Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When is a pasta strainer not a pasta strainer?

An Austrian man, Niko Alm, was acknowledged the right of wearing a pasta strainer on his head for his driver's license photo:

Pasta strainers are now considered suitable religious headgear in Austria ... at least as far as the transport authorities are concerned. 
Three years after applying for a new driver's licence, an Austrian man has finally received the laminated card. And the picture shows him sporting an upturned pasta strainer on his head.
Nothing to worry about: the authorities ruled the kitchen utensil was a suitable religious accessory for a Pastafarian. 
Niko Alm, an entrepreneur, told the Austria Press Agency he had the idea when he read that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for "confessional" reasons. 
The atheist says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted "faith" whose members call themselves Pastafarians and whose "only dogma ... is the rejection of dogma," according to its website. 
Accordingly, Alm sent his application for a new driver's license in 2008 along with a picture of himself with a colander on his head. 
The stunt got him an invitation to the doctor's to check he was mentally fit to drive, but after three years, Alm's efforts have paid off. 
He now wants to apply for Pastafarianism to become an officially recognised faith in Austria.
As you may recall, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster began in the first place in relation to the controversy about teaching evolution in Kansas public schools. The idea was that if the schools are going to teach a particular religion's origin story, they should have to teach everyone's. The degree to which the story is ridiculous doesn't matter, because in the eyes of the law religion is religion.

Since that time Pastafarianism has taken off as a pseudo-religion, to the point that there was actually a panel at the American Academy of Religion conference dedicated to it in 2007. They discussed it as a "new religious movement," with little to no discussion about evolution or the law from what I recall, and very little about whether its adherents were/are actually serious.

I don't know what Niko Alm thinks or knows about that, but since the article says that he's an atheist I assume he intends to make another point about how religions are viewed by the state. Presumably in Austria religious headgear is the only kind of headgear you are allowed to wear in photos on official identifying documents. So the particular item's form is not what matters-- what matters is whether it is associated with a belief system revolving around supernatural entities, regardless of whether the person in the photo actually holds that belief system or not. Religion is an object of special treatment in the eyes of the law.

This, I assume, is why Alm is continuing in a crusade to have Pastafarianism to become an officially recognized faith in Austria-- to make it explicit that literally anything could qualify for special treatment. And when anything qualifies, what does "special" mean anymore? 


  1. Personally I think the guy "lost his noodle" somewhere along the line.

  2. Robert,

    No more so than anyone religious has.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.