Ethics Hero: U.S. District Judge John Gerrard

flying-spaghetti-monster

Pastafarians are anti-religious wise-asses who claim to adhere to a satirical “religion” created to mock other religions. They have wasted court time and abused the justice system by suing in various states for the right to exercise their non-existent religion by wearing an upside-down spaghetti strainer on their heads for driver’s license photos.  More ridiculous still, they have succeeded in several states and a number of foreign countries.

Nebraska to the rescue: in a Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed a religious discrimination suit filed by Pastafarian Stephen Cavanaugh. The judge state the obvious fact that  the religion Cavanaugh cited—Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster—is not a religion but a parody.

Good.

I have many friends and even relatives who have been “touched by His noodly appendage,” but a joke is a joke, and courts have more important business than refereeing whimsical grandstanding by atheists like Cavanaugh.

“The Court finds that FSMism is not a ‘religion’ within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence. It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education,” Gerrard wrote. “Those are important issues, and FSMism contains a serious argument but that does not mean that the trappings of the satire used to make that argument are entitled to protection as a ‘religion.’”

The “church” is outraged, it claims. “The satire argument is flimsy,” fumes the official website of the FSM.  “Lots of people do view FSM as satire, but I’m not sure how that disqualifies it as a real religion. True Believers make up a small proportion of mainstream religions as well — the difference is that Pastafarians are more honest when they don’t hold a literal view of their religion.”

Right.  Name another religion that traces its origin to a gag web post ridiculing the logic of every other religion. This is res ipsa loquitur. When your religion’s “heaven” has a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano,  your tongue is actually sticking through your cheek. An ethical jester knows when a joke has gone too far.

__________________________

Pointer: ABA Journal

 

57 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: U.S. District Judge John Gerrard

  1. Jack,

    “When your religion’s “heaven” has a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano, your tongue is actually sticking through your cheek”

    As opposed to 72 virgins, a golden castle in the sky, or the belief that the righteous will become Gods themselves? Pure idiocy, all of it.

    I agree they’re assholes, not to mention a waste of court time and tax dollars, but nothing about their faux beliefs are any more outrageous or silly than any other religious claim. Moses’ claim that God inscribed mystical dos and don’ts on stone tablets makes no more sense than golden plates in upstate New York, the musings of an illiterate merchant in Arabia, or the back of pizza boxes in Kalamazoo.

    They’re points are well-taken, they’re methods are not.

    • “Nothing about their faux beliefs are any more outrageous or silly than any other religious claim.”

      That’s a subjective position, though. All beliefs of faith are silly to non-believers. Faith is silly to non-faithful. The point is that the Pastafarians are NOT believers. The claim to the contrary is a lie. A sincere belief has the advantage of being ethical, no matter how absurd it is to others. A false belief that is claimed to be genuine is a lie, and unethical by definition.

      Two of the most brilliant Americans, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, concluded that the idea of an afterlife and God was almost certainly a crock, but that the smart play was to hedge their bets. I’m not going to call those guys idiots.

  2. It’s an interesting thing.. I forget the term… But it’s the belief that other people really think like you.

    When I was in high school, me and a friend of mine decided to mock the process by which religions come into being. In Canada, you walk into a local government building, and request forms for the creation of a religion, five double sided pages and a $25 filing fee later, you’re considered a cult. (FYI, I was a cult leader. The more you know) After collecting 200 signatures from people who say they are adherents of your religion and filing tax documents for two years, you become as real a religion as the Catholics as far as the Canadian government was concerned, and able to perform legally binding marriages. We had made overtures of a competition to see who could marry a couple first.

    I remember being AMAZED how many people were absolutely IRATE with me over the situation. It was perhaps one of the first times I took a step back and tried to think what was going on. It was jarring. I realized that there are people who really do believe that there was a man in the sky who used to talk to dried out men in deserts and told them to do things, but doesn’t talk to them anymore, because reasons. As a child raised in the 80’s to a Pentecostal family, I’d always assumed they were faking the shaking and tongues because I did. I always assumed that they were pretending and giving lip service, because I was. But my brief foray into cult leadership proved to me that the people who purport to believe generally do.

