by Gary Berg-Cross
This article first appeared on Secular Perspectives and has been edited for content.
I recently heard on NPR that a manifestation of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) has surfaced in Austria. Well, at least now the concept of this Church made popular by Richard Dawkins has an adherent who worships that god-like idea by wearing a pasta strainer on his head. His name is Niko Alm and he adopted FSM to test the recent Austrian law that allows head coverings for religious reasons to be used in official documents, like drivers licenses.
The FSM concept was used satirically in response to the Kansas School Board’s irrationality over evolution in schools. Later it was popularized in Dawkins’ book The God Delusion as an illustration of how religious beliefs are based on irrational thought. What is the evidence for the existence of invisible beings controlling our world and judging our behavior? None for FSM—and none for Yahweh either.
Niko, a self-proclaimed atheist, built on Dawkins’ construct by applying for a new driver’s license wearing the strainer as “religious headgear.” He claimed to be a “Pastafarian” from that Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Members in the Church firmly believe in the existence of a flying omnipotent Spaghetti Monster—one that can even hide its existence from us. The “you can’t prove I don’t exist” claims for such a flying monster fits Dawkins’ dictum about irrational claims:
To claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained. Why do I say that? Because anything ‘supernatural’ must by definition beyond the reach of a natural explanation. It must be beyond the reach of science and the well-established, tried and tested scientific method.
After a three year fight, Niko won the right to get his picture taken with a pasta strainer on his head.
Some people were put out by Niko’s success. It seems like an irrational thing to do, and isn’t the whole point of being an atheist is the celebration of being all logical and reasonable? Well yes, and perhaps Niko could have stuck to being an atheist as defined by John Bucha’s definition that “an atheist iss a man with no invisible means of support.”
But Niko makes a reasonable point lifting up a mirror so others can see how foolish unreasonable claims are. Doesn’t matter if you can claim to be a believer in the FSM, or Thor, or Yahweh. As Dawkins said, “Nobody even thinks to calls themselves atheist, just as nobody thinks to calls themselves athorist now.”
I wonder if we can expect to be a surge of Athorists next.
Gary Berg-Cross is a blogger for Secular Perspectives. He’s a cognitive psychologist and has taught cognition and problem solving courses at the University of Delaware, George Washington University, and George Mason University.
Secular Perspectives is the official blog of the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) and covers thoughts on contemporary society by secular humanists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, brights and others.