Religion

Look Back in Pasta

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A quick footnote to my short piece on the Flying Spaghetti Monster: In the time since that article appeared in the print edition of reason, the statue has been removed from the courthouse grounds, along with the other spiritual statuary. Apparently, faced with a choice of allowing every religion or no religion to have a place on public property, the local authorities have opted for a clean lawn.

NEXT: Artifact: God on the Lawn

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  1. Farina at last, farina at last! Thank Pasta al’dente, it’s farina at last!

  2. nice Ed Wood reference, Jesse

  3. I’m miffed that the one true deity has been all but forgotten.

    I’m speaking, of course, of Her Holiness, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, who predates the noodly impostor by quite a bit. Fortunately she doesn’t give a damn.

  4. Goddamned Liberal Elite Anti-Pastafarians.

  5. Ha. Ha! But those of us who worship grass still have OUR sacred mounument in the courthouse grounds!

  6. Well then it worked right?

  7. But Bramblyspam, the Invisible Pink Unicorn was there. Still is in fact.

    🙂

  8. It’s not about allowing every religion or allowed none. How about allowing cultural norms? Nativity scenes and menorot are normal for the culture. Flying spaghetti monsters and pink unicorns are not. The key is the phrase “cultural norm”.

    I am amazed that libertarians cannot understand this simple concept. The state does not have to finance any religious displays, or show favoritism to any. But if a community group wishes to erect a temporary religious symbol that is part of the cultural norm for the area, then I see no problem at all. No one is being harmed by that nativity scene.

  9. I thought the FSM created the universe, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn was it’s only begotten daughter…

  10. While libertarians love to look at the Flying Spaghetti Monster as an enlightened satire of religion, the truth is that it’s just “bababooie”. It’s exactly the sort of smug elitism that libertarians claim to hate.

    Congratulations on elevating public discourse.

    /golfclap

  11. But if a community group wishes to erect a temporary religious symbol that is part of the cultural norm for the area

    If they wish to do so they can use their own damned property to erect propaganda pieces.

  12. On a side tangent: Government recognition of religion is considered by many libertarians to be the Greatest Evil?, yet most of the same are demanding government recognition of gay marriage.

  13. I have this amusing image of a time in the distant future, where after another Dark Age, Pastafarians raise the banner of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to begin their crusade against infidels such as Jedi, clerics of Helm, or Ilmater or Sune (or some other deity of Faerun), or even followers of Elvis. It sounds like a story Phlip Dick would write.

    Of course, I’m easily amused.

  14. Brandybuck | May 16, 2008, 1:28pm | #
    The state does not have to cannot finance any religious displays, or show favoritism to any.

    There, fixed it for you per the First Amendment.

    But if a community group wishes to erect a temporary religious symbol that is part of the cultural norm for the area, then I see no problem at all. No one is being harmed by that nativity scene.

    I agree. They have all rights to hold a nativity scene on private property. If they want to display religious icons on public government owned property, then they cannot abridge the right of other religions from displaying their appropriate icons, no matter how outside the “cultural norm” said icons may be. Ergo, on the courthouse lawn, the FSM is just as appropriate as baby Jesus.

  15. Brandybuck | May 16, 2008, 1:43pm | #
    On a side tangent: Government recognition of religion is considered by many libertarians to be the Greatest Evil?, yet most of the same are demanding government recognition of gay marriage.

    Wow, you must not have actually read any of the posts in previous gay marriage threads. Most libertarians want the government out of marriage (gay, straight, polygamist, etc.) all together.

    However, just as with religion, if the government is going to assign “special privileges” to individuals based on a piece of paper that the government issues then by golly they had better not restrict it based on sex, race, sexual orientation or BMI. IOW, if the government is going to “grant rights” they have to do it equally or not at all.
    I am not sure why that concept is so hard for you to grasp Brandybuck but from now on remember this mantra, “That which governs least, governs best” before ascribing positions to libertarians that they do not hold.

  16. But if a community group wishes to erect a temporary religious symbol that is part of the cultural norm for the area, then I see no problem at all. No one is being harmed by that nativity scene.

