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Pastafarianism isn’t exactly a religion—it’s a ‘social movement’—but it came into being in response to religious issues, so still belongs in this category. It’s also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after its deity or god, and can be seen as a parody religion. Even the name is a play on the words ‘pasta’ and ‘Rastafarian’, a belief system from Jamaica.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is exactly what it sounds like: a giant flying clump of spaghetti with two meatballs, and eyes coming out on stalks. It was first described in a letter by Bobby Henderson to the Kansas State Board of Education in 2005. Henderson was writing to protest the decision to permit the teaching of intelligent design, or religious creationism, as an alternative to evolution in science classes. The letter satirised creationism, the belief that the Universe and life are the product of divine creation, saying that whenever a scientist carbon-dates an object a supernatural (Flying Spaghetti Monster) creator is there, "changing the results with His Noodly Appendage". He argued that this belief was as valid as intelligent design, saying:
I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a modern version of Russell’s Teapot. In 1952 the philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that if someone claimed that a teapot orbits the Sun, it would be nonsensical to expect people to believe him simply because they couldn’t prove him wrong. The responsibility for providing proof lies with the person making the claims—this is known as the ‘burden of proof’.
Henderson didn’t receive a reply from the school board, but after he posted the letter on his own website the Flying Spaghetti Monster became an internet phenomenon. The number of ‘Pastafarians’ soared, as word of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster spread through blogs and news sites, symbolic of the wide opposition to the teaching of intelligent design.
Pastafarians do hold some general beliefs, although Henderson has stated that "the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma". He has outlined the Church’s tenants on his website, and in a 2006 book called The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Besides believing in the Spaghetti Monster himself, followers believe that pirates were the original Pastafarians. They celebrate by dressing up as pirates and taking part in parades with giant Spaghetti Monster floats. In his original letter, Henderson put forward this belief, and claimed that the decline in pirate numbers can be attributed to the rise of global warming. He included this example, along with a misleading graph, to show that correlation doesn’t imply causation. This parodies some religious groups who think that the high numbers of disasters, famines, and wars in the world is due to lack of respect and worship toward their god. The central creation myth is that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe "after drinking heavily", which is why the Earth and humanity have so many problems!