Guest Post: Methodological Problems with Brian Ray’s Study on Youth and Religion

A Guest Post by Apodosis 

Libby Anne posted recently about a new survey conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, a non-profit which conducts studies of questionable scientific validity on homeschooling. As a Ph.D. social scientist myself, I looked over the new survey with a critical eye and I’m sorry to say there won’t be much useable data gleaned from it because it is rife with methodological problems.

The survey has over 100 questions and nearly every question needs revisions, so I’m just going to summarize my main critiques of the study.

1. Institutional Review Board

When you are conducting a survey that collects personal information from the participants, every IRB in the country requires that you have signed informed consent forms for each of your participants. In online surveys, these tend to include a cover page describing the purpose of the study and what is asked of the participants, as well as a signature box to show you have understood your rights.These forms often include the phrases “You may stop the survey at any time without giving a reason” and “You are not obligated to answer any question you don’t want to”. They provide contact information for the PI and other associated researchers, as well as for the IRB that approved it. “If you feel your rights have been violated, call this number” etc.

In the Gen 2 survey, there is no such information. It is not clear who is being asked to participate (see #2), the goals of the study are not honestly stated (see #3), and there is no contact information for the PI or an IRB to contact if you feel your rights have been violated. I had to dig on NHERI’s website to find the email address of the PI, Dr. Brian D. Ray (it’s bray@nheri.org, btw, in case you feel your rights have been violated), and he actively discourages you from contacting him. Red flag.

A peer-reviewed publication will not publish any results from research that was not overseen by an IRB.

2. Target Population

It is not clear who is being asked to participate in the survey. In the “About” section, Ray says the participants are “those between the ages of 18-38 years old that grew up in religious homes”, but in the FAQ he says “Anyone between the ages of 18-38″ may participate. I am between the ages of 18 and 38; I was raised in a moderate mainline Protestant family, and I am now a progressive mainline Protestant. I honestly cannot tell if he wants my data or not. Though both of those statements about who should participate apply to me, the questions on the survey indicate otherwise.

3. Goals

Which brings me to my most serious methodological critique of the study, which is that the goals are not honestly stated. There are two different studies conflated here which have entirely different goals. Dr. Ray even alludes to this in the “About” section: one goal is “to come up with data points of key influences that either encouraged or deterred the participants from practicing the same faith as their parents”; the other goal is to “use the statistics from this survey to help equip parents to make more informed decisions in the education and spiritual guidance of their children.” That is, in simpler terms, the goals are (A) to find out how young people’s religious views change as they reach adulthood, and (B) to figure out how to make sure young fundamentalists/evangelicals stay in the fold.

In fact, the main goal of the study seems to be (B) with a shallow veneer of (A) superimposed on it. Now, (A) is an interesting study whose results I would look forward to reading. (B) is not a scientific study. You do not perform a scientific study with the goal of achieving a certain result. Social science is about trying to describe and explain human behavior, not about trying to change it or attach value judgments.

Here are some examples of the problems that arise when the two studies are conflated.Dr. Ray pays lip service to the idea that young people may belong to a variety of faiths, as evidenced by his questions:

Generally, what kind of religious service did you attend as a child?

What kind of church or religion do you currently associate yourself with?

Available answers include Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and a variety of mainline Protestant denominations in addition to the exhaustive list of evangelical/fundamentalist groups. However, on the next pages he asks questions like

My current church is serious about applying the biblical principles of eldership, shepherding, mentoring, and church discipline.

Did you ever get any “worldview” training?

How often did your Father/Mother read the Bible to you?

These questions indicate that the primary audience of this study is people raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical/Christian patriarchy home. How are Buddhists and Hindus and Atheists supposed to answer these questions? Note that there is no “Not applicable” option available. This brings me to #4.

4. Not Applicable

It is important in surveys to allow your participants the freedom to answer the questions honestly, and not be forced to pick the “closest” answer. Many of the questions follow the “Have you stopped beating your wife” pattern, where e.g. a person who has never beaten their wife has no honest way to answer the question. “Not applicable” is only an available answer for one of 100 questions in the survey. This becomes a problem with questions like the following:

How distant or close do you feel to God most of the time?

What was the status of your parents’ marriage during your raising?

My father was very involved in our family home life.

How would an atheist answer the first question without “Not applicable”? How would someone answer the second question if they were raised by two parents in a committed relationship who were not married? And in the third case, what if you didn’t have a father?

