Weekend Quiz: Guess Which of These Religious Practices Are Made Up!

***Update***: Answers to the quiz can be found here.

Three of the following 15 behaviors are not a religious or spiritual practice — I made them up. Can you guess which three? No Googling and no peeking at the comments from smartypants readers!

1. During the yearly fall festival, taking enemas of lemongrass smoke, for purification.

2. Throwing a baby off a five-story building for good luck.

3. Transferring one’s sins onto a condemned-to-death chicken.

4. Regarding the marks in one’s underwear as a sacred symbol.

5. Chopping up dead bodies and feeding the chunks to birds.

6. Pulling chariots uphill with ropes attached to sharp hooks that pierce one’s back.

7. Spitting on a newborn baby and telling the infant how bad it’s being.

8. Sucking the freshly-cut, bloody penis of a baby boy.

9. Ingesting several pounds of pebbles or shells before a ritual swim in a holy lake.

10. Eating a cracker in the belief that it is the actual body of a tortured half-god.

11. Fanning perfumed smoke onto a car to bless it.

12. Running naked through the streets while inviting thousands to play tag.

13. Sticking one’s hands in gloves filled with large predatory ants and enduring their immensely painful bites.

14. Pleading for fertility by sneaking up behind a male cloven-hoofed animal and licking its testicles.

15. Taking sacred instruction to relieve the sorrow and anxiety caused by disembodied alien souls.

Extra points for matching the 12 non-fictional ones with the correct religion, tribe, or cult. Hit the comments to explain your hunches, guesses, and thoughts.

Stay tuned — I’ll publish the answers tomorrow!

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • A3Kr0n

    Please tell us tomorrow that #14 is made up.

    • Rabble Rowser

      Killing babies? Swipes at Jews? None of that is inconsistent with being an atheist.

      Atheists have done everything from kill Millions and Millions…for the purpose of eliminating relgion…to creating weapons that could destroy civilization in an afternoon.

      Atheists have nothing to brag about.

      • Donovan W Baker

        I took my vitamins this morning and fed my puppies. Checkmate!

        • Lorinda Pike

          And while on my morning walk, I threw everyone’s paper on their porches or front steps. And I did it for people I don’t even know. :-)

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Wait, what commandment is that again? Surely you don’t mean you make up your own morality?

            • 3lemenope

              God didn’t prescribe the moving of papers.



        • Donovan W Baker

          I love my heathen friends! Creative and critical thinkers, you guys rule.

      • Joey Guanzon

        Yes please cite where it instructs atheists to do such things in a text we consider sacred. Until then you cannot say such things were done because of atheism.

      • charles

        No child deaths are mentioned at all.

        The baby throwing happens in Maharashtra and is a Hindu practise. Spitting to ward off the evil eye and sucking the blood from a newly circumcised penis are practises in a few parts of Judaism.

      • boink

        There is no such thing as “atheism” just because there are atheist. Nothing, good or bad, has ever been made in the name of atheism apart from some noisy conventions. Atheists only common idea is we see no evidence for any of the gods so we prefer to live our lives without them. And, oh, most of us are also tired of religion shoved down our throats without evidence.

        And, just in case, the big communist and fascist dictators replaced their respective religions with cult of personality (which is religious behavior on steroids) and now when the dictatorships have crumbled the people are back in their old delusions.

        • Paula M Smolik

          North Korea. Pitiful.

          • Mogg

            Because that country is totally *not* a cult of personality, including behaviour indistinguishable from religious devotion.


            • Joseph O Polanco

              I’ll be more explicit then:

              וְכִֽי־ יִנָּצ֣וּ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים וְנָ֨גְפ֜וּ אִשָּׁ֤ה הָרָה֙ וְיָצְא֣וּ יְלָדֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א יִהְיֶ֖ה אָסֹ֑ון עָנֹ֣ושׁ יֵעָנֵ֗שׁ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר יָשִׁ֤ית עָלָיו֙ בַּ֣עַל הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה וְנָתַ֖ן בִּפְלִלִֽים׃ – Exodus 21:22

              Tell me, where do you see כְנֵ֣פֶל (nephel – miscarriage) mentioned anywhere?

              • Mogg

                The reply I made to you on WWJTD is the same one I’ll make here: if you wish to make a comment on a discussion we have been having, do so on the relevant blog, and don’t mess up someone else’s thread on a completely different topic. Do this a third time and I will be reporting you to the moderators of all three blogs and, if possible, to Patheos.

      • WallofSleep

        “Killing babies? Swipes at Jews? None of that is inconsistent with being an atheist.”

        Really? If atheists are good at that sort of thing, it’s only because we learned it by watching Christians for the last several centuries.

        But that’s not our bag. Projection clearly is yours, though.

      • Klypto

        This post was about religious practices. No one is saying all atheist are innocent “babes in thecwoods” We do not practice atheism. Non belief in the supernatural is the only thing that we all have in common. This isn ot a religious practice.

      • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

        Fuck off you nutcase.

      • ragarth

        Isn’t it awesome how Einstein is a theist when religious people quote him, and an atheist when religious people talk about his part in the atom bomb? Why, one would almost think that the religious ascription to historical figures by them has less to do with the person’s actual religion, and everything to do with inflating themselves or othering the atheists.

        • ColinConnaughton

          Einstein was not a theist as Richard Dawkins explains in ‘The God Delusion’. Einstein wrote or said ‘God does not play dice’ as a neat way to explain his determinism. He was wrong about that, as has been discovered. The universe is not deterministic. It has randomness built into it.

          • ragarth

            Hmm, do you often not read whole posts? I have no idea how what you just said has any bearing on what I just said. I was making a joke, and the joke didn’t even hinge on the idea of Einstein being a theist.

            • ColinConnaughton

              OK Ragarth. You got me. I believe that I didn’t read your whole post. Apologies. And, in fact, I agree with your post. PS I can’t read everything I would like to. Not enough time. So I do skim sometimes. And I think my comment might be of interest to some readers. It doesn’t have to be an attack on you. It was never meant to be.

              • ragarth

                Not a problem. :-) Thank you for the apology! Though I do believe Rabble Rowser is just going to ignore it and call Einstein a theist or an atheist whenever it suits his means. This topic is excellent evidence that being theistic doesn’t result in being moral. Indeed, the brainblock that theism induces seems to too easily cause people to inadvertently lie, as opposed to critically think about what they’re saying.

                • ColinConnaughton

                  Cheers, Ragarth. In fact I think I also missed that your post was a reply to Rabble Rowser. I saw his post and I thought it too outlandish to even reply to. I don’t know why he would be on this site anyway. I thought this site was for atheists and secularists to discuss things. I don’t bother arguing with people like Rabble Rowser.

                • ragarth

                  I give him and other theists I see on atheist sites the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re here for discussion and debate. Either to challenge the ideas of others or to challenge their own ideas–same reasons atheists sometimes go to theist sites.

                • ColinConnaughton

                  Yes, I guess I should adopt a similar approach.

      • Carmenalex

        Tell us where it is written we need to kill millions? And you confuse Totalitarian power hungry crazy people who happen to be atheists (but not raised atheists..Hitler and Stalin where raised Catholic…not one was raised atheist..they where raised in crazy)

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Denigrating our deeply held religious (yes, we are a religion) practice of swiping at Jews?! How dare you criticize our sacred Jew Swiping!!!

      • maddogdelta

        Hey, dude… you do know that Hitler and most of his top people were all Catholic, right?

        And if you look at the making weapons, Oppenheimer was Jewish.

        The people you claim are atheists who mass murdered millions, I will only point out 2 things. 1) they didn’t kill people in the name of religion, unlike Hitler who wrote that he was doing “the Lord’s work”. 2) They seem to have adopted all of religion’s trappings and made themselves gods to be worshiped. Which means that rather than being atheists, they were theists, just worshiping themselves rather than an imaginary god.

      • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

        Rabble, I’m an agnostic atheist. Whom did I supposedly kill?

      • maddogdelta

        Waaaaaaaaah! They’re making fun of me!

      • Mike Hitchcock

        Some people do talk unmitigated bollocks.

      • William Russell

        Really? Actually Atheists that are true Atheists have done NONE of that, the ones that have have required you to worship their leadership which is NOT true Atheism, that is deification of self.

    • viaten

      I’m hoping so as well, but I’m afraid the more bizarre the more likely it’s real.

    • WallofSleep

      Dude! STFU! My goat is trying to get some action.

  • John Schwytzer

    The sad thing is that they all are good candidates for religious practices. A couple of the more bizarre are ones that I’ve heard of.

    • Pseudonym

      Placing your sins on a condemned-to-death chicken sounds expedient. If the chicken is going to die anyway..

      Feeding dead bodies to birds seems like a sensible use of a dead body. Birds gotta eat, right?

      Naked tag sounds like fun. Can I join that religion?

  • Rabble Rowser

    Why is this still called the “Friendly” Atheist site?

    • aaa

      Anything particularly “Unfriendly” in this post?

    • Bender

      Because he friendly points out the stupidity of your beliefs.

    • Carmenalex

      Anything unfriendly here? No..this list is chock full of crazy…dont blame the site if these religious practices seem insane…they ARE insane..

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      So which of those 15 things do you believe?

      • 3lemenope

        [S]He’s offended on behalf of all of them. Even the fake ones.

        Especially the fake ones. Who else will speak up for them?

        • Brian Westley

          “Won’t someone think of the fake children!?”

    • Tainda

      That’s Hemant. This is Terry, he is the “Less Friendly” Atheist.

      Ask a stupid question…

      • Brian Westley

        And it’s a Cunning Plan[TM] to make himself look Friendlier…

    • cary_w

      How is educating ourselves about religious practices around the world unfriendly?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Cause it makes you rage so hard that you get hungry, and you end up having to scream upstairs at your mom for another sandwich. We find that entertaining.

    • Mommiest

      Because if it were an Atheist site that just went on and on about how totes cool and rational religious practices are, it would be called the “Stupid Atheist” site.

  • Rori Lieurance

    #4 Mormonism
    #8 Judaism
    #10 Catholocism
    Can’t wait to see which ones are made up :D

  • aaa

    Is it 1 per religion?

