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About this website

About the OCRT*: Part 2

(*Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. This is
the independent group that maintains this website)


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This essay is a continuation of Part 1


Topics in this essay:


Who we are:

We have been accused of being underground Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Satanists, and even Scientologists. None of these guesses are true. The person who accused us of being members of the Church of Scientology noted that we used the same unusual date notation as did L. Ron Hubbard. Actually date notations in year-month-day order (such as 2000-JAN-25) are fairly common outside of the U.S.; they are clear and unambiguous, and easy for computers to sort. 

We really are a group of 5 volunteers: two Unitarian Universalists (one Agnostic and one Atheist), one Wiccan one progressive but unaffiliated Christian, and a Zen Buddhist. Three of us are female; two male. All are heterosexual. Three are married. We range in age from early 30s to mid 70s. We have very different backgrounds:

  • The coordinator and main author, Bruce Robinson, is a retired Electronics Engineer and an Agnostic. He was born in 1936 and graduated in 1959 from the University of Toronto with a BaSc degree in Engineering Physics. He worked as an Instrument development and computer science professional, both in supervisory and technical capacities for 38 years at a large multi-national chemical/textile fibers company. A significant part of his work was to write technical manuals. He has been a volunteer technical staff person for the National Model Railroad Association, and a vice coordinator for a local distress (suicide prevention) agency called TALK (Telephone Aid Line Kingston).
     
  • The office manager is a retired Registered Nurse and an Atheist, who has worked in a variety of fields: executive director of a shelter for abused women, head nurse in a hospital, and field worker for the Government of Ontario working in a disability support program.

  • One of our researchers is a Christian with a PhD in urban planning, and worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Sustainable Development Research Institute in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is now a professor at the Ryerson University in Toronto.

  • Another researcher is a Zen Buddhist, was a IT system manager, and is now a post-production sound editor in Los Angeles.

  • Our other researcher is a waitress, currently unemployed in Florida, and a Wiccan. 

None of us has any formal education in theology. We share over 5,000 religious reference books, including an truly impressive array of religious hate literature. We are fortunate enough to live in a city with two universities and one community college. Between them, they have one theology department and multiple libraries. All of us are motivated by a concern about threats to religious freedom, and about religious hatred, misinformation, and discrimination. We have no underground, secret agenda.

Our office is in Kingston, ON, Canada. This is in the middle of nowhere: about two to three hours north of Syracuse NY, east of Toronto ON, west of Montreal, Quebec, and south of Ottawa ON. It is located on the shore of Lake Ontario where the lake funnels into the St. Lawrence River. The web hosting service that we use is CIHost, located in Texas.

Because of our expected audience, we try to write in "American" rather than "English". But the occasional "colour, favour, centre", etc. has been known to creep through accidentally.

Our website is designed for a North American audience. We hope that people elsewhere in the world can also benefit from it.


Criticisms of our group composition:

Some have criticized our lack of religious conservatives on staff. We have searched for but have never found such a person willing to help us. This situation is not unusual. We note that sites and organizations promoting religious tolerance and freedom appear to be almost exclusively staffed by religious or political liberals.

Some have criticized us for having an Agnostic, Atheist and Wiccan on staff because our group makeup does not match the size of the main religions of North America. We feel that these three staff have a lot to offer because they represent religious belief systems that are probably the most hated in North America, and subject to the greatest degree of oppression. One indication of this are surveys about presidential candidates. Americans would far rather vote for a female, Jewish, or gay candidate than an Atheist.

We also feel that having an Agnostic as a main author is an advantage, because Agnostics have no strong conviction that God either exists or does not exist. They have the potential of exhibiting greater objectivity and less bias when dealing with diverse religions.


What are our qualifications?

Three of our four staff members are professionals from a variety of fields: engineering, medicine, computers, and urban planning. None of us have a formal theological background. We feel that this is actually an advantage to us when working on this website.

We are not at all like the vast majority of religious websites on the Internet. We do not promote a specific theological belief system; we do not teach a single view of deity, humanity and the rest of the universe to the exclusion of other views.