“Other” followed by a fill-in-the-blank should also occur much more frequently as an available answer in questions such as:

Have you, or your significant other, ever chosen to have an abortion? Yes/ No

Do you think that people should wait to have sex until they are married, or not necessarily? Yes/ Not necessarily

How would you describe yourself when you were a child? I was very rebellious/I struggled with rebellion, but overcame it/I was always fairly obedient and honoring as a child

In the first question, it would be more appropriate to ask “Have you ever had an unwanted pregnancy?” and then to ask how it was dealt with. As it stands, a person who has never been pregnant and a person who has carried a rapist’s child to term would give the same answer. In the second and third questions, there are clearly more than just the possible answers given. My answers would be “No, unless they want to” and “My parents were supportive of what I chose to do and who I chose to be”.Participants in the study need a way to answer these questions honestly, so even if Dr. Ray wants to limit his variables it would be more methodologically sound to provide an “Other” response with a fill-in-the-blank to such questions.

5. Leading/Biased Questions

This brings me to another point: almost every question is leading or has other problems caused, for the most part, by faulty assumptions and a lack of imagination on the part of Dr. Ray.

“What kind of church or religion do you currently associate yourself with?” Some people consider themselves to be a member of a faith without having a specific faith community. Some people consider themselves to be members of multiple faith traditions. A better question would be “How would you describe your religion or faith?” with multiple check-boxes allowed. And he should list all the religions, not just the ones he could think of off the top of his head! He forgot at least (off the top of my head) Baha’i, Sikh, Wicca, Christian Science, Animism, Deist, Shinto, Unitarian Universalist, Not applicable, Other____, and he did not provide any different denominations of Judaism or Islam.In addition, he should have grouped the religions together by type rather than alphabetically—this list makes it very hard to see if your faith is represented. And groups like “Mormons” and “Congregationalists” should be called by their actual names—LDS and UCC, respectively. This list of religions, while it pays lip service to religious diversity, is actually offensive in its exclusions and ignorance. Plus, there is no acknowledgment in this survey of mixed-faith households. What if your parents were of different faiths, or what if you and your significant other do not share a faith?

Questions such as

What is your sex/gender? Male/ Female

How was your relationship with your Mother / Father when you were 16-17 years old?

How often did your Mother / Father explain biblical principles to you?

presume an oversimplified, heteronormative view of gender and family.Sex is not the same as gender; there are quite a few other genders than just male and female; you might have parents of multiple genders or the same gender (and therefore not have a “Mother” and a “Father”); and you might have been raised by other family members, or primarily by friends, or in foster homes.If this was really a survey about changes in young people’s religious views, it would try to get an accurate picture of their lives without limiting them to these binaries. Ray should also ask about people’s sexual orientations if he’s that interested in the status of their romantic lives; however, his reference to “homosexual” “encounters” in one of the questions indicates that he probably does not believe in sexual orientation as a concept (see #6).

6. Limited Mindset

Many of these questions portray a mindset that is isolated to the evangelical/fundamentalist/Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull/Purity movements–it’s possible that Dr. Ray does not even realize there are other ideologies out there. For instance, there is this question/answer set:

What statement most aligns with how many children would you like to have? I don’t want to have children / I want no more than a few children / As many children as God will provide / I don’t know

This really should be divided into multiple questions. First, he should ask “Do you plan your pregnancies?” If no, he should ask about “how many children you hope God will give you”, but if yes, he should ask how many you plan to have. I don’t think Dr. Ray realizes that some people plan their pregnancies. Then there is the following question/answer pair:

If you have—or were to have—children, what form of education do you plan to use for them? Christian school / Christian school and homeschool / Christian school and non-Christian private school / Christian school and public school / Homeschool / Homeschool and non-Christian private school / Homeschool and public school / Private school, non-Christian / Public school / Charter school/virtual charter / Other

At least this one has “Other” as an option, though it doesn’t let you write in your response. First of all, it’s a badly designed question—he should just list the types of school and let you check as many boxes as you want. Second, the question relies on the assumption that parents would choose their children’s manner of schooling before the children even exist. What if the child is gifted or disabled? Would that change the parents’ plans? And Dr. Ray does not even realize that people who would answer like me are out there—”It depends on the child’s needs and wants, as well as other considerations such as expense, distance, quality of education, etc.”

Then there’s this question/answer pair:

Did your parents use corporal discipline (spanking) with you?No / Yes, consistently and they were generally under loving control / Yes, consistently and often they were not under loving control / Yes, inconsistently and they were generally under loving control / Yes, inconsistently, and often they were not under loving control

These answers presuppose a worldview where the value of spanking is not open to debate (spoiler: we don’t live in that world). It would be more accurate to ask “What was your parents’ position on spanking?” “How often were you spanked?” “Are your attitudes toward it positive, neutral, or negative?” “Would you spank your own children?” etc.

And then there’s the part where he puts these two questions next to each other, clearly conflating them (shades of Libby Anne’s two boxes): “Have you had a sexual encounter or physical relationship with someone to whom you are not married?” and “Were you ever sexually abused before age 18?” Note that a girl who was repeatedly raped by her Christian patriarchy father for ten years and a girl who was raped once by an acquaintance at a party as a teenager would probably have different reactions to their faith traditions, though they would give the same “Yes” response. No effort is made to make this distinction in the survey. And nowhere does the survey ask about physical abuse, since Dr. Ray probably doesn’t think it exists.

Or how about the question “If you were unsure of what was right or wrong in a particular situation, how would you decide what to do?” with the available answers: Do what would make you feel happy / Do what would help you to get ahead / Follow the advice of a parent or teacher, or other adult you respect / Do what you think God or the scripture tells you is right / Something else. These answers reveal Dr. Ray’s belief that morality does not exist outside (his brand of) Christianity.

7. Exclusionary Language

The language Dr. Ray uses is exclusionary and often confusing. For instance, he persists in using terms like church, pastor, scripture, prayer, Bible, youth group, Sunday School when these terms are uniquely Christian and do not apply to people of other faiths–he ought to say faith community, religious leader, holy book, prayer/meditation, religious education if he wanted to get accurate data. He also fails to define several terms which I don’t understand because I was not raised in a fundamentalist environment: family-integrated, homeschooling-friendly, shepherding, church discipline, worldview training. In his questions about belief in “God” and “heaven”, he ought to ask separate questions about each property he wants to assign to these words’ meanings (e.g. “Do you believe in a deity or deities?” “If yes, do you believe the deity/deities is/are omniscient? Omnipresent? Omnipotent? Does it/do they have a gender? Does it/do they affect everyday events?” etc.). If Ray wants accurate data, he should define confusing and ambiguous terms.

You should not be able to tell someone’s political and religious beliefs from survey questions designed to elicit yours. You should not be asked to give dishonest answers to survey questions because your honest answers are unavailable as options. You should not have to infer how exclusionary language in the questions would apply to your situation. You should not be asked to give out your personal information without giving your informed consent. An IRB would not approve this study. I would not rely on any of the conclusions that come out of it.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Nate Frein

    Excellent dissection. Thank you.

  • Ahab

    A thorough breakdown of a rather biased questionnaire. So many human experiences are left out in the survey, which is filtered through a conservative Protestant, cisgender lens.

  • Michael W Busch

    Well said!

    I hope you sent copies to the email addresses associated with the survey – the people who wrote need to have no excuse for not understanding the problems with it. I addressed some of what you have written in the email I sent them yesterday, but not being a social scientist I missed many of the details.

    (And re. the heavy exclusionary language: I understood it, but only because of the reading I’ve done on American fundamentalist Christianity – a few of the terms I only knew because Libby Anne has written pieces explaining them.)

  • tsara

    …where’s that .gif that’s a supercut of all of Captain Picard’s facepalms when I need it?
    (also, I appreciate that you noticed the sex/gender and binary thing. Too many places have only the two options, and don’t separate sex and gender. This irritates me.)

  • Aimee

    Thank you! I had so many problems with this “survey”. I for one have been a practicing pagan and I was very involved with the pagan religious group on my husband’s air force base and led the group for nearly 2 years. So I filled out lots of questions saying that I was active with a religious group and attended meetings several times a month but I am certain those questions are meant to be interpreted as attending Christian services/ meetings.

    And it felt like a slap in the face to answer the question about being sexually abused that had no other questions or follow ups associated with it, except for the juxtaposition of the question about engaging in any sexual activity outside of marriage. And maybe it is my own brand of fundamentalist upraising, but I couldn’t help but feel the questions served to conflate the two – being sexually abused listed as a subset of engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage.

    Which was the source of my suffering in the religion I was raised in – though I know the attitude conflating sexual abuse with sexual impurity isn’t necessarily intentional. In the end section I tried to explain this but a good survey would have had follow up questions to something so fundamentally life altering. Because though the abuse was not directly tied to the church in any way, the affects of the church’s purity teachings and how that made me feel about my abuse was the defining reason that I left and why I’d never raise my own daughters in it.

  • Mira

    Yeah I got really frustrated with the lack of options on the survey and my inability to select “other” or “not applicable.” I found far too many of the questions confusing and borderline insulting (i.e. if you pick this answer you’re too stupid to be doing this survey).

  • Ann

    It is a very biased survey – even for those of us still firmly in Christianity. I am a Pentecostal minister now, but I grew up in the fundamentalist homeschool world. The question “Does your church have a biblical view of elders and church discipline…” How is one to answer that? Of course I believe my church has a biblical view. But I don’t believe in those terms the way fundamentalists and Reformed folks do. So how do I answer?!? I disagree with the question itself calling those things biblical (assuming they are using the terms the way they are usually used in those circles)!

    Same thing with spanking – my parents weren’t “lovingly consistent”. Consistent, not loving. But they weren’t physically abusive, which is implied by “out of control”. So….

    • J-Rex

      They might as well ask if your church has the correct view of elders and church discipline.

    • Rilian Sharp

      “The question “Does your church have a biblical view of elders and church discipline…””

      I don’t remember that question… ???

  • Joykins

    IIRC there was a question about heaven I would have found it difficult to answer (had I been 5 years younger) because I don’t have any belief that people go to heaven.

  • J-Rex

    I also had trouble with the spanking question.
    Spanked? Yes. Loving control? It would probably appear that way to family and friends and it was explained that way to us kids. However, the things we were spanked for were so tiny and accidental that I would never consider it loving. Consistently? Well, we were spanked often, but it wasn’t always predictable what we would be spanked for.

    I think I answered, “Yes, consistently, without loving control.” It sounded the most accurate to me. But then I feel like it puts me in the category of being raised in an abusive home, so of course someone like me would leave! I never experience real Christian love!

    Also, the question about my parents relationship. My dad worked and made decisions while my mom had and took care of his children. “Strong” and “Stable, but with tensions” didn’t seem to fit. People can be unhappy even if they never argue.

    • http://exploringthejungle.wordpress.com/ Kat

      To be honest, I think it would pretty hard for anyone whose answer wasn’t a simple “no” to answer the spanking question, and easy to draw negative conclusions from pretty much any of the answers. I felt like the closest to true for me was, “Yes, inconsistently, under loving control,” but that doesn’t really seem right to me. I’m sure my parents saw it as loving, and they never seemed do it out of uncontrollable anger, but they also seemed to do it as a last resort when they couldn’t think of anything else (which doesn’t strike me as “loving control”).

      As for “inconsistently,” they didn’t do it often because, again, it tended to be a last resort punishment. But that makes it sound like they didn’t have any consistent rules or discipline, which wasn’t the case. So of course I left, because they let me run wild and didn’t teach me how to behave properly, which is why I’m one of those evil atheists with no moral standards!

      Basically, that was one of several obvious “gotcha” questions.

    • “Rebecca”

      I really hated the spanking question. The few times my dad spanked me were upsetting but generally done with a measure of level-headedness on his part. My mom’s spanking was much more terrifying and she was out of control sometimes. It was so inconsistent between my parents that there was no way for me to answer the question accurately.

    • Rilian Sharp

      My parents’ “punishments”, i.e. abuses, were indeed inconsistent and out of control. I blame it on their disgusting christian upbringings. Even though my parents weren’t christians themselves, it’s hard to all at once throw away everything you learned from your parents.

  • Gillianren

    I’ll confess to having basically lied about the spanking question because none of the options were right. I know Mom spanked us a few times when we were kids (Dad died when I was six), but it was so rare that I don’t think it fits any of their definitions. So I said no, I wasn’t spanked. It was closest to true but also wrong–and the sheer number of us who had to do something similar should raise questions in the mind of anyone trying to do an unbiased survey. Of course, that assumes it’s what these people were trying to do, which I doubt is a safe assumption.

    • Jayn

      I had the same dilemma. My parents spanked me on occasion, but it was so infrequent that I really couldn’t decide which of the ‘Yes’ answers were closest (Plus they stopped when I was still fairly young–I just don’t remember that well under what circumstances they resorted to it).

