Can You Tell the Difference Between Atheists and Christian? June 2, 2012

Can You Tell the Difference Between Atheists and Christian?

Leah Libresco is running her second “Ideological Turing Test” experiment.

Here’s how it works: A number of questions were posed to both atheists and Christians. The goal was to respond as atheists. That’s not a problem for the real atheists, but can the Christians imitate us? More importantly, can you tell the difference?

There are 13 entries. Read them. judge them. Answers will be revealed soon!

Please don’t discuss your answers in the comments — let everyone decide for themselves!

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  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Way to much reading for a Saturday.

  •  1. Post blog entry
    2. Suggest your readers not discuss it
    3. ???
    4. PROFIT!

  • LeahLibresco

    Actually, it’s totally kosher to discuss it in the comments of the individual entries, provided you vote first.  You’re all on your honor.

  • Isilzha

    Interesting premise, but way too much reading.

  • jbtait

     Looks like we might have crashed the server.  I got the first three, then Service unavailable.

  • Tayinnawind

    Ouch. I expected some simple Q&A, not questions that required a Ph.D. in psychology and human development to understand. This isn’t “xian v. atheist,” it’s graduate degree v. undergrad.

  • Prosepetals


    I read through each of the 13, went with my initial cognitive response to each person’s answers, based on my own background. The commenters in each of the 13 answers went way into nitpicking and persnickety hair-splitting. To me, that sort of defeats the entire point of the exercise. Yeah, sure, we could break apart each of the individual sentences that each respondent gave and say, “This person is a xian/atheist because…” but I find that to be completely pointless. Many of us, as nonbelievers, have ideas that might not necessarily be consistent…many of us came from backgrounds of belief…and ALL of us are human. 

    Rather than try to take each sentence independently, I read each respondent’s answers to the questions posed, and went with the impression I had. I might be correct or incorrect…*shrug*…fine either way. Make it a fun exercise, folks…not an act of psychological/philosophical/academic gymnastics.Personally, I’m looking forward to when the answers are shared, so I can see how far off (or spot on) my responses were.

  • I haven’t read the answers, so I can’t discuss them, but what I have to say may possibly be walking up to that line.

    I find these ideological Turing tests to be highly flawed.  They don’t take into account the relative complexity of each of the philosophies.

    Let’s take for example the Courtier’s Reply:

    The tailor’s exhaustive explanation of the Emperor’s so-called clothes are far more extensive than the simple notion that the Emperor wears no clothes, and it would thus be easier for a tailor to emulate the fictional Dawkins in that story than for Dawkins to emulate the tailors since it would be likely that Dawkins would have no understanding or training in tailoring.

  • I thought I had the patience for this. After the 6th entry, I ran out.

  • I think part of the problem with the experiment was the instrument being used. The questions asked were, imo, only ambiguously associated with religion, and thus off-topic.

    It seemed as though participants would go out of their way to find reasons to discuss religion/atheism.

    Perhaps better questions would forgo the roundabout topics- such as the one about “trusting others’ morality more than your own” etc.- and consist of simpler wording- such as “Explain you views of morality.”

  • LeahLibresco

    Last year, the questions I used were much more directly related to religion, and what happened was that all the atheist round answers turned out to be pretty boring and easy for Christians to imitate.  Atheists commenting on religion were only being asked to make negative comments like “insufficient evidence” so this year’s questions are more about how people on either side deal with uncertainty.

    Questions like “Explain your views of morality” can let people off the hook to easily.  People say things like “treat people the way I want to be treated” or “don’t harm others” without bothering to define what “harm” is or how they want to be treated.  These questions may have intuitive answers, but, historically, our intuitions haven’t always been trustworthy or universal.  That’s why some of the questions focus on the institutions or individuals atheists and Christians turn to as a check on their own intuitions.

  • tl;dr

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