    It’s another step to understand that when the fundamentalists are being prickish to gay people, they actually sometimes do it out of a place of caring. Not always, sometimes they just need the excuse to hate, but sometimes they’re really concerned with your afterlife, and want to help you. I just wish they shared my introspection, because things like the SHM come from a similar place. Atheists don’t secretly believe in God and think they’re being edgy, they don’t believe in God and think that people are attaching arbitrary and backwards rules that limit your joy in the only life you have. We’d love for you to be happier in the time you have. Some of us. Some are just looking for an excuse to hate.

    But back to pastafarians. Think like they do for a second. They think believers are wrong. They see people wearing things like Crucifixes and those little beanies Jews wear, burkas and ceremonial Sikh daggers and think it’s like they thought Halloween was 365 a year. And that the pasta strainers ARE just as legitimate. Is it mean and petty? Yeah. Yeah it is. But that isn’t mutually exclusive from belief systems.

    This was rambly. I was trying to make a point that the situation changes drastically depending on your point of view, and if you look at religion as a set of genuinely held beliefs in things that you cannot prove…. Then the pastafarian religion isn’t based on a belief in the SHM, but it is still a belief system

    • You lost me at the end. If they do not believe in the FPM, but only pretend to to mock those who DO believe in their deity, then it isn’t a religious belief system. If I believe someone is an idiot, that’s not a belief system either.

      • “If I believe someone is an idiot, that’s not a belief system either.”

        Isn’t it? For some reason we’ve given special dispensation to genuinely held beliefs of generally insane things. By what logic should we give LESS dispensation to something that is genuinely believed, and more provable?

        Often, on here in fact, we have a couple of commentators who say that they think Atheism is a religion, and while I think it goes back to that problem of (is it called self-attribution bias?), there’s perhaps a point to it. Atheists have a genuinely held belief that when we die, we cease to be, this life is all we get, that those believers are hurting themselves for no reason, and possibly that their beliefs are worthy of derision. How is that not a belief system?

          • So believing more than one thing you can’t prove thing tied together makes it more legitimate somehow? I can’t help but consider that irrelevant. It’s a genuinely held belief then.

            • What? We are talking about believing. Saying you believe to make fun of people who do believe isn’t believing. It’s the opposite.

              And if I believe someone is a jerk, I can prove it.

              • No no, we believe that when we die, there’s nothing else. We believe that there isn’t a god judging us at all times. We believe that believers are harming themselves by stunting their life with arbitrary biblical rules (not to say all rules are arbitrary, some make sense), The mockery is almost incidental. I made the comparison that the mockery is perhaps similar to the “You’re going to hell”isms. They both amount to “Because you don’t believe the same things I do, you’re doing something stupid and damaging.”

                • Yes, but that’s still not a religion, and it is not based on subjective judgment, but on rational norms. It is not rational to believe something without any substantive reason to believe it. Challenging such a belief doesn’t have a thing to do with religion.

                  I don’t believe that religious believers are necessarily stunting their life; not at all all. They are defining a lifeline through chaos, as must we all: something that gives us a reference point to make decisions in reference to. Religion is good for that. Pastfarians do not use that satiric belief for that purpose.

                  • How is it not subjective? I’m sure a theist would argue that with you. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there is a god, maybe there is a hell, maybe I’m going there and I’ll roast like a marshmallow. I don’t actually know that isn’t going to happen. I just really don’t believe it will. I believe that because I’m a nuts and bolts, seeing is believing (but even then it needs testing), realist. There’s still an element of belief in there. And Challenging beliefs has everything to do with religion. Christianity isn’t merely believing in Christian doctrine, it’s also believing Muslims are wrong.

                    ‘I don’t believe that religious believers are necessarily stunting their life; not at all all.’

                    ‘Tithe 10% of your income, spend 2% of your life in church (four hours weekly) and do nothing productive for 14% of your life.(Keep holy your Sabbath)’ springs immediately to mind, but more… In a time where we knew less, maybe using God to bully the unwashed masses into good behavior for fear of pain in their afterlife made a certain amount of utilitarian sense. It doesn’t anymore, morality can and does exist outside the paradigm of God. God just makes it more expensive.

                    • “Christianity isn’t merely believing in Christian doctrine, it’s also believing Muslims are wrong.”

                      Sometimes, some of us just mind our own business and coexist peacefully with other religions.

                    • Yes, yes, nice duck. The fact is that God and Allah are mutually exclusive, and so while it isn’t necessary that you rub their face in the fact that you think they’re wrong, you still think it. If you do not think that Muslims are wrong, I don’t know if you can call Christianity a genuinely held belief.

                    • 1. Nothing in your last paragraph proves that such individuals, and definitely some of them, aren’t still better off believing in a fantasy deity than not.

                      2. Wait: you really think that because “challenging beliefs has everything to do with religion”, not believing in religious belief IS a religion?. Neither the language, nor logic, nor the religious agree with you, because that is a leap too far.

                    • 1. Nothing in your last paragraph proves that such individuals, and definitely some of them, aren’t still better off believing in a fantasy deity than not.

                      There’s nothing inherently damaging in the belief in a fantasy diety, per se…. But there is something damaging in flushing 10% of your earnings down a toilet because the imaginary deity wants it. I think you’re trying to say that on a utilitarian basis, religion does more good than harm, but any good that religion does could happen outside the paradigm of religion, and most of the harm it does happens because of it. For example: Unprotected and casual sex is generally damaging, religion discourages it. But as opposed to threatening someone’s afterlife, it’s rational to encourage good sexual choices with education. You don’t have to threaten them with hell, you could threaten them with squalling babies and disgusting diseases, and it would probably be just as effective. In many ways religion is like lazy parenting, you’ve encouraged good behaviors by lying to your kids, because explaining the truth to them was too hard. Meanwhile… The religious positions on tithing, birth control and gay people, off the top of my head, hit me as exceptionally damaging, and also as positions hard to come by without God.

                      2. Wait: you really think that because “challenging beliefs has everything to do with religion”, not believing in religious belief IS a religion?. Neither the language, nor logic, nor the religious agree with you, because that is a leap too far.

                      No, I think you’re purposefully ignoring a lot of my arguments and straw manning the easy targets. And in particular I think you’ve gotten very tangled up with what a religion is, while not thinking about it too hard. What is a religion if not a collection of related closely held beliefs on how to live your life? Some of the worlds largest religions don’t have a god figure, and focus more on spirituality and philosophy as opposed to paranormal activity.

                    • “What is a religion if not a collection of related closely held beliefs on how to live your life?”

                      You are describing a philosophy, or perhaps ideology. A religion may be a philosophy, but that doesn’t make every philosophy a religion. As I’m certain you know, which is why I don’t know why you’re arguing this way.

                      Because someone calls their belief system a religion doesn’t make it so. The first and second definitions of religions don’t fit your so broad as to be meaningless definition—as with “racism,” over-broadening a concept has certain ideological benfits but makes real distinctions impossible.

                      Oxford:

                      RELIGION 1.The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods:

                      2. A particular system of faith and worship: the world’s great religions

                      2. “But there is something damaging in flushing 10% of your earnings down a toilet because the imaginary deity wants it.”

                      That just expresses your anti-religious bias. A Mormon would say that tithing is a sensible way to support the community, its faith, its institutions, and the good work all of those do on behalf of humanity. Lumping scams like Scientology and hustles like evangelical TV ministries with other tithing is unfair. Psychologists say that contributing to a cause causes greater commitment to that cause, and sincere commitment to a religion is very often a strong aid to ethical living. The placebo effect is real: doctors use it a lot.

                      Organized religion is more complex than simple good and bad, true or untrue. The argument that a sham religion is no different from a genuinely believed one is an impossible one to make, and only hostility to religion as a concept could lead anyone to think it’s a legitimate case to even attempt.

            • Atheism isn’t necessarily excluded from exemption. The test for whether a belief is “sincerely held” “is whether it is a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified.”

