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PART 5:

THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTIONS THAT WE HAVE RECEIVED; WITH OUR RESPONSES

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Sponsored link.

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Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:

bulletHow can you advertise spell kits on your web site?
bulletDoes religion cause conflict or bring people together?
bulletThe use of BCE and CE is spineless and repulsive
bulletWhat happens during an abortion?
bulletPeople of different religions cannot live peacefully together, because their beliefs conflict
bulletYour site is a fraud; you lie about creation science:
bulletReligious tolerance is evil.
bulletMore to come later.

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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 beliefs.

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Does religion cause conflict or bring people together?

Incoming Email: "Does religion cause conflict or bring people together?"

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 society.

bulletIt 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.
bulletHowever, 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 implement:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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 receive.

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 Beliefnet.com.

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 use.

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.

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Sponsored link:

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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 contraceptive method.

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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:

bulletImagine 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.
bulletA 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.
bulletOne 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.
bulletOne 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 Rule
bulletOne 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:

bulletEmphasize that their Ethic of Reciprocity applies to all people, not just to fellow believers.
bulletBack 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.
bulletPromote 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 that violence.

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:

bulletTreat persons of other faiths with respect, and
bulletWork towards giving persons of all religions full rights without oppression or discrimination,

even as they continue to believe that other religions are teaching falsehoods.

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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 Christians.

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 either:

bulletThe hundreds of creation stories told by many non-Christian religions worldwide.
bulletThe theory of evolution

We merely explain the great diversity of opinion on origins, and explain in depth the four main theories of origin:

bulletYoung earth, creation science
bulletOld earth, creation science
bulletTheistic evolution
bulletNaturalistic evolution.

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.

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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 achieve.

bulletOn 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.
bulletI 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.
bulletFinally, 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 unrelated.

bulletOur definition relates to how we treat persons who follow other religions.
bulletYour definition relates to accepting of other religious beliefs as true.

These two definitions generate a lot of hate E-mails from religious conservatives, and the occasional death threat.

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Site navigation: Home page > Comments > Questions > here

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Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-27
Latest update: 2004-FEB-3
Author: B.A. Robinson

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