My Old Kentucky Homesite

Homesite Puzzler #2: Presidents Day Quiz

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/11/2010

Nowadays, our elected officials miss no opportunity to spout pieties. It would be a secular miracle, indeed, to find an American politician who had anything negative to say about religion. This situation was not always so, however.

Monday is Presidents Day (and please note that there is no apostrophe anywhere in the holiday’s name). I know I’m four days early with this puzzler, but I want to give you a big head start on your celebrations. I do this as a holiday gift to my readers because you’ll all probably be too busy over the weekend honoring our historic leaders in the traditional American way: by trading pictures of them for sale items at the mall.

Also, you may need a little time to work your way through this quiz on American Presidents and their ideas about religion. Those of you who actually know something about our country’s history may be able to use their knowledge to figure out many of the answers. But I’m confident that, even if you ‘ve seen some of these questions before, you won’t get 100%. Hell, I didn’t — and I created this goddamned quiz.

Give yourself 5 points for every item you get right. [Note: You can find the correct answers appended as the first comment to this post. But no peeking!)

1. Who said:

I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

A. Grover Cleveland
B. Franklin Pierce
C. William Howard Taft
D. Rutherford B. Hayes

2. Which two presidents are quoted here?

[O]f course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.

Well, it’s a theory, it is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science and is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was believed. But if it was going to be taught in the schools, then I think that also the biblical theory of creation, which is not a theory, but the biblical story of creation, should also be taught.

A. Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush
B. Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan
C. John F. Kennedy and George H. W. Bush
D. Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter

3. George W. Bush said:

I, in the state of Texas, had heard a lot of discussion about a faith-based initiative eroding the important bridge between church and state.

Two of our previous leaders knew the difference between a bridge and a wall. Which presidents said:

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.

Whatever one’s religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution and all its parts — including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state.

A. Ulysses S. Grant and John F. Kennedy
B. William McKinley and Bill Clinton
C. Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt
D. James Garfield and Calvin Coolidge

4. Which presidents could have had the following debate?

We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.

The Christian god is a three-headed monster; cruel, vengeful, and capricious … One only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites.

A. George W. Bush and James Madison
B. Jimmy Carter and Thomas Jefferson
C. George H. W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln
D. Ronald Reagan and John Adams

5. Who said:

I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion.

A. James Buchanan
B. Franklin Pierce
C. Herbert Hoover
D. Martin Van Buren

6. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and The American Crisis were arguably the most important writings of the Revolutionary War period. Yet, two presidents disagreed about Paine’s heritage. Which presidents referred to him in the following ways:

[He] needs no monument made with hands; he has erected a monument in the hearts of all lovers of liberty.

… that filthy little atheist

A. Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon
B. James Monroe and Ronald Reagan
C. James Madison and Harry Truman
D. Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt

7. What president said the following, and what was the occasion?

In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future.

A. George W. Bush on the funding of faith-based initiatives
B. Abraham Lincoln on the words “In God We Trust” being engraved on coins
C. James K. Polk on the spread of Protestantism as a result of our “manifest destiny”
D. Dwight D. Eisenhower on “Under God” being added to the Pledge of Allegiance

8. Who said:

I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.

A. George W. Bush
B. Franklin D. Roosevelt
C. George H. W. Bush
D. Theodore Roosevelt

9. Which president once told reporters:

I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life.

A. Barack Obama
B. Bill Clinton
C. Jimmy Carter
D. Richard Nixon

10. Which president’s attitude about religion is expressed by:

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.

A. John Quincy Adams
B. James Monroe
C. Warren G. Harding
D. James Madison

11. Who said:

I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled.

A. John Quincy Adams
B. Millard Fillmore
C. Franklin Pierce
D. Martin Van Buren

12. Which two presidents might have had this debate about morality:

The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect.

Twenty times in the course of my late reading, I have been upon the point of breaking out: This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!

