Should an online test pick your religion?
By Norris Burkes
Perhaps you remember the Veg-O-Matic commercial from the mid-1960s, where marketing guru and inventor Ron Popeil promoted a kitchen appliance by saying, “It slices, it dices and so much more!”
Veg-O-Matic ads inspired a “Saturday Night Live” spoof about a fish blender called the Super Bass-O-Matic, first performed by Dan Aykroyd in 1976.
Nearly 50 years later, let me introduce you to the Belief-O-Matic. Like the Veg-O-Matic, once you use it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.
I’m not kidding. The Belief-O-Matic is real.
But it’s not a countertop appliance. Rather, it’s an online survey at Beliefnet.com that asks, “Are you sure your faith is the best choice for you? Take our religion quiz to find out!”
The religious personality test promises that “…if you’ll answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, abortion, homosexuality, divorce and so on, the Belief-O-Matic will tell you what religion or spiritual path (if any) best suits your beliefs.”
If you take the time to seriously answer the questions, the site will rank your answers and match you with a world religion. Think of it as a dating app for God. Kind of like, swipe left if you’re liberal. Right if you’re fundamentalist.
In a world full of “isms,” you could potentially be matched with conservative Protestantism. Or maybe you’ll identify as a blend of, say, 75 percent Eastern Orthodox and 25 percent Seventh Day Adventism.
Your answers may spin you into unexplored places. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to learn about a new religion.
This Baptist took the Belief-O-Matic test and found myself kin to the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers.
The label Quakers took hold when early observers witnessed society members’ “spiritual energy” and mocked them for “quaking.”
The Society of Friends website promotes two major beliefs: “All people are capable of directly experiencing the divine nature of the universe.” And, “God’s revelations have never stopped. God might reach out to any one of us at any time.”
To paraphrase, God isn’t locked into Bible stories. God lives in our personal stories and is still at work in today’s world.
I wouldn’t call my test results foolproof, but I’ll admit they do seem to fit a certain chaplain (me) who recently returned to pastoring a Baptist church after years of hospice work.
While editors of the Belief-O-Matic website say they hope to inspire people to examine their relationship with God, they admit the test has some shortcomings. It’s not intended as a religious litmus test.
Too bad. A working litmus test could help resolve the differences of religious factions.
But wait, there’s more!
Maybe a litmus test does exist. Dare I suggest it is multi-faith?
Jesus said the real test was for us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart… (and) love your neighbor as yourself.”
His analysis suggests it’s not how much Bible, Buddha, Brahma or Bhagavad-Gita you can recite. What matters is how you live your faith.
More precisely, what matters is how your faith lives in you. Galatians 5:22 says it best:
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” When you see these behaviors acted out, you know faith has passed the test.
In the meantime, I encourage you to take the Belief-O-Matic test and let me know how you placed. For those with a serious religious interest, check out the Religious Typology Quiz by the Pew Research Center.
I’ve posted both tests on my website at www.thechaplain.net.
Norris Burkes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit thechaplain.net.