Developing a mandate, goals & principles of operation. Promoting religious tolerance
Developing our mandate, goals and principles of operation:
These were derived from our beliefs about organized religion. As stated
on our home page in 1995:
"Religion is a unique force in society. It promotes both good and
evil. Historically, it has helped to abolish slavery. It has
promoted racial integration, equal rights for women, and equal
rights for gays and lesbians. It has motivated individuals to create
massive support services for the poor, the sick, the hurting, and the
broken. Conversely, it has been used to justify slavery, racial
segregation, oppression of women, discrimination against homosexuals,
genocide, massive crimes against humanity, extermination of minorities,
and other horrendous evils."
"Religion drives some to dedicate their lives to help the poor and
needy. (E.g. Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa.) It drives
others to exterminate as many "heretics" as they can. Consider
the mass murders and genocides in Bosnia, East Timor, India, Korea,
Kosovo, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Sri Lanka,
Sudan, Tibet, etc."
"Religion has the capability to generate unselfish love in some
people, and vicious, raw hatred in others."
Most religious web sites portray a glowing picture of religion --
particularly of their own faith. Most skeptic and free-thinker web sites
describe faith in negative, sometimes dangerous terms. We felt that our mandate would be to
describe religion and religious ideas objectively, from all points of
view. So, we explain abortion from both the pro-life, medical and pro-choice sides. We explain homosexuality from the gay/lesbian, therapist and
religious conservative points of view.
We identified three main areas of religious intolerance:
That directed from persons of one faith group against another (e.g.
by a Christian Identity group against Roman Catholics).
That directed from persons of one faith group against a secular
group (e.g. by a religious group against gays and lesbians).
That directed from persons in a secular group against a
faith group (e.g. by freethinkers against Christians)
Our goal is to eventually cover the entire field of religious
tolerance, with clarity, accuracy and balance. We decided to concentrate
on the United States and Canada as our main catchment area.
Promoting religious tolerance:
Two of our members have worked in professions where precision in
the use of language is of great concern. One was a professional
engineer; another is a registered nurse. Misunderstandings can cause
bridges to fall down, and patients to die from overdosage or underdosage of medication.
With these personal backgrounds, the ambiguity of many religious terms
came as a great surprise. Words such as Christian, Witch, God, Pagan,
and messiah have been given multiple definitions by different
groups; some of these meanings are mutually exclusive. The term religious
tolerance is no exception:
Some believe that a person is only religiously tolerant when
they consider that all religious are equally valid, or that they
believe that all faith traditions provide different paths to the
same God. This definition is difficult to support, because various
religions have entirely different concepts of God; various faith
groups teach that there are 0, 1, 2, 3 or many deities, some male,
some female, some beyond gender.
Others define that a person is religiously tolerant when they
consider all religions and faith groups as equally
"good." Again, this makes little sense, because some
religions teach their followers to hate minorities and commit acts
of violence against them, while other faith groups stress
inclusiveness, love and acceptance. Some religious traditions
promote racism, sexism and homophobia while others stress
acceptance of diversity.
Most people define "religious tolerance" differently. We view it as a civil rights
issue: Religious tolerance requires that a person value freedom of expression, assembly and
belief for followers of all religious traditions -- even those
beliefs and practices that differ from the person's own faith.
Religious tolerance is guaranteed by Articles 13, 14, and 15 of
Declaration of Human Rights. 1 Unfortunately, although the
countries of the world have signed this declaration, none have
effectively implemented it completely.
In the late 20th century, there was in North America one lynching,
one attempted mass murder by stoning, many fire bombings, shootings,
physical assaults and economic attacks by some very devout, well
meaning, but terribly misinformed people who were
victimizing followers of minority religions. Outbreaks of anti-Semitism
continue to plague both the US and Canada. They seem to be on the rise
around the world. Muslims are badly misrepresented in most media
accounts; the term Jihad is perhaps the most misunderstood
religious term. 2 Conservative Christians are often
discriminated against in job hiring and promotion. Children have been
seized from families on the basis of a child-care worker's misinformed
beliefs about the parent's religion. Parents have been prohibited from
visiting their own children because of a judge's religious bias. These
injustices need to be exposed.
We decided to have our website concentrate on three main topics:
our goal is to provide objective background information; explain the
beliefs of all groups involved in the debate; cite applicable Biblical
passages and describe how conservative and liberal Christians have
interpreted them; discuss the beliefs taught by other religions, and list statements by professional organizations,
Disseminating accurate religious information: We try to provide clear, balanced, objective and complete
descriptions of the beliefs, rituals, symbols, and political goals of
many faith traditions. We attempt to have them reviewed by at least
three of their followers before publishing them on our web site.
By informing people about various religions (and counteracting
misinformation spread by others) we hope that understanding and
tolerance will increase, and bigotry will decrease. We also hope
that our readers will better identify the good and evil practices in
their own faith tradition, and be motivated to maximize the good and
minimize such evils as racism, sexism, religious intolerance and
Exposing religious fraud, hatred and misinformation. There is enormous misinformation and disinformation to be found in
textbooks, reference books, on the Internet and in the media about
religion. Some is intentional religious propaganda; much is simple
repetition of ancient stereotypes. Many official Internet sites
belonging to religious denominations and the sites of their detractors do not
give accurate information. Official sites tend to gloss over the
negative activities of their faith group -- particularly events from
the past. Many of the webmasters that attack specific religions seem
to have little regard for truth or historical accuracy.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Jihad" has two meanings "holy war:" the extermination of persons who follow a different religion. But its prime neaning refers to a
personal, internal struggle with one's imperfections. The goal may be
achievement in a profession, self-purification, the conquering of primitive
instincts or the attainment of some other noble goal.