True or False: Dinosaurs Lived with People

You may have already seen on the Internet this “science” test, which was given to students of a private Christian school in South Carolina:

scary test111page2

Poll time! Please answer truthfully.

[polldaddy poll=7064213] [Note: sorry, but since switching my blog to I’m no longer able to show the “polls” I’ve done. ] 🙁

[UPDATE: A creationist fights back.]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • mike moore

    wait!!!!!!! I missed the “heroin addict” option, I need to change my vote.

  • textjunkie

    definitely all of the above. 🙂

  • this just … i mean, it cannot … why the … what does this school have against diplodoci and/or apatosauruses? they’re HERBIVORES, for heaven’s sake. “behemoth,” my stinky feet.

  • Julie

    Mike, me too! All of the above except the heroin addict option. Not too keen on that one 🙂

  • Is there any other answer than “all of the above”? 😀

  • Leanne McGinney

    Is this really for real?!!! If so, there should be a law against it. I wonder if these people actually believe what they are teaching these children.

  • Karen Elizabeth Park

    Yes, this is for real. I visited the Creation Museum in KY last summer and this is exactly what is taught there.

  • Robert Morwell

    Yes, sadly it is real, and there are people who actually believe it. Though there are plenty of Christians who find it ridiculous.

  • Tami Scroggins

    I don’t think they should be aloud to teach fiction science and be accredited schools in the system.

  • Blake Moore

    Do I run into a permanent conflict with JC if my answer turns out to be wrong?

  • Oh great deity! The test was taken in my state??? The really sad part, is that I can think of at least two schools within 15 minutes of my house where such a test could have been handed out. Those poor, poor future BJU students!

  • Un. Real.

  • Bert Gagnon

    I think that teaching children to believe in this fake science is harmful to the children and to society as a whole. It is nothing but horse dung.

  • David Wharton

    The sad thing is, neither an “old earth” nor evolution are ultimately incompatible with Christianity. The Bible isn’t intended to be a science textbook. These folks are fighting a wholly unnecessary battle that just makes other folks dismiss them as ridiculous.

  • Renae Douglas

    Looking forward to if/when these kids enter college.

    I opt to homeschool my kids and I cannot tell you how HARD it is to find real science curriculum. I manage every year but my gosh it’s difficult.

  • Anne Evans

    Oh. My. Word. That surely amounts to intellectual child abuse?

  • John Williams

    They’re doing these kids a great DISservice–parents and schools are supposed to prepare kids for happy, productive lives. Theses parents/schools are doing just the opposite. These kids will fail in college, in their employment opportunities, and in their social lives–because their parents/schools are stunting their intellectual and social growth. It is, indeed, child abuse.

  • Valarie Ross

    While I find it disturbing that ANY school is teaching this what I find even more disturbing is that the parents didn’t know what was being taught at a school they were paying for their child to go to!

  • Anne Young

    I think checked this out and amazingly, this is real. Explains how many of our congresspeople got elected.

  • David B. Weber

    The last answer- “Were you there?”- reveals this as some of the educational trash emanating from Ken Ham and the Creation Museum in Kentucky..

  • David Wharton

    I remember my freshman year biology class, we were covering evolution and a (admittedly ballsy) Christian girl challenged the professor about it. You could tell she didn’t know the first thing about the ideas she was trying to dismiss, and the professor just cut the legs out from under her. It was vicious.

  • chrisnu

    This should be added to the evidence pile for classifying Christian fundamentalism as a mental disorder.

  • Christopher Nance-Ulrich

    This is real. Growing up, this is what I was taught. It took a long time to wake up.

  • Peet


    Sorry. Ahem….

    Things like this are ripe targets, for sure, but consider this child. Unless he or she stays in that perfect little hermetically sealed Christianized bubble—a world surrounded on all sides by homeschooling, church, worship music, Bible college, and the political stylings of Mike Huckabee—this child will be royally pissed off when the first cracks appear. They are being primed for either a retrenched and extreme fundamentalism, or a crack-addled rebellion. Allowing for debate, questions, and inquiry is exactly what creates a mature faith. My feeling is that if you haven’t dismantled every last phrase of the Apostle’s Creed and truly asked yourself if you believe it and why, if you haven’t figured out for yourself what you believe, then you don’t own your faith. You’re just borrowing it. And it won’t last. You’ll just end up finding ever more intense ways of ignoring reality. Singing worship songs louder, going to more Bible studies (or, hypothetically, spending each night blasting the TV with a vodka bottle in hand) and constantly judging yourself for not meeting up to “godly” standards.

    When reality clashes with this artificial and culturally indoctrinated version of Christ, children like this have already been conditioned to double-down on the fake. This poor child is completely vulnerable. When will they have the brass to tell their teachers, and parents, and pastors, that they are all packed to the nostrils with fertilizer?

  • How did you know that I dismantled The Apostle’s Creed? I got all these parts left over when I thought about putting it back together too. Now I just have to lip sync it every Sunday.

  • Lymis

    Really? I had to go out looking all over the place for extra parts for mine, because when I dismantled it and tried to reassemble it with what they gave me, it was pretty flimsy on its own.

  • mike moore

    I’m just the opposite … nothing like a good hit of smack to make you believe you and Dino and Fred and Wilma all live in the same suburb.

  • Lymis

    All the other, far more important questions aside, what sort of Christian school thinks Job and Genesis are in the Gospels?

  • Christy

    Alternate answers also accepted for Question #18:

    Would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?

    Radiocarbon dating is junk science.

    Polystrate fossils prove your conclusion is invalid.

    We’ll know who’s right when we stand before God, won’t we?

  • Leslie

    I know way too many young earth creationists to question the validity of this test. When will they wake up and realize that science trumps their ill-founded beliefs? If science proves something in the Bible is not true (think sun revolving around the earth!) then you have to conclude that the Bible was impacted by current cultural beliefs and scientific awareness at that time.

    (BTW, how’s it even possible to appreciate you more or have a bigger crush on you?? You know I love you, John! Not every day this lesbian says that to a man.)

  • I can just imagine the average nine year old getting their tongue successfully around the word Polystrate.

  • I had extra parts, and I because I am as handy with assembly as I am skilled in tightrope walking (even if it lies on the ground) I got frustrated and gave up on the attempt.

    Where they are now? Likely under the stove, where the cat likes to bat all small and sundry items.

  • Peet

    I still have the parts on the floor. Problem is, there are too many instruction manuals.

  • charles

    my honest answer to the poll is – I dont know… and I dont frankly really concern myself with the timeline…. We have yet to prove the empirical existance of God, so why should I have confidence in an “absolute” pronouncement of any timeline regarding pre-historic earth…. Most people have more pressing things to concern themselves with- at least I do…

  • charles

    win there Lymis…. very good.

  • Robert

    These little kids don’t stand much of a chance in understanding the real beauty and fragility of creation.

    For me, my understanding, comprehending and musing over the complexity, the delicacy, the unfathomable nature of the world around me… from the spark of the big bang to the ever expanding boundaries of the universe… adds a breathtaking level of awe and humility to my life.

    How can anyone really appreciate the miracle of life… the miracle of self awareness, if you don’t know how rare it is in the universe? If you are even allow to muse over the possibilities… to think… this is replace by nursery rhymes and lies…

    I love science because scientists are ever expanding my awareness of the mind of god.

    It is just sad to think that this banality, fear and ignorance will block these kids from discovering a deeper, richer and more powerful experience of life… and ultimately of god.

  • David S

    I’m with you, Robert. I don’t know how someone can look at a fractal and deny that God exists.

  • Yeah, this is pretty much me. I have flat-out been told to “shut up” because of some of the questions I’ve asked (ex, why do you guys keep saying marriage is supposed to be between one man and one woman when in the Bible God is clearly fine with polygamy?, among many, many other questions) and I’m pretty sure that at this point everyone is looking at me like I’ve abandoned my faith because it is all under scrutiny.

    Hard as I’ve tried, it’s really not possible for me to continue gliding blindly through life, convinced that if I had more “faith” I wouldn’t be wondering why a loving God is said to have slaughtered almost the entire human race in Genesis, or why there is zero mention of Hell in the Old Testament, or HOW the heck Adam and Eve sinned by eating the dang fruit if there was no sinful nature in humans before “The Fall.”

    It’s kind of embarassing that I’m almost in my thirties and just now refusing the accept the answer of “Who can understand Her mysterious ways?” or some other such crap, but it is liberating and terrifying and yet I can’t believe I’ve based my entire life up until now on a bunch of stuff I’m not sure actually makes any sense.

    Wait, was this supposed to turn into a rant about my crisis of faith? No? Just me?

  • lori

    Gotta love those BJU or ABeka texts. NOT!

    I agree that tests like these are brainwashing attempts. Too bad these kids will never be taught to question or thing until it all blows up in their well-meaning but misguided parents.

    Take a quote from 1st John: “There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.”

    PS- I teach at a Christian school, and some of our staff would love to teach it this way, but fortunately reason has won out from this abborent lack of scientific knowledge to “intelligent design”.

    I have to leave it at that, I’m on a work computer.

  • LVZ

    Science and religion don’t have to be incompatible. The Bible says in two different places that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day — so the six “days” described in the book of Genesis are metaphorical. It means six *stages*. I’ve always assumed “let there be light” refers to the Big Bang. There’s nothing in Genesis that says that evolution wasn’t one of the tools God used to create the universe. When educators insist that everything in the Bible is meant literally — even when the Bible itself says this isn’t the case — it means Americans aren’t learning about how the world really works. Other Western countries teach their children practical biology and astrophysics much earlier than we do. If we keep handicapping tomorrow’s innovators by teaching some people’s religious beliefs in science classes, it won’t be long before America is importing new technologies from other countries instead of the other way around.

  • And can I just add that I TOTALLY used the “were you there?” line on my 7th grade science teacher. I am so embarassed to be me right now.

  • Matt

    “We’ll know who’s right when we stand before God, won’t we?”

    Holy crap, I never thought Brian’s (from the Open Apology thread) point would be demonstrated so clearly and blatantly.

  • Matt

    Hey, don’t worry about being embarrassed. We all have to question; it doesn’t matter when or where or why. The fact that you’re so willing to at all just shows your bravery. People get a lot further along than you and still cling stubbornly to old beliefs that simply don’t work anymore. But you’re being awesome and taking stuff head-on.

    And yes, it sure is terrifying. But it is so incredibly worth it in the end.

  • Allie

    Aw geez, if I throw my computer out the window, how will I read this site?

  • Lymis

    Isn’t that something like a San-a-Belt?

  • Christy

    Many of us have heard it said out loud in response to any number of issues – sometimes from people we love. Which is really a catch all conversation ender when they have exhausted other talking points and have nothing else meaningful to say. It’s spiteful. Brian isn’t the only who has noticed that being right is more important to some than being compassionate. Ego does that – block compassion. But this is learned behavior, as we see evidenced above, which is the real crime. “Were you there?” is an equally mean-spirited, vacuous retort, and it is praised as godly and accurate. A+


  • Dennis Dawson

    So if I say that there’s an omnipotent, omnipresent supreme being who loves us all and wants a personal relationship with each of us, that’s okay.

    If I say Beardy the Sky-wizard listens to the thoughts of Earth-bound minions and alters the outcome events such as boxing matches based on those mumbled wishes, that’s accurate but disrespectful.

    If I say that God put dinosaurs and people into the Garden of Eden to frolic together, then played a hilarious cosmic joke by layering the dino bones to appear as if they were from an earlier time, including altering their chemical make-up that fools our carbon dating techniques to confirm the anachronism, why ah’m just ackin’ cray-cray.

    As an atheist, I don’t believe the first paragraph, so the ones that follow don’t bother me in the slightest.

    If one is going to take any of the teachings of the Bible purely on faith, how can one judge others who are simply more credulous and willing to delve further into magical thinking?

    Where does one draw the line between sincere faith and ackin’ cray-cray?


  • Thingy2

    I couldn’t select “all of the above” as I already live in Canada.

  • Matt

    My personal yardstick is: Separate from what they say, what are they doing? Are they hurting people? Helping them? Or being neutral?

    Even that isn’t clear. People can really harm others despite having the best of intentions. Sometimes being neutral and standing by is just what is needed for horrible things to happen.

    In the wider world, it seems to be majority rules. The Genesis creation story is being taught in classrooms because we’re a dominantly Christian nation. Native American creation stories are not even considered. It’s what best suits the people with the most perceived credibility, the most resources, and the loudest voices. Democracy attempts to even the score, but as we’ve seen time and time again, from Jim Crow to the very recent transgender voting restrictions, there are ways around that.

  • Yes, I think of it the same way. I believe that science is actually proving the existence of God every single day.

  • Mezzanine

    “Were you there?”

    “Yes. Yes I was.”

    “What?! No you weren’t!”

    “How do you know? I didn’t see YOU there when I was there…”

  • Well, once you reduce the Christian concept of God to “Beardy the Sky-wizard,” I think it’s safe to say you’ve forfeited your right to have taken seriously any question you ask after that.

  • Dennis Dawson

    Facile response, Mr. Shore. But I am cray-cray, so no worries.

  • Dan(Chicago)

    Like I need a dinosaur test to do any of those things.

  • James

    Lymis, as a former student of an ACE school, I can tell you that many fundamentalist, foundationalist churches teach that the entire Bible is the gospel.

  • James

    the parents likely DID know, Valarie, and also likely selected the school for that very reason.

  • I’m not worried; and that wasn’t facile.

  • James

    I stand corrected. Snopes was contacted by someone claiming to be the parent of the 4th grader in question who said they were unaware of the YEC curriculum being used in their daughter’s school and that their daughter will not be attending next year.

  • n.

    you could sneak BACK in

  • n.

    i was supposed to be born in Canada. (>_<)

  • Sue


  • n.

    i feel like when you raise a kid creationist, and they aren’t all that much of a free-thinker to begin with, they may never overcome the whole resisting-what-you’re-not-allowed-to-learn and may just be bad at science for their whole life.

    i feel like that’s kind of what happened to me. i mean i probably wouldn’t have been great at science ever. but i could have been decades less delayed at science, if i had been less brainwashed …

  • Leslie


  • n.

    that was meant to be an example of harm. if it wasn’t clear…

  • Carolyn


  • t..

    “Were you there”… is a question.

    Where is the question mark? Some freaking school that doesn’ t teach their students common grammar instead of fundie bullshit.

  • Valerie Horton


  • Valerie Horton

    LVZ I think I love you! this is exactly what I have been saying for YEARS!! Who says God didn’t use evolution?!

  • Andy

    While I don’t think any of us would deny there are people who actually believe these things, the test seems contrived for the purpose of making fun of those who have those beliefs. Too many things look wrong. And I’m disappointed in Snopes for not discussing this further, as they often do with things they debunk. It’s almost like they want it to be true so they have another excuse to ridicule the fundamentalists.

  • Dennis Dawson

    I concur – it really does seem too “perfect,” including the 100% score at the top and the smiley face. I remain skeptical.


  • Lissy

    “I believe that science is actually proving the existence of God every single day.” When I became ill 15 years ago, I started learning more and more about the human body. EVERYTHING I’ve found and learned has just increased my belief that there is a God. The human body works so perfectly!

  • Snopes has been looking in to this; they’re currently listing the test as “Probably True.” (

    When I posted this, I knew its authenticity was still being verified. But (knowing the world of Christian fundamentalism as well as I do), I was so confident it was real that I opted not to even bother with the caveats. And that’s saying something, since I knew I’d get my ass handed to me if it turned out to be fake.

  • Jo Fox

    Young earth creationists.

  • Charles

    Andy and Dennis, You think it’s too pat and simple minded to be real. Guess again. Polls I have read show about 60% of self identified evangelicals believe the earth is 10,000 or less years old, and all the related stuff. I was floored to read that poll, and began asking intelligent Christian evangelicals I know. First 2 I’ve checked bought the whole creationist line – one was a retired medical technician, and the other an MSW social worker. Do your own survey of evangelical friends. You may be surprised.

  • Dennis Dawson

    Oh, mind you, I hope it’s genuine. I’m just a skeptic by nature.


  • Sharie

    We moved our children (2nd and 5th graders) from our neighborhood public school to a private Christian school this year due to budget cuts in the public schools. This test is exactly what I was afraid we would experience. However we were careful in our selection and have been very pleased with the science education at our new school. Just today my 2nd grader (who has been studying dinosaurs for the past month) explained to me that dinosaurs died out millions of years before humans appeared on earth. I almost jumped for joy. As a geneticist I have tried to explain to my children that the purpose of the Genesis account of Creation is to explain WHO is responsible for everything in the natural world. It does not explain HOW He did it. I know some Christian schools really do teach this nonsense, but not all of them, thankfully.

  • AC Smith

    Haha! Love this 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    Cool. I’ve always wondered what a behemoth looked like. Do they have an illustration for the contradictory Jahwist and Priestly creation stories in Genesis?

  • Andy

    Charles, I think you may have missed the point of my post. It’s not the material that makes me suspect it. As I said, I’m very aware there are people who believe that stuff. It’s the presentation. Look at the way the questions are phrased and the wording used. Especially the last question; that’s not how teachers ask questions. Not even bad teachers. Look at the title; why would they call it that? Also, this isn’t 4th grade material; it’s more like 1st grade.

    I don’t doubt that there are schools that teach this material. But this seems concocted as a way to ridicule people with those beliefs. Like Dennis said, it’s too “perfect”.

  • Thank you 🙂

  • I’m sorry. I don’t believe, for two seconds, that it’s a real quiz.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong: I do, of course, believe that there are people (Young Earth Creationists, including and especially those of them who’ve never heard that term) out there who believe those things; and that the “Christian” (quotes intended as commentary) Right is out there proffering this crap; that there are creationist museums all over the place…

    SEE: (Wikipedia article)

    …including at Liberty University…

    …which got roundly pasted for it by Richard Dawkins in 2006…

    …and that the Young Earth Creationists would just love it if every elementary school were teaching this ridiculous stuff. I’m not denying any of that.

    I’m simply saying that I believe this quiz is a fake; that SNOPES is right to question that it is really that of the 10-year-old daughter of whomever wrote to it about it; and that it is almost certainly the creation of someone on our side (assuming that everyone around here is on the Religious Left side of things) who thinks it will discredit those on the other (Right) side of things.

    I’ve taken handwriting analysis courses (which is not to say that I think anywhere near as much may be gleaned from handwriting as those who teach such courses profess), and I’m here to tell ‘ya that the handwriting on that quiz is that of an adult…

    …one who, even an untrained eye can see, was so eager to get to the part where s/he started faking the handwriting of a child that s/he forgot to write like a child when s/he hurried through writing down the date in the upper-right part of the page (to the right of the redacted name).

    That’s no 4th grader’s handwriting. Period.

    What some others around here have said about the quiz’s above-4th-grade-reading-level language and whatnot appears to me to have merit as well. However, even without that, the simple fact is that the handwriting is not that of a 4th grader. And so, for me, no further examination of the evidence is necessary…

    …sorta’ like when a cop is investigating something, and the credibility of a witness goes completely down the toilet upon the cop’s discovering that s/he lied about something not even related to the case. That s/he lied is more important to the cop that what s/he lied about.

    That the handwriting is clearly an adult’s is more important than anything else. That, alone, is reason to stop investigating and declare it a fake…

    …which, trust me, it is.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Matt

    4th-graders are around 8 or 9 years old. So the wording seems about right for them, especially because they’re not going to read as well as they can speak. Perhaps “behemoth” was one of their vocabulary words for the week. As for the material itself being too easy, well, the Bible wasn’t meant to be a science textbook. It’s not going to give the kind of depth and breadth that a proper curriculum would. I imagine that you would have to stretch things out to fit into a normal elementary school timeframe, and so lose rigor.

    And considering that evangelical Christians are all about creating “soldiers for Christ,” I have no doubt that some teachers would write test questions in such a leading way. They’re not interested in expanding minds, but moving them onto the path that they want, and then hemming them in.

  • anakin mcfly

    John Williams!

    omg i’m a huge fan

  • anakin mcfly

    As someone who might have done the same as that student back in my couple years as a YEC, I actually feel bad for her there. I used to be extremely terrified at the notion of all non-Christians spending an eternity in hell, and it drove me to want to convert as many people as I could. For some reason I thought that convincing them of YEC would be the way to go, because you couldn’t argue with science, and from my limited knowledge I was convinced by all the arguments I read from creationist sites.

    I used to have nervous breakdowns to the point of crying when I posted YEC stuff online and got mocked and attacked for it, because I couldn’t rid myself of the mental images of those people burning, forever, and how I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

  • Nice. Love it. Thanks for this, Sharie.

  • Allie

    No part of this is above a 4th grade reading level, and that looks quite reasonable as a 4th grader’s handwriting to me. Although kids today write far worse than kids when I was in school, I do recall the 4th grade, which was when we started being required to write in cursive back in the day, which at least tells me something about a 4th grader’s hand-eye-coordination.

    Not sure why you are picking on the date as being better writing than the rest of the letter. I have the worst handwriting of any non-physician adult I know and even I write better than that date.

    Not saying you’re not right to question it, I just disagree with your reasoning.

  • Elizabeth

    That was my pick.

  • Lymis

    I agree with your point, but I disagree with proof-texting to make it, because that keeps everything squarely within the “the Bible is the only source of truth” and “God only speaks to us through the Bible” framing.

    If the intention is to help someone who thinks they take everything in the Bible literally find cracks in that logic that help them move to the place where the Bible is one of many sources of truth, I wholeheartedly support it as a tool – my favorite for that purpose is pointing out the the Bible clearly records Jesus as saying that he didn’t tell us everything because there were things we weren’t ready for, and that the Holy Spirit would continue to guide us – so if you take the Bible literally, then literally, the Bible cannot be the only source of truth.

    But the Genesis text was never intended to be a physics or biology textbook. The people who wrote it never intended people to think of it as science – they couldn’t, because science was not yet a part of their worldview when they came up with the stories.

    What’s important about Genesis isn’t that it’s a literal blueprint for the history of the planet – it’s that it reflects some nearly unique ideas about what the world is for. Most Creation myths involve chaos and disorder, wars among the gods, the earth being formed from the corpse of a god, humanity being an afterthought or the debased half-children of gods, and, in general, completely grounded in the idea that if gods cared about people at all, it was from a standpoint of barely controlled vindictive rage and that they constantly needed to be placated.

    Genesis has two creation stories that are in many ways mutually incompatible, but what they share is the clear idea that the physical world isn’t just an afterthought or the debris left over from something the gods did – it is a deliberate, ordered creation of a God who knew what he was doing, chose to do it, and found it good.

    That humans aren’t some sort of byproduct or inconvenience, but rather, a reflection of love, care, craftsmanship, and parental love and pride. We don’t just happen to be here, “here” was specifically created for us to be in.

    That evil is real and present and life is hard and people die, but that all those things are a symptom of something that wasn’t intended and is an indication of things going wrong, not just that some gods get bored and pissy and take it out on us.

    The saddest thing about Creationism, to me, is that by focusing entirely on truly immaterial details of things like when dinosaurs happened or whether there were cockroaches on the Ark, it specifically teaches people to ignore what I feel are the actual important issues. An omnipotent God is subtle enough to manage evolution – both sides of the “debate” seem to ignore that – but I’ve always felt Creationism taught people to be afraid of truth. Not just ignoring it, but actually afraid of it.

    When you teach someone that the foundation of their faith has to be an imperviousness to the reality around them, you teach fear. When you teach people that they don’t have to have all the specific answers, and that adapting one’s worldview to knew understandings of the world is a reflection of trust that God knew all of creation and “found it good,” then faith is based in trust and joy rather than fear.

  • Lymis

    I’ve never understood how “God went Zap” is supposed to be more of a reflection of the power and glory of God than “look at all the amazing things around us, all working together and growing and changing over billions of years, and even then, what we can see is only the tiniest part of all the wonders of Creation.”

  • mike moore

    I think you were awesome in 7th grade. Keep up the good work.

  • Lymis

    I know it’s pure projection, but when I first read the “Were you there” answer, I had misread the question, and thought it was a sarcastic push-back against the rest of the test.

    Because “Were you there?” is absolutely as valid an answer against dogmatic pronouncements of Creationism as it is any sort of argument for it.

  • Lymis

    Well, that’s just terrifying.

  • Lymis

    Take a page from the Star Wars playbook, close your eyes, look within, and use the Force.

  • mike moore

    not shockingly, I think Beardy the Sky Wizard, though a bit glib as a term, is exactly what many Christians believe in and extoll.

    A god with a personal interest in a kid’s SAT scores but steers clear of the many kids living a horrific lives, is very hard for some of us to swallow. This question’s phrasing doesn’t matter so much to me.

  • Lymis

    “Wait, was this supposed to turn into a rant about my crisis of faith? No? Just me?”

    No, not you. Some of us did that already and came out the other side, so we don’t feel the need to mention it – or we feel secure enough about it that we can be flippant.

    It doesn’t mean we deny the critical importance of it for each individual who finds themselves there, or that we minimize the pain, confusion, and seriousness of it. I have diaries. Believe me, I have documented proof of my own crisis of faith.

    “I can’t believe I’ve based my entire life up until now on a bunch of stuff I’m not sure actually makes any sense.”

    I invite you to look at it another way. You’ve based your life on real experiences – and those real experiences include real interactions with God and with your neighbors, but they also include the real experience of having questions, confusions, and serious doubts (as well as how you handled those at the time.)

    What you are finding is that the interpretations of those real experiences that you used at the time don’t all make sense to you now. That the stories you told yourself about how the world worked, which you used as context in which to see your real experiences aren’t holding up. That doesn’t invalidate your experiences – it just invites you to a newer, more complex and nuanced understanding of what you were actually experiencing.

    When dawn comes, new light doesn’t change the landscape – but it makes it possible to see what was there all along in new, and sometimes startling, ways.

    I invite you to be ready for “Oh, that’s what was going on!” rather than, “Oh, it was all a lie.”

  • Lymis

    That’s horrible.

    And, regardless of my opinion of the underlying issue, let me give you an honest and sincere thank you for putting yourself at risk to do what you thought at the time was right.

  • Jill

    🙁 I’m sorry anakin.

    That is a kind heart that you have.

  • Jill

    This brings tears, so glad to read this.

    Sometimes I think I’ve let that all go, and then sometimes I realize there are leftovers, tucked away on some old, dusty shelf in a dim corner of me. It’s important to know I can re-negotiate the terms of my own self-embarrassment and disillusionment. (ie: I don’t have to loathe myself anymore for what I labeled as “my mistakes”.)

  • This is true. I have been going back and reframing a lot of the experiences I had and decisions I made. Thankfully I also have journals that I have been reading back through and they help. But now I am in the position of trying to piece everything back together in a way that actually makes sense and it’s exhausting.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to give me some encouragement. I appreciate it.

  • Jill

    And that’s unfortunately the point– how does an organized force control an educated and fully actuated people, other than taking up their bless-ed and holy arms against them?

    No, it’s much easier to control a mind untainted by knowledge, so abandon and ban it in the first place.

    Having said that though, I *have* to believe that Holy Spirit is untamed and more powerful than the toughest mind control out there. That these kids *will* have a crossroads to choose a different route in life and a chance to make it. I mean, how many of us out here were under mind control at some point in our lives and made it out to find the light of day?

  • mike moore

    Robert, that is inspiring. Thank you.

  • A god with a personal interest in a kid’s SAT but who steers clear of the many kids living a horrific life isn’t hard for “some of you” to swallow. It’s hard for anyone to swallow. And I’m sure you’ll understand how exhausting it is for me to so often have (not to mention have here on my blog) people flippantly denigrating Christianity because some Christians are assholes. A consistent percentage of any group are assholes. It’s just that the group “Christians” is huge, so, per capita-wise, the number of Christians who are assholes is high.

    I don’t care if someone wants to assert that some Christians are assholes. But I’m certainly unthrilled with anyone condescendingly implying that all Christians, who all hold to a moronic belief system, are assholes. I mean, you know: does it really seem to you like I believe in a god who cares about a kid’s SAT scores but steers clear of people’s personal suffering?

    For sooooo many years now I (along with the whole universe of other sane Christians out there) have had to defend on two fronts: against the right who don’t think we’re Christian enough, and against the left, who think we’re too Christian. And you never know from which corner the potshots will suddenly come flying.

  • Lymis

    First, remember you aren’t alone – you have God with you on this, and consciously including God in the process of rebuilding is a good idea.

    Second, one of the big lies of some toxic forms of fundamentalism is the idea that there have to be answers for everything, and everything has to make sense, or it’s all meaningless.

    We don’t do that with physics – you don’t have to be able to build an electrical plant to work a light switch – or with just about any other human endeavor. “Faith” has been corrupted to mean “I have all the answers,” when in fact, it really is about trusting that you don’t need to have all the answers in order to live what’s in front of you in the moment.

    Sometimes, the most comforting thing we can do is honestly admit that “I have no clue what’s going on here, even though it feels very significant, and I’m willing to muddle through for now and let the answers come when and if they do.”

  • Jill

    I think that Beardy is a terribly funny name for the kind of god that would call boxing matches and football games. But that’s nowhere near to the God I’m interested in. The God I’m into does make a real difference in this life, in people as individuals. For me, atheism didn’t fit and agnosticism only took me so far.

    If my perspective is excessively magical *and* still helps me become a better, kinder, inclusionary, balanced, more intelligent and healed person, then I’m ok with that. Like Matt is saying here, it’s only if my seeming ‘magic-style’ thinking becomes a burdensome dysfunctionality that I’ve already told my agnostic friends to slam me in the head with a 2×4. (Only I know Matt’s not saying anything about violence– that’s my addition.)

  • mike moore

    hey John, you know I don’t think that all Christians are assholes, or even misguided … and I love you and your work (in a totally not-gay way although those boxers do really work on you, even though you never change undies) … I spend time on your blog because I’d like, again, to believe in a personal god, and so I look for signs of his work. I just don’t see them. Ultimately, has very little to do with Christians (or Muslims, Jews, etc.)

    Any thing I say (on this topic) is honest and straight-forward, so I sincerely apologize for any offense.

  • Jill

    Faith ≠ “I have all the answers”

    I want that bumper sticker.

  • mike moore

    PS – please never feel defensive to my comments. I’m here because of the dialog you’ve created. In most faith arenas, I have no voice in faith communities (other than literally being louder) and never want you misunderstand how I value your thoughts and your readers thoughts.

    I’m here because one never knows where the road of our lives may lead us, and you’re on the roads that I love.

  • mike moore

    I find that my “Drugs Help A Lot” bumper sticker also gets a lot of attention, especially from law enforcement.

  • No, I know you don’t think all Christians are assholes. But you see what I’m saying: what moron believes in the God you’ve called the Christian God?

    Anyway, right on. We’re good, absolutely.

    You know what’s weird for me, though? To have you say “I just don’t see any signs of God’s work.” To me, that is an amazing thing to hear. Because I have exactly the opposite experience. The only time I don’t see God is when some person has just so royally fucked up what they’ve done that they’ve actually interfered with what God would have done if they hadn’t been there.

    But I look at the sky, at a tree, at a beetle skittering along the ground–and certainly at any human being, fucked-up or not—and all I can see is God. I don’t think that makes me better, wiser, or anything more than people who don’t see the very world as proof of God. It’s just … the very essence of my life experience. And I’ve been like that my whole life. Christianity didn’t change that at all. It just gave it a solid … well, reasonable context.

    Anyway. Right. Off to the kitchen to make some coffee.

  • Well, I really appreciate that. Thank you. You’ve had an immensely positive effect on this blog. (Didn’t both of your guest posts here go viral? That was awesome.)

  • Lymis

    Sometimes I’m reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant – where everyone declares they know exactly what the elephant is like because of the body part they felt.

    “God is a strong right arm!”

    “God is a loving heart!”

    “God is a big dick!”

    And of course, the ever popular, “I didn’t feel anything, so God can’t possibly exist.”

    I guess now we add “God is a beard!”

  • Or a pubic patch–which is certainly what I thought when I was a teenager.

    Um. But let’s go with what you said.

  • Jill

    Mike, you know that you bring a joyfully clear energy here. Without you, I’d be one lost puppy dog.

    You ring the bell and I salivate (like Pavlov’s dogs, not… oh, don’t you go there!).

  • Jill

    I ♥ you guys. SO much.

  • (And just to be clear, before I was a Christian, I loathed Christians, insofar as I, at the very least, found it impossible to respect anyone who could believe in … well, Beardy the Toxic. Then, when (of all things!) I became a Christian, I was, like, “Oh, right. Duh. Christianity is everything it’s supposed to be. It’s just been fucked up by people. But what don’t people fuck up?”

    Because, no matter what, I’ve also always been fundamentally obnoxious.)

  • I think the worst thing we can do to ourselves is loathe ourselves for decisions we made based on what we believed to be true at the time. I am so tired of shame. I have lived in it my whole life. It almost seems like, for those of us entrenched in this judeo-christian tradition in one way or another, shame is part of our human condition. First we feel shame for not living up to what we thought God wanted us to be, then we feel shame for being so blind to the actual truth. It is vicious. And now, haha, I feel shame for being shamless.WTF.

