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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”

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  1. nunya biz says:

    Some1 affiliated locally with catholic church -their word i will take on that- told me there is no justice on THIS earth…oh okay. Maybe on some other, planet…i can c where i hav invested in the wrong 1. how foolish, of me. Any1 manning any ships out of this atmosphere, please contact me…

    • Apprentice Frederic says:

      A piece of advice I got – ruefully – on this general topic was: “Next time, read the brochure more carefully!” LOL.

    • Omnipotent Zombie says:

      This makes me think of the saying “One pair of hands working does more than a thousand pairs praying”

      • TiltedHorizon says:

        … and when that one pair of hands fixes the problem they will credit god with ‘sending’ someone to take action.

        • Omnipotent Zombie says:

          so true Tilted. so true.

      • Omnipotent Zombie says:

        Scratch my last post; that was not quite what I had been thinking. the sentiment of “no justice on THIS earth” is what I was trying to address. It’s a defeatist sentiment that should not be practiced by anyone, ever.

        I’ve heard people say and post things like “Don’t bother trying to change the world because its only temporary” and so on. That is a horrible thing to say and practice. Regardless of your beliefs, or the lack of, nobody should ever give up on trying to improve the world. This should be true in all cases, even if it’s something minute like random acts of kindness or activities larger in scale such as charity work or volunteering.

        Yes, i know and understand the origin of the “No justice on this world” sentiment; but my rant is over. I will leave that for a later time.

  2. nunya biz says:

    my bad…it was no justice in THIS LIFE. The ticket elsewhere is probably more within the realm of expectaion on that one. Environmebtally more friendly too, when considering fuel costs…

  3. nunya biz says:

    my bad…it was no justice in THIS LIFE. The ticket elsewhere is probably more within the realm of expectaion on that one. EnvironMENTALly more friendly too, when considering fuel costs…
    NOW, about that EDIT button…

  4. nunya biz says:

    1 last note on that…people telling me there is no justice in this life seem 2 b those disinterested in any1 achieving it, or may b so disheartened & oppressed themselves they just want 2 give u a heads up…

    the whole thing with being told 2 KISS the HOLY OBJECT i was pointing out, ought have prepared me 4 the demands placed on me when I was abused & probably DID if id only been paying better attention…
    point on brochures taken…nonetheless, when 1 also has difficulties learning, sometimes nothing short of getting beat over head gets thru…& with the physical injuries Ive had 2 endure, i ought not go THERE…

  5. Sauce of Life says:

    I am a retired military member who agonized over the issue of declaring a religious preference on my dog tags. Having no religious preference at the time, I chose to tell the folks making the dog tags that I was a “Goat Worshipper.” They stared back at me, as though I would change my mind, so I said it again. Needless to say, I went to Iraq with Goat Worshipper dog tags around my neck.

    • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

      I like it! And I imagine Iraq has many more goats than most countries.

      • Sauce of Life says:

        Iraq definitely had more goats than most countries. I often wondered what would happen if I was so unfortunate to get injured or even killed in Iraq and someone came across my dog tags…I imagine a bunch of people would be scouring the Earth to find a member of the cloth who was versed in “Goat Worship” to provide me religious comfort…too funny.

        • Keith says:

          If terrorists had found you I imagine they would not have even checked your dog tags: just danced around firing semi autos in the air and spitting on you. Then they might have taken bits of you home as souveniers.

  6. nunya biz says:

    I meant 4 that 2 b th last… if i was an atheist when instructed 2 kiss the prayer book, id have been so much better off…as it were, kissing 2 me, as a kid, was otherwise a sign of familial affection…a peck on the lips or cheek for hello, goodbye…a peck on the forehead as a goodnight…im not sure telling a naive child 2 kiss objects out of holy reverence is a stellar idea. I really, truly believed lock stock & barrel in god. I tried 2 conceive of Him sincerely, even tho I was taught He is INconceivable…I tried 2 conceive, of that. . .anyway. About, how He is the air we breathe, the makeup of the trees & animals & us. That is a pretty potent concept 2 assign 2 a BEING whom can c us, everything we do, @ all times…I imagined this included states of undress in private moments, which made me uneasy…had I not had this ‘education’ I dont know Id have been any less amenable 2 concepts like: DNA, remote viewing…domestic spying. Anything is possible if not probable. As a survivor of physical, emotional abuse in my family & sexual abuse outside of it, these teachings about revering r not particularly useful…the god of these teachings while not designated with a gender was undeniably MALE what with all the HIMS & further, women had NOT much of any position of consequence…yet, brought about the downfall of a nearly heaven like kingdom due 2 her poor judgement, 4 starters & doesnt get much better from there (only later did I ever hear of lilith, this was eve) & woman only there due 2 a magic sci experiment involving th rib of man..yada, yada…yada.

