Which religion is right for you?
May 13, 2001
BY CATHLEEN FALSANI RELIGION REPORTER
Not sure what to put down for that tricky "creed" portion of the fill-in-the-blank autobiography?
It slices. It dices. It even cuts through cans.
Actually, it doesn't do any of those things, but it can help the religiously befuddled find a spiritual label to call their own.
Brought to you by the religion/pop culture Internet site beliefnet .com, the Belief-O-Matic is a multiple-choice quiz that helps users determine which religious tradition squares most closely with each respondent's own beliefs.
The Belief-O-Matic asks a series of 20 questions, then matches the respondent's answers with 27 religious traditions, ranging from Orthodox Judaism and Roman Catholicism to Taoism and Neo-Paganism.
The religious traditions are ranked--from 1 to 27--according to how much they have in common with the respondent's professed beliefs.
But the makers of the quiz warn: "Belief-O-Matic assumes no legal liability for the ultimate fate of your soul."
More than 15,000 people took the Belief-O-Matic quiz in the first four days it was posted on the beliefnet.com site, editor-in-chief Steven Waldman said.
"As you can tell by the way we packaged this, with tongue in cheek, we don't take this hugely seriously," Waldman said. "But I think the reason these are so popular is they ask people questions that they don't normally get asked.
"It's pretty rare that you go through the mental exercise of giving yourself a clean slate and asking the key theological questions."
At the request of the Sun-Times, four Chicago area religious leaders--Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist--took the Belief-O-Matic quiz.
Imagine the surprise of the prominent Muslim leader who earned a score of 100 percent--for Orthodox Judaism! Islam ranked a close second at 96 percent, followed by Mormon (81 percent), Reform Judaism and Baha'i (both 79 percent), and mainline to conservative Christian (76 percent).
"In my case, the results should be a stark reminder of how much in common the Abrahamic faiths truly have," the Muslim leader, who asked to remain anonymous, said of his high scores for Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions.
A rabbi who serves a Reform Jewish congregation in Chicago ran the Belief-O-Matic theological gamut also and was shocked by the results. He scored 100 percent for "Liberal Quaker." Unitarian Universalist was second, followed by Reform Judaism, with a score of 87 percent.
"But I took it right before sundown," on Friday, the start of Shabbat, said the rabbi, who also asked not to be named. "I really wonder how I would have done if I had taken it after sundown."
According to Belief-O-Matic, a Chicago-area Buddhist priest should be Neo-Pagan, New Age, Unitarian, Liberal Quaker, Christian Scientist or New Thought before what he actually is.
The priest, who asked not to be identified, scored only 68 percent for Mahayana Buddhist, his own faith tradition.
"Maybe I'm not a typical Buddhist," he said.
He and the others said the quiz made them think, but they found being limited to only a handful of possible responses to difficult, theological questions was frustrating.
It was often impossible to find an answer that was just right, and they were forced to choose an option that was closest to what they believed, they said.
Nora O'Callaghan's boss, Cardinal Francis George, will be happy to know she scored 100 percent Roman Catholic.
"A lot of those questions you could answer only if you were 100 percent something," said O'Callaghan, who runs the Respect Life office for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
"I was more likely to be Mormon, Muslim or Orthodox Jew than I am to be a mainline liberal Christian. Which is probably true."
Here are two sample questions and answers from the Belief-O-Matic quiz:
What is the number and nature of the deity (God, gods, higher power)?
a) Only one God--a corporeal spirit (has a body), supreme, personal God Almighty, the Creator.
b) Only one God--an incorporeal (no body) spirit, supreme, personal God Almighty, the Creator.
c) Multiple personal gods (or goddesses) regarded as facets of one God, and/or as separate gods.
d) The supreme force is the impersonal Ultimate Reality (or life force, ultimate truth, cosmic order, absolute bliss, universal soul), which resides within and/or beyond all.
e) The supreme existence is both the eternal, impersonal, formless Ultimate Reality and personal God (or gods).
f) None of the above.
Why is there terrible wrongdoing in the world? Choose one.
a) Humans inherited sinfulness, or a damaged nature, or tendency to yield to Satan's temptations from Adam and Eve, who committed the original sin against God.
b) Wrongdoing results from God-given free will plus a weak side, or a drive to satisfy personal needs, which sometimes resultes in wrongful choices (and/or vulterability to Satan's temptations).
c) Ignorance of one's true existence as pure spirit and as one with the Universal Truth (or soul, mind, etc.) can lead to wrongdoing.
d) Not listening to the voice of God, who resides within all, can lead to wrongdoing.
e) Egoism (self-importance) leads to desire, craving and attachments, which can lead to unwholesome thoughts and behavior, i.e., greed, hate and violence.
f) No supernatural reasons. Human nature, psychology, sociology, criminology, etc., explain wrongdoing. Or not sure. Or not important.
©Copyright 2001, Chicago Sun Times