Thought provoking questions that
we have received, with our responses
Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:
Incoming Email: Your site discusses Female
Genital Mutilation in many African countries. But you ignore countries in
Europe, the Americas, the Pacific, etc. It seems that you are framing the people
Our response: We do describe Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
in many African countries, such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sudan.
We try to correct a common misunderstanding that FGM is a Muslim practice.
In those countries where it is common, parents of all religions --
Animism, Christianity, and Islam -- mutilate their children.
We do not discuss FGM in Europe, North and South American and the Pacific
region because it is not practiced there to any extent. The only North American cases
that have been covered in the media have involved immigrants from one of
the above countries who have returned with their daughters to their
country of origin to have them mutilated.
Who is a Christian?
Incoming Email: Throughout your website, why do you refer to
members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints (Mormons) as Christians? Both Catholic and Protestant churches
are in agreement that Mormons are NOT Christians.
Our response: We get lots of Emails from people who say that a
specific denomination is not
Christian. For example:
|The LDS/Mormons are often accused of being Gnostics.|
|Some say that the Roman Catholic Church is Pagan.|
|Liberal Christian churches are sometimes called non-Christian.|
|Mainline Christian churches are often characterized as being sub-Christian
There are religious groups in America which regard themselves as Christian
and all other denominations as un-Christian. They conclude that fewer
than 0.1% of American adults are true Christians. Alternatively, there are public opinion
pollsters who accept anyone who states that they are a Christian to be so. They conclude that about 76% of American adults are Christian.
When we started our website, you can see why it was important for us to decide on
a definition of the term "Christian." We accept anyone as
being a member of that faith if they
thoughtfully, prayerfully, and sincerely believes that they and their
faith group are following the teachings of Christ. This includes about three in every four American adults -- a
percentage that is dropping almost one percentage point a year. Included
in that definition are Mormons, members of
Eastern Orthodox churches, Roman Catholics,
Seven Day Adventists,
members of the Unification Church,
Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian
Scientists, and followers of about 1,000 other faith groups in the
Scientists' beliefs about the theory of evolution:
Incoming Email: One of your essays on
evolution and creation science mentions that the vast majority of
scientists accept evolution. Since when does the majority of any group
automatically make them right? Many centuries ago most "scientists"
believed that the earth was the center of the universe. They were wrong.
Our response: You are misquoting us:
|We don't refer to the beliefs of an overwhelming percentage of
scientists; we refer to the only nearly universal opinion among two
sub-groups of scientists: those in the earth and biological areas. More details.|
|We don't say that the theory of evolution is correct because an
overwhelming percentage of those scientists believe in it. We merely point
out which groups believe in evolution, who believe in creation science,
and who believe in some of the other religious belief systems. The
overwhelming percentage of fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians
believe in creation science. But this does not necessarily make them right
There are many conflicting theories of origins. One is the theory of
evolution. Another is based on the literal interpretation of the Biblical
creation stories in the biblical book of Genesis. There are also on the
order of 500 additional religiously-based creation stories, all of whom
conflict with each other and with the theory of evolution.
At most, only one of these belief systems origins can be correct. It is
possible that the theory evolution is incorrect. Many scientists accept the
theory of evolution as fact, because of what they regard as overwhelming
evidence for its validity. At the same time, they admit that there are
certainly errors in the details of the theory. There are also gaps in
knowledge. In fact, all theories in science are neither absolutely true nor
are they in their completed form. But they feel that the errors are
gradually being corrected as new data emerges. The gaps are also being
filled in. In doing so, the theory of evolution has guided earth and
biological scientists into new directions that have been very fruitful. This
is one indicator that has convinced these scientists that the theory of
evolution is valid.
It is my belief that you are incorrect in stating that most scientists
once believed that the earth was the center of the universe. That belief
that was developed by early Judaism, Christianity, and other religions
during pre-scientific times. People who believed in a geocentric universe
were originally theologians, not scientists. It is only after the scientific
method was developed that we can meaningfully refer to the work of
scientists. Before then, there were only theologians and philosophers
dabbling in attempts to understand the universe from their own faith group's
How Wiccans and other Neopagans identify themselves:
Incoming Email: "...don't make recommendations
that encourage ignorance. Pagans are real people and we shouldn't have to
rename ourselves because of those who remain unaware and uneducated. Don't
support close-mindedness. Making knowledge available is a great thing, but
please leave your ADVICE out of it. Let people learn..."
Our response: The facts are that there are at least
17 different definitions for the term "witch"
or "witchcraft." Most of them are negative. There are at least
nine different definitions of the term "cult" --
some positive, some neutral, some very negative. There are at least
six definitions to "pagan"-- all different.
Even words like Atheist, Christian, homosexual, abortifacient,
contraceptive, pregnancy, God, etc, have very different meanings to
different people. In the newsgroup alt.usage.english, terms like this one are often
called "skunk words." They have so many meanings that they
often cause misunderstandings wherever they are used.
For example, the word "Pagan" can mean any one of at least six meanings:
- A Wiccan or other Neopagan -- a follower of an earth-centered
- A generic term for a group to be hated. A number of Fundamentalist
Christians, -- Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and, James Dobson -- seem to
have used "Pagan" in this sense when
discussing responsibility for the the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
- Followers of ancient polytheistic religions (e.g. followers of Baal in
- An Aboriginal person -- one who follows an animistic religion.
- A person who is not a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Baha'i (i.e. 47% of
the human race).
- A generic term once commonly used by Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists
and others to describe themselves. This usage is rare today.
People who use a particular definition of "witch" or "cult"
or "pagan" are not ignorant, unaware or uneducated. They are simply
using one of the many meanings which are in current circulation.
Unfortunately, it is often not clear which meaning they assign to the term.
You really have to figure this out from the context. Sometimes this is not
A Wiccan or other Neopagan can certainly use the term "Witch" or "Pagan"
to describe themselves. However, they have to realize that most people do
not associate "Witch" with "Wiccan" or "Pagan" with "Neopagan."
To most people, the terms have very negative connotations, related to evil, ignorant, and sometimes criminal behavior. These definitions have been with us for centuries.
IMHO, these are not helpful terms to use to describe yourself.
OTOH, if a Pagan were to use the terms "Wiccan" or "Neopagan"
then most North Americans will not be familiar with the term. They would not
bring a lot of centuries-old baggage to the conversation.
The choice, of course, is up to the individual person.
Cause(s) of Multiple Personality Disorder:
Incoming Email: "Is Child Abuse the only or main cause of MPD?"
Our response: Please read our MPD menu
and its associated essays.
Ever since MPD became a popular diagnosis, most psychiatrists and
psychologists have believed that it doesn't exist in nature. Most have
believed that MPD symptoms are an iatrogenic disorder (physician induced)
which is typlically created in a therapists' office by a therapist who
believes in MPD and a client who is open to suggestion.
The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSD), was originally the professional association of MPD practitioners. It had a rapid growth in the
1980s, reached a peak in the early 1990s, and has been in steady decline
ever since. Belief in MPD has followed a similar path to belief in
Recovered Memories and Satanic
Ritual Abuse, which are often linked to MPD. Few therapists believe
in any of these today.
When clients ended therapy, their MPD symptoms gradually (sometimes
Since it is now generally acknowledged that MPD does not exist, then it has
However, child abuse can have some really bad effects when the children grow
up. According to a massive longitudinal study in
Ontario, Canada, even a minimal level of child spanking increases his or
her chances of suffering from chronic anxiety, serious depression, or of
becoming addicted to alcohol or other drugs later in life.
Another essay on this site talks about a New Zealand study which found that one boy out
of three has a genetic predisposition that can cause criminal and serious
anti-social behavior later in adulthood among 85% of those children. But
that predisposition is only triggered if the child is abused.
Finally, studies have shown that the effects of sexual abuse of children
vary over extremely wide limits. Some children seem to be not affected at
all; others are devastated by the experience.
- "I believe that evolution is a false theory because they base
their "knowledge" on theories that are never really 100% true.
- I believe that...God created us like we are today, the way He
wanted us to look like not some genetic mutation."
- It is true that scientists do not know the full truth. This is true of
all branches of science, like
astronomy, cosmology, geology, biology, etc. Within each field, there is a
certain body of knowledge that is accepted as basically true and accurate.
But there are always areas of debate on the cutting edges of
science where speculation leads to new concepts which are tested and
compared with reality. Most of these ideas fail; some become accepted as
theories; some theories become accepted as laws. But at any one given time,
each branch of science is not 100% true; it will contain some errors.
Also, scientists must be always ready to reject a well-established theory
if new evidence arrives which proves it to be false. Over
time, the scientific method is self correcting and eventually leads to
Some people are not satisfied with the degree of uncertainty within
science. They seek certainty. This is what hundreds of different religions
offer. Even within conservative Christianity, there are many, conflicting
beliefs about the origin of the species and of the rest of the universe.
They all differ. But their adherents are quite confident that their belief
system is true, that science is wrong, and that all of the other
religiously-based belief systems are false.
- There are alternative interpretations of the creation stories than the
one that you suggest. One is that God created Adam and Eve as proto-humans, not as
modern-day homo sapiens. They were more animal than they were human in that they
had no moral sense...no concept of right and wrong. Eating the fruit of
the tree of knowledge of good and evil, symbolizes their development
of a moral sense; they took one step away from animals towards God. They became fully human. Thus,
the story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden is a story of the moral advancement of
humanity, not the fall of humanity.
Who is a Christian? (revisited):
Incoming Email: "You classify groups like Mormons,
Jehovah's Witnesses and Unificationists as Christian. But to be a
Christian denotes being disciples of Christ and following his
teachings and the above referenced groups definitely do not even closely
adhere to the doctrines set forth by Christ..."
Our response: Please have a look at our essay on "What
is a Christian."
|Consider a Mormon. He/she has been taught that Jesus founded the
Christian Church, and that his followers deviated greatly from his
teachings in the 1st and 2nd century CE. They believe that the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
reconstructed that original church and is the only true Christian church
|Consider a Jehovah's Witness. She/he has
been taught that their denomination is the only true Christian faith
group among all of the Christian faith groups.
|Consider a member of the Unification Church.
He/she has been taught that theirs is the "true" church and that all of
the other Christian denominations are, more or less, false.
|Consider a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. She/he
believes that his denomination has the truth and that all of the other
1,000 or so faith groups that consider themselves to be Christian are in
error to a greater or lesser degree.|
In each case -- Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Unification Church member, and
Southern Baptist -- their faith group is led by thoughtful, intelligent,
devout, caring, studious, prayerful, devoted individuals. Each believes
their own faith group to have the truth. Each believes that God, in
essence, is a member of their denomination, and that their leaders have
interpreted the Bible correctly.
Our position is the same as that taken by many census offices in countries
around the world, and by public opinion pollsters: if a person devoutly,
seriously, prayerfully, and with conviction believes themselves to be a
Christian, then we count them as a Christian. Needless to say, this
position generates a lot of angry Emails.
Tolerance and truth are incompatible:
Incoming Email: "Your home pages states:
'You, and I, and everyone else have two options:
|Religious tolerance --to accept the right of other people to
freely follow religions that are strange to us, without hindrance, or
|To continue living in a world saturated with religious
intolerance. We will then experience more religiously-based wars,
terrorism, and civil disturbances.'|
Does the mean we are to ignore truth?"
Our response: Tolerance has no direct connection to truth. Imagine a
situation where you are a conservative Christian and know that you follow
the only true religion. Your neighbor is a Muslim, and he also knows that
he has the truth. You allow the Muslim to freely follow his religion
without hindrance. You still regard him as being in error. He continues to
regard you as being in error. But you both agree to coexist in peace. Tolerance does not mean that you have to
accept other people's beliefs as true, valid, moral, reasonable, or good. It just means that you do not
oppress them because they want to follow another religion.
The 9-11 terrorist attack:
Incoming Email: "Do you realize that one of the reason America was attacked was because the
Islamic world sees our country primarily as a Christian nation (that in
itself shows how little they know our country)?"
Our response: New York City and the Pentagon were not attacked
because the Muslim world sees America as a Christian nation. The general
Muslim world had nothing to do with the attack. The attack was perpetrated
by about 20 terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia. Granted, those terrorists had logistical,
theological and ideological support from the Al Queda network. But that
network represents only a very small percentage of Muslims -- specifically
radical, extremist, and violent fundamentalist Muslims.
There are about 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. Many are
fundamentalists. But of them, only a very few are radical, extremists, terrorists. If any good is to come out from this tragic loss of life, it
may be that liberal Muslims, moderate Muslims, and those fundamentalist
Muslims who are not radical, extremist terrorists will become more vocal
in promoting their own beliefs and publicly rejecting terrorism.
If there is any single root cause for the terrorist attack it is that the
people in predominately Muslim countries are (with the exception of
Turkey) living under dictatorships with limited freedoms, great poverty,
and few economic opportunities. Many view America as their enemy because
the U.S. supports these corrupt, oppressive regimes.
The latest poll shows that 76% of adult Americans consider
themselves to be Christian. That is rather good proof that the U.S. can be
correctly viewed as a primarily Christian nation. Even though:
|The U.S. is the most religiously diverse nation on Earth.|
|The number of Christians is decreasing almost one percentage point a
|Persons who personally reject a religious affiliation are increasing
in number over a half percentage point a year.
|Some small religions like Wicca are doubling in size every 30 months.
as of 2011, the U.S. remains a mainly Christian nation, and
should be viewed as such.
Copyright © 2002 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-SEP-24
Latest update: 2011-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson