Followers of the religion are known as "Pastafarians" and can also belong to any other religion at the same time if they wish.
Origins of the Church
The Church was founded in 2005 by ("prophet") Bobby Henderson with the writing of a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education. In this letter, he argues that if schools are to give equal credit to both the Theory of Evolution and to Intelligent Design, despite the lack of evidence for the latter, then other beliefs lacking any evidence must be equally valid and should also be taught.
He submitted, for their consideration, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) as a candidate deity.
Since then the Church and the FSM have grown in popularity, though there is still often a lot of misunderstanding about what it is they actually stand for.
Principle beliefs of a Pastafarian
The core belief of the religion is that the FSM is the creator of all things. He created the Earth and everything on it mere thousands of years ago, but for reasons known only to Himself created it with the impression of being much older.
If a scientific experiment is undertaken that proves the Earth to be much older than Pastafarianism beliefs allow it is believed that the FSM is there "changing the results with His Noodly Appendage" as a test of faith.
Heaven and Hell
Pirates and global warming
Pastafarians believe that global warming, plus other natural disasters such as hurricanes, are "a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s." This is supported by a scientific graph.
Naturally, global warming can be fought by becoming a pirate (or at least dressing up like one regularly).
Responsibilities of a Pastafarian
Pastafarians celebrate a Holy Day each Friday, when pasta should be consumed. Pirate regalia is considered religious dress, and must always be worn when preaching Pastafarian gospel.
Talk Like a Pirate Day, celebrated each September 19th, is now also celebrated by Pastafarians despite being originally unrelated.
Pastafarians are also expected to be tolerant of other religions, though as with anything you do get the occasional nutjob.
What is the point?
Ok, so you'd have to be pretty messed up to really believe a Flying Spaghetti Monster created us, but that's the point.
The main aim of Pastafarianism is to draw attention to the perceived absurdity of religious belief, and putting faith in something over evidence, reason and logic. Since there is an equal amount of evidence for the existence of the FSM as there is for the existence of any other God, in a country of religious tolerance (like the US) it must therefore be given equal credit.
This logic has been used as a powerful atheist argument, though many Pastafarians are also members of other religions. Many Christians, for example, do not literally believe that what the bible says is true. They do however believe in the general morals accompanying their religion and enjoy the community spirit it brings, in this respect Pastafarianism is the same and therefore there is no conflict in being a member of both.
Of course, it can also be pretty fun to dress as a pirate, so there's that going for it too!