Irritating Questions for Scholars of Religion: Does X Really Believe Y?

12/02/2012 § Leave a comment

I encounter this question fairly frequently, after “So, you’re going to be Minister?” and “What’s it like being a Buddhist?” 

I suppose I should come to expect it. After all, I’m not averse to collecting trivia myself, and people want to know things about religion. In some ways, the approach to education in the U.S. is factoid-based. We shove information at people with the hope that they will absorb some of it. We’re also encouraged to be “culturally aware”. 

My inclination would be to say “Wow, that’s a dumb question, I’m not really qualified to speculate on that, and neither is anyone, ever.” To complicate matters, generally people are looking for an answer like “Sure, all the Floombists really believe that they turn into a Lizard during the Floombastic Festival.” or “Certainly not, all Floombists really know they’re just pretending to turn into a Lizard during the Floombastic Festival.” I find both of those answers to be entirely unsatisfactory. 

Any suggestions that won’t make me come off as a jerk? 

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