So, FSM, Flying Spaghetti Monster, can it be compared to Scientology? Both are works of fiction but one has made billions while the other remains a joke. Can FSM catch up and become a “real boy”?
FSM has been around for ten years and has become many things to many people. It, or its proponents, pursue various goals and so some would say that FSM wasn’t designed to achieve this or that so it’s not fair to demand it to become a real religion, for example. Others would continue arguing that FSM is the same as Christian God, FSM is a joke, and therefore Christian God is a joke, too. Yet others would demand official recognition of FSM as a religion and demand equal privileges. And yet there are others who would insist that FSM is just a parody and making it into real religion would be against its very existence.
There are people who say that if FSM followed the same steps as Scientology it would bring the same results. Possibly, but then it would need a new God because in Scientology the kooky stuff, like that about Xenu, is not disclosed until someone invested himself deep enough to accept it because turning back is not an option anymore.
There’s another problem with that – people who reach Xenu level of insanity must feel some tangible benefits from practicing first. No one would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and undergo severe ego beatings for many many years just for a promise. And, if they didn’t get anything out of that and the grand promise turned out to be a galactic overlord dropping bombs into volcanoes, we’d see a massive exodus from Scientology.
Maybe not, though. It’s in human nature to double down on their investments in vain hope that they just have to ride out the storm instead of realizing that the bubble has been burst and they will lose everything. The argument that for practicing Scientologists it would be too late to leave by the time they realize that the whole thing is nonsense has some merit. People might decide that they can’t lose so much and better try to make do with whatever is left, even if it’s as ridiculous as propeller airplanes flying through space.
However, what is this “make do”? Scientology isn’t about simply living your life, it demands people to make continuous efforts and even bigger sacrifices, so there’s no “make do” there, if you lose your faith you’ll lose the motivation to go on, and they won’t leave you alone, the Church demands constant progress.
There must be lots of people who passed Xenu level long long time ago. First it was leaked in the early 90s, a quarter century ago, and by now everybody knows about it, it’s not a secret anymore, but Scientology lives on, kookiness didn’t kill it.
Back to FSM – it doesn’t have a process, doesn’t have rituals and procedures that would bring or even promise people anything tangible. Yes, they might have fun with their communal prayers, but Scientology is a lot more than fun. In 1950 people paid for Hubbard’s “auditing” 5,000 dollars in today’s money, and they did it again and again, they must have felt some returns on their investment even if we don’t believe in actual conquering of “MEST” (matter, energy, space, and time).
Christians have bliss, we, the Hare Kṛṣṇas, have practical examples of harināma melting people’s hearts on the spot and people stay with us because they KNOW the Holy Name is working. FSM has nothing and their own followers will always treat it as a joke.
Here’s another interesting thing about FSM – everyone knows it’s a joke but pastafarians themselves will always insist on treating them seriously – because human rights and all, everybody got them, no matter if they are trying to annoy you with their silliness on purpose. They are like unruly kids who know they can get away with anything and are shamelessly testing your patience.
I don’t know why they are doing that, it doesn’t do them any favors and it doesn’t make anyone to treat them any better. Common reaction is that it’s a joke that has passed its expiration date a decade ago but there are still some silly people who go around telling it to everyone.
There are atheists, not pastafarians themselves, who use FSM argument in their everyday debates with religionists. Dawkins did it as well as many “serious” atheists, too, and its regularly brought up for reasons that have little to do with initial pastafarian intentions. Since we can’t disprove existence of the Flying Spaghetti monster just as we can’t disprove existence of Christian God, they are both the same, the argument goes. The corollary is that the burden of proof should lie on adherents of any particular religion, it’s not the atheists who should prove that God doesn’t exist.
Taken this way, it’s a good argument and we should have nothing against it. It’s a legitimate response to anyone who would ask people on the street to prove that Kṛṣṇa doesn’t exist. They can’t, just as they can’t prove that FSM doesn’t exist. However, the argument shouldn’t be taken any further than that. In common FSM application the next step is to declare that because FSM is non-existent nonsense then Christian God must be non-existent nonsense as well. Practically, pastafarians insist on the same legal recognition as Christianity, Mormonism, or Scientology.
They have managed to persuade a local school board in Florida to drop creationism from the curriculum and they applied for legal recognition in Poland and won, but pressure on the school in Florida didn’t bring them change in their legal status and the courts in Poland eventually overruled the initial ruling there. Curiously, on the grounds that FSM doesn’t have a set of practices for its adherents to follow, so it didn’t qualified as a religion by Polish law.
These legal challenges highlight yet another purpose of FSM – it aims to exploit legal loopholes to prove that FSM should be treated as a real religion, which, I suppose, would allow it to further claim that since FSM is a joke than other gods must be a joke, too. Legal loopholes will eventually be closed, however, and for that courts would have to discuss what makes a religion “real”.
FSM defenders say that they have a creator God, they make supernatural claims, and they have followers, and that should be enough. Furthermore, it cannot be proven that their FSM doesn’t exist, there are people who believe in it, and their religious feelings need to be respected and recognized.
It’s a tough challenge that modern theories of religion don’t have a unified answer to. Traditionally, in western societies where pastafarianism operates, religion meant Christianity and Islam. Later on Buddhism and Hinduism were added on but that was done mostly out of ignorance. Buddhism doesn’t have God and doesn’t require faith and many Buddhists argue that it’s not a religion in the common sense of the word. Hinduism is so diverse that calling it a religion can only be done in cultural sense, and even then it would be confusing why some, like Jains, cannot be counted as Hindus.
Perhaps this is the best outcome of all this FSM affair – it encourages people to consider what makes religion into religion and that would eventually lead to the spiritual aspect of it, which cannot be empirically measured. Or can it?
I’ll continue with this later.