My Weekend With a Surrey, BC Pastafarian

Following one man through a weekend of proselytizing and colander-shopping.

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Jan 26 2015, 8:18pm

This is a photo Obi took of himself wearing a plastic pasta strainer.

As religious extremists constantly flood the news cycle with various acts of terror, it can be hard to notice the smaller, more weirder faiths popping up around the world. I shot this photo series to give room to a slightly more humble religion. It features an unusual minister, Obi Canuel, a Pastafarian who started believing that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Universe, after being "touched by his noodley appendage" in Surrey, BC.

Canuel, 37, is a charismatic amateur mechanic and video-game collector with a major in philosophy. I met him a few times around Christmas to spend time with him, photograph his daily activities, and to talk about his beliefs. He says he "gradually came over to the Spaghetti in the last few years" and is now an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Church of the FSM). Part of his belief entails wearing a holy pasta strainer on his head so that the "water can go through, while the noodles remain." Obi considers a colander his religious headgear and he recently applied for a new driver's license while wearing it in his photo, but ICBC (BC's driver's license issuer) didn't consider it as acceptable, so they have yet to issue his license.

Obi, who seemed very patient and polite, persistently and unsuccessfully requested his license over the past few months and even sought out a lawyer to assist in getting his photo approved, so far without luck. Because Pastafarianism is a relatively new religion (although pirates allegedly carried it out for hundreds of years, according to the Church of FSM), many bureaucrats are having a hard time understanding what it means, or taking it seriously.

The Church of the FSM came into the mainstream in 2005, after a dismayed father wrote an American school board a criticism on the teachings of Creationism. Pastafarianism is a real religion which often attracts atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, although there are Buddhist, Christian and Muslim members too. Canuel and other Pastafarians say they "are not anti-religion, but anti-crazy nonsense done in the name of religion."

Some outsiders, due to the drunken imagery Pastafarianism embraces, see the Church of FSM as satire. A typical Pastafarian retort is, "elements of our religion are often described as satire and there are many members who do not literally believe our scripture, but this isn't unusual in religion. A lot of Christians, for example, don't believe the Bible is literally true—but that doesn't mean they aren't true Christians."

Canuel, whose words are quick, and who copes well with criticism, continues to wait for his driver's license, explaining that he has a "right to religious expression." Meanwhile he's continuing on with his daily business while persistently reminding ICBC that "religious rights weren't put in place for the familiar status quo religions, [but] rather for cases that are unusual." He hopes that "if someone would like to present themselves in a certain way, pertaining to a certain set of beliefs, they should be encouraged to do so within the limits prescribed by law."

The courts will make a decision in a matter of months (the timeline is unclear) as to whether or not they will allow Canuel's FSM headgear to remain in the photo. And in the meantime, ICBC says it cannot disclose a list of which religions it recognizes.

Obi stands in front of a Greek Orthodox church, which is located on a street in Surrey where he used to live.

Obi is out canvassing for The Church of FSM at the sky train station in Surrey. He happens to run into some Jehovah's Witnesses, who are also doing the same thing.

Obi holds promotional material for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

This is a photo of Obi's BC Services Card. He was able to wear a pasta strainer here, which is odd given ICBC would not approve the same image for his driver's license.

This is a portrait of Obi in Courtenay, BC, standing with a wrench in hand. He is a skilled amateur mechanic and is not only a Pastafarian, but a supporter of blue-collar workers' rights.

Obi wears a huge broken watch as a symbol that Pastafarians are not constrained by the construct of time. This apparently encourages a freer and more fun-inducing way of living.

He recently completed constructing a kit car, which took him four years to build. It's parked outside of one of his favourite destinations: Value Village.

Obi stands in line at Surrey's Value Village to purchase a video game. He's also an avid collector of games, his house is full of them.

Obi shops for a new colander to wear in Courtenay, BC, at a Dollar Store.

He runs into a woman who is rather intrigued by what he is doing. He explained his religion to her and she tries on a colander.

Some workers at this restaurant recognized him from the news and were delighted to see him in real life.

Waiting at a bus station, wearing his metal pasta strainer. It's not clear at this time if he is authorized to drive, or if he must use the bus at all times.

Obi passes The Church of the FSM fliers out on a Surrey bus.

Obi, on the phone in Surrey.

Obi fills up his kit car at a gas station in Surrey.

This is Obi's living room area, featuring his collection of video game related guns.

An avid video game collector, Obi sometimes indulges in playing. Here, he sits in his red room at his apartment in Surrey and plays Pac Man.

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