Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sufficient to Have Stood, But Free to Fall*

I do not know how many of you were once 13 year-old girls, but I remember that time if not with fondness, then at least with a nostalgia that has dampened memory of the trauma. That was a time of self-discovery and self- reflection. And what does any young girl do when she wants to figure out who she is, what she wants, where she’s going? Online quizzes! What Superhero are You? (Spiderman); What Sex in the City Character are You? (It’s complicated; let’s just say that I’m not at all Charlotte); What Kind of Pie are You? (Pecan Pie: “very nutty and quite rich”).

Now an adult (or what passes for an adult), questions of identity still trouble me, if you hadn’t noticed. So what to do in these tumultuous times of trouble? Online quizzes! Imagine my disappointment that these quizzes were not as fulfilling as those of my youth. Perhaps the internet has developed in the last 10 years, but quizzes have not improved. In the interest of blog research, I subjected myself to six different quizzes. I was hoping to parse my religious identity, find my place along the grand spectrum of practice and belief. Instead, after answering a panoply of barely relevant and periodically enraging questions, I discovered that I am an Orthodox, Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist, Satanist Jew. Satanist wins, since I got the answer thrice, but Orthodox Jew was my favorite because: what?!?! There must be some major disconnect between those who write these questions and the religious beliefs that they are supposed to symbolize if I could possibly be labeled Orthodox, even in an anonymous online quiz.

What I found most disheartening about these quizzes was not their inaccuracy, but the extent to which the questions in no way represented a spectrum of belief or were reflective of the questions that actually matter when a person searches for their religious identity. Questions such as, “If you had to choose which TV or movie character you identify with most, which of the following would you choose?” flatten the possible choices of belief, leading people to think that they have to choose to be Tevya or that guy from Northern Exposure, either an Old World yid or a disenfranchised secularist. I realize that these are just quizzes and I shouldn’t take everything so seriously (or so Annie says), but I do think they are representative of a general attitude toward religious belief and practice. To the extent that we focus on labels and force people into categories, we deaden and dampen their potential to express themselves religiously. Traditionally observant Jews identify as Reform and Conservative, as well as Orthodox. And my penchant for reading Jewish texts does not magically transform me into a “highly traditional” Jew.

So, without further ado:

1) Most confusing: What Am I Chopped Liver?

Tzimmes Jew: Like this Sabbath-evening fruit and sweet-potato side dish, your Jewish identity is highly traditional, even as it adapts with changing times. A basic recipe is supplemented with various individualistic flourishes. Judaism plays an integral role in your life, though your identity is not defined solely by it.

2) Most angering: What Kind of Jew Are You?

Orthodox Jew

3) Most thorough: What Kind of Religion Are You?

Satanist (67%) (I also got Satanist on an older version of this quiz.)

4) Second most thorough: the Belief-O-Matic

Unitarian Universalism (100%)

5) Most stupid: What Religion Best Suits You?

Satanist, again

6) Most impossible to answer: What Religion Should You Belong To?


For those of you who are now worried that I will be heading out to worship the Dark Lord, according to my reasearch, “Satanism… focuses upon the spiritual advancement of the self, rather than upon submission to a deity or a set of moral codes.” Great. Now excuse me while I go buy some black lipstick and get in touch with my inner-Ayn Rand.

*Milton, Paradise Lost (Book 3, line 99)

1 comment:

the BFG said...

Isn't William Blake a religion in and of himself?