Madden: Why the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is politically poignant performance art


Daily Northwestern

Joseph Madden, Columnist

When a religion preaches the supremacy of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, blessed be his noodly appendage, it comes across as stupid.

Understandably, people preaching that God is real and made of pasta do not appear to be politically clever. But they are. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in its intentionally ridiculous doctrine, is fighting to remove religion from government and demonstrate how certain ancient religious doctrines hurt the modern world.

Pastafarians — the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — are set on fighting the intersection of church and state. For example, they preach the Theory of Intelligent Falling (originated by “The Onion”): that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is forever using his many noodly appendages to hold us down to Earth. It is a theory in which, obviously, nobody believes. But the church’s persistence in getting it taught in physics classes alongside the theory of gravity is holding up a politically sharp mirror to the Christians that are trying to get the Theory of Intelligent Design taught alongside evolution. Pastafarians even make the same argument those Christian groups make when espousing creationism: The scientific theory, gravity and evolution, respectively, is just a theory. By satirically pushing the Theory of Intelligent Falling, Pastafarians show that a theory backed by science makes more sense and is more worth teaching to students than one backed by religion. They demonstrate how wrong it would be to teach impressionable children two theories on one phenomenon when one is infinitely more likely to be right than the other.

Though often downplayed, the intersection of church and state is nevertheless present in America. I am still angry that each of my classmates, regardless of his or her religion, would have to stand up every school morning and acknowledge God during the Pledge of Allegiance. We should have been able to go to American public school without recognizing Him or Her.

America’s belief in the separation of church and state stems back to its foundation. Its failure to actually separate them does too. The practices of using holy texts in inaugurations, swearing witnesses into court with their hands on the Bible and branding our money with “In God We Trust” are all examples of religion in government. They all show that America does not practice what it preaches on keeping the church out of the state. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is an effort to bridge that gap between American ideology and reality.

The insanity of the beliefs of Pastafarianism, which is essentially its entire point, shows how ridiculous other religious beliefs can be. David Niose, in his Psychology Today article, “In Wake of French Terror, Maybe Pastafarians Aren’t So Crazy,” points out that the doctrines of Pastafarianism reveal how misplaced ancient religious ideals are in “modern context.” The application of thought from thousands of years ago, thought that seems as crazy as that of the existence of a carbohydrate-based deity, is not just absurd but, as Niose notes, dangerous. Ancient interpretations of Islam that justify terrorism, usage of the Old Testament as an argument against homosexual marriage and the tenants of numerous religions that oppress women worldwide are all demonstrations of old thought hurting the new world. In comparison, believing in his blessed Noodliness is completely harmless.

In its persistence in pretending to believe in a God made of pasta, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is performance art. Pastafarians’ clever mirroring of other religions’ practices — allowing religion to permeate their dress (pirates), state ID pictures (wearing colanders on their heads) and language (“blessed be his noodly appendage”) — puts those who do believe in God in the shoes of those who do not. The religion brings its viewers into a dialogue on what is and is not acceptable to say or do in the name of faith, showing them that forcing religion into government is unfair and that faith is too often used as a justification for violence and social regression. They just happen to do that with Italian food.

Joseph Madden is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.