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Corvallis man's parody is Internet `monster'.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

In the beginning there was ... pasta.

And it was good. Tasty, even, if you happen to be a "pastafarian" who believes the universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Bobby Henderson does, although with meatball planted firmly in cheek.

The 25-year-old Corvallis resident is the high prophet of pastafarianism, which in little more than two months has gone from a middle-of-the-night parody of "intelligent design" to an Internet phenomenon.

Millions, it seems, now swear allegiance to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, or FSMism, as it's known.

Although sure to offend some Christians who believe in intelligent design rather than evolution, Henderson said he's merely using the time-honored tradition of satire to illustrate his personal views. And his idea has caught on: Several newspapers, including Monday's edition of The New York Times, have spotlighted FSMism. Henderson's Web site, www.venganza.org, has topped 23 million visits, with new hits coming at the rate of 2 million a day.

Henderson invented FSMism in a fit of pique over the Kansas School Board's intention of mandating that intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in that state's biology classes. Intelligent design proposes that the complexity of certain biological systems is evidence that life was created by a superior being, an idea that scientists label creationism cloaked in pseudoscience.

He wrote a letter to the school board demanding equal time for FSMism.

"I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," he wrote. He goes on to explain the vast powers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who is able to dupe scientists into believing the theory of evolution by altering carbon-dating tests with a touch of "His Noodly Appendage."

It's all good fun, Henderson said.

"Originally it was just a letter, and it was sort of a joke," Henderson said in a telephone interview Monday. "I wrote it in the middle of the night when I was sort of sleep deprived. I wrote it and had it sent in just a couple hours."

It was only after he got no replies from school board members that he posted the letter on a Web page. Within a few days he had a thousand e-mail responses.

Then he got mentioned on a few popular Internet sites, such as Slate.com, Fark.com and BoingBoing.com. Now links to the site have spread across the Internet.

The idea that first came pasta - before the salad or those really delicious soft breadsticks - might strike some as sacrilegious, but Henderson said 95 percent of his e-mails support teaching Flying Spaghetti Monsterism in school with only 5 percent "telling me I am going to Hell." Naturally, believers can buy T-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with, among other things, an image of FSM in all Its noodly splendor above the legend WWFSMD?

Henderson finally did hear from school board members, but only the minority that oppose the intelligent design proposal.

But he's also heard from dozens of scientists who have jumped on the FSM bandwagon as well as thousands of "converts."

Henderson, who graduated from Oregon State University two years ago with a bachelor's degree in physics, isn't above using his newfound fame to personal advantage. Being a fake Internet prophet doesn't pay the bills, so he's hoping the attention will lead to something more stable. His site includes a "Hire me" link.

"It is pretty profitable," he said. "I'm still looking for a job, though."

CAPTION(S):

Bobby Henderson's depiction of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was included in his letter to the Kansas School Board.
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Title Annotation:General News; Bobby Henderson and his Flying Spaghetti Monsterism garners a big following
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 30, 2005
Words:601
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