Thought provoking questions that
we have received, with our responses
This topic continues from the previous essay
Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:
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 one of the literal interpretations of Genesis. You probably believe 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 and creation science
||Old earth and creation science
We are not liars and deceivers -- at least not intentionally.
Significant errors do creep into our essays, but when we find
mistakes, we correct them and describe the error in our errata page. It is very unusual on the Internet
for web sites 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 some 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, the term "religious tolerance"
means to not discriminate or oppress other people because of their
religion. If I were a Hindu, I would be 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 exclusive 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 in origin.
These two definitions of "religious tolerance" are essentially
Our definition involves treating persons who follow other
religions with respect even though we may consider their beliefs to be incorrect. It grants them freedom of religious belief, speech, assembly, proselytizing, etc.
||Your definition of religious tolerance would require that people accept the teachings of other religions to be
These two definitions generate a lot of hate E-mails to us from religious
conservatives, and the occasional death threat.
Posting a church notice in a public school classroom:
Incoming Email: "I need some help on the Equal Access law.
I have mounted a poster about my church's Easter drama on my public school
classroom wall. Another teacher told me this is illegal."
Our response: Interesting question. But what you have done is
unrelated to the Equal Access law.
A main reason why the U.S. has enjoyed an absence of
religious wars, mass murders and
genocides, even though it has been described
as the most religiously diverse country in the world, is that it enforces
a separation of church and state. The Supreme Court derived the principle
from the First Amendment of the Constitution.
It requires governments (and public schools) to avoid three things:
- Promoting one religion over another.
- Promoting a religious lifestyle as superior to a secular lifestyle.
- Promoting a secular lifestyle over a religious lifestyle.
Your poster about your church's Easter drama is quite legal in a
shopping center, church, poll hall, etc. However, in a public school, it
- Item 1 because you are promoting Christianity over other religions
like Judaism, Islam, Wicca, etc.
- Item 2 because you would be promoting religion over a secular
However, according to a number of court cases regarding the
Ten Commandments, one way in which you could
display your poster might be to post it as one item in a collection of
similar posters regarding special days of significance during springtime. For
example, you could place a poster describing the
Wiccan celebration of one of their eight
Sabbats, the Vernal Equinox on (typically) March 21. This is sometimes
called Alban Eilir, Eostar, Eostre, Lady Day, Ostara. That would probably
overcome Item 1. But then you would have to add a corresponding number of
secular posters to the collection to overcome Item 2: One might be the
celebration of the Equinox by the American Atheists. Another might be a
poster recommending that people change the batteries in their fire alarms
on the Equinox. Such a display of two religious and two secular posters
would probably be considered constitutional by most courts.
There might be a second alternative for the Christian poster. The
Equal Access law requires that any public
school that receives federal funding and which has as few as one
extra-curricular student-organized and student-run club, must allow a
Bible study club (or for that matter, a Buddhist Club or Wiccan Study
Group, etc.) to organize. Such a club must be given equal opportunity to
publicize their activities. So, if the astronomy club is allowed to put a
poster on a central bulletin board advertising their club meeting, then
the Bible club must be permitted to post a notice about their meetings as
well. Now, it might be a bit of a stretch for a Bible club to post a
church's poster, unless it had a very strong connection to the club itself
-- perhaps wording saying that the Bible club would be observing their
Easter week meeting by attending this church's drama. I have never seen
reference to a court challenge of the right of a Bible Club to post a
community church's poster. It would be an interesting case.
Of course, you could continue to post the church ad. Since you live in
an area of the U.S. which has a strong Christian culture, few if any
students or adults will complain. But the poster would be unconstitutional. It
would send the message that Christianity is superior to all other
religions, and to secularism. It would probably make some of your
non-Christian students feel uncomfortable. This option does not seem like a
Copyright © 2003 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-APR-11
Latest update and review: 2011-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson