get it done on the cheep?
Most atheists hate in when theists say that atheism is a religion. But in the only sense that matters, it is. It is a belief system regarding the unknowable. That’s not to say that atheism is irrational or anything else. But it is in this sense that we can think most clearly about what our rights mean. It shouldn’t be necessary to create the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to make this point. Although it is a lot more fun. Intellectually, I’m pulled toward the Satanic Temple. But my heart pulls me to Pastafarianism — and not just because I look so damned good in a colander.