A. George H. W. Bush and James Madison
B. Herbert Hoover and Thomas Jefferson
C. Ronald Reagan and John Adams
D. Lyndon B. Johnson and Abraham Lincoln

13. Which little-known president is responsible for the following amazing quote?

The United States has adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent — that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the Constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political institutions… The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid… and the Aegis of the government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.

A. John Tyler
B. Chester Alan Arthur
C. James K. Polk
D. Benjamin Harrison

14. Which two presidents of two different parties could have agreed on these ideas?

No matter what other personal desires or crises we have faced, I’ve never forgotten that this is the time to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, and the impact of this event on the history of the world.

It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.

A. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
B. Warren G. Harding and Woodrow Wilson
C. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover
D. Jimmy Carter and Calvin Coolidge

15. Who said:

Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither justice nor freedom can be permanently maintained. Its interests are intrusted to the States and the voluntary action of the people. Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation or of the States to the support of sectarian schools. The separation of Church and State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute.

A. Andrew Johnson
B. Rutherford B. Hayes
C. William McKinley
D. James A. Garfield

16. Which two presidents could have had this discussion about education?

I believe God did create the world. And I think we’re finding out more and more and more as to how it actually happened.

There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith.

A. Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson
B. John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman
C. George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter
D. Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan

17. Which two presidents had the following different ideas about religious sensitivity?

The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial, or political, neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog.

If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.

A. Harry Truman and George Washington
B. Franklin D. Roosevelt and James Monroe
C. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Grover Cleveland
D. Richard M. Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt

18. These two presidents would be horrified at all the faith talk in the present-day political arena. Who are they?

Voters … make up their minds for many diverse reasons, good and bad. To submit the candidates to a religious test is unfair enough — to apply it to the voters is divisive, degrading and wholly unwarranted.

If there is one thing for which we stand in this country, it is for complete religious freedom, and it is an emphatic negation of this right to cross-examine a man on his religion before being willing to support him for office.

A. William Howard Taft and William McKinley
B. John F. Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt
C. Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman
D. Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln

19. The country lucked out when neither of these two religious nuts were elected. What two losing candidates said:

If we have to give up either religion or education, we should give up education.

I believe that the purpose of life is to glorify God.

A. Charles Evans Hughes and Alfred E. Smith
B. Alf Landon and Barry Goldwater
C. William Jennings Bryan and Al Gore
D. Bob Dole and George McGovern

20. Who said:

We have the most religious freedom of any country in the world, including the freedom not to believe.

A. Richard M. Nixon
B. Lyndon B. Johnson
C. Barack Obama
D. Bill Clinton

[For these and many other great quotes, I highly recommend that you read 2000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught and The Quotable Atheist by Jack Huberman — or simply visit Positive Atheism.]

16 Responses to “Homesite Puzzler #2: Presidents Day Quiz”

  1. 1.C

  2. Since I read this in RSS, I didn’t see the answers in your comments… I was going to guess “B” on them all.
    Amazing post.
    Wow, you really work at this blog thing don’t you!

  3. Ric said

    Jeez, L, that’s like way too much work figuring out all those answers. I’m getting too old for these thinking blogs.

  4. Going:
    You really work at this blog thing don’t you!
    Well, until I can find someone in or around Lexington who’s willing to pay for an experienced writer/editor, I’ve got to do something to keep in practice. If I suddenly cut down on my blogging, though, you’ll know that I’ve decided to become a horse whisperer. Or maybe a basketball-player whisperer.

    I’m getting too old for these thinking blogs.

    And here I thought I was posting a dart-throwing contest.
    Warning: Do not throw darts directly at your computer. Throwing darts may impair your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. If your dart-throwing lasts longer than four hours, consult a physician.

  5. the chaplain said

    Great quiz. I knew a few of the answers, but I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know. I know you’re not a big Clinton fan (I especially don’t trust Bill any farther than I can spit, and I’m a lousy spitter), but, you’ve got to admit, he got it right sometimes.