    This is exactly the point of the exercise, Grasshopper.

    If one community group can erect a temporary or permanent “religious symbol that is part of the cultural norm for the area” so can any other. Government cannot show favoritism.

    But favoritism is exactly what the folks who want to put up religious monuments want. “We can put up our Christian symbols, and we’ll tolerate Jewish symbols because that’s our history. But other religions? No. We don’t want any other religions putting up their symbols.” I.e. screw Freedom of Religion, you’re only free to practice our religion.

    Hence the First Amendment, to prohibit this bigotry.

    No one was being harmed by the FSM or IPU, either.

  17. If they wish to do so they can use their own damned property to erect propaganda pieces.

    But what if they erect it in a public commons, with the support of the majority of the community, and in keeping with a century old tradition of same? This is what I mean by a cultural norm. If a community has been putting up a nativity scene in the courthouse lawn for 150 years, then it’s rude for a town newcomer who still hasn’t finished unpacking to demand everyone else take it down. That isn’t libertarianism, it’s meddlesomeism.

    You are not being harmed by the symbol. No, really you are not! As long as it hasn’t been financed by your money, it does no harm to you. You do not own the public property, the government does. You might argue that the government should not own property, and I would agree with you, but it is still not your property. The libertarian response to objectionable scenes on public property is to privatize the public property!

  18. Let’s look at another example of “cultural norms.” Suppose that in a small town populated by bigots, the courthouse lawn was adorned with an eternally flaming cross. By the standards of that community, that’s a perfectly valid form of expression.

    Would you support that community, Brandybuck? Are you going to continue pretending that whatever madness a crowd embraces has some effect on what rights people have.

  19. The above post should have ended with a question mark.

  20. But what if they erect it in a public commons,…

    [Insert public erection joke here.]

  21. If a christian gets all wrapped up in putting up the nativity or fighting in court for the ten commandments on the court house lawn or prayer in school, have those things become idols in their lives? And is the display of the nativity scene at city hall more important to God than the lost souls next door?

  22. While libertarians love to look at the Flying Spaghetti Monster as an enlightened satire of religion, the truth is that it’s just “bababooie”. It’s exactly the sort of smug elitism that libertarians claim to hate.

    I see the yokeltarians are back. Boy, am I tired of you guys.

    If a community has been putting up a nativity scene in the courthouse lawn for 150 years

    Who’s putting it up? It’s not *everybody* in that community, right? In all likelihood, it’s a little clique of Christians…most people probably just don’t care. unless you’ve taken a poll or something and care to define “community standards” as say, 75% of the people + 1, you can’t really appeal to the nebulous “community”.

  23. And thus the huge pink gaping gulf between paleolibertarians and cosmos. The former are able to recognize that Christianity and Pastafarianism are not culturally identical. For one, the latter is unapologetically a parody.

    The use of public commons (while they exist) must be limited. The traditional way with regards to religious displays has been to limit them to cultural norms. I realize that many libertarians reject the idea of norms, but they do exist. As I said earlier, if you object on libertarian/anarchist grounds to religious displays on the courthouse lawn, then your proper response is to privatize the courthouse lawn. Yet I have not once seen that advocated with regards to this issue. Libertarians would much rather bash the beliefs of others than to follow their own.

  24. Would you support that community, Brandybuck?

    No, I would move away instead. I would not choose to live in a community where such were a cultural norm. Regardless of whether such displays were done on public or private property.

  25. Yet I have not once seen that advocated with regards to this issue.

    See, here’s the thing: The advocacy for privatizing the lawn does not need to be said. First thing, minarchists ebelieve that a courthouse is a valid and worthwhile institution of government. Secondly, if you’re an an-capper, do you really need to say (around these parts, anyway) “We wouldn’t have this problem if the lawn was private”? NO…we already KNOW that’s your position. So let’s move past the reflexive and formulaic “libertarian disclaimer” statements and actually do some cultural analysis, huh?

    The former are able to recognize that Christianity and Pastafarianism are not culturally identical. For one, the latter is unapologetically a parody.

