Blog Against Theocracy: Pastafarian Suspended From School

Pastafarian, Bryan Killian, was suspended from school because of his religious attire in North Buncombe, North Carolina. Apparently the school warned him repeatedly to not wear the clothing to school, yet Killian persisted, remaining true to his faith. Read more below the fold.

Okay, for those that don’t know (can there be anyone that doesn’t?), Pastafarianism is the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Its adherents believe that the world was created by a touch from his Noodly Appendage and that it is the worldwide decline in the pirate population which has directly contributed to global warming.

Pastafarianism and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are a farce. No doubt about it. But I find the introduction of it to be hilariously problematic for the fundamentalist nutbars that demand pseudoscientific claims and religion be taught in science classes and that the fact of evolution be denigrated to something less than a hypothesis despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that supports it. If you are a fundamentalist, how can you truly deny the FSM? How can you criticize it without criticizing your own beliefs? Indeed, that is probably the very point that Bobby Henderson was making when he wrote to the Kansas School Board during their ‘intelligent’ design hearings. Henderson’s open letter demanded that the FSM version of creation via Noodly Appendage be taught alongside ID and evolution or be sued.

The obvious criticism by the religious is that the FSM is concocted and not meant to be serious, but there’s absolutely no more way to demonstrate this than there is the same criticism of Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, Elohim, Jesus, etc. In fact, I’ll quote such a criticism that I recently encountered:

If a fool can concoct something and get attract a following in the name of religion it indicates that the understanding of religion has left the public sphere – just like if I could sell gold spray painted granite on the gold market it would indicate that the knowledge of what gold is has left the public sphere (even though people might say the word “gold” quite profusely)

My response was this: each of the religions of humanity may very well be nothing more than “golden spray.” And their followers are only willing to scrape away the sprays of cults other than their own, whilst believing that their own cult is gold all the way through. To the believer, there is no reason to scrap at the surface to see if its just spray, since their doctrine tells them it isn’t.

This is the beauty of the Pastafarian movement and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It exposes the religious for what they are as they go on about how its an “invented” religion and “obviously” not real.

The North Buncombe school that suspended Killian maintains that it was his pirate outfit which was the reason for the suspension, since it was disruptive. The very outfit that Killian stated was important for his religion and in appropriately representing his religion. I wonder if the school would be willing to extend its disruption policy to yarmulkes and kippas? Probably not. But what about a dishdasha or a hijab or even a burqa? What if a student wore a t-shirt with a graphic scene from the Passion of the Christ plastered on the front? Would school officials have the courage to be seen as insensitive to other cultures? Its easy enough to argue that there are public schools where Muslim girls wear abayas and hijabs every day without disruption. But, I assure you, there are public schools in Texas where such garb would be very disruptive if for the only reason that the students there have never seen the outfits before.

I don’t think schools should be in the practice of banning religious garb they feel is disruptive. I do, however, think that there should be some limitations: hijabs are one thing, complete obscured faces and burkas are another. An Errol Flynn shirt and a tri-cornered hat are one thing, a sword and live parrot are another. But whether or not the FSM and Pastafarianism are both purely invented or not, Killians school may have opened a can of worms it might wish it hadn’t.


The Blog Against Theocracy

Easter weekend, April 6-8, 2007, is the time. Your blog is the place. The Separation of Church and State is the topic. Thanks to beepbeepitsme, I found this planned blog swarm, which I’ll participate in. I’m not sure what my meager contributions will be yet, but I hope the overall project is a huge success.

The link beepbeep gave me was to the Neural Gourmet’s Blog with the best. Blog against theocracy, where he says

The idea is simple. Just post something related to, and in support of, the separation of church and state each of those three days. Something big, something small, artistic, musical, textual or otherwise. The topic is your choosing. Whether your thing is stem cell research, intelligent design/Creationism, abortion rights, etc., it’s all good.

