I’m a self-discoverer? Not really.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 January

When religious quizzes try to pick out the cliché instead of the Christian.

You are a Self-Discoverer

You’re not religious, but you’ve created your own kind of spirituality. Introspective and thoughtful, you tend to look inward for the divine. You are distrusting of all forms of organized religion. You especially dislike religious gurus and leaders, who you feel are charlatans.
 What’s Your Religious Philosophy? at Blogthings 

When I first got into this blogging fad way back in 2004, I used to have a regular feature I called “Stupid Internet Surveys.” People on the internet create quizzes, y’know. It’s not just BuzzFeed; they didn’t start the trend either. But because the other early bloggers didn’t always know what to write about—much like the other folks on Facebook who have no idea what to post about themselves on a daily basis—they were sorta desperate for any junk to fill the blank spots in their blogs. Quizzes made up some of that junk. Still do.

So, take one of their quizzes and find out which Disney princess you are. Or what’s the exact age you’ll get married. Whether you can tell the superhero movie by these emojis. Which yoga pose matches your personality. How many NHL logos you can identify. Which Harry Potter character you’d be bestest friends with. Whether they can guess your age with a food quiz. Whether your parents are cool. What’s your Myers-Briggs personality type.

Like I said, stupid.

Blogthings is still around, and someone sent me their “What’s Your Religious Philosophy?” quiz… the results of which indicate I must be an eclectic pagan.

Pretty sure where I went wrong was in putting way more thought into these answers than the author of the quiz intended. Well, I do that.

Okay, I am religious. But I haven’t created my own kind of spirituality: In the course of following Jesus, I’ve fallen into the category of Pentecostalism. I try for introspective and thoughtful, but I hardly look inward for the divine: I already know he’s not me. I don’t distrust organized religion: I not only attend church regularly, but I’m actively involved in church leadership. Yeah, I believe in healthy skepticism, but disorganized religion is hardly an alternative. Nor do I dislike gurus and leaders and think ’em frauds: There are plenty of frauds out there, but most of the leaders I’ve known, have been earnest and truthful and pointed to the one leader we should follow, Christ Jesus.

So why’d the quiz get me so wrong? Well, let’s look at the questions… and my hyper-analytical answers.

The questions, and my answers.

The quiz has only four outcomes. No, I didn’t take it a dozen times to figure out the possible outcomes. They listed ’em on the outcome page: Believer, atheist, agnostic, or self-discoverer. So, belief, unbelief, and two kinds of wishy-washy. (If you’re one of the wishy-washy folks: No offense meant. But come on, people, pick a side.)

Anyway, it appears every first answer is gonna get you a point in the “believer” column. Second answer “atheist,” third answer “agnostic,” fourth answer “self-discoverer.” The author didn’t try to conceal anything by mixing things up. Since I picked two “self-discoverer” answers, and one each of the others, guess what came up top.

Obviously I nitpicked my way to the label of “self-discoverer.” As you’ll see.

1. What best describes how you feel about belief in God/religion?
You feel that sincere belief will lead you to God.
No. People are regularly sincere, yet entirely wrong. Happens so often it’s laughable. Sincerity doesn’t automatically proceed to truth. A sincere pursuit of the truth might get you there, but hardly sincerity alone.
You think it is impossible to tell whether God exists or not.
No, it’s entirely possible. Every religion’s gods can be tested to see whether their gods are living and active. True, there might be malevolent people or beings faking stuff, but still: It’s hardly impossible.
You think beliefs are no more than wishes or dreams.
Yes—for far too many religions. Loads of people think the way religion works is you believe stuff really really hard, and the power of belief magically turns wishes into reality. It’s bunk, but it’s everywhere. So when it comes to religion, too often it’s not based on anything concrete or commonsense. It’s not supposed to be how Christianity works—our faith is meant to be based on testimony and God-experiences—but that’s what we see. So that’s what I picked.
You think belief is blind and only the blind believe.
No. Speaking for myself, I believe because my eyes are wide open, and I can’t close ’em any longer. Even the folks who follow wishful thinking have some external evidence for their convictions. They’re trusting their gurus. But blind? Nah; I wouldn’t say blind.

So the author of this quiz figured a “believer” would pick the first answer: Sincere belief would lead me to God. But that’s a pretty superficial interpretation of real, legitimate, not-imaginary faith. I’m not altogether sure someone who understands faith, authored this quiz.

That’s its fatal flaw.

2. You think God:
Will reward you in heaven for your deeds on earth.
To a point. See, there’s a significant amount of grace involved in God’s reward system. If God rewarded people for actual deeds, good and bad, we’re all going to hell. Forgiveness knocks out a lot of the bad stuff. God generously over-rewards us for petty deeds. So this answer is inadequate… but had it been adequate, I’d have still liked another answer better.
Is unknowable.
Well duh; it’s why God had to descend to our level and meet us where we are. I’m pretty sure the author of this quiz didn’t have in mind the idea of God bridging gaps, and making himself knowable. Still, I liked another answer better.
Was created by man, in our image.
Well, this is how a lot of people’s concepts of God work. Certainly our beliefs about God have been warped by comparing him with ourselves, or other concepts of earthly authority figures. Again: ’Nother answer!
Can only be known by actually meeting God.
Yes. There we go. You wanna know God, you need a God-encounter. Go get yourself one. He’ll meet you.

The quiz author likely suspected a “believer” would embrace the divine reward idea. After all, cultural Christianity is big on the heavenly reward idea (crowns, mansions, streets paved with gold) and cultural paganism is big on karma. And we caan’t get rewarded unless there’s a divinity to reward us. So yeah, I went with the “self-discoverer” answer.

I’m not sure whether it’s meant to be cynical—“Can’t know God unless you actually meet him, as if that’s ever gonna happen”—but it doesn’t matter. Besides, this quiz is bunk anyway.

3. What's the closest to truth?
Your soul will survive death.
No it won’t. Your soul is your lifeforce. When you die, you got no lifeforce. It died. It’s not coming back till resurrection. I suppose the author meant “spirit,” the part of us which actually survives death, but even if this were phrased “Your spirit will survive death,” it’s not my pick for most true.
There is no convincing reason why there should be a God.
I got hung up on that word “should.” Anselm of Canterbury aside, things don’t exist because they should exist. God doesn’t exist because the universe makes no sense (or would suck) without him; that’d mean he exists for a reason, and only created beings would exist for a reason. Well, God isn’t created.
But if we’re talking convincing proofs of God’s existence: Skeptics will disagree, but I say there’s plenty of it. So this answer isn’t true.
There are simple scientific explanations for the universe.
Well… there are scientific explanations. They’re more complex than simple. But they’re around. Anyway, still not my pick for most true.
Anything you discover about the divine will be firsthand.
Definitely. Not just semantically (because if it’s not firsthand it’s not your discovery; it’s someone else’s) but because revelation never properly sinks into us unless it’s something God showed us himself.

Again, it appears the “believer” was expected to go with that bit about the soul surviving death. I can’t help it that the author has no clue life in God’s kingdom happens to be way more central to Christianity than a happy afterlife.

4. What viewpoint are you most likely to take issue with?
All religions have equal amounts of truth and corruption.
No debate here. Some Christians insist Christianity stands out ’cause it’s the most true. And I’d agree. But I’d also point out that, for this very reason, Christianity gets corrupted like crazy. Selfish people try to bend it towards their own gain. Evil beings try to lead it astray. Just look at all the cults and heretics out there. Look at all the political movements trying to co-opt it. Sometimes you gotta wonder whether Christianity is more corrupt than most—and really, that’s one of the ways other religions attract people away from Christ.
You can’t enjoy the world without knowing God.
Big issue here. Because once you know God, you’re not gonna enjoy the world. Not really meant to, remember? Jm 4.4, 1Jn 2.15 Once we know him, we realize how profoundly screwed up this world is. It’s almost nothing like God originally made and intended it. It grieves him. It oughta grieve us too.
Yeah, there are some good things in life, and sometimes we appreciate the little things more because God’s removed our unhealthy hangups and bad habits. But still: This world isn’t our home, and creation itself will continue to groan till God finally fixes and restores it. Ro 8.22-23 We shouldn’t be blind to that.
God is omnipotent.
No problem there either. Considering what God’s brought me through, I find his almightiness rather obvious.
Spiritual or religious leaders can help you get closer to God.
No debate there. True, some of them will get in God’s way because they place themselves there, or because we place them there. We need to follow God, not his gurus. But gurus can be very helpful. Follow them as they follow Christ. 1Co 4.16, 11.1

Yeah, the author presumed the “believer” would object to the idea all religions have truth and error: “Not my religion!” And yeah, naïve believers do regularly make that assumption. Me, I’m not Fundamentalist. I recognize Christianity has loads of problems. But Christ doesn’t.

5. You are most interested in:
Serving God’s purpose while you are on earth.
Definitely this one.
Keeping an open mind on the subject of God.
Well, sure I’m interested. Not most interested. But only an idiot thinks they know it all about God, so I gotta stay open to what he’ll yet teach me.
Philosophy (as opposed to religion).
Curious. I do wanna know what others think. But I find philosophy divorced from religion tends to slide towards self-centered, pragmatic immorality. So, cautiously curious.
Exploring who you are and where you have come from.
Exploring who I am in Christ, sure. Where I came from—well, that’s the old self which we need to recognize, but leave behind so we can pursue Christ.

Pretty sure I picked the expected “believer” answer on that one.

As you can tell, I didn’t just burp up all the knee-jerk Christianist reactions to everything, and so much for the quiz. Take it yourself; see if you’re comfortable with your results.