Skip to content

Ask Mark 3— Peeves, to Nones, and Back Again: A Tale of Marko Gibbons


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): The Good Men Project

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/03/17

Mark Gibbs is an independently educated nonbeliever, who has some interesting and precise thoughts about the terminology in the survey data presented to the unbelieving community over the years. Here, in this series, we will explore some of the content, starting with the term “Nones.” Two prior sessions here: Ask Mark 1 — Somethin’ About Nothin’: The Nones Ain’t Nothin’ and Ask Mark 2 — Squeezing More Some Things from Nothings.

The surveys and the analysis of the surveys can be another level of issue or concern for Gibbs. The conversation, to conclude for this topic, shifted into the issues of statisticians, analysis of experts in the relevant areas of studying the non-religious, and more.When asked about some hypothetical do-overs for surveying and analyzing the belief landscape of the unbelievers by Pew Research, Gibbs described the technicalities and precision required for proper surveys and analysis. This may be truer in a population, probably, not studied as much as they could be, but Gibbs’s complaints remain valid.

“There’s a very good reason why they keep using affiliation as a metric: it’s so easy and cheap. It’s a single question, it’s easy for survey respondents to understand, and it’s trivial to group data by. It also allows your data to be easily compared with just about every other survey out there. And, honestly, there are times when affiliation is a useful metric,” Gibbs said.

His example was the higher proportion of Catholics who hold a “disgusting opinion,” which can be important if one wants to know this fact about some Catholics. It may lead to lines of inquiry about them.

Gibbs stated, “However… it is true that using affiliation as a metric just doesn’t work for finding out about nonbelievers. And nonbelievers are my people; I want to know more about them. So with respect to the experts, I’ll just brainstorm some possibilities. And I want to stress this is really only aimed at people doing opinion surveys, not actual social scientists. This may already be a solved problem in social science; I don’t keep up with the field closely enough to know.”

His main concern was on the emphasis on affiliation at present. He believes there should be more focus on beliefs and the intensity of belief. Gibbs provided an example, in a modest & humble-Shire tone:

Which of the following best reflect your beliefs (choose all that apply):· ☐ I believe that God exists.· ☐ I believe that there is life after death.· ☐ I believe in reincarnation.· ☐ I believe that psychic powers (precognition, telekinesis, remote viewing, etc.) exist.· ☐ (and so on…)His issues with typology or the terminology & interpretation set become the need to provide a new one based on the aforementioned re-emphasis on beliefs and intensity of beliefs, and a de-emphasis on “affiliation.Gibbs concluded, “Is that actually practical? You’d have to ask experts in the field. Certainly it would be more complicated (and thus, more expensive) than a simple affiliation/identification test. But I think that’s justifiable given that religion is such a complicated topic. And we really need more research done about actual beliefs — not mere affiliation — not least because you can’t really learn anything about nonbelievers if all you ask is mere affiliation.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

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 )

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: