books book reviews

Pastafarianism and Bible satire

reviewed by T. Nelson

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

by Bobby Henderson
Villard, 2006, 166 pages

I admit the only reason I bought this book was that I needed something that cost $9.95 so I could get free shipping for some other book. It was either this or one of those giant fuzzy Yersinia pestis (black death) bacteria stuffed toys.

Pastafarianism was invented as a prank by the author when he was a college kid, back when people were so primitive that pirates were considered funny, and though occasionally inspired, this ‘Gospel’ is significantly sillier than most other holy books. Indeed, for a wheat-based religion, Pastafarianism seems to have an awful lot of corn. There are many midget jokes and of course spaghetti, pasta, and noodle jokes, none of which you will find in the Christian Bible, which I suppose could be taken as evidence of the culinary superiority of Pastafarianism.

But it's sometimes hard to tell whether the author is making a joke that has fallen flat or whether he really thinks Christians are all dumb rednecks. For example, on proselytizing he writes: “Christian athletes are highly dangerous and stupid, and should be avoided at all costs.” If you're a fundamentalist I suspect you won't think that's particularly amusing.

If you ignore the Christianity bashing, though, you will find some occasional witticisms:

Today Plato is nearly forgotten. His beliefs include the notion that people who govern should be intelligent, rational, self-controlled, and in love with wisdom, an idea that has long been discredited.

The FSM ‘religion’ was, of course, intended to ridicule creationism. The idea was that if Intelligent Design is taught in schools, why not FSM; but it is significant that he dares not make jokes about Islam (though he does mention ‘Ramendan’).

Even less does he dare mention the Cult of Cthulhu. The reason is obvious: there is no doubt that our Unholy One is much, much scarier than a mere plate of spaghetti. His Tentacles are also longer and more terrifying than the FSM's pathetic noodly appendage. These Pastafarians will be among the first to have their souls devoured, garlicky tomato sauce and all, when the eldritch Abomination and the minions of Nyarlathotep finally awaken.

It must be admitted, however, that the Pastafarian sacraments—wine and garlic bread—are much tastier than the nightmare-inducing slime we have to eat in Cthulhucism, and also better than those communion wafers, which even Catholics admit are rather bland.

Why stick with an old religion when you can get in on the ground floor? It's clearly a religion in need of both theologians and good comedy writers, and maybe that is what makes Pastafarianism a true religion after all.

Highly recommended; more interesting than syphilis. More fun than ebola. But I wish I'd gotten the Black Death instead.

dec 19, 2015

Holy Bible The Best God Damned Version:
The Books of Moses

by Steve Ebling
Self published, 2015, 424 pages

For some reason Amazon has me listed as the author of the Bible—the real one—so I guess I needed to check up on the competition.

I didn't have very high expectations. I was ready to say things like ‘the wages of sin is having to read this god damned book.’ It's full of vulgarities including f***, a**, and of course d*** and the other d***. It's also, as you might expect, irreverent. It is also very funny.

The general theme of this self-published book is that much of the Bible doesn't make much sense. It's a down-to-earth re-telling of the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), sort of a cross between the Bible and Holden Caulfield. Ebling is politically incorrect and anti-religious, but his real goal is to point out inconsistencies in the Old Testament.

It would have been even funnier if it had more understatement and fewer swear words. Here's a relatively tame example from page 39 where Yahweh talks to the slave girl Hagar:

“Hagar, Sarai's slave-girl, what in hell are you doing?” Yahweh asked.

”I'm running away from my mistress!”

”Go back to your mistress and kiss her ass!” Yahweh said. ”You will have a son that you must name Ishmael, for I understand your distress. He will be a defiant wild man, but I will give him countless descendants and some of them will explode in restaurants and on school buses.”

Then there's the story about Abraham giving 400 shekels of silver to Ephron, “violating what would one day become the accepted Jewish tradition of never paying retail.”

God says things like “All the miracles I performed! Do you have any idea how hard it is to train insects?” On Mount Horeb, Yahweh asks Moses if he could borrow a chisel. As Moses comes down with the tablets, he sees the Israelites worshiping what he at first takes to be a giant golden squirrel.

In Leviticus God says to Moses: “I've devised a life plan for you that is so idiotically and meaninglessly complex that you will never be able to live another normal, comfortable, carefree day in your life.” After Aaron's newly ordained sons Nadab and Abihu get incinerated in a blast of fire by Yahweh,[1] Moses says: “I guess that's what Yahweh meant when he said, ‘I am holy. Be careful how you approach me.’”

Maybe religious people will find some parts of this book offensive. It won't convert anyone to Judaism, but it probably won't convert anyone to atheism either. Ebling thinks it's all nonsense and says so, repeatedly, but somehow the content still comes off as inspiring. You have to admit, making Leviticus entertaining is quite an accomplishment.

It was not until I finished that I realized I'd just been tricked into reading the frickin' Bible.

1. This is where Nadab and Abihu were preparing animal fat to be ceremonially burned on the altar (Lev. 9:19). They decide to burn incense in front of Yahweh without being commanded to do so. The Bible says that God incinerated them instantly (Lev. 10:2), supposedly as punishment for violating the ritual. After this incident God tells Aaron that priests are henceforth forbidden to consume alcohol. Could it be that these two guys were actually drinking alcohol, which is highly flammable, and spilled it on their clothes? Or was it an grease fire from the fat they were handling?