Is religious criticism and analysis OK?
Status of religious tolerance.
It is our belief that we should tolerate other people's spiritual and religious
beliefs. However, belief does not exist in isolation from the rest of the world. Beliefs
can generate actions...and sometimes those actions harm others.
There is a fine line between religious intolerance, and the legitimate criticism of
harmful religious practices. For example, it is our opinion that one can be religiously tolerant
of beliefs even while being critical of a group
or person who performs any of the following acts, or recommends, teaches, or advocates that others perform these acts:
|Arbitrarily discriminates in employment on the basis of disability, gender, marital
status, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.|
|Reduces civil and human rights for women, sexual minorities, racial minorities, etc. in
providing accommodation, allowing a couple to marry, allowing a
candidate to be considered for ordination, etc.|
|Encouraging people to be bitten by poisonous snakes as a test of faith.|
|Physically and/or psychologically abusing children while driving out "demons"
during an exorcism.|
|Depriving a child of badly needed medical attention in favor of seeking a cure through prayer, unless reliable studies show
that prayer is at least as effective as conventional medical treatment.|
|Physically abusing a child on the basis of a religious belief that "sparing the
rod spoils the child"|
|Expressing hatred entire groups of people on the basis of their age, disability, gender,
nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.|
In summary, we feel that
|Denigrating other individuals' or other groups' religious beliefs is not acceptable;|
|Acts which hurt others are unacceptable, even when they are religiously
|Advocating that others perform harmful acts is unacceptable, even when
Is religious analysis OK?
Each religion, and each tradition within a religion, teach a set or sets
of beliefs. Some, like Unitarian Universalism and
Wicca, may have very few required beliefs and leave
it up to their members to derive their own religious convictions.
Others, like Roman Catholicism, have thousands.
|Many religions have some beliefs in common. For example, almost all
faith groups have an ethic of reciprocity
(a.k.a. the Golden Rule) which calls upon their members to treat other
|But faith groups differ greatly on the:|
|Nature of their deity/deities -- whether it, he, she, or they
permeate the universe, are remote, are intimate, or are within the
individual in the form of spirit possession.|
|The number of deities -- whether 0,1,2, a trinity -- three persons
in one deity -- or many,|
|The nature of humanity -- whether we are inherently
naturally good, or prone to evil due to lack of knowledge.|
of the universe: belief in the theory of evolution or belief in
one of many hundreds of creation stories including
|And on hundreds of other topics.|
We believe that friction and hatred between religions can be reduced
through understanding. But understanding can only be reached if people learn
about the tenets of other religions. They need to know how the beliefs of
other faith groups differ from each other and from their own faith group.
Unfortunately, when we compare the beliefs of one religion to another, or
compare one religion's beliefs with scientific observation, some people feel
that we are criticizing their belief system, and are thus not religiously
tolerant. That is their belief. They are certainly entitled to it. We
disagree with it.
As noted above and on our home page, we specifically define religious
tolerance as extending religious freedom to people of all religious
traditions, even though they differ in their beliefs and/or practices. In
turn, we define religious freedom giving liberty for people to:
|Believe, worship and witness (or practice freedom from belief,
worship and witness), as they wish;|
|Change their beliefs or religion; and|
|Associate with others to express their beliefs|
|Within reasonable limits, to try to convince others to adopt their
We feel that comparisons of beliefs and criticisms of practices that
hurt others is allowable within the limits of religious tolerance.
There are few Internet sites (like this one) devoted to religious tolerance. One
indicator of the lack of value given to tolerance in the religious sphere that we found
within the large religious search engines during 1998-MAR. (Neither search
engine appears to be online now.):
|Global Christian Network (GCN) had a data base of information
on 16,000 Christian web sites. A search for the word "tolerance"
came up with no entries. |
|Cross Search had a data base of 7,000 entries of Christian web sites. Two
contained a reference
tolerance: one dealt with racism; another exhibited intolerance against New Age beliefs in fellow Christians.|
|Many internal search engines on religious sites have no listing when we used
"tolerance" as a search word.|
We have since attempted to register our own site with Christian search engines.
accepted our site for its listing; others did not; some have a statement of
faith that one must agree with before they will register a web site.
We have compiled a partial list of organizations which
promote religious tolerance. Essentially all of these groups are composed of secularists,
religious liberals, or representatives of mainline Christian denominations. One
conservative Christian groups actively promotes racial tolerance: "Promise Keepers (PK) is the first national Evangelical organization that
has named racial reconciliation as a non-negotiable core value." 2
But PK does not appear to be particularly active in promoting tolerance of
persons of minority sexual orientations or of women.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The first two are no longer active today.
- Jo Garcia-Cobb, "Celebration, Not Tolerance," at: http://www.areopagus.com/
- Rev. Dr. John Perkins, editorial on tolerance in Urban Family Magazine,
1995-Spring, as mentioned in the Unofficial 'Promise 6' Home Page at http://www.donet.com/
- President Clinton, "Remarks by the President to operation allied force
troops," 19990JUN-22, at:
Copyright © 1998 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2006-DEC-27
Author: B.A. Robinson