Thought provoking questions that
we have received, with our responses
This topic continues from the previous essay
Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:
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 Qaeda 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 Indonesia and 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.
A recent 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 year.
||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.
That said, the U.S. contains many nominal Christians. Other polls show that about 40% of Americans go to church once a week. However, about half of them are not telling the truth because nose counting shows that the actual value is only about 20%.
Incoming Email: You are missing the most important mass murder in
your list of genocides: that of the murder of
over a million American children every year, and a larger number of murders
of children elsewhere in the world.
Our response: Abortion involves the termination of a pregnancy by killing a human
embryo or fetus.
If a human embryo or fetus is a human person, as most religious
conservatives believe, then abortion would be a massive genocide. However,
most Americans do not consider a fetus or an embryo in the early stages of
gestation to be a human being; just a potential human being.
Medical science now defines death of a human person as occurring when the
higher functions of the brain cease and cannot be restarted. My personal
belief is that it makes sense to define the event when an embryo or fetus becomes a human person as occurring when the higher functions of the fetal brain start up for
the first time. That is, when the fetus becomes sentient. Sentience means she or he becomes aware of itself, becomes
aware of its surroundings, can begin to think, can feel pain, etc -- at least at some primitive level. Medical
researchers who are not religious conservatives generally believe that this
happens at about 26 weeks gestation. My belief is that intentional
termination of pregnancy after that time constitutes murder, and should only
be justified under very unusual circumstances. But that is just my opinion.
I fully recognize that others in our group and other people in North America
believe that human personhood starts at conception or at some other time
What religion should I follow?
Incoming Email: I am a teenager who was brought up in an Islamic
country. I have been exposed to both Judaism and Christianity in recent
years. All teach different beliefs about God, Jesus, the afterlife, etc. I
believe that a creator God lives in heaven. I want to please him. But I am
confused about which religion I should follow. Please help me decide.
Our response: You feel confused now. But your background places you
in a really good position. You understand more about Judaism, Christianity
and Islam than do most people. This understanding should lead you to be
tolerant of, and to understand, the beliefs of people of those different
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths, in that they
revere the patriarch Abraham. The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are
respected by all three. But they also differ:
||Jews are still expecting the arrival of their Messiah. They believe
that God is a single entity. They feel that the Torah -- the first five
books of the Bible -- is adequate to inspire people to lead a good life.
||Christians believe that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is the
Messiah, is God, is part of the Trinity, and has left us with the
Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which is sufficient to help people
lead a good life.
||Muslims believe that Yeshua is one of the great Prophets, but is fully human -- not
God. They believe that Muhammad is the greatest of all of the prophets,
and that he left us with the Qur'an which is all that people need to lead
a good life that honors God.
According to one source, there are 16
additional large religions in the world. And the 19 major religions have a
total of 270 denominations or traditions. All teach different things.
In most cases, a person who follows a denomination or tradition believes
that their faith group is the only true one, that all the other 269 are
false, at least to some degree. Quite often they believe that God is, in
essence, a member of their denomination, and that their God will give them
preferential treatment after death. They often feel that the other 269
traditions were created by humans and are not inspired by God.
My personal belief is that all 270 of the world's faith groups are created
by humans in order to try to understand the nature of deity, humanity and
the rest of the universe. Each faith group has their own concept of the
truth; some more liberal faith groups encourage their members to develop their own belief system.
Almost all religions can motivate people to lead better lives. But some
traditions within some religions motivate people to do evil deeds. For
example, Serbian Orthodox Christians committed massive genocide during the
1990s against Muslims. Meanwhile, Muslims in the Sudan were committing massive genocide
against Christian and Animists. Muslims and Hindus are locked in a multi-decade conflict in
Kashmir. Hindus and Buddhists were fighting in Sri Lanka until a peace
agreement was signed.
My feeling is that if a person is unsure what religion that they should
follow, they should investigate different religions and pick one that they
feel comfortable with. A Google search for religion selector will find many personality quizzes that might help you zero in on a few religions to investigate further.
I just took the Spiritual Belief System Selector quiz at at SelectSmart.com. It found that I had a 100% match to Secular Humanism, and 97% match to Unitarian Universalism. In reality, the philosophical system that I follow is Secular Humanism and my religious affiliation is an inactive Unitarian Universalist.
However, one should be aware that every religions,
including the one that they select, has an evil side. We recommend that they work
within their selected religion to promote peace, spirituality, understanding, and
tolerance. They should work to rid their chosen religion from such evils as
racism, religious intolerance, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
God and the Bible are intolerant:
Incoming Email: Show me in the Bible where it
says to tolerate other religions. God said drive out other religions,
because when you live with them they will pull you away from HIM.
Our response: I'm glad that you asked. We have an essay on that
very topic at http://religioustolerance.org/tol_bibl.htm We also have a companion essay on intolerance in the Bible at http://religioustolerance.org/intol_bibl.htm which is MUCH longer.
You have put your finger on the main problem with the world today. Some
Christians feel that it is their duty to wipe out non-Christians and their
religions. Some Muslims feel that it is their duty to wipe out non-Muslims
and their religions. Some Hindus feel the same way. Some Protestants and
Roman Catholics feel the same way towards each other. And so on, for many of
the world's approximately 300 major faith groups. The result is chaos, mass
killing and even genocide.
Consider the situation in the recent past between Jews, Muslims
and Christians in Lebanon. Consider the past conflict between Serbian
Orthodox, Muslims and Roman Catholics in Bosnia during the 1990's. Consider Northern Ireland,
Cyprus, Kosovo, Macedonia, Sudan, Israel,
Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan,
Philippines, etc. These are all countries with segments of their population
believing that their religion is the only faith that is of God, and that all
other religions are to be suppressed or even eradicated.
We feel that the only way for the world to avoid complete disaster is
through religious tolerance. We define religious tolerance as existing when
persons of all spiritual and religious paths (and none) are able to follow their own
faiths freely, without discrimination and oppression. This does not mean
that you have to accept other religions as valid, correct or true. You
merely have to accept that other people have a right to believe as they
You may well define the term "religious tolerance" differently
from us. That is another problem commonly found within religion throughout the world: people often
assign very different meanings to common religious words.
Copyright © 2002 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-NOV-10
Latest update: 2014-OCT-02
Author: B.A. Robinson