Obi Canuel. Photo via YouTube.
Last November, Obi Canuel, a resident of Surrey, BC, went to renew his driver’s license at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). He was wearing a colander on his head. For those who don’t know, a colander is not only used for separating water from solids, but it’s also considered to be religious headgear for practicing Pastafarians, a satirical religion created in 2005 by Bobby Henderson that preaches the tale of a Flying Spaghetti Monster, who created the world while drunk.
Some of their beliefs—like the one that states changes in Earth’s temperature are caused by a decrease in pirates—may sound sort of far fetched, until you think about how some Christians believe that climate change is actually the will of Jesus. Canual argues that by wearing a colander on his head, he’s practicing his right to religious expression and should be allowed to have his ID photo taken with it on, similar to how Jews are allowed to wear yarmulkes in their IDs (if only you were able to buy yarmulkes in the kitchen aisle of a Canadian Tire).
Last July, the ICBC sent Obi a letter denying him the right to his license since Pastafarianism does not mandate its followers to wear colanders. Obi, with the power of His Noodliness to guide him, has not given up on his right to religious expression. It’s worth noting that some other countries, including the US, allow driver’s license photos with colanders.
So, to some degree, Pastafarianism is a recognized religion that—although it may seem condescending and insulting to other spiritualties—is pretty much the least judgmental religion I can think of. So when Obi released a YouTube video documenting the process and illustrating how little acceptance the ICBC had for his religion and his religious freedoms, I couldn’t help but feel for the guy. Sure, it’s clear that he doesn’t really believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster, but the message that the government should be accepting of all religions, no matter how bat-shit crazy they sound, is a valuable one.
VICE sat down with Obi—an ordained minister of Pastafarianism who remained in noodle-worshipping character throughout our entire conversation—to talk religion and what it means to be Pastafarian.
VICE: First off, how the hell did this become an honest-to-God religion?
Obi Canuel: According to writings, pirates practiced Pastafarianism for hundreds of thousands of years. It was only in 2005 that Bobby Henderson exposed it publicly.
Ooooooook. So is Bobby Henderson your Jesus?
[Laughs] Oh no, we reject all forms of hierarchy and authority. I don’t think we feel comfortable with those kinds of things. Bobby was simply someone who was touched by His noodly appendage and he was able to bring these kinds of ideas to a greater public awareness.
When did you get into Pastafarianism?
It must’ve been sometime last year. I’ve been asked this before and I can’t seem to nail down exactly when it was. I had a vision and it’s strange but it’s been quite powerful.
Do Pastafarians attend church or something like it?
Yeah, we have informal meetings. We try to keep quiet, we’re not evangelical about it but we get together and try to have fun and practice the book [Henderson’s The Flying Spaghetti Monster].
The website for the Chuch of the Flying Spaghetti Monster claims that only some people consider it satirical, but how seriously do some people take it?
There’s an infinite rule and I wish I could remember what it was. It’s something like, “For any given idea, there is sufficient diversity among human opinion and ideas that somebody out there in the world really does believe it.” Right? So yeah, that’s true of any belief.
Do you feel that you’re making a mockery out of creationism?
I really like to distance myself from words like mockery or offensiveness. I really, really don’t want anybody to feel bad about themselves or what they’re doing. I try to spread the words of His Noodliness and make people happy.
This may sound stupid, but why is a pasta strainer your yarmulke?
Well, the colander is a reminder that in life water may pass through, but noodles remain.
Let’s talk about the ICBC. Have they changed their mind about giving you your driver’s license?
No, and I haven’t even received any response.
A shot of Obi's tattered interim licence. Image via Obi Canuel.
Are you surprised that this is happening to you in so-called tolerant Canada?
It’s a strange thing that Texas is somehow more liberal than the west coast of Canada. There’s a person in Texas with a driver’s license with a colander.
That has to be frustrating.
It’s true, but His Noodliness has granted, in all of us I think, the ability to have control over our mood and our attitude and I have been practicing patience.
Tell me about that YouTube video you released, it’s quite the documentation of your ordeal.
There’s a lot in that video that I wanted to have in there, but it seems that the YouTube generation is afraid of ten minute videos, and that conversation has various things in it that I wanted to show. Including conversations that would go on after they thought I had hung up. I could hear the people laughing about me and telling each other they’ll get into trouble if they look up my name and other things going on.
What’s the worst criticism you’ve heard since all of the media ran the story?
The worst that I’ve heard is really hurtful things about other cultures. I really don’t want anyone to think that what I’m doing is belittling other cultures. That’s absolutely not what I’m doing, and I want the culture bashing to stop. That’s what hurts me the most. Some of my supporters misinterpret my whole thing. I’m simply expressing the love and the goodness of the Flying Spaghetti Monster but they mistakenly think I’m attacking other people that wear religious headgear.
Has anything positive come from your experience?
What I’m really happy about is there are a lot of people getting in on the discussion about religious freedom and about rights in general. The philosopher in me is happiest when I hear someone say: “I think this fellow is doing something completely bonkers but he has every right to do it."
Thanks Obi, all praise be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
May the sauce be upon you.