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.