“Our only dogma is the rejection of all dogmas”, goes the general philosophy of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and this, my favourite religious organization, always makes me wonder – what defines a religion?
To quote the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is ” a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”. Another definition is “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.”
An interesting case was decided in the US Supreme Court in 1965. In United States vs. Seeger, the Supreme Court ruled for Daniel Seeger, who sought exemption from the military draft for conscientious objectors, without express belief in a Supreme Power. In its opinion, the supreme court said, “[The] test of belief “in a relation to a Supreme Being” [in a law providing for conscientious objector status from military service] is whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God . . . .” (source).
The facts of this case were that Seeger was a student who claimed exception from the military draft because his religious belief, he objected to war and that he should be granted exemption from serving in the military. He did not specify that his religion submitted to the belief in a “supreme being” and that his skepticism or disbelief in a God did not necessarily mean lack of faith in anything whatsoever. He was convicted by a lower court on account of his disbelief in a “Supreme Being”, but the Supreme Court reversed the judgement of the lower court on appeal. (Source)
There is no definition of “religion” in the constitution of either India or the US and many other countries. Which is why I don’t see any reason for anyone to take the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as just satire. It has all the aspects of any mainstream religion, plus the God tastes delicious!
If anyone can come up with a legal reason as to why the Church of the FSM is not a religion, I will be happy to hear you out.