How a US soldier finally got his Pastafarian dogtags

Justin Griffith, an atheist in the US military, tells the story of how he ended up with ATHEIST/FSM on his dogtags. It all started when he enlisted as an atheist, only to have his recruiter record his religion as "Baptist." Even switching recruiters didn't end up with the error corrected. At boot camp, recruits were only allowed one "holy book" from their stated religion, so he brought The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which became the most-loved book in camp, much-borrowed and re-read by the other recruits. Even his drill sergeant liked it. Kinda.

At one point my Drill Sergeant tried to take it away from me. He thought it was just some book that I smuggled in. Keep in mind that Drill Sergeants are professionally trained in the art of not laughing at anything (yelling and freaking out are more appropriate responses to most situations.)

Anyway, this is the gist of the conversation:

Drill Sergeant: “Private Griffith – is that some contraband?”
Me: “No, Drill Sergeant. It’s my holy book.“
Drill Sergeant: “Give that to me…” *Yoink!* “Flying Spaghetti Monster!? What the fuck?”
Me: ”I’m a Pastafarian, Drill Sergeant.”

[he shot me a look like he was t minus 5 seconds from throwing me into the Sun]

Drill Sergeant: “Are you fucking with me? Are you fucking with me at 0600, Private Griffith? Before I even get some goddamned breakfast?”

[I did my best to return the intensely humorless stone face.]

Me: “No, Drill Sergeant.”
Drill Sergeant: “Flying Spaghetti Monster!? I don’t fucking believe it!!!”
Me: “I believe it, Drill Sergeant.”
Drill Sergeant: “What the hell is wrong with you, warrior?”

[I went for broke]

Me: “Drill Sergeant, I’m afraid I can’t really talk to you about this any further unless I’m in my religious clothing. I need to be in full pirate regalia, or at the very least wearing an eye patch.”

….Then he just looked at me for about 30 seconds. Crickets. Time stopped… The other soldiers that were around were extremely scared of the coming mass punishment they imagined that I had surely just earned them.

Then he flipped through the book. He read a few sentences out loud. And then it happened.

He smiled.

Pastafarianism in the military (via JWZ)


    1. What is tragicomic is that the drill sergeant from hell is such a pervasive Hollywood trope that Norwegian conscripts expect that kind of treatment when they enter.

  1. “Pirate Regalia”

    Epic win. I’m trying to keep myself from busting a gut in the middle of my office. Permagrin.

  2. “Are you fucking with me? Are you fucking with me at 0600, Private Griffith? Before I even get some goddamned breakfast?”

    Drill Sargent humor is so awesome.  
    He’s completely reasonable with a negligible amount of being-fucked-with, as long as it’s AFTER breakfast.

  3. I started laughing so hard, a drop of Mountain Dew landed in my eye… the same eye that I wore an eye-patch over as a child.  I have been touched by his noodly appendage again!  Ramen!

  4. My twin brother has this on his website’s “About me” page:

    I wish that more people in this country would understand that just as other peoples’ religions do not apply to them, their religion does not apply to me.

  5. “Only two things come from Tucson, Arizona: pirates, and ninjas. And I don’t see no eye patch. Tell me, are you a ninja?”

  6. “Only two things come from Tucson, Arizona: pirates, and ninjas. And I don’t see no eye patch. Tell me, are you a ninja?”

  7. “Only two things come from Tucson, Arizona: pirates, and ninjas. And I don’t see no eye patch. Tell me, are you a ninja?”

  8. I look forward to the day that the US army has FSM chaplains.

    “OK, lads, it’s looking pretty bad. So let’s all take a moment to kneel and pray together and ask Him to shelter us with His Noodly Appendage. Eyepatches on, and let me hear you say … ‘Arrrr-men'”

  9. The biggest lesson I got out of this is that the Army thinks baptists and atheists are essentially the same thing.

    1. Actually, as I understand it, “athiest” was not an option, and the recruiter was Baptist, so chose to put his own religious preference… (if I remember what I read elsewhere correctly)…

      1.  I dunno this is a bit dubious to me.  I was in the Corps starting the end of 1999 and there were atheists/agnostics there.  I don’t think it necessarily said atheist on their dog tag but I saw plenty with “None” on the religion line.  This seems a little attention-grabbing because honestly the military is NOT very religious.  Probably less so than civilian life by a long shot.  There’s a lot of personally spiritual people but no one I ever met seemed to care if you were Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, atheist, Jewish etc (honestly the only one I could see coming up is Muslim).  I don’t think anyone even asked me.

        1. I was in the Navy during the 1990s and I wasn’t an atheist yet, but I didn’t want to be affiliated with any denominations, so my tags said none on them.

