A woman in Chicago has caught some trouble for wearing a pasta strainer on her head in her driver’s license photo. The woman, Rachel Hoover, is an active practitioner of Pastafarianism, the belief and ideology of members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. When she first requested to take her photo with the strainer on her head, she was rejected; later, however, she was able to persuade the employees to let her take the picture, which led to ridicule by the staff. Her desire to wear the strainer in the first place was to express her religious beliefs, just as Muslim women are allowed to wear a hijab for their photos as long as their faces are visible. Similar incidents have happened in the past and in some states, such as Massachusetts, the strainer has been allowed in photos.
Pastafarianism is often viewed as a mockery of religion, and many do not consider it to be a legitimate religion. In class, we have learned how religion is a part of the social process to create and maintain human community and identity. We’ve also seen how it helps us to think about how humans throughout history perceive difference. Pastafarianism, despite its criticism, is still a means of creating that human community and identity that religion epitomizes. This goes hand-in-hand with what the late Emile Durkheim believed, which was that religion and community were linked together; that the religion should fit with the scope of the community. Pastafarianism was created as a light-hearted view of contemporary religion; as such, the community that it belongs to shares that same sort of view. Despite the parody of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it still has a following, it still has an appropriate community, and it is a way that people identify themselves, just like Rachel Hoover. Based on the above idea of religion, it would be sensible for Pastafarianism to be recognized as such, and to be extended the same ability to wear religious clothing/accessories in official photos – even if it’s a pasta strainer.