Looking to Kill Some Time? Take a Poorly Written Survey!

Warning: The following post contains dangerously high levels of sarcasm. Overly literal readers should carefully calibrate their sense of humor before viewing. This blogger is not responsible for hurt feelings, head explosions, or Hulk-like rage.

Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism has posted a link to one of the worst-written surveys of all time. They’re looking for people ages 18 to 38 (because high school seniors can obviously be lumped in with people likely to have established careers and teenage kids of their own) who were raised in “religious” households. The term “religious” is, of course, used here synonymously with “evangelical Christian.” Oh, sure, they acknowledge that there are (a few) other religions out there, but they don’t count and are worth mentioning, if at all, only briefly and for the express purpose of pointing out that they’re wrong.

Don’t believe it’s really that bad? Well, you can check out the comment section on Libby Anne’s blog post for an assortment of the problems, but I realized I just wouldn’t feel satisfied until I’d analyzed it to death. So here goes:

Oh, I’m sorry. I said it was for people ages 18 to 38 raised in religious homes (as it states on the front page), but I forgot to mention that it was only for happy people. Apparently. After all, the most prominently displayed text is “LIKE YOUR LIFE? TELL US ABOUT IT.” Those who don’t like their lives, presumably, need not apply. Then again, who could possibly dislike having been raised in a religious household? How could anyone not be happy and well-adjusted as a result of that environment? I’m sure the happiness qualification is just redundant.

Right below that qualifier is the following:

Complete this Survey and be entered to Win one of three iPad Mini’s! Come on! What else are you going to do, check facebook again? 😛

Well, thanks for the incentive, I guess, although I personally completed the survey and did not enter the drawing (I have no need of an iPad mini and do not trust random websites with my email address). However, your inexplicably random capitalization and bolding is putting me in a bad mood. Don’t worry, though, because the insinuation that I have no job, no real interests, and nothing else to do but check Facebook a billion times a day is in no way condescending. Also, the emoticon totally draws me in and makes me think you’re hip. I’m so glad you speak the language of us young people.

Okay, okay, I’m being mean. Their goal, as stated on this same page 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.” Somehow I doubt they actually give a shit if, for example a kid raised as a Hindu later converted to Wicca or something. Still, I suppose the least we could do answer their questions in good faith. *rimshot*

The first couple of questions make sense. Age seems like it would be a relevant factor, particularly with a range this wide. I can certainly see why they’d ask how often you attend religious services, as well. So far, so good. The next question, “What kind of church or religion do you currently associate yourself with?” is also logical, although as a pedantic atheist I’d prefer to see it expressed more like “What is your religious belief/preference?” I almost said “none” for this reason. However, “none” is too imprecise for my taste; it includes the undecideds, the “spiritual but not religious,” and even those who believe a god exists but don’t adhere to any religious tradition. Rather than muddy the waters any further than necessary by including myself in that category, I selected atheism as my “religion.”

I shouldn’t complain too much, because at least my belief was listed. Apparently the world’s religious beliefs include Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Agnostic, Atheist (they separate agnostics and atheists, but lump Reform Judaism in with Hasidic, or Shia Muslims with Sunni?) and a bazillion flavors of Christianity. Technically there’s also an “other” option, but not even a blank to write in what it is. See what I mean about their definition of “religious”?

They then ask a few pretty sensible questions about marital status and children; I couldn’t really find much to criticize there. “What is your sex/gender is as cis-normative and binary as you’d expect, but it’s not like evangelicals have a monopoly on that particular issue.* The questions about religious practices, though, seem like they’d be difficult to answer for anyone who didn’t come from a specific variety of Christian background. “How often do you share the Bible with your spouse and/or children?” There is a “not applicable” option, but how do you know if it’s not applicable because the respondent is unmarried and childless, or not applicable because they’re a family of, say, Buddhists? I honestly don’t think the writers of this survey intended it to come off as arrogant, but it still strikes me as unbelievably so.

I’m also a little curious about the questions regarding how much time people spend reading newspapers and reading magazines (not online). Is online media somehow inferior? Am I less informed because I read the news off a computer screen instead of a dead tree? I wonder if it’s worth pointing out that online, I can read the same story from several different sources and get a variety of perspectives, rather than subscribing to one newspaper. That, and it’s cheaper (free, really, since I have to pay for internet regardless). It’s not even like reading news online is listed later as a separate option, which makes it hard not to assume they’re rigging this to play into the whole “millenials are lazy and ill-informed” trope. We are not amused.

They then ask about relationships with parents. Reasonable, but poorly executed. I do like the sliding scale for each parent (as opposed to simply good/bad options), but there’s no accounting for possibilities other than a mom and dad, both alive and healthy. How would you describe your relationship with your father now if he’s dead? What if he left before you were old enough to remember? What if he has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognize you when he sees you? Where do stepparents fit in? What if you had two moms or two dads (I realize being raised by a same-sex couple would be less common for those of us old enough to take the survey, but it could be an option — and yes, it’s totally possible for gay parents to be religious, even if you don’t think it’s the “right” kind of religious belief). No matter what your situation, they expect you to rate your current relationship with your mom and your dad on their little scale. Um… good luck.

This one really threw me: “What is your favorite inspirational/religious book (or series) besides the Bible?” I said The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I suppose I could have picked something like The God Delusion or God is Not Great, but it’s not like I’m inspired by them or live my life based on them. I couldn’t really think of any book that qualified. However, I love the Hitchhiker’s Guide, and I strongly believe that more books should have the words “Don’t Panic” printed in large, friendly letters on the cover. Besides, it even mentions the basic idea of Christianity (“some guy was nailed to a tree for saying what a great idea it was to be nice to everybody for a change”), so it should totally count.

Family income, blah blah blah. And that concludes the first page. (Yes, I’m serious. At least they’re trying to be thorough.)

I really don’t know how someone raised in a nonchristian household would even go about attempting to answer the next page. Even if you were Christian, you have to speak a very specific Christianese dialect to answer some of it (I picture the response of my Catholic friends consisting primarily of “lolwut”). Not a whole lot to comment on here, except that I have a feeling they’ll think the fact that I attended 6+ churches growing up was because we were uncommitted or troublemakers or something. I wonder if they’ll read my comments at the end when I explain that we were a military family and had to move every few years. Oh well.

Next page. I have no idea what “‘worldview’ training” is. I’m just hoping my mental picture of this scene from A Clockwork Orange is unwarranted.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’d remember something like that, so I guess I never had any. The only other thing really worth pointing out on this page is the options as to whether your parents ever used corporal discipline. The options are no, consistently, and inconsistently, with consistent and inconsistent each having two options based on whether your parents were “under loving control” when they did it. Look, I’m not a fan of spanking in general, but that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of conflating a controlled, deliberate swat as punishment with “corporal discipline (spanking) … not under loving control.” I would hope that people who use (or are okay with) the former would unabashedly call the latter what it is: child abuse. It makes me absolutely livid when people refer to beatings and other physical torment as “spanking” or “discipline.” No. It is not, in the same way that beating a puppy half to death because he had an accident on the rug is not “house training.” This is why I hate euphemisms; they can be used to make horrendously unethical and immoral behavior sound like it’s not so bad after all. The thing is, no matter what word you use, a child being beaten by her parents is getting hurt just as much either way.

On the next page, we have a question about parents’ marital status. It covers several options, but seems to pertain only to biological parents. If you were raised by, say, you mom and stepdad, do you pick “divorced before my raising” or “strong” (in this case meaning Mom and Stepdad’s marriage)? Also, if your parents never married but lived together happily while they raised you, do you pick “single parent”? That seems misleading, but there aren’t really any accurate answers. It also has no provision for someone who wasn’t raised by their parents at all (for example, orphaned living with grandparents or raised in foster care). They don’t even include an “other” option for those people.

This question generated quite a bit of discussion in the comment thread on Libby Anne’s post:

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

I… don’t even know what to do with those answers. There’s certainly no provision for, “I didn’t always agree with my parents, but we tried to talk things through when we could. They would listen and explain things patiently, and were sometimes willing to compromise if could propose an alternate solution that took their concerns into account.” That’s not exactly what I’d call obedient, but it doesn’t strike me as rebellious either. Then again, considering what passes for parenting advice in some of the scarier evangelical circles (which I recognize are not representative of the movement as a whole, but seem to be overrepresented in this survey), I probably was “very rebellious.” That would certainly fit the narrative here.

Here’s something weird that may or may not be intentional. They ask how often your mother and father read the Bible to you growing up (seriously, stop pretending you want religious households when you really just mean Christian), to which I truthfully answered “infrequently.” But they never ask how often you read it yourself. I personally read the Bible daily from about the time I was old enough to read, and have read the whole thing cover-to-cover in several versions, including KJV, at least three or four times. So, yeah, go ahead and tell yourselves I went astray because my parents didn’t read the Bible to me, while ignoring the fact that they didn’t do that because I’m freaking literate myself. I’m sure that won’t skew the results AT ALL.

They also ask whether your father was involved in your education and home life, but not your mother. I guess working moms, stay-at-home-dads, single fathers, and lesbian couples raising kids don’t exist. Also, if Mom was a widow, I guess you’d have to say Dad wasn’t involved, but it hardly seems fair lump deadbeat into the same category as plain old dead.

I’ve taken a few of these types of surveys before, and I love how they always end up asking about music preferences. Is this leftover from the 50’s when rock and roll was satanic, are they convinced heavy metal is the devil’s music, or what? I hate to break it to them, but my Pandora station is actually pretty tame, and probably would make you think I’m about twenty years older than I actually am. Of all the reasons to send me to hell, I’d be a little disappointed if some vengeful deity decided my musical tastes were the reason I ought to burn.

Oh, and politics. Because you’re not a real Christian if you don’t worship Republican Jesus. Real Christians™ do not approve of same-sex marriage, abortion, democrats, the ACLU, or other people’s First Amendment rights. Also, this survey only specified “religious homes.” Looking at some of these political questions, it seems pretty clear they weren’t looking for anyone outside the U.S. Okay, they did ask you voted for or would have voted for in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, but they don’t mention any recent elections anywhere else. There’s not even a don’t know/undecided option, which I would most certainly need if I were asked about candidates in most other countries’ elections (yes, even major world powers). Look, my fellow Americans, we are not THAT special.

This page also includes what I found to be, by far, the most disturbing part of the survey. It asks, “Have you had a sexual encounter or physical relationship with someone to whom you are not married?” Not all religious traditions frown on this, you know, but fine. I answered yes. Then this popped up:

If yes, have the sexual encounters been:

  • Consensual
  • Forced
  • Both

I’m just going to quote the comment I made on Libby Anne’s post regarding that:

I’ve seen the survey pretty well picked apart in the comments thus far, but there’s one thing nobody’s mentioned that REALLY got to me. In the section where they ask about premarital sex, they ask if you ever had it, and then ask if it was consensual. Which had a couple of disturbing implications:

1. If we’re going on the assumption that premarital sex is inherently bad, a kid who was perfectly “pure” and virginal but got raped is lumped into the exact same category as someone who chose to have sex. Not surprising, but not even close to fair.
2. The question about whether sex was consensual or forced does not ask which side you were on! If you answer “forced,” were you the victim or the rapist? Does that not matter to these people?! What the hell?!

I realize this survey is screwed up in pretty much every possible way, but that strikes me as by far the worst of it. Because either we equate rape with consensual sex (sadly, not unheard of), or else we don’t include those who were forced OR WHO FORCED OTHERS. I am very, very bothered by this.

So, yeah, ew. That was officially horrible. I’m sorry. Let’s our cleanse our palates with a couple of adorable red pandas before continuing:


If these guys don’t make things better, I don’t know what will.

The videogames/internet/cell phone access during childhood seems odd on a survey that addresses people up to age 38, but that’s the least of this survey’s problems. Let’s just shake our heads and move on.

“Are you a member of any of the social networking web sites that allow you to communicate with others (such as Facebook or MySpace)?” LOL MySpace. And flip phones. I just looked lovingly over that GameCube that I actually still have. Thanks for the memories, guys.

“I believe in evolution.” *headdesk* It’s the closest option to “I accept scientific reality and recognize the overwhelming evidence in favor of common descent,” so fine. I thought atheism was supposed to be my religion, though. Make up your mind already!

The questions about charity make sense, although I’m sad to say my answers skew the results in favor of “atheists don’t help other people.” I mean, I’ve donated a few bucks here and there to various causes, but I barely have enough money to pay rent right now. I can’t help anyone else if I’m homeless and starving. Ask me again in a few months when I actually have some discretionary income and can afford to eat something other than Rice-a-Roni. That’s not really their fault, though, it’s just the reality of my current situation.

If you were unsure of what was right or wrong in a particular situation, how would you decide what to do? Would you most likely…

  • 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

At least add a blank for me to fill in what “something else” is in my case. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’m not this guy:

Snidely Whiplash

If I had to choose, I would rather have

  • A smaller government providing fewer services
  • A bigger government providing more services

Vague and meaningless answers are vague and meaningless. I would like a government that is not small enough to fit in my vagina, thank you very much. I will save the rant about U.S. taxes and defense spending for another day, because this post is already far longer than I intended it to be.

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

You list “Atheist” as a religious option, but you don’t allow for “n/a” here. Get it together, guys. Seriously.

Below you will find a list of statements relating to specific religious beliefs. You will probably find that you agree with some of the statements, and disagree with others, to varying extents. Please rate each statement according to how much you agree or disagree

There are six statements. Four of them specifically mention Jesus and/or the Bible. Hooray for religious diversity!

Blah blah moral relativism blah strawman blah blah. You don’t have to be an atheist very long to get bored with this shit.

How often do you feel very sad or depressed?

Recent (by which I mean, within the past hundred years or so) breakthroughs in psychiatry have led to a general consensus within the medical profession that clinical depression is not caused by demon possession or the machinations of Satan. Naturally, due to the evident concern with quality control in this survey, I am confident that this will be taken into account.

And finally, at the end, there is a comment box, which as far as I can tell does not limit the amount of text (if there were a limit, I can all but guarantee I would have reached it). I doubt it did any good, though. I’m just another one of the prodigal generation who doesn’t love God enough or got mad because he never gave me a new bike or something. If I can’t be squeezed into a box, I’ll be ignored. That’s how this tends to work.

So go take the survey! Or don’t. I mean, I realize that there are far more productive and enjoyable uses of your time, so I’m not going to browbeat anyone. If you decide to skip the survey and go spend time with your kids or watch TV or cure cancer or something, I promise I won’t get mad. Either way, enjoy your day!

*I am not trying to be dismissive of anyone who is trans or genderqueer; merely pointing out this is really more a problem with society at large than the particular hyperconservative bubble being analyzed here. That doesn’t make it all right; it just makes it not specific to this subculture.

By Kat

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