Artifact: God on the Lawn


Credit:Flying Spaghetti Monster, photo by Loren Safdie

Behold the Flying Spaghetti Monster, noodle-god of the Pastafarians. In March, He manifested Himself on the lawn of the Cumberland County courthouse in Crossville, Tennessee, where He took the form of a statue built by Ariel and David Safdie.

The monster was created—or revealed?—by Bobby Henderson when Kansas decided to teach "intelligent design" alongside evolution. "I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," he wrote to the state board of education in 2005, urging that this theory receive equal time. The joke caught on, especially online.

And now in Crossville. After a chainsaw-carved Moses appeared outside the courthouse in 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union reminded local authorities that allowing "the statue to remain indicates the creation of a public forum for free expression." More icons followed, including the Safdie siblings' monster.

Ariel has called their creation "a celebration of our freedom as Americans; a freedom to be different, to express those differences, and to do it amongst neighbors." That suggests a subtle distinction between her monster and Henderson's. "She's not using this as Henderson was—that is, as a device for ridicule," says religion scholar Luke Johnston. "At least in the public eye, she is portraying it as a tool for pluralism." The statue was intelligently designed, but the monster it represents may be evolving.