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Pop Quiz: Religious Symbolism

Donate How well do you know your Skeptoid? Today's pop quiz focuses on questions drawn from episodes about world religions.  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Religion

Skeptoid Podcast #843
August 2, 2022
Podcast transcript | Subscribe


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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:

#1. The Shroud of Turin

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?

A. It is linen, and linen was unknown in the time and place of Jesus.
B. It is in a herringbone weave, a style of weave unknown in that time and place.
C. It had traces of safflower dye, unknown in that time and place.

Reveal the answer

#2. Raëlians

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?

A. Helicopter pilot
B. Rugby player
C. Race car driver

Reveal the answer

#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?

A. Computational stylistics
B. Stemmatics
C. Pragmatics

Reveal the answer

#4. Rosicrucians

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?

A. William Walker Atkinson
B. Neville Goddard
C. Prentice Mulford

Reveal the answer

#5. Jewish Slaves Built the Pyramids

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?

A. About 100 years
B. About 2,000 years
C. About 4,000 years

Reveal the answer

#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?

A. They failed to account for the tide rising as they extended their line, and so of course the water got closer to their rectilineators.
B. Their surveyor used the Biblical interpretation of pi of exactly 3.0, which made their measurements match their predictions and not the actual surface of the Earth.
C. The rectilineators were built in such a way that they could sag, and thus got closer and closer to the water.

Reveal the answer

#7. The Ark of the Covenant

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?

A. Inside its humble exterior is a 1-meter thick wall of reinforced concrete, making it effectively bombproof.
B. Although tiny on the outside, it is only the entrance to a subterranean maze designed so that only the Guardian can ever find the Ark. He paces the entire maze every day so that his footprints can never be used to track him.
C. It was built around the Ark, with passages and corners so tight that the Ark can never be removed.

Reveal the answer

#8. Al-Ghazali and Arab-Islamic Science

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?

A. An internal conflict between Sufism and Sunni Islam resulted in the execution of the most eminent scholars and scientists.
B. The Crusades, which burned the great libraries and destroyed the great universities.
C. The influence of the Islamic theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, whose codification of Islam essentially abolished science.

Reveal the answer

#9. The Flat Earth Theory

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?

A. Triumph Church of the Covenant
B. Redeemer of Freedom Church
C. The Covenant People's Church

Reveal the answer

#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?

A. Requiem for a Dream
B. The Man with the Golden Arm
C. The Serpent and the Rainbow

Reveal the answer

#11. Exorcism

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?

A. Directly addressing the hypothetical demon
B. Withholding food and water until the hypothetical demon vacates
C. The sprinkling of holy water on the possessed, as it may cause burns

Reveal the answer

#12. Scientology

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?

A. Plasma splitter
B. E-meter
C. Wave binder

Reveal the answer

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!

By Brian Dunning

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.


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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Pop Quiz: Religious Symbolism." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 2 Aug 2022. Web. 13 Aug 2022. <>


References & Further Reading

Anders, C. "Meet the Raelians: Inside the World's Strangest — and Nicest — UFO Sex Clone Religion." io9. Gawker Media, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <>

Barber, E. Prehistoric Textiles. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. 195.

Davis, W. The Serpent and the Rainbow. New York: Warner Books, 1985.

Garwood, C. Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007.

Goodman, F. The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel. Garden City: Doubleday, 1981.

Leonardi, L. "Stemmatics and the Old French Prose Arthurian Romance Editions." Journal of the International Arthurian Society. 24 Nov. 2017, Volume 5, Issue 1: 42-58.

Ofek, H. "Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science." The New Atlantis. 1 Jan. 2011, Number 30: 3-23.

Ohnemus, C. "Dr. Cyrus Teed and the Koreshan Unity Movement." Cultural Resource Management. 1 Jan. 2001, Volume 24, Number 9: 10-12.

Omer, I. "Investigating the Origin of the Ancient Jewish Community at Elephantine: A Review." Ancient Sudan-Nubia. Ibrahim Omer, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 2 Feb. 2010. <>

Raffaele, P. "Keepers of the Lost Ark?" Smithsonian. 1 Dec. 2007, Volume 38, Number 9.

Reitman, J. "Inside Scientology." Rolling Stone. 9 Mar. 2006, Issue 995: 55-67.

Schwarz, Avraham. Empowering Thoughts: The Secret of Rhonda Byrne or The Law of Attraction in the Torah. New York: BN Publishing, 2007.


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