Category: How is belief in God any different from Flying Spaghetti Monsterism?

In 2005, in protest of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to require the teaching of Intelligent Design in addition to Darwinian evolution, Bobby Henderson professed belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster as the universe’s supernatural creator. Henderson then mockingly demanded that his belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (also known as the Spaghedeity) created the universe with a touch from his “noodly appendage.” With the motive of mocking the Intelligent Design Theory, Henderson wrote, “I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world—one-third time for Intelligent Design, one-third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one-third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”

From this beginning, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism has gained a “cult” following, with its advocates calling themselves “Pastafarians.” None of the advocates of Pastafarianism genuinely believes in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Rather, this mock religion’s only intent is to argue against Intelligent Design being taught in schools as an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution. Pastafarians claim that if Intelligent Design is taught in schools, then every conceivable theory of origins must be taught as well. This would obviously result in confusion and chaos.

So, do Pastafarians have a point? Does the idea of a Flying Spaghetti Monster illustrate how foolish it is to try to bring religion into the classroom? The answer is a resounding no. The entire concept of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism / Pastafarianism is built on a faulty premise—that the Intelligent Design Theory is the same thing as literal biblical creationism. Anyone who has truly examined the writings of Intelligent Design advocates realizes this fact. Granted, there are some who are using the Intelligent Design Theory to attempt to force literal biblical creationism into science classrooms, but that is not what the Intelligent Design theory is at its core.

The Intelligent Design Theory—that the vast majority of its advocates are trying to get into the science classrooms—is the idea that biological life exhibits such extraordinary complexity that it could not have come to be entirely in a naturalistic vacuum. The more that science advances, the more obvious it becomes that the universe and the life that is within it could not be the result of completely random, unguided, and non-designed chance. This understanding of the Intelligent Design Theory is clearly not the same as literal biblical creationism. In fact, Intelligent Design is no more an argument for biblical creationism than it is an argument for theistic evolution.

While the advocates of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism are entertaining, creative, and excellent at satire, the system fails in that it is an argument against only an extreme minority within the Intelligent Design movement. Pastafarianism does not apply, or in any way refute, the core arguments of the Intelligent Design Theory. The question of which implication of the Intelligent Design Theory is correct is a subject far better suited to philosophy / theology classrooms than science classrooms. The Intelligent Design Theory itself, however, is a valid issue to be raised within the science classroom, due to naturalistic science’s failure to demonstrate how the universe, and life within the universe, came into existence without the intervention of an Intelligent Designer.

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (also known as Pastafarianism) is a “religion” created by a man named Bobby Henderson. Mr. Henderson created this satire in protest of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to teach intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. In essence, he was asking, “If foolish religious ideas like that of Intelligent Design have to be given equal time in high school biology classes, then why can’t other foolish religious ideas be taught alongside with it?” So, in protest, he made up a silly set of religious beliefs and demanded that they be given equal time in biology classes alongside the theories of evolution and Intelligent Design. His point seems to be that to teach Intelligent Design in schools is as absurd as teaching that the Flying Spaghetti Monster made the world and deceived scientists into believing evolution. (Note: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is simply a new, and more entertaining, variation of Russell’s teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.)

The line of reasoning for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism seems to be that
1. There is no evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.
2. There is no evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
3. Therefore, belief in the Judeo-Christian God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are on equal epistemic grounds.

There are more problems with this thinking than can be covered in this article. However, some responses should given.

Premise 1 is false. It is not the case that “there is no evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.” Mr. Henderson may not accept the evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, but he does not offer much by way of demonstrating that the classical and contemporary arguments for God’s existence are false. Even if he adequately refuted several arguments given by theists for the belief in God, he would still not be justified in saying that “there is NO evidence for the existence of God.” In fact, this comment smacks of an a priori rejection (a rejection of the evidence before the evidence is even given) of the notion that evidence may be given for the existence of God.

Many arguments have been given for the existence of God. For example, there are cosmological arguments (arguments for a first cause), teleological arguments (arguments for a Grand Designer), moral arguments (arguments for a Moral Lawgiver), and others. Anyone who is serious about the question of God must deal with these arguments charitably and thoroughly before dogmatically rejecting belief in God. To ignorantly reject the existence of God “because I can’t think of any good reasons to believe in God” is not in keeping with the most influential thinkers in Western civilization. Almost all major philosophers and thinkers have dealt with the existence of God, and most of them accepted some form of belief in a God. A large number of philosophers have argued for their belief in the existence of God. It is a small minority of thinkers who have denied the existence of God.

NOTE: This is not advocating the “appeal to the people” fallacy (argumentum ad populum). The argument is not that belief in God is true BECAUSE so many people believe that God exists. Rather, it is simply an irrefutable fact that many brilliant minds have pondered the God question and come to the conclusion that He does, in fact, exist. This fact, while it doesn’t prove that God exists, should prompt us to deal with the question of God’s existence with seriousness and intellectual honesty.

In contrast with the serious issue of God’s existence, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is known to be made up. Several contrasts between belief in God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are listed below:

Belief in God

(1) Prevalent among all peoples of all times. Atheism is very rare; even atheists admit this.
(2) There are many sophisticated philosophical arguments for God’s existence.
(3) The Christian God is a coherent explanation of why something exists rather than nothing, why logic is prescriptive and universal, why morality is objective, and why religion is ubiquitous.
(4) Belief in God is rationally satisfying.

Belief in Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

(1) Believed by no one. Even the so-called advocates of the FSM do not really believe that it exists.

(2) There are no technical philosophical arguments for the FSM. Actually, there are no technical arguments of any kind for the FSM.

(3) Even those who sarcastically espouse that the FSM exists don’t really believe that the FSM exists, nor do they think that the FSM is a coherent explanation for finite contingent being, logic, morality, beauty, etc.

(4) No one really believes in the FSM, but even if they did, it would not be rationally satisfying.

While there are some atheists who take theistic arguments seriously, many atheists do not take the time to seriously consider these arguments. This fact may be clearly seen in popular atheist texts (e.g., The Atheist Debater’s Handbook and The God Delusion). These texts refute weak and incomplete arguments for theism and suppose that they have refuted the actual, fully reasoned arguments that Christian philosophers and theologians give. This is an intellectually dishonest practice.

In short, the difference between belief in God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is this:

Belief in God is rational and supported by good reasons, and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is irrational and not supported by any good reasons. Bobby Henderson simply begs the question (commits a logical fallacy) when he says that there are no good reasons for belief in God. Despite his claim to the contrary, Christianity is a rationally defensible religion. There are difficult questions that we must ask ourselves as Christians, but the fact that there are difficult questions is not grounds for dismissing Christianity. As believers, our pursuit of answers to our own deep-seated spiritual questions draws us further into the intellectual richness of the Christian faith.