Pop Quiz: Religious Symbolism
I hope you've been listening very carefully to Skeptoid over the years, because today we're putting your knowledge of the subject to the test with another famous Skeptoid pop quiz. Today's theme is religious symbolism, so the questions are all going to pertain to Skeptoid episodes on that topic. The answers to all the questions were in the episodes, so as long as you're either a really dedicated listener, or have good general knowledge on the subject, you ought to do well. Are you ready?
Let's get started with a question on:
One of the problems encountered when radiocarbon dating this famous shroud said to have covered the body of Jesus was that no comparable fabric could be found from 2,000 years ago to use as a control. What about the shroud's fabric made it unique to the period?
The correct answer is B, the herringbone weave. This type of weave did not appear in the Mediterranean until the 13th century, so scientists were forced to used control fabrics that were not an exact match.
Followers of the pseudo-religion Raëlianism, founded in 1973, practice nudism and free love, and believe in space aliens. In fact the religion got its start when an alien named Yahweh came down in his flying saucer and took the founder, Claude Vorilhon, for a ride. What had been his profession before this adventure?
The correct answer is C, race car driver. Following several flying saucer joyrides and profound conversations with Yahweh, Vorilhon changed his name to Raël and formed his new church. He was more successful at that than he'd been racing cars.
#3. The Holy Grail
It's generally well known that the story of the Holy Grail comes not from Christianity at all, but from Arthurian legend, having been added to the canon by various medieval authors. What branch of study have scholars used to determine when such elements were added to the King Arthur story?
The correct answer is B, stemmatics. This involves the creation of a sort of family tree of a body of literature, called a recension, mapping out the different variations over a timeline, and then studying the relationships of the branches to understand how certain elements fit within the whole.
Rosicrucianism is a system of New Age mysticism based on a series of three anonymous manifestos written in the 1600s. Today they are incorporated as AMORC, the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis. For a few hundred bucks a year, they will keep you entertained by mailing you lessons for self study, which they based on early 20th century books pseudonymously written by which author?
The correct answer is A, William Walker Atkinson. When he realized the Rosicrucians were essentially reselling works he'd written under Eastern-sounding pseudonyms, he published a special book just to get back at them by giving out their secrets for free, titled The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians.
A myth popular among Christians is that Jewish slaves were held in ancient Egypt and were the labor force for many of Egypt's great monuments, said by some to include the pyramids themselves. In fact the very first Jews in Egypt — a garrison of soldiers on Elephantine Island — arrived how long after the Great Pyramid was completed?
The correct answer is B, about 2,000 years. The Great Pyramid (which we now know was named the Horizon of Khufu) was completed around 2550 BCE, and the garrison of Jewish soldiers from the Persian Empire first planted stakes in Elephantine Island around 650 BCE. Their purpose was to assist the Egyptian Pharaoh in his war against the Nubians.
#6. Hollow Earth
In 1897, members of the Koreshan Unity commune church decided to prove their conviction that the Earth is hollow, that we live on the inside surface of a great hollow sphere. To do so, they built precisely constructed rectangular frames called rectilineators, and bolted a long line of them together over the water. As the line extended, they reasoned the upward curvature of the water would gradually get closer to their rectilineators. Their experiment was a success. Why?
The correct answer is C, the rectilineators could sag. Although they had rigid steel diagonals intended to prevent sagging, a crucial attachment of the diagonals where they intersected was missing, and to save weight, they had no top or bottom crossbars. This allowed them to sag imperceptibly into trapezoids.
One example of the Ark of the Covenant is secured in the tiny Chapel of the Tablet, built in the 1950s by the wife of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. A single Guardian spends his entire life inside the quarter-acre fenced enclosure surrounding the chapel, and nobody is ever permitted to see the Ark. Which of the following is true of the Chapel?
The correct answer is C, it was built around the Ark. But have no fear, you can still see it: every one of the Church's temples throughout Ethiopia displays a replica.
Before Islam declared that the practice of science was incompatible with the religion, a period known as "the golden age of science" flourished in the Middle East, with Mecca at the very center of it. This was mainly because the Arab-Islamic world was where all the major trade routes intersected, bringing all the latest knowledge and newest inventions. What was the single biggest factor that brought an end to the golden age?
The correct answer is B, the Crusades. Although many people point the finger today at al-Ghazali, and his teachings were absolutely consistent with the abolishment of science, they had almost no practical impact compared to the total devastation wrought by the Crusaders. Christians, barbarians, knights, and peasants all overran and destroyed the great Arab centers.
Belief in a flat Earth first arose in the 19th century among Christian fundamentalists who believed certain passages in the Bible meant that the Earth was flat. It persisted until 1996 when the The International Flat Earth Research Society of America ended when the home of its fire-and-brimstone owners, Charles and Marjory Johnson, burned down in a remote part of the California desert. What was the name of their church?
The correct answer is C, The Covenant People's Church. This was the true incorporated name of the The International Flat Earth Research Society of America. The other two options I came up with by googling "church name generator".
#10. The Haitian Zombies
Vodou bokors, or sorcerers, are said to be able to turn people into zombies using a special powder containing tetrodotoxin, the same thing that kills a few people every year who eat improperly prepared fugu, the sushi made from a pufferfish. An anthropology grad student went to Haiti to investigate, and wrote which of the following books detailing his experience?
The correct answer is C, The Serpent and the Rainbow, by anthropologist Wade Davis, which was soon made into a 1988 horror film by director Wes Craven.
In the episode I described exorcism as "a brutal, heinous, medieval torture ritual," which it is, by any psychological standard. In the 1980s, a commission of German theologians petitioned the Vatican to ban what part of the exorcism ritual?
The correct answer is A, directly addressing the demon — though it took the Vatican a full 15 years to agree to this change. The commission understood that many who are deemed possessed may be suffering instead from a psychological problem such as schizophrenia. By addressing the demon, the exorcist would thus be confirming the patient's belief in the existence of the demon, thus making the psychological problem so much harder to treat. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The basic practice of being a Scientologist is so-called auditing, expensive sessions where the Scientologist is questioned about their past and their trauma, all while holding the two leads of a fancy-looking machine. It's basically a common galvanometer, but Scientology calls it by what name?
The correct answer is B, the E-meter, shortened from its original name, the Electropsychometer. I got the other options from googling "scientific device name generator." The true purpose of the E-meter is to deceive the Scientologist into thinking the auditing is a highly technical and scientific procedure requiring a skilled technician, when in fact the E-meter really does nothing at all except swing the needle back and forth on its display panel.
And that's all we've got for you today. So how did you do? If you got five or fewer right, then I'm sorry, but we're going to have to send you back to Sunday school — in about ten different religions. If you got as many as ten then congratulations, you have a good general knowledge and your credentials are in order. If you beat that, then you are indeed a religious figure yourself, qualified to be worshiped as a skeptical superstar. So congratulations, and until next week, stay pious!
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