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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:

    massive effort of pressing a few keys? i m in chronic physical pain. I do not care if u drum up further lack of support 4 me, i m used 2 it. I do question ur motivations tho. Not nice. @ all. Glad everythng is so hilarious in ur world.

  2. nunya biz says:

    Theres n expression, ,,never xplain; ur friends dont need it & ur enemies wont believe it.

  3. nunya biz says:

    & a tip. if u really wanted 2 figure out whos who, contact ur leader/creator & ask him 2 leak details about whom ordered merch, re ently. we supported ur site with an order. in appreciation of the thought behind original letter. u can prob figure it out since i revealed whereabouts we r currently living. none of what is stated is neccessarily a secret but 4 those wishing 2 keep parts of it thus, also the privacy of such persons as the murder suicide couple we knew, whom left behind a child…th person turned missionary whom asked me confidentially 2 take her 2 clinic then had her husband mock me- the admin @ hospital which canned therapist not after my complaint, but after the slaying of a toddler, about hour from here,,,one of couple of places i was told 2 pray 4 pain relief…certain things i have no issue sharing & others betray privacy of others. I fabricate none of this.

  4. nunya biz says:

    same town in 2001 there was a catholic school shooting, by a young girl obsessed with jesus & religion, was teased & had access 2 her parents guns. some1 was wounded, nobody killed.

    • Emma says:

      Oh my god, buddy, what the hell is the matter with you?

    • Olio says:

      This demonstrates why it is helpful for educators to consider having a dual degree in teaching and either law enforcement area or at the very least psychology because, this may prove useful in ways such as hostage negotiations or wrestling firearms away from would be shooters. Better yet prevent it entirely.

      • Keith says:

        If by educators you are talking about teachers I think in this day and age they are already overburdened with the extra responsibilities of being police (mandatory reporting of suspected abuse and criminal activity), surrogate parents (kids being dumped on the school steps at 7.00 / kids who don’t get fed) and social workers (being expected to be responsible for the behaviour of the maladjusted during school hours). Teachers should be at school to teach. The rest should be the responsibilities of the parents and appropriate authorities.

        • Olio says:

          My relative, a teacher, furthered education in psychology field. When in any position of authority this way there are opportunities which present themselves to make a difference for the better on occasion potentially. You know like with bullying, so forth. Situations which ought not be part of the environ to begin with. What I was getting at. Mindfulness.

  5. nunya biz says:

    i have @ least been grateful 4 that…my religion had not encouraged viewing images of a bloody, dying man as its central focal point (the referrences 2 this came only later…when 4 example, my family accused of causing said carnage). spagetti & meatballs far tamer of an image.

    • Danny says:

      “when 4 example, my family accused of causing said carnage” From people I talk to, there seem to be two conflicting thoughts on the matter: 1. his father sent him to die on purpose to appease himself for a crime committed centuries ago (and some believe he was his own father, so…). 2. Your people were responsible (I don’t believe either, let alone that he ever existed in the first place). So really, I suppose people just choose the version that best reflects their own bigotry.

  6. nun ya beeswax says:

    reverend: worthy of adoration, reverence
    rig·a·to·ni (rĭg’ə-tō’nē): n. Pasta in ribbed, slightly curved, large-sized tubes.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?word=reverend

    http://www.answers.com/topic/rigato

    was until now, unawares…

  7. nun of nun says:

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/hrj/iss16/gunn.shtml

  8. nun ya biz says:

    my spouse i defer 2 on most stuff religious…2 the person whom said u r not of the belief christ existed; when i returned home from school on the day the son of a preacher informed me my ancestors killed jesus, my parent heard the report (i was less disturbed by the info & more distressed @ having been singled out & scorned, regarded as a sort of associate & descendant of murderers)& instructed me that if this classmate raised the topic again, 2 let him know jesus was jewish…he did bring it up again…i asked how he knew & he said his pop told him so…i gave him that info & he replied NUH UH, no way…i told him 2 ask his dad. That bit of supposed insight didnt neccessarily change his opinion or the ‘facts’. . .it garnered me the evil eye anytime i glanced his way…he had a very sweet, freckled face. I just wanted 2 pinch his cheeks. I think he wanted me dead. My husband tells me- & this makes devout persons really very angry & i suppressed alot of what i was told maybe 4 fear of repeating it & ending up offending more people…but recall being told that much of christian lore concerning jesus is borrowed from celtic traditional beliefs, down 2 the celebrated date of birth…something 2 do with the solstice- something about his rising again was borrowed as well? It is 1 thing if my hub says this, because he was not raised by persons coaching him in ways of murderous tribesmen… & another thing entirely if I wonder about it. There were persons considered prophets in those days, I was taught he existed as 1 of these…a wise rebbi (teacher), it is tho not easy 4 me 2 say where this idea came from, who exactly said it or if it was glommed 2gether from different places. I recall getting some sort of primer, on god theory but not emphasized so much. This made me start thinking about how it was just by chance I was not born into another faith…

    • Danny says:

      I forgot to say it in my last message, but sorry for you being singled out for what your (Our? My Mom’s side of the family is Jewish) people supposedly did. However, next time it comes up try pointing out that he was SUPPOSED to die. You know, original sin and all that. (I have to agree with your, husband though, about his life simply being copied from other religions.)

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