ReligiousTolerance.org is one of the oldest and most popular religious sites on the web. It is also a clear example of UU principles put into action for the benefit of others.
The site was started as Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance in 1995 by Bruce Robinson, a UU living in Ontario. He was concerned about the level of religiously-inspired violence and discrimination around the world, directed at Christians, Muslims, members of new religious movements, and other groups. His solution was to create a website designed to convey fair and balanced information about religions and religious issues from multiple viewpoints. Today the site receives approximately a half million unique visitors each week, with yearly page hit counts in the hundreds of millions.
ReligiousTolerance.org hosts about 4,200 essays and is constantly growing. These are generated by the small staff of the site, which is still overseen by Robinson but also presents a living example of the site’s values, with Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, and atheist administrators. Essays are fact-checked by multiple representatives of the faith being discussed.
That the site reflects UU values is abundantly clear in its statements of principles and methodology. It aims to promote religious tolerance, understood as valuing freedom of expression, assembly, and belief for followers of all religions, especially those that differ from one’s own. It evidences a deep faith in education and reason, that disseminating accurate information from a neutral stance will enable people to better understand their neighbors. It tries to be comprehensive, representing as many viewpoints as possible on contentious issues without criticism. The website represents the acknowledgment that religion has often been the source of intolerance and violence but that religion can also offer the solution to these problems.
Many students use ReligiousTolerance.org as a resource in researching religious topics. The site seems to have met its goal, and also generates interesting responses. Vicious hate mail from religious conservatives is an everyday occurrence, and the site has been subjected to denial of service attacks and other attempts to corrupt or destroy it. At the same time, the hate mail is outnumbered by the messages of support and gratitude that pour in. Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the site is how it was started by a single UU, not a congregation, the UUA, or other large body. One man, with religiously-inspired vision and concern for the suffering of others, has created a resource that has touched countless lives for more than a decade.