June 22, 2006

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The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, by Bobby Henderson (Villard, 2006, 192 pages)

In the beginning, Christian fundamentalists started a campaign to get school districts to teach Intelligent Design ó the idea that a higher power created all that is ó alongside evolution in science classes. In response, a sometime Web designer named Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to school boards considering such a move and urged them to include his intelligent design theory, that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world with his ďnoodly appendages.Ē It was a farce, of course, poking fun at anyone who wanted to add a faith-based element to public school science classes, but it caught on. Henderson set up a Web site ó venganza.org ó and started reporting on responses to his letters.

Nowadays, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism, is a full-fledged movement, complete with converts, doctrine and little metal symbols to put on your car. It also has a book, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

As a farce, Hendersonís book works well, showing by metaphor the illogic of basing anything in the public sphere on one groupís mythology. Evidence of Christís divinity is as sketchy as Hendersonís theory that the decline in pirates over the years has led to global warming. Sure, thereís a correlation, but should we be making public policy based on it? Nah.

The Gospel is funny, but clunky. A lot of it reads like it was pulled directly off Hendersonís Web site and then pasted into the pages. Even a token effort at editing would have made it a better read.

But good writing is not the point of this book. Itís meant to amuse, be passed around to friends, and then stuck on the bottom bookshelf to gather dust. Fundamentalists will find it offensive and wonít get the jokeómostly because itís on them. The rest of us, even devout Pastafarians, will read it once, chuckle knowingly and then pass it on or put it away. B-

ó Robert Greene


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