I would like to address something that has been popping up a lot lately. Bias.
As it relates to discussion forums, lets examine this word from the following perspective:
3 a : BENT, TENDENCY b : an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : PREJUDICE c : an instance of such prejudice d (1) : deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) : systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others.
(Merriam-Webster Online entry: bias )
There is an old maxim that with great variation goes something like this: There are two things you never discuss with a friend, religion and politics. The unstated subject of this advice is these topics often result in a dissolved friendship. Is that because of the prevalence of biases related to these topics? Yes.
Are biases necessarily prejudicial biases? No, of course not. Persons who hold those strong opinions and who tend strongly one way or another may do so with very well-founded reason, this is not the same as prejudice. We frequently get new posters in here who complain of what appears (at first blush) to be prejudice, but they call it bias.
These terms aren't really synonymous, someone who has no strongly held opinion cannot be biased. Such a person would hardly post to a discussion forum, they have no opinion to express. However, even a weakly held opinion drawn from an unreasoning basis can be prejudice and someone who holds that opinion can be properly termed prejudiced.
Case in point: Driving along one day in Columbus, OH my wife asked, "Why do all Chinese people wear glasses?" Obviously prejudicially arrived at perspective, with an obvious answer. I responded, "They don't." As it turned out, the prejudicial view went much further than originally anticipated. "Yes they do, I never see a Chinese person who doesn't have glasses."
Was it a strongly held opinion? No. I asked a few question and within a few blocks discovered that she associated all Asian people to the term "Chinese" and to the term "Oriental." At the next traffic light, I had the pleasure of pointing out two different Asian people in two different nearby cars who were not wearing glasses. Once she saw that some Asian people did not wear glasses, she started noticing it and mentioning it frequently. That was a very weakly held prejudice, but prejudice nonetheless.
If a bias (tendency, leaning, or strongly held opinion) is based on rational exercise of the mind, it is neither prejudicial nor in any way a bad thing. Particularly on a discussion forum about a specific religion, it shoudl come as no surprise to find a mixture of bias, prejudice, and weakly held opinions that fit either category. What would be notably absent from ANY discussion forum worthy of the name "discussion forum" is a lack of bias.
In summation: (1) Bias does not equate to prejudice, although it frequently accompanies prejudice. (2) If you have an opinion about anything it is a biased opinion, opinions are simply the expression of biases. (3) If a discussion forum limits itself to only a discussion of fact and eliminates opinion it will not survive for very long. (4) On this discussion forum there is no guarantee that the experiences and studies of one person will lead them to the same bias you have, but that does not weaken the value of their biased opinion (as long as they are aware it is bias speaking, and not fact).
And finally (5) BIAS is not a dirty word. It is a very useful thing to have, it keeps one from gullibility and helps to define a sense of self.
AuldSoul (of the "Biased, But Not Prejudiced" class)