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A recent comment cited our policy of being inclusive as a reason to include a group that had a teaching on Christ in a list of Christian groups. According to Wikipedia, the following groups have more-or-less definite teachings concerning Jesus, or in some sense include Him "as part of their religious heritage":

  • the Bahá'í Faith
  • Islam
  • Scientology

And there are others. A question like the following seems fine:

Is Freemasonry compatible with Catholicism? (no, it is not)

But a question like this seems entirely off-topic:

Do the primary Islamic sources mention the Seven Laws of Noah?

Where can we draw the line, if any sort of line, however blurry, can be drawn?

  • I'm not sure where you got the idea that Christianity includes groups that believe anything at all about Christ. The line is actually much simpler: if a group self-identifies as Christian, it is (for the purposes of the site). As far as I know, none of the faiths you listed claim to be Christian. – Jon Ericson Mar 4 '13 at 22:34
  • @JonEricson as I noted, this came up in a recent upvoted comment: "about Scientologists, I don't think so personally, but I included them because they do have a teaching on who Jesus is. I also agree that the groups that believe these things are a minority, and are heretical. But site guidelines require that I ignore that fact when answering. ..." It is not my idea, I disagreed with this comment. – Alypius Mar 4 '13 at 22:42
  • It was stupid of me to make that comment. I should not have included Scientologists. By that logic, secular humanism would be on topic, because they have definite opinions on Jesus. – David Stratton Mar 5 '13 at 2:53
  • @DavidStratton No fault of yours. Whenever a priest makes a mistake during the homily, this only makes people pay closer attention to the rest. Same applies here - it's just a good opportunity to tighten up the rules. – Alypius Mar 5 '13 at 4:20
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The comment about Scientologists was,

I don't think [that they are Christian] personally, but I included them because they do have a teaching on who Jesus is.

And that's fair enough. As far as I know, Scientologists are not Christian by any definition, including their own. (Some of their beliefs are secret, so it's impossible to be certain, but I'm pretty sure they don't self-identify as Christian.) This means that a question about Scientology (or Islam, or Bahá'í, or whatever) is off topic. But that doesn't mean that we're not allowed to mention them. We can bring them up in an aside, if we wish, where they're tangentially relevant. And that's what this answer did.

The formatting of the answer was somewhat problematic: it listed Scientologists alongside Christian groups, and gave the impression that they too were Christian. I see that the latest version of the answer has been edited to remove any mention of Scientology, which is probably for the best.

  • Exactly! I think a question about the beliefs of these groups would be out of the question. But answers are given much more freedom. – Jon Ericson Mar 4 '13 at 22:59
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    Agreed. Conversely, from the comment: "But site guidelines require that I ignore that fact when answering ... I have to bite my tongue on many answers" - people shouldn't feel like they have to include such groups, even against their own judgement. Is that fair to say? – Alypius Mar 5 '13 at 1:41
  • +1 Note that I was the one who made that comment, and it was bone-headed. After giving it some thought I removed that group from the list because I was wrong to include them. I think they should be off-topic unless they self-identify. – David Stratton Mar 5 '13 at 2:03
  • I didn't delete the comment only because the rest of it was relevant to another topic. – David Stratton Mar 5 '13 at 2:38
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Our policy has always been that questions about religions that consider themselves to be Christian are on-topic. Scientology has some definite teachings about Jesus, but they are not of the "this guy was right and we should follow what he said" variety. As I understand it, they're quite the opposite in fact.

Likewise, Islam does not consider itself to be a branch of Christian tradition. As I understand it, Muslims see themselves more or less as belonging to a newer truth that supplants the older, imperfect teachings, much in the same way as Christians see Christianity in relationship to Judaism.

I know nothing about the Bahá'í faith, but if they do not have some sort of basic belief in following the teachings of Jesus, and in his atonement for the sins of the world, which is the most inclusive definition of Christian doctrine I can think of, then I don't think that they would claim to be Christians, and there's no reason for us to consider them to, even if they have some doctrine about who they believe Jesus to have been.

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