  • I am trying to include God in the rebuilding process. Yet there is still a part of me that is afraid that he looks at me the way all the Fundies do–that He is getting ready to take away any and all blessings because I no longer believe that the Bible is infallible, or that He is about to send down a lightning bolt because I am finally okay with being bisexual. I know this is patently false, but I guess old thought patterns die hard. I feel like I have no right to talk to Him or ask Him for help since frankly I’m not sure I actually even like Him very much right now.

  • Jill

    Because we have, in our lives, equated God with people. Specifically the people that claim to know God better than you do.

    We looked inside ourselves and said, yup, I don’t think I know God at all, so you must tell me who that is. And they said, pull up a chair (for the rest of your life!).

    And it’s ok, ultimately, that we did that. I’m guessing by your story that we were both young and trying to do the ‘right’ thing. And the stern, scary adult-types must know better.

    It shows that we are humble, heart-felt people, Keshia. That’s a good thing.That’s the place where healing starts.

    I shared once before here that I took my training wheels off, took the liberty to heal myself from abuse, neglect, poverty, and fundamentalism in my own way. I trusted my inner wisdom instead of everyone else’s doctrine, and sought the help I needed to become well. From many sources, and many religious directions, including no religion. If it all turned out to mean no God at the end of my search, then so be it. If S/He allowed such misery to take place, then S/He needs to deal with me being me.

    Besides the obvious scary element of putting God stuff on a mental shelf for a while, I was free to find me. Long story shortened, I found God inside of me once I cleared out my inner room full of baggage. Best decision I ever made, and I am confident that it was God who helped me along the entire way.

  • Dennis Dawson

    Thanks, Mike and Jill, for catching my drift on this.

    One of the most common traps in life is hubris. While I don’t believe in God, I have abundant empirical evidence that I am not right 100% of the time. I respect that others have a living spirituality that brings inspiration and comfort.

    By the same token, I suggest that it’s a slippery slope to start talking about “wacky fundies” and their “bizarre beliefs” that “harm children.” As it’s wrong for me to mock Christians for what appear to me to be magical beliefs, it’s no better for Christians to mock other Christians for sliding more to the right on the magical scale.

    One of the loopholes of creationism is that it doesn’t really have an impact on the ability to make change at the local Dairy Queen. More dangerous is a notion like “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. ” Now all those hours upselling fries are called into question. That passage, and others like it, can be considered parables, metaphors, and descriptions of an ideal, rather than a blueprint for everyday life. History and myth don’t have the same immediate impact on one’s wallet.

    Just as you might engage someone like me in a rational discourse about my lack of spirituality, it’s important to respect and engage others in a rational way when you want to encourage them toward a more moderate view of Christianity. Perhaps they are more capable of trusting in faith than others, and that shouldn’t be considered a bad thing, should it?

    Just sayin’.


  • Lymis

    Admittedly, we’re talking the 1970’s, so I don’t know if it’s still true, but when I went to Catholic schools, the state would literally not let our administration have access to the standardized tests for the public schools, even though there was a state law that they be administered to every public school student at three separate grade levels – they were afraid we’d do too well and blow their curve.

    The public schools had a 70% functional literacy rate at the 11th grade level, while my tiny Catholic high school graduated 90% of it’s students into college. The 1200+ student high school had 1 National Merit semi-finalist, while my 95 person graduating class had 5, including two finalists and one scholarship winner. Science was strongly represented.

    Not all religious education is about the worst of ignorance and prejudice. Sadly, though, far too much of it is.

  • Michael C

    Let’s say for a minute that this quiz was conjured up by smarmy liberal atheist science lovers to make private Christian schools look foolish. If it was, in fact, made up, is it inaccurate? Are private religious schools teaching young earth creationism? They are. I know they are. The questions asked in this (possibly fraudulently fabricated) quiz are in line with the teachings of young earth creationism. I know you’re excited about your handwriting analysis, but even if this was the handiwork of an adult, it is 100% factual.

  • Lymis

    “As it’s wrong for me to mock Christians for what appear to me to be magical beliefs, it’s no better for Christians to mock other Christians for sliding more to the right on the magical scale.”

    I’m not sure that follows.

    There’s a bit of a flawed argument lurking there, which seems to be that the basis of “mocking” is simple disagreement, rather than the basis for that disagreement.

    You aren’t wrong to mock moderate or liberal Christians for their magical thinking. But to the degree that you misrepresent what they believe for the purpose of mocking it, you’re on far shakier ground. It’s an extreme misrepresentation of a lot of people’s belief to claim that all Christians believe in Beardy the sky-god and some obsession with boxing matches.

    I’m fine with “I’ve given a great deal of thought to how I think the Universe works, and I disagree with your stated view of it.”

    I’m not fine with, “Because I disagree with what I believe to be your fundamental premise, all bets are off, and I get to make up whatever crap I want to accuse you of, the better to mock you for it.”

    You are free to claim that you don’t find any view that includes a deity to be logically compelling. You are, from that, perfectly free to object to any argument that does, and to reject equally the claims of moderate Christians and extreme fundamentalists. That’s fair.

    But going further, and saying that because you disagree with both views, moderate Christians are hypocrites for having any view of God and then disagreeing with someone else’s view of God, apparently independent of the nature of that disagreement, goes way too far.

    It’s not hypocritical to believe in God without feeling every word of the Bible is literally true, or any other nuanced understanding of theology or metaphysics. It may all be mistaken, and you’re free to think to, but this, “If you believe any of it, how can you question anything else anyone else comes up with” idea doesn’t pass the smell test.

    That’s like saying that if you believe in astronomy, you have to believe in alien abduction, and it’s hypocritical to acknowledge the existence of other planets while questioning the views of people who think that flying saucers full of little grey men routinely conduct anal probes of rural drivers.

    Or that if you believe in archaeology, you have to believe in Atlantis or El Dorado.

    It doesn’t work that way. And the people claiming to speak for logic and rationality should know better.

  • Lymis

    “I feel like I have no right to talk to Him or ask Him for help since frankly I’m not sure I actually even like Him very much right now.”

    Tell him that. He’s a big boy, he can take it. Some of my biggest spiritual breakthroughs have come as a result of dropping my internal barriers and giving God a good what-for. There has been rage, there has been despair, there has been confusion, there has been hurt betrayal. He’s always listened, and frequently answered.

    I have, thus far, thoroughly failed to have been smited.

    God’s been okay with you being bisexual since you were conceived. Why should he get upset that you’ve finally come to the same conclusion?

    Take a deep breath and look at the world around you. In all seriousness, if the Fundies were right about what an omnipotent God wants the world to look like, would it look the way it does, both for good and for ill?

    They have a seriously powerless omnipotent God, and a seriously spiteful all-loving God. Whatever else may or may not be true, what they believe simply cannot be, not because it doesn’t match reality, but because it bites its own tail. Let it go.

  • Dennis Dawson

    An archaeologist would not say that “There never was a continent of Atlantis.” An archaeologist would say that “There is no conclusive evidence, or even compelling evidence, that such a continent ever existed.” Still, a sincere archaeologist might have faith that such a place did exist at one time, or the myth refers to a place that actually did exist. Other archaeologists would not dismiss a colleague who searches for Atlantis or El Dorado out of hand, but would require artifacts that have been examined using the scientific method in order to prove that the true Atlantis had been discovered.

    I’m not suggesting that anyone has to interpret the Bible literally in order to be a Christian. I’m suggesting that it’s not a good mind set to fall into where one considers other Christians to be misguided and foolish for taking the scripture more literally than others. No one has to agree with them, but no one has to treat them with disrespect for having different beliefs.

  • Don Rappe

    I feel a need to tell this story from my own freshman biology class at the University of Chicago back in the nearer creation time of 1954. We were studying from a text written by the Anglican Catholic scientist Charles Darwin. ( The Origin of Species ) The professor had filled a large blackboard with notes showing the ancient British rock pigeons on the left and progressing to the modern varieties of British pigeons on the right. This illustrated an example in the text. When he finished, I asked why we couldn’t read the chart from right to left, assuming that originally there had been all the different pigeon types and when they interbred they produced the rock pigeons with the common features. Everyone in the class (it seemed) had a good laugh. When the hilarity died down, our professor asked the other class members to explain what was wrong with my idea. It turned out that none could answer. Since it was U. of C., he left it to the class to reread Darwin and find the answer to my question. I suspect I may be the only one who did so. I learned that some of Darwin’s arguments were more subtle than they appeared on the surface.

