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The prime example is this question: Reasons Why Must There Be A God.

There is certainly a good (enough) core to this question, but as it's currently written, it's not that great. Sure, it (currently) has a +12 total score, but that's more indicative of interest than quality. Worse, the answers have sort of...I'm not sure how to describe it. Exploded like a pile of fireworks? At the time of writing, there are thirteen answers, few of which really answer the question with any quality. Furthermore, two of the higher-voted answers are by atheists and from an atheist's point of view. On top of all this are the massive comment debates.

What should be done about this? In particular, how should we treat answers that are clearly from an atheist's perspective?


Very related: Should we be deleting blatantly non-Christian answers?

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    The current top-voted answer is actually pretty good. – TRiG Aug 4 '12 at 10:42
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    @TRiG: You are correct, that answer exemplifies how the question should have gotten answered in the first place, and the fact that even as a latecomer our voters managed to get it to the top gives me quite a bit of hope for the site. However, I don't think so much voting should have been necessary in the first place, particularly not the need to downvote so heavily. – Caleb Aug 4 '12 at 14:13
  • Thank you for the heads up, @Caleb. I am not exactly sure about this. As stated in my answer, it's from an atheistic perspective. Some of this has to do with how the question itself was presented. – quantumSoup Aug 4 '12 at 15:11
  • @quantumSoup: Yes, I agree part of the problem here was that the question was very poorly framed. (That's why I closed it pending any edits/cleanup being completed.) However, even an question not properly framed for this site shouldn't collect answers that are outside the scope and purpose of the site. Does it make sense that -- agree or disagree with the material -- content that does not even claim to represent a Christian viewpoint is off topic on a QnA site for experts in Christianity? – Caleb Aug 4 '12 at 15:20
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Non-Christian Posts

First off: this is a secular site. Owned and hosted by a secular company. That said, it is also a Christian site in the sense that it is a site about Christianity and populated by Christians.

Questions

Non-Christian questions are fine as long as they genuinely seek understanding and/or information. Caleb excellently goes into more detail in his answer to Is critical analyzing of Christianity allowed here?.

Answers

This has already been covered to some extent in Should we be deleting blatantly non-Christian answers?. Wax's answer makes a good point that the community has a significant amount of power, and Waggers sets out a few ways to deal with non-Christian answers. Usually, those are our options for dealing with answers that claim to provide a Christian perspective.

In this case, we have two posters who answered claiming to speak from an atheist's perspective. Not only is this against the spirit of the site, it's also against the question itself! The second half of the first sentence is: I am very interested to get the Christian perspective.. Hence, I believe that deletion of answers from an atheist's perspective is fully justified here.

Now, I will note that not all atheist's answers should be deleted. Marc Gravell is an atheist, but he has given multiple high-quality answers. The difference is, when answering he has legitimatly tried to represent a Christian viewpoint or at least followed suit from the question. It shouldn't matter who the author is so long as their answer fits the site.

As Kaz Dragon put it so well, we (the community) seek to restrict the viewpoints of answers, not who can answer.

Still, there is some subjectivity with regards to whether an answer should be deleted or not. Questionable answers can always be brought up on meta, and if an answer was unjustly deleted, any mod can undelete it.


Comments and chat

As has been said multiple times, comments are not the place to have discussions or debates! That's what the chat room is for, and other chat rooms may be created for specific topics. Comments are meant to be constructive. Ask for clarification, suggest support, point out that the answer doesn't actually answer the question, or point out an error. Now, pointing out an error does not mean that you say some claim is wrong, especially not if you disagree with it. Rather, pointing out an error is pointing out a factual error, like asking if someone meant to cite Exodus or Deuteronomy. If you disagree with it on a subjective basis, don't downvote or comment to that effect.

Again, don't debate in comments! Take it to chat!

Comments are meant to be disposable and are routinely deleted for being obsolete or unconstructive.


As a final word, I want to stress that this site is truly run by the community. Moderators are exception-handlers. That said, I am part of the community too, and this is what I think should be done.

  • But not all Christians believe in a god. Some Christians are atheists, and indeed some Christians believe that the only way to truly be a Christian is to be an atheist. – Steely Dan Oct 10 '12 at 2:16
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I'll add some thoughts from an atheist perspective on why this question elicited this kind of response.

The first important aspect is that it got into the list of hot questions that is displayed network-wide, so it was promoted to users from the whole SE network. That was how I found the question, and I assume that might have been the reason for a few others as well.

Now, I usually don't answer questions here and also don't comment. Most questions here don't need an atheist perspective, and while they are sometimes interesting, questions on christian doctrine just have no relevance to me.

The big difference with this question and its answers was that it isn't about christian doctrine, but about logic and science. I'm a moderator on Skeptics and Biology, seeing bad information about evolution (or science in general) on the same domain as my sites annoys me a lot. Correcting this kind of misinformation was one of the main reasons I got involved in the Skeptics site, seeing that stuff then on other SE sites unopposed is very disappointing to me.

