Saul and the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Once, I had a freshman in one of my English classes. The kid was big, and kind of awkward, with dark curly hair and glasses. Socially, the other kids tolerated him, but he wasn’t popular or anything. He would yell out comments on a daily basis and would often ramble on for a bit of time about random things. And the thing was… I adored this kid. I would laugh and laugh at his weird comments, so he’d make more comments just to make me laugh more. In addition, I saw his sharp intelligence under the need to be quirky and odd. He retained information and understood relationships in his reading at a level that was years ahead of where his classmates were.
So, this kid… let’s call him Saul. He looked like a Saul. Like, go to Google Images and type in “Saul” and someone who looks like him will probably come up. I don’t think he always knew what he was talking about. He would come into the classroom on a brand new tangent every day, and some days they were just him rambling. But one day, Saul had heard something really exciting, and he had to tell the class all about it. So Saul started to tell us all about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
I’m not sure if you know what the Flying Spaghetti Monster is. It’s the symbol of a fake religion that has kind of become a symbol of atheism. The creator of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bobby Henderson, used it as an example in a letter he wrote opposing the teaching of Creationism in public schools. But I don’t think Saul knew this.
Saul had heard a teeny tiny bit somewhere about Flying Spaghetti Monster, and was telling the whole class that he was going to join this religion. Apparently, he had heard that this religion was for people who liked to eat pasta (hence the name “Pastafarian” for its followers), and he decided that since he was a large fan of pasta, that he was going to join.
The whole class decided to play along with this. Suddenly, I had a class of 24 highschoolers excited about joining the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. They asked Saul questions, and Saul made up answers. Everyone was talking and laughing and listening to his answers. They were highly amused with the idea that someone would actually worship a food. Imagine that! Someone worshiping something silly like that!
After five minutes or so of this discussion, I casually leaned forward and told the students, “You know, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is actually a symbol of atheism. People say that they follow it to show how silly it is to believe other religions with no real proof.”
The reaction? Complete silence.
Saul, after a minute, halfheartedly called out, “No, it’s really for pasta-eaters…” but the spell had been broken. The class was quiet and suddenly disinterested. After a moment, we moved on to our pre-planned lesson for the day, and the day went on as usual.
Later, after Saul and his class had left, I had time to think about what had happened in my class. As long as this “religion” was something silly, they were ready to laugh and joke about it. As long as it was a fake religion, they could pretend that they, too, were going to join. But as soon as I mentioned atheism, they froze. Suddenly, it became something real, something taboo. Atheism was something that they had heard denigrated at home. They were scared to even entertain the idea that there wasn’t a god. It’s scary to have your whole world view shattered, and they weren’t ready. They closed down at the mere mention of a different point of view.
We all know that child abuse is bad. You don’t hit your kids. You don’t scream at them. You try to teach them right from wrong. But what if you told your child that there was nothing outside of the city that you live in? What if you informed them that, once you step into the next town, the world ends? They would be stopped, if they believed you, from ever experiencing the beauty of this world. You would be forcing them to decide if you knew everything, or if you were cruel. Would that be child abuse? I kind of think that it is.
I hope these students who were in that class all go to college, all get out of this town, and learn how to breathe on their own. I hope that they figure out that what they’ve been told all of their lives isn’t the undiluted truth. And I hope that they don’t feed their children the same lies that they’ve been told. At the very least, I hope they let their children learn for themselves.
It’s the only way that we’re going to have a better future.