    So, had some rabbi tossed in a goat or, magic underwear into this mix as a concept, I’d have invested in IT.

    • Emma says:

      Can this person be banned from commenting? Jesus.

      • Reverend Captain Mal says:

        This person had pretty much been banned from commenting…. months ago.

        Mal

  7. nunya biz says:

    Im still not sure what is real..& am not making fun of mormons magic undies….i find this both amazing & frightening…if u believe something strongly enough it is said it can become manifest…so if some1 believeth their underwear can protect them from bullets, that probably helps, in going 2 the doors of strangers…some of whom may b armed…2 spread the gospel, maybe. I do not know. I dont pretend 2.

  8. TiltedHorizon says:

    nunya,

    Are you responding to a particular post? The context of most of your posts is hard to follow since you are not associating your posts, using the reply option, with any person or topic.

    • The Reverend Toni Rigatoni says:

      I have to agree with you there Tilted, nunya biz, which I would imagine is a play on ‘none of your business’, is paradoxically displaying to the world a huge amount of her ‘biz’ and frequently in totally inappropriate posts, she bizarrely responds to her own posts to such an extent that pages and pages of thread are filled with her posts so that relevant and potentially interesting items quickly fall from the bottom of the recent posts list to become, potentially, lost forever. The site is becoming fragmented and unnavigable as she spreads her posts over every available thread. I have found her posts in the main irrelevant, difficult to follow due to lack of cohesion and her insistent use of text-speak presumably to save herself the massive effort of pressing a few keys, does nothing to enhance clarity, instead just puts me off reading them. I have no idea as to whether she is ‘with us or agin us’ and as far as I can see adds little if anything to either side of any argument. She appears to bare no malice but nevertheless manages to clog the site every bit as effectively as Big Guy and his illustrious predecessors have done in the past.

      I’m sorry if this seems uncharitable coming from a ‘man of the cloth’ as it were, as she certainly seems to have had a bad life, but then, so have many others, in fact, my own childhood was closer to the world of Dickens than Poppins but constant reference to it here would serve no purpose.

      As I have said, I stopped reading her posts some time ago and maybe I’m being unfair, so if any brave and tenacious Pastafarians out there have managed to make sense of her message and/or feel I have been unreasonable in any way, please let me know. I have kept quiet thus-far because I felt uneasy about commenting on something I wasn’t fully briefed on having not read all of it, and I am still a little conflicted over posting in truth, but I will throw my thoughts out into the arena with the hope that most of you know me well enough to know I am neither hateful nor judgmental and with the wish that she and my fellows accept my apologies if I have done her an injustice.

      May the Sauce be with you all.

      The (maybe not so very) Reverend

      • nunya biz says:

        WELL, ‘rev’ thanks 4 drumming up support 4 the premise that I am Al Dente (not fully cooked); I have alluded 2 being victimized on a number of fronts…if I list my true name, i will have 2 start by naming names of persons abusing their authority …authority which I have never posessed nor been granted. ..which KEEPS me where i am- not a problem of any consequence…which is the point. A flick of the finger & i am gone. Sorry u do not like my name, that it is not very imaginative, has no allusion to FSM or anything of consequence. I do not belong here, just as there is no other place 4 me, save where I am directed 2 go, hell being just ONE suggested domain. Thanks 4 shattering any illusions I may have had 2 the contrary, I maybe was pretending 2 b welcome…& as my plate is empty have really nothing of value 2 share anyway. Pointing out what has gone on @ the hands of others whom HAVE backing is pointless, but I do it anyway…gluttonous, i just am (4 punishment, not pasta, evidently). Truly sorry 2 have stalled the flow- the ‘hot water’ i live in is 2 real & not a cute analogy 4 anything. WHAT FUN is THAT? NUN.
        U should probably take comfort in the fact u r not in the minority on ur distaste 4 my postings. I get overwhelmed by the amount of BS ive endured, & is not lost on me, that it is far from over.
        In our community there r persons performing exorcisms & some1 came by 2 show off hitler themed tattoos…amidst everything else, I dared 2 try 2 take some comfort here & thanks 4 the wakeup- there is no comfort. I suppose I knew this going in.
        Best 2 u in ur future, not ur pasta. mine is 2 tied up 2 separate out.