    I guess I’ll have to add Haught’s book to my reading list now. Do you really think The Quotable Atheist is worth getting? I’ve looked at it, held in my hands at bookstores, but haven’t picked it up for some reason.

  6. Chappy:
    The Haught book is much more to my liking, and I’m guessing it would be to yours, too. The book is divided into chronological sections, within which are short chapters on various individual freethinkers. Haught wrote a biographical intro to each of these luminaries, and included quite a few quotes (when possible). There are also a few catchall chapters devoted to “Other” noteworthy skeptics. I’m dubious about all the alleged quotes being authentic, but the book is great fun to dip into, and I’ve done so over and over again.

    The Quotable Atheist features hundreds of famous and semi-famous names (some of whom are outrageously pro-religion), organized alphabetically. It’s much more of a mishmash than 2000 Years …, and because of its randomness, I don’t find it anywhere near as entertaining.

    I agree that Clinton “got it right sometimes.” But, then, he sometimes got it disastrously wrong. Like in 1996, when he signed a bill that created “Charitable Choice.” That terrible bill opened the treasury’s floodgates to an inundation by religious organizations, who were thenceforth permitted to request — and receive (with only limited controls) — Federal monies to provide “social services.” That’s a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause.

  7. I managed a 50%.

    When I first decided to really embrace atheism, 2000 Years of Disbelief was one of the first books I read. I just took a look at it, and found my copy has 16 bookmarks in it. I had planned to review it, but decided against it, as I was not yet “out.” I may do that now, even though I am only kind of out. That is to say, I have said aloud that I did not believe separately to each of my parents, but I think they opted not to acknowledge the revelation. When I told my sister, her reply was a little more encouraging:

    me: I’m an atheist.
    sister: So is everyone who knows anything about history.

  8. Ric said

    “So is everyone who knows anything about history.”

    Doesn’t get much more concise and cogent than that. :D

  9. Des:
    For that collection of questions, half right is pretty goddamned good.

    And tell your sister she’s a true philosopher.
    I concur with Ric, who definitely knows a little something about concision (only in the non-archaic sense, I hope) and cogency.

  10. I had never heard of the other meaning for “concision.” I’ll make sure to be careful in the future.

  11. Postman said

    I like to tell myself, (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day), that I’m a pretty well-educated guy… but I scored a dismal 45% on your test, and one of the answers I got right was, admittedly, a wild guess. At least, I’m happy to say, I can pick U.S. Grant out of a crowd.

  12. Des:
    One of the qualities I admire most about freethinkers is that we actually take the time to look things up.

    I think 45% is a respectable score. Typically, multiple-choice quizzes are constructed so that one “distractor” (wrong answer) is obviously dumb, another doesn’t really make sense if you think about it for a few seconds, and the third might be correct, but isn’t if you actually know the material. I created this quiz so that all the distractors were reasonable possibilities — sometimes even more “logical” than the actual correct answers. I hoped that readers would be shocked, or at least surprised, that some of those opinions were voiced by particular presidents. In other words, I happily laid some traps.

  13. Ric said

    I mutilate the objects of my wrath with tools of concision and cogency.

    There. That should cover it all.


  14. O what then of God and Country? What of the True Faith? If e’en Presidents and Kings may Doubt – well… it’s all okay. For Poesy and the Unseen Spirit that moves Us to Pen her – that Shall e’er Live.

    Ric: Though it sounds painful fear not. Concision has become the Custom amongst both Jews and Gentiles in Our modern times.

  15. Ric:
    Yup, you’re definitely known as “the mutilator” in some circles. In others, you’re called “the mohel” (as Percy‘s tip reveals).

    I don’t think we’ve had a President who appreciates Poesy since Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg Address. Have you heard some of the blather that passes for speeches these days?

  16. Ric said

    Ah, I never circumscribe anything. I go straight in for the kill. Or the mutilation, as it were. Or were it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: