In the beginning, the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the heavens and the earth. The earth was a watery void, and because the Spaghetti Monster could not swim, He made land—and built on it a beer volcano. Drunk on its bounty, the Spaghetti Monster created Man and placed him in the Olive Garden of Eden, where he lived happily until his Creator accidentally flooded him out in a cooking mishap.
So goes the creation story of Pastafarianism, a.k.a. the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a parody religion that, earlier this week, won an important religious rights case allowing a Massachusetts woman to wear her prescribed Pastafarian headgear—a colander—in her driver’s license photo. The case will likely reverberate through other parody faiths, so we’ve created a primer on some you may hear more about soon. Pax vobiscum.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism
Pastafarianism was founded in 2005 by Bobby Henderson, a 24-year-old graduate student in physics, to protest the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to allow the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public schools. In an open letter, Henderson satirized creationism by professing his belief in an all-seeing, all-knowing platter of spaghetti and meatballs in the sky, which from time to time reaches down its Noodly Appendage to alter the course of human events. The letter went viral, and within a few weeks Henderson had a publishing deal. His 2006 Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster lays down the denomination’s origins, beliefs and tenets.
Today the church has thousands of “adherents”—mostly atheists—and has been featured in dozens of religious freedom cases around the world. In 2008, Pastafarians in Crossville, Tennessee, won the right to place a Flying Spaghetti Monster statue on the courthouse lawn; in 2014, Pastafarians in Templin, Germany, were allowed to display signs announcing their Friday Nudelmesse (“pasta mass”) alongside signs for Catholic Sunday services; and no fewer than five Pastafarians have won the right to wear colanders on their head for government-issued photo IDs.
Church of the Latter-Day Dude, or Dudeism
Pastafarianism is to Christianity as Dudeism is to Taoism. Inspired by Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski (played by Jeff Bridges), protagonist of the 1998 Coen brothers neo-noir The Big Lebowski, Dudeism promotes a laid-back lifestyle (ideally carried out in robe and boxers) and indulgence in simple pleasures such as taking baths and going bowling. The Church of the Latter-Day Dude was founded in 2005 by journalist Oliver Benjamin and has been the subject of a handful of books, including The Dude and the Zen Master (2013), coauthored by Bridges himself. The Dudeist ethos essentially boils down to this: Just take it easy. And if you think that’s a load of crap, then, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
Apparently, it’s rather easy to create your own tax-free church in the United States. Comedian John Oliver learned just how easy in August 2015, when, to expose a tax loophole afforded to shady televangelists, he founded the megachurch Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption and pronounced himself mega reverend. He announced the new sect on his late-night HBO show Last Week Tonight, preaching a “prosperity gospel” that purported to bring untold riches to those who planted “seed money” with the church. He asked viewers to send in their cash. And they did—by the tens of thousands. Oliver eventually dissolved the church on September 13, after reportedly receiving jars and vials of actual human seed, i.e., semen, and donated all the money Our Lady had collected to Doctors Without Borders.
Not a religion in the strictest sense, Nutopia is a landless nation defined by beliefs John Lennon and Yoko Ono developed in response to Lennon’s U.S. immigration problems in the 1970s. At a 1973 press conference, Lennon issued an official declaration: “We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA. Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of NUTOPIA. NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic. All people of NUTOPIA are ambassadors of the country. As two ambassadors of NUTOPIA, we ask for diplomatic immunity and recognition in the United Nations of our country and its people.” Because the announcement took place on April Fools’ Day, many among the press snickered, until they realized the supercouple was superserious. Lennon later created a Nutopian flag—all white—and his 1973 album Mind Games includes the Nutopia national anthem: four seconds of silence.
Feature Photo: Flickr