Off Their Noodles: The Tedium of Pastafarianism
by Graham Veale
At High School I memorised a few poems hoping that I could somehow bluff my literature teachers into thinking I was well-read. The opportunity to use one of my favourite poems never arose – and perhaps it is as well, for the original version W.H. Auden’s Song of the Devil is somewhat coarser than the rather tame adaptation I stumbled across.
In the poem, Satan mourns the rise of contemporary secularism. Because scientism has replaced theology the challenge has gone out of his work. When anyone facing temptation is apt to surrender, the demons merely whisper “you’re sick”. Moral qualms disappear with objective morality; what are “shouldn’ts or shoulds” if humans are merely matter in motion?
If you pass up a dame, you’ve yourself to blame/ For shame is neurotic, so snatch!/ All rules are too formal, in fact they’re abnormal/ For any desire is natch.”
Lucifer has a point. Jerry Coyne recently informed Saints and Sceptics that no-one has free-will and that no-one suffers from moral responsibility. Auden’s devil would approve:
Free-Will is a mystical myth as statistical /Methods have objectively shown/ A fad of the Churches: since the latest researches / Into Motivation it’s known/That Honour is hypocrisy, Honesty a joke./ You live in a democracy/ Lie like other folk!”
The devil, however, does not experience fulfilment. He can no longer bear working with empty-headed, soulless, selfish atheists. So one wonders how he would cope with the tedium of New Atheist movements. Take “Pasta-gate ”. It’s a riveting drama: members of a secular society at London South
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Bank Student’s Union Spaghetti Monster displayed a poster of a Flying Spaghetti Monster(or “FSM”). A student union staff member believed that the poster was offensive and took it down. Atheists complained. The student’s union investigated and discovered that the staff member had misunderstood student union policies. In a triumph for free-speech and open-minded debate everywhere, the posters were allowed to go back up again.
You can follow the twists and turns of student politics, and the subtle nuances of the debate, on numerous twitter feeds, blog posts – and the British quality newspaper, The Independent. “You’re unlikely to change your mind if your beliefs are not challenged” opined one sage on Twitter. That is true, I suppose. I quite like having my beliefs challenged. It tends to lead to a deepening of my faith and a deeper understanding of my God. But on what possible world does the Flying Spaghetti Monster challenge anyone’s beliefs?
The short attention span of the average undergraduate has turned the Flying Spaghetti Monster into a successful meme; but the implied critique of theism is hopeless. There are several problems. First, Pastafarians argue that “faith” is essentially blind: therefore, you might as well have faith in an invisible, intangible being made of pasta as have faith in God. The problem is that Christianity does not depend on blind faith. The Apostle Paul presented rational critiques of paganism in Lystra, Athens, and in his letter to the Romans. Philosophers from Anselm and Aquinas to Plantinga and Swinburne have presented robust arguments for the Christian faith. Evangelical preachers, like Edwards, Wesley and Chalmers, wrote detailed defenses of their beliefs. Christians have always sought to give a reasoned answer for the hope that is within them. The New Atheist is welcome to disagree with centuries of Christian scholarship; but only a blind, prejudiced dogmatism could pretend that it does not exist…