Niko Alm is Austrian and recently got his driver’s license photo taken wearing a pasta strainer on his head. After jumping through some hoops, he successfully showed the authorities that he should be allowed to wear a pasta strainer because it was “religious headgear.”
His religion? Pastafarian.
Mr. Alm is an Atheist and says he is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (a U.S. based sect) whose only dogma is “the rejection of dogma.”
Back in April, we wrote about the Flying Spaghetti Monster in an article titled To Be an Unbeliever? and how Theists often take a dim view of Atheists.
Previously, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster had petitioned for Pastafarianism to be taught in Kansas schools alongside Evolution and Intelligent Design (aka Creationalism).
Mr. Alm is now trying to get Austrian authorities to recognize Pastafarianism as an official faith.
We wish him good luck with that.
Many religious will take offense at Mr. Alm’s endeavours while many non-believers will chuckle.
For those who do believe in God, they should thank Mr. Alm for, in effect, he is making it easier for the religious to celebrate their faith, whatever it is.
How much satire or comedy have places like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or North Korea produced? Sure, the Soviet Union produced Yakov Smirnoff but he emigrated to the United States in 1977 where he became a famous comedian with immortal jokes like:
In America, you watch television.
In Soviet Russia, television watch you!
In places with no religious freedom were you to try and claim your religion as Pastafarianism you’d have your head cut off. Thus, where satire is common, so, usually, is freedom. And the more satire you find in a country, the more freedom you find and the more it will grow in future generations.
Satire tells people not to take themselves too seriously and the highly religious (the Taliban, hardcore Christians, etc…) tend to take themselves very seriously and when that happens you can usually expect things like books being banned (Nazi Germany), people being beaten up or murdered for their beliefs (Egypt), and the general sense of fun being greatly reduced in society.
Of course, there are some Atheists out there who are so extreme that they may be trying to take away peoples’ right to religious (or not) expression such as the lawsuit filed to prevent Texas Governor Rick Perry from holding his prayer and fasting rally that we wrote about in April but, overall, there seems to be an uneasy equilibrium in places where satire thrives.
Such is the price we pay for being freer than most.