Religious and other belief-oriented topics are definitely a category apart from the usual science- and technology-oriented ones that are the focus of most StackExchange sites. Where much of the questions and answers here will end up focused on personal belief and opinion (backed, of course, by some form of scriptural reference - I hope) the other sites have more hard, definite topics. Where questions on those sites are almost always answerable from a completely objective standpoint, such topics are likely to be much rarer here.

Just as it has been in the real world, it would seem Judaism has existed in the StackExchange network for some time before Christianity got its start. As far as I can tell, it's the only other religion-oriented StackExchange site. Judaism.SE has been around for about three months, so I'm sure they've had their own share of sectarian/inter-denominational conflicts. There's also a few other sites that discuss topics which may be largely belief-based and controversy-generating, such as Parenting, Philosophy, and Skeptics.

If anyone is familiar with the history of these sites, please share whatever lessons you think we might stand to learn from them. Are there any trouble spots that we can avoid, or perhaps navigate through more easily by taking their history into account?

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    We might also take a look at Atheism.SE which was closed after 94 days in Beta. They could be considered a religion-oriented SE too. Aug 26 '11 at 17:15

I've been somewhat active on Skeptics.SE, and I quite like their style. Some of the major lessons learned/decisions made there are:

  • Answers must always have references; if not, they will be deleted. This is more about the specific site; this wouldn't work on SO. For many questions here, at least biblical references will be very appropriate. I'd argue we're closer to skeptics than SO here.
  • Questions that aren't good aren't needed. There are a lot of things that can be asked, but only the subset that can be satisfiably answered are good for the site. The site is better if borderline/almost-good questions don't exist.
  • The attitude towards newbies matters. A lot of new people come in not knowing the rules, thinking it's another discussion forum. They must be directed, but this should be done in a friendly way so that they learn and become valuable members of the community.
  • The most vocal members of the community shouldn't be allowed to force policies. There used to be a debate on whether posts should have images, with some downvoting everything that had since they felt it grabs attention away from more relevant details. In the end, some guidelines were made and images are now allowed, if relevant.

Maybe these are common things to many other SE sites, too. The first one is probably quite unique, and while we can't be strict about that, I think if we could encourage referencing sources we'd have much better content in the end.

The one site I think we should learn from is the now-defunct Atheism.SE. I never saw any of it, but maybe an SE employee could let us in on what went wrong there.

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    I was around on AtheismSE. The main problem, from my perspective, was that there really isn't much to say about atheism qua atheism. There's plenty of stuff to say about it (witness many successful and interesting atheist blogs and books), but not much that fits well into a Q&A format. I don't foresee this site having the same problems (though it'll doubtless have problems of its own).
    – TRiG
    Aug 30 '11 at 23:18
  • Skeptics's habit of requiring references on every question and answer was extremely irritating, partially because they pounded it in with the force of moderation at every opportunity rather than letting the community select better answers.
    – user573
    Nov 5 '11 at 14:12

I browsed all their Meta questions last night, hoping to find a precedent for our own sectarian debates, and found almost nothing.

The closest I found was this question about orthodox vs. Orthodox vs non-[Oo]rthodox. And the conclusion appears to be to allow at least some measure of dissenting views on the site. I think we already agree here that differing views are welcome. So I'm not sure how much this applies to us.

I believe our challenge is facilitating these different views constructively.


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