Ian O'Doherty: Beer volcanoes and stripper factories? At last, a religion I can get behind . . .
Well, you have to admit it is a rather eye-catching headline: "Pastafarian wins right to wear religious sieve on his head while driving."
Who on earth wants to wear a pasta strainer when they are driving? Wouldn't it be a tad uncomfortable? Might it impede your vision? Isn't it rather dangerous?
The answer to all the above is . . . a resounding yes, but the man involved, Austrian Niko Alm, is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and, as an adherent to the faith of Pastafarianism, he says that he is required by his religion to wear such an item.
Is he mad? Is he suffering from some strange religious delusion that dictates we should all wear kitchen implements while driving?
Actually, what Alm has done is to make a point -- quite brilliantly.
After all, you're not allowed to wear a balaclava while driving but you are allowed to wear a burka or niqab, both of which are far more limiting of vision than a balaclava.
So, what is the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster and what does it stand for?
Regular readers will know that I've made reference to Pastafarianism down through the last few years, but it has really begun to gain prominence recently.
First, some background . . .
In 2005, the Kansas State Education Board was engaged in a debate that was as stupid as it was dangerous -- should evolution be taught in schools or should creationism, or the more recently coined term 'Intelligent Design', be given equal treatment?
The idea that such superstitious nonsense could be doled out to children as scientific fact horrified a young physics student called Bobby Henderson, who argued that seeing as there was absolutely no evidence for Intelligent Design, then there was no reason why this joke of a theory shouldn't be given equal measure.
As you can imagine, this drove the God-botherers of Kansas completely mental, as they argued that Henderson was belittling and making a mockery of their beliefs -- to which he replied: "Exactly."
The Church Of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is, I suppose, a modern version of Russell's Tea Pot.
That was Bertrand Russell's piece of mischief where he declared that a giant tea pot was circling the sun.
He had no evidence of this, he admitted, but he said that as it was his sincere belief he demanded that people had to respect it.
Why should religious beliefs be given preferential treatment over non-religious beliefs?
After all, if you're not religious but you hate gay people, then you're considered a homophobe, but if you are religious and you hate gay people then you're simply expressing your sincere faith and demand not to be condemned for it.
We saw that yesterday when US Tea Party candidate Michele Bachmann was exposed as having some particularly virulent anti-gay views.
In fact, if they weren't so bloody daft they would be offensive.
It turns out that she once gave a speech where she described gay people as "being part of Satan" who were Hell-bound if they didn't change their sodomite ways.
Bachmann initially looked like she would be a sane replacement for Sarah Palin, who is a dangerous mixture of stupidity and wilful ignorance, but once it emerged that her husband runs a Christian clinic dedicated to "turning" gay people straight and bringing them back to the path of righteousness, the only people left supporting her are the nutters and headbangers who give the Tea Party movement such a bad name (for the record, the ideal Republican candidate would undoubtedly be Ron Paul, but sadly he's unlikely to get the nomination).
In a classic piece of religious sense of persecution, Bachmann and her crew of deranged defenders have said that any criticism of her views is an attack on Christianity by militant atheists -- a tactic identical to the one employed by ardent Catholics in Ireland who argue that the current and ongoing Church sex abuse scandals are being orchestrated by a Godless media.
And that's why Pastafarianism is so refreshing.
Because there are, indeed, militant atheists out there and the one thing they have in common is a dreadful earnestness; a sense of moral superiority and a contempt for people of faith that is rather unpleasant.
Personally, I prefer to go the Spaghetti Monster route, which takes a rather lighter tone while at the same time managing to effectively hammer home the point.
Indeed, if I had bothered to fill in my Census form (I didn't on the philosophical grounds that the State has no right to compel me to give them my private information. If it wasn't compulsory I would happily do it, but I don't like being told what to do) I would happily have declared my religion to be Pastafarian.
Think about it -- Pastafarians are told to dress like pirates, their religious holidays are 'Pastover' and 'Ramendan' (named after the popular American noodles) and Pastafarian heaven features beer volcanoes and stripper factories.
Now that's the kind of religion I can really get behind.