    So, for paleos, for all their blather about how we’re justa buncha limp-wristed, bar-hopping coke fiends, want the government to grant special favor because something’s popular. Our point, of course, is that if the public square is to exist, then it’s public, not reserved to whatever cult has a stranglehold on discourse at the moment.

  26. “You are not being harmed by the symbol. No, really you are not! As long as it hasn’t been financed by your money, it does no harm to you.”

    Then the FSM isn’t hurting anyone either, right? If it’s public land than we all get to put up our religious symbols on it or none of us do. Having the government decide what religion is a part of the “cultural norm” and what isn’t is pretty much the same thing as deciding which religions are valid and which are not. Saying nativity scenes are okay but those for other belief systems are not is pretty clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause.

  27. As I said earlier, if you object on libertarian/anarchist grounds to religious displays on the courthouse lawn, then your proper response is to privatize the courthouse lawn/

    On that note, I move to divorce libertarianism from anarchism. One is a philosophy about what government should and should not do, with analysis of the functions of government through a good mix of utilitarian concerns and moral grounds (although I would contend they go hand-in-hand, by defintion).

    The other is a religion that always has all the answers: “Privatize it!” “Child pr0n should be legal!”

  28. … with the support of the majority of the community…

    The first amendment isn’t there to protect speech and religions that the majority like, it’s to protect the speech and religions that the majority don’t like. Popular speech and popular religions need no protection.

    If a community has been putting up a nativity scene in the courthouse lawn for 150 years, then it’s rude for a town newcomer who still hasn’t finished unpacking to demand everyone else take it down.

    It’s rude for the government to be advocating one religious path over another by virtue of exclusion.
    Hinduism predates any of the Judeo-Christian religions by 2000 years so perhaps the courthouse should allow enforce the erection of a statue of Kali as well.

    Oh, wait, that’s right you said “local community traditions”. Well, how about a year round Cherokee Dance? After all, this particular town in Tennessee was once in the heart of Cherokee territory and they held the religious power there for much longer than White man has. But white man is in power now you may say. Well, how long does a community have to be established before the actions become “traditional”? One year, five years, 50, 100?

    Brandybuck, to you, what is a “real” religion? What makes Christianity or Judaism different than Hinduism, UDV, Pastafarianism, Wicca or animism. What give the government the power to determine what is or is not a “real” religion.

    Remember, to the Romans the Christians were a whacked out cult no different than most American’s viewed Koresh’s band in Waco. You no doubt also remember that the Romans were the community majority and the action was state sponsored religion to the point of persecution of the newcomers. Is that what you really want? If so then you are no friend of liberty and we have nothing more to discuss.

  29. No one was being harmed by the FSM or IPU, either.

    I was. Have you seen my collection plates lately? Fucking atheists.

  30. The FSM is a great expression of my atheistic beliefs. Is Brandybuck to deny me that expression simply because s/he views it as satire? Do you really want to know how I view a nativity scene?

  31. “If the government is going to have a public place, it can only allow those displays that conform with community norms”

    “If the government is going to recognize marriage, it can only recognize what most people commonly view as ‘marriage'”

    “If the government is going to give out student loans, only non-drug users should get student loans, because drug use is an offense to America’s ‘decency’ and ‘community standards'”

    “Driving isn’t a right, it’s a privilege…government maintains those roads, so any cars that Offend Government should be banned from the roads.”

  32. should have added that the above are where Stockholm Libertarianism gets us: rights are held hostage because goverment exists and does things.

  33. Jehovah, looking at your churches, and the preacher’s houses, I’d say your collection plates are doin a pretty brisk bidness. The sale of salvation seems to be unaffected by the slumping economy.

  34. It’s exactly the sort of smug elitism that libertarians claim to hate.

    But I love smug elitism!

  35. The use of public commons (while they exist) must be limited.

    Okay fine, and the limit is: No display of religious icons unless all other icons are allowed as well.

    Seems pretty simple…why are you having such a hard time with it. Why do you feel a need to display your own religious views in public?

