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About this website

ABOUT THE OCRT*: PART 1

(*Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance)

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Quotation: 

bullet"The right to search for truth implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true." Albert Einstein

Topics in this essay:

bulletOur purposes
bulletOur beliefs
bulletRules of Engagement
bullet How we got started

Purposes of this OCRT:

This OCRT, the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, attempts to serve the people of the United States and Canada in four areas:

  1. Disseminating accurate religious information: There are many hundreds of faith groups in the US and Canada; all are minorities. We believe that:
    bulletThere is much good and some evil in all faiths' practices. No one faith group is all good; none is all evil.
    bulletThe historical record shows that the beliefs of religious groups change over time.
    bulletWithin a given faith group, believers hold a range of beliefs that are not necessarily shared by the leadership of their denomination or tradition.
    By informing people about various religions, their range of beliefs, and their historical development, we hope that people's understanding and tolerance will increase, while bigotry will decrease. We also hope that our readers will better understand the good and evil practices in their own faith tradition, and be motivated to work towards needed reform. They will realize that faith groups change their religious teachings over time, and will probably change in the future. With few exceptions, religious organizations have become less sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic over time.
  2. Exposing religious fraud, hatred and misinformation: There is an enormous amount of religious fraud, hatred and misinformation available in North American seminars, radio and TV programs, lectures, books etc. Typically, religions with relatively few followers in the US and Canada are targeted: New Age, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Native American spirituality, Santeria, Satanism, Wicca (Witchcraft), etc. There has been one lynching, one attempted mass murder by stoning, many fire bombings, shootings, physical assaults and economic attacks by some very devout, well meaning, but terribly misinformed people in North America who have victimized followers of minority religions. Outbreaks of anti-Semitism continue to plague both the US and Canada and seems to be on the rise around the world. Muslims are badly misrepresented in many media reports and attacked by some Christian leaders. Conservative Christians are often discriminated against in job hiring and promotion. Children have been seized from families on the basis of a child care worker's misinformed beliefs about the parent's religion. Parents have been prohibited from visiting their children because of a judge's religious bias. All of these injustices need to be exposed to public view and eradicated.
  3. Disseminating information on dozens of "hot" religious topics: These are matters over which various religious groups are in conflict with each other and with secular forces in society. Many topics have been already largely settled; human slavery and birth control are two examples. Others, like access to abortion; the Occult; equal rights for homosexuals and bisexuals, including the right of same-sex couples to marry; creation science vs. evolution; human sexuality; and many other topics are still being hotly debated.

    Unfortunately, on most Internet web site devoted to these topics, only a single point of view is discussed -- that of the webmaster or of the sponsoring agency. Our goal is to present, compare and contrast all sides to each issue. We:

    bulletProvide background and historical information; 
    bulletExplain the beliefs of various religious and secular groups; 
    bulletCite applicable passages from the Bible and other religious texts.
    bulletDescribe the beliefs of conservative Christians, liberal Christians, 1st and 2nd century Christians, and followers of other religions. 
    bulletDescribe statements by professional organizations, where available.

    We often analyze verses from the Bible, and use Christianity as a reference point, because about 75% of adults in North America regard themselves as Christian. The next largest organized religions, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Neopaganism and Buddhism are each followed by fewer than 2% of American adults.

  4. Promoting religious tolerance: Bruce Buursma of the Chicago Tribune once said: "Almost every story around the world has a religion sub-plot." In recent decades, there have been a few largely inter-tribal mass murders and genocides. Consider Rwanda and Kenya. But most conflicts have involved inter-religion and intra-religion differences. Consider Bosnia Herzegovina, Cyprus, India, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Sri Lanka and other hot spots. We feel that it is important to help people understand how the misuse of religion can result in profound evil, even in those countries like the U.S. and Canada that have traditionally experienced relative religious peace.

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Our core beliefs and biases:

Every person and group has basic beliefs. They can lead to bias and lack of objectivity. These are some of ours:

bulletWe believe in freedom of speech, within limits. We do not believe that a person has the right to falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. We do not believe that a Baptist minister in TX has the right to publicly agitate that the government round up and exterminate religious minorities in his state with napalm. But short of these types of extremes, we feel that people should not be prevented from freely saying what they believe. We have great respect for freedom of speech. We feel that promoters of hatred, whether based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other grounds, will be largely discredited and rejected if all are allowed to speak freely.
bulletWe are firm supporters of the principle of separation of church and state. Lack of religious freedom, oppression, and even mass crimes against humanity and genocide are much more common in countries which lack such separation. 
bulletWe believe in freedom of religion, which includes the rights of freedom of belief, speech, expression, assembly, and advocacy. We feel that people should have the right to freely change their religion. However, we recognize that there are limits that must be placed on such freedoms. For example, we do not feel that, in most cases, parents should be allowed to let their children die if conventional medical treatment has a good chance of curing the child.
bulletWe believe that some absolute religious truths exist. For example, the statement "There is only one God," is either absolutely right or wrong -- at least it is if the term "God" is carefully predefined. However, there may be no way for us to know the correct answer.
bulletWe believe that moral absolutes exist, at least within a given world view. Many people have a set of moral beliefs that are based on their own basic, foundational assumptions about deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. They often assert that these beliefs are absolutely true -- and they are -- to them. However, the absolute beliefs of a typical conservative Christian will often differ from the absolute beliefs of an average religious liberal. And the beliefs of a Humanist may differ from both. 
bulletWe firmly believe in the concept of "liberty and justice for some." We  believe that convicted murderers and other criminals should have their freedoms restricted. We do not believe that children should have the same full range of freedoms as do adults. But we feel that adults at least should have the maximum degree of freedom without impinging seriously on the freedom of others. We are particularly distressed at discrimination which victimizes people because of their genetic makeup -- e.g. reducing their rights because of their race, gender or sexual orientation.
bulletWe believe that a person is not truly educated unless they have studied religion and its effect on society. Students need to learn about all religions. They need to understand the religious sources that inspired Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, and Mother Teresa. They also need to learn how religious beliefs have contributed to mass murders and genocides in Nazi Germany, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Sudan and countless other countries.
bulletWe enjoy living in a religiously diverse culture in which the rights of people to hold different religious beliefs and to engage in different cultural practices are valued. 
bulletWe believe that most religions have a generally positive influence on their followers and on society. Of all of the faith groups that we have studied, only a handful of destructive cults have had an overall negative effect. We do not believe that all religions and spiritual paths are the same, or that all are equally good, or that all are equally valid. 

We will attempt to describe each point of view carefully, respectfully and objectively.  To this end, we have many of our essays reviewed by persons familiar with the issues who represent all sides of each topic. We encourage readers to Email us about any errors that they find. We do not regard any essay as fixed or complete.

Our "Rules of Engagement":

Promotion of religious belief: Unlike almost all other religious WWW sites, we do not advocate any one religion. We are a group whose members follow five different theological beliefs (Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Wicca, and Zen Buddhism). It would be difficult for us to promote any one belief system, even if we wanted to.

Criticism and Opposition: We do not criticize any person or any organized religion for their theological beliefs. However we do censure individuals and groups for any actions which harm people, limit their personal freedoms, or restrict their spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical growth. Thus, we are opposed to racist, sexist, and homophobic activities by individuals and groups.

In short, we are tolerant of the great diversity of religious ideas. However, we are generally intolerant of such practices as discrimination and hatred based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Our specific policies are outlined in detail elsewhere on this site.

Judging from our Email, this is a difficult concept for some readers to understand: how can we be tolerant and non-critical, even as we are being intolerant and critical. Perhaps an example from one Christian denomination will help:

The Mormons once taught that blacks had been "less valiant' in their preexistence support of Jesus in a great battle against Lucifer." They were cursed by God with the "Mark of Ham" -- interpreted by the church to be black skin. This was the belief of the church; it was, by definition, a racist belief. We do not condemn it. It was simply a piece of doctrine which we attempt to accurately report.

One of the denomination's leaders described blacks "uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and seemingly without the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind." Again, this is a statement which demonstrates racist beliefs. Again, we simply report the opinion; we do not criticize it. It is simply a matter of the historical record.

However, the church went further. It applied this concept in practice. The denomination prohibited blacks from being ordained as its ministers; they also made persons with one or more distant black ancestors ineligible for ordination. This is a serious restriction; unlike other denominations, all male members of this denomination are expected to be ordained into the priesthood. Their racist belief had become a racist practice. We are critical of racist actions. We condemn all actions which negate the concept of equal "liberty and justice for all."

Fortunately, Mormons believe that their leadership received a revelation from God in 1978. This terminated both the racist belief and action in the Mormon church. 

Respecting privacy: We respect the privacy of various religious organizations. Many faith groups including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church of Scientology, and some groups within Ceremonial Magick, Wicca, etc. attempt to keep some information about their beliefs and rituals secret from the public. They only release knowledge gradually to their members, as they advance in training. Although some of this information has been published (often by violating copyright) we do not contribute to its dissemination.

How we got started:

The inspiration for the OCRT came from the evening news during the spring of 1995. It seemed that every broadcast revealed some further atrocity from the Bosnia in the former Yugoslavia. One of us felt the media was in error. The disturbances in that country were not fundamentally ethnic in origin, as was being reported. A main root cause was religious intolerance. Yugoslavia is located between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spheres of influence. It was also between countries where the main religion is Islam and Christianity. So, although the people of the country were of one ethnic origin, they followed three different faith groups: Islam, Roman Catholicism and Serbian Orthodox Christianity. The resulting religious friction was fueled by the nationalist aims of various political leaders. And so, the world watched the most atrocious attempts at religiously motivated genocide. We felt that more should be done to promote religious tolerance.

We searched the Web for entries on religious tolerance and found very little: one sermon by a Baptist minister, two essays by members of the Baha'i Faith, and one essay on religious tolerance in ancient Egypt. It seemed strange that the Internet would be so lacking in information on religious tolerance...particularly since intolerance has been such a common cause of civil disturbance and war.  Religious intolerance remains a main contributing factor to the troubles in Bosnia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Middle East, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tibet, etc.

A small group of four volunteers was organized to create a Web site that promoted religious tolerance. We started up about 1995-MAY-15, when there were only about 20,000th site to be established on the World Wide Web;  As of 2004-SEP, there are over 41 million domain names on the World Wide Web. At the time, the percentage of the world's population who had access to the Internet -- rounded to the nearest integer -- was 0%!

Although the original aims were small, the site has continually grown. Some figures:

Date  Essays on Site Hits* Traffic 
GB/day
Rating by Hitbox.com ** Visitors *** Visitor Countries
1997-NOV 520 0.15 ? unknown 25,000 50
1998-NOV ~700 0.5 ? ~11 ~40,000 75
1999-NOV 850 1.7 1.28 1 58,000 > 75
2000-NOV 1,047 3.4 2.57 1 108,000 > 75
2001-NOV 1,384 4.3 3.05 1 134,000 > 75
2002-NOV 2,015 4.8 3.50 1 145,000 > 75
2003-NOV 2,385 6.8 5.27 Discontinued 216,000 > 75

Date  Essays on Site Hits* Traffic 
GB/day
Traffic ranking from Ranking.com ^ Visitors ***
2004-NOV 2,700 7.2 5.7 6,776 285,000
2005-NOV 3,130 10.2 7.6 6,263 501,000
2006-NOV 3,526 10.6 12.5 6,448  
2007-NOV 4,052 10.2 14.7 -  

* Million hits per week
**
In Hitbox.com's listing of top 1,000 religious web sites. We discontinued this service in late 2003.
***
Distinct hosts served per week.
^ Ranking.com ranks the busiest 1 million web sites on the Internet.

Other OCRTs in the world:

Here, it refers to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, an agency that promotes the freedom of individuals to follow the religious path of their choosing, without discrimination or oppression.

Unfortunately, there are only 17,576 three letter acronyms and 456,976 four letter acronyms possible in the English alphabet. It turns out that "OCRT" is an acronym that is shared by quite a number of groups:

bulletThe Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand. See: http://www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz/
bulletThe Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals, an agency of the Canadian government. See: http://www.ocrt-bctr.gc.ca/
bulletThe Office of Clinical Research and Training at Northwestern University in Chicago IL. See: http://www.nccr.northwestern.edu/
bulletOrange County Riding and Touring, a motorcycle riding club in Laguna Nibuel, CA. See: http://www.missionyamaha.com/
bulletOneida County Rural Telephone, a private telephone company now called Northland Communications in northern New York State. They recently celebrated a full century of service.
bulletOhio Crisis Response Team, an agency of the Ohio Attorney General which provides services to communities in crisis.
bulletCncware Free Pascal Library for a computer command. See: http://www.cncware.com
bulletThe Optimistic Case Running Time, a measure of computer performance. See: http://ais.gmd.de/

This essay is continued elsewhere on this site

Related essay:

Who are our authors and what are their credentials?

Reference:

  1. "Web Growth Summary" at: http://www.mit.edu/. They state that there were 10,022 web sites in 1994-DEC and 23,500 in 1995-JUN.

Site navigation: Home page > this essay

Copyright 1996 to 2008, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-FEB-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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