Question: "How is belief in God any different from Flying Spaghetti Monsterism?"
Answer: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (also known as Pastafarianism) is a “religion” created by a man named Bobby Henderson. Mr. Henderson created this satire in protest of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to teach intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. In essence, he was asking, “If foolish religious ideas like that of Intelligent Design have to be given equal time in high school biology classes, then why can’t other foolish religious ideas be taught alongside with it?” So, in protest, he made up a silly set of religious beliefs and demanded that they be given equal time in biology classes alongside the theories of evolution and Intelligent Design. His point seems to be that to teach Intelligent Design in schools is as absurd as teaching that the Flying Spaghetti Monster made the world and deceived scientists into believing evolution. (Note: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is simply a new, and more entertaining, variation of Russell’s teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.)
The line of reasoning for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism seems to be that
1. There is no evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.
2. There is no evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
3. Therefore, belief in the Judeo-Christian God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are on equal epistemic grounds.
There are more problems with this thinking than can be covered in this article. However, some responses should given.
Premise 1 is false. It is not the case that “there is no evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.” Mr. Henderson may not accept the evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, but he does not offer much by way of demonstrating that the classical and contemporary arguments for God’s existence are false. Even if he adequately refuted several arguments given by theists for the belief in God, he would still not be justified in saying that “there is NO evidence for the existence of God.” In fact, this comment smacks of an a priori rejection (a rejection of the evidence before the evidence is even given) of the notion that evidence may be given for the existence of God.
Many arguments have been given for the existence of God. For example, there are cosmological arguments (arguments for a first cause), teleological arguments (arguments for a Grand Designer), moral arguments (arguments for a Moral Lawgiver), and others. Anyone who is serious about the question of God must deal with these arguments charitably and thoroughly before dogmatically rejecting belief in God. To ignorantly reject the existence of God “because I can’t think of any good reasons to believe in God” is not in keeping with the most influential thinkers in Western civilization. Almost all major philosophers and thinkers have dealt with the existence of God, and most of them accepted some form of belief in a God. A large number of philosophers have argued for their belief in the existence of God. It is a small minority of thinkers who have denied the existence of God.
NOTE: This is not advocating the "appeal to the people" fallacy (argumentum ad populum). The argument is not that belief in God is true BECAUSE so many people believe that God exists. Rather, it is simply an irrefutable fact that many brilliant minds have pondered the God question and come to the conclusion that He does, in fact, exist. This fact, while it doesn’t prove that God exists, should prompt us to deal with the question of God’s existence with seriousness and intellectual honesty.
In contrast with the serious issue of God’s existence, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is known to be made up. Several contrasts between belief in God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are listed below:
Belief in God
(1) Prevalent among all peoples of all times. Atheism is very rare; even atheists admit this.
(2) There are many sophisticated philosophical arguments for God’s existence.
(3) The Christian God is a coherent explanation of why something exists rather than nothing, why logic is prescriptive and universal, why morality is objective, and why religion is ubiquitous.
(4) Belief in God is rationally satisfying.
Belief in Flying Spaghetti Monsterism
(1) Believed by no one. Even the so-called advocates of the FSM do not really believe that it exists.
(2) There are no technical philosophical arguments for the FSM. Actually, there are no technical arguments of any kind for the FSM.
(3) Even those who sarcastically espouse that the FSM exists don’t really believe that the FSM exists, nor do they think that the FSM is a coherent explanation for finite contingent being, logic, morality, beauty, etc.
(4) No one really believes in the FSM, but even if they did, it would not be rationally satisfying.
While there are some atheists who take theistic arguments seriously, many atheists do not take the time to seriously consider these arguments. This fact may be clearly seen in popular atheist texts (e.g., The Atheist Debater's Handbook and The God Delusion). These texts refute weak and incomplete arguments for theism and suppose that they have refuted the actual, fully reasoned arguments that Christian philosophers and theologians give. This is an intellectually dishonest practice.
In short, the difference between belief in God and belief in Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is this:
Belief in God is rational and supported by good reasons, and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is irrational and not supported by any good reasons. Bobby Henderson simply begs the question (commits a logical fallacy) when he says that there are no good reasons for belief in God. Despite his claim to the contrary, Christianity is a rationally defensible religion. There are difficult questions that we must ask ourselves as Christians, but the fact that there are difficult questions is not grounds for dismissing Christianity. As believers, our pursuit of answers to our own deep-seated spiritual questions draws us further into the intellectual richness of the Christian faith.