I was speaking to a nice woman at the JCC about our kids' college experiences. She told me this story. Her daughter and a friend, both high achieving high school students, found a site on Beliefnet, the spirituality website, called Beliefomatic. The site provides a questionnaire that ask about your basic religious beliefs. At the end of the test the site gives you a list of religions that best match up with the beliefs you indicated in the exam.
These two high schoolers, who were in their own religious quest, took the test and discovered that the religion that best matched up with their answers was Reform Judaism (both girls were not Jewish). They were surprised, but took the results very seriously. They got up the nerve and went to a local Reform Temple to inquire about an Introduction to Judaism class. They were told that indeed there was a class, but it cost $300. No scholarship was offered. As high schoolers they did not have this type of money. The ardor of their religious quest cooled and they never took the class. They are now both in college finding their own way in the world.
After hearing this story my curiosity drove me to explore the Beliefomatic site. I wondered what religions this site would recommend for me? So I answered the theological questionnaire. (You can find out your best fitting religion by clicking on: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/76/story_7665_1.html. ) My results are copied below. According to my answers I am 100% compatible with Reform Judaism. According to the test I should seriously check out Bahai, Sikhism, the Quakers, the Unitarians, and Islam before checking out Orthodox Judaism. I am starting to make calls today.
So I have been outed as a Reform Jew (I am a Conservative Rabbi.). Checking out the site I discovered they do not even have Conservative Judaism as a category which may say volumes about the standing of this movement in the eyes of the broader world. So anyone on a serious religious quest on Beliefomatic would never be steered to my Movement or to my synagogue. It is lonely being a Conservative Jew.
I thought about those two girls inquiring about Judaism. They probably came to the front office and were officiously given the information about the class, told about the cost, and left alone in the office to contemplate their next move. Obviously religion is much more about specific beliefs. It is also about how you are related to, how you are welcomed or regarded. The failure of the synagogue here is a failure of hospitality. It is a failure to understand that at the margins, one must be ready to keep the door open.
We live in a world where identity is so fluid and so confused that many of us try to figure out with the help of sites like Beliefomatic. Fewer of us are brought up in a richly contextual home, both filled with tradition, links to community, second languages (Robert Bellah) but also an openness to the world. Beliefomatic starts to make sense when we appreciate how wide open the world is. People want to find their place in it. But while Beliefomatic might send you careening in one direction, it all depends on the reaction of the unsuspecting person or institution who will encounter this cyber seeker.
As for me, Beliefomatic cannot quite grasp my nuanced identity. I am left wondering where nuanced people should turn religiously. Maybe I should start the Nuanced Religious Movement for people seeking interesting and eccentric religious groups that don't fit any conventional categories. Stay tuned.
The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.
Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking.
Seventh Day Adventist
Inserted from <http://www.selectsmart.com/PRO/beliefnet/index1.html?im_fact1=3&x=33&q4=8&im_fact10=2&q11=1&im_fact11=3&im_fact12=2&im_fact13=1&im_fact14=2&im_fact15=2&im_fact16=2&im_fact17=2&im_fact18=2&im_fact4=2&q5=2&q1=2&im_fact9=2&q17=1&im_fact7=2&q10=2&im_fact2=2&q3=3&q13=1&q2=1&y=8&q12_a8=8&q15=2&im_fact3=3&q6=2&q18=2&im_fact5=2&q7_a2=2&q8=1&q14=2&im_fact6=2&q16=2&im_fact8=2&q9=2&q19=2&im_fact19=2&q20=1&im_fact20=2&submit.x=25&submit.y=0&doit=1>