The Flying Spaghetti Monster (also known as the FSM) is the deity of a parody religion called The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its system of beliefs, "Pastafarianism". The religion was founded in 2005 by Bobby Henderson to protest the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to biological evolution. Intelligent design implies the existence of an intelligent but not necessarily omnipotent or omniscient designer, thus some, like Henderson, argue that this designer could be anything imaginable.
In an open letter sent to the education board, Henderson parodies the concept of an intelligent designer by professing belief in a supernatural creator called the Flying Spaghetti Monster which resembles spaghetti and meatballs. He furthermore calls for the "Pastafarian" theory of creation to be taught in science classrooms.
Due to its recent popularity and media exposure, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is often used by atheists, agnostics (known by Pastafarians as "spagnostics"), and others as a modern version of Russell's teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
The first public exposure of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (CoFSM) can be dated to January 2005, when Bobby Henderson, describing himself as a concerned citizen, sent an open letter regarding the FSM to the Kansas State Board of Education. The letter was sent prior to the Kansas evolution hearings as an argument against the teaching of intelligent design in biology classes. Intelligent design was thought of as a way to teach creationism in the public school system without mentioning the word "God". Henderson stated that both his theory and intelligent design had equal validity; saying
Henderson explained, "I don't have a problem with religion. What I have a problem with is religion posing as science. If there is a god and he's intelligent, then I would guess he has a sense of humor."
The Board only responded after Henderson posted the letter on his website, gaining significant public interest. Henderson subsequently published the responses he received from Board members.
As word of Henderson's challenge to the Board spread, the website and Henderson's cause gathered more attention and support. The satiric nature of Henderson's argument made the Flying Spaghetti Monster popular with bloggers as well as humor and Internet culture websites. The site was featured on websites such as Boing Boing, Something Awful, Uncyclopedia, and Fark.com. The mainstream media quickly picked up on the phenomenon as the Flying Spaghetti Monster became a symbol for the case against intelligent design theory in public education. Henderson himself was surprised by its success, stating that he "wrote the letter for [his] own amusement as much as anything."
In August 2005, in response to a challenge from a reader, BoingBoing.net announced a $250,000 challenge, later raised to $1,000,000, for "Intelligently Designed currency" by other bloggers, payable to any individual who could produce empirical evidence proving that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The challenge is modeled after a similar challenge issued by young-Earth creationist Kent Hovind (an award of $250,000 to anyone who can prove evolution "is the only possible way" that the Universe and life arose).
In November 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education voted to allow criticisms of evolution, including language about creative design, as part of testing standards. On February 13, 2007, the Board voted 6 to 4 to reject the amended science standards enacted in 2005. This was the fifth time in eight years that the Board had rewritten the standards concerning evolution.
Bobby Henderson, a 25-year-old Oregon State University physics graduate, had stated on his website that he was desperately trying to avoid taking a job programming slot machines in Las Vegas. On November 15 the Dallas Morning News described him as an unemployed slot-machine engineer, and on the following day the New York Magazine described an advance from Villard to write The Gospel of The Flying Spaghetti Monster with the subheading "Jackpot for unemployed slot-machine engineer and heretic". As of February 2008, Henderson describes himself as spending "a lot of time trying to avoid a Real Job", saying that "it’s not just about the money. Speculative work is more interesting. Specifically, I’m interested in random stupid projects." He cites as a successful example his "taco-art project" which took him one day, and orders for prints had made him over $2,000, though many other "stupid (but interesting) projects" didn’t work out.
In November 2007, three talks involving the Flying Spaghetti Monster were scheduled to be delivered at the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting in San Diego. The talks included titles such as, "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion". Academics say while its inclusion in the program may get laughs, it is a serious debate on the essence of religion exploring questions such as "does religion require a genuine theological belief or simply a set of rituals and a community joining together as a way of signaling their cultural alliances to others?" or in short, "is an anti-religion like Flying Spaghetti Monsterism actually a religion?
In December 2007, The Ledger reported that members of venganza website, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sent emails to School Board members in Polk County, Florida, on the issue of intelligent design.
The canonical beliefs of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism are set forth by Henderson in the Open Letter, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and on Henderson's web site, where he is described as a prophet.
The central belief is that there is an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster, who created the entire universe "after drinking heavily." The Monster's intoxication was supposedly the cause for a flawed earth. All evidence for evolution was planted by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in an effort to test Pastafarians' faith — a form of the Omphalos hypothesis. When scientific measurements, such as radiocarbon dating, are made, the Flying Spaghetti Monster "is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."
Henderson uses parallel concepts from religious texts when describing the FSM, poking fun at those who literally interpret the Bible. The religious text of the Pastafarian religion is called the Loose Canon instead of the formal Canon. In place of the Ten Commandments, it contains the Eight I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts.
The official conclusion to prayers is "RAmen", contained in certain sections of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and so on. It is a portmanteau of the Semitic term "Amen" (used in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and Ramen, a type of noodle. While it is typically spelled with both a capital "R" and "A", it is also acceptable to spell it with only a capital R.
According to the Pastafarian belief system, pirates are "absolute divine beings" and the original Pastafarians. Their image as "thieves and outcasts" is misinformation spread by Christian theologians in the Middle Ages and by Hare Krishnas. Pastafarianism says that they were in fact "peace-loving explorers and spreaders of good will" who distributed candy to small children, and adds that modern pirates are in no way similar to "the fun-loving buccaneers from history." Pastafarians celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19.
The inclusion of pirates in Pastafarianism was part of Henderson's original letter to the Kansas School Board. It illustrated that correlation does not imply causation. Henderson put forth the argument that "global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of pirates since the 1800s." A chart accompanying the letter shows that as the number of pirates decreased, global temperatures increased.
In December 2005, Bobby Henderson received a reported USD $80,000 advance from Villard to pen The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Henderson said he plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the book to build a pirate ship, with which he may travel the world in order to convert heathens to the Pastafarian religion. The book was released on March 28, 2006 (ISBN 0-8129-7656-8).
The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the Pastafarian equivalent of the Bible. It parodies biblical figures with characters such as Captain Mosey, a pirate and the FSM equivalent of Moses. The Gospel contains the aforementioned Eight "I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts." It also provides information on how to convert non-"Pastafarians" and explains many of the religion's beliefs (for example, that lack of pirates causes global warming).