The Religion Forum has been a popular staple on the site for a long time which can provide site members with good value by allowing for social exchange and personal enrichment. As such, the forums sub-heading limits on-topic discussions to: "Respectful discussion of religious topics and their surrounding philosophies with the primary purpose of peaceful social exchange and personal enrichment."

Due to the controversial nature of religious topics, users must avoid getting into disrespectful fights that only divide our members for unneeded reasons.

The Site's Community Guidelines include the following statement: Be respectful of others' religion or lack thereof

While this sounds simple enough, it does deserve some further explanation for those interested:
The Site's Community Guidelines are intended for all parties to come to the table on equal footing here, there is no preferred class or group. In an effort to show respect for others' religion one should consider elements such as being respectful of their beliefs and doctrine which includes associated deities, worship, ceremonies, individuals, writings, symbols, icons and the like. Further, in an effort to show respect for others' religion or lack of religion one should not cast judgement against them, declare their afterlife disposition or the like.

If you wish to engage in debate and be critical of others religion, or lack thereof, it is important that you:
• Maintain a respectful disposition.
• Do not claim something to be true/false without presenting a proof. Without a proof the issue is a matter of faith / belief and should be presented as such.
• Debate only in proper context, do not turn discussion threads on a specific religious topic into a debate thread on the belief system necessary for the context of that topic. Such posts are off-topic to that discussion, you are welcome to start a new thread.
• Work to get along with those you are discussing with, ask clarifying questions before casting negative assumptions.
• Use extreme care to not misrepresent others' religion. Ask clarifying questions before casting potentially inflammatory misrepresentation.
• Remember to be respectful and work to achieve the primary purpose of peaceful social exchange and personal enrichment.
• Do not post 3rd party material (such as articles or videos) that attacks others' religion for the purpose of launching an attack. 3rd party material that attacks others' religion can only be posted when there is a clearly stated goal to seek understanding and have misrepresentations corrected and the like; in such threads all remaining discussion should be geared towards this purpose. If you do not state your objective when posting your message/thread will be locked or deleted.

An acceptable protocol that you can follow to engage in debate that is critical of others religion, or lack thereof, is as follows:
Step 1: Explain your teachings that are driving your position. List your references, quote sources, give chapter and verse as needed.
Step 2: Explain your understanding of the important elements within the religion in question. List your references, quote sources, give chapter and verse as needed.
Step 3: Consider any assumptions you have and list them.
Step 4: List the conclusions that these teachings and understandings are leading you to in a respectful manner. An acceptable statement is "Based on this analysis, that I see as reasoned and true, it would seem that all people who are <some religion> are going to hell." or similar.
Step 5: Seek resolution with peaceful dialog. Perhaps others who share your faith can explain where you are in error regarding your teachings. Perhaps others in the religion in question can explain how you are viewing their religion or some element within it incorrectly.
Step 6: Obtain resolution. After all fruitful debate and discussion has run its course, come to a resolution of at least one of the following:
a) That you were wrong in your understanding of your teachings.
b) That you were wrong in your understanding of others religion.
c) That you can respectfully agree to disagree on the matter.
d) That all parties agree, such as, everything does think they are going to hell. In many cases this isn't likely but it is logically possible.

In this way we are constructively driving towards our objective of achieving peace through social exchange in an effective manner.

Below are some example statements and how the guidelines apply:
• "God does not exist" -- based on context, this is generally not respectful since you are declaring others' religious doctrine wrong without a proof.
• "You don't believe in God, you're going to hell" -- not respectful as it can't be proven.
• "I disagree with your beliefs" -- respectful, you don't have to agree, but you can still be amicable about it.
• "Your church services are stupid" -- not respectful, you can certainly think they don't have value, or think they are not at all of interest to you, but they may be important to others and there's no point in demonizing them.

Below are some clarifying questions and answers on this matter, these were copied or adapted from other messages.

Question 1: I think this "Be respectful of others' religion or lack thereof" guideline is honestly silly (No offense). I just don't get the point here. We should be thick skinned enough to not get easily offended here. Why add this?

Answer: The guidelines were updated after processing a lot of feedback on this topic. The issue isn't a matter of how thick skinned any one person on the site is, it's a general position that plays into our Mission Statement about being politically active. Many years of data has shown that the old, more open policy was a distraction to our primary objectives.


Question 2: Are the guidelines bias?

Answer: There is no intent to introduce any type of bias, if you perceive one you can notify the site staff.


Question 3: I really think to some extent "attacks" on other religions really needs to be fair game in the religion forum. Sometimes maybe it can cross a line, but normally I think its just people lacking a thick skin. How is this wrong?

Answer: What is certainly fair game is to ask other people to support their position on religion. There is no need to attack, if someones religion can lead to bad things then someone skilled in the art of debate can draw that out into the public without any sort of attack.


Question 4: I see cases where someone says "There is a God", or the like, is this a violation of the site guidelines?

Answer: In some cases many people will make a statement that has an implied "I believe" such as "there is a God" vs. "I believe there is a God". In most cases, it's fruitful to ask clarifying questions on ones statement. Context is also important in such cases, if the context of the statement is made within a thread dedicated to a discussion about God, then the statement in not intended to be disrespectful based on the context of the discussion. In other potential contexts, the statement could be made as a direct means to generate hostility, in which case, it is seen not as being respectful to ones lack of religion.


Question 5: Sometimes people lash out at God and say things like "God doesn't exist." because they're really seeking answers. Letting them do that can work out for the better, and stopping them from doing it might cause a missed opportunity. Do you agree?

Answer: Without writing 1,000 page guideline manual, it's hard to be exact. Some of this does come down to perceived intent (are they being obviously disruptive), context and scope (are they posting in every thread?). So, as always, the site staff needs to use good judgement and the moderation appeal process can still work too.


Question 6: Can I identify falsehoods in others religion?

Answer: You are welcome to identify what you see as falsehoods, just please do so in a respectful manner which means you will have to lay out intellectually based arguments, not ones on unsupported name callings. You saying things are false doesn't make it so, others can just as easily say what you believe is false, name calling can escalate, and then, where does that leave us? How has anyone enriched their life?

Things can only be false if a complete ironclad proof is presented that clearly shows it is so. If you have done that, present you case each time you make a claim. I would suggest to start a new thread to demonstrate your proof, let it be peer reviewed and critique and then reference to it in others threads. This will prevent having to repeat your proof over and over.


Question 7: For a religious argument, does Biblical references count as "proof"?

Answer: You're welcome to construct arguments that are based on Biblical references, but they should be qualified as such. For example, you can make a thread to establish a Biblical proof, which can then be peer reviewed and critique. Once established, in other threads you could reference the proof thread with such a statement as "This Biblical proof shows this is not accurate".

I would suggest in your Biblical proof thread that you start off listing your "assumptions" / beliefs, which should then be out-of-scope for the purpose of the discussion. This is done all the time in the scientific community, of course others can challenge your assumptions in other means but debate of the assumptions is not the point of the matter at hand.


Question 8: Is there a protected class of people on the site?

Answer: No, the key point is to "Be respectful of others' religion or lack thereof." You can criticize, just be respectful in doing so. There is no way to claim to be respectful when you are declaring a proof that can not be proven. This would apply equally both ways in that is it not respectful to tell someone "You're going to hell" because of a lack of religion, because it can't be proven.


Question 9: Can I make judgments against people?

Answer: No. You can make arguments against ideas, positions and beliefs. There is no functional value in judgements against people. Further, people can change, the characteristics of an idea can not.


Question 10: Can I apply labels to people?

Answer: Applying labels to others that they do not self-subscribe to is just an ad hominem attack with no positive debate value. It is in effect, a judgement, generally negative.


Question 11: I don't think labeling something as a cult is ad hominem, it is a very valid religious issue. Granted, the claim ought to be justified. Agreed?

Answer: Good arguments can be made that if you put a label on any thing/person/entity/etc that they don't self-label themselves as with the purpose to demonize/attack/etc then it's an ad hominem. I understand it's hard to get around using labels in some conversations as they can be a tool for mutual understanding but in a debate, they are problematic.


Question 12: If a statement crossed into personal insults (ie. If someone said "All Catholics are idiots" or "You're an idiot because of your religion" or stuff like that) I can see the mods getting involved, but as long as the attacks are doctrinal in nature, or even "personal" attacks in a doctrinal context (For example, if a Catholic were to say that Protestants weren't Christians or that Protestant churches weren't real churches,) this sort of thing should be fair game. If not, why not?

Answer: These matters can be easily defeated in friendly debate. If someone says that the simple response is "Says who?" The matter will quickly reveal an appeal to authority fallacy and/or devolve into a pointless matter of semantics that the OP can't prove to validate his point. Let's avoid this.


Question 13: Exposing false beliefs, with reasons, can be beneficial (And I don't think every single reason needs to be fleshed out in every single case, in some cases one or two reasons are sufficient.) For instance, if I posted "Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, as such Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians and not saved" that could be seen as "offensive" but so what?

Answer: If Jehovah's Witness doctrine agrees with your statement there certainly is not an issue. Your statement however, could more properly be stated as "Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians and not saved in the Christian sense"


Question 14: if I posted "Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult" without any reasons at all that might be seen as inflammatory, although I'm still not sure why that shouldn't be allowed. As you say, a skilled debater can destroy logically baseless arguments anyway, why do we need a rule here?

Answer: The site has Community Guidelines as we don't want all discussions to devolve to the lowest common denominator of who can cast the best insults, but rather we'd like to see who can construct the best arguments.


Question 15: This is where I think (and please take this comment as respectfully as it is intended) we fall into the PC game. Political Correctness is poison. Whether literally being applied to politics, or to theology. Why can't we call things as we see them?

Answer: This isn't Political Correctness, it's being clear with your terms, being respectful and fostering a functionally useful environment.


Question 16: Can I post 3rd party material that attacks others' religion?

Answer: If the purpose of the post was to generate hostility, based on scope and context, then no. If the context with the posted material was to educate others on the attack, and the attack had some value-add to the community, then it can be posted for such educational purposes.


Question 17: What if there is a logical conflict in that the mere stating of someone belief is offensive to someone else?

Answer: Use your best judgement, state your case, try to minimize conflict and be respectful. If the statement is made well within the scope of the intended purpose of the thread then it can stand. Be amicable when discussing the matter.


Question 18: Can I just make up a religion with its own doctrine and demand that everyone respect it?

Answer: If you want to introduce the world to some new religion then be prepared to substantiate it in a complete and thoughtful manner.

Users are welcome to report potential violations of this by using the "Report Post" feature found at the bottom of each post. (See the triangle "!" icon )

Thank you.