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Normally, I'd address this directly with the people involved but SE doesn't have a private message system (that I know about). I am not challenging the sincerity of the responders or the validity of what they had to say. I'm also not trying to single out the people who posted on this question. There are other cases but I only felt the need to use the most recent one I've seen as an example.

I started looking at this site a few months ago and so far I have found it to be a wonderful community that accepts differing views and looks to answer questions with facts and leaving the readers to decide what they believe. Most of the time new posters are received with a polite welcome and a link to our help pages. But, on one recent post, the first few responses were to challenge the poster's presumed beliefs and to proselytize specific Christian views. What's worse is these views were presented as if they were representative of all Christians.

The tone of the post gave me the impression that it was a troll but, if it was sincere or if it's read by a sincere person with the same question, do the responses really reflect the type of community that's described in the help pages especially given that we are not Christians.

Again, I'll say I'm not trying to accuse anyone. I have tried to approach this with as much Grace as possible but, if you find yourself offended by this post, please try to extend the same Grace to me.

  • Maybe it has been edited since you looked at it, but I don't see what issue you see with the responders that are currently there. The question was effectively the equivalent of "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" The correct response to such a question is to explain that you have never beaten your wife. The reason people believe the Bible despite it being unbelievable is that it isn't unbelievable for the reasons given. – AJ Henderson Oct 9 '13 at 20:37
  • First comment by Narnian is "How can you say it is obviously not true?" There's no welcome to C.SE and no here's the about page. The responses aren't wrong I just think they show a lot more hostility than is warranted. – crownjewel82 Oct 9 '13 at 23:56
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    I guess I didn't see hostility, I saw a request for clarification.. not one I'd have made personally, but I don't think Narnian meant it to be hostile. That would be out of character for him. I've been sarcastic at times, but I don't think I've ever seen him be that way. – David Stratton Oct 10 '13 at 1:46
  • I don't think it was intended to be hostile. But, from experience, I know that it's not a stretch for it to be interpreted as hostile. It of course depends on the person reading but, this is a common way of responding to challenges to the validity of our faith (anyone's faith really) that I've seen do more harm than good. Basically, maybe it's worth a reminder to be very selective about our words when responding to a post that is a direct challenge. – crownjewel82 Oct 10 '13 at 4:47
  • I've been one to scream about hostility to (the allegedly non-existent) seekers who come to this site, but I didn't see any this time. – pterandon Oct 10 '13 at 10:52
  • @crownjewel82 wipes brow When I saw this, and that it was you posting it, I thought for sure it was going to be the discussion you and I had about faith and belief. I was like "But, but, I wasn't trolling at all, I was simply trying to increase the net value of the site" - then I saw what it was actually about =) I can tell you, as an SE moderator myself, I lament the lack of a private message system, but I also think it's part of what separates stack exchange from, let's say, forums... – corsiKa Oct 23 '13 at 19:05
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We already have several Meta posts that are there specifically for helping new visitors learn what is and isn't on-topic. The posts were made with this type of question in mind. The best course of action is to leave a friendly, helpful, polite comment explaining why a certain questions doesn't quite fit here, vote to close the post, and be patient with newcomers.

Typically I leave a comment like the following:

Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites?. As covered in that second post, this question is off-topic. We don't focus on who is correct, we stick to what various denominations teach.

Note that the above includes the fact that we don't focus on whether Christians, muslims, atheists, wiccans, or some other religion is "correct". We simply don't care to discuss what is "correct", "true", "real", "imaginary", etc. This site isn't about that any more than the sci-fi site is about whether warp drive or Time lords are real. We simply cover what it taught, just like that SE site covers what is written (or in a movie/tv show/series, etc.)

Other possible responses:

As phrased, this question is likely to attract a bunch of conflicting personal opinions, which isn't really constructive on a StackExchange site. See Real Questions have Answers.

In the example you linked to, this would be a valid argument. I can think of many reasons for people to believe the Bible, just as I can think of many reasons not to. It all boils down to a subjective determination on what evidence to accept, what evidence is convincing, and what you are willing to believe. It's an opinion question pure and simple.

If the question is salvageable through editing, I may ask if they mind if I edit it to bring it in line with site guidelines while still getting an answer to their original question, or I might point them to Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening

The question in your example wouldn't have been a good candidate for editing into site guidelines.

  • I can think of ways to phrase it so that it's not an opinion question... "What are common Apologetic arguments for the validity of the Bible" but that would be too broad. (Many books have been written on the subject.)
  • Each individual point in the question has a standard Apologetic answer (but that would be multiple questions, most of which have already been asked here so they'd be duplicates.) So I wouldn't bother trying to edit it or suggest that they do. I'd VTC and move on.

Finally, if the topic is interesting, or something I can't resist discussing, I might create a chat room and invite the user to discuss it there. I've seen several others do the same thing.


One last note, lest anyone claim we are out to silence atheists, that's not the case. Atheists and non-Christians are welcome here. They just need to follow the same rules we do. See Are questions from atheists welcome here?

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    What, there are people who don't think Time Lords are real? – Affable Geek Oct 11 '13 at 12:26
0

"How have prominent theologians answered Objection X?" Either take on a discipline in your answer, or perhaps even edit the question, to make it about the kinds of questions a good librarian (as opposed to philosopher or counselor) would answer.

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