Shocking: A Christian Group’s Online Poll Backfired

Not interesting: A Christian group (The Alpha Course) put up an online survey asking visitors if they believed in God.

Not interesting: The poll was crashed by atheists.

Not interesting: Atheists won, and the poll overwhelmingly swung in our favor (Most respondents said, “No,” God doesn’t exist).

Interesting: This is news to anybody.

Picture 1

More than 88,000 responded to the posters and adverts.

But embarrassingly the poll on the Christian website backfired with a massive 96 PER CENT insisting there was no God – and only three per cent saying they did believe.

Alpha chiefs last night blamed a web sting for the response.

Spokesman Mark Elsdon-Dew added: “I don’t think this is indicative of people’s faith in this country.”

So the accuracy factor may be off…

In the meantime, I’ll settle for the amusement factor.

(Thanks to Tony for the link!)

  • QrazyQat

    Any bets as to whether they’d be pushing forth the response to that poll if the goddies had “won”? Like mentioning it in every Alpha opening session?

  • mikespeir

    Awright, PZ, what do you have to say for yourself?

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Alpha courses are an utter scam for Christians. They do nothing to promote their religion as practically all that take the course are either nominally Christian, lapsed Christian, or from the local church filling in to make up numbers. The local church wastes time, effort and money on the course that converts practically nobody, and that money could be better spent on their good causes and charity.

  • Lindsay

    PrimeNumbers is right. The churches who put on the Alpha course are almost by definition evangelical/fundamentalist (read:judgmental jerks) and I personally have been harassed by a coworker for the past 3 years to go, even though the stated mission of the course is to spread Christianity and I have made it clear to this woman that while I don’t follow the same brand of Christianity that she does, that I do believe in God. As far as I know, these courses are almost exclusively attended by members of the churches that produce them…and perhaps some coworkers or friends who got sick of being annoyed and gave in. (because CLEARLY annoyance is a great outreach tool…..)

  • http://consequence.freehostia.com Tim

    hahaha and it would have been entirely indicative of the nations faith had it not been “helped”. of course.

  • DreamDevil

    Thank the FSM for PZ Myers!!!

  • http://www.coreymondello.com Corey Mondello

    damn…is this “attack” going to give them more to whine about and express how much they believe they are hated in the USA…

  • http://drakim.net Drakim

    I don’t understand what people are thinking. You can’t get the “wrong” answer from a poll. That would invalidate the whole reason you take polls!

  • Sam

    Who cares? Is it not a personal choice? If you believe in God, and live a peaceful life, then who cares? Why is there this huge faction to prove God exists? You can’t prove or disprove it, it makes me angry because there are all these religion bashers not making any difference and are representing the douche bag counterpart of the crazy religion fanatics. Leave people alone, isn’t that what you’re fighting for?

  • Crudely Wrott

    And yet, consider: if everyone on the planet had responded to this poll and voted with their innermost conviction the results would probably be inverted.

    But they didn’t. Too bad for them. Lazy farts. So much for their deeply held beliefs which are not very deep at all, really.

  • http://www.philaxiom.info Bruce Long

    Actually, the problem with this is that it may in fact reinforce their worldview. there is, I seem to remember, a passage about the “narrow and winding road.” As an atheist and former born again Christian, I think Christians would simply shrug their shoulders and say that the rest of us are on the wide highway to hell. In the end, even though Christian evangelism is rife in the United States, Christianity is still a doctrinally exclusive club. I doubt this result reflects the demographic in the US at all.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    This almost enough to shake my faith in the accuracy of internet polling!

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    So, I guess I can see how spamming a poll like this might be mildly amusing in a Jr. High sort of way, but really, what’s the point? Why do atheists bother pulling these sorts of stunts? What does it prove? What do you really “win”? Seems to me that these little pranks might even do more harm to your cause than good. I guess I just don’t get it.

  • Brian Westley

    What this shows is how completely, utterly USELESS unscientific web polls are. Some people really need to learn this, and that would be very slightly useful.

    This column represents 23% of the population,
    This column represents 28% of the population,
    And this column represents 43% of the population!
    Telling figures indeed!

  • Hammurabi

    re: Mike Clawson. The point of poll crashing is:

    1.) A way to disrupt what would otherwise be a completely homogenious viewpoint from a bunch of faith-heads on a god-bothering website.

    2.) To horribly skew polls that are basically voting on moral issues, specifically on denying rights to minorities or some such nonsense. Such things are not up for a vote and an unmolested poll could be used to further entrench those with the bigoted viewpoints.

    3.) To remind people that we exist, and cannot be ignored

    4.) Because it’s fun. Which is a damn good reason.

    Your concern has been noted, we’ll all go back to being well behaved heathens now. Everyone, back to your closets!

  • Jerad

    5.) to remind everyone such polls are by no means scientific and shouldn’t be used as any sort of basis for a report on factual information. (Hence why it’s in the sun?)

  • Luther

    Good Grief!!!

    Have they no faith? What kind of believer would have to ask a question? They should be persecuted in hell for abandoning their blind faith.

    But this is proof that seven in five polls are accurate.

  • http://zlovers.blogspot.com Zabinatrix

    Mike Clawson:
    I just have to re-emphasize what Jerad and others said above.

    Showing people that internet polls are completely unscientific and worthless is the reason that PZ decided to start crashing them in the first place.

    Unfortunately, people do take stock in internet polls. They think that they have some accuracy in showing what society in general thinks. What PZ and other poll-crashers do is show that just one single popular person can completely skew the results by simply saying “Hey, there’s a poll, you know what you do.”

    To me, the article quoted above really reinforces the importance of this. Because the poll was so skewed, the spokesman said “I don’t think this is indicative of people’s faith in this country.” – but in all probability he actually would thought that it was good and accurate if the poll hadn’t been so obviously crashed.

    Now, this particular poll doesn’t matter one bit. But some others do matter. And we should always remember that poll-taking is very difficult and it’s hard to get a representative sample of society, so we should careful to discard the obviously unscientific statistics.

  • Adam Hayter

    There’s one big mistake this this article, and that is “The Sun” being mistaken for a newspaper.

    This doesn’t come as a suprise to be honest. England is largly secularised as a nation.

  • snafu

    On a related note, the Alpha people have an advertising campaign up round London at the moment. Underneath the text “Is there a God?”, they have three check-boxes marked “Yes”, “No”, and “Probably”.

    It’s a response to the atheist bus adverts, trying to push the idea that their side is the one that’s open to ideas, properly considering the evidence etc.

    It always strikes me as funny that they’ve left off the most correct option entirely (“Probably not”).

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    The poll and associated adverts are dishonest. Two options “Yes” and “No” cannot be selected by the intellectually honest because the question of gods is not subject to proof or disproof. The remaining answer “Probably” is not balanced with the intellectually honest opposite of “Probably not”.

    Such polls deserve to be vigorously attacked in order to expose the deceit behind this kind of evangelical Christian thinking and advertising.

    That’s why I added a dozen or so “No” clicks to the site.

  • http://chatiryworld.typepad.com Katherine

    The Sun is not really renowned for it’s journalism, it is mainly comprised of non news stories like this and topless women.

  • MH

    The atheists have as much right to voice their opinion in these polls as everyone else. The problem is not with their voting, but the unscientific nature of these polls.

  • H

    I love the mentality:

    If the poll didn’t come out the way we wanted, it was a sting.

  • http://biblioblography.blogspot.com Krystalline Apostate

    I thought a ‘sting’ was a con job that netted money, or a trap for criminals. In this case, it means ‘Wow, we were pwned, but we win anyways’.
    Standard religious maneuver.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Showing people that internet polls are completely unscientific and worthless is the reason that PZ decided to start crashing them in the first place.

    That’s quite a noble cause. So I assume if that’s really the overarching goal, then PZ must encourage his followers to spam all kinds of internet polls (like the ones you regularly see on CNN, etc.), not just the religious ones?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    That’s quite a noble cause. So I assume if that’s really the overarching goal, then PZ must encourage his followers to spam all kinds of internet polls (like the ones you regularly see on CNN, etc.), not just the religious ones?

    There are a lot of polls out there. Can’t crash them all. So you pick the ones you think your readers will find interesting (i.e. religion or science ones) and direct them there.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I suppose, but it all still seems sort of pointless and juvenile to me. But hey, whatever floats your boat. :)

  • http://freethinking.vox.com/ WannabeTesla

    I don’t think this is indicative of people’s faith in this country.

    Yeah, crashing an online poll is an exercise in exposing that fact. Somehow, I do not think he got it. If 96% had gone the other way, the poll would probably have shown up on Fox News by now.

  • Siamang

    Mike Clawson, here’s my answer to you:

    So, I guess I can see how a religious business running a self-selected non-scientific open participation pseudo-poll like this might be mildly amusing in a Jr. High sort of way, but really, what’s the point? Why do religionists bother pulling these sorts of stunts? What does it prove? What do you really “win”? Seems to me that these little pranks might even do more harm to your cause than good. I guess I just don’t get it.

    I mean, either God exists, or she doesn’t. Why run a stupid poll as a marketing tool to get people to visit your website and charge them money to improve their chances of saving their loved ones from eternal Hell….. oh, I get it now!

    You should be outraged at The Alpha Course, and really all of the multi-billion-dollar for-profit religion industry, not the poll-jackers. If I was a Christian, I’d want to turn the tables on these money-changers.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I agree with you too Siamang. I can rip apart the Christian-Industrial complex even better than you all here can when I want to. (Then again, sinking to the same juvenile level of those I criticize doesn’t seem like a very good defense of my actions.) Both the polls and poll-jacking seem to me like silly distractions that, at best, are just good for a laugh, and, at worst, only serve to increase a sense of animosity and self-righteousness on both sides. But hey, again, whatever. If it gives you a laugh to tilt at windmills, then go for it.

  • Siamang

    I wouldn’t take the poll-jacking to mean anything deeper than this two-line couplet:

    People on the internet
    Like to play with the internet.

    one guy on 4/chan probably just created a vote-bot. I wouldn’t look at this as if all the atheists in the world all took time off from building soup-kitchens and curing cancer to rise up en masse.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I didn’t think they had Siamang. Like I said, if you want to do it, go for it. I do worry that it can be counterproductive towards reducing hostility and self-righteousness between Christians and atheists (not that everyone here shares that goal), but of course it’s not really my business anyway, so y’all just don’t mind me.


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