. But the whole thing appears to be organized mostly by Blue Gal. She discusses the blog swarm, its purpose, and why its needed at The Blog Against Theocracy Blog Swarm. Easter Weekend 2007:

The post will be against theocracy, in favor of our Constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state. But there are a LOT of issues tied to this, as is pointed out in the First Freedom First website:

No religious discrimination.
PRO End-of-Life Care (no more Terri Schiavo travesties)
Reproductive health decisions made by individuals, not religious “majorities”
Democracy not Theocracy
Academic Integrity (like, a rock is as old as it is, not as old as the Bible says)
Sound Science (good bye so-called “intelligent” design)
Respect for ALL families (based on love, not sexual orientation. Hellooooo.)
And finally,
The right to worship, OR NOT.

So take your pick and write your post(s). Really, the wider variety of topics makes it all the more interesting.

The Perceived Threat of Linguistic Diversity

In a recent discussion about culture and cultural diversity, of which I was more of a bystander than active participant, the topic moved to race, as so many of these kinds of discussions do. And it’s at this point in such discussions that I usually move on, but it wasn’t’ before one of the participants made the comment that he found the steady influx of immigrants to be a threat to his own culture, listing the ways: loss of his own culture’s physical features through interbreeding; loss of jobs to immigrant workers; the strain on the educational system; etc. The one concern that really stuck in my mind, even after I checked out of the discussion, was the threat to his culture’s language as the language of immigrants replaces or infuses his own.

Language is no doubt an integral part of culture. If you accept the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, as many linguists do, then you understand that language influences habitual thought through a kind of linguistic determinism (language determines the way we think). The extent to which language affects culture is debatable, but it’s clear that as languages both infuse and diffuse with cultures, changes in culture occur.

In my own community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, the influence of the Mexican culture is prominent and the affect of the Spanish language obvious. Most businesses and government offices have literature in both Spanish and English, and many businesses exist that cater only to Spanish-speakers. It certainly helps to understand at least a smattering of Spanish when conducting day-to-day business and greatly improves one’s chances of being hired if bilingual.

This linguistic diversity doesn’t come without a fair bit of resistance and rejection, however. Many of my neighbors are quick to associate cultural presence of Spanish-speakers to the problem of illegal immigration and, in some ways, this is a fair association. The population of illegal immigrants in North Texas is significant, but it isn’t clear to what extent the illegal population is a sub-set of the much larger, overall Hispanic immigrant culture here.

It is clear, however, that language can be a cultural divider as easily as it can a unifier. Shops in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods whose signage is only in Spanish generally cater to only Hispanic customers. The obverse isn’t true, of course, since one can visit any Wal-Mart or McDonalds and find Hispanic customers who speak little or no English. But rarely will the average white Texan shop at the local taqueria or Mexican market. A local chain of pizza restaurants, Pizza Patron, have recently fallen under heavy criticism and even threats simply for deciding to accept pesos from customers, giving dollars as change.

Part of the resistance to change in culture is reasonable: being around those whose language you don’t understand is naturally disconcerting; trying to conduct business with speakers of foreign languages is challenging; and obtaining or sharing an education can be difficult to say the least. But looking back on the concern mentioned in the first paragraph, the danger of losing one’s culture, particularly language, to immigrants seems largely unfounded. It is true that changes will occur in any culture that allows another to infuse with it, but it’s also true that the diffusing culture changes as well. In both directions change will occur –some good, some bad. But I truly wonder about the efforts that some in government are taking to see to it that English is the “official language” and I worry about those that think if they can control the language people speak, they can “preserve their culture.” There are endangered languages in the world, but English isn’t one of them. Indeed, English is one of the languages that is fast wiping out many others.

In North America, only about 194 languages remain out of the hundreds that once existed. 73 of these are spoken only by adults over 50 and 49 spoken only by a scant few individuals. These figures are, at best, from the 1990’s, so they’re certainly much lower baring some sudden, massive revival where young people took the time to learn the languages of their elders. I heard it said once that Oklahoma was home to more dialects and languages than all of Europe. I don’t know if this is true or not, but the Native American population in the state is high. Interestingly enough, it’s also where a state-level Senator is pushing a bill to make English the official language. In her words:

The purpose of this bill is to establish a policy that unifies the state…“It unites us as a common people with diverse cultures. It unites us with a common language… English is the language of success. If you want to succeed in government, economy or school you have to be able to speak English,” Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City, said.

Instead of passing laws restricting languages, we should be focused more on teaching them. I have friends in Europe who I converse with on a regular basis whose first languages are German and Danish, yet their mastery of English rivals that of many Americans their age. In the United States, we appear to be slow to figure out what Europeans have long understood: speaking and writing in only one language is a limiting factor in economics, academia, and politics.

I’ll leave this post with a quote from the Linguistic Society of America and its position on “English only,” which is a measure that consistently rears its ugly head on both state and national levels:

The English language in America is not threatened. All evidence suggests that recent immigrants are overwhelmingly aware of the social and economic advantages of becoming proficient in English, and require no additional compulsion to learn the language.

American unity has never rested primarily on unity of language, but rather on common political and social ideals.

History shows that a common language cannot be imposed by force of law, and that attempts to do so usually create divisiveness and disunity. This has been the effect, for example, of the efforts of the English to impose the English language in Ireland, of Soviet efforts to impose the Russian language on non-Russian nationalities, and of Franco’s efforts to impose Spanish on the Basques and Catalans.

It is to the economic and cultural advantage of the nation as a whole that its citizens should be proficient in more than one language, and to this end we should encourage both foreign language study for native English speakers, and programs that enable speakers with other linguistic backgrounds to maintain proficiency in those languages along with English.

You can find the source for the quote above in the links section below.

Related links:

Pizza Por Pesos
Pesos Lift Pizza Patrón’s Profile
Bill would make English official state language
Caregivers help expand children’s language skills
What is an Endangered Language?
Resolution: English Only

What if almost every day you heard talk radio hosts talking about killing your friends?

Blogger Spocko, the nom de blog for the author of Spocko’s Brain, writes of a radio station, KSFO AM 560, which does just that. And he’s linked audio clips of the show in this post.

More below the fold

Apparently the hosts of this radio show have called for the deaths of various American politicians and business men and women in their hate-filled and inciting broadcasts (Spocko’s letter to the Wall Street Journal). Spocko is writing advertisers and posting their comments on his blog with audio clips to support his accusations. If Spocko is telling the truth, and it looks like he is, this radio station is off the deep end! The the hosts of one or more shows on the station demanded that callers mock Islam, called for public hangings of New York Times editor Bill Keller and suggested that a Sears’ Diehard battery be attached to an African-American’s testicles.

And here’s the rub: KSFO 560 AM is owned by ABC Radio Disney.

On the Daily Kos, Spocko is quoted as saying:

In mid-December I got confirmation that a major national advertiser, VISA, pulled their ads from the Melanie Morgan and Lee Rogers show, based on listening to audio clips I provided them. I also think that FedEx, AT&T and Kaiser are considering pulling their ads. Visa isn’t the first advertiser who has left KSFO, multiple advertisers have left the station, especially from the Brian Sussman show. In July of this year when KSFO lost MasterCard as an advertiser someone from KSFO “outed” me on a counter-blog (which I won’t link to). This same person has also threatened me with local and federal criminal action for using the audio (which I clearly used under the fair use portion of copyright law). And because they have suggested violence toward me (in addition to talking about suing me “for everything I have”) I have chosen to remain anonymous.

I think this is a good case of how blogging can effect change and do good journalism. Had Spocko not spent so much time and personal effort on reporting on KSFO (and personal risk?), these nutters could have gone ahead full-steam and unchecked. Now, with advertisers pulling out, you can bet their management is clamping down on them at least somewhat. There is such a thing as free press and freedom of speech in the United States, but that goes both directions. Spocko is also free to report on their antics, exposing them to advertisers who are free to support them -or not.

Oh, and watch this YouTube video that includes some of the shows audioclips.

More info:
Spocko Rocks ABC! Micky Mouse blinks! Updated: Spocko jumps in
The Ogre’s Trumpet Blaring
I am Spocko