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Poll: Religiosity question bias

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  • Maco Stewart
    In these polls, two of the questions present the I m a Christian choice in a skewed manner that few persons who have the intelligence to participate on this
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 1, 2006
      In these polls, two of the questions present the "I'm a Christian" choice in a skewed manner that few persons who have the intelligence to participate on this list will feel comfortable with.

      1)    Which of the following best describe your religious or spiritual perspective?

      has the choice "I believe in a personal God who actively intervenes in this world and who listens to and answers my prayers."

      The "answers my prayers" part is presumptuous, from a Christian perspective, and summons up the God-as-DJ fallacy (I put in my tune requests, and God obediently plays them). James claimed that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective, but the model for prayer in the new testament is that of Jesus in Gethsemane, where he is related to have shed bitter tears, asked for his fate to be altered, but if that was not possible, then that God's will rather than his will be done. So the praying is up to the supplicant, the answering is, of course, at God's discretion. This question seems to be constructed with the presumption that people who believe in God (and additionally, possibly, in Jesus Christ as God's son and the redemptive sacrifice for humankind) are fools, which might be the case, but probably shouldn't be so inherent in the nature of the response that we are given to contemplate selecting.

        2)    Which of the following best describe you feelings about faith and belief?

      has the choice "Faith in God is a virtue and faith without proof will be rewarded." Similarly, this only asks about blind, unreasoning faith. Some people find the perspective of Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project, to be persuasive (as related in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief). As (of course) someone who believes in evolution rather than a 144-hour creation, his "faith" rests on consideration of some basic properties of physics, not just some existential yearning into the unknowable. Although evolution is crucial to the case of atheists, it's irrelevant to the basic premises of Christian or Jewish belief. So, similarly, the "without proof" might be an interesting issue to explore--because the Judeo-Christian tradition does claim that faith per se is credited to a person as righteousness--but it also prejudices the issue because it's the only "Christian" choice. It inherently suggests that people who would select it (as I did, eventually, with obvious reservations) believe that there is no evidence for God's existence and are thus inherently acting in an irrational manner.

      Maco Stewart
      Los Alamos National Laboratory
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