        • The Reverend Toni Rigatoni says:

          Dear nunya biz, I would like to take a few moments to respond to the above post as the content seems to suggest you have misinterpreted everything I wrote in my previous response. Whether or not the misinterpretation was intentional I can’t determine but I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt and re-state the points I was trying to make in order to clarify my position.

          At no point did I attempt to drum up support for myself, nor did I suggest you are ‘al dente’ (I know what that means thanks), I was drumming up support though, it was for you. I did not ask nor suggest that you post using your real name as that would be hypocritical to the max considering the name I use is not my own, (it’s actually David if you’re interested, this is the first time I have revealed it here), I mentioned your screen name solely to highlight the paradox that exists between the name and your demeanour which reveals lots of your biz, nothing more; none of the reasons you attribute to my dislike of your name are in the least bit valid – in fact I didn’t even say or suggest I didn’t like it, or you.

          Further, I did not suggest you weren’t welcome here, indeed if you get some comfort from posting here then that can only be a good thing; what I was trying to convey is that you are not doing it in an effective way, not effective for you to get the best responses to your posts and not conducive to the effective running of the site. Might I suggest that you hide your keyboard long enough to re-read my post slowly and carefully and hopefully this will become clear.

          I hesitate to lay myself bare before my peers but will do so in an attempt to let you know you are not alone; that the whole world is not against you. I too have had my fair share of abuse by authority figures, from the relatively harmless case of failure to get an much wanted local government job because of my lack of belief in god, to spending the first two decades of my life with a mother that showed me, in that time not an iota of love, and still doesn’t to this day, would tell me constantly that I was worthless and that I would amount to nothing, who would beat me at every opportunity with fists, feet, sticks or whatever was available to the extent that if it happened today she would certainly be imprisoned. Still to this day her emotional abuse continues albeit in a sad and pathetic and fruitless way. My father was a lovely man but was bullied by his wife because he wouldn’t become what she wanted him to be, but his spirit was sufficiently crushed that he was helpless to intervene; he died a sad and broken man and although I am now 63 years old with children and grandchildren of my own I still cry genuine tears for him when I bring him to mind. I have shared with you and the world things about me that even my wife, to this point probably didn’t fully appreciate and I do it not for sympathy or to feel sorry for myself and blub to the world, but to show YOU, nunya, that everybody is or has to some extent, been a victim at some point in their lives. Now, there are two things you can do at this stage; the first is to continue to be a victim, you are still a victim – your posts reveal the perpetrator of that victimisation is, I’m sad to say, predominantly you and will only stop when you want it to. Alternatively you can flip that negativity and use it to your advantage and to the advantage of others. Your experiences have given you a wealth of knowledge and empathy that can be used to great advantage. Use it to help others that have been in your situation; take a counselling course or just befriend victims of similar circumstances. You will, as I have, find that giving them the tools to see with fresh eyes or even simply realizing that they aren’t alone will frequently help them through, and additionally, and very importantly, you will find it will have an enormous cathartic, healing effect on yourself. Trust me I know, I’ve been there.

          I hope I have convinced you of my sincerity sufficiently for you to allow me if I may to make a few friendly suggestions. Your posts as they appear at the moment are unfocussed and random, even the post that this reply is to, goes off topic with the random introduction of exorcism and Hitler tattoos. Can you see my point?

          Suggestion 1, stay focussed, keep your post to the point.

          Your posts are poorly spelled and the inclusion of text speak is confusing and unnecessary. I don’t accept your claim that you include it because you are in pain, the amount of text you type (on this thread alone 4,000 + words at the last count and rising) would make the effort of the extra couple of keystrokes required to change 4 to four, 2 to ‘to’ etc, trivial by comparison. Perhaps I should point out that the word ‘at’ and ‘@’have the same number of keystrokes.

