Pastafarians are in the news today. Those adherents of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will not be allowed to advertise their “noodle masses” at the entrance of an eastern town in Germany after a court sided with local authorities. Last year, the organization requested a permit from the Infrastructure Ministry of Brandenburg, Germany, for a road sign just like those used by local Catholic and Protestant churches in announcing details about their worship services.
The court said the group can't claim the rights of a religious or philosophical community. In its statement announcing the ruling, it was said that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's foundation of mocking Christianity and other religions “is not a system of thought comprehensively related to the world in the sense of a particular philosophy or view of life.”
I bring this up not because of this particular stunt — the church is becoming famous for them — but because of the way I heard it reported on The Bob & Tom syndicated radio program this morning. This show is supposed to offer a comic take on the world — its participants get paid to be funny — but they reported this group's activities as if it were a real fringe religion populated by the usual nuts and flakes. "I guess people can believe anything they want to," one of them said to yucks all around.
It's a joke, fellas — and you, alas, didn't get it. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was started by a 24-year-old Oregon State University physics graduate in 2005 to parody the intelligent design movement, which is something that thoroughly deserves to be parodied. Those espousing that particular form of creationism want schools to teach that the universe must have been created by intelligent design — but leave out the part about who or what actually designed it, in an attempt to skirt those nasty church-state entanglements. But if the universe could have been created by anybody or anything, then the Flying Spaghetti Monster has as much a claim on the title as any other other entity.
More and more people aren't getting the joke. Arizona, apparently in fear of a First Amendment suit, allowed a Pastifarian to have his driver's license photo take with a colander on his head. Australia has officially recognized the church. In New Zealand, a FSM church wedding has been recognized as legal.
Earlier this week, I did a post about Muggeridge's Law, which posits that it is no longer possible to be funny these days, because "there is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known."
Maybe there should be a corollary to that law: We have forgotten how to be funny. That's because all of those ludicrous things noted by Muggeridge — all the absurdities that keep piling up in daily life — are take so sober and seriously by people who should know better.
A reality TV show start is elected president of the United States, and we act as if it's the most natural thing in the world, arguing the pros and cons of a presidency so brash and childish, instead of thinking we might have dropped into the Twilight Zone. And we learn that the folks who produce those silly Sharknado movies almost landed Trump to star as president before he actually became president, and nobody bats an eye.
The people who keep beating us over the head about global warming because "Science!" are perfectly willing to accept the insane notion that there is a difference between sex and gender and, against all scientific evidence to the contrary, insist that the rest of us accept the fluidity of gender based on someone's feelings. Princeton University is giving its students the option of picking a gender or, reportedly, several genders, and it's not laughed out of the Ivy League. Students are allowed — but not required — to select one or more of the following: “Cisgender," "Genderqueer/gender non-conform[ing]," "Trans/transgender," "Man," "Woman," and "Other.” Princeton students can also choose to be both male and female. Otherwise normal-seeming adults are actually waging an enormous battle for the right of "transgendered" men to use women's bathrooms.
A social justice warrior disguised as a cable news reporter lectures a White House spokesman on its duty to set immigration policy based on a poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, and nobody demands he surrender his press pass. The people who applaud sentiments such as his — a sentimental poem must dictate our actions for all time — are the same people who say the Constitution means whatever we want it to mean at any given moment.
And pet owners are refusing to get their animals vaccinated because they're worried their pets might get autism, and men are marrying their laptops, and white women are deciding they're really black, and academics have decided that proper grammar is racist, and bakers are being forced out of business because they won't serve a cake at a gay wedding, and NASA is hiring a "planetary protection officer" to make sure, among other things, that we don't pollute other worlds, and . . . I could go on and on, but you get the point.
When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, Jacques Barzun is supposed to have said, the culture is decadent. I don't know about that. But when the absurd isn't laughed at, and humor nears extinction, I think we are in trouble.