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About this web site: Ontario Consultants on
Religious Tolerance

Part 2 of 5 parts:
Our core beliefs and biases.
Our rules of engagement.

This is a continuation from the previous essay

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Our core beliefs and biases:

Every person and group has a group of basic beliefs. They can lead to bias and lack of objectivity. These are some of ours:

bullet We believe in freedom of speech, within limits. We do not believe that a person has the right to falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. We do not believe that a Baptist minister in TX has the right to publicly agitate that the government round up and exterminate religious minorities in his state with napalm. However, short of these types of extremes, we feel that people should not be prevented from freely saying what they believe. We have great respect for freedom of speech. We feel that promoters of hatred, whether based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other grounds, will be largely discredited and rejected if all are allowed-- and given the opportunity -- to speak freely.

bullet We are firm supporters of the principle of separation of church and state. Lack of religious freedom, government oppression, and even mass crimes against humanity and genocide are much more common in countries which lack such separation.

bullet We believe in freedom of religion, which includes the rights of freedom of belief, speech, expression, assembly, proselytizing, and advocacy. We feel that people also should have the right to freely change their religion. However, we recognize that there are limits that must be placed on such freedoms. For example, we do not feel that parents should be allowed to withhold medical treatment from seriously ill children if conventional medical treatment has a good chance of curing them. We support human rights legislation that requires retail outlets in business to provide goods and services to the public should be required to serve all customers, regardless of their skin color, race, religion, gender, national origin, degree of ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Such companies are generally called "public accommodations."

bullet We believe that some absolute religious truths exist. For example, the statement "There is only one God," is either absolutely right or wrong -- at least it is if the term "God" is carefully predefined. However, there may be no way for us to know the correct answer to some religious questions.

bullet We believe that moral absolutes exist, at least within a given world view. Many people have a set of moral beliefs that are based on their own basic, foundational assumptions about deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. They often assert that these beliefs are absolutely true -- and they are, to them. However, the absolute beliefs of a typical religious conservative will often differ from the absolute beliefs of an average religious liberal, within the same religion. And the beliefs of a secular Humanist may differ from both.
bullet We firmly believe in the concept of "liberty and justice for some." We  believe that convicted murderers and other violent criminals should have their freedoms restricted. We do not believe that children should have the same full range of freedoms as do adults. But we feel that adults at least should enjoy the maximum amount of freedom without impinging seriously on the freedom of others. We are particularly distressed at discrimination which victimizes people because of their genetic makeup -- e.g. reducing their rights because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, etc.

bullet We believe that a person is not truly educated unless they have studied religion and its effect on society. Students need to learn about all religions. They need to understand the religious beliefs that inspired Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, and other humanitarians. They also need to learn how religious beliefs have contributed to mass murders and genocides in North America during the European invasion, Nazi Germany during World War II, in Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Sudan and countless other countries over the past few decades.

bullet We enjoy living in a religiously diverse culture in which the rights of people to hold diverse religious beliefs and to engage in different cultural practices are valued.

bullet We believe that most religions have a generally positive influence on their followers and on society. Of all of the faith groups that we have studied, only a handful of destructive cults have had an overall negative effect. We do not believe that all religions and spiritual paths are the same, or that all are equally good, or that all are equally valid. 

We will attempt to describe each point of view carefully, respectfully and objectively in the essays on this web site.  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 that they find. We do not regard any essay as fixed.

Our "Rules of Engagement":

  • Promotion of religious belief: Unlike almost all other religious WWW sites, we do not advocate any one religion. We are a group whose members follow five different theological beliefs (Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Wicca, and Zen Buddhism). It would be difficult for us to promote any one belief system, even if we wanted to.

  • Criticism and Opposition: We do not criticize any person or any organized religion for their theological beliefs. However we do censure individuals and groups for any actions which harm people, limit their personal freedoms, or restrict their spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical growth. Thus, we are opposed to racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic activities by individuals and groups.

In short, we are tolerant of the great diversity of religious ideas. However, we are generally intolerant of such practices as discrimination and hatred based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Our specific policies are outlined in detail elsewhere on this site.

Judging from our Email, this is a difficult concept for some readers to understand: how can we be tolerant and non-critical, even as we are being intolerant and critical. Perhaps an example from one Christian denomination will help:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a.k.a. the Mormons -- once taught that blacks had been "less valiant' in their preexistent support of Jesus in a great battle against Lucifer." They were cursed by God with the "Mark of Ham" -- interpreted by the church to be black skin. This was the belief of the church; it was, by definition, a racist belief. We do not condemn it. It was simply a piece of doctrine from the past which we attempt to accurately report.

One of the denomination's leaders described blacks as:

"... uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and seemingly without the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind."

Again, this is an old statement that demonstrates racist beliefs from one leader. Again, we simply report the opinion; we do not criticize it. It is simply a matter of the historical record.

However, the church went further. It applied this concept in practice. The denomination prohibited blacks from being ordained as its ministers in the same way that they still exclude women from ordination. They also made male members with as few as a single distant black ancestors ineligible for ordination. This is a serious restriction; unlike other denominations, all male members of this denomination are expected to be ordained into the priesthood. Their racist belief had become a racist practice. We are critical of racist actions. We condemn all actions which negate the concept of equal "liberty and justice for all."

Fortunately, Mormons believe that their leadership received a revelation from God in 1978. They terminated both the racist belief and action in the Mormon church. 

  • Respecting privacy: We respect the privacy of various religious organizations. Many faith groups including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church of Scientology, and some groups within Ceremonial Magick, Wicca, etc. attempt to keep some information about their beliefs and rituals secret from the public. These groups release knowledge gradually to their members, as they advance in training. Although some of this information has been published (often by violating copyright) we do not contribute to its dissemination.

This topic is continued in the next essay

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Copyright 1996 to 2016, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2016-MAR-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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