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Pastafarianism in the military

Published July 26th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

Here’s a guest post by Justin Griffith.  Justin is well known for his fight against the idea that “there are no Atheists in Foxholes”.  He was recently profiled in the New York Times for his activism.

FSM_dogtags

A little while ago, news broke about a Pastafarian winning the right to wearing a pasta strainer on his head for his official driver’s license photograph *edit: it seems that there was no legal battle*. Coincidentally, around the same time, I got a few emails from the contributors to a Wikipedia article on Religious Symbols in the US Military asking if I would contribute a photograph of my Atheist dog tags.

Shortly after I donated the photograph to Wikipedia, the photo was added to the Flying Spaghetti Monster entry as well. Awesome.

I actually have a few funny stories about FSM and the Army. *warning: quoting a Drill Sergeant is NSFW*

Why the Flying Spaghetti Monster was bigger than Jesus in boot camp.

Holy_Book

There are strict rules about what non-military texts you can posses during boot camp. They only allow one book, and it must be a holy book from your religion. As you’d expect from this rule, there were a few Bibles, a Koran, and even a Book of Mormon in various wall-lockers in my company. Most people just didn’t have a book at all.

I, however, brought my copy of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

My book was incredibly popular, and people kept talking about it during the few short breaks you get during the typical boot camp day. Then other people would hear about it and ask me if they could borrow it. Everyone laughed like a bastard, and really enjoyed it.

Many people told me that the book really made some sense to them. I must have accidentally converted dozens of people, as the humorous parody religion’s messages actually sank in.

Drill Sergeant VS Flying Spaghetti Monster

At one point my Drill Sergeant tried to take it away from me. He thought it was just some book that I smuggled in. Keep in mind that Drill Sergeants are professionally trained in the art of not laughing at anything (yelling and freaking out are more appropriate responses to most situations.)

Anyway, this is the gist of the conversation:

Drill Sergeant: “Private Griffith – is that some contraband?”

Me: “No, Drill Sergeant. It’s my holy book.

Drill_Sargeant

Drill Sergeant: “Give that to me…” *Yoink!* “Flying Spaghetti Monster!? What the fuck?”

Me: ”I’m a Pastafarian, Drill Sergeant.”

[he shot me a look like he was t minus 5 seconds from throwing me into the Sun]

Drill Sergeant: “Are you fucking with me? Are you fucking with me at 0600, Private Griffith? Before I even get some goddamned breakfast?”

[I did my best to return the intensely humorless stone face.]

Me: “No, Drill Sergeant.”

Drill Sergeant: “Flying Spaghetti Monster!? I don’t fucking believe it!!!”

Me:I believe it, Drill Sergeant.”

Drill Sergeant: “What the hell is wrong with you, warrior?”

[I went for broke]

Me: “Drill Sergeant, I’m afraid I can’t really talk to you about this any further unless I’m in my religious clothing. I need to be in full pirate regalia, or at the very least wearing an eye patch.”

….Then he just looked at me for about 30 seconds. Crickets. Time stopped… The other soldiers that were around were extremely scared of the coming mass punishment they imagined that I had surely just earned them.

Then he flipped through the book. He read a few sentences out loud. And then it happened.

He smiled.

Then he handed me my book and told me to do some push ups – a slap on the wrist. And my punishment was really only for making him smile, not for anything else. He just couldn’t bring himself to treat this situation like every other situation.

My recruiter put his own religion on my forms, instead of Atheist.

First off, I actually had quite an ordeal simply getting my ID tags to accurately reflect my atheism. When I was speaking to Army recruiters, the first one that I worked with was a very religious person. Normally, this isn’t relevant. However, when asked what my religion was, I answered “Atheist”. He entered a “Baptist” variation.

At one point he asked me to look over his computer screen for any errors, and I hastily fixed this. I only had a few seconds, so I scrolled through the list and found “NO-REL-PREF”. A few days later, I had more issues with this recruiter and asked to be assigned to another one. He was great, but I guess he forgot to fix my religious preference on my forms as I requested. A similar set of circumstances prevented the mistake from being corrected when they were being issued at Basic Training.

YES-REL-PREF

Religious Preference – that’s the Army’s term. It’s a little garish and awkward, but it does the job. I was pissed off that I was stuck with dog tags that said “NO-REL-PREF”. I do have a religious preference – “none for me please… Atheist!” That’s not the same as “I don’t have a religious preference”.

I’ve thought about religion quite seriously, and I most certainly have a preference. Atheist has been on the military’s approved list of responses to this question for quite some time, so I was not breaking any barriers. I was finally told that I could (and did) change my religious preference to Atheist on my paperwork, but that I couldn’t receive updated dog tags. I was told that soldiers change their last names and religious preferences frequently enough, but must get their updated dog tags made off post at their own expense.

I was a little bit angered that I now had to buy my own set of ID tags to fix this, but at least I had an answer and a way forward.

FLY-SPA-MON

Being a former creationist, I really identified with Flying Spaghetti Monster meme. Leaving creationist indoctrination was a long and painful journey for me. Absurd as FSM might be, it’s as culturally significant to me as religion is to many others. I truly identify with it, appreciating both the humor and the reality underpinning the parody religion.

Obviously, a strictly serious answer to the question about my religious preference is “Atheist”. But given the amount of hassle I went through to get my dog tags corrected – I decided it was time for some levity. Unfortunately, the limited writing space is a factor. I considered these:

FLY-SPA-MON
PASTAFARIAN

But I wanted to include ATHEIST too, so in the end I settled with

ATHEIST / FSM

And I’m happy with that. Yes, these are legitimate ‘officially accepted’ dog tags by the way. Interestingly, there are more than a few that legitimate sets that say “Jedi Knight”.

You can check out Justin’s excellent website Rock Beyond Belief here.



211 Responses to “Pastafarianism in the military”

  1. Templestream says:

    Bobby,

    Here’s the thing. In your blog description you describe FSM. Is this a joke? A: It’s not a joke.

    But it really is: Everyone laughed like a bastard, and really enjoyed it.

    Atheist satirists, scientists and intellectuals are in the same boat because atheism cannot be logically defended.

    If I am wrong, come to my blog and disprove my article showing proof of God’s existence. Because you cannot do it, nor can anyone else, censureship and satire have become the most popular approach for atheists. I’m sure you are making a killing though with the car decals and T-shirts :)

    http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-identity-logic-and-physics-prove.html

    • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

      I only got through the first 2 points, because I have no taste for semantics and therefore philosophy.
      1. Formal Logic Requires Certain Elements as a Basis for Sound Reasoning.
      You have not applied this to your own beliefs, but maintain that “atheists don’t do logic”. I contend the
      exact opposite is true. Every religion is illogical. Atheism is the only one asking for evidence, not
      blind faith and acceptance.

      2. The Foundation of cohesive Logic Appears to Have Been undermined by Quantum Physics.
      So? If by the “foundation of cohesive logic” you mean our understanding of the universe, that’s ALWAYS
      changing in the secular world, as we learn more about the nature of things. Understand that “logic” is a
      man-made thing, not some eternal constant. Contrarily, religion only changes by small degrees when it
      must to remain relevant. And, instead of being the consistent wishes of a supreme being, they DO change
      as the whims of their creators (followers) evolve.

    • Jason says:

      When you claim there is a God are you doing so because of evidence and honest reasons or simply because you want it to be true? If the evidence your claim is based upon ends up being proven false would you stop making the claim? If your claim is based only on wishful thinking then you are being dishonest with yourself. There is a difference between hoping that something is true and claiming that it is true.

      • Templestream says:

        Jason,

        J: “are you doing so because of evidence and honest reasons or simply because you want it to be true?”

        R: As my linked article shows, the preponderance of evidence is proof of God’s existence.

        I believe it is you who simply wants atheism to be true for personal reasons. Otherwise you might have been willing to come and test your presuppositions against the facts.

        J: “If the evidence your claim is based upon ends up being proven false would you stop making the claim?”

        R: Yes.

        T: So help me see the light, Jason.

        Regards,

        Rick

    • Insightful Ape says:

      That is one of the most idiotic posts l’ve seen since the troll “big guy” got booted.
      1. “Logic and physics” prove your god? Please provide a peer reviewed math or physics publication backing that claim. Otherwise it is just a game of words to get around the problem of lacking evidence.
      2. I don’t know what “censureship” is, but you may want to finish 5th grade before you claim what can or cannot be logically defended.
      3. Why is satire popular among atheists? Thomas Jefferson said it best:
      “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”
      4. “Come to my blog” is an old canard to get someone who hates trolls to become one. Sorry for not taking the bait.
      5. What is your problem with selling merchandise if there is a market for it? Are you a communist?

      • tekHedd says:

        Thomas Jefferson also said “An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.” That certainly applies to his comments about atheists…and I doubt we’ll change his mind unless our arguments, like his, make unnecessary use of big words to hide massive logical flaws. :)

    • TiltedHorizon says:

      The reason one cannot disprove your ‘logic’ is because its foundation is deeply rooted in concepts which are themselves suspect. A laughable mix of unsubstantiated presuppositions, like assuming NDE is a true and all experiences are consistent. Strawman arguments, like asserting ‘God’ is true because science (i.e. Materialism) has not answered your specific questions. (i.e. Why are we here?) Outright fallacies in determining your conclusions as correct solely because they meets the needs of your arguments and personal definitions. For example ‘Categorical Syllogisms’ only speaks to the expected structure of the presented Syllogism, which you did present correctly. The problem is ‘syllogism’ is commonly used in deceptive arguments, which I posit, was your intention. Not a problem though, one only needs to change the conclusion to test the logical soundness of the syllogism. Let’s change ‘God’ to ‘FSM’ and see what changes…

      BTW, my last sentence was rhetorical. I already know nothing changes but I do offer thanks for proving FSM exists using Identity, Logic and Physics.

      Ramen

    • midnight rider says:

      Even better than ‘evidence’ just show us god.

    • midnight rider says:

      Quit plugging your blog site. lol.

    • midnight rider says:

      I went to your website. I laugh like bastard. ha ha.

    • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

      You attempted to logically prove the existence of god through 3 Biblical quotes.

      Hebrews 11.3: “3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

      John 1.1, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

      Colossians 1:17: “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist”.

      You call this confirmation of anything?? Plug in “the Flying Spaghetti Monster” for “god”, and this makes all our points logical and confirmed, right? First you would have to proove the BuyBull is more than a collection of fantasies. You may know more philosophical terms than I do, Templestream, but my major was mathematics, and I know what the hell PROOF of something is.

    • Wayne says:

      We don’t have to disprove it. It disproves itself. The onus is on you to prove it. I’d offer you a cup of tea but the cup is too small and I can’t prove that the cup is full. Doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though.

  2. Pesto says:

    First of all, thank you for your service! Secondly, this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time! You Rock!!

  3. Simon says:

    I’m puzzled – How can you justify having BOTH Atheist and FSM on your Dog Tags? Surely you’re one or the other?
    Also, how come they let those scum Jedi into the army?
    Are you saying that we should let old rivalries go and make peace with the Jedi?
    They would make a strong ally to the FSM – perhaps it is time to put old rivalries to one side ;-}

    • Just Ducky says:

      Simon, I regret only that I have but one vote to give for my beliefs, but I can’t in good conscious ally myself with the Jedi. They rely on mysticism, hocus-pocus, and religious felgercarb, and I’ll be a part of it not. Starfleet, yes. Jedi, no. Just my 2 cents. :-|

      • tekHedd says:

        It’s not hocus-pocus, it’s… microscopic organisms in your blood called midikeyboards. Or something. Oh George! how could you?!

        *sob*

      • lolhoofd says:

        wy ally with them ? our pirateships can beat any jedi one if they are looking for a fight
        and our waponery is more advance then theirs

        and to boot that our beer makes us drunk! we woud never lose!
        aaargh

    • tekHedd says:

      FSM is not mutually exclusive with other religions, and therefore is compatible with atheism. Atheism, on the other hand, is not a religion, but is perfectly compatible with non-dogmatic beliefs. I can defend this with heavily flawed logic; see below.

      Now… while approximately 100% of atheists would tell you that atheism isn’t a religion, we know that religious people will say it is (usually as a preamble to making some sort of ad hominem attack based on the idea that “your beliefs” are stupid while “my beliefs” are perfectly rational). The point is that as an FSM follower, I know that atheism is a religion. I only believe that there is no god to comfort myself in times of trial. But, even during those times, I know inside that FSM is real. The FSM accepts other religions, therefore they are compatible.

      As an atheist, I know that FSM isn’t really true, I just believe it to comfort myself in times of trial. But, even during those times, I know inside that there is no god. Atheists accept the existence of irrational beliefs as an inevitable part of being human, therefore the beliefs are compatible.

  4. Tsgt David Hanson says:

    I like this story but would like to add my own as well. I have had Pastafarian on my Dog tags for a long while now. I get questioned by every new Unit Deployment Manager if I am serious. I tell them just like I tell all others I whole heartedly am and believe in the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have had to describe my religious preference on multiple occasions and share the holy word often in defense of my beliefs. The closed mindedness of others knows no bounds.
    Ramen,
    Technical Sergeant David Hanson
    United States Air Force

    • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

      Way to go, Sergeant. If they give you any grief, have them defend their own beliefs. I am rather surprised, though. A beer volcano and stripper factory would have been very appealing during my brief time in the Army. Hell, they still are!

    • Lasagna_Guru says:

      Oh, I always had to do the exact same. My dog tags proudly show Pastafarian on them and have had a few converts around here after explaining it. Now I’m the UDM and there is no question anymore.

    • Just Ducky says:

      Thanks for your service, David! I find myself envious of those in the service today, able to proudly proclaim their belief in the FSM. I served in the USAF a couple of decades before Prophet Bobby’s revelation, but I still proudly displayed my pro-science anti-christianity beliefs on the walls of my dorm. My posters received a mostly silent disdain from my First Sergeant, but he could just deal. Thanks again, Sergeant!

  5. I pity you says:

    Who laughs last laughs the best. I pity you.

    • TiltedHorizon says:

      Such negativity. May the FSM bless you.

    • Drained and Washed Clean says:

      He who laughs last laughs slowest.

      • wulff says:

        I always thought he who laughs last needed to have the joke explained to him…

  6. Templestream says:

    So, it seems there was no answer from Bobby regarding my challenge…

    I’ll take that as a no.

    :)

    • Sky says:

      so you’re just going to ignore everyone else?

      • TiltedHorizon says:

        Seems we don’t fit his definition of worthwhile a opponents. Which work out well for the image he will paint, no doubt claiming Bobby was too scared to face him or some other self serving boast.

    • Insightful Ape says:

      Lol. Ever thought you are just one troll among many, and not worth his time?

  7. SteveM says:

    Eventually, before I retired from the Army National Guard, I was able to get dog tags that read “SECULARHUMANIST”.

  8. Ami says:

    Holy FSM! This is hilarious! I was just talking to my husband about whether or not he thought I could get Pastafarian on my dog tags for this EXACT SAME REASON. I care very much about religion and I’m turned off by the implication that I wouldn’t care if someone said a prayer over my dead or dying body. I care very much! Good for you for starting the ball rolling. I’ll be down here in Kansas working on the same fight in the Air Force. Kuddos!

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