About this web site
Our statement of beliefs
The importance of faith/belief statements:
We feel that every denomination, para-church organization, religious group,
and religious web site should consider creating a statement of belief or faith and
displaying it prominently. This is particularly important among Christian groups
who may use the term "Christian" to refer to only the Roman Catholic Church, or only to Evangelical Protestantism,
or to the full range of Christian denominations and beliefs, or to some other
subset of the religion. Quite often, when we visit a Christian web site for the
first time, we have to search around among its articles to find out exactly what
Christian belief system they follow and promote on their web site.
That said, the following is our attempt at a statement of belief. Please be
sure to read the footnotes at the bottom of the essay because they include some
important qualifications and exceptions.
OCRT Statement of Belief:
We are a multi-faith group. As of late-2012, we consist of one Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist. Thus, the OCRT staff lack
agreement on almost all theological matters, such as belief in a supreme being, the nature of God, interpretation of the Bible and other holy texts, whether life
after death exists, what form the afterlife may take, etc.
We believe in:
||Personal worth: The inherent worth of every person. People are worthy of respect,
support, and caring simply because they are human. Unfortunately, our group has not
reached a consensus on when human life, in the form of an ovum and
spermatozoon, becomes a human person with civil rights including the right to live. On this matter, our group's lack of agreement
on when personhood begins mirrors that of society at large.
||Lack of discrimination: Working towards a culture that is relatively free of discrimination
on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, physical
disability, language, age, body shape, etc.
||Dignity: The dignity of the human person. We oppose the use of torture and
cruel or unusual punishment including the death
||Democracy: The importance of democratic processes within religious, political, and other
structures in which the will of the people is implemented, subject to the limits imposed by the constitution.
||Religion-state matters: The separation of religion and the state. (This is generally referred to as "separation of church and state." But we prefer the more inclusive term). The government should avoid promoting one faith group within a religion over another, or promote one religion over another, promote religion over secular beliefs, or promote secular beliefs over religion. 1
||Personal freedom: The freedoms of religious beliefs, speech, association, and expression at the individual, congregational and denominational level. 1
||Freedom of speech: The freedom to compare the beliefs of faith groups with each other, and with the findings of science. It also includes the freedom to criticize faith and other groups when they harm others.
||Relative truth: The principle that many moral, ethical, and religious
beliefs vary greatly from one culture, religion, and time to another, and are thus relative. We do acknowledge that they are often considered absolute by various
religions and secular belief systems. 2
||Impact of religion: The generally positive influence that most religions have had on
their followers and on society. 3
||A problem with the use of prayer: It is our belief that prayer is an unreliable method to assess the will of God. We were initially divided on this matter, but a pilot study appears to indicate that prayer for this purpose is unreliable.
||Evil in religion: In the importance of individual believers detecting evil influences
and policies that currently exist within their chosen faith group, and strongly advocating for their
correction. If significant improvement or elimination of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc. is impossible, we feel that they should consider withholding financial
support and/or leaving the group. 4
||Education: The principle that people are not truly
educated unless they have studied the world's major religions and
ethical systems. They need to learn of both the good and evil impacts that each
had on society throughout history. They need to be taught skills at analysis and "baloney detection." 5
About accuracy in our essays:
We will attempt to overcome our biases on each topic that we describe, by
explaining each point of view carefully, respectfully and objectively. To this
end, we have many of our essays reviewed by persons familiar with the issues who
represent all sides of each topic. We encourage readers to Email us about
any errors or lack of balance that they find. We do not regard any essay as fixed or complete.
We believe that our web site is unique among religious web sites in that it
contains an errata page where we record errors that
have been detected and corrected from among our 7,200 essays
and menus (as of 2014-JUL).
About our use of the BCE/CE date notation:
We abandoned use of the traditional AD/BC notation for identifying years.
After a long debate, we made the decision to use the religiously neutral CE/BCE notation which we feel is less offensive to
non-Christians. The British Broadcasting Corporation adopted the same format during 2011-SEP. It seems that they also received a great number of complaints,
Related essays on this web site:
Footnotes, mainly about exceptions:
- However we have not been able to reach a consensus about the age at
which an individual should fully enjoy these freedoms. We also recognize
that some of these freedoms should have limits. For example, we do not feel
that parents should be allowed to let their children die if
medical treatment will give a sick child a chance to live. We do not feel that individuals should
be free to advocate genocide or falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theatre.
- We have been frequently criticized for our lack of belief in absolute morality.
- One group of exceptions are a handful of destructive cults which have endangered the lives of their members.
- This includes those faith groups that actively promote discrimination and oppression on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and similar grounds. Within Judeo-Christianity, this includes many conservative faith groups, like Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, fundamentalist and many evangelical Christian denominations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS' the main Mormon church), etc., who refuse ordination to all women, and actively oppress lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs). We note that in six predominately Muslim countries, to be a sexually active lesbian, gay or bisexual is a capital offense. In many other predominately Muslim countries, women are very heavily discriminated against. Few if any religions appear to be free of all bias.
- Students need to obtain a balanced understanding of the positive and negative
contributions of religion, including the religious sources that inspired Gandhi,
Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to commit their life to serving a hurting
humanity. They need to learn of the impressive contributions that religions have
made to the pursuit of philosophical and scientific truth, the alleviation of
human suffering, the improvement of political systems, the provision of
educational opportunities -- the list is almost endless.
However, students also need to learn the dark
sides of religion: how religious beliefs have contributed to hatred,
intolerance, unjustified discrimination, and suffering as well as:
- Mass murders and genocides in such places as Nazi Germany, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo,
Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Sudan and countless other countries.
- Human slavery, the oppression of women, oppression of sexual minorities, female genital mutilation,
etc. These evils are largely cultural in origin, but tend to be preserved and promoted by many religions around the world.
- Historical opposition to medical advances.
Copyright © 2006 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-JAN-21
Latest update: 2014-OCT-01
Author: B.A. Robinson