  • Don Rappe

    I remember how to get italics on, but apparently, i forgot how to turn them off again!

  • DR

    This is the sweetness, love and anxiety that makes dealing with those who are in Fundamentalist kinds of Christianity complex. Many are truly terrified for all of us who are living outside the bounds of what they understand keeps everyone safe for eternity and they are driven by that fear which I really do believe is often driven by a love for us.

  • Elizabeth

    My dumbed-down version was in 8th grade. I’d just moved to the south and I did a report on carbon-dating for biology class. The *only* question afterwards was “What are you talking about? That’s not in the Bible.” The teacher and I just stared at each other. What can you say? You go back and read. A lot.

  • textjunkie

    bwa hah! good one. 🙂

  • Lymis

    “No one has to agree with them, but no one has to treat them with disrespect for having different beliefs.”

    And yet, you start out with “Beardy the sky-wizard.”


  • Dennis Dawson

    I began with “omnipresent, omnipotent, supreme being.”

    I went on to say _if_ I used the term “Beardy the Sky-wizard” it would be disrespectful. I was making a point.

    Why are you worrying about a “gotcha,” or winning some kind of argument? If you disagree with the notion that people within Christianity who are willing to accept the Bible more literally than yourself are entitled to respect for their convictions, just say so.


  • Michael C

    Theology and evolution is a touchy subject for many Christians. I worry that pastors steer as far from the issue as they can to avoid upsetting their literalist congregants. This is, in my opinion, a disservice. I encourage any pastors, ministers etc. who may be reading this to open the subject to your churches. For many Christians, the only time they hear about evolution is when they’re being attacked by atheists. This should change.

  • Lymis

    I used “gotcha” as in, “I understand where you are coming from, and I can clearly see your point,” not as “I have scored a point on you.” It never occurred to me to use it otherwise, because I really don’t think that way. I can see where you might think otherwise. My error.

    No, I’m pretty clear that I’m not going to “win” this argument.

    I disagree with the notion that people are allowed to get away with whatever damfool notiion they want to float under the cover of religion. People are welcome to take the Bible more literally than others, and if that’s what they are actually doing, I’ll respect them for it.

    But people are not allowed to declare that they take every word of it literally and follow every command, while eating their shrimp and bacon cocktails, and paying for them with an interest-bearing checking account debit card in a pigskin wallet or purse. That isn’t taking the Bible literally. That’s lying about what you believe, and I don’t have to respect a conviction that they don’t actually hold – and I certainly don’t have to respect the conviction that they’re better people than I am, when that’s their primary point.

    Taking something in the Bible as factual history when there is no conflicting proof either way – even when it’s a claim about a miracle, which by definition isn’t something that’s likely to repeat, like a virgin birth or water turning to wine – even in the cases where I disagree or am agnostic, I’ll honor someone else’s views.

    But deliberate ignorance in the face of clear and definitive proof to the contrary – like claims that nobody is actually gay, or that the earth is only 6000 years old – that’s an entirely different matter. I don’t have to respect people who claim the moon landings were faked or that aliens run the banking industry, and I don’t have to respect the conviction that God wants them to trample my civil rights.

    You’re doing it again – making deliberately sweeping arguments so that you can use part of it as a weapon against the other parts. Combining it all into “respecting someone’s convictions” – something you are demonstrably unwilling to do for any Christian in the first place – doesn’t work that way.

  • Brian

    You know, I really wonder why more hasn’t been made of James Fowler:

    His book, Stages of Faith, is an exploration of the developmental nature of faith across the entire human lifespan. He defines faith as how people construct meaning for their lives; his interest is in how people believe what they believe. He posits that faith parallels developmental psychology and explains why the faith of a child (magical) is inappropriate for an adult (who is supposed to be capable of abstract thought). He is as comfortable talking about the faith structures (constructs of meaning) of an atheist as any religious believer.

    It was extremely fortunate for me that when I was undergoing the dual transition of coming out and leaving my faith that someone put a copy of Fowler’s book in my hands.

    For example, it really helped me to know back then that this was a common human experience. Hetero- or homo- aside, a faith crisis occurs when one’s world view is not adequate to explain the realities one experiences. It’s an extremely unsettling time, often painful… and is necessarily the growing pain one has when moving toward a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s place in the universe.

    Fundamentalism, as it turns out, is most appropriately an adolescent understanding, and IS a step forward from childish ways of thinking. Sadly, it becomes a place of stasis for many adults, whose lives never challenge them to progress beyond it. If I were not gay I might not have ever evolved beyond my own fundamentalism – there might not have been a significant enough challenge to my status quo to move me past it.

    Fowler’s theory also explains to me the virulence of the spiritual/emotional abuse I was subjected to; the basic spiritual level of my entire social network (my church) was ill-equipped to deal with faith constructs beyond an adolescent understanding. And why I came to understand that if one has questions about life, the universe and everything (42, thank you Douglas Adams) that the people who are the least helpful are usually the ones who tend to be the loudest about claiming they’ve got all the answers.

  • Brian

    I might also add that for me “oh, so that’s what’s going on” and “it’s all a lie” ended up being pretty much the same thing for me. Consequently I find it sometimes cathartic in private moments to giggle over “Beardy the Sky Wizard.”

    I DO think there are some important lessons here for the Christian establishment: transition IS a painful life experience, and if the church wishes to remain relevant then it seems to me that it needs to do a lot of growing up with regard to understanding and supporting people during that time. Rigid insistence on being right (my original and everlasting complaint) can only foul and sour what is already a difficult period.

  • anakin mcfly

    I was reading the Chronicles of Narnia when I was in my country’s equivalent to second grade (8 years old?), and if that test’s language is supposedly above fourth grade reading level, I will be worried for America.

  • Dennis Dawson

    I misunderstood your gotcha, so I apologize for that.

    You’re right that those who claim to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible shouldn’t shave or engage in many other common but proscribed activities.

    I think we also agree that standing up to folks who use scripture to support intolerance is everyone’s responsibility, regardless of religious convictions.

    There are no better people than the ones that contribute to this discussion on John’s blog. We just shouldn’t let it go to our heads.


  • Elizabeth

    Sorry, anakin, but you should be worried. Narnia would be considered 6th grade reading level, if that. I recently got a compliment from my high school principal for having read all of E. L. Kongisburg’s books. (She passed away a few days ago.) That’s HIGH SCHOOL.

  • Elizabeth


  • “Fundamentalism, as it turns out, is most appropriately an adolescent understanding, and IS a step forward from childish ways of thinking. Sadly, it becomes a place of stasis for many adults, whose lives never challenge them to progress beyond it.”

    This makes a lot of sense and explains why whenever I have questions the best anyone from the church can do is the spiritual equivalent of “because I said so.”

  • Is it wrong that I feel like I need to replace this belief with something else?

  • Lymis


    I thought about it some more overnight, and I think I’ve come up with a better way to explain my point.

    Someone who took the Bible more literally than I do could say that they firmly believe that God created the world in seven days 6000 years ago – and acknowledged that when God did so, he created it billions of years old, with extinct dinosaur bones in the ground in geological strata with Carbon-14 decay and evolution already in progress. I’d see that as unsubtle and inexplicable, but it’s a view I could honor.

    But that’s not what people who claim that dinosaurs roamed the earth at the time of humans and were killed in the flood are doing. They aren’t reconciling the observable and ordered world around us with the words of the Bible. They’re simply making crap up specifically to refute the reality of the observed and observable world around us.

    Similarly, if someone wants to believe that God created Adam and Eve as a single breeding pair to populate the entire world, I don’t see that as remotely likely, but they’re free to think so. But then to claim, as so many do, that that belief is proof that gay people don’t exist, God doesn’t create gay people, and gay people shouldn’t have equal rights – because gay people don’t exist – that’s not acceptable.

    Even if the Bible says God created Adam and Eve, it doesn’t say a thing about the sexual orientation of any of their children except Cain and Seth. My parents were male and female, and out of seven kids, two are gay. No matter how literally they read the Bible body can use Genesis to claim that the, what, thousands? of children Adam and Even had, none of them were gay or bisexual.

    If someone wants to claim that the Bible is literally true, that isn’t a license to just make up anything else they want to claim, and even if I feel some obligation to “respect their convictions,” about the text of the Bible, I’m not obligated to buy into mean-spirited stuff they make up that isn’t even in the Bible.