We create very few innovative ideas and concepts on our web page. We merely explain what people from various sides of each issue believe. We are theological and ethical reporters, not innovators or promoters. Our main role is to perform research, and to explain all points of view with balance, clarity and completeness.

A formal theological degree would be counter-productive. It would tend to bias our understanding of religious matters, and thus our writing, in a specific theological direction. If we attended a Bible school, then we would probably graduate with a permanent bias in favor of conservative Protestantism. If we went to a liberal theological seminary then we would probably graduate with a permanent bias in favor of mainline/progressive Christianity. As things now stand, our undergraduate and postgraduate degrees have trained us in  analytical and research skills, and given us the proficiency to perform our task well.  More details


Our funding sources:

We originally received no outside funding from any source. The website was operated as a hobby by our coordinator. But then our numbers of hits spiraled upwards, and our Internet Service Provider started to charge excess throughput penalties. So we sought sources of funding. They currently are:

Our staff is mostly composed of volunteers who work without pay. Our office space and utilities are donated without cost. So, we are able to do a great deal with a very small budget. However, the OCRT was, overall, a money-losing proposition from its startup in 1995 until 1998 inclusive. In 1999, we made sufficient profit to pay off our previous years' debt. Long term trends are not encouraging. As our traffic grows, our costs increase. But our revenue from banner ads is proving to be unstable. Perhaps you could help out financially.


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Funding and organizational information:

For income tax purposes, we are registered as a "sole proprietorship"  We have a

  • Ontario Government business number.
  • Ontario Government Retail Tax Permit (needed to sell CD's to Ontario residents.
  • Government of Canada business number.
  • Government of Canada export number.

We have a Canadian post office box. For the mailing convenience of our U.S. website visitors, we maintain a post office box in the U.S. as well.

We may reorganize as a non-profit agency eventually, and to obtain charitable status with Revenue Canada. The latter would enable us to issue income tax receipts to Canadian donors. Charitable status is impossible for us to obtain in Canada at this time, because the Federal government's rules are largely based on British common law. A group first has to fit within one of the acceptable categories. Fortunately, "Religion" is one such classification. However, an organization can only qualify if it teaches belief in a specific faith or religion. That would be an impossible requirement for us to meet, since we describe and promote tolerance for the full range of faith groups. More details.


Our Motivations and Concerns

Our prime motivation is a concern for the victims of religiously motivated hatred and oppression, whether it is:

  • directed from persons of one faith group to another (e.g. by a Christian Fundamentalist group against the Mormons).
  • directed from persons of one faith group against a secular group (e.g. by a religious group against gays, lesbians and bisexuals).
  • directed from persons in a secular group against a faith group (e.g. by freethinkers against all organized religions).

In many of the current hot spots in the world (the Middle East, India, Kosovo, the Philippines, Sudan, etc.) there had been a history extending over many years or centuries of religious friction. Given the right environment, these hatreds have exploded into terrorism and vicious civil war. We see serious levels of religious hatred and bigotry throughout North America. We feel that it has the potential to intensify until some serious form of conflict occurs. There are number of factors which might lead to an escalation of religiously based hatred in the near future:

  • An increase in the number and influence of politically active, religiously motivated groups whose goals are to limit personal rights and freedoms, and to tear down the wall of separation between church and state.
  • An increase in religious diversity generally, including a growing number of small emerging religious groups which do not follow traditional Christian beliefs.
  • A gradual reduction (almost 1 percentage point per year) in the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians.
  • The rise in numbers of persons with no religious affiliation -- again almost 1 percentage point per yer.
  • The rapid change in public beliefs regarding women's equality, equal rights for gays and lesbians, abortion access, physician assisted suicide etc., is causing stress among some people.

When we originally prepared the above list in 1996, we also included two additional factors:

  • Continued widespread belief in the hoax of ritual abuse committed by Satanists and other small religious groups. This is almost non-existent today because over twenty years of searching by law enforcement has failed to uncover any such abuse.
  • The approach of the end of the millennium and the rising fever and expectations among a minority of the population concerning the anticipated end of the world. The new millennium has arrived, and those who expected the world as we know it to end have somehow adjusted to the new reality.

However, two new threats have emerged in the early years of the 21st century:

  • The possibility of increasing and widespread conflict between Christians and Muslims around the world. This could have a profound negative effect on inter-faith relations in the U.S. and Canada.
  • A polarization of religious beliefs in North America, with the South being predominately conservative Christian, the North and Canada becoming more liberal and secular, and the West becoming more experimental and radical. Such a three-way division in religious beliefs is ominously similar to that found in Bosnia and Lebanon before their religiously-motivated conflicts.

What people often ask us:

  • Are you gay? No. We are all adults in heterosexual relationships.
  • Do you have a hidden agenda? Not really. Our agenda is quite public: to promote the concept of "liberty and justice for all." And by "all" we mean persons of all races, genders, sexual orientations, sexual identifications, nationalities, religions, ability status, ages, sizes, etc. A simple concept, but one that has only partly been achieved in the U.S. and Canada. It took many decades to end slavery. Racial segregation is still active, particularly in some churches. Equal rights for women is still a work in progress, particularly in the field of religion, where women are often refused ordination. The drive to attain equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations, and to give them the same right to marry as everyone else, has made considerable progress in Canada but has barely begun in the U.S.
  • Do you believe it to be your duty to write these essays? What drives you? We see massive evil in the world that is created by what some call the "the demon of the absolute." Most people have well defined religious and moral beliefs, and realize that conflicting views exist.
    • Some believe that their religious beliefs are absolutely true, that other's beliefs are in error, and that the latter should have no right to hold those beliefs.
    • Some people react to this multi-faith, multi-cultural environment by valuing diversity.
    • The vast majority of people are between these two extremes.

    We feel an obligation to promote a culture in which everyone values fundamental human rights for themselves and others. This includes the right to think and act differently from the majority.

    We want to publicize the good and the evil practices of all faith groups, so that people might feel motivated to maximize the former and minimize the latter within their own faith tradition.

  • Your essays show a definite aversion to and hatred of conservative Christian beliefs. We receive this type of complaint frequently. Unfortunately, the complaints are almost never specific. As a result, we are unable to make any corrections to our Web site. We try to explain both conservative and liberal Christian beliefs accurately and concisely. We do compare and contrast these beliefs, but we are not intolerant of either side. However, we do criticize situations in which religious beliefs result in practices that harm others. In short:
    • We value diversity of belief;
    • We respect different faith groups' beliefs;
    • We do not criticize religious beliefs.
    • We do criticize practices that hurt people, even if those actions are motivated by religious beliefs.

    For example, in the 1960s many religious groups believed in racial segregation; in the 1970's, many believed that persons of different races should not marry; in the 1980's many believed that women should not have the same rights as men; in the 1990's and into the 21st century, many believed that heterosexuals should be given special privileges, and that gays and lesbians should receive fewer rights. We do not criticize any of these beliefs. We feel that everyone should be free to express their beliefs. However, we do criticize religious or other groups who take action to promote racial segregation, to prevent inter-racial marriage, to limit women's rights or to limit equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation. 

  • Your site seems to be western-oriented. It should contain more material from Eastern cultures. Four of the OCRT staff have lived in North America for all of their lives; the fifth was born in England and has been in Canada since childhood. We lack sufficient understanding of Eastern cultures to be able to write with accuracy and balance on such topics. We attempt to serve a North American audience, which is almost entirely either Christian or secular. Eastern religions form a very small small portion of the North American population.

Potential Conflicts of Interest:

  1. We are linked to the world's biggest virtual bookstore, amazon.com.  Some of our essays  have hyperlinks to Amazon, so that you can order related books from your computer. Amazon gives us a referral fee of about 7% on each item that you order. We do not consider the amount of the fee when preparing our book lists. Sorry, but you will have to trust us on this one. 
  2. We once accepted an invitation by the International Coalition on Religious Freedom to attend a conference on religious freedom in Washington DC in 1998-APR. Over 100 attendees were present from about 50 countries. The sponsors paid for our plane fare, hotel accommodation and food. The sponsoring organization is largely funded by the Unification Church. We do not feel that this affects our objectivity towards that church.

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Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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