Thought provoking questions that
we have received, with our responses
This topic continues from the previous essay
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 major religions --
Animism, Christianity, and Islam -- mutilate their female 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 web site, 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 some religious groups in America which regard themselves as holding the fullness of Christian
truth. They regard all other denominations as un-Christian, sub-Christian or even anti-Christian. Some conclude that fewer
than 0.1% of American adults are true Christians. At the other extreme, there are public opinion
pollsters who accept as Christian anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian. They conclude that about 76% of American adults are Christian.
The LDS Church, commonly referred to as Mormons, believe that when the apostles died, the leadership within the various Christian groups started to deviate significantly from the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This continued until 1830 when Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church and taught what he believed to be these original teachings. Members of the LDS Church regard their denomination to be the only group in the world today that teaches the fullness of Christian truth. They believe that all other denominations are in error.
When we started our web site, 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 believe 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
We do acknowledge that most North Americans and North American groups have a less inclusive definition of "Christian."
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:
Actually, 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
naturalistic evolution, that species of life on earth evolved from a single common ancestor to the millions of species today without guidance from God.
Another is theistic evolution, that evolution of the species happened under the guidance and control of God.
- A third is based on one literal interpretation of the Biblical
creation stories in the biblical book of Genesis. There are multiple interpretations that result in very different interpretations. There are also on the
order of 500 additional religiously-based creation stories taught by other religions. All of them
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 scientific theories 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 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. about 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.
Copyright © 2002 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-SEP-24
Latest update: 2014-OCT-02
Author: B.A. Robinson