    Libertarians would much rather bash the beliefs of others than to follow their own.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t care what your beliefs are, but when you want to have special privileges because of them…well I have a problem. Believe what you want, I really couldn’t give a shit.

    You are not being harmed by the symbol. No, really you are not! As long as it hasn’t been financed by your money, it does no harm to you.

    By the same token, then, if a display of the FSM, Satan, or Buddha isn’t financed with your money you aren’t hurt either…so game on.

  36. Or perhaps a statue of an enormous Satan buggering the decaying corpse of Jesus in hell?

    Nobody’s harmed by that right?

  37. It’s not about allowing every religion or allowed none. How about allowing cultural norms?

    Brandybuck, can you give a rough outline of the legal standard you would use in determining whether something is a cultural norm? Also, can you please explain whether and how the standard make allowance for changing cultural norms.

  38. Or perhaps a statue of an enormous Satan buggering the decaying corpse of Jesus in hell?

    So you’re the fucker who stole that off my lawn! No wonder you hide behind an Internet alias.

  39. Brotherben,
    That would be an interesting study. I theorize that church collections might actually go up in times of economic hardship.

  40. ktc2 | May 16, 2008, 3:22pm | #
    Or perhaps a statue of an enormous Satan buggering the decaying corpse of Jesus in hell?

    This reminds me. As a “get off my lawn conservative” I found this dictionary entry disturbing. Take two perfectly good adjectives that mean the same thing, combine them together and viola! New word to be included in dictionary.

  41. To quote the great Pat Robertson, “I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.”

    Oh wait. Wrong quote. Sorry here’s the one –

    “if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to [FSM], you just rejected Him from your city”.

  42. Brandybuck,

    You assert that cultural norms “do exist”. Sure, they “do exist” in the sense that it’s clearly true that certain regions have overwhelming majorities of a certain religion or other.

    But the Constitution is an anti-majoritarian document. The whole point of the Constitution (or Bill of Rights at least) is that minorities are entitled to equal rights, even when majorities would rather discriminate against them. (ie: interracial marriage not being the “cultural norm”). It’s against the cultural norm to parade in black against the Iraq War or to go door to door for Mormonism, but those are (rightfully) every bit as protected as a Christmas parade.

    10% of my community is atheist. Sure, we’re not the “cultural norm” (ie majority), but we’re not irrelevant either.

    As to your assertion that manger displays don’t hurt anybody: no, literally they don’t injure anybody, or cause major long-lasting trauma. But they do subtly imply that your atheism, or Islam, or whatever, is 2nd rate, tolerated but annoying, and worthy of reduced status. This is wrong, and out of line with First Amendment principles. (even though it’s credible to suggest that atheists should “pick their battles”).

    You seem like a well-intentioned fellow, and thus your blind advocacy of “cultural norms” troubles me. I hope you reconsider the faith you put in this amorphous concept.

  43. Is human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism (like the Christians have) required in order to have a “real” religion?

  44. I thought christianity was about being freed from your sins by killing the god against whom you sinned. Or something like that.

  45. Wow, you must not have actually read any of the posts in previous gay marriage threads. Most libertarians want the government out of marriage (gay, straight, polygamist, etc.) all together.

    I have actually read those posts. There is a significant contingent that is praising the Calfornia courts for *recognizing* gay marriage. Contrary to wanting the government out of marriage, they are celebrating that the government has expanded its scope in that area. In the meantime single people continue to pay higher taxes.

  46. “I thought christianity was about being freed from your sins by killing the god against whom you sinned. Or something like that.”

    Wow, brilliant analysis! I vote that Bramblyspam wins the thread.

  47. Actually, it’s not far off.

    You are “forgiven” your sins because “god the father” allowed “god the son” to be killed by man for man’s sins.

    So, in essence he’s correct. Man kills god “the son” to be free of his sins against god “the father”. Since they are all “one” in the trinity his statement is correct.

    That is if you believe that load of dingos kidneys . . .

    And why oh why couldn’t god “any of them” just forgive without the bloodbath of substitutional “justice”?

  48. Brandybuck, can you give a rough outline of the legal standard you would use in determining whether something is a cultural norm? Also, can you please explain whether and how the standard make allowance for changing cultural norms.

    There are no cut and dried absolutes to judge normalcy. For example, I could care less if two married gay men walked down the street holding hand, but I would definitely raise an eyebrow if I saw a man leading a harem of fifteen chained male “slaves” behind him. That’s not culturally normal.

    But is putting a nativity scene on the lawn of a courthouse normal? If that town has fifteen Christian churches, and has traditionally had a nativity scene at the courthouse, then yes it is normal. On the other hand, there is no church of Pastararianism, no regular Pastafarian meetups, only one athiest with a FSM bumpersticker. Is putting up a FSM statue normal? No it’s not.

    Legal guidelines for cultural norms? Ask an anthropologist! It’s not something you can pin down. Cultural norms are constantly changing. In some towns Christianity may not be the norm at all. There are sizable Jewish and Hindu populations in my area. They are the cultural norms too. Someone earlier mentioned Cherokee dances. A few decades ago in a town I was visiting, the local indian tribe did do a religious dance on the county courthouse lawn. I’ve got no problem with that, because they are a local tribe and the dance was traditional.

    p.s. I’m not claiming to be a legal scholar or erudite philosopher. The idea of cultural norms is solely my own. If you don’t like it, don’t blame anyone else for it, because it is not anyone else’s idea. I only brought it up as a discussion point. But no one wants to discuss here, only to shit on the views of others. Apparently I’m a horrible person because I don’t consider nativity scenes on courthouse lawns to be horrible things.

  49. “And why oh why couldn’t god “any of them” just forgive without the bloodbath of substitutional “justice”?”

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pasta Be Upon Him) does not want a bloodbath of any sort, just pasta sauce.

  50. Brandybuck,

    Everyone’s familiar with cultural norms, but why do you think that matters governmental should reflect these norms, rather than remain neutral with respect to them??

  51. PIRS:
    Wow, brilliant analysis! I vote that Bramblyspam wins the thread.

    Thanks, but the credit for that one really belongs to Ambrose Bierce. In this instance, I’m merely the humble paraphraser of the true genius. 🙂

  52. Everyone’s familiar with cultural norms, but why do you think that matters governmental should reflect these norms, rather than remain neutral with respect to them??

    Why should it not reflect them? Government is not alien to society, but an integral part of it. If we are to have a government, then it needs to be a part of society. Societies have culture. If government is to be a part of society, then it takes on the society’s culture (That does NOT mean I ascribe to majoritarianism!)

    In the US we have a Constitution that demands the Federal and state governments be neutral to religion. But that’s not necessarily a libertarian idea. A religion is merely a philosophy. Why is it libertarian to ban one class of philosophy from the public sphere but not another? Why must Judaism be excluded from the courthouse steps but Objectivism be allowed? What is it that makes the former unacceptable in many libertarian’s eyes?

    Throughout history, villages have had village greens. They were a commons of sort, and the activities in the greens always reflected the culture of the village. But then along comes government and all of a sudden we have to keep the culture out of the village green? That doesn’t make sense. Let’s take an example. Imagine you lived in a manorial feudal society with a village green. It was your custom to dance the maypole naked very spring equinox. Then you have a libertarian revolution, the manor lord slashes taxes, cuts spending, privatizes his orchards, frees the serfs, etc, etc. But what of the commons? Do we have to stop dancing the maypole naked just because the green has not yet been fully privatized? Nonsense!

  53. Even in your example, I think government neutrality makes good sense. Suppose there’s a minority of people who seriously think the maypole dancing desecrates the land unless a special totem is placed on the northeast corner. Then I’d say the government should allow both the dancing and the totem or deny both.

    I mean, minority groups get very upset when the government uses public resources to officially endorse the majority viewpoint, especially when they see the majority viewpoint as a sinful abomination. And then if the minority comes to gain power, they might jump at the chance to persecute the others. Government neutrality looks like a simple and harmless way of avoiding these problems.

