Reader Survey Results

I’ve just closed the 2016-2017 reader survey that I’d been running for a few weeks. You might be interested in the results, and you’re welcome to add more in the comments.

I’ve been through a creative dry spell, partly because of the busyness of the holidays. It’s improving, and I’ve been successfully writing original work for The Stream again. This week was rough in our family, though, as we said goodbye to a beloved pet. I expect to pick up the blogging pace again soon, though, and these thoughts from readers help a lot.

General Stats

Of 55 respondents, a sample that’s neither large nor random enough to be representative, but at least has a chance of representing those who want to have input into the blog’s direction:

  • 82 percent are firm believers in Christianity
  • 64 percent have been reading the blog for more than a year
  • 56 percent read comments fairly regularly
  • The topics of highest interest, in order from most to least, are (as shown in the graphic above):
    1. General apologetics (76%)
    2. Philosophical discussions about belief (72%)
    3. Science and faith (70%)
    4. Answering atheism (57%)
    5. Understanding what the Bible teaches (56%)
    6. Marriage, morality, and sexuality (46%)
    7. Book reviews (37%)
    8. Other Religions & Religious Freedom, (tied at 32%)
  • 25 percent of respondents are younger than 40
  • 82 percent are male
  • 74 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree; 43 percent hold advanced degrees (and kudos to the other 26 percent, as this blog is written to be thoughtfully challenging)
  • 53 percent are interested in the concept of the Thinking Christian Connection. (I’ll be responding to each person’s interest as soon as time allows.)

Interesting notes about what people would like to see on the blog

These are all verbatim quotes, other than corrections for minor typos.

  • I’d like to see more posts regarding topics that similar sites don’t discuss often. For example: many apologetics sites discuss the ethics of abortion, but few discuss the ethics of triage during a natural disaster. Some posts about politics would also be good, especially analysis of political systems outside the U.S. mainstream.
  • Answers to Islam
  • 1. Movement from homosexuality to sexual sin in general, bad response of people acting in the name of Christ toward sexual sin. 2. How to respond with grace and competence to non-Christian worldview — again, cultural Christianity usurps the true Christian response and becomes a heretical caricature of how Christ would want us to respond to many issues (in content, comportment, or both).
  • [Get ready for this one!] I’d love to understand the basic human need (weakness) which makes billions of supposedly intelligent humans forsake rationale, logic, common sense (etc), to main supernatural beliefs which were founded in the least enlightened period of recorded history. If someone purported be the son of God in this era, with only ‘hearsay’ as evidence, they would be laughed at by atheists and the religiously inclined alike. What makes ‘want it to be true’ corrupt people’s thinking so much that it becomes virtually impossible for them to fathom that life can be just as happy, rewarding, fulfilling, ethical, virtuous, fair, ethical, etc without the shackles of religion. In fact I would suggest that the world would be a genuinely better place for all if people weren’t prone to using their dogmatic views to unflinchingly justify abhorrent behavior. And would religiously inclined people truly be happier if everyone believed the same delusion and unquestioningly abided by ancient inflexible/irrational rules? Which delusion would suit all?
  • More discussion of apologetic strategies
  • Reliability and Historicity of the Gospels
  • More excerpts from your book(s). More follow-up blogs focused on the comments and clarifying the discussion points.
  • Religion relation to personal honor.
  • Engage more with non-atheistic ideas (e.g., Muslims, Buddhists, various neo-pagan ideas, general “spirituality”). Continue challenge our culture on sexual issues, but branch out more (e.g., militarism, ideas conveyed via film/TV, euthanasia, etc.)
  • How current events relate to Biblical prophecy but on a theological level.
  • More about Genesis 1
  • More book reviews

That’s it. What else would you like to add?

Comments 31
  1. Skep

    I’d like to see more posts regarding topics that similar sites don’t discuss often. For example: many apologetics sites discuss the ethics of abortion, but few discuss the ethics of triage during a natural disaster. Some posts about politics would also be good, especially analysis of political systems outside the U.S. mainstream.

    This one was mine, and I’d like to say more about this.

    At the time I’m writing this, Lydia McGrew’s blog has a post called “Marriage-Mindedness”, Victor Reppert’s blog has one called “Humanist Manifesto II On Sexual Conduct”, Ethika Politika has “Moral Relativism And The Year Of Mercy”, Reasonable Faith has a podcast called “Bathroom Wars And Identity”, Cross Examined has “How Do I Explain Abortion To My Children”, and Stand To Reason has “Unique Understanding and Unique Hope for Transgender People”, “Do Abortion Restrictions Force Women to Become Parents?”, “Does Brain Mapping Prove That Transgender People’s Brains Match Their Perceived Gender?”, and “Tips for Discussing Abortion Online”. And these are just recently.

