The 3 question math quiz can predict if you believe in God

I’ve heard that.

I’m a physicist by training but work in IT. I remember in 2nd year electricity & magnetism course which was done by the physics department but had something like 30 engineers and 6 physicists - we were a small university.

One day when I was struggling with a particularly hard assignment one of the engineers came up to me and asked if I wanted to work together. I said yes. He pulled out an answer sheet which had all the answers, fully worked out for the most part, including the answer to the problem that was stumping me. That’s when I learned that the engineering students union maintained a library of assignments with answers.

Needless to say, during midterms and finals I was able to get something like an 80% without struggling while I think the engineers were lucky to get 70% and they struggled.

Science and engineering both use math but are very different in how they operate and where their knowledge comes from.


I have a one question math quiz that can predict if you believe in God:

  1. How many gods are there?

Damn it, I knew the first one was a trick, but it escaped me. Got the other 2.

It is $1.00 MORE. I the ball cost .10, then it would have to be $1.10 to cost $1 MORE.
Instead the ball costs $.05, and the bat $1.05, or $1.00 MORE than

ETA - oops shoulda kept scrolling.

“Most of the theists I know would be able to correctly answer these questions. Math puzzle inventor Martin Gardner was a theist and would have been able to answer these questions in an instant.”

Disclaimer aside, too often this is just used as “Huh, huh, religious people are dumb.”


Also these are posed as “math problems” but they aren’t math problems, they are questions to see whether you stop to think or just give the answer the comes to mind. A good answer to these problems may technically involve a little algebra, but I don’t know anyone who can’t figure out that $1.05 is $1 more than $0.05 or that $1.05 + 0.05 = $1.10.

So it really isn’t about using math or not, it’s about, as you say, how you operate and where your knowledge comes from.


Algebraic attack!!

ball cost = X
bat cost = X + 100 cents
Total cost = ball cost + bat cost = 110 cents

X + (X + 100) = 110
2X + 100 = 110

(subtract 100 cents from both sides of the equation)

2X = 10 cents
X = 5 cents = ball cost


Of course… when you’re having a debate. This wasn’t. This was 3 mathy logic questions with a description of the follow-up questionnaire:

“After completing the quiz, the students were asked about their innate religiosity, religious beliefs, and beliefs in supernatural entities (like God, angels, and Satan).”

Seems pretty straightforward to me. Supernatural was defined succinctly.


It also shows how counter intuitive things can be and how something is phrased can lead to different impressions.

What if I told you I had three drugs:

  1. lowered your risk of heart attack by 33%

  2. lowered your risk of heart attack from 3% to 2%

  3. Would prevent the heart attack of one out of 100 people.

Which drug would you take?


This stuff is also straight out of Daniel Khaneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” playbook that explains implicit bias so well. I absolutely love that book.

1 Like

I would guess that what this test is selecting for is family income and education level, not belief in god… I think that proficiency with the test has more to do with upbringing than personal beliefs. Families that provide a more solid education in logic for their children are less likely to be religious. Beware statistical correlates!


Predictive value (correlation) =/= causation.


Thisnis a hall of famer for the “user name is appropos” list :slight_smile:


What is supernatural can be vague sure but it has a pretty clear meaning, beyond nature. Now one could argue, for example, that ghosts are natural phenomena, like energy impressions, or some sort of beyond nature thing, like unsettled spirits, but the existence of an omnipotent deity that can cause things to happen without other cause is surely, clearly beyond nature if anything is, right?

1 Like

Even if words had objective meanings (which they arguably do not), they still obviously have multiple meanings, uses, and connotations. Assuming that the speaker is even being literal and not indulging in metaphor or idiom, which with the English language is hardly a safe assumption. One need not define a word every time they use it, but it is a semantic fail to decide it isn’t worth the trouble. Especially when some study or “quiz” hinges upon it.

Being aware of the dictionary definition of “supernatural” leads only to more questions about how it is used. If we take it as meaning “of or relating to existence outside the natural world”, can we then safely assume that we share a consensus about what constitutes “the natural world”? Are we using common-sense criteria such as phenomena observable by the naked senses? The current state of specialist scientific knowledge?

People routinely use words with no consideration of what they literally mean. This seems to be especially true when they have a lot of metaphysical baggage which the speaker has not thought much about. By many definitions, a black hole could certainly be considered supernatural, but often isn’t because physics has largely re-defined models of materiality. Similarly, spirit gets lumped in with mysticism when it simply means breath - a phenomenon which is fairly well understood in materialist/rational terms.

They avoid defining these terms with any precision because they function as tribal markers for arguing the influence of different schools of philosophy. That makes it more of a political/social problem than a conceptual one.

I don’t mind that you think so. But it seems to me to be a meaningless concept. Despite having a word for it.


all three of course!

or the blue pill…seriously though the morpheus question is a good one, would one rather go back to sleep in the comfort of their familiar routines, or would one rather be woke even if the new reality/paradigm is unfamiliar enough to not be able to auto-pilot. i think most people are the former not the latter. that is why i like hanging out here, more people willing to challenge and engage with material then in most places.


Not a theist, I’m guessing.

Speaking as a theist (who got them all right), I think the underlying issue is not that religious people tend to be stupid, but rather that stupid people tend to be religious.


All of them, Katie!

I think the “analytical” vs. “intuitive” mentioned in the article is probably the thing that’s being grasped here, rather than the “can do math”.

Again, with your example, I don’t think the math is beyond what most people are capable of, but I think a lot of people would never engage the “doing math now” part of their brain to really think about what it means.

When I was in grade 5 my friends had a riddle: It takes a snail an hour and a half to go around a race track. In the second lap, maintaining the same speed on the same track, it takes only 90 minutes. How can this be?

Now it’s not really math at all (1.5 hrs = 90 minutes is not math). It’s really more about how you process language.

But in what order?


Well that depends on the basis #1 is measured from, doesn’t it? Because if it lowers the risk from 1% to 0.67%… then #1 !!!

1 Like

Classic blunders to avoid:

  1. Never get involved in a land war in Asia
  2. Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line
  3. Something something @popobawa4u something semantics.