    I don’t even acknowledge that I have to respect the beliefs of anyone else – I respect their right to have their own beliefs, but if they want me to respect those beliefs, they need to justify and support them with something other than “God said it” if they want it to be other than a personal conviction.

    But even if they want me to respect their belief because of their reverence for the Bible, it sorta requires it to actually BE in the Bible – and a lot of what they most loudly demand respect for simply isn’t.

  • Brian

    Yes. I remember feeling similarly. It got to the point that I stopped asking believers the questions in my head. Their pat answers always seemed to trivialize the complexity of my experience. It became preferable to live with the mystery, with the unknowable-ness of things, than to hold on to some trite “explanation.”

  • Brian

    You might even find that when you let go of a belief that doesn’t fit you don’t necessarily need to replace it with anything. You might find that in the process you feel a little lost (once there was e old certainties, but now what?).

    Atheist that I am, I do have faith in one thing – and that is that one way or another you will find your way through. And that regardless of the content of the new understanding you come to, it will put you in a better place then the uncomfortable one you are now.

  • Brian

    One of the strongest impressions I remember from when I walked away from my old faith was that it surprised me to discover good and evil still occur in the same measures as they ever did before. In fact, the entire lack of Divine Retribution For Brian’s Hellacious Apostasy made me feel I had actually been divinely protected. When I mentioned this to an acquaintance of mine in the pray-away-the-gay bible study I was attending back then he told me he had been praying God would protect me.

    Seriously creeped me out at the time.

    Since then, I’ve grown to love how Carl Sagan approached the mysteries of the universe. Life is no less wondrous, miraculous without a Deity that did it on purpose. In fact, maybe it’s even more so. The universe doesn’t seem to notice what you think about it; it will continue to unfold the way it does, regardless of what you believe, or who you perceive yourself to be. (The people around you, that’s a different story.)

    I also remember that one of the things that propelled me out of my old faith was that the God I had been taught to believe in was so extremely flawed a concept that if he truly existed (as taught) then he deserved nothing but my utmost contempt. I sure as **hell** did not like him.

    I am not saying that the logical conclusion to a crisis of faith is atheism. For me it was. That was the conclusion that gave me the most peace. For Lymis (and I suppose many others here), it appears to be a much less rigid kind of belief, a much less judgmental one. He appears to be enough untroubled by the metaphors of Christian belief to allow them to mediate a different kind of meaning than literal understandings allow. For me there was too much abuse and nastiness attached to the words. Too exhausting to have to run the inner translators all the time (“they are saying THESE WORDS, but what it really means is SOMETHING ELSE LESS HARSH”).

    Which is why it made me chuckle at the side-conversation above about re-assembling the Apostle’s Creed. Too many broken pieces for me; too PTSD-painful and labor-intensive to put it back together into a form I could recite with any kind of sincerity.

    I’m rambling; I think the point I’m wandering toward is that regardless of the belief-content of the outcome of a crisis of faith, the journey is similar. I recognize exactly what you are describing. It is, I think, the natural response any thinking adult in your circumstances should have. And as I said in another post to you here – I have faith that however you resolve your faith crisis, you will come out the other side in a much better place.

    Give it time. All will be well.

  • Lymis

    Is it wrong? Of course not. You’re used to feeling like you have answers. It can be disorienting not to – like taking down a balcony railing or fence you’re used to having.

    But you can replace the belief that you have a clear and specific answer with the belief that you live in a complex and wonderful world. You can replace the belief that the only way to be safe is to have rigid rules with the belief that God loves you and that you are a morally trustworthy person and can be trusted to do what is right in the moment without having a scripted playbook for every situation in advance.

    The thing is that even though it feels like it now, it isn’t about not having any rules or beliefs. It’s about finding out what it is that you do believe rather than simply accepting what someone else tells you.

    Most of us are pretty much incapable of “not having beliefs.” Humans aren’t really wired that way. But you can have the belief that you don’t need certainty in order to have peace, security, and confidence.

    Someone once said something like “If you knew that someone who loved you owned the grocery store, would you worry about starving?” God runs the whole universe, and he loves you.

  • Jill

    This is really good stuff, Brian, and I get it too. I haven’t subscribed to a one-size-fits-all belief system in nearly 20 years.

    Some friendly, unsolicited advice: I just think, from my own experience and personal work, that old pain is worth taking another look at. Not to relive, or really even to ‘fix’, such that we even could, but unresolved pain is like a magnet that keeps us either attracted to or repelled against it and thereby altering the trajectory of our lives.

    I’m finding out myself the beautiful things buried underneath what I had been avoiding, what I had thought I had put to rest for good. I’m finding out what those same harsh messages actually sound like once the tone of it changed, and the people who are saying those messages are doing good things instead.

    Anything I’m saying doesn’t mean anything about conversion, religious or otherwise, but everything about releasing a past that still has its claws to do harm. Perhaps this is me empathizing with your story a little too closely, so for that I apologize if I’m projecting.

    Life has its funny way of making sure that, as you say, all will be well.

  • Mindy

    Merkin. My ex-husband thought that was the funniest word in our language. We’re now divorced. Go figure.

  • Matt

    I have always found it difficult to interact with people who refuse to step beyond their system of belief when a real, hurting person comes to them. I’ve encountered this in churches, secular self-help groups, heck, even mainstream feminism.

    Maybe it’s just the nature of my occupation. Sure, we need to respect others’ beliefs. But if someone is bleeding deeply, I don’t lecture them on the stupidity of how they got cut, or tell them that I know a Bible verse that can take care of that (just because I’m a Christian). No, I get them to a place where they can be stitched up. Then, maybe if they ask my opinion based on my beliefs, we can have that conversation.

    I suppose I would just say: Seek out people who you know have firm beliefs, but who don’t let their beliefs get in the way of seeing you and your immediate reality.

  • Brian

    I think I hear what you’re saying, Jill. (Thanks also for your kind words on the other thread!)

    “Magnet” – yeah, there is something about THIS issue that has kept me circling it for the last three decades, kinda like one either keeps picking at a scab or feels for the missing tooth.

    Mostly, I’m okay. But on THIS, on this…

    …I gravitate to websites like this one. I couldn’t vent on a more fundamentalist venue because I couldn’t deal with the (predictable) nastiness my views would precipitate. I couldn’t exactly say WHY I feel the need to weigh in; certainly a piece of it is I think mine is a view that needs to be heard. My experience is not unique; I think it represents a pattern that needs to be addressed from the other side (Christianity’s).

    On the other hand, on this side, I don’t really know why I can’t just let it go… it’s related to, but not the same thing as, the transition Keshia is describing. Maybe it is simply a reflection of how deeply invested I was in my faith at the time when I found it to be so utterly inadequate.

    Grist for my therapist’s mill, I suppose.

    I would be curious to know more about your story, Jill. I’m kind of intrigued by what you found to be not so awful with a change of tone (I personally did not find much in that regard). Have you posted about it here – are there some old archived threads you recommend I should look up?

  • Lymis

    I can’t speak for you, but for me, I don’t let go because I find the option that is usually presented by the atheists I’ve come across to be no more compelling than fundamentalism – and it’s often presented in a very similar knee-jerk reductionist tone to what drove me away from a lot of forms of Christianity.

    For me, in order to maintain my integrity, I have to make a distinction between the questions and the answers. Babies and bathwater – I think that the answers that a lot of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians have come up with don’t work. They often don’t even work for them. But at the same time, for me, the questions that they are attempting to answer remain just as valid.

    Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Am I fundamentally alone in the world? What is the source of those transcendent feelings of joy and connectedness, and deep symbolic and metaphorical meaning that I cannot deny I feel, however dimly, more often than I don’t? What orders my world?

    I’m unwilling to abandon those questions because they are real. And because having them is a real and valid experience, and denying them would lack honesty and integrity. And, quite frankly, for me, the close-but-not-quite-right, dimly in a darkened mirror, faith fills in the gaps answers that honestly seeking religious folks abide with strike me as more applicable to my life than either the answers of the smug kind of evangelical or of the equally smug kind of atheist. (Which is not to claim that all of either is that kind of person.)

    I stick with the questions because it would feel dishonest to do otherwise, and I’ve had more than my share of dishonesty and inauthenticity in my life.

  • Brian

    Hi Lymis,

    (posting reply to my own comment because no reply button on yours – blog limit on reply levels?)

    I agree with you. I haven’t let go of the questions. I agree they need to be asked. I’m content for there to be no answers to them, only the wonder, the mystery of them. This doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m content to live with the presence of That Which I Will Never Understand. I accept it as part of the human experience.