    Now admittedly I’m cherry-picking a bit; there’s also other posts on these sites about different topics. But honestly, the “metagame” on Christian apologetics blogs needs a shake-up in my opinion. That is to say, when all these sites tend to write about the same topics all the time, eventually readers just get bored.

    Now, regarding political posts: what I don’t want to see is posts in the style of “look what Trump said now!” or “Liberals say the darndest things!”. Rather, I’m interested in more in-depth, top-level content such as “Can A Christian Consistently Be An Anarchist?” or “When Is It Permissible To Break The Law?”. (If you want to write something like this but you’re not familiar with the specifics of heterodox political positions, feel free to send me an email and I’ll give you a brief rundown of what pretty much any position believes).

  2. Tom Gilson

    Good thoughts. We do need to open up to new patterns of thinking and responding.

    Having said that, it remains true that we didn’t choose the sexuality or abortion debates, they were forced on us by aggressive political activists who wanted to overturn centuries of common sense and healthy moral teaching. It’s not our fault that their aggression has not yet ceased or that the country hasn’t returned to sanity. It’s no course of wisdom for us now to lay down and just let the aggressors have their way. So you can expect to see me and others continue to support moral sanity on these issues.

    Yet it won’t hurt to broaden into other topics as well.

  3. BillT

    I’d love to understand the basic human need (weakness) which makes billions of supposedly intelligent humans forsake rationale, logic, common sense (etc), to main supernatural beliefs which were founded in the least enlightened period of recorded history.

    [Get ready for this one!] Might be the understatement of the year. This might set a record for the most presuppositions, assumptions and misinformation ever fit into one sentence.

  4. Skep

    Tom, some more feedback for you:

    Answers to Islam

    This could be interesting, provided that you do it in a different way than I usually see. Rather than just arguing “Islam is wrong because X, Y, Z, etc.”, I’d like to see engagement with Muslim theologians directly on a variety of issues.

    Engage more with non-atheistic ideas (e.g., Muslims, Buddhists, various neo-pagan ideas, general “spirituality”).

    I’d like to see this as well, but again including direct engagement with things that theologians have written or said (also I’d like to note that most Buddhists are atheists).

    More discussion of apologetic strategies

    I’d really like this one, especially since everyone seems to be using William Lane Craig’s style, and probably aren’t even aware that there are other forms of argument (which IMO are much stronger!).

    More book reviews

    This, but only for books that aren’t already widely reviewed.

  5. Dave Walker

    Thanks for taking time to tabulate the survey results and make them available to us. Interesting aspects to contemplate and to see where others stand.

  6. Philmonomer

    Having said that, it remains true that we didn’t choose the sexuality or abortion debates, they were forced on us by aggressive political activists who wanted to overturn centuries of common sense and healthy moral teaching. It’s not our fault that their aggression has not yet ceased or that the country hasn’t returned to sanity. It’s no course of wisdom for us now to lay down and just let the aggressors have their way. So you can expect to see me and others continue to support moral sanity on these issues.

    While it has been a while since I’ve listened to this podcast, my memory is that Skye Jethani (Christianity Today) argues that the Religious Right did, in fact, choose the abortion debate.

    https://philvischer.com/the-phil-vischer-podcast/episode-223-get-history-religious-right/

  7. staircaseghost

    “We didn’t choose the debate on Abolition, it was forced on us by aggressive political activists who wanted to overturn centuries of common sense and healthy moral teaching.”

    It’s these “mom! he hit me back first!” reactions that show you genuinely have no idea why you’re losing.

  8. Skep

    It’s a lot different from the marriage and sexuality debate.

    I’m curious, what do you think was the start of that debate, and in what way was it forced on you? Hollingsworth v. Perry? Lawrence v. Texas? Stonewall?

  9. staircaseghost

    That’s what worries me.

    Today we’re celebrating the life of a civil-rights martyr by having Christendom’s Emperor-elect hurl vulgar smears at a man who literally bled for his freedom and the freedom of others.

    What’s so very chilling is not the thought of the moral fabric of our culture torn apart by people who can’t understand the difference between aggression and resistance to aggression. It’s the people who do understand, but just don’t care.

  10. Tom Gilson

    I think you understand less than you think you do. And you express your misunderstanding in extremely loaded language.

    There is no “Christendom” in America any longer. There is no Emperor-elect. That’s all nonsense.

    The Christian vote for Trump was highly reluctant. It was a vote against Hillary as the lesser of two evils, in evangelicals’ estimation. We don’t believe in sexual immorality either — you knew that, right? The Lewis thing is troubling to me, too. As written in First Things:

    Evangelical support for Trump, while robust, seems to have been driven by prudential judgment and fear of a Clinton presidency, rather than by blind acceptance. To the extent that this is true, evangelical support for Trump may very well be “contingent support” that could evaporate if Trump does not deliver as promised.

    Note also this from the not-very-evangelical Washington Post.

    Your condemnation of Christians is blind.

  11. BillT

    Today we’re celebrating the life of a civil-rights martyr by having Christendom’s Emperor-elect hurl vulgar smears at a man who literally bled for his freedom and the freedom of others.

    Except the things that the man “who literally bled for his freedom and the freedom of others.” was attacking the PEOTUS on was a subject that doesn’t relate to him having “bled for his freedom and the freedom of others.” What? His civil rights actions make him immune to criticism of any kind for anything he says.

  12. staircaseghost

    A year ago, I could expect at least a pro forma gesture indignantly disputing my analysis of anti-abolition sentiment and the one-to-one “he hit me back first” analogy here.

    It’s rather bracing to see even that pretense being dropped.

  13. Skep

    The Christian vote for Trump was highly reluctant. It was a vote against Hillary as the lesser of two evils, in evangelicals’ estimation.

    Sounds like evangelicals aren’t very good at estimating evil.

  14. Tom Gilson

    For those who want to see the “pro forma” responses staircaseghost says he could previously expect, all conversations this person was involved in may be found here, here, and here. You are warmly invited to draw your own conclusions as to the quality of the responses he or she was given.

  15. Skep

    If you’d like some substance, here it is.

    First, to make it even harder for me to justify, let’s assume for the sake of argument that every criticism from the right of Hillary Clinton is valid – she wants to destroy the institution of marriage, she’s in favor of murdering innocent unborn babies, she’ll make healthcare costs rise; the whole bit. And, let’s further assume for the sake of argument that every criticism of her from the left is also valid – she’s a warhawk, she supports the murder of innocent civilians in the global south, she has a history of racism, she supported the coup in Honduras, all that too.

    Donald Trump is still the greater evil, because unlike Hillary Clinton, and unlike Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and every other president and presidential candidate, there’s a chance that Donald Trump will end up getting everyone killed in a nuclear apocalypse.

    Trump has openly said he’s ok with violating the Geneva Convention, that he’s ok with using nuclear weapons in Europe, that he’s ok with shooting down Russian planes, and that more countries should have more nuclear weapons. If Trump keeps his word on even a small fraction of the things he’s said, we’ll end up in a second cold war, or even worse, a third world war.

    Trump will end up politically destabilizing nearly the entire world. And that’s just the foreign policy. Domestically, his policies have emboldened nazis to make themselves public in numbers not seen since the 1930s. That’s not a rhetorical attack – I’m talking about literal nazis, with swastika tattoos, shouting ‘Heil Trump!’ Even if Trump himself is not currently a nazi, they have a tendency to weasel themselves into positions of power in governments. And that’s already started – in March, Trump’s son appeared on a white supremacist radio show which has in the past promoted antebellum slavery as a good thing, and then Trump gave the host press credentials.

    In short, Trump is the most dangerous president in U.S. history.

  16. Tom Gilson

    I understand your fears, even though I don’t know where you got that Nazi marching story from.

    I don’t think you understand how bad Hillary was.

    But I don’t expect us to agree on that here, and this, too, is not a subject I prefer to pursue on this blog. See the Discussion Policy.

  17. staircaseghost

    For the benefit of Christian lurkers skimming through the comments who may not have followed the entire exchange, no one has denied (or even pretended to deny) the claim in my initial comment that arguments against gay marriage are morally equivalent to the arguments against Abolition.

    I know there are many Christians who find the concept of gay sex, let alone gay marriage, deeply disturbing, even repulsive. I would invite those lurkers to look into their hearts and ask themselves if they’re really willing to follow thought-leaders like Tom Gilson all the way to the end of the line and say the Abolitionists were likewise “aggressive political activists” who “forced this argument on us”.

  18. Tom Gilson

    You know, I read that wrong. I thought you wrote Abortion.

    The debate on Abolition was initiated by Christians. Cancel any misconception that I said it was morally equivalent to the argument on gay marriage.

  19. Tom Gilson

    And please, no, let’s not get started on Christians and slavery. Go here instead. There’s plenty there for you to read.

    I can’t be forced to dance to the tune of any commenter bringing up any controversial topic he wants.

  20. Tom Gilson

    I note that this is what staircaseghost wrote:

    “We didn’t choose the debate on Abolition, it was forced on us by aggressive political activists who wanted to overturn centuries of common sense and healthy moral teaching.”

    It’s these “mom! he hit me back first!” reactions that show you genuinely have no idea why you’re losing.

    Note the quotation marks. Whom was he or she quoting? No one. No one said that. No Christian I know of would even think it. That’s one reason I mistook it for being about abortion. staircaseghost put those words in our mouths and treated them as if we’d said them.

    Either it was a misreading like I made, or it was dishonest.

    (Read the thread leading up this and you might wonder along with me how it could be honest even if it was a misreading.)