      • Christine

        I got spanked once as a kid, but it was a case of my dad losing his temper (I have no clue what had happened). I never count it. And for everyone who’s worried – he’s had help since, he’s fine.

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

      I did the same. Plus I know what they mean by spanking, and that’s not what happened at all. It stopped before I was five, maybe happened 3 times at most, and was bare hand on clothed bottom (enough to sting, not enough to leave any marks). Basically, enough to say what whatever happened was so outside the bounds of acceptable behavior that my parents were going to make this punishment memorable.

    • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

      Ditto. I was smacked maybe three times in my entire childhood – each time, with one quick swipe of Mum’s hand onto my bottom, to let me know that I really was in trouble and was not going to be able to get out of time-out just by refusing to go.

      The closest survey answer I had was “no, I wasn’t spanked” – but it’s not exactly accurate.

    • ako

      I didn’t actually do the survey (I think my childhood would not be religious enough to qualify, although even that is unclear), but I looked through it, and I have no and the spanking question confused me, too. My parents spanked me on rare occasion. On the loving control part it was…medium? Medium high? It wasn’t particularly consistent, it wasn’t abusive (we’re talking mildly painful swats that didn’t leave a mark), and it wasn’t a practice I’d recommend to anyone raising a kid. (Spankings generated more fear and resentment and fewer thoughts about what I’d done wrong than any other form of punishment my parents tried.)

      • The_L1985

        Indeed! Spanking didn’t teach me not to misbehave. It taught me not to get caught, which is a very different thing.

  • smrnda

    I notice that for conservative fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, you get pretty much every flavor imaginable, but if you were say, Jewish (and that is certainly not a monolith) you’re basically stuck under one label only.

    ‘How would you describe yourself when you were a child? I was very
    rebellious/I struggled with rebellion, but overcame it/I was always
    fairly obedient and honoring as a child’

    What if your parents just weren’t that strict? It’s hard to be rebellious if you have permissive parents, and if your parents aren’t very authoritarian you can’t be obedient, and ‘honoring’ is clearly a Christianese term. Even within religious households, I wouldn’t assume all follow an authoritarian parenting model.

    • LizBert

      That was weird for me, I always just say I grew up evangelical because outside of churchy circles nobody really recognizes Restoration/Church of Christ (but not those heathen UCC people)/Christian Church. I have literally never seen that as an option on a check this box for religion situation before.

      • The_L1985

        I’ve only seen it in horrible jokes. Usually the joke is that people are in heaven, seeing all the different areas where members of various Christian denominations tend to spend their time. Then, the newly-deceased asks about that one locked door, and St. Peter says, “Shh! That’s the Church of Christ people. They don’t know we’re here!”

      • LizBert

        That’s not horrible, that’s hilarious.

      • Kate Monster

        I’ve seen that joke done with about 5 different denominations in the “They think they’re the only ones here” slot. It’s very adaptable.

      • LizBert

        It seems especially apt with the Christian Church/Church of Christ. They are unusually concerned with doctrinal purity, to the point of viciously turning their backs on faithful members who are perceived as being too liberal. Hell, there’s a century old break between those who play instruments during services and those who don’t and those damned ecumenists the Disciples of Christ.

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    Thank you for debunking this “scientific” survey.

  • Malte

    Excellent, thank you so much. One quibble: while most Mormons are LDS, there are non-LDS Mormon groups. So perhaps there should be two options.

  • stacey

    There were too many I just couldn’t answer. LIke how many kids. I want many, but not ‘as many as god provides”.
    This isn’t gonna be too useful info-wise.

  • http://tinygrainofrice.wordpress.com/ Kristycat

    I was raised Christian and am now Pagan – given these questions, would that even be apparent, I wonder? Because I suspect the answwrs I would give would lead him to assume I’m nondenominational Christian…

    • The_L1985

      That’s why I specifically wrote “I am a Wiccan” in the comment box at the end.

  • Emma

    Is it just me, or does Dr. Ray’s article really strongly suggest that he thinks he already knows why millenials are leaving?

    • Kate

      Yes, it absolutely does. That made my decision whether or not to take the survey rather difficult – on one hand, I would love to defy the stereotypes, let my own experience fly in the face of his preconceptions, but on the other, he has rather carefully designed the survey to all but ensure that it will say what he wants. I ended up taking it, in hope, and with the realization that there was space at the end to write a bit. I discussed primarily the problems with the survey and how my life does not reflect his preconceptions of why I am the way I am.

  • Naomi

    Thank you. I was just coming over here to say this. I complained about the lack of IRB approval for this study on the survey, as well as some of its methodological problems. It didn’t let me answer that I’ve had sex with men and women, even though it says choose all that apply. I didn’t say it there, but this survey left me sobbing. There should be a a warning about potential emotional trauma involved in asking such personal questions about family life (what IRBs are for!). I feel like I still can’t describe how much pain I have around the topic of biological family. Even though I don’t believe in god(s), I do still have emotional issues around religion, especially Christianity. Maybe somewhat due to my parents, and somewhat due to their particular religion, I absolutely struggle emotionally with feeling like any god doesn’t want me and I’ll never be good enough to be loved. Where were the questions about abuse? About therapy? About the struggle to integrate into the real world?

    • gimpi1

      Good, questions, Naomi. What about therapy? Many people who have left the fundamentalist movement turn to therapy to heal. Why no questions about that process? What about abuse? Does Dr. Ray understand that abuse can happen in any family, including religious ones? Does he even understand what parental abuse is? It’s clear, he doesn’t care about real people, real lives. He just wants a way for parents to indoctrinate their kids better. Not, in my opinion, a worthy goal.

  • gimpi1

    This was a push-poll. Remember all the “surveys” Fox News did to prove that Mitt Romney was going to win the last presidential election? It’s the same thing, and will get the same tainted results. It’s a case of the signal and the noise.

    Dr. Ray, the author of the “survey” thinks he knows what’s “wrong” with the young people who leave the Joshua Generation, and is just looking for “data” to bolster his view. Sadly, that’s what passes for scholarship in much of the evangelical world.

    He has no interest in what these people really feel, really think, or why they really moved beyond their parent’s views. He only wants to get some idea of how to make the indoctrination stick better. With that goal in mind, his objectivity is shot before he even gets out of the gate. He’s so far in the bubble he can’t even write a survey that doesn’t use catch-phrases; family-integrated, worldview training, shepherding, church-discipline. I would need definitions of all of those, he seems to regard them as standard expressions. Does he he even know there are very religious homes that never heard of the Quiver-full movement?

    If you want real results, you have to ask real questions, and be ready to go where the real information takes you. Dr. Ray has no such goal. It shows.

  • Joel Penner

    I found it odd that for someone trying to lead questions and push questions, they didn’t include what is typically considered “super-Christian” answers. Some of us actually went to church more than once a week from 0-18 years. Oh well, my other answers and text box paint a picture opposite of what he’s looking for.

  • Noelle

    Poorly done survey on all accounts. Real social scientists should be insulted by this. These surveys passed off as being able to collect and interpret valid data are part of the reason “hard” scientists scoff and call the others “soft.” I still gave it a whirl, and skipped questions that I could not mostly-honestly answer. Some questions I didn’t understand at all.

    My mother died when I was 16, so my relationship with her was not poor, it was nonexistent. But I missed her dearly and would’ve continued to have a great relationship with her had she not died. Why no box for dead parent? So, I gave her a 100.

    Why no box for there is no heaven, so I believe nobody goes there?

    I don’t “believe” in evolution. I accept it as the answer based on real evidence. I no more believe it than I believe bacteria and viruses cause infection. I understand it.

    I can never come up with my favorite book or movie, I like too many of them. That question always annoys me. How about, what is the last book you read? Did you like it?

    How many times have I been drunk in the last 6 months? How drunk are we talking?

    Did I have Internet access from age 10-17? Good lord, that was 1985-1992. How many people had Internet access back then?

    The pity is that a professional unbiased researcher could’ve put together a real survey for them that might’ve yielded some interesting information.

    • Christine

      If you lived in a city a lot of people had internet access towards the end of that period.

      • Anat

        Depends. In Israel in 1992 to access the internet you pretty much had to have been in an academic institution. Commercial internet providers showed up a few years later.

      • Ace_of_Sevens

        The Internet didn’t become commercially available until 1995.

      • Christine

        Right. Terminology. My dad always used “internet” as a catch-all phrase, because my mom is completely non technical, and I was a kid. I keep forgetting that it has proper meanings. Sorry.

      • Noelle

        Like the others said. Once the Internet caught on, it was quick, but it took a few more years than ’92. I got my first e-mail address in college in 1994, but that was an old-timey system. By the time I graduated, I was searching Yahoo for information and learning to site web pages for information in research papers.

        I suspect what the survey writer is looking for is that kids with Internet access were exposed to the scary scary world of information and contradictory ideas. By allowing respondents up to age 38, they are catching the younger GenXers, and you can’t blame our childhood Internet on our nonbelief in God.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        I didn’t even meet internet until about 1998, and I live in a city.

      • Christine

        I don’t think I had an e-mail address until the mid-nineties (and it means so much when no one you know has one…), but my dad is a chronic early adopter. He’s scaled back a little bit on stuff that involves him paying a lot for hardware (we had a BetaMax, because he could tell which the better technology was…), but he’s still an early adopter of most stuff.

      • Stephanie

        Hah, my dad was an early adopter too. We had a laser disc player. Total misstep there, huh?

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        We got dialup in 2001, and I remember that feeling a year or two late compared to those around us.

  • Rilian Sharp

    He wants you to rate your relationship with your parents on a scale from “none” to “excellent.” Um, what. What about people who have quite a lot of relationship with their parents, but it’s terrible? because it includes fighting or abuse or something.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    I was raised in an evangelical church (Pentecostal). I don’t know what worldview training is, either. My experience is that there are a lot of church fads which pastors have a term for that they use when discussing sermon strategies and such, but they don’t use the term with the congregation, kind of like how salespeople don’t tell customers about closing. I’m not sure that even people who have received worldview training know it.

  • Brightie

    I’m pretty sure that “family-integrated” means “did your church tend to do more activities with the families kept together, or more activities where the people divided up by age group.”

  • RebeccaM

    I was able to answer most of the questions about my childhood fairly accurately (probably because it fits the fundamentalist Christian homeschooler mold), but like many of you I found the questions about my current beliefs and goals for my family completely inadequate. At the end section when it asks for additional comments I wrote a full two paragraphs explaining several of my responses to the questions.

    After all, I haven’t decided if I’m going to homeschool (my kids are still young) but I know that I want my children to learn real science and that I will *not* be using any of the Christian “worldview” literature that was used in my upbringing.

    And the whole time I’m filling out the survey I have this depressing feeling that ultimately it doesn’t matter. I’ll be dismissed as the one that “fell away,” the one who went to college and was brainwashed by liberals. The odds of them actually questioning their methods based on this survey seems iffy.

  • Stephanie

    Ever so tiniest thing in defense of the survey wrt #4. You can actually skip a question and it doesn’t make you answer before moving on. Of course, I have no idea if that will affect whether they take my answers.

    I mostly did the survey to stir the pot because I know that my truthful answers are not what they’re looking for (I believe in God- true, I believe Jesus is the son of god- false), although I half expect they will automatically throw out any survey response with “Jewish” attached to it.

    You’re right about it being pretending to be for all religions but still being all about evangelical christianity. My religious beliefs are actualy vastly different from the ones I was raised with. Though they all fall within the “Jewish” umbrella, it’s not the same thing at all. Also my answer about “non-Christian private school” is not really the most fitting answer, because I went to a Jewish private school not a secular one. I did assume that when it asked for participation in church activities or church related charity, that I could answer substituting synagogue for church. But if he really wanted to know how many CHURCH activities I’ve participated in, the answer would be none.

    • Stephanie

      Sorry for replying to myself, edit wasn’t working. This reminds me of an early conversation with my husband when we were dating (he’s Catholic, I’m Jewish) where he revealed that he honestly believed that “church” was a universal term for house of worship. Ummm, no. Although a third of the world’s population is Christian, that still leaves 2/3 of the world population who do not worship in a church. Actually, I think “temple” of various forms is probably the most used.

  • A Reader

    When I went to a private Christian school, I had a friend whose parents were totally into Dr. Ray’s brand of child-raising. He was, from what I gleaned, one crazy dude. Luckily my mom, who was friends with my friend’s mother, only took one idea from Dr. Ray, and it wasn’t religious at all. Sometimes, when I was in trouble, I had to copy pages out of a dictionary. I hated it with a passion, but it did help my vocabulary.

    Also, my parents figured out pretty early on that spanking didn’t really deter me from doing things, it just made me angry, which tended to make me a lot less fun to be around.


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