The Turing Test for Religion

The Experiment

Can you tell the difference between how Christians and atheists think? A blogger decided to run an online experiment to find out.

Based on the Turing Test for artificial intelligence–a test proposed to see if we can reliably discern the difference between “talking” to a machine or “talking” to a human–the test given online takes a group of Christians and atheists and tells them all to answer some questions as if they were atheists. The atheists just have to answer honestly, and the Christians have to pretend to be atheists as best they can to answer the questions.

The results are not out, and you don’t get to know the answers yet, but I did take the test. To avoid contaminating the results, I suggest you take the test first before reading how I decided to sort the respondents.

My Strategy

I basically gave all the “atheists” the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were atheists if I didn’t notice anything wrong. However, when there were red flags and things didn’t make sense, I was much more inclined to check the “Christian” box.

In short, I looked for any sign of stupidity or unclear, muddled thinking. For example, Person #5 was asked what would make him/her join a particular religion.

To pick a particular religion on God’s terms, God would have to make his wishes known, like melting all the guns on Easter Sunday starting in a big circle from the Saint Peter Basilica. If it started from Canterbury or Salt Lake City, that would be a different message.

A typical Christian response, I think. Instead of looking at the big picture and seeing the universe as it really is, they turn to minute empirical demonstrations called “miracles” to make conclusions about the entirety of existence. I’ve always wondered why religious people always come up with the same old story: “My religion is true because (there is historical evidence) of miracle X,” when there is clearly no reasonable way deduce a whole set of universal claims from a singular demonstration of supposed magic.

Another thing I look for is obsession with particular but irrelevant questions. Things like the “Problem of Evil” or “sin” aren’t usually the topics for discussion, but for some reason, cause so much struggle with Christian intellectuals. This kind of self-guilt floats around in many of the responses.

However, if a deity expected not just belief but worship and devotion, I’d first want a clear and convincing explanation for the existence of evil and suffering, so I could be satisfied in my own onscience that worship was merited and deserved.

Once you accept the idea that sin warps people’s characters, it seems hard to argue that it’s possible for most people to redeem themselves, so either everyone’s off to Hell or no one is.

Additionally, the Christian belief is based on faith and choice, so if the Christian God was true, he never would act in a way that would force this choice upon someone.

All of these are odd responses that seem to be answering stupid questions that don’t really matter. When one looks at religion in the world (and decide if they are true), it is awfully narrow-minded to merely think about topics like Hell and sin. It’s quite hard, however, to make Christians take off their Christian-colored glasses, and it shows.


How well did I do? I don’t know. Maybe people are good at acting and I can’t tell the difference. Maybe atheists are influenced by Christianity, and that screws things up. But I’m confident that there will be some significant results from the population overall. We’ll just have to wait and see.


Posted on July 10, 2011, in Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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