Just now I rejected three identical comments to three different blog posts from the same person. The text read as follows:
Hello and to all atheists concerned:
I am currently pursuing a masters in theology and this week’s class project requires that I interview 3 middle/high school candidates concerning a particular set of questions (If you are in your twenties that’s okay even if the requirement is middle school or high school age-this class is about youth ministry). Candidates must be “unsaved” (Their words-not mine) but preferably they once attended church and had some idea as to the concept of “God” and what that means.
This is not a troll, a trick, or some sneaky method to get unsuspecting atheist youths in my spider’s web of church deceit. I just have several questions that need to be answered by 3 candidates that match the aforementioned profile. NO CONVERSION ATTEMPTS! I just need these questions answered that are enumerated below:
a. How do you describe your religious background and church involvement if any (past and present)?
b. To you, what is God like? Describe God or at least the concept of God if you believe this entity to be a myth.
I’ve omitted six additional questions because I’m not posting this so that people can answer the questions. I’m just curious.
This is actually a surprisingly frequent type of message. A theist writes to us asking a laundry list of apologetics questions, but couching these questions in the context “I need your answers for a class.”
To be blunt, despite the repeated assurances that this isn’t a troll, a trick, or a conversion test, I am hyper-skeptical about the legitimacy of these questionnaires. At the very least, if this is really for a class then it seems somewhat equivalent to going on a math forum somewhere and posting “Hey, I was just wondering, if the shortest sides of a right triangle are length 3 and 4, how long is the third side?” It’s lazy and possibly cheating, the people who are able to answer the question don’t have any real incentive to do so, and it’s not clear what the poster could possibly be “learning” by asking for popular opinions.
As this is an unspecified theology class in an unspecified (and quite possibly unaccredited) school, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some teacher actually assigned this homework. But why? What are they hoping to teach their students? If questions such as “What is God like?” are objective questions with correct answers, why not teach the reasoning behind those answers instead of offering a survey? If it is a sociology experiment, why are they not setting it up as a real experiment with appropriate controls? If they’re not out to find better ways to convert people, why are they picking on middle school kids, who are not at all likely to have the most useful and philosophically sound answers? And if they are out to find better ways to convert people, why would they make the extra effort to lie about the purpose?
I’m emailing the URL of this post to the commenter. I’m very interested in hearing the answers to my own questions. What’s the school, who’s the professor, what’s the name of the class, and what is the stated purpose of this survey? What are you supposed to be learning from it? I invite you to participate in the comments.