A few days ago this article appeared in the local press, of someone being photographed in their “Pastafarian” garb of wearing a colander on their head for use on their drivers licence.

http://m.theage.com.au/…/pastafarian-gets-victorian-drivers…

Now I appreciate, and actually find both amusing and poignant, the Flying Spaghetti Monster concept and the arguments it makes against religious beliefs, but have concerns about the stretching of integrity that this involves. A comment on a Facebook post I made invited me to think more about this – maybe even turn it into a sermon, and address the questions: “How can you tell whether someones faith is genuine? How much faith do you need for salvation? and “Is your faith good enough?”

So – here goes… an attempt at “How can you tell whether someone’s faith is genuine?” in relation to “Pastafarians” (which I admit makes me smile as a great pun on multiple levels).

Simple answer, I can’t.

But they can… and I can observe and suggest some ways to sift and sort between what I would regard as a genuine – no matter how ‘wrong’ – faith held by someone, and a disingenuous faith others may profess.

In a single word it comes down to intent.

In a single word it comes down to intent.

If I make a list of things that a ‘faith’ need to be genuine, then I end up with a list that you can (and that Pastafarians do) apply to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). For example a set of ‘beliefs’, certain ‘rituals’, etc.

I could adopt something like the list the Ontario Human Rights Commission came up with of Longevity, Legitimacy, Universality, and Solemnising of Marriages – but that becomes circular because who legitimises and if you need to be recognised to solemnise marriages, the ability to solemnise marriages used as a test of being recognised isn’t at all helpful! But this begs the question again of who ought and can determine the legitimacy of a religion, the point the FSM wishes to make.

So what do I suggest?

I find the following analogous situation helpful.

Pornography: I am sure you are aware of the famous saying of US judge Potter Stewart:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…

A list can be made of the elements of pornography. However that list may apply in part or even in full to images in biology texts, general works of art, clothing catalogues etc. The answer to the question of what is pornographic is neither to declare that there is no such thing as pornography, but neither is it to describe all naked or erotic imagery as porn.

For me, a key in identifying something as pornographic and something as not, is the intent. What is the intent of the image? What does/did the person that created the image intend as its purpose, what was the aim and end?

That takes judgement.

Which brings me to something else that informs my opinion on ‘Pastafarianism”.

I strongly object to notions of Mandatory Detention/Mandatory Sentencing etc. It reduces the role of the Judiciary to that of accountants (sorry to any accountants who read this). A Judge exercises Judgement. Mandatory Sentencing is merely the result of a sum or equation. If x then y. I am not exercising judgement when I state that 2 + 2 = 4. It removes the role (responsibility even?) of the Judge in assessing intent and circumstances in making a determination.

So, with that pre-amble, I believe it is appropriate to assess whether a religion is genuine or not by asking questions of intent. And then by using my faculty of judgement regarding the answers those questions receive. Answers given by the person professing the religious faith, and answers gleaned by observing other aspects and facts discernible in the situation.

So:

– a faith where it seemed to me the intent was (primarily) to accumulate wealth and avoid tax, would not be a genuine faith.

– a faith where it seemed to me the intent was (primarily) to avoid immunisation and avoid social responsibilities would not be a genuine faith.

– a faith where it seemed to me the intent was to expose (however rightly) the foolishness and inconsistencies of other faiths or of Government regulations, would not be a genuine faith.

– a faith where it seemed to me the intent was to feed some narcissistic personality traits of its leaders would not be a genuine faith.

By way of some summary, any faith that was a means to another end, rather than being itself the ‘end’, is suspect in my opinion.

By way of some summary, any faith that was a means to another end, rather than being itself the ‘end’, is suspect in my opinion.

This could be applied to the religion as a whole, and also to individuals within what otherwise I might regard as genuine faiths. I am quite convinced that some profess Christianity because it has been an avenue to accumulate wealth, to avoid social responsibilities and to control others.

I may end up mistaken in my judgement of others intent. And my starting place is to ask them and to give the benefit of the doubt and assume good intent. However in the face of evidence to the contrary to not express a judgement that the intent is other than stated is quite appropriate.

Hence, my opinion, that it is disingenuous of “Pastafarians” to insist on wearing their religious garb, and worse to claim it to have been a “traumatic experience” is based on my judgement that his intent is not to hold and express a personal faith and to follow and have that inform his life choices. His actual intent is one I think is quite valid, to protest what he sees as absurd and to lobby for change. But to urge, as the website of the FSM in Australia has (http://apl.org.au/media/media-releases/) people “to sign and send in statutory declarations stating that their belief in a giant floating pasta-based lifeform is 100% genuine” makes a mockery of the idea of a Statutory Declaration being something that is attested as true by the signatory, and suggests to me an intent to manipulate by whatever means things external to their faith, and the the faith is a means to another end, rather than an end in itself.

I also wonder what if one of the Pastafarians* in the following week was required to complete a Statutory Declaration regarding a workplace safety incident? Or the previous month had given testimony in a criminal trial attesting to its veracity?

I would also comment that the way to address an abuse, is not with another abuse or mis-use, nor with dis-use, but with correct use.

(*an aside – my laptop obviously isn’t convinced that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is legitimate as I had to correct every instance of Pastafarian by re-typing the initial letter from “R” to “P”)

____

Having said all that, very briefly on the other two questions:

How much faith do you need for salvation?

It’s not up to our faith, it is Grace, given.
Grace saves, faith responds – shown in faithfulness.

Is your faith good enough?

Again I move from the noun ‘faith’ to the verb ‘ faithful’. But even then it is God’s faithfulness that delivers salvation, not ours, and so whatever failings (or deficiencies of faith) I have I can still have assurance of ‘salvation’, It is not my faith that is Good, but God that is good, and my faith in God’s goodness that matters.

My response to this faithful and gracious God is that I endeavour to live faithfully, and so I would encourage each of you!