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Censorship Your Rights Online

Examining Religious Bias In Filtering Software 149

Posted by timothy
from the self-determination dept.
the_rev_matt writes: "eSchool News has a great piece about the religious influence present in filtering software. Not that this will be a surprise to most /. regulars, but the research behind it is interesting. Now if only eSchool News could change their name to something less horrible..."
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Examining Religious Bias In Filtering Software

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  • This information should lend itself to a clear cut Seperation of Church and State case regarding the filters mentioned in the article.

    If the students are anti-filtering wish to have the filtering software removed from the systems all the need to do is find a lawyer willing to take the case up pro bono as a constitutional question case.

    • Seperation between church and state? Well, okay. But must there be a seperation between church and city or church and school? Why can't each school decide for themselves?

      Secondly, isn't there already a seperation between "church" and state? I figured that with so many religions involved that there was no official "church".

      Also, where is the exact passage that contains "seperation between church and state"?
      • by Eagle7 (111475) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @06:45PM (#3114853) Homepage
        Seperation between church and state? Well, okay. But must there be a seperation between church and city or church and school? Why can't each school decide for themselves?

        Becuase the school is run by the state. And incientally, state applys to any government in this country - federal, state, local. And government operated school has to abide by the constitution. Not to get ad hominem (sp?) here - but this is really basic American civics.

        Secondly, isn't there already a seperation between "church" and state? I figured that with so many religions involved that there was no official "church".

        It's not about an official church, its about any religion have any more or less influence on goernment than any other religion. So if we let Religion A have a certain right, we need to let every other religion (even the one's that A doesn't like, or thinks is occult, etc) have the same right. What is often forgotten is that the same applies in reverse - all religion's have protection and free from the government. So the government can't decide to, say, tax your local Baptist church out of existence, and let your local synagogue or mosque get a free ride. Incidentally, the famous "Wall of Separation" quote was in response to a Baptist group writing the president thanking him for supporting the Seperation of Church and State - as they were facing oppression at the hands of thier Congregationalist controled local government.

        Also, where is the exact passage that contains "seperation between church and state"?

        Well, it all stems from the "Congress shall make no law..." clause in the Constitution about relgions. The actualy phrase was coined in the aforementioned letter by (I am almost sure, but I am tired) Thomas Jefferson. More details about all this can be found at a place like the ACLU [aclu.org] or AU [au.org].
        • I looked up the two links that you provided. I must confess that I didn't do a thorough search, but I did find this one [au.org] explaining that religous activity in the public schools is allowed. That's sounds more like what I believe and what I was attempting to communicate. I would never allow a church to *directly* control the public coffers, even if it were my own church.

          If you could search for the appropriate texts for me, I would appreciate it.

          I said:
          Why can't each school decide for themselves?


          You replied:
          Becuase the school is run by the state.


          But what I am really trying to ask is why can't the US ammend the laws to allow each school to decide for themselves on what they want to do? I realize that this opens a whole can of worms, but the free market allows each company to set its own prices. Why can't the schools have the same freedoms?

          To do this, school funds would have to be collected in another way, but let's say that each community managed to have their own school taxes directed to their own school. Why can't the laws be ammended?

          Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that the voters will never accept this, but I still think it's worth debating about.
          • I hate all this censorship BS. Schools shouldn't have such filtering software. The government shouldn't try to act as a babysitter to all the teenagers in the US, the teachers can take care of the kids.

          • by Eagle7 (111475) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @08:35PM (#3115438) Homepage
            If you could search for the appropriate texts for me, I would appreciate it.

            Well, I did find the letter I was refering to: here [usconstitution.net]

            To do this, school funds would have to be collected in another way, but let's say that each community managed to have their own school taxes directed to their own school.

            Well, for one, at least in NY communities do provide the taxes for thier own schools. There are school lunch programs, etc from state/federal governments, but the majority of the funds are local.

            The problem with have each community set its own standard is that the constitution is still the law of the land. This would be akin to a community deciding that it was legal to stop women from voting. The Constitution has the last word, so every government body at any level in the US has to abide by the minimum freedoms and laws set forth by the Constitution. From an ethical point of view, you have the problem that if a community did vote to have a government funded parochial school, even if 95% of that community was X religion, you are still violating the rights of 5% that are Y or Z religion. Not to mention the number of that 95% that feel that the schools should not be teaching thier children religion, but the parents should. Or the guy from another community who happens to move there and doesn't buy into what's being done (see the movie Footloose for what I mean).

