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.
Pastafarianism in the military