  21. BillT

    Donald Trump will end up getting everyone killed in a nuclear apocalypse.

    I thought I would never see anything more absurd than Bush derangement syndrome. But I was wrong. Trump derangement syndrome is more absurd, less informed, more delusional than could have been imagined being said even by Bush’s most vocal opponents. And the above nonsense is only one of many examples. The endless excuses, whining and dire warnings of the apocalypse have become comical. And the Nazi stuff is the stuff of outright fantasy.

  22. Deborah315

    I would like to see you maybe tackle trans-humanism. I’m sure you know the basics about it but I would like to see more Christians take it on in depth. A blog called Truefreethinker ran by Ken Ami has done a lot of research on it and has a whole section dedicated to it.

    Between the two major atheist movements in recent years and the advancements made in certain areas of science, I think it may gain more of a following in the atheist community (right now I think most people see it as nutty and its on the fringe of the secular left.) But it has the idealism, empiricism and anti-religious bent of the New Atheist and the religious fever of what people call the “New New Atheist”, (ya know the ones that have churches and worship services etc etc).

    If you want a taste of how the movement thinks you should research their candidate for president (yeah they had one!) Zoltan Istvan and for information on it http://www.Truefreethinker.com is a great place to start.

  23. Talon

    Whitehouse derangement syndrome has become a common ailment in both parties, it’s practically a new American tradition!

    When G.W. Bush was in office, largely post 9/11, I heard predictions of gun confiscation and martial law, establishment of a theocracy, accusations of secret occult practices (Bohemian Grove), organized pedophilia, FEMA Death Camps and a devastating new war which would end the normal election process and allow him to declare himself as “President for Life”.

    When Obama took office I heard predictions of gun confiscation and martial law, establishment of a theocracy (Sharia Law), more FEMA Death Camps and a war which would allow him to declare himself “President for Life”. Obama was also alleged to have had a Chicago man killed to hide his secret gay sex life in college.

    During the recent election some Trump supporters feared Hillary Clinton would start a nuclear war with Russia, confiscate guns and accused her of occult practices (Spirit Cooking) and pedophilia (PizzaGate, Lolita Express). Are we starting to see a pattern?

    Sex crime accusations were already leveled at Trump and I’m guessing once the honeymoon is over, the rest of the usual conspiracies will be brought out too and lobbed at him, his family or staff. Happily, in an amazing act of common sense, Trump has already disavowed the alt-right Nazi types, the Orange One hath snuffed out their plans for a 4th Reich before they had began.

    People can be all too eager to believe the worst of folks they hate or mistrust and this election has been so contentious, it’s brought out the loony in almost everyone. I’m keeping my popcorn handy, the next 4 years are going to be a circus.

  24. Bob Kern

    Hi,
    I am an atheist with views as steadfast as the most devout of your members. Nevertheless I believe it is imperative that we all respect and try to understand each other. To that end, and given the name of this website, I would be interested in hearing some considered responses to any/all of my questions below.

    When my daughter was 8, she was given a school homework assignment asking her to reflect on how the world might be different today, if Martin Luther King was still alive. Whilst exercises like this are very hypothetical and subjective, I believe they are mentally stimulating and potentially enlightening. In that spirit, I ask respondents to give honest opinions, and preferably avoid being too evasive. Note that I would be more than happy to have my beliefs challenged, should you have any questions of your own.

    1. If God decided for just one day to be totally inconspicuous (as if he didn’t exist), how would you know?

    2. What if God has been refraining from involvement in human affairs since immediately after the time of Jesus; how would the world be different today?

    3. Assuming God has always been involved with us, what would be different if humanity was never aware of His existence?

    4. If God decided to make His existence blatantly apparent to all (as only He could do), what would be the immediate impact on Humanity? How would the world be today if God’s existence had been indisputable for 2000 years?

    5. Knowing that God has grand plans for the worthy in the afterlife, even those who have experienced particularly harsh, cruel, devastating, or grossly unfair circumstances in their lives can take heart. After all, there is something immensely better to come. Throughout history, powerful people have intentionally or otherwise brought about harsh, cruel, devastating, and/or grossly unfair circumstances to the meek (usually for their own gain). Is it conceivable that such powerful people might have actively sought to keep their minions under control, by promoting belief in a God who offers a reward after death, as long as you follow His commands? And is there the slightest chance that those commands were conjured and refined over the centuries by powerful people, and ‘sold’ as the word of God?

    6. Based on the commonly held belief that God knows all, do you think he waits for people to pray, before deciding if/how He will respond? Or does He know all that was, is, and will be; and He simply set things up in the first instance as per His will?

    7. If God is not all knowing, to the extent that He gave us free will and He does not know what we will do with it, exactly what is it that humanity must do before God decides to intervene? How bad do things need to get, before he delivers Jesus 2.0, or similar?

    Respectfully,

    Bob Kern
    Australia

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