  54. Imagine you lived in a manorial feudal society with a village green. It was your custom to dance the maypole naked very spring equinox.

    Let’s see here:
    … Tudor houses … check!
    … Old Mother Riley… check!
    … strawberry jam … check!
    … dancing around the maypole naked … blimey!

  55. Even in your example, I think government neutrality makes good sense. Suppose there’s a minority of people who seriously think the maypole dancing desecrates the land unless a special totem is placed on the northeast corner. Then I’d say the government should allow both the dancing and the totem or deny both.

    But what makes religion the special case? What if it isn’t religion, but art? What if the majority of villagers want the traditional artistic and culturally signficant maypole, but a minority want a statue of a cow instead? Should the government be neutral and allow (or deny) both? Or what if the majority wants Objectivism taught in public school, but a minority wants an emphasis on Marxism?

  56. Brandybuck, you’re lighting on one of the core reasons that libertarians want to minimize government’s size and involvement in people’s lives. We’d prefer to solve the last problem you bring up by not having the government running the schools or making any curriculum decisions at all.

  57. Mike, I know that. Which I why I brought it up way up top. But some Randroid shot me down with extreme hostility. Contrary to others in the movement, I have never been harmed by creches on courthouse lawns, and I find the shrill opposition to them to be bizarre. I find the disproportionate reaction to be a form of ideological terrority marking.

    p.s. Just north of us is Santa Clara, which has crosses and religious statues in many public parks. I’m not seeing a lot of bile and angst over it. On the other hand, down in San Diego, people’s spleens are exploding over the cross on Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial.

  58. While I don’t like the cultural norms idea, I’m open to the argument that this or that public item with religious content should be grandfathered in for historical reasons. Your Santa Clara example is a good case — even the name of the city reflects it’s history as a Catholic mission town.

  59. Pendulum, where on earth do you live? 10% is a pretty big percent when you’re talking about atheists.

    And Brandybuck, no need to go into hysterics. No one is saying they’re being harm and I haven’t seen much shrillness. What others are saying is that it is not the role of government to either endorse or deny a religion. This includes religious displays. The Constitution and Bill of Rights stand regardless of cultural norms.

  60. You assert that cultural norms “do exist”. Sure, they “do exist” in the sense that it’s clearly true that certain regions have overwhelming majorities of a certain religion or other.

    Not so much in the U.S. The “Christian majority” Brandybuck believes in is actually a collection of minorities. Put any one of those denominations in charge, and the coalition will come unglued immediately. The one consistent characteristic of Christian government over the last 1700 years (since Constantine “ended” the persecution of the religion) is persecution of Christians that worship differently.

    There is a significant contingent that is praising the Calfornia courts for *recognizing* gay marriage. Contrary to wanting the government out of marriage, they are celebrating that the government has expanded its scope in that area.

    Not. The California Legislature “expanded its scope in that area” by prohibiting gay marriage. The CA Supreme Court cut them back.

    If that town has fifteen Christian churches, and has traditionally had a nativity scene at the courthouse, then yes it is normal.

    Fifteen separate Christian churches do not a majority make. Suppose it was decided to post the Ten Commandments? Which version would prevail?

    On the other hand, there is no church of Pastararianism, no regular Pastafarian meetups, only one athiest with a FSM bumpersticker. Is putting up a FSM statue normal? No it’s not.

    Why not? Just because a religion doesn’t believe in buying a building and holding regular meetings doesn’t mean it’s invalid. Look at all the Christian Evangelical churches holding services in people’s homes, and meeting only when a preacher is available.

    I’m open to the argument that this or that public item with religious content should be grandfathered in for historical reasons. Your Santa Clara example is a good case — even the name of the city reflects it’s history as a Catholic mission town.

    That would be a lot stronger argument if so many of the folks claiming Christian symbols should be allowed “for historical reasons” or “in accordance with cultural norms” weren’t so dead set against putting up any other religion’s symbols “for historical reasons” or “in accordance with cultural norms.” It’s difficult to be reasonable with hypocrites.

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