THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTIONS THAT WE HAVE RECEIVED; WITH OUR RESPONSES
Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:
How can you advertise spell kits on your web site?
Incoming Email: "How can you place such things on a spiritual
site such as SPELL KITS ? You will burn in Hell for what you are doing .
It clearly states in the bible who will become a heretic and so teach the
little one - he is damned and its best that he kills himself before God's
anger gets onto him."
Our response: The short answer is that we don't put these ads on
our web site. What we do is to include the Sprinks system on our essays.
This allows anyone to put their ad on our web site and on many other home
pages. Somebody, somewhere in the world, decided to sell spell kits. They
decided to place their ad on our web site.
Sprinks reflects the Internet itself. It allows complete freedom of speech
-- something that we have great respect for. To prohibit spell kits would
be a form of censorship of religious or spiritual activity of which we do
not approve. We disagree with censorship.
We respect your view that God sends the vast majority of the human race
to Hell to be eternally tortured. However, none of the five staff members
in our inter-faith group share your beliefs. We also do not share your
advocacy of suicide for persons who deviate from your religious beliefs.
However, we feel that you should have full freedom to promote your
beliefs. I hope that you will give others the opportunity to promote their
Does religion cause conflict or bring people
Incoming Email: "Does religion cause conflict or bring people
Our response: The short answer, in my opinion, is that It does both.
Organized religion both causes conflicts and adds to social cohesion. This
question has been bugging me for over fifty years now: whether organized
religion, on the whole, has had a positive or negative influence on
|It certainly gives a feeling of security and hope to people; it
inspires people. Organized religion also inspires billions of people to
lead better, more spiritual lives than they would otherwise do. Some of
the world's most highly regarded people were motivated by their
religious faith. Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer, etc. come
immediately to mind.|
|However, religion is also a prime cause for pain, inter-personal
strife, assault, murder, mass murder and genocide. We have a section of
our web site which lists some of the genocides
committed in recent centuries. Almost all have a religious
component. We also have essay about why religions
can inspire so much evil.|
My personal point of view is that there are three ways to increase
religions' positive contributions and to decrease their negative
contributions to society. However, they would all be difficult to
- Religious groups might give greater emphasis to their
Ethic of Reciprocity. This is the belief
that people should treat others humanely and decently. In Christianity,
the Ethic is usually referred to as the Golden Rule. Some
faith groups over-emphasize a believer's responsibility to their God and
do not sufficiently stress their responsibility towards fellow humans.
Other religious groups interpret their Ethic of Reciprocity to
apply mainly to the treatment of one's fellow believers. These religions
need to stress decent treatment of all humans, including persons
of other faiths. I suspect that, in time, governments will begin to
pressure religious groups to do this.
- For religious groups to allow and even encourage doubt among their
followers. Most of the evils done in the name of religion are linked to
the "tyranny of the absolute" That is, people believing the
absolute, unquestioned and complete truth of their belief systems, and
the absolute error of all other faiths. This will be very difficult for
religions to implement, because faith groups have tended to place great
emphasis on the precision and accuracy of their own beliefs, and thus
the lack of validity of other religions' beliefs.
- Faith groups need to develop techniques that will help them
accommodate more rapid change to their belief systems. Many religious
groups have resisted change in the past, and held back progress. For
example, secular and some religious denominations promoted the abolition
of slavery in the mid 19th century while most
faith groups justified the maintenance of slavery on religious grounds
with quotations from the Bible. Foot dragging
by so many denominations over period of decades caused levels of pain
and misery that are impossible to estimate. Today, some sexist and
homophobic religious groups actively campaign for government legislation
and their own internal regulations that oppress women and persons with a
homosexual or bisexual orientation. Again, this is creating untold
anguish among the victims that they have targeted. All trends seem to be
pointing towards a future society in which there will be "liberty and
justice for all" where "all" refers to persons of all races,
genders, sexual orientations, ages, degrees of ability, etc. Religious
groups which resist these trends are causing unjustifiable pain.
The use of BCE and CE is spineless and repulsive:
Incoming Email: "Your use of CE and BCE is simply a spineless and repulsive response to political correctness.
You should be ashamed of yourselves."
Our response: This is not exactly a question, but we include it
here because it is one of the most common complaint E-mails that we
A number of theologians, mostly Christian, selected "common era"
(CE) to replace "AD" ("anno domine," or "year of the Lord")
when defining dates. 2003 CE and 2003 AD mean exactly the same thing.
Similarly, they selected "before the common era" or "BCE" to
replace "BC" ("Before Christ"). The terminology has since
been accepted by many historians, and is becoming popular elsewhere, as in
this web site and that of
We reject the belief that the use of BCE and CE is an indication that we
are spineless. If this person saw how many hate Emails that we receive
over this topic, they would realize that the simplest, gutless response
would be for us to use BC and AD.
Repulsiveness is in the eye of the beholder. However, to Muslims, the idea
that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is God is truly abhorrent. They
view Jesus as one of the major prophets. To a Jew, Jesus is at most a wise
teacher, and certainly not a God. Both view God as a single, indivisible
deity. To them, the concepts of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus are
blasphemy. And yet, they see the term "Year of the Lord" in wide
We replaced AD and BC in order to minimize the pain that such terms
cause to others. There are five staff members in this multi-faith group.
Our theologies are diverse: Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Wiccan,
Zen Buddhism. But we all follow an Ethic of
Reciprocity -- called the Golden Rule in Christianity. That is,
we try to do onto others as we want them to do onto us.
If being sensitive to others is "political correctness" then so
be it. We are not ashamed of acting decently.
What happens during an abortion?
Incoming Email: "...exactly what is done during an abortion? My
friend is having one and she doesn't know what happens..."
Our response: That entirely depends. Some clinics use medication to
induce an abortion. RU-486 is one. The woman
takes some, pills and the embryo is expelled as in the case of a
miscarriage. Sometimes, surgical abortion is done. This involves scraping
the embryo from the wall of the uterus. Our menu on
abortion has links to essays which describe the various methods that
are used. Nobody should obtain an abortion without first knowing exactly
what is going to happen. That would be a terrifying experience.
Some women who have abortions are are not fully informed or have not
thought the matter through thoroughly. After the abortion, most feel great
relief. However, some later come to the conclusion that the embryo or
fetus that they had removed is really a human being. They often feel great
remorse and can enter into serious depression. A few even commit suicide.
It is thus very important that your friend be properly counseled and
consider her options carefully. As always, she has three options: an
abortion, to give birth and raise the child, and to give birth and release
the child for adoption. She needs to weigh all options and select the
least worse. It is also important that, if she decides to be sexually
active in the future, that she get counseling about an effective
People of different religions cannot live
peacefully together, because their beliefs conflict:
Incoming Email: If you truly comprehend different religions'
belief systems, then you will realize that they are diametrically opposed
to each other in most ways. Thus, Muslims will never be able to peacefully
with Jews; Christians and Buddhists cannot coexist without conflict.
Our response: Religions do teach mutually
exclusive belief systems. Among the religions of the world, there are
probably at least a dozen different, major beliefs about the nature of
God. In order to understand religious conflict, we recommend that you read
our essays on the origins of religion and of
religious conflict. Then consider the following:
|Imagine dividing all the tens of thousands of major religions, minor
religions and minor variations of religions in the world into two groups:
Group 1 includes only your own religion: group 2 comprises all the other
tens of thousands of faith groups worldwide.|
|A study of Group 2 will show that they have wildly different belief
systems about deity, humanity and the rest of the
universe. They also have very different beliefs about religious
ritual, the afterlife, morality, family life, etc.|
|One is forced to the conclusion that few or none of these faith groups
base their belief on a direct revelation from God. If they did, then there
would be much greater degree of similarity among their beliefs. |
|One positive factor is that almost all of them they share an
Ethic of Reciprocity -- the belief that one
must treat others in a decent manner. In Christianity, this is the Golden
|One of the main failure of religious groups in the world is sometime
called the "demon of the absolute." They teach certain beliefs as
absolute truths, even though it is obvious to the casual observer that
their beliefs conflict, and thus most of their teachings must be wrong. A
second failure is that when they teach the Ethic of
Reciprocity, their followers apply it imperfectly; they tend to apply
it to their fellow believers but not to people who are of other faiths.
Our essay on the source of religious conflicts
has a crude graphic which indicates the imbalance in religious teachings
that is often seen in the religions of the world.|
In answer to your question, yes; people of other religions can coexist
in harmony even while holding mutually exclusive beliefs. The United
States is a good example; it is generally regarded as the most religiously
diverse nation in the world. The area where our Canadian office is
located, Southern Ontario is generally regarded as the most religiously
diverse region of any nation in the world.
But harmony between religions could be promoted if their leaders would:
|Emphasize that their Ethic of Reciprocity applies to all people, not
just to fellow believers. |
|Back off on their belief that their teachings alone are infallible and
their holy book is inerrant. This second behavior would be very difficult
for conservative wings of various religions, but much easier for the
liberal wings. |
|Promote a separation of church and state throughout the world, similar
to that enforced in the U.S. in the late 20th century. |
But above all, the religions of the world need to realize that they are
both the main cause of inter-faith violence, mass
murder and genocide, as well as the most promising path to eliminate
In view of the failure of religions to even fully recognize their
responsibility in generating conflict, it is up to the individual to try
to change the world a bit at a time. We recommend that people make a
commitment to themselves to:
|Treat persons of other faiths with respect, and|
|Work towards giving persons of all religions full rights without
oppression or discrimination,|
even as they continue to believe that other religions are teaching
Your site is a fraud; you lie about creation science:
Incoming Email: Your site is a fraud, it is not a creation
science site. you are liers and deceivers. And you call yourselves
Our response: I am guessing that you are a conservative Christian
who believes in the literal interpretation of Genesis, in a young earth,
and in creation science. Fine. We will work tirelessly to preserve your
ability to hold and explain these beliefs.
Our site is not a fraud because we do not claim anywhere to support
creation science. We don't claim to support the hundreds of other options
|The hundreds of creation stories told by many non-Christian religions
|The theory of evolution|
We merely explain the great diversity of opinion
on origins, and explain in depth the four main theories of origin:
|Young earth, creation science|
|Old earth, creation science|
We are not liars and deceivers -- at least not intentionally.
Significant errors do creep into our essays, but when we find out any
mistakes, we correct them and describe the error in our
errata page. It is very unusual on the Internet
to admit errors and publish them on an errata list.
We do describe all sides of
each topic as accurately as we can. This means that we describe beliefs
that are different from your own. You may consider webmasters who support old
earth creation science, theistic evolution and naturalistic evolution to
be liars. But our experience has been that they are all sincere
individuals who honestly believe what they write. They attempt to explain their
belief system and do not try to deceive their visitors. On the other hand, we have found
considerable deceit among some young-earth, creation science supporters.
If we called ourselves Christians, then we would indeed be lying. But we
don't. We are a multi-faith group consisting of
one Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist.
In summary, we would ask you to explore the possibility that people who
think differently from you may well be sincere in their beliefs.
Religious tolerance is evil.
Incoming Email: "Yeah there is [an]...error all right, and
thats [sic] with your absurd way of thinking. This anything goes attitude
towards religion and the world. Its not low tolerance that makes the world a
bad place, its people like you who want to have a anything goes atmosphere
and then complain when other people have a true conviction and know not to
accept idols, demons, and sinful pagan ways of untrue and un biblical [sic]
religions....your site is a farse [sic] to anyone who knows God for who
he really is....You probably never will read this anyway, so ["f"
word deleted] you too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jesus saves!"
Our response: Your Email contains a lot of anger. A lot of it is
based on a misunderstanding over the meaning of the phrase "religious
tolerance." Conservative Christians tend to define it differently
from everyone else. This type of conflict is common
with many religious terms. It makes religious dialogue very difficult to
|On our site, "religious tolerance"
means to not discriminate or oppress other people because of their
religion. If I am a Hindu, I am religiously tolerant if I treat people of
other religions -- Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. -- decently. I would
not oppress them or discriminate against them. The Golden Rule
requires Christians to be tolerant, in this sense. Almost all other
religions have similar rules, which theologians call
Ethics of Reciprocity.|
|I suspect that you define religious tolerance to be a synonym for the
term "religious pluralism" -- the belief
that all religions are equally valid and are all "true" when interpreted
within their own culture. |
|Finally, I suspect that you have taken an exclusivist position towards
your religion. That is, you believe that conservative Christianity is the only true religion; you reject all other
religions as untrue -- perhaps even Satanic.|
These two definitions of "religious tolerance" are essentially
|Our definition relates to how we treat persons who follow other
|Your definition relates to accepting of other religious beliefs as
These two definitions generate a lot of hate E-mails from religious
conservatives, and the occasional death threat.
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-JAN-27
Latest update: 2004-FEB-3
Author: B.A. Robinson