    It isn’t the asking of the questions that I find I can’t release. It’s the perpetual circling around the wreckage of my old faith as if THIS time I’ll find the conversation, or the attitude, or the perspective, that will allow me to once and for all put to rest all the hurt I have from it. I wish I could finally let go of the need, the desire, to heal it. I wish I could just let it die quietly and go on with the rest of my life, without getting all worked up over it (and this is why I refer to it as PTSD-ish – my emotional responses to Christian triggers are out of proportion, most of the time, to the perceived offense).

  • Lymis

    I had the reverse experience, not by any act of will or personal choice. I assumed it would be difficult – wracking – to let go, and found that letting go of the liturgy and theology just sort of happened. I don’t have any particular need to stay grounded in my old beliefs. So I can’t give you anything but witness, as you were giving, that each of our unique paths go where they take us.

  • Jill

    Maybe it’s about acknowledging what you’ve endured has value, that *you* intrinsically have value, despite how you learned about your place in a religious context.

    What you seem to be grappling with, Brian, sounds so familiar to me. Perhaps you haven’t yet been able to grieve the loss of a life you invested in, and that’s part of why letting go hasn’t happened yet. I have learned that I like the phrase ‘fall away’ instead of ‘let go’, simply because what I resist seems to persist, what I process seems to fade in time. A simplistic way to say it, but limited space and all.

    You and I may have had paralleling faith journeys that inevitably halted, along with our hopes and dreams and expectations. Where was our ROI? It felt more like I’d invested in a ponzi scheme and got taken to the cleaners.

    For my part, I’d send you over to this discussion: and the next post:

    as a great place to start. I’ve been spilling my guts out here for about a year now, so it’s all scattered about.

    The fact that you’re facing–and talking–about your journey shows that you are thoughtful and willing. Wherever you decide you belong, this is most definitely a good thing. 🙂

  • Jill

    I will always agree with that too. Living within mystery is far better than living in the box called absolutely explained.

  • Christy

    Ill thought out, snarky answers like “Were you there?” have a tendencies to turn around and bite you like that.

  • Andy

    Really? Learning about dinosaurs in 4th grade? As Sharie said above, her 2nd grader was learning about dinosaurs.

    Again, not disputing there are people who believe these things or schools that teach them. Just saying this looks like an obvious fake, though I’m not sure who it was meant to troll.

  • Matt

    “Learning about dinosaurs” can mean many different things, depending on a child’s developmental level. From learning that they existed at all, to the timeframe that they were here, to the distinction between carnivore vs. herbivore and the Latin basis of their names.

    In terms of proving the test’s validity, the material lines up with a DVD called “Answers in Genesis,” as Snopes has discovered. They also have found a school that meets all of the criteria, being among other things located in South Carolina and explicitly stating that they have “science lessons [that] are creation based.” A man claiming to be the father of the child who took the test has come forward, but will not give the name of the school until the end of the year. It’s been classified as “undetermined,” but the evidence is compelling that we’re dealing with the real thing here.

  • Allie

    I was wondering how they knew what Behemoth looked like if they weren’t there.

  • Elizabeth

    The word for day can also mean different periods of time, such as the mysterious way the Day of the Lord, has been going on for thousands of years. The bible was written in poetry, there are many many poetry conventions in it, such as the way certain ideas are repeated many times for emphasis, the epic catalogs that were in other great works of poetry, it often referred to nations in a poetic way, often using figurative language.

    Think about if you take our own figurative language out of context. We often refer to the White House as the seat of the government. Does that mean that we are not lead by other humans, but by a domicile whose paint job happens to be white? We must be pretty crazy if we think that houses are capable of leading, they are built with foundations that do not move.

    Now, I’ve talked to a lot of people, and I believe that people really do take these sorts of things that far out of context, they do it by ignoring things, instead of looking deeper- they do it the way yes men agree with everything someone says, not out of genuine love, but as fear that they will anger the almighty, whom they must believe to be a monumental a-hole, instead of a loving God. It is very difficult to change people’s minds by ridiculing them, it just polarizes them that much more. (otherwise, I’d be asking them how a dinosaur of any type managed to get onto the ark without killing everything else or leaving no space for it) The better thing to do is to try to lead them to know of Jesus as a loving God, because this sort of distortion comes from being too afraid to look too closely and really know what was said. For example, suppose they found out that Jesus’s name isn’t Jesus- that it was Yeshua, but that English I mutated into a J, and that in the middle ages, they used the name Jesu without the s. These tiny cosmetic changes should not challenge their understanding of God, it’s just the lipstick- they shouldn’t believe that the spirit cannot tell the difference between which name you call God.

  • Valerie

    When I was in the 4th grade I was reading high school equivalant non fiction…for fun. And as far as the hand writing goes I have had 4 kids in school and all of them have had handwriting as good/bad as this one. I don’t think Gregg has had a lot of experience with actual 4th graders writing.

  • James


    as someone who was taught in an ACE school during my junior high and high school years (and was called upon regularly to help tutor the younger students), I can tell you definitively that whether the quiz itself is real, the questions and the expected answers are what is being taught in many Christian schools and in home-school curricula across the US. science classes and history classes were all opportunities to drive home the indoctrination into a biblical literalist viewpoint wherein all data were subject to the authority of the Bible and any data contradictory to that particular interpretation of the Bible was not only rejected out of hand but ridiculed and mocked in no uncertain terms.

  • I just want to thank everyone again for sharing your experiences and participating in this discussion. You have given me a lot to think about.

  • mae

    I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that this is a real quiz. I was educated with ACE, Rod & Staff, Bob Jones, Abeka and other curricula like that and these types of questions look extremely familiar to me.

  • Elizabeth

    I like the part about poetry. Parts of the Bible were written as such and should be approached that way: intuitively. However, people *should* be challenged to look closer. Sometimes shock is what wakes them up. The cleansing of the temple in all four canonical gospels is only one example. Hi Elizabeth!

  • James

    yep. not to mention, they’re all echoed nearly verbatim in the Answers in Genesis material

  • HA! My friend took this photo and posted it to Reddit! So, for those who doubt it’s authenticity, i’m afraid it is indeed the real thing. My friend is an atheist and was just so appalled by this test given to his friend’s child that he had to document it. And while i don’t mind creationists (in theory), let’s be honest, this test is ridiculous. Really. Just… really.

  • Gregg, I like your skepticism, but it is indeed real! My friend Pher posted it to Reddit after seeing this quiz that a friend’s child had just brought home from school. Pher is an diehard atheist, so he is always on the lookout for stuff like this and he seems to have hit the jackpot. He’s actually had to decline talking to the media about it, simply to protect the child and parent from being exposed. I didn’t believe it at first glance either, but it is indeed an unfortunate truth.

  • No way! That was your FRIEND who posted that? Awesome. Thanks so much for checking in/commenting.

  • vj

    “We don’t just happen to be here, “here” was specifically created for us to be in.” LOVE this 🙂

    Also, you final paragraph is AWESOME!

  • Andy

    Oh, it was YOUR friend? Well, that convinced me.

  • Andy

    I would not be surprised at all to hear that there are schools who teach these things. But this still looks very contrived to me.

  • Andy

    I’m not agreeing with them teaching this in a science class, but if I were making the curriculum, I would probably have this taught in 1st grade. That’s one thing that makes me skeptical of this.

  • Tami

    Doesn’t seem that snopes has doubts of the validity any longer, and two reps from Answers in Genesis have confirmed that it is a real test used at Blue Ridge Christian academy.

  • Tami
  • Lymis

    As delicious as this story seemed to me, I really was sort of hoping it would turn out to be fake. Just when I think the bar has gotten as low as it can go, someone sets it lower.

    So, it turns out it really was true. That’s really sad.

  • Andy

    Ugh. So not only are there people that believe and propagate this stuff, they’re bad at making tests too.

    I just lost a little more faith in humanity.

  • n.

    you know that it’s very possible for some to see God in everything good and for others to see human goodness and/or natural processes of the universe in everything good.

    i start to wonder if atheism vs. theism isn’t some kind of personality/processing difference rather than something that we can logic-out and prove to each other.

    sometimes i feel like i still believe in a god because i can. and some don’t believe in a god because that isn’t compatible with something inside them.

    and maybe that’s as it should be. as long as you’re right and none of us are going to hell, it should all work out ok.

  • n.

    you mean like the nationality? (~_^)