        2. US Army officer training in 2005 had a hell of a lot of encouragement to participate in Christian-oriented activities (Officers’ Christian Fellowship and so on) that had some weird sort of up-and-coming old-boys’-club feel to it — like they were trying to recruit officer candidates and young officers into a rah-rah-patriotic, conservative-Christian influence network. 

          Apparently they’ve stepped things up since then:

        3. Ah, and a New York Times article on a chaplain blowing the whistle on religious proselytizing at the Air Force academy in 2005:

  10. So, a huge portion of our tax dollars goes to the military, and this soldier decides to use his time…

    Never mind, I guess I can’t really argue with this.  If we’re going to pay the soldier and his drill sergeant to do something, it may as well be this.

    1.  Yes, I used to laugh and say, “I’m getting paid to do this!”, which was drinking vodka and slivovitsa and socializing with Warsaw Pact troops.

          1. Well, we had shit-work, too, like filling sandbags and building temp levees in stinky swampy parts of Louisiana.

  11. I think it might have gained popularity in the barracks due to the strippers and beer volcano.

  12.  i honestly dont believe this. you would already be eating chow or in formation marching your way to chow by 0600, and even if it was at 0600, you would not be in the barracks regardless.

    1.  We were usually doing PT (Physical Training) at 0600 in basic.  I actually have some of the training schedules from basic, but I ain’t digging for them at the moment.  Breakfast usually around 0730-0800.

      1.  Sometimes morning chow was before PT sometimes after (usually if it was before, it was because it was a hand-to-hand class day).  If you eat before the PT remember: DON’T DRINK MILK!!!


        I also remember the powerade that we were required to drink , tasted like 3 parts baking soda, 1 part water, 2 drops of food colouring, and a hint of dirty sock.

        The six drinks with each meal was always 3 water, 3 powerade. And they were sort of smaller glasses, I remember. Ugh nasty stuff!

  13. However, he wasn’t the first. The first was a fellow in Austria a few years ago, insisted on wearing his Pastafarian hat, and eventually a photo was taken and placed on his driver’s licence. 

    Coincidentally, this is not a joke, it is an actual “religion” (note the quotes) which profusely asks you not to send money.
    A religion that refuses money? 

  14. As a former military instructor myself getting a Drill Sergeant to laugh or smile is not an easy thing but with something like that it would be inevitable. 

  15. Drills have been prohibited from profanity for almost two decades, and can and are busted for it.

    At the moment it was mentioned as a religious text, he would have immediately backed off, in case of complaint.  They are schooled very carefully in this.

    It is, however, entirely possible he asked to see, understood the ramifications, and was amused.

    Some troops make a habit of messing with the system.  If you ask the Chaplain for a Zoroastrian text, he will make every effort to find it, but it’s cruel to do so if you don’t really mean to study it.

    1.  Is that an Army thing because in the Marines they can and will use every curse word in the book.  Then again, you wouldn’t even be having a discussion about anything with your DI like this in the Marines because you’d hear “get to the quarterdeck!” the moment you moved your eyes or opened your mouth.

      1.  That’s officially a military wide thing and has been since about 1990.  We old timers would snicker about it.

        It may not be enforced some places, but it is official and they can be disciplined for it.  The Army is pretty gung ho about it (sorry for the mixed phrasing).

        Because, you know, those insurgents are never going to beat, insult or swear at a troop they take captive.

        Officially it’s for “professional image.”

        1. Yeah I know that’s the “official” word but even the officers didn’t care at Parris Island.  What got me is you saying this is obviously impossible because the rules say they aren’t supposed to swear.  Stuff like that usually points to “armchair veteran” whose knowledge of the military comes from the books and official rules and hasn’t actually seen what it’s really like. Now that I see you’re old dog military I guess you just haven’t kept up as much. It’s not as “caring and sharing” as you probably fear. The DIs (or Drill Sergeants in this case) look at the on-high Generals rules and do what they always did.

          1.  I am informed by two local Marines that their DIs did not swear, ever.  My wife’s Drills did not swear, ever.  I would not question that your experience was different.  These things come and go, and vary by location.  In 1985, they swore like punctuation.  One of the past CO’s of Ft Jackson would actually hide in the bushes to try to catch them swearing.  It made the papers.  I won’t hijack the thread with my opinion on that.

            Given that it’s post FSM, and the writeup, I estimate the story is exaggerated slightly for effect.  It’s certainly possible.  It’s also possible it’s entirely imagined.

            But the important thing is it’s believable and a good story.

  16. Oh sweet fuck, this is what I’m taking with me to Basic in September. Time to tell my recruiter to fix my paperwork. I’m not an Atheist, I’m a Pastafarian! 

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