The Flying Spaghetti Monster has manifested itself at the American Academy of Religion's annual conference:
The presenters' titles seem almost a parody themselves of academic jargon. [Samuel] Snyder will speak about "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion," while Gavin Van Horn's presentation is titled "Noodling around with Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor, and the Noodly Master."…
But they also insist it's more than a joke.
Indeed, the tale of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its followers cuts to the heart of the one of the thorniest questions in religious studies: What defines a religion? Does it 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?
In short, is an anti-religion like Flying Spaghetti Monsterism actually a religion?
Joining them on the panel will be David Chidester, a prominent and controversial academic at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who is interested in precisely such questions. He has urged scholars looking for insights into the place of religion in culture and psychology to explore a wider range of human activities. Examples include cheering for sports teams, joining Tupperware groups and the growing phenomenon of Internet-based religions. His 2005 book Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture prompted wide debate about how far into popular culture religious studies scholars should venture.
My own venture to the crossroads between religion and pop culture, including the tale of some occultists who tried to channel the Amazing Spider-Man, is here.