            OK, those are the facts. Now I am going to throw in some opinionated stuff. First, the Separation of Church and State is a good thing to just about anyone who isn't look to force thier religion on other people. It garuntees that everyone will have complete freedom to practice thier religion however they want, and that no one will have to worry about having to support someone else's religion, or face descrimination by the government for their religious choices. This is a very important thing. Second, if you look at religion as a private and community entity, the majority of times it is a worthwhile force. But when you look at religion mixed with government (or sudo-government) entities, you get things like the Crusades, nations that don't respect women, pilgrims crossing huge oceans just to practice thier religion, etc. Europeans first came to what is now the US becuase of the problems caused by State-sponsered religion. People seem to forget this.

            I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that you are Christian, and therefore you are conveniently in the majority in the US. Imagine for a moment if the push for religion in schools/government was coming from the Jews, or the Hindus, or the Pagans, or the practitioners of Voodoo - and you were in the minority. I hope that it will help put things in perspective, and personalize the things at stake. And keep in mind the Danbury Baptists, and the Pilgrims - who relied on the Freedom of Religion to be able to practice thiers.
            • I took a look at the site. Thank you for taking the time to find it. I seriously do appreciate it.

              The amendment says that government isn't allowed to force a religous view or action on a group/person. Now why are *you* insisting the government *force* its anti-religous view on the schools? Let the schools decide.
              • Say I belong to a minority religion and have kids in school. Even if 95% of the community at large is Christian and is happy with Christian censoring in the schools, I'm not. If the schools decide to teach Christianity, the government isn't forcing religion on schools, the schools are considered part of the government and are forcing religion on the students.

                The school board, or even the parents in general, should NOT be allowed to decide, because you will likely end up with the majority trampling the rights of the minority.

                Government is the only place those of us of minority religions get respite from this trampling. For example, right now the stores have aisles and aisles of Easter candy, but no snacks that can be eaten during Passover (similar annoyance affects all minority religions). This is expected because what the stores stock is determined by the market, but what the schools teach should be neutral.
                • but what the schools teach should be neutral.


                  *But* what the government teaches *isn't* neutral. Who watches the watchmen?

                  If the schools decide to teach Christianity, the government isn't forcing religion on schools, the schools are considered part of the government and are forcing religion on the students.


                  I think that you'd be surprised at how bigoted you really are. Most, if not all people these days are surprisingly tolerant. No, they won't force you to believe, or else fail you. Yes, there may be cultural pressures to do this or that, but has the government *ever* stopped any type of cultural pressure?

                  My friend came out of a Catholic School, and *didn't* believe in Roman Catholicism [wrong spelling?], yet she is much more "Christian" than many people I know, *and* she did well academically. They never forced her to participate in Catholic practises.

                  Sorry, your worse case scenario doesn't work for the rest of us.

                  The school board, or even the parents in general, should NOT be allowed to decide, because you will likely end up with the majority trampling the rights of the minority.


                  Sorry, but they are not more moronic than you. As if they don't have common sense. Come on.

                  This isn't about rights. It's about beliefs and the freedoms for a community to invest in its young people things that they believe are true.

                  You are legally correct in that the schools are a part of the government. However, that doesn't mean that it should be this way, anymore than they should be patrolling /. for guys like me. Nope. Sorry.
                  • No, it's precisely about rights. In a government-funded school system that uses my taxes for operation, I've every right to prevent you from employing my tax dollars to support your religion. It's that simple.

                    Furthermore, you have no right whatsoever to force your religion on my children. *I* decide what religious influences will be in their lives *not you*. Your 'community' doesn't have any business ramming its religious beliefs down my kids throats.

                    You have a choice. You and like-minded folks can start a private religious school and leave the rest of us the hell alone. It's not a hard concept to grasp. People have been doing it for quite some time now.

                    And, if for some reason you can't tolerate the fact that I don't want my children indoctrinated with your particular brand of religion, you always have the option of repealing the First Amendment. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

                    Max
              • Now why are *you* insisting the government *force* its anti-religous view on the schools?

                Anti != Non.

                Let the schools decide.

                How would a school decide? By vote? So if there were 30 Catholics, 20 Baptists, and 20 Jews, then the school should teach Catholic dogma? It's much better if the parents and religious leaders teach religion during services/sunday school/home sessions/etc.
          • Re: But what I am really trying to ask is why can't the US ammend the laws to allow each school to decide for themselves on what they want to do? I realize that this opens a whole can of worms, but the free market allows each company to set its own prices. Why can't the schools have the same freedoms?

            It's not about the schools' freedoms. It's about the students' freedoms. More to the point, it's about taking the power over what people can and cannot view and turning that power over to a corporation that won't release its list of blocked sites.

            • When you deny the schools certain freedoms to decide for themselves what to teach, then everybody looses out--not just the students. Your arguement isn't about freedom. It's about preserving your views which are being taught in schools.

              What you are also saying is that if they are taught one religion, they will automatically become undiscerning morons who can't figure out truth, as easily as you did. There are Internet connections all over. They are only banning certain sites in school, not everywhere the person goes!
            • [just came up with another idea]

              The student's freedoms? Really? Are you sure?

              Then private schools are unconstitutional, because the students are only presented with one view? or perhaps because they have filtered Internet access?

              If it's only about protecting the students, then parents can't have any authority over the children either.

              Sorry, but no.
              • Re: "When you deny the schools certain freedoms to decide for themselves what to teach, then everybody looses out--not just the students."

                Public shcools are a state-run agency. They are supported by taxpayer money. They are subject to regulations governing federal employers. They are as much a part of the government as the police department, the FBI, or Congress. Thus, if a public shcool decides that websites about (insert unpopular religion/practice/philosophy here) are off-limits, then that amounts to government restriction on that religion/practice/philosophy).

                Re: "Your arguement isn't about freedom. It's about preserving your views which are being taught in schools."

                No, it isn't. If it were, I would insist that filters be implemented to block all religious sites and only allow sites about atheism, since I'm an atheist. But since I respect the religious rights of others, I want all filters removed from public computers so they can look up any damn religion they please, as per their rights under the 1st Amendment.

                Re: "What you are also saying is that if they are taught one religion, they will automatically become undiscerning morons who can't figure out truth, as easily as you did."

                Stop putting words in my mouth. What I'm saying that students should be taught about ALL religions, or at least not actually prohibited to learn about them using the school resources that they and their parents paid for. Net filtering is censorship. Censorship is denial of information. Denial of information is the opposite of what schools are for.

                Re: "There are Internet connections all over. They are only banning certain sites in school, not everywhere the person goes!"

                I've heard that one before, and it's quite possibly the lamest argument ever from the pro-filter crowd. Look, not everyone has an Internet connection at home. But everyone does pay taxes to support the libraries and public schools. Furthermore, everyone pays taxes that maintain the university/military/government servers and networks that form the backbone of the Internet (that's right, it's them and not AOL). And if those publicly-supported computers block sites about Religion A, then Religion A's taxpaying believers are being made to support a system that intentionally tries to stifle their beliefs.

                Re: "Then private schools are unconstitutional, because the students are only presented with one view? or perhaps because they have filtered Internet access?"

                No. Private schools are just that- private. They're not state-run, therefore any kind of religious/philosophical indoctrination they visit on their students is not government-backed like it would be at a public school.

                Re: "If it's only about protecting the students, then parents can't have any authority over the children either."

                Wrong. The family is a private institution. No backing by the state there, hence they can deny their kids any information they want without it amounting to government censorship.

                That's the key thing here, Eugene. Daddy tells Junior that God made the earth in six days and forbids him to read about devilution- fine. Uncle Sam tells Junior that God made the earth in six days and forbids him to read about devilution- that's government censorship, regardless of which state agency is doing it.

                • I replied to this already, but it never showed up. It was probably 1 - 2 times as long as yours. The reason I point this out, is because I don't want you to think that you are going ignored.

                  Perhaps it's just as well. You probably aren't intending to change your view anytime soon and we both presented our views several times already, so it would be wasteful for both of us to continue this thread.

                  I do appreciate your time in bringing up your side of the arguement.

                  Maybe I pressed "Preview" thinking that I pressed "Submit", never bothering to check. Oh well.
          • But what I am really trying to ask is why can't the US ammend the laws to allow each school to decide for themselves on what they want to do? I realize that this opens a whole can of worms, but the free market allows each company to set its own prices. Why can't the schools have the same freedoms?

            Public Schools aren't a free market, in most places. You go to the one closest to you; occasionally you can get shuttled around to certain schools that are strong in math/arts/whatever, like you can here in Chicago. And in most places parents can pay to send their kids to a different public school district, I think, though it costs them up front and in arranging their own transportation. Obviously, this is not available to lower income parents.

            So no, sir, this is not even "worth debating about". The freedom of people to worship privately as they see fit is of utmost importance--depending on your view of ultimate importance of the here and now vs. the eternal, it may be even more important than free speech.

            Stevis

          • But what I am really trying to ask is why can't the US ammend the laws to allow each school to decide for themselves on what they want to do? I realize that this opens a whole can of worms, but the free market allows each company to set its own prices. Why can't the schools have the same freedoms?

            There isn't a free market on public (gov't run) schools. There often isn't any overlap between the served areas of schools, much less enough for one school per major religion plus an extra for the odd ones out. Are you assuming that all communities have only one religion, and people should segregate themselves by the local school's religious affiliation? Private (non-gov't) schools are free to have any religious affiliation they wish. They provide the alternative for people who want religious instruction to be part of their school's curriculum.
        • Funny how we in The Netherlands interpret that separation of church and state so differently.
          Our thought is that all have the right to education and as a consequence the state (taxpayer) foots the bill.
          At the same time we think that parents have the right to decide what type of education is appropriate and they set up their school board along their political or religious beliefs.

          So the parents decide and the state pays.
          (Off course the same amount for any type of school)

  • Since many of the organisations that buy these sorts of products have bias, they will select for that bias.Unless some significant market leader can manage to differentiate themselves as lacking in bias then these products will all end up reflecting conservative (american, christian) bias.

    This is bad news for schools that want to avoid bias because the products that are most available will tend to be the ones that are successful in the whole market rather than in some underfunded part of it.

  • by Paul Johnson (33553) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @07:02PM (#3114968) Homepage
    Maybe the time has come for an Open Source web blocking program which provides for finer control, and maybe a selection of which blocking list to subscribe to.


    The software side is pretty simple. A perl script tied to MySQL will do the job. All that is needed is for the people who say they want children protected from this stuff to list the sites that they need to be protected from.


    Personally I'm more on the side of logging and dealing with infractions rather than trying to create a padded cell. But even that approach would benefit from a list of sites to watch for.


    Paul.

    • Check out squidGuard (search freshmeat). As much as I loathe filtering software, if I was forced to set one up, I'd use squidGuard.
    • Filtering software is totally simple, as you say (searching a string in a list - white or black list - is not that trivial, but Mr Knuth has written up a nice summary on that topic).

      The problem with an open project to collect URIs is its very openness - if hundreds of people suggest sites that contain too much "extreme" content (of a sexual, ideological or whatever kind), who will decide if a given site is inappropriate? If it's not appropriate for 6-year-olds, is it appropriate for 12-year-olds? Will majority vote decide?

      Your average christian will probably not quite understand why anyone would want to block something harmless about pigs (remember that Babe movie that could not be shown in some Muslim countries).

      Some parent from the Netherlands quite likely wouldn't want to stop teenagers from looking at people posing naked as badly as another parent from the US Bible belt.

      Even people who share a nationality or religion can have very diverse opinions.

      It would be interesting to know if anyone has suggestions on how to make such a URI collection project work.
    • I kicked this around as a busness idea a while back.

      The software is completely straightforward, except for string-matching algorithms. (This just means that we probably couldn't use standard regexp stuff, as the block/pass lists will be quite long.)

      First thing it would do on connection is read the filter list(s) from whatever lists the user subscribes to. A user subscribes to lists that match his/her prejudices about what kids should be allowed to see.

