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My Weekend with a Pastafarian

I hung out with Obi Canuel while he waited to see if the Canadian government would let him wear a colander on his head in his driver's license photo.

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

This post originally appeared on VICE Canada.

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 provide a look into to a fairly 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, British Columbia.

Canual, 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 to be 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 help him get his photo approved, so far without luck. Because Pastafarianism is a relatively new religion (although pirates allegedly followed it 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 to an American school board to criticized the teachings of Creationism. Pastafarianism is a real religion which that 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, who is quick-witted when it comes to deflecting 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 about whether to 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 on a street in Surrey where he used to live

Obi canvasses for the Church of FSM at the sky train station in Surrey

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

Obi's BC Services Card. He was able to wear a pasta strainer here, but ICBC would not approve the same image for his driver's license.

Obi in Courtenay, BC, standing with a wrench in hand. He is a skilled amateur mechanic and 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 way of living.

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

Obi stands in line at Surrey's Value Village to purchase a video game

Obi shops for a new colander to wear at a Dollar Store

Obi explains his religion to a potential convert

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

Obi waits for the bus

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

Obi on the phone in Surrey

Obi fills up his car at a gas station in Surrey

Obi with his collection of video game–related guns

Obi playing Pac-Man