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Prologue to “A Chaplain of Pirates” Part One

October 21, 2009

Hey everybody,

As I wait for my publisher to tell me about The Bone Conjurors, I have been working on a little nonficition. Basically, it’s a book about my time hanging with atheists at Ohio State. So, I want to post the prologue to get your reactions. I’ll be posting it in parts, just so it’s not so overwhelming. Here is the first part:

A Chaplain to Pirates: My life among the Pastafarians

By Jonathan Weyer

 Prologue: Why I hang with the Pastafarians.  

 “What is with all the buttons?”

 It’s a question most people ask when they get in my car. The driver side visor is filled with colorful buttons, ribbons and strange pins. I tell them that each button tells a story about my life.

 They are great stories. Like the Cleveland Indians pin. It tells the story of my first oldest son’s first Cardinal game. We cheered for Pujols when he hit a home run, but went home disappointed the Cardinals didn’t win.

It didn’t matter because we were together.

There is the peculiar bright orange ribbon.I wore it when I searched the woods for Shawn Hornbeck, a southern Missouri teen who disappeared, and then was found alive few years later. He had been held prisoner by his kidnapper for nearly five years and is now back with his family.

I still get a lump in my throat when I look at it.

But none of these draw comments from people. Instead, they point to a collection of buttons that say or show the following: A picture of a half crocodile/half duck, a number of buttons that say “Teach the Controversy”, and one large button that reads, “Skepticamp Ohio”.

Then they see him. A being that is made of spaghetti noodles and meatballs with the initials FSM.

 They ask a logical question for someone who never hangs with atheists:

        “What the heck is that?”

   Since I have a, ahem, playful sense of humor, I tell them it’s his noodly goodness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Icon of the modern atheist movement. A quizzical look crosses their face. I know what they are thinking. Atheists have icons?

 Of course they do. They are humans aren’t they? We gravitate towards symbols. They have power to say more than words ever could. Our ability to create these sort of symbols and fill them with meaning is one of the ways language developed.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is no exception and he has a rather interesting story.

It all stared in 2005 when atheist Bobby Henderson protested the actions of the Kansas school board teaching Intelligent Design in Kansas public schools. Henderson objected, as most atheists do, to intelligent design being introduced into science classes. So, with flair of humor, he came up with the Flying Spaghetti monster, as in, “well, we can’t disprove God doesn’t exist, but we can’t disprove a flying spaghetti monster doesn’t exist either”.

More on that statement later.

In a fit of tongue in cheek humor, Henderson wrote, “Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.”

And then later, “Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia.”

This hit the Internet through Henderson’s website and in a way only the Internet can, it made him an instant celebrity. Atheists all over the world began to adopt the Flying Spaghetti Monster as their icon, dress as pirates and call themselves pastafarians.

These are the people, I tell the person in my car, that I love. I go to their meetings, make friends with them and listen to their stories. I get the buttons when I go to their meetings and speak at their events. They mean a lot to me and so I hang them on my car visor along with buttons that remind me of my family.

I usually get a few different reactions that range from wide-eyed stares to one person who bluntly asked, “Why?” I understand those reactions. It seems completely odd that a minister would spend his time with atheists who not just disagree with him, but who are in total, violent opposition to what he believes. Not only that, but his profession is near akin to being snake oil salemen at a traveling carnival. People who can’t stand the very idea of God and the fact that He might just be interested in what goes on down here on this rock we call earth. Why, people wonder, would you even bother?

I understand these reactions. It runs contrary to human nature to hang out with people who dislike what we hold dear. It’s one thing for a Cardinals and Cubs fans to be friends (as odd as that arrangment would be to my ears). It’s only baseball after all. There are even marriages that make such an arrangement work. But, belief in God is way more personal and close to who we are as human beings. To be friends and love people who don’t believe the deep things of our hearts is nearly impossible.

But, Christians need to see that not only does the Lord ask us to do just that, but our culture is soon going to be filled with those who describe themselves as “nontheists”. A recent Pew survey told us that nearly sixteen percent of the population describe themselves as either unaffiliated or nonreligious. Now, that doesn’t mean that all of them are atheists, but other stats tell us atheism is growing. The Secular Student Alliance, the national atheist student group, reports that their groups have almost tripled since it’s founding in 2001.

So, it’s very likely there are some people among your friends, family or neighbors who are closet atheists. As we will see, they are in the closet for some good reasons.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard Eis permalink
    October 21, 2009 10:55 am

    It all “started” in 2005.

    Ahem..violent opposition?

    I look forward to your next section

  2. Ray S. permalink
    October 21, 2009 11:16 am

    Please allow me to respectfully second Richard’s observations. Especially in what sense you have experienced ‘violent opposition’.

    It’s also important to note that, like everything else about atheists, there is no unanimity of acceptance of the FSM.
    Since atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god, there is precious little else atheists actually agree on, and certainly nothing unanimous.

  3. Richard Eis permalink
    October 21, 2009 11:18 am

    i suspected it meant “the christian he is talking to expects violence” but that isnt very clear in context.

  4. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 21, 2009 1:34 pm

    Good thoughts on the word violent. I’ll change that.

    Update: I have an agent interested in this book. Have to do a lot of work now.

  5. Richard Eis permalink
    October 21, 2009 2:40 pm

    Excellent. Thats good news.

  6. October 21, 2009 5:51 pm

    Absolutely love the idea–really hope this gets published.

  7. October 22, 2009 2:19 am

    Very cute

  8. erp permalink
    October 22, 2009 3:13 am

    Personally I support the invisible pink unicorn, may you be blessed by her hooves. She has been around a lot longer than the upstart pasta thingie.

  9. Eric R permalink
    October 22, 2009 9:33 am

    total, violent opposition !!!

    Hyperbole much? Can anyone point out an occasion of violent opposition by athiests against religion? I cant think of one.

    I certainly dont view the Flying Spaghetti Monster as an Icon of the modern atheist movement. As pointed by Ray S. above there is no unanimity of acceptance of the FSM. It is as observed in the article simply an amusing parody of the ID movement. but it is no more an icon than the orbiting teapot that preceeded it.

  10. thomas2026 permalink*
    October 22, 2009 11:46 am

    Eric,
    Slow down there pilgrim. If you read the comments, you will see that I’m adjusting said comment, which is the point of putting it out there in the first place.

    And, like it or not, the FSM is a widely used symbol by atheists. So, yeah, its a bit hyperbolic, but not too much. Im guessing you don’t like the word Icon, so I can probably use something else. I’m not married to it.

  11. Eric R permalink
    October 22, 2009 4:04 pm

    I will then await said change.

    And yes, I take exception to the use of the word Icon, or even the phrase “Widely used symbol”. I do not know that it is used by a majority of athiests, or that it is a widely accepted symbol of atheism.

    The crucifix is an icon, or a symbol if you prefer, of Christianity. The FSM doesnt even remotely approach that sort of status.

    The FSM is a gag, a jest, a wiseacres rejoinder to the efforts of getting ID taught in school. Yes, its gone viral and now is bigger than it was originally, but I dont believe it has achieved anything so lofty as representing atheism.

    As an atheist, If I have to have a symbol the last thing I want representing me is symbol thats little more than thumbing my nose and making raspberry sounds in the general direction of theists.

  12. October 22, 2009 4:19 pm

    Hyperbole is fine, so long as you overdo it.

    I’d say that FSM (may he bless us with his noodly appendage) is an icon to more than just atheists. I think there plenty of Christians that get the joke too. Still, I couldn’t suggest any better icons than FSM. Run with it.

    (YAR!)

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