Good Deeds - Other Attempts of Mine

Around 1992, when sitting among groups of young religious (Christian) people, I was often amazed at all the wrong ideas they sometimes expressed! Clearly, they had been told things by their Minister, or by other Christians (like participants in our talks) which they seemed to totally accept as true! I thought it was rather scary for Christianity!

I had long been a computer Geek, and I had recently attended some classes toward getting able to someday become a Minister myself! And so I had ACCESS to impressive numbers of articles which had been written by Christian scholars (specifically used in Bible Colleges to Teach future Ministers and almost nowhere else!) I decided to select around a thousand of those scholarly Christian articles and to assemble them into a computer Floppy Diskette, which I called BELIEVE. In order to get all those articles onto a single 1.44 Mb Floppy Diskette, I even had to invent a unique computer language, which 'compressed' the text. In any case, I spent about a year and a half of more than full-time effort in assembling and creating the BELIEVE Floppy Diskette. I then bought a lot of blank Floppies, at about 50 cents each, and I spent about ten minutes on each to record BELIEVE onto each Floppy. Then I always kept several in my pocket, and I gave away BELIEVE floppies to nearly anyone who I thought might benefit from it. That included a Chicago Traffic Cop who had stopped to help me when I ran out of gas along the Expressway, and another Cop in Florida who was very nice.

During about the next four years, summer 1993 through May 1997, I gave away around 400 of the BELIEVE floppies. They are probably valuable antique relics by now, as people today generally no longer even have any idea what a Floppy Diskette was! I did the entire project ENTIRELY for the Lord, and NOT for the slightest idea of ever trying to 'sell' any of the BELIEVE Floppies (which was often suggested to me, that I would probably 'make millions' if I mass produced and marketed them). I was quite comfortable that I had spent more than four years of my life, more than full-time, while not receiving a dime for the effort! At the time, I was still manufacturing and selling the JUCA Super-Fireplaces which I had invented in 1973, and that bought me groceries!

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At the start of 1997, I had never even heard of 'the Internet' but AOL advertised a 'free trial of three months' and I signed up for it. Included was '2 megabytes of space on the Internet', for picture files or anything else that a person might want to present. I didn't have any pictures, and all I had was the 1.44 megabyte file that was on the BELIEVE diskette that I was giving out. I thought that maybe some distant person might want to take the several minutes it then took to download a 1.44 Mb file, and if even one more person got access to accurate information about Christianity and other religions, fine!

I never really used the AOL system very much, but during those three months, more than 400 people had downloaded the BELIEVE program file! That was as many as I had handed out over four years (and at hundreds of dollars of personal cost for buying Diskettes), all much more easily on 'the Internet'.

So when the AOL Free Trial expired, I created a DOMAIN (which I named after one of my many loved dogs, Meatball, so and I decided to upload each of the individual articles of BELIEVE (along with pages which I created from previous JUCA informational sheets and some additional informational web-pages. By being individual files on the Internet, I felt that if someone needed to try to access information on 'Baptism' or 'Salvation' or 'Eschatology', the then brand-new 'search engines' might be more easily able to find my web-page on the desired subject. The Internet was still so very new that NO ONE thought that anyone could ever SELL anything over the Internet, and most web-pages were rather random efforts, often centered around photos of dogs, cats or children! So my idea of actually trying to distribute important information was then somewhat unique!

In any case, BELIEVE quickly became amazingly popular on the Internet! By only around five years later, late 2002, BELIEVE was getting around 50,000,000 hits every year, around a million hits every week! Since I never included any pretty graphics or other decorative files, at that time, each 'hit' was usually a 'page-view'. All this enormous traffic caused 4,600 Churches to contact me (by e-mail) to request that they be allowed to tell their Church's Members about BELIEVE, which probably caused our traffic to increase even faster.

There WAS an inconvenient aspect to all this traffic. By 2002, BELIEVE was DAILY receiving between 100 and 200 e-mails! About 1/3 of them were Prayer Requests, but most of the rest were usually thoughtful questions. I felt an absolute responsibility to properly respond to all of them! Do you have any idea how much time is involved in answering 100 to 200 e-mails every day? I came to be happy if I only spent 8 to 12 hours each day, answering BELIEVE e-mail!

This had gradually increased over prior years, as in 2001, I had generally got all my e-mail answered in about six to eight hours each day! I started getting VERY concerned about what I might do in following years, as I am limited to 24 hours each day! And I must occasionally sleep! I did NOT see any obvious solution to that obviously coming problem.

As it turned out, in December 2002, a rather ignorant man took care of that issue, along with entirely destroying BELIEVE, TWICE during 2003! IF that man had just CONTACTED ME regarding a thought he had, he would have immediately understood the truth, and everything would have been fine. But he showed some spectacular ignorance, which is still adversely affecting BELIEVE today, eleven years later! The man THOUGHT he had recognized 'a paragraph' in one of the many thousands of scholarly articles presented in BELIEVE, and for some bizarre reason, he decided to contact a small Publishing Company rather than our Church or me. That small company apparently had never even heard of our BELIEVE site, and apparently had not even had any clue that anything they might (Copyright) be able to claim might be in BELIEVE, that company apparently totally took that man's comments as true and valid. And so IMMEDIATELY, that small Publishing Company sent me an amazingly vicious and threatening e-mail. That threatening e-mail never even mentioned any potential 'text' because their company had never even LOOKED at our BELIEVE site. Instead, they just started spouting the most vicious threats, all entirely based on the wrong assumption that the ignorant man had made. The small publishing company, Baker Books, even included their comments of their intention to entirely destroy our Church and to destroy me as a Pastor! I had never even said 'hello' and I was confronted with such amazing behavior. Their Publishing Company had always BRAGGED about being a CHRISTIAN Publishing company! Really amazing! With NO FACTS at all that they knew, they made the wildest and absolutely UNIVERSAL THREATS at BELIEVE and our Church.

