Written by: Matt Patti | July 6th, 2020
I, Pastafari: A Flying Spaghetti Monster Story (Michael Arthur, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has millions of members worldwide and is the world’s fastest growing religion. Its members call themselves Pastafarians, seemingly a spin on the Rastafarians of Jamaica who follow the completely unconnected Rastafari religion. Pastafarians believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a jumbled ball of spaghetti with two meatballs in the chest region and two eyes sticking up vertically, as their deity. Pastafarianism was first formed in 2005, after Bobby Henderson, a public-school student in Kansas, wrote a letter protesting the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to permit teaching of intelligent design in schools. In the letter, Henderson argued that the idea of Pastafarianism and the Flying Spaghetti Monster should also be taught in schools and given similarly equal treatment. Long seen by many as a satirical take on religion and by others as a complete joke, Pastafarianism finally receives an honest and accepting look and is taken seriously in the documentary I, Pastafari: A Flying Spaghetti Monster Story.
I, Pastafari takes a deep dive into the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and many of its members. The film chronicles the religion’s bizarre history and captures its members tendencies and traditions in a way that never seems like the filmmakers are making fun of them or playing them for a joke, the inclusion of some overbearing and strange opera music notwithstanding. The main focus of this documentary is not to just explore the religion itself, however; the main focus is showing the Pastafarians’ struggle for religious freedom and equal stature with other religions, which is difficult given how most do not take the religion seriously. The documentary also explores similarities and differences between Pastafarianism and other notable world religions.
It is quite interesting to see the many similarities that Pastafarians share with members of other religions. Much of their scripture is similar to Christianity, with the Flying Spaghetti Monster taking the place of God. They also have many similar religious practices to other religions, such as prayer and wearing religious head coverings. However, they end their prayers by saying “R’amen” instead of “Amen” and some wear colanders on their heads, rather than, say, a hijab or yarmulke. The documentary keys in on these little differences to show that, in practice, they seem like any other religion, but it is some of the smaller things that make them stand out. These large differences are not what one may think. The Pastafarians are a peaceful people, unlike many members of other religions in the world. In their scriptures, it is even stated that the Flying Spaghetti Monster would rather that members do not try to force the religion onto others, and simply let them be. If people don’t want to worship, the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not care. Contrast this with most religions that are all about spreading the message and getting as many people to convert as possible, often with violence as a means of persuasion.
There are different types of Pastafarians all over the world, the aforementioned Austrians who wear colanders on their head, New Zealanders who wear pirate outfits, and others. Many people in the world do not take Pastafarianism seriously and therefore do not give them rights equal to that of other religions, and that is an issue that all Pastafarians face. For example, those who wear colanders on their head fight to be given the same right as Muslims enjoy to wear a hijab, but the Austrian government refuses to officially recognize the Pastafari religion.
The film starts to lose focus a bit when it shifts away from Pastafarianism towards the end and focuses on the flaws of other religions. It’s interesting to see the comparison between peaceful Pastafarians and some of the more violent members of some other religions, but the film changes course to talk about religions being taught in schools, separation of church and state, evolution, and a whole lot of other religious topics. These take away from the more interesting topic of Pastafarianism and its members’ struggles.
Overall, I, Pastafari is an intriguing, very serious look at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its members, the Pastafarians. It is quite interesting to see how different subcultures of Pastafarians interpret the religion, listen to the many pasta and food references in their scriptures, and to see how outsiders react to the unique religion. The main focus of the film is just as strong, however, as the filmmakers show why Pastafarianism should be treated the same as other religions and how they are inherently more peaceful than members of other churches yet do not enjoy equal rights. In the end, I, Pastafari shows that no matter how strange or obscure, all religions should be able to practice equally and freely.