Church of the Great Spaghetti Monster

ah yes, the Church of the Great Spaghetti Monster. There really is a serious side to their efforts. Through the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I worked on the New Jersey effort. What seems like frivolous lawsuits, actually were very serious in nature. In NJ there was a religious exception that allow Muslim woman to fully cover their faces in their driver’s license photos. This created a huge security problem for US Department of Homeland Security. So we actually worked to get the State Legislature to remove the religious exception. The way we did this was very clever. We asked for help from NJ members of the Church of the Great Spaghetti Monster to sue for the right to have their driver’s license photo taken with a spaghetti strainer on their head. We won in state court and a few guys got pictures just like this guy in Arizona. The state legislature was appalled at this so they removed the entire religious exception on driver’s license photos. Now everyone in NJ must take their drivers license photo full face, no head covering, and no smile allowed. NJ and Department of Homeland security were very pleased with how this occurred. No protests from Muslims.

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That is really interesting. I had no idea about this type work. I hope you can let us know more about these efforts you are connected to. Thanks.

I can give you a lot of examples of work in this area. It is always at the boundary of religious entanglement in government or the opposite government entanglement in religion. It is first amendment stuff. It may seem like it is mostly directed at Christian but it really isn’t. In NJ, in a city called Lakewood, there are huge entanglement issues between government and orthodox Jews. Orthodox Jews control the local government (including the school board) and are the majority population in a city of 100,000 people. The fight in Lakewood is for a secular government, a secular public school system, even a secular community swimming pool. Can a municipal swimming pool have hours where only males can use the pool and hours where only females can use the pool? Can the school board shift money from public schools to local Yeshivas and have those Yeshivas provide sub-standard education that doesn’t follow State curriculum standards? in contrast Catholic Parochial Schools usually provide excellent education and their students go on to great secular colleges and universities. But in most of the yeshivas the goal is not to educate but teach Orthodox Judaism and keep children in poverty in tightly controlled groups. This community has such low genetic diversity, it is actually showing up in community diseases and in closed population mutations.

Also the effort is against Muslims without being anti-Muslim. Atheists are best equipped to go after these as most Christian Politicians are afraid to be labeled anti-Muslim or anti-semetic.

But going up against subtle Christian entanglement is actually the most fun. I enjoy the annual prom dress controversies and the prayer at high school graduations controversies the most. It gets people talking, it is local, and in the end the kids and the parents come together with a better understanding of each other and what it means to live in a secular society. And in the end that is what it is about - living together in today’s world and enjoying one’s life.

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A lot of this sounds like public theatre. You found a role to play in the dialectic that moves things forward, and you are having fun playing the role.

It is public theater. Public theater is much better than wars, riots, terrorism, lynchings. Public theater is even better than demonstrations that can turn deadly like Charlettesville. I like the role because I see it actually accomplishing something. It is so easy to sit on the sidelines. I could be a Cultural Catholic (in the closet) atheist like I was for 48 years. But I found it both exhilarating and rewarding to being an out of the closet atheist fighting for the same values, ethics, and cultural morals that I always had. It gives my life purpose and meaning.


Go for it.

All politics is public theatre. I will agree that atheists are quite fond of snark, but I think that is a good thing up to a point. Humor is always preferred to vitriol, and I think it could be argued that comedy has played a very important role in social progress through history. Comedy is a great way of addressing social problems in a non-threatening way. Richard Pryor was a great comedian, but he was also an important voice in race relations and that played out in his comedy.