              Here, FSMism does not claim that their belief system is “religious adherents are wrong, they constantly do themselves harm by tithing, refraining from fun activities, and beating up gay people.” This could potentially be a legitimate religion if it occupied such a spot in the life of the believers that it paralleled that of religious orthodoxy.

              Instead, FSMism claims treatment as a religion for their belief that a flying spaghetti monster exists, touched someone with its noodly appendage, etc. This is something they clearly don’t believe, and is merely satirical belief intended to disparage religious people. Therefore, it is not entitled to any special treatment under the law.

        • Atheism isn’t necessarily excluded from exemption. The test for whether a belief is “sincerely held” “is whether it is a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified.”

          Here, FSMism does not claim that their belief system is “religious adherents are wrong, they constantly do themselves harm by tithing, refraining from fun activities, and beating up gay people.” This could potentially be a legitimate religion if it occupied such a spot in the life of the believers that it paralleled that of religious orthodoxy.

          Instead, FSMism claims treatment as a religion for their belief that a flying spaghetti monster exists, touched someone with its noodly appendage, etc. This is something they clearly don’t believe, and is merely satirical belief intended to disparage religious people. Therefore, it is not entitled to any special treatment under the law.

      • The problem with invoking an anti-typical mind fallacy is the drift to division. We humans are more alike in every way than we are different. Thinking differently provides diversity but does not need to provoke division. While we shouldn’t PRESUME that people think the way that we do, there could be no human commerce nor community without some amount of discovery of unity or similarity of thought.

        • “While we shouldn’t PRESUME that people think the way that we do”

          I think that we probably should, actually, because you’re right in that most people are probably more alike than not. But we should also believe them when they tell us differently.

      • The typical mind fallacy might explain at least in part, at least in some instances, someone’s use of Jack’s Rationalization #14 (Self-validating Virtue).

  3. I am just keeping score on myself here – nothing to read, just move along.
    I got Jack’s “FSM,” but missed what he meant later, when he used “FPM.”
    I saw Humble Talent’s “SHM,” but that one, I could not decode.
    All done now – back to being just a POHA (maybe that should be POCHA).

      • Thanks HT – sincerely. I decided to presume Jack’s FPM was a keystroke error. (even though “P” and “S” are far apart on most keyboards) Flying Pasta Monster is a most reasonable guess; I am more impressed with your reasonableness than you might think I am. That’s despite my default state of Plain Old Christian Heterosexual Asshole. [chuckling]

        • I’m always surprised when someone says something nice about me. I generally see myself as an asshole with a big mouth and a keyboard.

          If it makes you feel better, I’ve actually found Christians generally to be good people. It’s always the minorities that make life hard for everyone else.

          • “It’s always the minorities that make life hard for everyone else.”

            Yahtzee. (I play that more often than Bingo. I relish being the instigator of new, better trends.) And I even agree that we minorities are not deliberately trying to make life hard for everyone else, but…here we are.

            I just got through watching a recording of this week’s episode of “Modern Family.” They always have something in there to tickle me, without fail. Without spoilers, I’ll just say that the plot was rich with relevance to our discussion here – and hilarious, as usual.

  4. Maybe to put a finer point on it: Before we understood that the world was not a sphere in space, there was disagreement on what happened over the horizon. Some people thought the world had an edge, and you would fall off it. Other people thought the world never ended.

    If someone said: “I believe that the world has an edge”, and someone else said, “I don’t believe the world has an edge”. The second person’s position isn’t just a rejection of the first, it’s also the belief that the world does’t have an edge. And as it turns out, the second person was right, although perhaps not how he thought. Someone saying: “There is a God”, and someone else replying, “I do not believe there is a God” isn’t just a rejection of a belief, it is also the belief that something doesn’t exist.

      • But they are both beliefs and religions are just collections of beliefs. I think you’re getting hung up on faith. Religions don’t necessarily require faith, although all religions with Gods do, Buddhism is the world’s largest religion and it doesn’t have a god figure and is largely philosophical.

        It’s almost like you’ve recognized that religious beliefs are… lets say… have a tenuous relationship to reality, but you for some reason want to legitimize them more than evidence based beliefs. I don’t understand why you’re arguing this. I believe 1+1 is equal to two. If someone says they believe that 1+1 is equal to three, and they really believe it because some guy in the sky told them so, then we both hold a belief, although one of us is right, and someone’s understanding of math is stunted by their religion.

        • As I just wrote, calling Buddhism a religion is screwing you up. Buddhism is an anomaly, but they do pray to someone or something—I’ve spun the wheels myself. Just because one religion walks the line doesn’t mean you can broaden the concept beyond all reason. Is Sabermetrics a religion? Is Socialism a religion? Does the US government believe that capitalism is a religion? Is patriotism a religion? This issue begins with the First Amendment, and its pretty clear that the Constitution wasn’t talking about vegans and or the gold standard when it said that the Government should establish no religion.

          • I’m slowly coming around. I think my bias is a fighting resistance to the understanding that the government treats certain beliefs more legitimately so long as they’re accompanied by a belief in an imaginary friend, and how absolutely abysmally we’ve actually separated church and state.

        • Let’s not get too hung up on science, either, and the evidence that supports ours. As the tenure of my earthly existence increasingly evidences diminution of my personal sensual acuity, the tenuousness of relationships of more than just myself to reality becomes ever more plausible, if not perceptible. Faith about guys (or virgins) in the sky actually has become less important to me than the thought that what I think, know, and perceive is one eternally and incomprehensibly small fraction of all there is to think, know and perceive. Nothing humbles me more, nor evidences that truth for me more, than the latest advances in our science. We are dealing with what we can perceive; we dare not presume that we will ever attain the ability to perceive all, or even most, of what is there, let alone deal with it.

        • Singular beliefs do not a religion make. Collections of beliefs do not a religion make. Belief, which is the same thing as faith by the way, results from some experience of or embracing of the numinous. Catechesis — to atheists this would equal indoctrination — teaches tenets of a religion, enough to sustain the child or the neophyte until they find themselves in the midst of a religious experience. Experience leads to belief/faith which leads to belonging to a community of like minded/hearted people.

          The key is to ensure that religious experience does not lead to religious “beliefs” or tenets that are contrary to verifiable reality. Thus, the man who “believed” that he could be buried alive and would still be alive when he was dug up — contrary to verifiable reality. We knew that he would be dead because a human body can’t live through that experience. Many “beliefs” though can’t be proved nor disproved. Is there an afterlife? We don’t know, nor can we prove either way. This is how science and religion are NOT incompatible. They CAN be incompatible if left in incompetent or stupid hands, but they don’t have to be. They are different systems of thought. Thus I studied theology AND philosophy AND science while in college. And I continue to be a student of all three.

          • “Belief, which is the same thing as faith by the way, results from some experience of or embracing of the numinous.”

            All faith is belief, but not all belief is faith. They aren’t the same thing.

            “Catechesis — to atheists this would equal indoctrination”

            It does hit me as fundamentally similar. Have you ever considered that you might be wrong, and if you are wrong, the amount of harm your doing to those kids? Even just in the sense of isolating them?

            “The key is to ensure that religious experience does not lead to religious “beliefs” or tenets that are contrary to verifiable reality.”

            This is only true because verifiable reality has spent the last 500 years beating itself into religion. There was a time when it was church doctrine that the sun revolved around the Earth, now that we know it isn’t, they’ve dropped it, but only because it’s been proven wrong, and not before thy flogged the intellectuals that posited it. At every point that science has found a way to disprove dogma, religion has basically said: “OK, ok, you got us… That’s obviously not true, but the rest of it still is.” WHY?! Why should anyone believe ANYTHING you have to say?

            • And as a fun little thinking exercise: If you hadn’t attended the catechisms as a child, what do you think the likelihood of a midlife conversion? Why does this only work when you get them young?

              • And as a slightly lighthearted fact: I may have been removed from Catechism for replying to the question “Who was Jeremiah” by breaking out into “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”

            • “Verifiable reality has spent the last 500 years beating itself into religion. There was a time when it was church doctrine that the sun revolved around the Earth, now that we know it isn’t, they’ve dropped it, but only because it’s been proven wrong.”

              Oh, the things we assume aren’t stupid because we’ve heard other people say them a bunch of times.

              It was the “doctrine” of the ancient Greeks- and the best science of the time- that the sun revolved around the Earth. And it only became the doctrine of the Church because most astronomers had attested to it for centuries. It was Copernicus, Galileo, and a great many other Christians who finally convinced the world that that the Earth revolved around the sun, and the greatest barrier to that knowledge was the accepted authority and supremacy of the models of Ptolemy and Aristotle, which the Catholic Church at the time accepted for the same reasons everyone else did; they were the established scientific consensus.

              You’ve taken a real-life example of Protestant-era Christian scientists debating with other Christian scientists whose science ideas were best, and somehow spun it into “reality beat itself into the Church.” I have no issue with anyone’s feelings about religion, but let’s not make everyone dumber about world history in the service of those feelings.

  5. I can’t believe this post and the succinct, reasonable, adult, judicial opinion it reported and praised spawned this much contentious commentary. Amazing.

  6. And the people bowed and prayed to the noodle god they made. And the pasta shaped out warning in the words that is was forming. The noodle said the words of the pirates are written on the prison walls, and ocean squalls. And blessed us with the touch of ramen.

      • I was half-awake and dashed it off last night. If others have done similar, I’m as-yet unaware so it is as original as any filk of a famous song using a culturally reliant subject can be. I take all the blame for the impulse.

        Just be happy that I was sleepy since I had it in mind to treat* you to a few verses of Pastalujah.

        Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
        They saw your strainer as a spoof
        The lawyers and the judge he overruled ya
        He sat upon his leather chair
        He broke rigatone’ and that angelhair
        And from your lips you cried out Pastalujah

        Pastalujah, Pastalujah.
        Pastalujah, Pastaluuuu-uuuuu-jah

        *Not actually a treat

  7. In other news, I saw in Friday’s Houston Chronicle that some attorney has tried to make a mockery of last year’s marriage ruling (Obergefell). He is suing for the right to marry his laptop computer. Says he’s Christian.

    Evidently, he does not feel equally protected, without that right he is claiming. He seems to have his hard drive and his software all bugged-up (but that’s just me, speculating). He obviously is in denial about the one-way trap door feature of Ameri-la-la-la-la-la-rican la-la-la-la-la-law.

  8. Perhaps this is picking nits. With reference to Humble Talent’s April 15, 2016 at 4:06 pm comment (and for lack of a “Reply” option after that comment), the God of the Jews/Christians and the Allah of Muslims is ostensibly the same person (the God of Abraham). While there are certainly contradictions among the religions, I don’t think we can say God is mutually exclusive of himself.

    To valkygrrl, thank you. Now I know what songs I’ll be humming as I fall to sleep tonight. Well done.

  9. There is no sustainable way for mutually exclusive beliefs about not only right and wrong, but the way we discover what right and wrong are, to coexist in the same society. Most people saying they can coexist are in denial, because they don’t think there’s a way for people to get on the same page through philosophical thought discussion, and they’re terrified of people deciding to simply get rid of other opinions through violence. That, or they misunderstand the nature of the disagreement. Asking people to mind their own business about right and wrong is Bizarro ethics.

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a very important litmus test of the consistency of the government’s agnosticism: If the government seeks to protect ways of life through law rather than through blatant favoritism and grandfather-clauses, it will be impossible to discriminate between “religions” based on age or number of followers. If the government wants to recuse itself from deciding what is right and what is wrong (inconsistently; last I checked there was no religious exemption for seat-belts, but that may be because no one asked for one), it cannot use double-standards. If the government will let some people break rules because they believe a transcendent force bids them, that opens up a can of worms.

    Pastafarians force society’s hand: If we want to allow religions to do their thing, we give the same permission to everyone who claims to be a religion, because there is no way to determine, legally, what is a religion and what is not. Most legislators don’t even have a good grasp of law, let alone philosophy. Unless a religion has an official bureaucracy, we can’t even legally discern if a person belongs to that specific religion or not; we have to take their word for it.

    If we want to stop people from walking all over the law on the pretext of religion, we need to get everyone on the same page as to how to make sense of things. Not to do so is to give license to nonsense. The reason we don’t is that people are afraid of what they might find, or whether they can find anything, if someone says, “Okay, it’s obvious you can’t all be right. You directly contradict each other. We’re getting to the bottom of this right now.” That’s why they keep ignoring those people. It won’t work forever, though, because other religions won’t be ignored, and eventually people will rather sacrifice their beliefs in discussion with me than wage an eternal cold war against people who are equally wrong.

    P. S. Darn it, Chrome, “recuse” is a very common word. Google it. Or should I blame WordPress for the red squiggly line? Probably not, since “WordPress” gets the squiggly line and “Google” doesn’t.

    • I think I detect a tentacle-based bias here. Come on, Squid: I know you are smarter than this comment would suggest.

      “Pastafarians force society’s hand: If we want to allow religions to do their thing, we give the same permission to everyone who claims to be a religion, because there is no way to determine, legally, what is a religion and what is not.”

      Baloney. Utter baloney. Grade XXX baloney. Here’s a way to determine, legally, what is a religion and what is not in the case of the Church of the FSM: not a single adherent can state, under oath, that he or she honestly believes the Church’s deity exists, and the Church itself defines itself a satirical religion, and its “holy documents” specifically define it as such.

      Bingo. Over the line, the exception that defines the rule. Not a religion. Those hostile to religion are often so hostile that the obvious eludes them.

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a very important litmus test for anti-religious zealots who can’t see the obvious difference between a fake religion and a real one, because they think both are equally ridiculous. Both may be, but that doesn’t mean the distinction isn’t clear to anyone honest enough to see it.

      • I think my point wasn’t quite clear. It’s not just a flaw in the system that people can get special exemptions if they lie about their beliefs. It’s a flaw in the system that people can get special exemptions because of their sincere beliefs in the first place. The government makes many pronouncements on right and wrong, but people shy away from taking on big philosophical and ethical questions, and so they don’t want the government getting in on the action either. So we declare an ethical No Man’s Land between different belief systems.

        Ideally, the Flying Spaghetti Monster would prompt some people (well, the people who don’t have a pro-religion bias) to ask themselves, “If I was raised to believe something like that, would I be able to discover that it was false? How do I know that didn’t happen with my actual religion? If someone sincerely believed that junk, are we bound to respect that?” Admittedly, Pastafarianism is not all that useful for actual conversation. I don’t think it’s unethical, though. People should be made uncomfortable about their dogma, and laws requiring respect for mystical beliefs should be shown to be absurd.

        • Extradimensional Cephalopod, though I don’t agree with you (or Humble Talent) about the worthlessness, absurdity, and evil of religion, I agree with what I think you’re saying here. It is “a flaw in the system that people can get special exemptions because of their sincere [or any] beliefs in the first place.” Our government has made laws with respect to the establishment of religion by treating religions and their adherents differently than other organizations or members of those organizations. As a result, the government is forced to pick and choose which organizations are legitimate religions, and which are not (thus this post). The government is also forced to pick and choose which persons are legitimate members or those organizations, and thus eligible for special exemptions.

          A simple solution is to treat all organizations equally. And, by all, I mean all. This includes churches, non-profit organizations, multi-national corporations, educational institutions, mom and pop shops, fraternal organizations, political parties, and high school chess clubs. There would be no special dispensation for one organization or another, or members of the various organizations. We could cut out a huge chunk of the tax code, and avoid the IRS partisanship that spawned the scandal involving conservative political groups. My preference is a flat tax that only affects (all) income (and wealth increase) of individuals, and does not tax organizations. I am not sure how a flat tax on corporations and other organizations would work. In other words, I am not sure of the basis on which it could be equitably implemented. Whatever that basis is, it would have to leave truly non-profit, public-benefit organizations unscathed (with the exception of losing those insincere donations that were given solely for a tax benefit.)

        • “It’s a flaw in the system that people can get special exemptions because of their sincere beliefs in the first place.”

          That may be, but it doesn’t follow that if that is the system, and it is, that someone with fake beliefs qualifies for those exemptions.

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