A Time blog declares its faith

I realize that, in the world of blogging, many folks — take your GetReligionistas — are pretty open when it comes to talking about where they are coming from on topics directly linked to their writing.

I’m an Eastern Orthodox layman and a pro-life Democrat who is committed to defending old-fashioned, “American model of the press” journalism. I think most people know that. The Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway is a Libertarian Missouri-Synod Lutheran, although I don’t think that is a separate branch of that denomination. Etc., etc., etc.

Nevertheless, I was rather surprised when a blog at Time magazine let it all hang out in the religion department.

Go check this out!

What We (Probably Won’t) Ditch This Lent

Sure, NewsFeed isn’t Catholic. (Do websites have religions? If so, we’re devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.)

Even so, we think Lent is a great way to temporarily rid ourselves of our guiltiest of pleasures. But instead of ditching chocolate or caffeine, NewsFeed’s writers are pondering 40 days without cute kitten pictures.

Can we do it? Probably not. But root for us anyway.

Surely GetReligion readers are familiar with the Flying Spaghetti Monster spoof, which is one of the funnier developments in the era of the new atheist-agnostic evangelism.

What does that look like in practice? Here’s a sample, from what looks like a fan site. Click here to read what the opening of the Gospel According to St. John actually says.

John 1: The Flying Spaghetti Monster Became Flesh

1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the Word was The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

2. He was with The Flying Spaghetti Monster in the beginning.

3. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

4. In him was Monsterness, and that Monsterness was the Monsterness of men.

5. The Monsterness monsters in the darkness, but the darkness has not over-monstered it.

6. There came a man who was sent from The Flying Spaghetti Monster. …

So, I realize that this Flying Spaghetti Monster testimony of faith did not take place in a news article. Obviously.

Still, an interesting statement at a mainstream news magazine like Time. A wise move? All in good fun?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • BJ Mora

    At least those who work on Time magazine’s blog are self conscious enough to know what they believe (we think- sometimes it’s hard to judge humor – there’s a chance it could be satire).

    Does the blog represent the magazine as a whole? I’m sure to be politically correct the “regular” magazine’s editorial staff would probably label the post above as “opinion”. But even so, “there is no neutrality.” The magazine is likely similar in stance to the blog even if individual journalists and editors are not. …

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David Rupert

    I don’t see it as ‘all in good fun.’ To abstain from cute kitten photos for Lent? Why not call communion ‘snack food’ while they are at it?

  • Bern

    “wise?” more like wiseacre
    “all in good fun?” for the writers maybe.
    worth a post in GR? NIMHO

  • Dave G.

    Flying Spaghetti Monster spoof, which is one of the funnier developments in the era of the new atheist-agnostic evangelism

    By funnier developments, I assume you mean ‘and that’s the best they can come up with?’.

  • Chris B

    Yet another example of confusing snark with wit.

  • R9

    Newsfeed looks like quite a hip overview of what’s going on in blogging, twitter, viral videos etc. I mean, in their top 10 most viewed is: “Chuck Norris Turns 71 in Human Years, 21 in Chuck Norris Years”. I’m not hugely surprised they’d be the sorts to reference his noodly goodness.

  • michael

    Were I inclined to take Time or its blogs seriously, I would be less distressed by what this says about their faith than by what it says about their thoughtfulness.

  • Jerry

    Humor is a tricky thing. What is funny to some is not so to others. I do note that the actual article was very very short and you added a lot more material. It’s worth pointing out that the FSM was originally created as part of an argument against intelligent design:

    …There’s no more scientific basis for intelligent design than there is for the idea an omniscient creature made of pasta created the universe. If intelligent design supporters could demand equal time in a science class, why not anyone else?…

    Of course history shows that this took off but I’ll be most including perhaps the people at Time don’t know that spoof of John nor perhaps the history of the FSM.

  • http://forgottencenotaph.blogspot.com J. Lahondere

    It seems to me that they were just name-dropping something they thought was a “meme” even though this thing has been around the internet for, like, seven years(?).

    The Spaghetti Monster thing is not really funny to anyone other than humorless atheists. The whole “Lent Lite” thing isn’t really offensive, but just so stupid. It would be akin to proclaiming, “I’m going to fast and pray this week, but not for any religious reasons. I just think it’s good to skip some meals to clean out my digestive system, and meditation is soooo relaxing…” It just makes the person sound like an airhead, in my opinion. Ugh.

  • R9

    Jerry’s quite right re: the FSM’s history. Also he can be seen as a modern version of Russel’s Teapot. (which I think is thoughtful enough).

    Whether the Newsfeed people had that in mind, or were just using it as a quick joke about not being religious… who knows?

  • Ryan K.

    I am not sure if the Time blog is editorial or not, but I do find they succeeded in mocking religion and those who observe religious activities.

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a well-known symbol and rallying point to mock the idea of believing it God. It is meant to highlight how religious belief is silly and foolish.

    So if this is part of journalistic standards, than yeah, I guess it is just fine to mention it while talking about Lent.

  • http://preacherofthenight.blogspot.com Chris

    I think the Time bloggers were trying ham-handedly, to be funny. I actually think the FSM is funny. Which is why it is a poor argument against God. The FSM deliberately was created to be ridiculous. No one would ever believe in it. It would not be arrived at as the result of serious philosophical thought by the likes of Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, et al. But the idea of God is not psychologically or logically absurd, however much anti-theists might say it is. In fact, it is counter-intuitive to look at our universe, orderly and predictable enough at every level of reality that science can continue to work out the laws by which it operates and is organized, and say this is all the result of a statistically unbelievable run of fortunate accidents and is somehow still random. One can argue that there isn’t a God but it is not inherently ridiculous as is the FSM.

  • Ignominious

    People actually pay money to read Time?

    I find that hard to imagine.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Chris –

    …say this is all the result of a statistically unbelievable run of fortunate accidents and is somehow still random.

    What if what you wrote there is just as silly a parody of what ‘non-theists’ believe as the FSM is of theist beliefs?

    Yes, the point of the FSM is to be silly. But anything someone takes seriously can be expressed in a silly fashion. (Heck, practically every scientific advance has been wild and counterintuitive – continental drift, heliocentrism, atomic theory, germ theory of disease, relativity, quantum mechanics…)

    I think the Time blog entry probably was disrespectful, and certainly wasn’t thought out very well. But the FSM does serve a purpose in the debate over teaching evolution in schools; there are a lot of creation stories in the world. But what should we teach in science class?

  • http://aleksandreia.wordpress.com Hector_St_Clare

    Re: But anything someone takes seriously can be expressed in a silly fashion.

    None of those theories you mention is _inherently_ silly and/or absurd. They were seen as silly, at one time, because we didn’t have evidence for them, but they weren’t inherently silly.

    The idea of a flying spaghetti monster is logically absurd on a number of levels: a being made out of spaghetti can’t logically be said to precede the material world, and a being with physical/corporeal characteristics (such as being made of spaghetti) is inherently limited, thus can’t be said to be ‘the most perfect being that can be conceived’. Not to mention, lots of people including some very smart and thoughtful ones (Julian of Norwich, Blaise Pascal, William Blake, Joan of Arc, Emmanuel Swedenborg, Simone Weil, and many, many others) claimed to have had direct personal experience of the Christian God. The same can’t be said of the Spaghetti Monster.

    We should teach science in science class, obviously, and the Christian God isn’t part of science. I’m not sure who suggested otherwise.

  • http://aleksandreia.wordpress.com Hector_St_Clare

    Re: People actually pay money to read Time?

    Time and Newsweek have been slightly superior in quality to the National Enquirer, for as far back as I remember. I’m really not certain why anyone would pay money for them.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Hector_St_Clare –

    None of those theories you mention is _inherently_ silly and/or absurd.

    First off, my point was that any position could be expressed in a dismissive, parodied fashion. If Chris wants his position to be shown respect, he could do worse than to extend such respect as well.

    And besides, the FSM isn’t made of material spaghetti; it is supernatural, Eternal Pasta that may have the accidents of normal pasta in certain contexts (like our limited human comprehension) but has a spiritual substance far beyond our limited capacity to understand. :)

    I kid, of course. It’s true that the FSM is deliberately absurd. But… it took a long time for Christianity to agree that the Trinity wasn’t “inherently absurd”, and a few billion people and the two other major monotheistic religions today disagree rather vehemently about that point. (Judaism, Islam?)

    And I didn’t say that anyone here was talking about what to teach in science class. I was pointing out that that debate is the context the FSM originated in. It’s very difficult to come up with an argument that would allow any mainstream religious creation story into science class that would not also allow the FSM in. For that purpose, it’s an effective illustration.

    The Time blog entry ignored (or didn’t understand) that context and intent, and thus wound up being (hopefully inadvertently) offensive.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: But… it took a long time for Christianity to agree that the Trinity wasn’t “inherently absurd”, .

    Actually, modern science has made the doctrine of the Trinity more plausible, not less, because it’s complicated the idea that a thing has to be either A or B, instead of both simultaneously.

    Is light a wave or a particle? Is a Portuguese Man-of-War one organism or many? Is a clonal plant one organism, or multiple organisms? Is Is Schrodinger’s cat alive or dead? These questions can’t be answered with a simple Yes or No, any more than we can give a simple answer to the question, “Is God one, or three?” A grove of three aspen trees can equally well be considered one plant, or three plants. And so it goes with the Trinity.

    Of course, I doubt that any of this will make the devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster change their mind. Their arguments, not being based in reason, cannot be swayed by reason.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Hector_St_Clare – I’ve noticed that off-topic comments tend not to get spiked, so long as they are more religiously orthodox. However, the nature of the Trinity is not a subject we can or should debate here. If you wish to start a topic over at the coffeehouse, I’d be happy to discuss it there.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    RAY & CO.

    I strive to spike as many rude, personal and nasty off-topic comments from the traditionalist side of the fence as possible. Trust me, there are quite a few.

    On this thread I have pretty much let things go, within the borders of politeness, since I left the question very open.

    If there are comments that you find offensive, just let me know.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Tmatt –

    I strive to spike as many rude, personal and nasty off-topic comments from the traditionalist side of the fence as possible. Trust me, there are quite a few.

    No doubt, but I have to admit it’s seemed to me that ‘traditionalist’ comments can be off-topic yet not be spiked so often.

    On the other hand, while I don’t always manage to be fully on-topic I do think I’m always polite. And yet…

  • Mike O.

    Regarding the original article, I can’t say I found it offensive. It would be like if the article was political instead of religious and they wrote, “Sure NewsFeed isn’t a Democrat or a Republican (Do websites have politics? If so, we’re members of the [blank] party.)” with [blank] replaced with an attempt at humor like “Rent Is Too Damn High” or “Know-Nothing” or “Hot Tub”.