Showing all posts for #Secular Vs. Religious
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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.

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Vandalism update

Published June 16th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

KTVZ in Bend put up an article about the community response to the Bend church vandalism.  Very cool – I am happy to see this.

To most people, there is nothing humorous about crime, or religious beliefs.

But a group with a name many would find amusing is very serious about helping two churches vandalized in its name.

Word of Sunday night’s tagging spread to Pastafarian members with the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster and atheists across the country.

One of them decided to do something about it – from halfway across the country.

"You know, when I saw this church get vandalized and someone did it, I guess through atheism or Pastafarianism, I just figured the church, even though they are wrong and even though I disagree with their beliefs, they didn’t deserve this," atheist Hemant Mehta said Wednesday. "So I think a lot of readers on my site would agree with this, so I asked them if they would consider chipping in."

Hemant Mehta, who goes by "the friendly atheist," created a church cleanup donation fund online from his home in Chicago.

You can check out the full article here.

Thanks again to everyone who chipped in to the cleanup fund. 

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Vandalism is Not OK

Published June 15th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

image

Last night, vandals spray-painted “Praise the FSM” and pirate-fish on two Christian churches in Bend, Oregon.

This is not ok.  This is counter to everything we stand for and acts like these only set back our cause.  I don’t know who did this, but I will try to find out.

image

From KTVZ in Bend:

"Praise the FSM": These are the words written, spray-painted and tagged across not one, but two churches on opposite sides of Bend Sunday night.

When Pastor John Bluebaugh of Christian Life Center got the news Monday morning, his first thought was, "Not again."

"Really, what went through my mind was, about six months we were tagged as well," said Bluebaugh. "It was the same kind of deal — different symbols, different sayings, but the exact same places."

There are markings left six months ago from vandals who drew Harry Potter-type slogans across the church.

Now, they’ve got a whole different mess to deal with. The graffiti apparently refers to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, an online group of people who claim they do not believe in religion but rather in what they call Pastafarianism.

Let’s set an example and clean this up.

Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist has started a cleanup fund.  Please chip in if you can.

From Hemant:

I don’t know how much the cleanup will cost, but if more money is raised than they need, I’ll give the rest to Foundation Beyond Belief (an organization that encourages atheists to give to secular charities).

Just a note: I know there is a feeling by some that it’s not our place to raise money for Christian churches. But let’s be clear, this is only about making a bad situation right. It’s in our interest to send a message that we don’t approve of vandalism. Ideally it will be our response that people remember, not the vandalism by a few who don’t get what we’re about. So, let me just say thank you to everyone who has chipped in, and especially to Hemant for organizing the fund.

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Zack Kopplin Vs. The Louisiana Science Education Act

Published May 28th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

 

Here’s a video of Zack Kopplin on Hardball last night.  Zack is the student battling the Lousiana Science Education Act – a law that would allow “supplemental textbooks and other teaching materials” into science classrooms.  Zack saw this (correctly) as a backdoor method to teach Creationism and has been leading the fight against it.

Some of us remember the LSEA bill passing in 2008.  Zack’s been trying to get it repealed since then.  He found a senator to sponsor the repeal and has since found thousands of supporters (including over 40 Noble Laureates).  Yesterday Zack brought teachers and scientists to testify in favor of the repeal in front of the Louisiana Senate Education Committee.

Zack makes a couple excellent points on Hardball.  One is that science *is* a process of critical thinking (one of the ostensible purposes of the law is to promote critical thinking).  Another point is that a state’s science standards determine how their students will be viewed elsewhere. 

He also slams Michelle Bachman which is both fair and entertaining.

All in all it was an excellent appearance.  Zack deserves a lot of credit for his work.  I for one am very impressed and I’m confident he has a bright future ahead of him.  Whatever the fate of the repeal, Zack’s done a tremendous service for the cause of rationality.  The fight is as important as the outcome.  The Louisiana legislature may reject reason for a few more years but the rest of the world has benefited from watching this ordeal.   There are bills similar to the LSEA all across the country – it’s an ongoing struggle, and I’m glad there are people like Zack on our side.

Zack, please let us know if you need anything from Team FSM.  We have your back.

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Awkward Billboard is Awkward

Published May 22nd, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

Billboard placed in Greensboro, North Carolina after Rapture fails to show.

Does anyone know the story on this billboard? It almost looks like a moderate Christian group mocking the Rapture sect for their extreme views.

What I am wondering is this: when the world did not end, did it cause anyone to become more rational? Or will the Doomsdayers become stronger believers (as sometimes happens in cults) – and more importantly, do moderate Christians feel their interpretation of the bible has been validated?

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Colombia Pastafarians First Meeting

Published April 25th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

Dear Friends at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,

We celebrated last Friday the event of the reference. It took place at the "Plaza de la Paz" [Right in front of the Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral] in Barranquilla, Colombia. Though we were only 25 Pastafarians, the presence of his Noodliness was strong. The opportunity served us to settle an agenda of activities that are planned in order to promote the idea of the separation of church & state, a secular view of the world, and of course, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I´m not sure of how well informed are you about what´s going on here in Colombia, but under the Uribe administration freedom of beliefs was not cherished [measures that undermine the spirit of the Constitution of 1991 were taken, like forcing the teaching of religion again in schools and granting privileges to the Catholic Church]. The previous constitution was adopted in1886, which made Colombia a confesional state, namely, a Catholic one. This means that in the past 9 years we got back over a 100 years on the subject of rights, having to witness cases related to the discrimination towards other beliefs, not to mention those who are agnostic or atheists. The situation is really one to worry about: picture yourself the General Prosecutor boycotting a law that allows women to abort if (1) Malformation of the fetus, (2) Grave risk for the mother´s life & (3) Pregnancy being a result of rape. Guess what? This member of the government is affiliated to the "Legionaries of Christ"[!!!], and offered a number of different phony legal explanations to promote the figure of "conscientious objection of institutions" [Yeah, right, that´s what he argued] so as to allow different hospitals to deny the services to women that requested the practice of abortions under the above mentioned three circumstances [as granted by a Sentence of the Constitutional Court]. In the practice, he has put forward an agenda that implicitly accepts it is good to be first a believer and then a member of the government. Going beyond the discussion on abortion, no matter if one is in favor or against it, it is simply outrageous that a member of the government decides that it is legal to brake the law.

Since some of us got sick & tired of this & other similar cases, we decided to open a FB group called "Primera Iglesia del Monstruo de Spaghetti Volador de Barranquilla". The attached pictures were taken the day of the meeting. We hope to make a small contribution & that you include this news on the site.

May he touch & enlighten us all with his noodly appendage!

Sincerely yours,
René J. Campis C.
Pastafarian

(more…)

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He Boiled For Your Shirt

Published April 19th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

I’ve added a few additions to the store, including the “He Boiled For Your Sins” shirt above. I got some upset emails about the ‘He Boiled’ designs posted here before (some of you will remember Kaitlyn’s He Boiled poster from a few weeks ago), and at the time I felt it was too polarizing to add to the store. But a few things have turned me around since then.

I talked with some of the upset people and tried to understand why this design, more than others, irked them. What I heard was that they felt it was directly mocking Christianity, directly mocking Jesus for his sacrifice and you’re wrong to question what I know to be True. The conversations were for the most part civil, but I detected a sticking point around the idea of Original Sin.

There is a strong belief that Jesus died for mankind’s sins among this group, and a strong belief in Original Sin – the idea that we are born guilty, or born with a tendency towards a sinful lifestyle. Only “belief” is not a strong enough word – they felt it was unshakable truth, and that questioning this was the highest offense.

I feel everyone has a right to their beliefs, but I also feel strongly that no ideas are above scrutiny, and that Unquestionable Truths have dangerous potential, whatever the idea at the root of it. The context makes it an unstable force, not necessarily the content.

Original Sin is True, therefore unbaptized babies in non-Christian countries are doomed to Hell. The people who can believe this without inner conflict are under the influence of an Unquestionable Truth.

So then, the shirt. Is there value in questioning in what Can Not Be Questioned? I think there is, and I think the people who do the questioning are working for the cause of reason. Some people will only see our group as being willfully disrespectful. Some of us will only see theirs as culture that values irrationality, that rejects reason. But I have talked to many religious people who believe faith is not a virtue – or at least, that faith is not necessarily a virtue – who value reason more than dogma. These people don’t feel threatened by our group. All in all, I think this shirt is a force of good in the world and I hope most people will get that.

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Indiana Abortion Drama

Published April 7th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

“I mean, do a group of old white ladies govern what goes on with my balls? No. They don’t. But this is what happens in America. Old white men who believe in an invisible man in the sky get to say what goes on in all women’s vaginas.”  – Ned Hepburn, Death and Taxes.

fatwhite
Old white men

Death and Taxes magazine has an enlightening article on the showdown in Indiana over abortion you might want to check out.

Some background information: Indiana republicans are attempting to pass a bill to make abortions illegal after the 20th week.  Democrats are opposed, and back and forth discussions have turned nasty – at one point Eric Turner, a republican House of Representatives member, suggested women may fake a rape in order to get an abortion.

As much as I want to stay away from political (and emotionally charged) issues, it seems that there is something more insidious happening here that needs attention.  It’s plain this is less about governing and more about pushing a conservative, religious, agenda.  More and more we’re seeing this brazen attitude where government officials are doing “God’s work” – not always explicitly declared, but not uncommon, either – and more worryingly, no longer is this seen as an extreme position by many.  A disturbing number of people don’t see anything wrong with this, they somehow think that state capitals and courtrooms are a proper venue for these ideological battles. 

Regardless of personal views on abortion, we all have an interest in keeping these discussions out of government. At a time when the economy is on the edge of collapse, when we are fighting multiple wars, when millions are unemployed or underemployed, our government is spending time arguing over personal ideology. This is precisely why religion was meant to be kept out of government.

What do Pastafarians think about the abortion issue?  I for one believe that Life begins at the Creation of the sperm, and that sperm, as potential human lives, deserve equal protection given to fetuses and grown children.  Think of the billions of sperm needlessly killed by such things as hot tubs and tight-fitting underwear.  In the future we will learn to save every sperm Created, so these potential lives can each develop into human adults as the FSM intended.  Who’s with me? 

Join me at Save-Our-Sperm.org  (a work in progress).

sos400

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Kentucky considering “academic” bible classes

Published February 13th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

sen.bowen

The Kentucky Post reports the state of Kentucky is considering allowing the Christian Bible to be studied in school.  

From state Senator Bowen:

No doubt about it, the most important book ever written and obviously, it’s had so much influence on our society and all of Western civilization.

Senator Bowen sponsored the Bill “which would direct the state Department of Education to develop a course curriculum around the Bible, which local school councils could then approve for teaching in their schools.”

The bill was approved by Kentucky’s State Senate and now goes to the House for review.

Ostensibly the purpose of the legislation is to ensure that the teaching of the bible is taught in the context of literature or as a part of culture.  That would be nice.  Of course this blurring of the separation of church and state will cause overreaching by those who feel its their Duty to God as it has in the past.

I would love to see a comparative religion course made mandatory in public schools across the US.  

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Grassley’s megachurch probe was BS

Published January 10th, 2011 by Bobby Henderson

grassley

Unbelievable.

Senator Grassley of Iowa’s Evangelical Finance Probe was released this week.  A lot of us were hoping these megachurches would be scrutinized for their most flagrant abuses: the obscene salaries, the private jets and luxury cars, the politicking.  Most of us are shocked these sham broadcast ministries can exist as tax exempt non-profit organizations in the first place, but it is stunning that because they’re religious institutions they don’t have to file detailed financial disclosure reports to the IRS.  So we were glad that Grassley and team were investigating.

Well now the report is out and we know what they were doing the last three years and investigating was not it.  Out of the six broadcast ministries looked at only two cooperated, and *zero* subpoenas were issued by investigators.  What a scam. 

Grassley offered this statement, which I have been trying to parse for a while but I’m having trouble because it’s such bullshit:

The staff review sets the stage for a comprehensive discussion among churches and religious organizations.  I look forward to helping facilitate this dialogue and fostering an environment for self-reform within the community.

Translation: we will ask churches to be good.  Hey if that doesn’t work, perhaps another three year investigation in which nothing is investigated is in order.  You sir, Senator Grassley, are a fraud.

Here are some depressing articles about this mess:

CNN’s take

Huffington Post

Discussion Forum

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An elaborate spoof on Intelligent Design, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is neither too elaborate nor too spoofy to succeed in nailing the fallacies of ID. It's even wackier than Jonathan Swift's suggestion that the Irish eat their children as a way to keep them from being a burden, and it may offend just as many people, but Henderson puts satire to the same serious use that Swift did. Oh, yes, it is very funny. -- Scientific American.


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