Had the current top answer been the only answer, I'd have voted it up and left the site. It presents the classical arguments in a nice way, without stating them as absolute truth. But that answer wasn't there in the beginning, and the other ones as well as some comments contained statements I couldn't just leave unopposed. There were statements about atheistic morality there as well as about evolution. Those are the kind of statements that will inevitably get atheists involved that read the question.

I'd also say that removing answers and comments from an atheistic perspective can lead you down a dangerous path. In this example, not everyone criticitzing the classical proofs of gods existence has to be an atheist. Even christians can criticize those specific arguments
while believing in the christian god. Only allowing one side of the debate would be a dangerous precedent.

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    "The big difference with this question and its answers was that it isn't about christian doctrine, but about logic and science." -- This was the first problem with the question. It was supposed to be about Christian doctrine. || "Only allowing one side of the debate would be a dangerous precedent." -- SE is not a place for debates. In addition, you wouldn't give an answer from a Windows perspective on Apple.SE, so answers from atheist (or Muslim, or Hindu, or etc.) perspectives shouldn't be allowed on Christianity.SE. Agree? – El'endia Starman Aug 5 '12 at 20:09
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    If the questions are about christianity, there is no need for a non-christian perspective. The problem arises if the questions or answers are e.g. about science. If you allow posts about creationism, but would disallow non-christians from commenting on them or posting their contradicting answers, this would be very problematic. – Mad Scientist Aug 5 '12 at 20:22
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    Eh, I disagree with you on that particular example; the Christians here believe a wide range of varieties of creationism and evolution. That said, if a question is about science and does not have anything to do with Christianity (or its doctrines), it should be closed. – El'endia Starman Aug 6 '12 at 1:17
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    @El'endiaStarman. If the creationists were prepared to defend their beliefs purely from the Bible, that would be fine. But they aren't. They insist on also telling lies about science. And that should be corrected. Similarly, answers which slander non-Christians (and there have been a few of those) will inevitably draw pushback. And censoring that pushback is, well, problematic. – TRiG Aug 10 '12 at 1:28
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    @TRiG: "answers which slander non-Christians" should be edited or deleted. With regards to telling lies about science, ignorance is not willful deceit and this is not the place to correct it (and you're unlikely to convince anyone anyway). – El'endia Starman Aug 10 '12 at 1:59
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Post-mortem, how the story ended...

The question in question* specifically noted that the OP knew this could be posed as a general philosophy question but specifically wanted to hear what the Christian perspective was. I have edited it to highlight this focus, but I believe this should have been heeded from the beginning.

With that in mind, I have removed the answers that blatantly opposed this request of the OP (and that arguably fall outside the scope of this site) and re-opened the question.

* Sorry, I just can't help myself on that pun.

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If I may draw a parallel, this site is a lot like the USA (or at least, a lot like how I see it as an outsider).

No wait, hear me out.

  • The USA is a secular nation inhabited primarily by Christians.

  • Christianity.SE is a secular site frequented primarily by Christians.

I think there is a frequent misunderstanding about what this site is for. It is for asking questions about Christianity. Answers may involve perspectives from outside of Christianity, from within it, or even across sects of Christianity. Answers from all of these perspectives can be good.

This site is not a site (just) for Christians. Nor is it a site about Christians There will be questions that make you uncomfortable. There will be answers you disagree with. there will be statements from perspectives other than your own. I will be frank: I find a high volume of the statements, questions, and answers here personally disgusting. For me, it's still an interesting venture to learn about this aspect of humanity which forms a high percentage of the population around me.

I just want to note that these aspects aren't just limited to C.SE. This question on Programmers.SE makes me uncomfortable. It's a challenging aspect of software engineering. But that's a good thing. So my plea to C.SE and people who post meta questions like this is thus:

  • Please stop downvoting/deleting/generally getting turned off by questions/answers just because they challenge you.

Also, I reject the notion that a person asking a question has the authority to restrict the people who can answer the question to a subset of visitors.

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    "Please stop downvoting/deleting/generally getting turned off by questions/answers just because they challenge you." - This is excellent! I whole-heartedly agree. The problem is that people are doing the equivalent of giving a Windows answer on Apple.SE. || The notion that the asker has the authority to limit the viewpoints of the answers is something that has been brought up multiple times and so far the consensus is that it's best for the asker to have that authority. – El'endia Starman Aug 10 '12 at 8:40
  • @El'endiaStarman Restrict the viewpoint from which answers can be placed, yes. Restrict who can answer the question, no. – Kaz Dragon Aug 10 '12 at 9:16
  • Okay, then we are in agreement. Actually, I'm going to go edit that into my answer. – El'endia Starman Aug 10 '12 at 9:19

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