    • Anat

      No, both #3 and #8 are Jewish.

    • Emmet

      #10 and #11 are both meant to be Catholicism I think, if #11 refers to incense.

  • maddogdelta

    I recognize the Catholic ones, but I’m guessing 4, 9 and 12 are made up.

    These are guesses, only guesses. If these had been actual answers, you would be directed to a nearby episode of “The Answer Guy” to collect your prize.

    • Joey Guanzon

      4 is true. Mormons believe the marks in their underpants have certain symbolic meaning.

      • maddogdelta

        Ewwwww…. I don’t want to think of their interpretation after a really bad bout of the flu….

        • Jim Jones

          Interpretation : buy more laundry soap.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Ya, but that’s marks made on the underwear during construction, not use. Isn’t it?

        • Terry Firma


  • JuneAbend

    I’m sure that 8, 10, and 15 are (sadly) real…and I didn’t scroll down for help first, so help me Dog.

  • viaten

    2 (I think it’s real, don’t know the religion)
    4 Mormonism
    5 Tibetan Buddhism
    8 Judaism
    10 Catholicism
    15 Scientology.
    12 I’m guessing is made up, but who knows.

  • ColinConnaughton

    Only 3 are made up! That shows how insane religion can be.

  • h2ocean

    I am going to say that 1, 7, and 9 are fake, although frankly I could easily imagine 7 and 9 being true. It’s just a best guess.

    4) Mormonism?
    8) some specific subset of Judaism
    10) Catholacism
    11) Hinduism
    13) I forget the name, but I believe this is aboriginal tribe in South America.
    15) Scientology?

    • http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/unique-everybody-else Scott McGreal

      Correct about 8, 10 and 15; I honestly don’t know about the others, but Mormonism sounds like a good guess for 4.

      As I recall #15 is from the top secret (before it got leaked out) super-advanced Operating Thetan Level III in the Church of Scientology. Apparently, this is an elite level which members pay tens of thousands of dollars to take! It’s here they learn about the infamous Xenu, Galactic tyrant from 75 million years ago!! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu

      I dearly wish #8 was made up, but shockingly it is not. It is practised by some ultra-conservative Jewish sects. Baby boys have died after contracting herpes from the mohil’s mouth. :-p More progressive Jews use a glass implement to remove the blood instead.

      I can’t even guess which ones are made up.

    • Emmet

      #10 can’t be Catholicism because a) Catholics don’t use crackers in their worship and b) Jesus is believed to be, not a half-god, but actually God.

      Sloppy – both the OP and commenters for not pointing that out.

      • badgerchild

        Covered elsewhere in the thread.

      • guest

        No-one cares about your weird theological arguements here. Halfgod, all god and all man, 3 quarters human and a pint of divine- it’s all, ultimately, bollocks.

        • Emmet

          Sure. Accuracy when critiquing something never goes amiss though.

  • Lorinda Pike

    5 is Zoroastrianism. Bodies are laid on Towers of Silence, where they are devoured by carrion-eating birds. A rather low-impact method ecologically.

    I’m not sure about the chopping up first part..

    • ralph Vonwauwau

      Or it could be describing a sky burial – Tibet Buddhism, where you feed the corpse to birds.

      • WallofSleep

        From what I’ve read, the practice has more to do with a lack of resources in that region than it does religion. Suffering from permafrost and a shortage of trees, they can neither bury nor burn their dead.

        • skeptical_inquirer

          I’m actually OK with air burial because it is environmentally friendly
          & good for places with very hard & rocky ground. That said,
          occasionally the birds vomit up a part so I can understand why it hasn’t
          caught on.

          • cary_w

            Yes, from an environmental standpoint this is a very good way to get rid of a dead body, certainly much preferable to burning, burying or letting it rot in a coffin. And it is the only practice on the list that makes any sense at all!

            Rumor has it that that Edward Abbey (famous environmentalist, author and inspiration to some of the more radical environmentalist groups) convinced his friends to give him a similar burial when he died in the late ’80s. They took his body out to a very remote and undisclosed location in the desert and left it there for the coyotes and vultures to eat. A fitting and respectful end for someone who was such a believer in wilderness and preserving the natural world.

    • WallofSleep

      I was gonna say “Tibetan Sky Burial”, but they don’t chop up the body so much as cut key tendons to make the corpses easier to devour.

      Note: searching the web for “Tibetan Sky Burial” can produce some gruesome, NSFW images.

      • allein

        “Note: searching the web for “Tibetan Sky Burial” can produce some gruesome, NSFW images.”

        And I am the kind of person who, having read this, will now go and do just that. While eating ice cream.

    • guest

      I would find this appealling. European vultures are struggling because of a lack of carcasses. Maybe reviving the practice would help them survive. However, I’m an organ donor and leaving my body to science has a certain appeal too.

  • badgerchild

    #3 is Hasidic Judaism; a friend and I were talking about his aunt and uncle doing that the other day.

    #12 could be anything that uses incense, but probably Hinduism.
    My candidates for the fakes are #1, #9, and #14; let’s see if I’m right :D

    • badgerchild

      I mean #11, not #12 for Hinduism (the perfumed smoke).

      I know #12 is real. It’s a Japanese religion, I think Shinto.
      I think #7 is real and I have a hunch it’s a practice from or derived from an African religion.

  • BudMoore

    This is a trick quiz. As far as I can tell, these are all rituals that are practiced, somewhere on the planet, in this day and age.

  • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

    1, 2 and 9?

  • ragarth

    My guesses: 2, 8, 12.

    • 3lemenope

      8 is certainly real. Haredi mohels have a very bad habit, bad not just because of the ick factor but also because it tends to spread herpes.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Herpes? I thought it was spreading heb B, but not herpes.

        • 3lemenope

          Last paragraph in this section of this article:

          In three medical papers done in Israel, Canada, and the USA, oral suction following circumcision was suggested as a cause in 11 cases of neonatal herpes.[23][42][43] Researchers noted that prior to 1997, neonatal herpes reports in Israel were rare, and that the late incidences were correlated with the mothers not carrying the virus themselves.[23] Rabbi Doctor Mordechai Halperin implicates the “better hygiene and living conditions that prevail among the younger generation”, which lowered the rate of young Israeli Chareidi mothers that carry the virus, to 60%. He explains that an “absence of antibodies in the mothers’ blood means that their newborn sons received no such antibodies through the placenta, and therefore are vulnerable to infection by HSV-1.”[19]

          [EDIT: I particularly like how, in the paragraph immediately preceding the one quoted, an association of Rabbis was threatening civil disobedience against an informed consent rule for parents of children who would be undergoing metzitzah b'peh. Assholes.]

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Oh ugh. So herpes in Israel and Hep B in New York seem to be the primary epidemics spreading through metzitzah b’peh. Lovely.

            And what the hell about not doing informed consent? That’s … that’s … [splutter] ugh I hate religious authorities a lot of the time.

          • UWIR

            Yeah, in cases of people touching a child’s genitals, informed consent from the parents is what’s important.

            • 3lemenope

              When we’re talking about a few-days-old kid and non-sexual touching, yes, actually, the medical consequences are most relevant and it would be an important positive step if there were informed consent. Some parents might even say ‘no’ as a a result of such information. You’re telling me that’s insignificant?

              • UWIR

                It’s a step in the right direction, but when we’re talking about the removal of part of someone’s body, followed by something that risks STIs, none of which is motivated by any medical purpose, the idea of allowing parental proxy consent is absurd.

  • http://knowthesilence.blogspot.com/ Joshua

    1. No idea.
    2. Done by some Hindus
    3. Jewish ritual
    4. Mormon magic underwear
    5. Buddhist “sky funeral”
    6. I’ve seen Hindu ascetics do similar things
    7. No idea. Sounds legit, though.
    8. Jewish circumcision
    9. No idea.
    10. Eucharist in Catholicism and some other Christian denominations (Eastern Orthodox believe this, but don’t use a “cracker”)
    11. Eastern Orthodox do this. Probably others
    12. No idea
    13. South American tribal test of manliness. The ants are called “bullet ants” because a bite from one feels like being shot
    14. No idea
    15. Scientology

    • 3lemenope

      3. Jewish ritual

      I’ve heard of the goat (hence: scapegoat), but a chicken?

      • http://knowthesilence.blogspot.com/ Joshua
        • 3lemenope

          I’d normally say I learn something new every day, but today has been quite a day for learning.

          • Infidel Poetry

            It’s not even some Jewish practice done in some far away land. This goes on in Brooklyn, New York in the Hasidic community.

            Funny how most of the guesses were for Voodoo or some practice that goes on in remote places in Asia.

            • 3lemenope

              It’s not even some Jewish practice done in some far away land. This goes on in Brooklyn, New York in the Hasidic community.

              You know, I’m constantly amused and entertained by what I call “the gaps”. Everyone has them, even in areas of otherwise expert-level knowledge; a factoid that most people find too obvious or commonly experienced to even mention but a few people managed to never encounter.

              They just never got the memo.

              Like, for example, I had a political science professor, this is in the aughts now, who didn’t know that heterosexuals could through regular ol’ hetero vanilla sex transmit HIV. He was not an idiot, by any means, and he was an expert in his field. He just, somehow, never got the memo. (The class filled him in on the skinny right quick.)

              I’ve been to a few Passover seders, two bar mitzvahs, and a Rosh Hashanah service, I’ve taken classes on the Bible, on Israel, on Judaism, counted many observant Jews among my friends (including one roommate), and yet I’ve never ever even heard of the chicken thing. A classic case of the gaps if ever there was one.

              Funny how most of the guesses were for Voodoo or some practice that goes on in remote places in Asia.

              Is this referring to the thread just like this one but in the alternate universe where Spock has a beard?

              • Infidel Poetry

                Skimming the original list, there were a few I’m not sure of; those are my gaps .But the condemned chicken I knew right away since I keep on on animal rights issues. There are some within the Hasidic community that are trying to get others to abandon the practice.

                For what it’s worth though, it’s more a fundamentalist Jewish thing; not all that mainstream among most Jews you’re likely to meet. We just have a lot of fundamentalist Jews in Brooklyn.

                Okay, maybe not “most of the guesses” but certainly three in the comments above:

                “3. Transferring one’s sins onto a condemned-to-death chicken.
                Vodun/”Voodoo”, I think.”

                “3. Sounds like some form of Voodoo”

                “3) I’ve heard of this in various voodoo practices, and S.E. Asia local religions. Definitely real.”

                May not even be wrong, perhaps there are similar chicken ceremonies in Voodoo or Asian religions.

    • number1ahole

      I know 14 is real, like from India or Tibet or something same on all others

  • Jim Jones

    I’m going with 12, 13, 14.

  • Carmenalex

    Made up=7,9,12 I think

  • 3lemenope

    I’m guessing 9, 12, and 14.

    • cary_w

      After reading all the comments and doing a quick tally of what everyone thinks, I am now convinced you are correct! We’ll see if you are right tomorrow :-)


    Considering new religions are created every day, these could all be real. O_O

  • Jansen Waddell

    I find it most depressing that ALL of these are plausibly real rituals :

    I’m gonna try to seem clever and guess that this was just a mean trick question, and none of these are fake :)

  • Cake

    “Guess Which of These Religious Practices Are Made Up!”

    All of them.

    • Hat Stealer

      Really? I was going to go with “none of them.”

      • badgerchild

        All the religions are made up, so all the practices are as “real” as a Dungeons and Dragons game.

        • Hat Stealer

          Tell that to the cow getting its balls licked.

          • badgerchild

            No, no, I mean the people doing them (if they’re doing them) are really doing them, but they’re not “real” any more than my college roommate casting Fireball with the help of polyhedral dice was “really” destroying dungeon monsters.

          • badgerchild

            Wait, a cow getting its balls licked?

            Do you not have bulls on your planet? ;)

            • Dave

              It could be transgendered, Shebull or a Hecow.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                Best New ’80s Cartoon Concept winner!

          • allein

            Cheese balls?

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          *rolls up sleeves and glowers comically* Ain’t no one demeaning D&D like that in MY house!

          Unfortunately, this is not my house. But at least D&D gets vetted by geeks trying to break it.

          • 3lemenope

            But at least D&D gets vetted by geeks trying to break it.

            Such as, right when 3rd ed came out, in my gaming group someone figured out how to do 1000d12 points of damage with a clever use of a 3rd level spell.

            • Fred

              The Item spell cast on a huge bolder, rinse repeat? Then the whole “patchwork quilt of armageddon” triggered by a single sling stone?

              • 3lemenope

                Much more clever. He realized that the “Burst of Force” mode of Telekinesis had a weight limit but not an object number limit. So, he got a barrel, and placed a cool thousand crossbow bolts into it, aimed the barrel at the adversary, and….

                I’m pretty sure they fixed this little exploit in 3.5.

                • Fred

                  TK was third level? I thought it was 5th or 7th?

                • 3lemenope

                  Oh, you’re right. 5th. I misremembered. The mode is called “violent thrust”. And I see they did fix it (restricted now to 15 objects total).

                • badgerchild

                  Now, now, if we start including D&D religions into the religions under consideration, we’re going to sweep the list and add thirty more items.

                • 3lemenope

                  And for praying to Iyachtu Xvim…but seriously, who even does that? Not even fictional characters could possibly be that stupid.

  • cary_w

    I had to go with 2, 12 and 14, but I admit to being totally clueless.

    3. Sounds like some form of Voodoo
    4. Mormonism
    5. Sounds like a sky burial, not sure what religion, and it may really be more of just a cultural practice, but it actually makes a lot of sense environmentally because the area where it’s practiced (I’m thinking tundras in northern parts of Asia?) the ground may be to frozen to bury a body and there are few trees, so fuel to burn a body is scarce, so feeding the body to vultures is seen as a respectful way of disposing of a dead loved one? Personally, I have to agree, I’d rather be fed to vultures or coyotes or anything, rather than be sealed in a coffin and be slowly consumed by bacteria!
    8. Some form of Judaism
    10. Catholicism
    11. This sounds like Catholics too, don’t they like to bless things with incenses?
    15. Scientology

    I gotta say, this is a damn scary list, it really puts religious whacko beliefs in perspective. There’s no reason “mainstream” religions like Christianity deserve to be seen as somehow more reasonable than transferring your sins to a chicken.

    • cary_w

      Opps, extra question mark in describing #5, discus won’t let me edit.

    • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

      #11 sounds like “smudging” — Cleansing a place or thing by burning sage and/or sweetgrass. It started as a North American aboriginal tradition but has been adopted by the New Age crowd as well. In My more woo-woo days I kept a bundle of dried sage in the cabinet under the altar with sundry other magical accoutrements.

      • badgerchild

        I did think of that, but chose Hinduism because it was a mainstream religion. #3 could, after all, be some sort of Voudoun or Santeria or something like that, but I knew it was Jewish too so that’s what I went with.

    • allein

      The chicken thing is Jewish, called Kapparot.


  • Miss_Beara

    I am going with 2, 11 and 12.

    • allein

      2 is real…y’know, to ensure good health for the baby, of course. (India)

  • ThyGoddess

    The scary part to me is that… they all… “Make sense”… It’s all stuff you’d imagine religious people would do.

  • 3lemenope

    Wouldn’t be hilarious if some of the ones you made up ended up being real? I’m pretty sure of the ones I didn’t pick, and so far, of the three I picked as fake two are attested to as being religious practices by other commenters.

  • Hat Stealer

    I recognize quite a few of these, but I’m going to have to go with 9, 12, and 14.

    Although 14 could easily be some form of Hinduism that I don’t know about.

    • Sean Long

      It could also be Mithraism. Noon said any of these practises are necessarily those of CURRENT religions, after all.

  • Olivia Sears

    Think it’s 2, 5, and 12. I’ve heard of most of them, including the glove filled ants one (actually I saw that in action)

  • joey_in_NC

    Just FYI, anyone who thinks #10 is Catholicism is wrong.

    • badgerchild

      Only because Catholicism believes in a somewhat more sophisticated form of it. Wikipedia: “Teaching that Christ is risen from the dead and is alive, the Catholic Church holds that
      when the bread is changed into his body, not only his body is present,
      but Christ as a whole is present (i.e. body and blood, soul and
      divinity.) The same holds for the wine changed into his blood. This teaching goes beyond the doctrine of transubstantiation, which
      directly concerns only the transformation of the bread and wine into the
      body and blood of Christ.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation#In_Roman_Catholic_theology

      • joey_in_NC

        I understand the dogma of Transubstantiation. But #10 is still not Catholicism.

        There is something else about #10′s wording that invalidates it. And I’m not talking about the rude/insensitive/unsophisticated tone of the wording. It’s subtle. Anyone can figure it out?

        • http://knowthesilence.blogspot.com/ Joshua

          The “half-god” part. Jesus was supposedly “fully God and fully human.”

          • badgerchild

            Yeah, right. The offspring of a god and a human. If we weren’t culturally accustomed to seeing it the Bible way, it would be clear to us how absurd and inconsistent with the mythology it derived from it was to contend that Jesus was either fully God, fully human, or fully both. Nobody else seemed to have a problem understanding what the “half-god” referred to.

            • Emmet

              No shit Christianity was “inconsistent” with (or try “different to”) what came before it – it was a radical departure. You don’t get points for pointing that out.

              • badgerchild

                Yeah, I’ve heard that “radical departure” bit before. You don’t get points for parroting some apologetics book, either. Christians would like to think Christianity was a radical departure. It wasn’t. All of its elements are common to other religions, except maybe its unique emphasis on Hell. I suppose you’re proud of that part.

              • 3lemenope

                If you blend apocalyptic Judaism and Hellenic neo-Platonism in roughly equal parts, what comes out looks an awful lot like what we know as Christianity.

                Which isn’t a surprise, because that’s essentially what happened.

        • 3lemenope

          That would require taking the religion on its own terms, rather than using neutral descriptions from an external point of view. Why would an outsider do that?

          From the outside, it’s pretty tough to think of Jesus as anything other than a Hindu-style avatar or a demi-God. It’s only once one sifts through the finer points of the theology that Christians invented a few centuries later that we come to this ‘incarnation’ notion where Jesus is somehow the son of God and also wholly God, and not just in a finger-puppet sort of way.

        • UWIR

          I guess Catholics have some incomprehensible distinction between the Eucharist being physically Jesus and it being the being of Jesus, or some such nonsense.

          • Emmet

            No, it’s physically Jesus.

            • 3lemenope

              But not in the accidents!

            • guest

              No it isn’t. If it was physically Jesus, it would have the physical properties of Jesus. It’s Jesus in the same way a rocking horse is a real horse to the child riding on it, or in the same way Monopoly money is ‘real’ while you’re playing the game. All traces of Jesus are figments of the imaginations of believers.

    • Sean Long

      Catholicism is not the only brand of Christianity in the world. :)

  • Anne Orsi

    1. I don’t know about lemongrass, but a tobacco smoke enema was an actual “medical” practice believed to help revive drowning victims.

    2. Hindus
    3. Jews
    4. Mormons
    5. Not sure of the “cutting up,” but Tibetan Buddist sky burials and Zoroastrian Parsi in India feed birds with human corpses.
    6. Hindus
    7. Spitting at babies is a Greek cultural custom to ward off the evil eye. Not necessarily religion, but definitely superstition.
    8. Jews
    9. Sounds like pica, which may be a mental or nutritional issue.
    10. Christians
    11. Christians
    12. Shinto
    13. Native Amazon tribe
    14. just… gross. I hope this one is fabricated.

    15. Scientology

  • Sean Long

    1) no idea.

    2) FAKE (please, please, please, PLEASE be fake!).

    3) REAL – Santeria.

    4) no idea.

    5) REAL – I don’t know the name of the faith, but it’s in mid-asia, somehwere around Tibet/Mongolia/etc. It’s a form of funerary practise.

    6) REAL – don’t know what faith, maybe something Mesoamerican?

    7) not sure, but fits the general pattern of “make the baby not be noticed by evil spirits” behaviors.

    8) uncertain – but believable as a primitivist circumcision practise.

    9) uncertain – but believable.

    10) REAL – Christianity

    11) uncertain, but PROBABLE

    12) FAKE …?

    13) REAL – adulthood ceremonies among South American tribes often use similar methods.

    14) uncertain – could be Mithraism; are _dead_ religions included??

    15) uncertain – some modern-day UFO cult, maybe?

    • allein

      2) Sorry…India. The baby is dropped (not “thrown”) onto a sheet held by people below.

      3 and 8 are actually both Jewish.

      1, 9, 12, and 14 are the ones I haven’t either heard of or seen explanations for here in the comments, and 1 seems pretty plausible. So I’m going with 9, 12, and 14. (And after reading some more comments I’ll change 12 to 1.)

  • cary_w

    Doing some quick and rather un-scientific statistics on the comments so far it looks like 9, 12 and 14 are the fake ones. No one has yet made a claim for 9 to be true and nine people believe it is false. 12 and 14 have about the same number of false claims (eight to ten) and only one or two who claim they’re real.

    1 and 2 are the runners up for being false. Five comments claim 1 to be false versus one real, but several point out that it sounds real or is similar to some known religious practice. Six or seven claim 2 is false, but some of this seems to just be wishful thinking because it so horrifying, three claim it to be real and one comment post a link to Wikipedia to show it is true.

    3, 6, 10, and 15 have only true votes, and the rest, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, and 13 have between three and eight votes true and only one or two votes for false.

    It will be interesting to see if the group is smarter that the individuals and has collectively arrived at the correct answer!

    • cary_w

      After another quick look through the comments, 3lemenope is the only one so far who has 9, 12, and 14 listed as their final answer for the fake ones, so congrats to 3lemenope! (Unless we are both wrong!)

      • badgerchild

        No, 12 is positively 100 percent real, but it’s obscure. I know it’s a yearly festival that happens in Japan but I don’t remember exactly what religion it is. I want to say Shinto but that’s only because I don’t remember the name of the animist religion and I don’t know whether it’s really one of those religions or something else.

        • cary_w

          Interesting, if you are right then it would most likely be 1, 9, and 14 that are false.

          • 3lemenope

            Given badgerchild’s info, I’d say that triplet seems the most likely.

            • cary_w

              Don’t you just love how science works? We can change our answers based on new evidence! Can’t do that if you are basing everything on blind faith!

              Although, I’m still a bit skeptical until badgerchild provides some evidence.

              • 3lemenope

                Empiricism isn’t for the faint-hearted!

              • badgerchild

                Here, I think I found it; it turns out to be Shinto after all: http://avaxnews.net/educative/Naked_Festival_Takes_Place.html

                • cary_w

                  OK, I’m convinced, given this evidence, the false ones are 1, 9, and 14. If these are right, my statistics were still pretty good, since I got two right and the third was one of two runner-ups.

                  Although, there is a real possibility that there are so many bat-shit crazy religious practices out there that Terry inadvertently described one when he tried to make up something plausible!

                • badgerchild

                  I can make a case for the Satanic Black Mass being 14, but I’m not sure I can make a good enough case. It’s pretty close, though. Anyway, I described it in another comment.

    • midnight rambler

      There are eight that I know for sure are real, after that I have a hard time eliminating any more (haven’t read through the comments yet). I’m a little concerned that there may be some trick items here, things that are very similar to real ones but not quite (#12 is my top candidate for that). I agree on 9 and 14 being fake.

      • midnight rambler

        On reflection, I’m putting #4 as the third fake one. I think people are conflating the Mormon magic undies with the residual marks therein.

        • cary_w

          No, I think it’s just some confusion on what is meant by “marks”. Some people are reading “marks” as “ew gross dirty underwear!”, but what it really means is small religious symbols sewn onto to the garments at specific locations (I think the chest and the knee, but I’m not sure).

          Most of the descriptions on this list are written it a slightly biased way to make the practices sound weirder or more horrifying than they really are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still true.

          • midnight rambler

            Oh, I didn’t realize they had those.

            Sigh…now I’m stuck. Maybe the smoke enemas are close but not real? Or not specifically religious?

            • 3lemenope

              After badgerchild eliminated 12 as a possibility, 1 sounds like a winner. Lemongrass sounds a bit…odder than usual, even for a list like this.

  • ShoeUnited

    1) I know of a few spirituality festivals that involve enemas. Possibly real.

    2) Reminds me a lot of the ancient Athenian method of getting rid of defective babies. There were also rumors in antiquity by various groups that some like Etruscans engaged in infanticide or cannibalism. (This is of course old fashioned propaganda by the Romans, but did persist in history books for many decades). Going to say fake since most cases of infanticide weren’t really about luck.

    3) I’ve heard of this in various voodoo practices, and S.E. Asia local religions. Definitely real.

    4) Fake.

    5) Reminds me of open air burials. Like Tibetan Buddhism.

    6) While certainly could be a popular thing if you wish to hang around the right circles of people in the West. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this in a religious sense. Probably fake.

    7) Easily sounds like a method of getting rid of demons. Possible.

    8) I remember hearing a story not too long ago about something like this I think on this site. (And right now I’m eating a softshell burrito! D: DON’T EAT A BURRITO WHILE READING THIS ONE.) Yes, this is real-ish. I wan’t to say it was a Rabbi that said to do it, but that doesn’t seem right.

    9) Yes, I’m pretty sure this is real. I think in India.

    10) Christianity.

    11) Catholicism. Now they’re just getting easy.

    12) Not really a religious ceremony. Going to say Fake.

    13) Not entirely impossible, but I almost want more context. Questionable.

    14) I don’t know about licking testicles, but bull balls in more ancient cultures do promise fertility. I’ll say real.

    15) Scientology.

    1) T
    2) F
    3) T
    4) F
    5) T
    6) F
    7) T
    8) T
    9) T
    10) T
    11) T
    12) F
    13) F
    14) T
    15) T

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    1. During the yearly fall festival, taking enemas of lemongrass smoke, for purification.
    Probably real, don’t know the source.

    2. Throwing a baby off a five-story building for good luck.
    I really really want this one to be fake.

    3. Transferring one’s sins onto a condemned-to-death chicken.
    Vodun/”Voodoo”, I think.

    4. Regarding the marks in one’s underwear as a sacred symbol.
    This has to be fake.

    5. Chopping up dead bodies and feeding the chunks to birds.
    Dunno, probably real, no clue what the source is, though it sounds rather eco-friendly.

    6. Pulling chariots uphill with ropes attached to sharp hooks that pierce one’s back.
    Not a clue, but I wouldn’t put it past someone out there to do this.

    7. Spitting on a newborn baby and telling the infant how bad it’s being.
    Plausible, though the source is unknown to me.

    8. Sucking the freshly-cut, bloody penis of a baby boy.
    Unfortunately real, and this comes from Judaism.

    9. Ingesting several pounds of pebbles or shells before a ritual swim in a holy lake.
    This sounds just dumb enough to be real.

    10. Eating a cracker in the belief that it is the actual body of a tortured half-god.
    Ahhh, Catholicism…

    11. Fanning perfumed smoke onto a car to bless it.
    Any number of New Age practices…

    12. Running naked through the streets while inviting thousands to play tag.

    13. Sticking one’s hands in gloves filled with large predatory ants and enduring their immensely painful bites.
    Waaay too real, this is done by a South American tribe, and is, IIRC, a passage into manhood or somesuch.

    14. Pleading for fertility by sneaking up behind a male cloven-hoofed animal and licking its testicles.
    Probably real.

    15. Taking sacred instruction to relieve the sorrow and anxiety caused by disembodied alien souls.
    $cientology, of course!

    • WillBell

      4 is Mormonism.

  • JA

    I’m gonna guess 7, 9 and 12 are false.

  • Itarion

    1 is Wicca, 8 seems like a sub-sect of Judaism, 10 Catholicism, 13 is one of the many native African coming of age ceremonies,14 just seems stupid enough to be real, 15 Scientology
    This is just wrong, because I can’t even tell with some of these.

    • badgerchild

      I’ve heard of New Age practitioners using lemongrass oil enemas for purification, and smoke enemas are a thing, but I don’t know that the practice is associated with any particular religion, and I don’t know about lemongrass smoke. I actually was thinking it might be something more like an ancient Russian or Roma belief… but that’s a very wild guess, lol.

      • Itarion

        I’m just supposing here, really.

  • kaydenpat

    Hopefully 2 is false.

  • joemama

    1–I’m gonna bet some branch of Hinduism, but I have no idea



    4—Mormonism, but if you take it another way, you could say “poop worshipper” (marks in the underwear! lol)


    6—–Hindu festival of Thaipusam

    7—no clue!

    8—-part of the Jewish circumcision ritual


    10—-Catholic communion

    11—-Chinese ancestor woship, OR Catholicism, OR Orthodox Xianity, OR Russian Orthodox.


    13—-Republican National Committee

    14—-Benny Hinn Ministries


  • badgerchild

    It has just occurred to me that in the Black Mass, the Devil is represented as a goat being, and a worshipper or worshippers approach and kiss the Devil from behind. Although it’s not clear whether the ass or the testicles are the part kissed, it is reported that Satan is sometimes represented by a male goat in the ritual. The Black Mass, it would seem from the way it is described, is less about fertility and more about lust, but it still counts, I guess. So how can we be sure that 14 isn’t legit?

    • guest

      Has the black mass ever been shown to be real outside of the fevered imaginations of Christian hysterics?

      • badgerchild

        No idea. Just throwing it out there.

  • Robin Bass

    unfortunately #3 and #8 are real in the ultra orthodox Jewish world – and babies have died from herpes from rabbis doing this to them (#3)…and all the chickens have died (#8) in some stupid belief their sins will be transferred to the chicken as it is spun over their head before it is killed..they are both disgusting practices and should be illegal

  • John Herling

    #2, 11, and 12 are made up, right?

  • mac

    1,2 & 4

  • MineApostasy

    They’re all real: this is just an occasion to see how quickly we pick apart and scrutinise bizarre rituals.