Religion

Religious dissent goes back at least as far as ancient Egypt. Records indicate that a pharaoh name Akhenaten tried to establish a monotheistic state religion centered on the worship of the Sun god Ra, but the priests of the other ancient gods opposed him and eventually overthrew his dynasty. And in ancient Greece the famous philosopher Socrates expressed doubts about the existence of the gods of Greek mythology, and this was one of the charges against him that led to his execution.

The early Christians were a small minority in the Roman empire and were persecuted not only for their unorthodox beliefs, but also for their refusal to worship the Roman gods and goddesses. Later, after Christianity became the dominant faith in Europe, the Catholic church carried out inquisitions against suspected heretics, and many of them were tortured and burned to death. Most Protestant denominations started out as small dissenting groups which were persecuted by established powers. Many of the Pilgrims who came to the American colonies were fleeing from discrimination in England. Other groups that have been persecuted in the past include Jews, gypsies, and members of small cults. In more modern times devastating wars have broken out over religious disagreements in several countries.

This page describes some websites which oppose efforts by members of large religious organizations to use government funds for promoting particular religious beliefs. It also includes sites which express views on controversial issues such as abortion, evolution, and church-state separation. A common intent of most of these sites is to promote toleration of all perspectives. Some of the listed sites may also represent the viewpoints of skeptical groups such as agnostics, humanists, or atheists, while other sites may challenge traditional ideas about the bible and other religious texts.


World Religious Freedom Survey - Many people believe that religious freedom should be a basic human right, yet restrictions on its practice still exist in many societies. This website contains information about the current status of religious freedom in most of the world's countries, and legal measures that may be taken against non-conformists. There is also data on the popularity of various religions in each country.


Secular Web - The Secular Web is a non-commercial organization which doesn't recognize the existence of any supernatural beings, including gods. Its purpose is to promote a naturalistic worldview on the Internet and encourage all people to think rationally, in the hope that this will lead to more compassion and toleration among all people in the world. Visitors have access to thousands of essays, articles, and scholarly papers by prominent scientists, historians, and other experts.


Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life - The purpose of this site, which is maintained by the Pew Research Center, is to promote a better understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Pew organization conducts surveys and other research on aspects of religion and public life in the United States and throughout the world. The forum provides an opportunity for discussions of various issues relating to religion and American society, such as abortion, gay-marriage, and the influence of religion on politics. There are also discussions about government and social restrictions on religion around the world. The organization does not take positions on any religious issues or policy debates.


Religion Facts - The purpose of this site is to provide reliable information about the religions of the world, with a focus on their rituals, their belief systems, and their history. The extensive coverage sheds light on faiths from all over the world, both ancient and modern, even including some skeptical philosophies like Epicureanism and modern atheism. Intended to be an objective unbiased guide, the site doesn't promote any one religion, but attempts to present just the facts. The many articles on the site can be searched for any word or phrase. There is also a big comparison chart of hundreds of religious groups and sects.


Skeptic's Annotated Bible - This site contains explanatory notes for all the verses in the Bible, but from a skeptical viewpoint. It includes the books of the Old Testament, the gospels, and other parts of the New Testament.


http://www.atheistalliance.org - This is a world-wide organization of atheist groups committed to promoting and defending science and reason. Its main goal is to fundamentally transform society so that everyone bases their behavior on the values of compassion and knowledge. Its principal activities are education, advocacy, and community-building. It hosts international conventions, publishes the magazine Secular Nation, and operates an educational program about the history of skepticism, atheism, and freethought. It also works to fight political injustices and violations of human rights.


Meta Religion - This very large website contains extensive information about the major religions of the world, as well as material on related subjects. A section on religious extremism is particularly valuable, covering such areas as modern Islamist Jihads, white supremacist groups, Nazi persecution of the Jews, and the Taliban. Another section discusses religious cults, with articles about Heaven's Gate, the People's Temple, Devil worshippers, and other similar groups. Another part of the site examines the association between religion and certain psychological phenomena such as visions, dreams, and mystical experiences.


Religion News Blog - Updated daily, this blog contains news reports about unusual world religious movements. One of its purposes is to alert Christian apologetics and counter-cult professionals, as well as other academics, to relevant news from around the world. There is a particular focus on groups and movements sometimes referred to as cults, sects, and "abusive churches". However, the operators of the blog caution that local news sources can be biased, and may leave out important details, so that additional investigation may sometimes be necessary.


History of Religious Conflict in the United States - Although there haven't been any major religious wars in the United States, at least so far, there have been many instances of persecution, religious hate crimes, and other acts of violence. This article describes some of these activities, including persecutions of Jews, anti-Catholic propaganda campaigns, activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the war against the Mormons, anti-Muslim hate crimes, and religiously-motivated terrorist attacks. But the article also points out that the U.S. is one of the most religiously-diverse societies in history, and that this diversity can lead to greater tolerance of dissent.


http://infousa.state.gov/government/overview/modern.html - Although the constitution of the United States guarantees the religious liberty of all American citizens, certain organizations have repeatedly tried to erode that freedom. This article delves into the history of the issue, and describes some of the battles that have been fought over the rights of individuals to hold whatever beliefs they choose, provided that they don't interfere with the rights of other citizens to do the same.