When Sophia Loren insisted, "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti," she knew of what she spoke, possibly more than she might have imagined. You'll understand after seeing Pastafari: A Flying Spaghetti Monster Story, one of the more delicious, amusing, and relevant documentaries of the year.
First, before we go on, we must ask, "What is religion?"
According to the Supreme Court, religion is "a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons." Hmmm. The First Amendment adds that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Now let's jump to 2005 right after the Kansas Board of Education voted that the creationist theory of intelligent design must be taught side by side with evolution. You know that theory arguing a supernatural force had a hand in creating all life. Well, what if you had a divine revelation right then like Bobby Henderson, a young scientist, did? At 24, he suddenly became aware that a spiritual being, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), created the world and that somehow pirates were involved. And that when you were not dressed up in pirate gear, this god wanted you to wear a colander on your head. Was this by definition the beginning of a new tax-exempt institution? If you yelled, "No way!" how can you tell a fake religion from a real one? And who would jump on this macaroni-based spiritual journey?
Well, due to the power of the Internet and media coverage, there are now untold multitudes of Pastafarians spreading the gospel of "He who boiled for our sins." From Germany to New Zealand, there are even millions, some FSM-ers avow, possibly utilizing the Trumpian method of counting. And surprisingly, some foreign courts have even ruled that by their laws' requirements, here is a bona-fide religion.
Thanks to Mike Arthur's deft direction, what at first seems just a Monty-Python-like fun fest actually becomes an in-depth take on religious institutions, their hold on governments, plus some of their worst offenses. By the end credits, you might even ask, "Why do we believe what we believe? And when we point out the inanities of others’ religious beliefs, shouldn’t we admit to the looniness within our own?"
But back to Pastafarianism and The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. A quote from way up high: "I'd really rather you didn't go around telling people I talk to you. You're not that interesting. Get over yourself, and I told you to love your fellow man. Can you take a hint?" I'm sure Job would have preferred that putdown from his Lord as to getting boils and having his family decimated.
Anyway, this newish church also has weekly gatherings, where one devotee notes: "We celebrate noodle masses and we baptize our children with noodle water." Then there's the wedding ceremonies where a couple sucks on opposite sides of a strand of spaghetti until their lips meet in a kiss.
Kathy Gilsinan in a major feature in The Atlantic a few years back wrote: "Along the way, something funny happened to a movement founded in large part to critique organized religion: It’s gotten organized, and has taken on both the trappings and some of the social functions of a real religion."
Dirk Jan, a legal consultant who was raised a Christian and now is a leading advocate of this faith, wants to know how believing in the parting of the Red Sea is any crazier than praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. His brethren note that this theology is a nonviolent one with no rules. You don't have to pray. You don't have to attend services, but you can. You also don't have to worry about going to Hell or being punished for spiritual lapses. There are guidelines, though, that supply you with a moral compass. Please note:
"When you are good in society, you are a good Pastafarian."
And when you inspire a great film, who's going to doubt you?
[Available digitally starting this week on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Frontier, Suddenlink, Mediacom, WOW! and Vimeo.]