I am a peaceful person, and even without knowing WHICH of the thousands of BELIEVE articles which even MIGHT have been in question, I felt forced to REMOVE BELIEVE ENTIRELY from the Internet!

In the following weeks, more than a MILLION PEOPLE were denied access to the BELIEVE resource which they had come to rely on! During this, a wonderful Attorney in Florida learned of our situation and he offered to try to help. Among other things, he informed me of the 'Fair Use Provision' of the US Copyright Law, where he pointed out that, even if I HAD any content that might have been liable regarding Copyright, BELIEVE had always been non-profit and even non-cash entirely, and he pointed out that the BELIEVE site was essentially identical to the activities of thousands of Public Libraries across the United States!

In any case, once he reassured us that we had not done anything even slightly wrong, I again uploaded all the BELIEVE files onto the Internet.

That little Publishing Company never bothered to try to learn any more, or even that we were totally within the Fair Use Provision of the US Copyright Law, they were simply intent on the total destruction of the BELIEVE site, our little Church and me personally. We received many amazing threats from that company, particularly from the President of their company. In any case, later in 2003, they discovered that even since they could not do anything more directly to us, in any Legal sense, they discovered that there is a Legal Provision where they could threaten the company which was the Server on which the BELIEVE files were made available to the Internet. With only about three hours warning, the Server called me and threatened me with having to entirely remove ALL of the thousands of BELIEVE articles. THEY had never been told by the Publishing company WHICH article that I might be forced to remove (apparently because the Publishing Company still had no idea what specific article the man had referred to in the previous December!)

So, for a SECOND TIME during 2003, all of the BELIEVE articles were removed, and more than another million more people were again denied the access they had come to rely on of BELIEVE articles.

It took some weeks before the Server came to recognize that the Publisher did not actually have any basis for forcing the Server to shut down all of BELIEVE, and again I was able to upload all the BELIEVE files onto the Internet. The people at the Server told me that they were REQUIRED to shut down ANY web-site upon receiving a complaint, and that they would again threaten BELIEVE with further shut-downs each time they received further complaints! Amazing.

I even asked the Server people if the General Motors web-site might be similarly shut down, based on ANY complaint from anyone, where NO PROOF OF PROBLEM was ever required to force such shut-downs. Only the WEB-SITE was then REQUIRED TO PROVE INNOCENCE! I pointed out to that person that that was exactly the OPPOSITE of what the US Constitution supposedly guarantees. He laughed as he thought that was funny, but he repeated that they were legally REQUIRED to force ANY web-site to immediately shut down, upon their receipt of ANY complaint. (He also mentioned that he thought that GM probably operated their own Server, and that such actions probably could not have effect against them.)

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Well, the net effect of the ignorant choice by that man in December 2002 along with the amazingly aggressive behavior of the (allegedly) 'Christian' publisher, was really amazing. Just prior to that, in 2002, BELIEVE was getting around 50,000,000 hits each year. Even after the threats seemed to stop, it looks like that publishing company has still been able to scare away enormous numbers of people from using BELIEVE, and in each recent year, BELIEVE has had around 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 hits each year, about 1/4 of the traffic that we used to see. How might that company be doing this? I have no idea! But our amazing traffic by 2002 also included close to a hundred Prayer Requests every day and another hundred religious questions every day. Some of that traffic was due to over 4,600 Churches which had asked BELIEVE if they could let Church Members use BELIEVE, which we always agreed to. By the Summer of 2003, that total seemed to have very suddenly dropped to ZERO! We were never informed as to WHY any of those 4,600 Churches very suddenly stopped encouraging their Church Members to use BELIEVE, but that certainly must have had something to do with the tremendous drop in our traffic. Whether it was a coincidence or not, that happened exactly at the same time when that small publishing company announced that they were going to destroy our Church and me as a Pastor and our BELIEVE web-site. Please remember that we NEVER RECEIVED A DIME from anything associated with BELIEVE!

Maybe the Baker Book House is proud of their efforts to destroy BELIEVE and our Church and me as a Pastor. Very bizarre that a company that claims to be a 'Christian Publishing Company' would behave in such ways! But I guess this is America and they are free to behave pretty much any way they wish!

But it actually turns out that they caused a POSITIVE effect by their destruction! Where in 2002, I was having to spend 8 to 12 hours every single day to read and answer e-mails, and it seemed clear that traffic was going to increase and increase, the viciousness of Baker Book House actually did me a FAVOR! Since then, I generally have gotten around 50 e-mails every day, and it has taken me ONLY 4 to 6 hours each day to read and answer those e-mails! I have actually been able to SLEEP and have a life!

It has never been clear as to HOW Baker Book House was able to cause 4,600 Churches to ALL stop using the BELIEVE resource. Did they make their Secretaries find e-mail addresses for all those 4,600 Churches and then send nasty e-mails to all of them? It is hard to see HOW they could have forced that Church traffic to drop to ZERO so suddenly in any other way! Wow! Seems like an immense amount of work and expense for them to go to, just to destroy a highly respected Christian organization as our Church and BELIEVE! But since we have had MANAAGEABLE amounts of e-mail since 2003, we are thankful!

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in January 2013.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago