Big in Europe: The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Though Pastafarianism was founded to critique organized religion, it’s now an organized movement.
his spring, the Infrastructure Ministry in Brandenburg, Germany, found itself litigating what counts as religion. The ministry typically concerns itself with worldly issues like road signage. But then the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) sought a road sign of the sort that local Catholic and Protestant churches receive from the German state.
FSM has its own iconography (the deity features, in addition to spaghetti, two meatballs and a pair of eyes) as well as a Sabbath (Friday, because “our god was faster than the other gods, and he finished with the creation of Earth earlier”). The flagship German church, in Brandenburg, features a weekly mass modeled on the Catholic celebration, but with noodles and beer in place of bread and wine. FSM officiants even conduct weddings in several countries; this year, New Zealand became the first to legally recognize these marriages.
FSM’s big idea, in Russia as in Kansas, is that “nothing is inherently sacred; it’s sacred by virtue of the fact that people agree that it’s sacred,” says Douglas Cowan, a religious-studies professor at Renison University College, in Canada. As if to underscore the point, the Church may be the only one in the world with a God-back guarantee: If you’re not satisfied, Henderson has pointed out, “your old religion will most likely take you back.”
Kathy Gilsinan is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Global section.