Freemasonry prides itself on being non-denominational. Following a pretty funny online conversation about Pastafarianism, the intent of this post is as a prod to see just how far that might go. This also gives us a way to explore what we really require, and mean, by our Masonic membership requirements.
Put another way: What would cause you to black ball a candidate?
Ready to go down the rabbit hole? Here we go.
What is Pastafarianism?
Pastafarianism, also called the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” is a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools. According to adherents, Pastafarianism is a “real, legitimate religion, as much as any other”, but is not really recognized as such.
Bluntly, it’s a practical joke, originated by a man named Bobby Henderson. In 2005, the Kansas City School Board published a decision allowing intelligent design to be taught in science classes as an alternative to evolution. Henderson wrote an open letter to the school board, effectively mocking them by thanking them for opening the field up to alternate theories that were not scientific, in science class.
In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.The Open Letter
So let us be clear: in the beginning, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism was all made up.
Jokes and Mixed Bags
This has however morphed from its original beginnings as a practical joke, into a bit of a movement. This movement in turn attracted lots of different people:
- Issue People: Those who strongly oppose teaching religious theories in science class, and affiliate with Pastafarianism as a way to take that position
- Jesters: Those who wish to mock organized religion, schools, the state, or all of them.
- Agnostics: who hold no belief in Deity
- Atheists: who hold a strong belief that Deity does not exist.
This makes for quite a mixed bag of different interests since there are many people who oppose the issue of teaching creationism in science class, and plenty of jesters as well — who are in the end religious people or believers themselves.
Mirth is King
There are many things about Pastafarianism that are pretty amusing, from their religious inspired art, to the movement of people abusing DMV exemptions for religious headwear in driver’s license photos to make a point.
When you’ve gotten to the point in your life where you’re wearing a pasta colander on your head for a government photo, it communicates a certain … lack of seriousness about the issues at hand, wouldn’t you say?
So can they become Freemasons?
Well, to tell, we’re going to have to go back to the books, what does Freemasonry require? This is not a full list of requirements, but the three that bear the most on Pastafarians would be these:
- Believe in a Supreme Being
- Be a man of good repute
- Come recommended by at least two existing Freemasons
For Pastafarians, the biggest question will be “Belief in a Supreme Being” but the other two apply as well, which we’ll see.
In my jurisdiction, the question about a supreme being is put directly to all candidates — but details are not explored. The nature and name of your Supreme Being is not on trial, just that you have such a belief. We can safely assume that few or zero Pastafarians actually have an honest belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster. That leaves the first two categories of Pastafarians (“Issue People” and “Jesters”) who could become Freemasons, as they could honestly & sincerely profess such a belief. Agnostics and Atheists – nope.
It is reasonable of a lodge to require that a man’s belief be sincere. That is to say, if members think that the candidate is actually an atheist and is simply professing a belief in order to pass, that’s plenty disqualifying. Not just because the belief isn’t real, but also because lying itself is disqualifying and beyond the pale. So it’d be difficult to take any candidate seriously who even attempted to profess a belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster.
It’s Always Jurisdictional
I think a lot of people don’t like to admit it, but what counts as sincere belief is jurisdictional, and there are elements of Freemasonry which have very loose rules on what counts as belief in deity, which is what makes this meme funny, and maybe also a bit sad. Even with a more strict interpretation, the range of what counts as a Supreme Being is very wide. I can’t imagine a definition that any group of brothers would agree on.
But let’s assume that the Pastafarian candidate in question is probably a real jester, and has a sincere belief in some non-spaghetti oriented Supreme Being. All the other elements are good; they’re of good moral character, they can support themselves, and so on. They qualify, right?
Not so Fast
Pastafarians still have to meet members of the lodge and get voted in – unanimously. Mirth is important, and all fine and well. But bitter mocking mirth at the expense of other organized religions — ones which are almost certainly represented in the lodge that a man would want to join — well you wouldn’t expect that to win you any friends now would you?
I’m game for a good joke, but the elements of Pastafarianism that more aggressively make light of other people’s spiritual beliefs you could expect to be a big problem for a potential candidate. This would not be how a brother would expect to be treated by a brother.
Don’t be an asshole, because nobody wants to spend time with assholes.The secret, additional, unspoken requirement of all Masonic candidates
Can a Pastafarian become a Freemason? Maybe. His involvement with Pastafarianism in the end isn’t really important: what matters is if he meets the internal qualifications to become a Freemason. But considering the question for yourself might provide some interesting insight into what you want to see out of candidates, and where your line is.
For me personally – making fun of school policy, wearing a pasta strainer on your head, or making goofy artwork about a mystical ball of spaghetti is not a disqualifier and I hope people can have a sense of humor about these things. But I think we need to take the responsibility to guard the west gate seriously, and neither am I willing to overlook mocking inappropriate behavior or lack of belief. And so ultimately it is less about this or that movement, and always about the individual man.