The Face of Pastafarianism

For some reason, there seem to be a significant number of atheists out there who get some meaning in life by impersonating religious people.  A good example are the atheists who pretend to believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster.  One such “believer” is Stephen Cavanaugh, the inmate who sued to practice his “religion” while in prison. 

Cavanaugh said prison staff had repeatedly discriminated against him by not allowing him the right to meet for worship services and classes, to wear religious clothing and pendants and to receive communion.

In a postscript in his order, Gerrard said Cavanaugh did not explain what he meant, but it is clear from the FSM Gospel that “religious clothing” means a pirate costume and “communion” is a large portion of spaghetti and meatballs.

Cavanaugh’s suit was dismissed, probably because he was trying to make some serious money off the con:

He also sought $5 million for his “deep emotional, psychological and spiritual pain” for not being allowed to practice his religion and for staff mocking and insulting his faith.

So I wondered why this FSM believer is in prison. 

Stangler met Cavanaugh when the men were stationed at the same military base in New York state. Stangler said he tried to help Cavanaugh out when they first met by letting him sleep on his couch. When Cavanaugh began showing signs of “trouble,” Stangler cut off the friendship. However, his wife continued to stay in contact with Cavanaugh.

Eventually, the Stanglers returned to Grand Island, and Maile Stangler invited Cavanaugh to Nebraska.

Additional problems occurred, such as Cavanaugh hacking into online accounts belonging to Maile Stangler and sending messages as her, the Stanglers said.

And here is why he is in jail:

The Stanglers and Russell said they wanted Cavanaugh arrested because of the threats and harassment. When he showed up at the Stanglers’ house on Sunday, he chased Stephen Stangler and Russell around the yard with the hatchet, they said. When police arrived, Maile Stangler said Cavanaugh wouldn’t listen to police, and it took three Taser shots to take him down.

Oh my.  The Pastafarian is a would-be axe murderer.

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15 Responses to The Face of Pastafarianism

  1. KIA says:

    how would you define a ‘valid’ religion? how would you differentiate it from a ‘non-valid’ religion?
    -KIA

  2. Michael says:

    KIA,

    So you empathize with the would-be axe murderer?

  3. KIA says:

    nope. i didn’t refer to the axe murderer. i was asking you a question regarding your view of valid vs in non valid religion.

  4. KIA says:

    how would you define the two, and how would you differentiate them?

  5. Michael says:

    nope. i didn’t refer to the axe murderer. i was asking you a question regarding your view of valid vs in non valid religion.

    I see. Yet another example of trying to change the topic. Sorry, but the issue is not about validity; it’s about sincerity. Do you think the would-be axe murderer should have been awarded 5 million?

  6. KIA says:

    probably not. in my opinion, he was probably just gaming the system. but i did say that in my reply. how bout answering my question?

  7. Michael says:

    probably not. in my opinion, he was probably just gaming the system.

    So yet another atheist engaged in deception. Why do so many atheists feel the need to impersonate religious people?

    but i did say that in my reply. how bout answering my question?

    Your question is a whole different topic and depends on what you mean by “valid” and “religion.” It raises the question of how you would determine that an atheistic worldview is valid (for there is no reason to adopt that narrow perspective of your frame). Instead, stay on topic.

  8. KIA says:

    who’s avoiding now? if you won’t answer the questions from those who take the time to read your post and comment, what good is asking for comments? have a great day. -KIA

  9. Michael says:

    KIA,

    This blog is not named “Ask Me a Question” and I didn’t ask for comments. Your question is off topic (as I explain above). I am not “avoiding” your question by trying to keep the focus on the issue I raised. Perhaps you don’t read this blog much, but if you did, you would see it was quite common for atheists to ignore the points I raise so they can hijack the conversation with their off-topic questions and challenges. I don’t have the time for that.

  10. KIA says:

    my questions were actually related to the story. i’m sorry you can’t see that or if you can, are unwilling to respond. again, have a great day. -KIA

  11. Talon says:

    KIA, did I miss something? Where did Michael mention anything about a “religion” being “valid” or not? The person who decided, on very clear grounds that the “Church of FSM” was satire and not a “religion” was the judge, John Gerrard. Why is Michael obligated to explain HIS beliefs regarding what constitutes “valid religion”, which can be interpreted broadly enough it exceeds the scope of the lawsuit, which refers specifically to protection granted within the “meaning of federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence”? Why isn’t the legal definition good enough to hold a conversation?

    You said you think Cavanaugh is just trying make a quick buck by gaming the system, but haven’t yourself explained why you think this. Why are you then insisting Michael is being evasive when you won’t even justify your conclusion and didn’t feel it necessary to define “valid” and “religion” before you shared it?

  12. Dhay says:

    KIA > my questions were actually related to the story. i’m sorry you can’t see that or if you can, are unwilling to respond.

    Allow me to respond by quoting from the first-linked article:

    [Judge] Gerrard said the court had been careful to avoid questioning Cavanaugh’s beliefs, but noted that the question is not one of theology. Rather, he said, “it is a matter of basic reading comprehension.”

    He said the FSM Gospel is plainly satire, meant to entertain and make a pointed political statement. To read it literally would be to misrepresent it and present it as the sort of dogma it was meant to rebut, he said.

    Pastafarianism is not valid religion on that view. As for a definition of what is or is not a religion, or what are its defining characteristics, that is a notoriously difficult question. If you are interested in the question, please do take a look at Raphael Lataster’s discussion of the continuing difficulties (Pages 2+) in finding a satisfactory definition of religion, and his own rather inadequate and certainly idiosyncratic proposed solution. The relevant section starts:

    What is Religion? It is a crucial question, particularly to Religious Studies scholars, that has never been resolved, and probably never will be. …

    http://www.raphaellataster.com/articles/lataster-dawkins-interview.pdf

    Or use Google, or your local library service. For myself, I am a practitioner rather than a judge, theologian or philosopher of religion, and have no authoritative view I can communicate to you.

  13. Kevin says:

    I’m personally amused by how Russia handled a Pastafarian who was, for reasons unfathomable to normal people, wanting to wear a kitchen utensil on his head for his driver’s license.

    https://www.rt.com/news/328785-russian-pastafarian-licence-photo/

    Since the FSM Church exists to parody religions, it’s only fair that we parody New Atheists and mock such people incessantly, as Richard Dawkins teaches.

  14. Dhay says:

    Also from the first linked article:

    Cavanaugh is serving four to eight years out of Hall County on assault and weapons charges and has been eligible for parole since July 2014, two months before he filed the lawsuit. He is projected to be released this July.

    Cavanaugh had been refused parole two months before he filed, and had at that time the prospect of serving up to another four years in addition to the minimum four. (Punishment for misbehaviour inside? Dangerous if released?)

    While the lawsuit was possibly just a money-making wheeze (and boy, is $5 million lucrative, along with also being punitive damages), my own suspicion is that this was an attempt at retribution upon those who kept him in prison beyond his minimum term, or an attempt to force soonest release by making himself too hot a potato to hold, or both.

    After this bit of apparent malice towards his jailers, I wonder whether the parole board will now release him this July, after six years in prison, or whether, when they next meet, the lawsuit will count in their eyes as misbehaviour worth another one or two years.

  15. FZM says:

    Kevin,

    I’m personally amused by how Russia handled a Pastafarian who was, for reasons unfathomable to normal people, wanting to wear a kitchen utensil on his head for his driver’s license.

    The Russian police chief’s response seems sensible. I guess the religious headgear exemption on drivers licence photos is to take account of some forms of headgear that individuals might be used to wearing all or most of the time when they are outside their home (the headscarves Muslim women wear, Sikh turbans etc.) and driving. I don’t think it is generally intended to cover ceremonial religious attire. If Pastafarians do believe that they must wear a sieve or colander all/most of the time in their daily lives when outside the home I could see them having a better argument to contest bans on being photographed in it.

    Dhay,

    He said the FSM Gospel is plainly satire, meant to entertain and make a pointed political statement. To read it literally would be to misrepresent it and present it as the sort of dogma it was meant to rebut, he said.

    I think the judge makes a good point here. I remember that William James in his book on religious experience identifies ‘seriousness’ as one of the hallmarks of the religious. If the truth of Pastafarianism and Pastafarian revelation was put forward and upheld by its adherents with seriousness and sincerity it might be easier for them to have it recognised as a religion. Probably if there were some practices and behaviours (which would likely have to go beyond eating meatballs and pasta sometimes) by which individual commitment and engagement could be identified it would be helpful as well.

    If an important tenet of Pastafarian belief and activity is thinking up ways to ridicule and disparage organised religion as stupid and unnecessary this would form another obstacle to it being taken seriously as an organised religion. (BTW I’m not clear on the detail of the teachings of Pastafarianism about the veneration of FSM and so on, nor really inclined to find out, so this last point is hypothetical).

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