By GARY LADERMAN-Let’s just face the facts and not kid ourselves anymore. Yes, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee… er, tea: The Republican Party is no longer a political party—it’s a full-fledged religious movement. The political ideology fueling this movement is religious to the core; and while it might be easiest to label the religious element “Christian,” that designation is too broad and generous for the true complexities at work here.
Still, if I were a communications consultant hired for lots of money to create a new brand for the Republicans, I’d replace the elephant with a cross, perhaps appropriating that popular bumper sticker of a child kneeling in the shadow of a cross. This makes sense not so much because of any real Christian message it contains but rather because it offers an unequivocal command: followers are children who must be obedient in the face of authority.
But what does it really mean to argue that the Republican Party, a movement with a distinctive religious culture, is a new kind of religion we might as well call “Republicanity”? Let me count the ways. (And please, don’t try this at home—I’m a professional religion-ist, it’s what I do for a living. Really.)
By JOSEPH LAYCOCK
After three years of waiting, Nico Alm of Austria has won the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his driver’s license photo. Alm is an atheist but he’s also a “Pastafarian,” a member of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. After providing a doctor’s note ensuring that he was mentally fit to drive, his request was granted, but Austrian authorities were careful to point out that he was not granted a religious exception: The pasta strainer did not cover his face, thus making the photo acceptable. Alm’s next step will be to petition the Austrian government to recognize Pastafarianism as a valid religion.
The mythology of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or FSM) was created as a satire, though it has provided religion scholars with an interesting case study. As the ranks of the Pastafarians continue to swell on both sides of the Atlantic, scholars and legal experts are challenged to reassess their definition of religion.
FSM is a reflection of America’s longstanding tensions over both the establishment and the free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. It arose in response to the debate over teaching evolution in schools, a problem that has persisted since the 1925 Scopes Trial. In 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education voted to allow Intelligent Design to be taught in science classes as an alternative theory to evolution.