Describing the diversity of religious beliefs and
Our web site's policies
We don't attack religious beliefs, but are
often interpreted as doing just that:
We try to
avoid attacking anyone's religious beliefs. But we get many angry Emails from
readers complaining that we are doing precisely that. We hope that the following essay
might clarify matters. It deals exclusively with Christianity, for two reasons:
|That is the religious tradition of about 3 out of 4 North Americans,
our target audience. |
|Essentially all of the negative Emails that we receive in which the
religion of the sender can be determined, are sent by conservative
How we classify faith groups:
Some of our readers are distressed that we describe Mormons,
Roman Catholics, United Church members and adherents of other faith groups as "Christians." They feel that we are attacking their faith
by recognizing as those individuals and groups which deviate from
conservative Protestant Christianity. They often look upon Mormons as Gnostics, the Roman Catholic church as Pagans,
the Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult, etc.
It is our policy to classify faith groups with the names that they use to describe
themselves. For example, the Mormon leadership and laity devoutly,
sincerely, and thoughtfully view themselves as Christians. So, we include them in that
category. In a similar vein, we call those wishing to reduce a woman's choice in abortion
"pro-life" rather than "anti-abortion." We call those promoting choice
as "pro-choice" not "pro-abortion."
We are not attacking anyone's religious views; we are simply using a
definition of "Christian" - a view similar to the government census. We
are using each group's own terminology.
Describing the full range of beliefs within Christianity
Christianity is not a monolithic, homogeneous religion. Different denominations teach a
wide range of beliefs. Meanwhile, different members within denominations will often hold
beliefs which are at variance from those of their own denomination. Our site contains
discussions of many controversial topics (e.g. the virgin
birth, resurrection of Jesus, female
ordination, criteria for salvation, etc.) By describing all
opinions on a given topic, we end up describing many viewpoints that run counter to a given
We are not attacking their religious beliefs; we are simply explaining that full range
of beliefs that people hold to be true. For example, consider personal
salvation. It is perhaps the most important religious topic to many conservative
Christians. They commonly believe that those people who are not saved (whether they have
considered and rejected trust in Jesus, or simply have never heard of the gospel message)
are destined to spend eternity being tortured in Hell. In formulating a belief system on
|Some Christians stress passages from the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke), and the
letter of James which appear to teach that that people are saved by doing good works.|
|Many conservative Christians follow many passages by St. Paul, who believed that one is
saved by first believing in
|Some stress the some of writings of the author(s) of the Gospel of John who wrote that
one is saved by believing that Jesus is the son of God.|
|Some sincerely believe that, irrespective of whether one believes and trusts in Jesus,
only members of their own faith group will be saved; all others will go to Hell.|
|One faith group believes that an individual has to be exposed to the gospel message in a
certain way -- by a pair of teachers -- before that person can be saved and avoid Hell.|
|Pentecostals believe that one is saved by trusting Jesus as
Lord and Savior. But a few believe that if God does not subsequently give that person the
gift of speaking in tongues, then their salvation was not valid.
Since the vast majority of Christians do not speak in tongues, those Pentecostals would
consider almost all Christians to be unsaved.|
|Another faith group teaches that one has to be baptized before one can be saved.|
Many of our readers will find some of these beliefs irritating and even interpret them
as assaults by us on their faith. We are not attacking anyone's religion. We are simply
the messengers - we are just reporting on the wide range of religious beliefs that people
Interpreting the Bible
When reviewing what the Bible has to say on Abortion, Creation vs. Evolution, the Death Penalty,
Divorce, Homosexuality, Life after Death, Ordination of Women, Wicca/Witchcraft, Suicide, etc., we try to give both liberal and conservative
interpretations of various Biblical passages. Some of our readers, who have been taught
only a single approach to Biblical understanding, accuse us of intentionally inventing our
own unique interpretations. We are accused of twisting the meaning of many verses. They
denounce us as knowing the truth but of spreading lies in order to deceive our readers.
Trust us! We have almost no original ideas when it comes to the Bible.
We are simply reporting what religious conservatives, religious liberals, and 1st century
Christians wrote in their Biblical commentaries and handbooks.
Theological beliefs, religious beliefs and religiously motivated action:
Our descriptions of faith groups cover three specific areas:
Theological Beliefs: This includes a faith group's
belief concerning the nature of Deity, of
humanity and of the
rest of the universe. For example:
We make every effort to avoid criticizing such beliefs. To do so would be
the worse type of intolerance.
Religious Beliefs: These are typically beliefs that are
secondary to a faith group's theological beliefs. They are not primary statements of
faith. They are beliefs whose validity which can be tested. For example, religious
organizations might teach that:
Here, faith groups are leaving the area of purely theological belief and
making medical and scientific statements about the world. They are often in conflict with
medicine, geology, astronomy, archaeology, biology, etc. We do not criticize these beliefs.
However, we do compare them with the findings of science and medicine so that people can
evaluate which gives a more accurate picture of reality.
Sometimes, religious and even theological beliefs become translated into
actions. We do criticize some individual and organized actions when they hurt other
people. When we criticize a religious group's actions to reduce
individual freedom, we are sometimes accused of attacking that group's beliefs.
We try to differentiate between the two with great care.
An example might be useful. Many conservative Christians believe that
homosexual behavior is a sin, it hated by God, and is chosen, learned behavior.
Some believe that same-sex behavior should be re-criminalized. They believe
that homosexual orientation can be changed through reparative therapy and prayer. We have
no objection to them holding these beliefs. But when they take action
to oppose the granting of equal rights to gays and lesbians in the area of employment,
accommodation and marriage, we oppose those actions as hurtful. We uphold
the fundamental principle of "liberty and justice for all" without
exceptions based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, age, degree and type of
disability, language, etc. We also promote the concept of personal privacy, in which each
individual has the right to pursue their own happiness and creativity without government
interference. Where this conflicts with actions promoted by religious groups, we feel that
fundamental human rights should prevail.
Obviously, there are sometimes limits to personal freedom. Persons
convicted of murder need to be isolated from the rest of society. Maximum speed laws on
roads are needed to prevent chaos. Some restrictive laws are necessary in every society.
But we feel that the practice of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual
orientation, disability etc. needs to be fought wherever it occurs - even if it happens
We do have strong personal beliefs:
|in favor of protection against employment
discrimination for all groups, including gays and lesbians|
|against individuals being automatically rejected for religious ordination on the basis of their gender, disability or
|against various religious freedom restoration acts,
if they elevate religious freedom above other fundamental liberties|
|against enforced religious prayer in public
|in favor of special interest groups in the public school system,
including religious study clubs and homosexual support groups.|
|and on a few hundred other topics.|
When we describe any of these matters in our Web site, we try to be
impartial, accurate and balanced. If we fail at this, we hope that our readers will
correct us. We are easy to contact.
Copyright © 1997 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2006-MAR-26
Author: B.A. Robinson