Quizzes and nuance


I started to take a "Test Your Faith" quiz posted on the NPR web site that is supposed to measure how much of a doubter your are, but I found the categories and assumptions that lie behind those questions too difficult for me to relate to.

The first question, for example, asks: "Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and the purpose of human life?" To which I can only respond with questions of my own, such as: what is meant by "accurate knowledge"? Is a glimpse into some aspect of the ultimate reality the same as accurate knowledge? If two blind men have accurate knowledge of some part of an elephant, are they both right? Are they both wrong?

The second question asks, "Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?" I may not be very knowledgeable about Tillich, but even I can see a problem with that question right off the bat, since I for one don't think of God as "a" being. If I think that God as a concept belongs to a different ontological category than you or I, then the assumption behind this question falls apart, as far as I'm concerned. I notice that a lot of argumentative atheists often dismissively refer to God as "a" being whose existence cannot be proven, and I always feel that they are missing the point when they put it that way.

Question 3 asks, "Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?" What do they mean by "force"? For example, is a creative principle the same as a force?

Question 4 asks, "Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above) could ever be responsive to your thoughts or words?" Since I couldn't even accept the premises behind the earlier "being" or "force" questions, that makes things a bit difficult, and furthermore, what does the question mean by "effective" and "responsive"? Setting that objection aside, there seems to be a hidden assumption that this posited "being " or "force" might "respond" in some coercive fashion, by effecting some result that one asked for through the exercise of its power. But "response" can mean many things; after all, if I tell a friend about a tragic event in my life, my friend might respond by crying. A sympathetic response is a response, after all.

Question 12 asks "Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?" Again, the question I have is, what do you mean by "knowable"?

Question 13 asks, "If someone were to say "The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme nor reason, and all life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered," would you say, "Now that's going a bit far, that's a bit wrongheaded?" I wouldn't say "wrongheaded". I can understand why people might feel that way, and I sometimes feel that way myself. That being said, I generally don't see the universe that way.


CT said...

I'm in trouble
Only 2 Yes and 2 not sure. And 9 'No's.

But thanks for the link. I always like questionairres

Beliefnet has a better one at http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx

John Shuck said...

I am thinking that there is no way to ask these kinds of questions that won't raise legitimate objections to how words are used and defined.

Oops. What do I mean by "legitimate?"

: )

I think you raise good objections. I answered them anyway making my own assumptions as to what the words mean and came up with all nos, a maybe, and a yes.

BTW, I really enjoy Jennifer Michael Hecht's book, Doubt: A History (whence the questions came).

CT said...

I've been thinking about this Mystical and I reckon you can provide answers to those questions. While the terminology is filled with ambiguity, we (people who think about such matters) usually have a pretty good grasp of what the author is asking. They are referring to the traditional concept of God.

Q1 - Is there an ultimate truth and if so is there a religious tradition that encapsulates it. ( I felt that Christ does embody it - so yes for me)

Q2 - Did something consciously make the Universe ? Was a conscious decision - " I am going to make a Universe" - made by anyone, anything at any stage ? (Not Sure for me)

Q3 - Is there anything uniting or guiding our Universe - beyond the material ? I'd say your answer is a definite YES.

Q4 - If you pray , does your God respond with an action that impacts anything in our world ? ( No for me. )

Q13 - You have answered - generally you dont agree with it. Thats a YES.

Mystical Seeker said...

CT, I think the phrase "with an action that has an impact on the world" in Q4 is an interesting qualifier to the question. I think that praying has an impact on the prayer, and I think that praying has an impact on God; but the idea that praying inspires God to make an impact on the world that he/she would otherwise not have made is problematic. So I think my answer there is "no" if you add that additional phrase to the question.

Mystical Seeker said...

John, I should have given a hat tip to you for pointing out this quiz.