Review & Reflection: Belief Net’s Belief-O-Matic

A friend of mine is writing about interfaith relationships for Cross Quarterly. In the process, she and her husband took a quiz at Belief Net: the Belief-o-Matic quiz. It’s fun to take since it does ask questions that are very directly tied to religious beliefs. However, as a quiz self-described as “tell[ing] you what religion (if any) you practice…or ought to consider practicing,” I was disappointed to say the least that they didn’t include my beliefs and my religion in the quiz. In fact, they didn’t even come close to the broader category I would consider my religion to be under.

Before I go into a full breakdown of the questions, I suggest you take the quiz yourself–if only because it is interesting to see what they come up with as your preferred religion.

At the first question, I knew I was in trouble. The Belief-o-Matic asks: “What is the number and nature of the deity(ies)?” The answers, however, do not include hard polytheism. The choices range from one god to “Multiple personal gods (or goddesses) regarded as facets of one God, and/or as separate gods” to a pantheist outlook to atheism. Luckily, I could pick “None of the above.” Still, is it really out there to just put “Multiple, distinct deities” on a list like this? They had two types of pantheism listed and two types of monotheism listed…but no options for polytheism.

First answer? “None of the above” – High importance.

The next question is tricky: “Are there human incarnation(s) of God (or of gods/goddesses)?” I say tricky because I wouldn’t use the word “incarnation”, but the Gods most certainly walked the Earth and are still of this Earth. But not necessarily any humans who are the gods “reborn” that I know of–in either legend nor in present day. So based on the wording, I actually pick what is probably the atheist answer: “No Incarnations because there is no God(s). Or not sure. Or not important.”, and chose “Low importance.”

The next question is about cosmology, asked as: “What are the origins of the physical universe and life on earth?” As I write in a 31 Days of Polytheism response, there isn’t an exact belief that Gaelic Polytheism offers for the origins of the physical universe and life on Earth. The Book of Invasions does detail the groups of people who came to and from Ireland, but not necessary a creation myth like how Yahweh formed Eve out of Adam’s rib. But I have some nudges that the Gods and Spirits influenced how the world was made, but not in a radical way that The Bible dictates its God did. So while the monotheistic beliefs are wrong, so is the atheist answer that the Gods had zero input. Thus, my answer became “None of the above – High Importance.”

The next questions is about what happens to humans after death. Most of the questions deal with how treatment of a person after death is dependent on their conduct in life. That isn’t what I believe, and that isn’t what any experiences I’ve had dictate. Rather that when a person dies, they cross into the spirit realm. That’s all. The details of the spirit realm…I don’t know, exactly. I don’t even know if “realm” is the right word. I haven’t done a lot of meditation on the matter as of yet. But none of the choices reflect that. The closest answer is: “There is definitely an afterlife, but the specifics cannot be known or are unimportant – most important is one’s conduct in life.” …but I disagree that it cannot be known or is unimportant. It’s just that it isn’t dependent on conduct in this before-death life. So I sadly am force to choose “None of the above – Medium importance.”

The next question is about wrongdoings and once again shows a dichotomy of answers. Either it’s entirely a spiritual reason, or it’s entirely not. My personal belief is both. I think the majority of what I would classify as “wrongdoings” in the world are because of humankind. But I do think the Spirits and Gods influence some things, similar to how I may influence someone else’s reactions. And so again I choose “none of the above – medium importance.”

Then the quiz asks us to agree or disagree with this statement: “One or more spirit being(s) exist who can cause human suffering.” This is tricky, because like I just mentioned I believe spirit beings can influence humans and create suffering. I think there are definitely entities out there who love to mess with humans for fun. But is this question referring to all of human suffering, or just some of it? The way it’s worded, I chose “Agree” but put its importance as low.

“Why is there so much suffering in the world?” For me, that’s a question that can’t be answered in multiple choice. Want to talk about patriarchal values? The psychological presets humans have that make us very susceptible to creating and feeling suffering? The flawed building blocks modern society is built off of? And how that can be integral to spirituality depending on what type of suffering and caused by what?

This is the first question that I cannot answer on this quiz. All the answers–even the “none of the above”–are correct. The “none of the above” has a caveat stating: “None of the above; human suffering has nothing to do with the supernatural.” But it can. My suffering has led me to be so devoted to Lugh. My views of suffering are very important in my religious beliefs, even if Spiritual Entities aren’t the ones to blame for it. I chose “None of the above”, but only because it was closest to my actual answer. It didn’t reflect it at all. And when choosing how important the question and answer are, I picked “high importance” even though I couldn’t give the correct answer.

Noticing how so far when I can’t answer a question, my would-be answer is extremely important to me?

Luckily, it’s followed by a very easy question where I must finish the sentence, “You must worship:” Quick and easy answer is Nothing. You don’t need to worship the Gods. I don’t think I even need to. In fact, I wouldn’t say I do. I honor the Gods, Spirits, and Ancestors. This also gets “High Importance.”

Questions 8-12, Belief-O-Matic

AKA: Let us assume your beliefs are about getting the ultimate reward or reality…

Now is the part of the quiz that makes me smack my head for four questions. I’m frustrated because these questions revolve around the assumption that I must believe that there is an ultimate “reward” or “reality” that can only be achieved via my religion. This is simply not true with me, and I don’t think is true for a lot of Gaelic Polytheists I’ve met.

And with this assumption, Question 8 asks me to agree or disagree with the statement: “You must participate in certain sacred rites of your faith group.” There is no requirement because it doesn’t exist? Question 9 is how one must confess their sins. But again, there is nothing to confess because there is no such thing as sin. For these two questions, I answered “Not Applicable” with a high importance.

Now question 10 asks: “Good works (deeds) and compassion are…” and sadly I cannot choose “Good and compassionate.” Instead, I have to choose between: “Necessary to attain the ultimate reward or reality,” “We are saved through faith and the grace of God; good works demonstrate faith,” or
“There is no spiritual realm after life. Or, not important. Or, not applicable.” I have to choose the last of the choices, but because it’s not applicable. Good deeds and compassion don’t change what happens after you die, in my opinion in this stage of my religious life. The worst of thieves and the best of philanthropists end up in the same place and in the same way–generally speaking. At least, that’s my working theory at the moment. However, there is a spiritual realm of sorts. So this question is answered “Not applicable” with a medium importance.

And for the whip cream on top of this Assumption Sammich: “Choose the statement that best reflects your beliefs about the path to the ultimate reward or reality…” Seriously? And there isn’t an answer for “none.” There is a passive aggressive atheist answer that reads: “Humankind will be “saved” through human effort, not through religious faith or spiritual practices.” Which, I guess I agree with? But I don’t believe that anyone needs to be “saved” one way or another. And if someone needs help, they can turn to spiritual means or non-spiritual means. But it isn’t necessary. There isn’t any sin one needs to rid themselves of. Ugh. I chose the atheist answer, with a low importance.

Then we have the morality of abortion. I chose that it’s a woman’s choice and it’s of high importance. I disagreed that homosexuality is an immoral sin and that it’s of high importance. Then it asks if gender roles should be upheld. I put I disagreed and it’s of high importance. Divorce okay? Agree and high importance. Social programs should be important to my coreligious? Yes and of high importance. All those questions are important because I believe that upholding the community’s well-being is a virtue. If a person is forced into having a child they cannot care for, the community will suffer. If gender roles limit, hurt, and/or disembody the people of the community, the community will suffer. (Besides, if someone is best for the job, it shouldn’t matter if they are or are not a certain gender.) If a marriage that needs to end for the well being of the partners is blocked, then the community will suffer. And naturally, social programs to help the community thrive and nurture itself is important, or else the community will suffer. (“The community” here being extended families both biological and constructed that self-identify as a group together. I first think of Gaol Naofa, but I am also referring to the herds of friends I have made throughout the years and how they are my community of support.)

Question 18 bothers me. It asks me to agree or disagree with: “Non-violence (including pacifism, opposition to the death penalty, etc.) should be fundamental to my belief group.” This is tricky because I agree and disagree. I think non-violence is important. People constantly fighting is going to lead to a lot of heartache and misery. But being completely non-violent can also lead to heartache and misery, and it’s at those times that violence is necessary. I believe that if I was being attacked, I have the right to fight back enough so that I can get away to safety. But this question has an all-or-nothing approach. So I have no choice but to choose “Disagree.” — since it is applicable and I am not neutral, but I do not agree that it is always the best solution. That leaves me with disagreeing, and I chose of high importance.

Question 19 is also infuriating. It asks me to again agree or disagree with: “Spiritual healing practices should be fundamental to my belief group and preferred over conventional medicine.” Again, I do not have a polar view on this. I think spiritual healing practices are important. I find baths, prayers, meditations, and certain rituals to be very healing. But I also know that I need medication, therapists, and psychiatrists. Both build a healthy “me” in my experience, not just one or the other. But the answers do not let me choose a stance that says both are preferred. Thus, I chose “Disagree” and that it was important to me.

The last question (finally!) is one of only two easy questions in the test that have my answer listed. It asks me to agree or disagree with: “Revering (and/or worshipping) nature should be fundamental to my belief group.” A strong yes and it is important. There’s lots of reasons for that, but I’ll go into that with the 31 Days of Polytheism.

So after all that, what religion does the test think I have?

My email results.

My email results.

And at this moment, I realized I was just as doomed as I thought I was with the first question¹. No where on these choices is my beliefs. Nothing close. I’m not NeoPagan and I’m not New Age. Those are both typically soft polytheist beliefs. (Go back to question one and choose the answer: “Multiple personal gods (or goddesses) regarded as facets of one God.”) I’m a hard polytheist who doesn’t mix-match different religions. That isn’t represented in NeoPagan, and certainly not in New Age.

This is why a Polytheist Community Center is so necessary. NeoPagan and New Age have exerted themselves enough that they have recognition in places like Belief Net. They have spaces for them in Pagan groups, events, and conferences. But they exclude Hard Polytheists such as myself. They exclude Recons and people set in traditions, not set in mish-mashing from various sources that are probably based off wrong histories. My polytheism isn’t set in “do whatever” but set in values. And there are certainly NeoPagans who also fit what I”m describing myself as, but they can still fit in with Pagan spaces while I cannot and have not.

I’m starting to finally put together plans for the Polytheist Community Center. Expect some updates in the near future–nothing grand, but having outlines and structured goals makes my dream seem more tangible and concrete then just blabbing about how wonderful it would be to have one on a blog.

-Allec

¹ I realized during editing that the first question did allude to “hard polytheism” with the same answer that I pointed out was soft polytheism. But because the answer assumes those two types of polytheism are the same and it focuses more on the soft polytheism’s definition than the hard polytheism definition, I still stand by the interpretation that the quiz did not cater to hard polytheists.

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One thought on “Review & Reflection: Belief Net’s Belief-O-Matic

  1. Ah Beliefnet.

    Many years ago, when I spent inordinate amounts of time on religious and interfaith forums, I was actually the mod of the “Celtic Spirituality” forum. Even after they changed servers/ hosts and the fairly vibrant pagan/polytheist community migrated away from the site, I kept at it, you can still see all the conversations and threads as they are all still there (at least the ones that made the move, a lot was lost as well).

    The upshot is that it was via these forums that I met and befriended the founder of Gaol Naofa, and eventually joined back in its infancy.

    The site itself has a significant number of issues, and there are many good reasons why a lot of the former “Pagan” bloggers left for greener pastures, and why folks thronged to other discussion forums. Its best days are certainly behind it.

    I think the belief-o-matic is at best entertaining and at worst wholly useless if you are not coming form one of the major theistic paradigms, and agree with your criticism of it.

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