      The software should certainly be open source, but the filter lists need full time maintainers. Salaries. Offices. Organization. Marketing. This means money. 'Way beyond my organizational abilities.
  • Sweet Jesus (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @07:04PM (#3114982)
    I wish some Christians would come to my house and block the BIG FUCKING slashdot ad on my screen.
  • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @07:51PM (#3115232)
    It says at one point:

    Willard says in her report that the first time she visited the Global Internet Ministries web site, the lead article on the site was "Have we shamed the face of Jesus? Muslims in our pulpits," and the article drew the following conclusion: "... when we present Islam as another truth, we spit on the face of Christ and those who serve His kingdom in Islamic countries."

    This is on its face unremarkable for a Christian website, so I can only deduct that Willard found the statements alarming for some reason. Certainly they're biased, and considering the source we should not be shocked. But what's implied when this material, especially that last quote, is held up as a bad example? It seems that the correct point of view is that Islam is "another truth!"

    Are these people so unthoughtful on this subject that they cannot see that this is, in itself, a religious point of view? (I doubt it.) Are they indoctrinating schoolchildren into this religion? (From what I've seen, yes.) Exactly how brazen do you have to be to bray about the fictional "wall of separation between Church and State" supposedly found in the First Amendment, and then go around preaching a religion of your own that for no reason that's ever said aloud seems to be exempt? (An awful lot, but that seems to be characteristic of the Politically Correct crowd.)

    Hypocrites, the lot of them.

    • It seems that the correct point of view is that Islam is "another truth!"

      As much as it must come as a shock to you, Islam IS "another truth". In fact, Islam is just as much a truth as christianity. If you have a problem with that, then you are perfectly welcome to block all islamic web sites at home, but if you're trying to argue that islamic web sites should be blocked at schools because islam isn't "another truth" then you're truly a moron. In the true spirit of "innocent until proven guilty" I will assume you're just confused.

      • I would think a geek would know better. Two mutually contradictory statements cannot both be true. This is fundamental to any consistent system of thought. Islam and Christianity contradict each other. They cannot both be true.

        Really, most religions to not employ such unsound reasoning -- Hinduism is the only one that springs to mind that does -- so I do religion a disservice by calling the idea that contradictory statements can both be true a religious idea. But since it springs from the currently fashionable religious syncretism, I can't think of anything else to call it.

        You have read an argument into my post that wasn't there. I wasn't advocating the blocking of any sites at all; I was just pointing out that the author of the article had a religious bias of his own. You can do with that what you will.

    • It seems that the correct point of view is that Islam is "another truth!"

      Yes, to an objective observer - i.e. an observer that sees all religious views as having equal merit, Islam is just as truthful as Christianity. And for one religion to assert itself over another with such strong language can easily be interpreted as a hateful message. In the least, it certainly doesn't encourage the people that read that "Christian" website to show any Christian love to their Islamic neighbors (or the Islamic countries that some of them are apparently guests in).

      You, sir, are confusing objectivity and Religion. Asserting one Religion over another in a derogatory and hateful manner is a matter of bigotry (or, as you would have it, Faith). Asserting that all Religions have an equal right to existence and an equal claim in "truth" is nothing more than openminded objectivity.
      • Your argument "begs the question", that is, it assumes the point under discussion. Your statement that all religious views have equal merit is not at all objective. It's a definite opinion in and of itself; a religious opinion at that since that's the subject to which it relates. As such it is no more provable on its face than any of the religions it seeks to syncretize -- or make equally irrelevant, which works out to the same thing.

        You, sir, are confusing your own opinion with the Real Truth, and further confusing any opinions that contrdict yours with bigotry. I could make a better case for bigotry on your own part, since you failed to notice that I did not advocate anything being preached by the website being cited, not even Christianity itself, and instead imputed an opinion to me which I did not express but which you thought you could generalize from the context.

        You obviously did not read my reply to Stary, but just to clear things up: It's incorrect to assume that I share the point of view of the website the article's author found so disturbing. I have not seen the actual website, just the quotation from it. To judge from the name of site, I probably do not agree with most of it. The point, which you would have seen me put more explicitly had you read my earlier reply, is simply that two contradictory statements cannot both be true, which is a foundational assumption for any logically consistent system.

        You make another common error when you connect the assertion of the truth of one religion with a denial of the rights of others to exist. This is false. You err further when you associate faith with hatred. That's nothing more than flamebait, which is the tactic of someone who knows very well he's on shaky ground so I'll take point as conceded -- although I will mention that it's quite possible to believe that another person is mistaken on a subject without hating him. Your last claim I have already dealt with for the most part. Your website betrays your actual religious point of view, which is what you're preaching here and attempting to pass off as objective reality. Why you thought you could pull this off when you provide the link yourself I don't quite understand.

        • Your statement that all religious views have equal merit is not at all objective. It's a definite opinion in and of itself; a religious opinion at that since that's the subject to which it relates.

          Hrm... in that case, what would be an "objective" view of Religions? Or would you advocate that an objective view does not exist?

          and further confusing any opinions that contrdict yours with bigotry

          Incorrect - I never said this, and I never said you were a Bigot. I said: "Asserting one Religion over another in a derogatory and hateful manner is a matter of bigotry", which is a very different thing.

          To judge from the name of site, I probably do not agree with most of it.

          I don't think I ever said, although I may have accidentally implied (but I don't think so), that you did agree. I tried to keep my comments to your stated opinion on the passage at hand - and not to your personal beliefs.

          You err further when you associate faith with hatred.

          Once again, I did not do this. I associated faith that is asserted in a dergoatory or hateful manner as being on shakey ground. I belive that this is true - especially when the faith in question (as do many philosophies) promotes universal love. But this is bordering on another discussion.

          although I will mention that it's quite possible to believe that another person is mistaken on a subject without hating him.

          I agree whole heartedly... once again, my comments were specific to the kind of language that I feel promotes more misunderstanding and hate between Religions that otherwise.

          Your website betrays your actual religious point of view, which is what you're preaching here and attempting to pass off as objective reality.

          My website states my personal beliefs, and my political beliefs. Yes, I have been arguing for the Seperation of Church and State, and I belive in this. I don't see anything wrong with supporting my views, and I have tried to do so in as factual manner as I can. As for this particular conversation, other than my belief that Religions should respect each other and not encourage hate of other beliefs, I don't see how my opinions have anything to do with this. I provide the link to my page, and the links on my page, partially so people can go there and evaluate what I say against my own slant on the world. If anything, I feel this increases my integrity in this forum.
        • CaptianCarrot, you are missing something of vital importance. When one speaks of a separation of church and state, or of having an "objective" view of religion, there is no truth-assertion being made. Look at this logically: There is no definite proof of the existence of God. God has not shown up and demonstrated (his | her | its) presence. Most phenomena present in the world can be explained through rational, scientific thought and experiment; those phenomena that cannot be explained so readily inform our knowledge of the world. It's how we advance.

          Once you bring God into the equation, science and logic break down; especially if we are speaking of the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic god(s). God is supposed to be omnipotent, meaning that ANY phenomenon can be attributed to God's will. Science and reason no longer have a place in mankind's world since any given phenomenon can be attributed to God's will.

          Leaving aside the intense territorialism that comes will deeply held spiritual beliefs, one might now be able to see why religion taught in schools has to be an all-or-none proposition. When we speak of religion in science and rationality, we must be agnostic. God, unfortunately, gets in the way of learning. By saying NOTHING about religion, or that there is no evidence that leads us to choose one religion over the other, we as a species continue to advance.

          So, rather than stating that all religions are equally true, perhaps we should state it thusly:
          There is no evidence to lead us to choose one religion over any other.

          If you can prove not only the existence of God, but that (he | she |it) is of a particular faith, THEN we can start talking about the "truth" in religion. Otherwise, you are being just as illogical as your critics.
          • God has not shown up and demonstrated (his | her | its) presence.

            You invalidate your own point in stating it. Christians believe precisely that God has shown up and demonstrated his presence, and to say that he has not is to therefore state a religious doctrine in opposition to Christianity. I do not want your religion to be taught as an "objective truth" in public school any more than you want mine.

            Once you bring God into the equation, science and logic break down;

            They don't have to, and in fact they don't. This thread is proof of that; it started when I complained about a logical fallacy.

            especially if we are speaking of the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic god(s). God is supposed to be omnipotent, meaning that ANY phenomenon can be attributed to God's will. Science and reason no longer have a place in mankind's world since any given phenomenon can be attributed to God's will.

            Funny that: it was people who believed in God who invented the scientific method in the first place, in an academic atmosphere surrounding universities founded by Christian religious organizations.

            Yes, God can do anything, so anything you see might be a direct expression of his will. But Christians are very well aware that the universe generally operates according to a consistent set of laws. Those occasions when it does not are what we call miracles. What would be so special about a miracle if nothing can ever happen without God's direct intervention? We call them miracles precisely because they violate laws we are very well aware of, and so reveal God's hand in the matter.

            Yes, I know you don't accept that this ever happens. My purpose is to explain my own point of view. I don't expect you will adopt it, but you seem to have a false idea of how religious people actually think, so I'm trying to make it clear to you. Possibly unsuccessfully; I really should have been in bed several hours ago.

            When we speak of religion in science and rationality, we must be agnostic. God, unfortunately, gets in the way of learning. By saying NOTHING about religion, or that there is no evidence that leads us to choose one religion over the other, we as a species continue to advance.

            A valid religion is and must be rational, based on data from divine revelation. So please drop "rationality" from the discussion here. In terms of science, I agree fully that it has nothing to say about God.

            You're treating two very different statements as if they were equivalent. Since I keep saying it but no one ever acknowledges it, I don't think I'm too far out of line to say that it seems a very strong mental block is preventing you guys from recognizing that I am repeatedly, explicitly, calling for the advocacy of no religion over another in the public schools. This is what I take you to mean by "saying NOTHING about religion" so we are in full agreement there. We obviously cannot do exactly what you say in the schools when teaching history or world culture; religion is a very important part of both, so it must be mentioned. But not advocated.

            It's quite another thing to say that there is no evidence to make us choose one over the other. If this were true, I and many others I know would simply have made up our own religion rather than adopting the one we had become convinced was the true one. (I am aware that many people have indeed done this very thing.) This is something agnostics seem to fail to recognize: religious people become that way because they have had some sort of experience that leads them in that direction. It may not be the sort of experience that can readily be shared with others, but that does not make it unreal, or untrue. We don't just pull a set of dogmas out of thin air. The evidence does exist even if it appears subjective in nature. It's not the business of the schools to invalidate this evidence, and by extension any religion that a student may choose or be raised in as a result.

            At least with your reformulation of the doctrine we're using the same definition of "true" which is a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.

            As far as God "getting in the way of learning", you have a lot of history to read if you think that's true. It's just not an idea that can (in general) be supported by the facts.

            This may ramble a bit, as I'm posting it in the small hours of the morning. I find that the ideas I had in my head weren't quite what wound up on the screen, but I'm too tired to put it any better.

      • I also took a look at your website, and yes, you are a bigot. If there is truth in everything, then why can't we teach the *truthful* and *objective* facts in Christianity? or other religions? If the facts, are true and they are from other religions, then no problem. I don't mind.

        Why don't you have any links on your web site that put down other religions because of their negative aspects?
        • I also took a look at your website, and yes, you are a bigot.

          How are my views (expressed via the links on my website) bigotted? I am shocked that an open-minded person could think this.

          If the facts, are true and they are from other religions, then no problem. I don't mind.

          Problem is, that as far as schools are concerned, any facts that are backed up with Faith alone are not facts, they are beliefs. And you can teach those as beliefs (which happens all the time in History, Literature, and Comparative Religion classes), but not as fact. I find different Religions and philosophies intriguing, and I would love it if a standard course in our schools was a good comparative religion course. But teach religious beliefs as fact is just wrong in a public school. Note that more fussy things, such as ethics and civic morals, which are in general shared all religions, are promoted in schools, becuase this is what the majority of society supports. But they are (or should be) promoted without a specific relgious bent.

          Why don't you have any links on your web site that put down other religions because of their negative aspects?

          Huh? Becuase I don't see this as approprate. MY website lets other's know what I belive, because I think what I believe is pretty cool (which is good, since if I didn't, I'd probably be pretty unhappy). Other people can think whatever they want (although if I don't agree, I'll argue it with them) But they have that right, and I won't bash them by putting up "anti-whatever" links. What I don't like, and what I consider wrong and don't respect, is people bashing other people on thier beliefs in a hateful manner.
    • Just because a Christian says Christianity is best, that's ok, because they are Christians, so they aren't biased, or even if they are, that's ok too, because the bias is right out front?

      But I bet when Osama bin Laden says Islam is best, and sets out to prove it, even though he's way out front with that bias, that's not quite ok, is it?

      I think I get the picture. You'd'a done great during the Crusades.
      • It's interesting that you have to reach back 800 years to find something you can point the finger at Christians over.

        But in this case you're pointing the finger in the wrong direction. I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian. The Orthodox were thrown out of the shrines of Palestine by the Crusaders, who thought they were the wrong kind of Christian, and the greatest city of Eastern Christianity, Constantinople, was sacked by the 4th Crusade.

        But even without these things, I always find it interesting that people like you who say things like this never ask the simple question: how did the Moslems get to own the Holy Land to begin with? (Hint: they weren't invited.)

        • Neither were the Christians.
  • planetout... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by josepha48 (13953) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @07:53PM (#3115241) Journal
    I wonder if they filter out planetout? Wouldn't want those kids finding out that being gay is not as bad as they religions fanitics want you to think. Or the fact that these religious groups that say love thy neightbor, really teach love thy neighbor, but hate them if they are gay.

    Oh heaven forbid that people learn that sodem and gamoreh(sp) has nothing to do with sodemy.

    What would people think if they found out about the gay penguins in the aquarium. Oh my!

    Some of these people are the same ones that think that prayer should be allowed in public schools. However they don't want to just allow it they want to require it! P>Your going to hell if you moderate this down!!!

    • It's Sodom and Gomorrah, as in:

      Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom - both young and old - surrounded the house. They called to Lot, `Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.' (Genesis 19:4-5)

      However, some scholars point to the following passage as the real reason why Sodom was destroyed:

      Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

      • "so that we can have sex with them"

        This is where the problem is. The transulation of "tok know was converted to " have sex with" was misinterpreted. It was actually:

        " that we may know them."

        There are Jewish scholars will tell you that "to know" has many meaning and while sex is one of them it is not necessarily the corect one here. I.E. "to know" as a friend or as a person. I "know" people and have not had sex with them.

        Also in Ezekiel, as you pointed out said the sins of sister Sodem were "arrogance, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." This would indicate that the reason that Soden was destroyed was not for sex acts but tbecause they were wicked.

        Which is worse: to commit a consensual act between two consenting people, or to treat someone as less of a person?

  • There are a lot of sites out there that I would not want my kids (if I had any) to see out there on the net. At home, they would know I'll be around, checking up on them, making sure they do not surf over to the adult sites, or the other sites I don't feel it's right for a person their age to see.

    Pardon me, isn't this the best filter out there: supervision. If a child knows he is being watched: s/he will not break the rules. Very odd how we, as a nation, rally around a cause, such as protecting young kids from the "Nasties of the Net", when it admits that out education system allows our children to be unsupervied for some time. Wouldn't it make more sense to put more money into training more teachers, instead of buying software?

  • Wouldn't it just make SENSE, that for a program that helps to guide children along a 'morally sound' development, there is a huge interest from the religious community? How about Jewish organizations, did they check for those? Or Muslim? I'll bet (in proportion) they're just as strong. Or...here's a crazy idea...maybe even SCHOOLS use this software (and don't they keep religion out of EVERYTHING?)
  • I generally refrain from baiting the editors, but this is a non-story.

    It's filterware for pete's sake! Whether or not the owners of the software are religious, it's a type of software that a certain group of people who are vocally demonstrative of their piety think is just wonderful. (this is not to say that all pious people like filterware. This has been beaten to death elsewhere).

    Next we're going to find out that so many more people per capita in San Francisco own boats than in Wichita, KS. We can post 150 articles debating this bizarre phenomena to death. Pro-boat and anti-boat people can beat each other over the head. Maybe we can bring it full circle and see if Scripture justifies the use of boats for recreational purposes!
    I have zero love in my heart for censorware or for zealots of any religion. Timothy, please. I know you try to post a lot of "softer" stories which relate technology to human issues. I often enjoy reading these (who cares about the specs of the latest silicon gidget anyhow?), but learn to discriminate between relevant stories dealing with social issues and fishing expeditions like this one.

What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying. -- Nikita Khruschev

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