          Suggestion 2, Avoid confusing abbreviations and use spell check, and remember using 3 or 4 commas together is totaly unnecessary and ungrammatical.

          You post a lot of text in lots of small posts which makes them disjointed and difficult to follow. Also the number of submissions has the effect of ‘drowning’ a thread and breaking conversations and individual threads within threads.

          Suggestion 3, consider what it is you have to say and say it concisely. Consider using the return key on your keyboard before using the submit button; it’s not a different method of creating a paragraph break. This will make it easier for others to appraise what you’re saying in order to make appropriate responses and at the same time allow the site to be used effectively. It is a public forum after all, not just yours.

          Not one of the dozens of posts you have put on this thread bare any relationship to the subject matter, have you read the heading? It’s ‘Pastafarianism in the Military’. Your threads are irrelevant to that subject as are the others on all the other threads insofar as I can tell, and therefore will be discounted and/or ignored and that does your cause no good at all.

          Suggestion 4, consider gathering your thoughts and honing and condensing them into a cogent piece and then rather than posting it on an irrelevant thread, think about emailing it to directly to Bobby instead. If he considers it to be relevant to the site and potentially of interest to the people that visit he may well put it up on the site and you will have your own thread that you and others can post to your hearts delight without interruption to the flow and well being of the site and can remain on topic, those coming to your thread will know what is there and will be more likely to respond.

          I am conflicted about posting this, as although I feel strongly that you should understand what I am trying to say to you, I also feel I may have crossed a line or breached some code; even as I write this I am not yet convinced I will post it. I think that maybe it’s because my mother is still alive and although there is zero chance of her even reading it let alone associating it, I still feel that I am somehow being disloyal and because of that I fear creating a breach between myself and my fellow Pastafarians.

          Whatever happens, wherever your future takes you I wish you well and pray that the FSM blesses you with an easy mind.

          May the Sauce be with you

          The Reverend

          As you can see, after 24 hours deliberation I have decided to post. I do so because I think that an individual’s mental wellbeing trumps the other considerations here. I hope that nunya can accept it in the spirit it was given.

          The Reverend

        • Drained and Washed Clean says:

          “I fear creating a breach between myself and my fellow Pastafarians.”

          Never. Because you are amazing. You have just demonstrated the best of what a person can be.

        • Omnipotent Zombie says:

          Reverand Toni, you worded your concens in the most eloquent way possible. Well done.

          Having read some of nunya’s posts, she indeed has much to say. She makes some good points and observations, but are inded hard to follow because of the format of her posts. If nunya, posting here, is a source of comfort for her then by all means she should post here.

      • Atsap Revol says:

        Reverend Toni,

        Thank you for your openness. Your good intentions are evident, and you demonstrate a high level of Pastafarian caring for others. Your advice to nunya biz is good. I, too, have read nunya’s posts with some distress. Nunya appears to be an individual reaching out for release from intolerable past or present circumstances.

        Nunya, if we can help you, let us know more specifically the circumstances that trouble you. But we can’t respond to incoherent rambling. We wish you well.

        Atsap Revol

        • The Reverend Toni Rigatoni says:

          Atsap, thank you for for the kind words. I agree, it does seem that she is carrying some serious baggage. It would be great if we could help her but I’m not sure that this is really the place for her to get the help she so obvously needs, and judging by her posts, what she desperately wants. I have noticed that since these posts she has not been active on the site, maybe she is taking the time to rationalise her thoughts, let’s hope so. It’s hard to see someone in such obvious anguish and feel unable to help. Time will tell I guess.

          May the sauce be with you, and her.

          The Reverend

        • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

          nunya & Toni: I suppose almost everyone has some serious baggage from their past. I know I do, and my wife asked me recently why I don’t talk about it much. The reason is I let it go. If you’ve been victimized in the past, don’t compound the damage by remaining a victim. If your mother (in my case my father) tells you you’ll never amount to anything, recognize it for what it is: a pathetic attempt to convince themselves of their own worth. After all, what well-adjusted adult would browbeat – or just beat – their children in that way?

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