About this website
About the OCRT*: Part 2
(*Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. This is
the independent group that maintains this website)
This essay is a continuation of Part 1
Topics in this essay:
We have been accused of being underground Baptists, Jehovah's
Witnesses, Muslims, Satanists,
and even Scientologists. None of these guesses are true. The
person who accused us of being members of the Church of Scientology
noted that we used the same unusual date notation as did L. Ron Hubbard.
Actually date notations in year-month-day order (such as 2000-JAN-25) are fairly common outside of the
U.S.; they are clear and unambiguous, and easy for computers to sort.
We really are a group of 5 volunteers: two Unitarian
Universalists (one Agnostic and one
Atheist), one Wiccan one
progressive but unaffiliated Christian, and a Zen Buddhist. Three of us are female; two male. All are
heterosexual. Three are married. We range in age from early 30s to mid 70s. We have very
- The coordinator and main author, Bruce Robinson, is a retired Electronics Engineer
and an Agnostic. He was born in
1936 and graduated in 1959 from the University of Toronto with a BaSc degree in Engineering
Physics. He worked as an Instrument development and computer science
professional, both in supervisory and technical capacities for 38 years at a large multi-national chemical/textile fibers
company. A significant part of his work was to write technical manuals. He has been a volunteer technical staff person for the National
Model Railroad Association, and a vice coordinator for a local
distress (suicide prevention) agency called TALK (Telephone Aid Line Kingston).
- The office manager is a retired Registered Nurse and an Atheist, who has worked in a
variety of fields: executive director of a shelter for abused women,
head nurse in a hospital, and field worker for the Government of
Ontario working in a disability support program.
- One of our researchers is a Christian with a PhD in urban planning, and
worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Sustainable Development Research
Institute in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is now a professor at the
Ryerson University in Toronto.
- Another researcher is a Zen Buddhist, was a IT system manager, and is
now a post-production sound editor in Los Angeles.
- Our other researcher is a waitress, currently unemployed in Florida, and a Wiccan.
None of us has any formal education in theology. We share over 5,000 religious reference books, including an truly
impressive array of religious hate literature. We are fortunate enough to
live in a city with two universities and one community college. Between
them, they have one theology department and multiple libraries. All of us are motivated
by a concern about threats to religious freedom, and about religious
hatred, misinformation, and discrimination. We have no underground, secret
Our office is in Kingston, ON, Canada. This is in the middle of
nowhere: about two to three hours north of Syracuse NY, east of Toronto
ON, west of Montreal, Quebec, and south of Ottawa ON. It is located on the
shore of Lake Ontario where the lake funnels into the St. Lawrence River.
The web hosting service that we use is CIHost, located in
Because of our expected audience, we try to write in "American"
rather than "English". But the occasional "colour, favour, centre",
etc. has been known to creep through accidentally.
Our website is designed for a North American audience. We hope that people
elsewhere in the world can also benefit from it.
Criticisms of our group
Some have criticized our lack of religious conservatives on staff. We have
searched for but have never found such a person willing to help us. This
situation is not unusual. We note that sites and organizations promoting
religious tolerance and freedom appear to be almost exclusively staffed by
religious or political liberals.
Some have criticized us for having an Agnostic, Atheist and Wiccan on staff
because our group makeup does not match the size of the main religions of North
America. We feel that these three staff have a lot to offer because they
represent religious belief systems that are probably the most hated in North
America, and subject to the greatest degree of oppression. One indication of
this are surveys about presidential candidates. Americans would far rather vote
for a female, Jewish, or gay candidate than an Atheist.
We also feel that having an Agnostic as a main author is an advantage,
because Agnostics have no strong conviction that God either exists or does not
exist. They have the potential of exhibiting greater objectivity and less bias
when dealing with diverse religions.
What are our
Three of our four staff members are
professionals from a variety of fields: engineering, medicine,
urban planning. None of us have a formal theological background. We
feel that this
is actually an advantage to us when working on this website.
We are not at all like the vast majority of religious websites on the
Internet. We do not promote a specific theological belief system; we do not
teach a single view of deity, humanity and the rest of the universe to the
exclusion of other views.
We create very few innovative ideas and concepts on
our web page. We merely explain what people from
various sides of each issue believe. We are theological and ethical reporters,
not innovators or promoters. Our main role is to
perform research, and to explain all points of view with balance, clarity
A formal theological degree would be
counter-productive. It would tend to bias our understanding of
religious matters, and thus our writing, in a specific theological direction.
If we attended a Bible school, then we would probably graduate with a
permanent bias in favor of conservative Protestantism. If we went to a
liberal theological seminary then we would probably graduate with a
permanent bias in favor of mainline/progressive Christianity. As things now stand, our
undergraduate and postgraduate degrees have trained us in analytical
and research skills, and given us the proficiency to perform our task well.
We originally received no outside funding from any source. The website was
operated as a hobby by our coordinator. But then our
numbers of hits spiraled upwards, and our Internet Service Provider started to
charge excess throughput penalties. So we sought sources of funding. They
Our staff is mostly composed of volunteers who work without pay. Our office space and utilities
are donated without cost. So, we are able to do a great deal with a very small budget.
However, the OCRT was, overall, a money-losing proposition from its startup in
1995 until 1998 inclusive. In 1999, we made sufficient profit to pay off our previous years' debt. Long term trends are not encouraging. As our traffic grows, our
costs increase. But our revenue from banner ads is proving to be unstable. Perhaps you could help out financially.
Funding and organizational information:
For income tax purposes, we are registered as a "sole
proprietorship" We have a
- Ontario Government business number.
- Ontario Government Retail Tax Permit (needed to sell CD's to Ontario
- Government of Canada business number.
- Government of Canada export number.
We have a Canadian post office box. For the
mailing convenience of our U.S. website visitors, we maintain
a post office box in the U.S. as well.
We may reorganize as a
non-profit agency eventually, and to obtain charitable status with Revenue Canada. The
latter would enable us to issue income tax receipts to Canadian donors.
Charitable status is impossible for us to obtain in Canada at this time, because the Federal
government's rules are largely based on British common law. A group first has to
fit within one of the acceptable categories. Fortunately, "Religion" is one such
classification. However, an
organization can only qualify if it teaches belief in a specific faith or
religion. That would be an impossible requirement for us to meet, since we
describe and promote tolerance for the full range of faith groups. More details.
Our prime motivation is a concern for the victims of religiously motivated
hatred and oppression, whether it is:
- directed from persons of one faith group to another (e.g. by a
Christian Fundamentalist group against the Mormons).
- directed from persons of one faith group against a secular group
(e.g. by a religious group against gays, lesbians and bisexuals).
- directed from persons in a secular group against a faith group (e.g.
by freethinkers against all organized religions).
In many of the current hot spots in the world
(the Middle East, India, Kosovo, the
Philippines, Sudan, etc.) there had been a history extending over many
years or centuries of religious friction. Given the right environment, these
hatreds have exploded into terrorism and vicious civil war. We see serious
levels of religious hatred and bigotry throughout North America. We feel that it
has the potential to intensify until some serious form of conflict occurs. There
are number of factors which might lead to an escalation of religiously based
hatred in the near future:
- An increase in the number and influence of politically active,
religiously motivated groups whose goals are to limit personal rights
and freedoms, and to tear down the wall of separation between church
- An increase in religious diversity generally, including a growing number of small emerging religious groups which
do not follow traditional Christian beliefs.
- A gradual reduction (almost 1 percentage point per year) in the percentage of Americans who identify
themselves as Christians.
- The rise in numbers of persons with no religious affiliation -- again
almost 1 percentage point per yer.
- The rapid change in public beliefs regarding women's equality, equal
rights for gays and lesbians, abortion
access, physician assisted suicide etc., is causing stress
among some people.
When we originally prepared the above list in 1996, we also included
two additional factors:
- Continued widespread belief in the hoax of ritual abuse
committed by Satanists and other small
religious groups. This is almost non-existent today because over
twenty years of searching by law enforcement has failed to uncover any
- The approach of the end of the millennium and the rising fever and
expectations among a minority of the population concerning the
anticipated end of the
world. The new millennium has arrived, and those who expected the world
as we know it to end have somehow adjusted to the new reality.
However, two new threats have emerged in the early years of the 21st
- The possibility of increasing and widespread conflict between Christians
and Muslims around the world. This could have a profound negative effect on
inter-faith relations in the U.S. and Canada.
- A polarization of religious beliefs in North America, with the South being
predominately conservative Christian, the North and Canada becoming more
liberal and secular, and the West becoming more experimental and radical. Such
a three-way division in religious beliefs is ominously similar to that found
in Bosnia and Lebanon before their religiously-motivated conflicts.
- Are you gay? No. We are all adults in heterosexual
- Do you have a hidden agenda? Not really. Our agenda is
quite public: to promote the concept of "liberty and justice for all."
And by "all" we mean persons of all races, genders,
sexual orientations, sexual identifications, nationalities, religions, ability status, ages,
sizes, etc. A simple concept, but one that has only partly been
achieved in the U.S. and Canada. It took many decades to end slavery.
Racial segregation is still active, particularly in some churches. Equal
rights for women is still a work in progress, particularly in the field
of religion, where women are often refused ordination. The drive to attain equal rights for persons of all sexual
orientations, and to give them the same right to marry as everyone else, has
made considerable progress in Canada but has barely begun in the U.S.
- Do you believe it to be your duty to write these essays? What drives you?
We see massive evil in the world that is created by what some call the "the
demon of the absolute." Most people have well defined religious
and moral beliefs, and realize that conflicting views exist.
- Some believe that their religious beliefs are absolutely true,
that other's beliefs are in error, and that the latter should have
no right to hold those beliefs.
- Some people react to this multi-faith, multi-cultural
environment by valuing diversity.
- The vast majority of people are between these two extremes.
We feel an obligation to promote a culture in which everyone values
fundamental human rights for themselves and others. This includes the right
to think and act differently from the majority.
We want to publicize the good and the evil practices of all faith groups,
so that people might feel motivated to maximize the former and minimize the
latter within their own faith tradition.
- Your essays show a definite aversion to and hatred of conservative Christian
beliefs. We receive this type of complaint frequently. Unfortunately,
the complaints are almost never specific. As a result, we are unable
to make any corrections to our Web site. We
try to explain both conservative and liberal Christian beliefs
accurately and concisely. We do compare and contrast these beliefs,
but we are not intolerant of either side. However, we do criticize
situations in which religious beliefs result in practices that harm
others. In short:
- We value diversity of belief;
- We respect different faith groups' beliefs;
- We do not criticize religious beliefs.
- We do criticize practices that hurt people, even if those
actions are motivated by religious beliefs.
For example, in the 1960s many religious groups believed in racial
segregation; in the 1970's, many believed that persons of different
races should not marry; in the 1980's many believed that women should
not have the same rights as men; in the 1990's and into the 21st
century, many believed that
heterosexuals should be given special privileges, and that gays and
lesbians should receive fewer rights. We do not criticize any of these beliefs.
We feel that everyone should be free to express their beliefs. However, we
do criticize religious or other groups who take action to
promote racial segregation, to prevent inter-racial marriage, to limit
women's rights or to limit equal rights on the basis of sexual
- Your site seems to be western-oriented. It should contain more material from Eastern
cultures. Four of the OCRT staff have lived in North America for all
of their lives; the fifth was born in England and has been in Canada
since childhood. We lack sufficient understanding of Eastern cultures
to be able to write with accuracy and balance on such topics. We
attempt to serve a North American audience, which is almost entirely
either Christian or secular. Eastern religions form a very small small
portion of the North American population.
- We are linked to the world's biggest virtual bookstore, amazon.com.
Some of our essays have hyperlinks to Amazon, so that you can order
related books from your computer. Amazon gives us a referral fee of about 7% on each
item that you order. We do not consider the amount of
the fee when preparing our book lists. Sorry, but you will have to trust us
on this one.
- We once accepted an invitation by the International Coalition on Religious Freedom to
attend a conference on religious freedom in Washington DC in 1998-APR. Over
100 attendees were present from about 50 countries. The sponsors paid for
our plane fare, hotel accommodation and food. The sponsoring organization is
largely funded by the Unification
Church. We do not feel that this affects our objectivity towards that
Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson