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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.



212 Responses to “Pastafarianism in the military”

  1. Brian Fritzen says:

    “Atheist has been on the military’s approved list of responses to this question for quite some time,”

    So, I guess there are Atheists in foxholes, after all.

    • puppygoogoo says:

      well, you can count me as one.

      puppygoogoo

  2. Kyle Eff says:

    From my experience in foxholes, I would argue that they actually tend to create more atheists than believers. The first time I peeled bits of dead Iraqi policeman out of concertina wire, the idea of an orderly, planned and guided creation of the universe seemed somewhat less likely.

    • Atsap Revol says:

      KYLE, I absolutely agree. My war was 60 years ago, but everything about it suggested that God was not in charge. Being under fire did not move me toward religion. It made me even more skeptical of the BS that some civilians accept as truth.

      AR

      • Brian Fritzen says:

        I have thanked Atsap before, but I thank both of you for your service. It means a lot to me and many others.

        • Atsap Revol says:

          Thank you BRIAN. I’d do it over again for the eventual outcome of the war.

      • Stephen says:

        I too really found my roots in being Atheist when I was overseas. I read the bible twice while in Iraq, and each time it just seemed to be worse. The book that really got me was Job. I decided that if God would willingly make a bet on my health and wellbeing just to prove a point to someone that he is supposedly more powerful than anyways…well I might as well grab my ankles and hope for the best. I kept up the mirage of religion for a while after ETSing. Yet a philosophy, BIO course, and a little push from my wife and I was “out of the closet”. Well that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

        • Atsap Revol says:

          STEPHEN,

          Congratulations and welcome to secularism. Your life will now make more sense. Enjoy being free of dogma and superstition.

          The FSM will never make a wager with Satan, because there ain’t no FSM and there ain’t no Satan. Ohhh…blasphemy!

          Atsap Revol

  3. Gabriel Leyshon says:

    I had a deep conversation with a Nun at one of my Cousin’s funerals. He was a Marine, I was 16. I was raised Unitarian Universalist which is Christian. A Nun is Catholic, which is obviously Christian. We agreed that The Force was basically the same as God, Allah, etc., etc. You might want to consider changing to Agnostic if you believe in The Force. Atheism is the belief that there is no higher power. Agnosticism is the belief that there may be a higher power without subscribing to any particular creed. Personally, I believe in God.

    • m610 says:

      The word agnostic is usually used to describe a persons view of religions claims, but it is not restricted to that topic. One can be agnostic about other things, too, and it simply means one has no opinion, cannot comment based on what they know, have not see the evidence and therefore cannot take a position, and so on. It may mean one does not reject the idea or claims, but it also means they cannot accept them. It is not a fence-sitting position, it does not mean that that person believes there may be a god, etc.

      Atheism simply means “without religion” and could apply to one who either rejects all available religions or never heard of or even considered the matter of god, however unlikely that is, except right after being born. But in short, atheism is not a belief in the sense that religious folk mean. Atheism also does not mean one is against religion, although that may be the case. It is possible for an atheist to be an anti-theist.

      • midnight rider says:

        I looked up ‘gnosis’ which means “knowledge of spiritual matters” so I image a-gnosis would be ‘without a knowledge of spiritual matters’ so I might agree with m610 that it is not a ‘fence sitting position.’ It is a state of positionlessness about religion.

        Some people can get caught up in the false dillema fallacy thinking you HAVE to be either FOR or AGAINST it when maybe you don’t have an opinon at all.

    • Cap'n Flint says:

      May the FORCE BE WITH YOU, Gabriel Leyshon. Personally, I worship Jabba The Hutt, but I am atheistic about Darth Vader. Glad to see that you too are a “Space Cadet.” That nun may get excommunicated as a heretic if she continues to equate The Force with God, Allah, and maybe even Jesus. Blasphemous!

      Cap’n Flint

  4. katinpuyallup says:

    This was a lot of fun but, where’s the notch?

  5. Dttri says:

    Se non e vero, e ben trovato.

  6. asbostrusbo says:

    nice man :) Even for a soldier. The sergeant speech was very funny.

  7. chistes says:

    very nice post guy :)

  8. PH says:

    Your post came up in Google Reader. All I could think was, what a proper cunt this guy is. Maybe that’s a virtue in your pretend religion.

    • Mal says:

      Care to discuss, or are you just going to throw insults about like a monkey flinging poo?

    • Drained and Washed Clean says:

      Really? Because all I could think reading your post was, “what a proper idiot this guy is”. It is quite apparent that you have not read the about page, and you are just in general an asshole. Those all seem to be qualities that the other 3 major religions require, along with a holier than thou attitude. I am going to guess you are one of them… Shocking that you have no facts or proof to add to your assertion that our religion is pretend. We have just as much proof as everyone else.

      • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

        I think there are 2 kinds of flamers that come here, D&WC.

        The first are the most interesting, because they actually think they can mount an argument. Of course they are so devoted to their drilled-into beliefs that they will ignore any facts that dispute them. Instead, they cling to their absurd literature, and think a quote from the BuyBull constitutes “proof” of something they heard in church.

        The second kind are angry, semi-literate, clueless and usually obscene young people. They can’t understand anything that contradicts their narrow world-view. I believe the anger comes from the subconcious realization that their faith is total BS.

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