At last an all embracing religion, not only for western pasta lovers but us noodle eaters in the far east. I shall contemplate deeply as I slurp away.
In the beginning there was the Flying Spaghetti Monster
In recent weeks, a satirical attack on the teaching of Creationism in American schools has become the world's fastest growing 'religion'. The Noodly Saviour looked at the furore He had created and pronounced it good, writes James Langton
For a growing band of devoted followers, He is the Supreme Being; creator of the universe and all living things. To the rest of us, the Flying Spaghetti Monster looks like a giant heap of pasta and meatballs topped with eyeballs on stalks. As it turns out, both interpretations are correct.
In the past few weeks, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has become perhaps the world's fastest-growing "religion" and maybe its most improbable. While no one can be sure of the exact numbers of "Pastafarians", as acolytes are called, they may number in the millions.
All of which has come as something of a shock to Bobby Henderson, an unemployed physics graduate from Oregon. According to Mr Henderson, the FSM - as His Noodliness is sometimes known - "revealed himself to me in a dream". Like most mysterious prophets, Mr Henderson communicates with the outside world only occasionally, although this may be more to do with having only one telephone line to his home in the small town of Corvallis and a Google e-mail account swamped by hundreds of messages every day.
Not that he ever saw himself as a rival to Mohammed or Abraham. The divine inspiration that came to the 25-year-old one night earlier this year was originally intended as a satire on attempts by some Christian groups to change the way evolution is taught in science classes in some American schools.
In particular, Mr Henderson was taking aim at the concept of Intelligent Design, or ID, which provides a supposedly scientific alternative to the Old Testament belief that God created the world in six days and nights, but which dismisses most of the fossil record as false and which relies on the Earth being far younger than geological evidence shows.
Supporters say the universe is so complex that it can only be the work of a higher intelligence. They are pushing to have it taught in science lessons as an alternative to Darwin's theory of natural selection. It has the support of many leading conservatives, including Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, and President Bush, who has said ID has a place in the classroom "so people can understand what the debate is all about".
But while the "theory" relies on the existence of a god, it does not specify which god. It was only when the state of Kansas announced earlier this year that its schools could teach ID in science classes that the Flying Spaghetti Monster made Himself widely known.
In an open letter to the Kansas Board of Education in July, Mr Henderson wrote: "I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.
"I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster."
He ends his letter with the telling comment: "I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence."
To support his account, he added a crudely drawn picture of the deity "creating a mountain, trees and a midget" and, as an afterthought, posted the whole thing on his website.
Barely three months later, Mr Henderson has discovered that he really has created a monster. His website - www.venganza.org - receives as many as two million hits a day. It has been featured on several widely read blogs, one of which is offering a $1 million (£545,000) prize for "proof" that the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not exist.
Some of the faithful have created images of their Divine Saucy Leader, including one that reproduces Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, but with the image of the creator replaced by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Some "Pastafarians" speak of the rapture that they felt when first touched by "His Noodly Appendage" or offer prayers that end with the word "ramen" - as in the Japanese noodle - rather than "amen". Others may have been drawn by a vision of Heaven that includes a stripper factory and a beer volcano and what its founder calls the church's "flimsy moral standards".
In addition, according to the creed of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, every Friday is a religious holiday, while true believers are urged to dress as pirates because of their founder's discovery of a causal relationship between global warming and a decline in the number of buccaneers in the past 200 years.
The serious message behind FSM, however, is not lost amid its bizarre mythology. Kansas has long been a battlefield between America's religious right and supporters of Darwin. In 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial saw the state's unsuccessful attempt to stop the teaching of any aspect of evolution, including the theory that man and apes share a common ancestor.
More recently, conservatives have taken control of the state's board of education, pushing through a review of science teaching by a majority of six to four votes. The board is expected to endorse the teaching of ID next month, and other states are thinking of following suit.
Only three members of the Kansas School Board have replied to Mr Henderson's appeal to have Flying Spaghetti Monsterism placed on the curriculum - all of whom are opponents of ID, which they see as Creationism dressed up as a pseudo-science.
"I will add your theory to a long list of alternative theories I intend to introduce when it is appropriate,'' wrote one, Sue Gamble. "I am practising how to do this with a straight face which is difficult since it's such a ridiculous subject; it is also sad that we are even having the discussion."
It is a sentiment that Mr Henderson shares. "I don't have a problem with religion," he says. "What I have a problem with is religion posing as science. If there is a god and he's intelligent, then I would guess he has a sense of humour."
In his original appeal to Kansas, the physicist demanded that his pseudo-religion be given equal time in the classroom with both evolution and Intelligent Design. If rejected, he has promised to take legal action, with an offer of free help from at least one lawyer. Pedro Irigonegaray, who defended the teaching of evolution at the school board hearing earlier this year, says: "I have made myself available to the Spaghetti Monster as counsel of record, at no charge."
Of the thousands of e-mails Mr Henderson has received, he says that about 95 per cent have been supportive, while the other five per cent "have said I am going to hell".
One wrote: "It is interesting that evolution advocates use derision and sarcasm to deal with those who believe Intelligent Design." Another said: "I pray for mercy for you as you seem to feel so comfortable hurting and mocking the very creator who gave you the ability to do such. It's a little ironic."
Meanwhile, true believers can now order souvenirs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster website, including T-shirts from $13.99 (£7.50), a coffee mug and a car bumper sticker. Mr Henderson says the proceeds may be used to fund the campaign or, in the best tradition of dubious cult leaders, to buy a yacht that he has long fancied. If the sales really take off, it may also help him avoid having to take up his only job offer so far since leaving Oregon State University - programming slot machines in Las Vegas.
Other recent developments include the discovery of a toasted cheese sandwich miraculously bearing the image of His Noodliness that sold for $41 (£22) in an eBay auction and a hymn whose tune at least will be familiar to members of the Women's Institute or England cricket fans. The chorus runs:
"Bring me my bowl of pasta gold!
Bring me my meatballs of desire!
Bring me my sauce with herbs untold!
Bring me my bolognese of fire!"
As for whether there will still be Pastafarians in 2,000 years from now, there are already signs of trouble ahead. Some of the faithful question whether their Noodly Saviour might be made of linguini rather than spaghetti. Such people, Mr Henderson says, "give me a headache".