As I mentioned in another post recently (Why even bother posting on this board?), I quit posting on this board months ago because I found the policies of the moderators frustrating and, to my mind, counter-productive. My attention was brought back to it when I got a notification that one of my old posts was deleted. So I decided to make this post stating, I hope, a little more clearly why I think moderation policies are counter-productive.

Let me say that while this post may sound harsh, I say this as a friend. I thought this forum sounded like a great idea and I wanted to see it flourish. I'm very disappointed by the turn it has taken. (I am very active on several other Stackexchange sites that do not pursue policies like this.) (Oh, and don't get me wrong. I don't suppose the moderators are lining up begging me to come back. I don't suppose that anyone noticed that I quit posting.)

So: Why do you suppose that people visit a web site like this? I think there are three pretty obvious reasons:

  1. To learn something, either by posting questions and getting answers, or by reading questions and answers that others have written.

  2. They find it interesting to participate in intellectual conversations.

  3. They get satisfaction from helping others, an ego boost, if you will, at the thought that other people may find something that they have written enlightening or interesting.

Would you agree? Can you think of other reasons? Surely these are the main ones.

Okay, now what do the moderators primarily spend their time doing? I'm sorry if this sounds pointed and rude, but I believe the honest answer is:

  1. Deleting questions and answers that they believe don't meet the criteria someone invented for the forum. That is, putting limits on the type of questions that can be asked and the answers that are acceptable. That is, deliberately blocking likely visitor goal number 1.

  2. Deleting (or moving to chat) any conversations or debate that may develop about a question or answer. That is, deliberately blocking likely visitor goal number 2.

  3. Deleting or editing answers for a variety of subjective criteria, throwing away an answer that someone may have spent considerable time researching, thinking about, and writing. That is, deliberately blocking likely visitor goal number 3.

Now you may say that the negative effects I mention are too bad, but we need these policies to preserve the integrity or purity of the board. To which I reply, Why?

Yes, I understand deleting a question that is blatantly and obviously irrelevant. Like is someone posted a question about football or celebrity gossip, there are other forums for that. But what is gained by banning debateable questions? Do you suppose that people will come to this site and say, "Zounds, there's a question on this site asking about comparisons between Islam and Christianity! That's not just about Christianity! I am traumatized to see such questions!"

Yes, I understand banning abusive language and insults. But what is gained by banning conversation and debate? If I ask a question, and someone gives an answer that is arguably wrong, isn't it better if others post explaining why that answer is wrong, rather than me going away assuming it is correct? And if the question is debatable, what is hurt by allowing the author of the answer to come back and defend himself? If I'm not interested in reading such debates, I can easily skip over the comments and go to the next answer.

Moderators regularly engage in very fine hair-splitting. Like saying that posters cannot discuss who is right but only what various groups believe. But ... any serious discussion of what different groups believe must surely at some point discuss why they believe this or where the idea comes from. I suppose you could say, for example, "Some Christians believe baptism must be by immersion while others believe that sprinkling is completely acceptable." But anyone really interested in the question would want to know the basis each gives for its position. So are we really going to quibble because someone said, "The Bible says X" rather than, what, "Some people interpret the Bible to say X"?

The site policies include the classic paradox of politically correctness: They state that posts cannot discuss "truth" or debate who is a real Christian, but must accept all beliefs. But then what about the belief that truth matters and that not everyone who calls himself a Christian really is a Christian? (Any more than anyone who says he is not a racist is really not a racist.) How can a site that calls itself "Christianity.SE" ban discussion of the question of what "Christianity" is? Surely that is the most fundamental question underlying the whole site. Suppose someone on Stackoverflow -- the Stackexchange site about software development -- posted a question about a problem he was having with the Java programming language. And suppose someone then replied, "The program excerpt that you have given will not work. The documentation produced by the international standards committee responsible for Java says that ..." Would you say that the appropriate response of moderators would be to delete this answer on the grounds that debate about what is or is not valid Java is not acceptable? That if the poster says that he believes this is a valid Java program, that we all must accept that? If I said that I thought that Muslims and Buddhists are Christians, would you say that site policy means that that statement must be accepted without question or challenge?

Well, if someone wants to discuss and debate what I say here, I'm happy to participate in such a conversation. If you think I'm insane and my criticisms are too stupid to be worthy of reply, that this forum is headed in exactly the right direction, that's fine too. I've said my piece. :-)

  • I'm upvoting because even though I don't agree with many of the particular points—especially those impugning the motives and methods of the moderators and other users here—as a whole it does raise good questions that deserve good answers. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 22:48
  • Says everything really about this forum that people are downvoting your meta post. Like Lee I will vote up as well as a whole it does raise good questions that deserve good answers. This board is not like any other exchange, it is oppressive and opposes viewpoints that the majority do not share.
    – user13599
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 1:36
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    @user27239 It says that the meta post is off-base. Further, none of this is new. It has all been addressed again and again. We link to those posts constantly on main in the comments. Like I said at the end of my answer, I'm baffled this is coming from a four-year user of the site. This post is ill-informed and not thought out, hence, the downvotes. Bring forth informed and thought out suggestions and you will probably receive upvotes.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 7:47
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    I'm not going to answer as I believe that you have excellent answers to choose from. I will only add that this site has gotten a LOT better recently. I see three distinct phases of this site. The origin (where many off topic questions were asked but allowed and are still available today), C.SE 2.0 is when the rules were defined and some mods made it their life mission to uphold them or be martyred, C.SE 3.0 is much more relaxed and matured. Moderation involvement has decreased. At one point in time it appeared to be three or four people just talking to themselves. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 17:45
  • @TheFreemason Coming in at about the tail end of phase 1, I think your assessment is about right.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:15
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    This question is essentially a duplicate of half of the meta site. -1 for not bothering to research your complaints before ranting.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 10:01

4 Answers 4


Believe me, I do understand your frustration. I'd love to come in here and tell everyone they're wrong, and that's not what Christianity is really about! In fact, in the chatrooms here, I do exactly that—as you'll find confirmed by some of the other regulars here who have engaged in ongoing debates with me there.

When I read many of the answers here, I want to shout, "That's not true! This is what's really true!!!" I am fervent about the truth, as I understand it. I'd love to debate so many of the answers here!

However, there are two basic facts about Christianity.SE that must be grasped in order to understand why the site now operates the way it does, under the guidelines it has adopted:

  1. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion site.
  2. This is a site about Christianity, not a Christian site.

Taking the second one first, in good biblical fashion:

This is a site about Christianity, not a Christian site

There are thousands, if not millions, of Christian sites on the Internet. I happen to run one of them: Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. There, my wife and I promulgate and explain our particular version of Christianity. There's a lot of discussion after any of the articles that happen to hit a nerve with people. We talk about what's true and what to believe. I also counsel people there, and even give pastoral advice. (I'm an ordained minister. It's what I do.)

But that's not what Christianity.SE is for. Though in the first few years of its existence it sort of was a Christian site (and many questions and answers are still left over from that time period), it ended out taking a different direction, which was to be a site about Christianity.

You may or may not like that. Perhaps you'd rather discuss the truth. And if that's your interest, this may not be the site for you. There are thousands, if not millions, of other sites where you can do that. And of course, I not so humbly invite you to check out my own website.

You're also welcome to engage me and others in truth debates in the Polemics and Apologetics chatroom right here on Christianity.SE. We have some rip-roaring doctrinal discussions there!

But the main Christianity.SE site has specifically and intentionally become something different. And that's where the first point above comes in.

This is a Q&A site, not a discussion site

Christianity.SE is a Q&A site where people can come and ask questions about what various groups and denominations of Christians believe. The definition of "Christian groups and denominations" is intentionally broad so as to allow questions about any group or denomination that identifies itself as Christian.

(And to address one of your points, Muslims and Buddhists generally do not identify themselves as Christians, nor do they generally want others identifying them as Christians.)

This being a Q&A site, it's a great place to come and ask and answer questions about what identifiable groups of Christians believe.

And there is a value in that.

Many, if not most, religious sites have extensive discussion and debate, often leading to flame wars and mutual anathematizing. (On my own website, if it becomes clear that a visitor's only interest is to tell me I'm wrong, and not only that, I'm going to hell, I simply don't approve their comments, let alone respond to them, because I'm really not interested in flame wars.)

That sort of thing not only isn't allowed here; is isn't necessary here. The guidelines for what's on topic here require questions to be objectively answerable. A denomination either does or does not teach or believe a particular thing.

For example, if the Catholic Church believes and teaches that Mary was conceived by Immaculate Conception, that's not a debatable point. The Catholic Church either does or doesn't believe and teach the Immaculate Conception.

Questions here can address that, and can ask for specifics about that belief and its basis according to the Catholic Church. It would be silly to come along and say, "No! The Catholic Church doesn't teach the Immaculate Conception!" So regardless of what you or I may believe about the Immaculate Conception, questions about what the Catholic Church believes on that subject are objectively answerable.

That's exactly what this site is for.

Christianity.SE provides information about Christianity

All of this means that Christianity.SE provides a great place to come and find out exactly what various groups and denominations of Christians believe.

  • It doesn't try to be all things to all people.
  • It doesn't try to provide people with spiritual guidance or pastoral advice.
  • It doesn't try to tell people what the truth is.

There are plenty of other websites that do all of these things.

What Christianity.SE does is provide solid information about what whole groups of Christians believe. And that is a valuable service.

It may even help some people to find the truth. But that is something Christianity.SE leaves to its users to decide.

This site simply provides information about what groups and denominations of Christians believe, and about the Biblical basis of particular beliefs held by various Christian groups and denominations.

It's up to you to decide what you believe is the truth. And though this site can't tell you what is true, it can provide you with a lot of good, solid information that you can use in deciding that for yourself.

And you don't have to wade through a whole bunch of flame wars to get it.

In fact, you can completely ignore my long, impassioned speeches in the chatrooms about what's really the truth. And apparently quite a few people think that's a good thing! ;-)

  • Yes, chat is where opinions fly free. "You always do this to me. I say something, you disagree, then later you seemingly agreed all along." - chat message
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 22:55
  • "This is a site about Christianity, not a Christian site." I call foul. This is a Christian site and certainly not a site about Christianity. Lee, you are an ordained minister and just check the profile of the other mods! What self deceiving nonsense.
    – user13599
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 1:38
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    @user27239 Allow this wikipedia article to correct your thinking. A site moderated by Christians is not necessarily Christian.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 2:15
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    @user27239 The distinction between a Christian site and a secular site where Christians answer questions topically related to Christianity is important and something we actually hashed out pretty early in this site's history—even before we figured out what question formulations were constructive or not in this format. See for example Brothers, we are not Christians‼
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 11:55
  • OF COURSE if someone asked "Does the Catholic Church believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary?", the correct answer is "yes". To say, "no, because it was not necessary for Mary to be conceived sinless in order to accomplish God's purposes" or some such would simply be wrong. Whether one agrees with the part coming after the "because" or not is irrelevant to the question of what the Catholic Church teaches. But I think it would be highly relevant if someone knowledgeable about the Catholic position said "yes, because ..." and explained the justification for the doctrine.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 15:06
  • "Muslims don't identify themselves as Christians." That's begging the question. I'm presenting a hypothetical: Suppose a Muslim did. Suppose someone said that he doesn't believe there's a God, he doesn't believe Jesus ever lived, he doesn't believe the Bible, but he calls himself a Christian because he agrees with Christianity's moral teachings. By the standards of this site, you'd have to accept that he is a Christian because he said so. That seems to me to be patently absurd.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 15:11
  • @Jay the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (in chronological order) is a bit of a sticky situation as each proclaim to be extending the previous. While Islam would not consider itself Christian, they do believe in Jesus and many of the traditions which Christians subscribe (born of a virgin, healed the sick, etc). Christians believe they extend Judaism in that the Jews didn't even realize that their messiah came and he was Jesus. However many Jewish followers believe that Islam and NOT Christianity is more compatible with Judaism. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:06
  • @Jay Now how does this relate to the site? Well, we don't declare who is Christian or not. If your Rosicrucian, LDS, Unity, JW, Catholic, or Protestant (or anything in between), you should flag your questions to that denomination where it will be answered by those who understand them in that context. To say that we're not going to allow question from fringe Christian groups would open a Pandora's box - where would it stop? Even within denominations, people don't agree. SEE THIS Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:08
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    @Jay What individual Christians believe is off-topic here. If there were a group or denomination of people who held the beliefs (or unbeliefs) that you mention while proclaiming themselves Christians, then ridiculous as it may sound to most Christians, its beliefs would be on-topic here. But practically speaking, most non-Christian groups and denominations consider themselves to be . . . non-Christian. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:17
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    @Jay Re: Muslims claiming to be Christian. Allow me to introduce you to Ali. He tried multiple times to convince us to allow him to quote the Quran and for us to consider Muslim views as Christian, despite his insistence/agreement that Muslims do not consider themselves Christians. If he couldn't get around it, then I don't think anyone can. Muslims simply do not consider themselves Christian.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:30
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    @Jay "Arguments against x?" are indeed allowed. Most of them ask for biblical arguments (how is the Bible used to argue against this doctrine), but other forms include "Why does this denomination/person teach against it?" The focus is on what Christians believe and preach, not on what is exactly true. That is the difference between an on-topic question and an off-topic Truth question. "Are JW's wrong?": off-topic. "What are the primary arguments against this JW belief?": on-topic.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:35
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    One more thing - given that the site requires objectively correct (and therefore checkable) answers, it's necessary that a given group of people calling themselves Christian have some set of doctrinal beliefs which they publicize in such a way that it's reasonable for others to be able to find them. If nobody can verify that a group calls themselves Christian, we can't accept them as calling themselves Christian; similarly, if nobody can verify that they do or don't hold a belief, we can't state that they do (or don't). Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:37
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    @Jay Asking how a position is supported by those who believe it is quite a bit different than asking if it is true. Honestly, I'm not sure how anyone could equate the two.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 22:11
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    @fredsbend Somebody with a little more knowledge than Ali could easily 'get around' that because there really is a whole movement of folks that considers themselves both Christian and Muslim. They would be on topic here, but I wasn't going to point him in their direction either. Which brings me to your point Jay—our minimum requirement for a "group" is very low: one person besides yourself posting something not on this site that you claim to also adhere to makes a group. So it takes two kooks and one private blog, and the blog has to be the other person's, not yours.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 6:31
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    This is a really low bar but it is actually pretty effective to keep the noise down. It works. But besides that, I think you (@Jay) are confusing two issues: the absurdity or inaccuracy of any given belief in it's own right does not translate to absurdity for inclusion on this site. The decision to not be a bastion of truth—in fact to not dispute absolute truth at all—is not as crazy a basis for the scope of a site as it would be if your personal faith took the same attitude.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 6:37

The existing answers already do an excellent job of explaining why our policies are the way they are. I just wanted to add that we don't need to change anything to become a successful site, because we already are one. We average are reaching more than a half million unique visitors a month and have been growing steadily since inception.

  • 1
    Wow, I had no idea we got so many visitors. And it's funny to see that Sundays always get the most views - I wonder if this is the only site on the network to get max views on Sundays?!
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 11:30
  • @curiousdannii I'd be curious to see what Mi Yodeya gets. Probably pretty low Friday night through Saturday. I wonder if it picks up Saturday night, or not till Sunday.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:05
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    @fredsbend Here you go. Their traffic does instead drop off dramatically on Saturday (which of course is not an exact match to their Sabbath). Eyeballing it, Sunday looks about the same as weekdays there on average.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:12

First off, thanks! Criticism is always important to be heard and hashed out.

That said, I think you may be a bit off-base with some of your criticisms. Here are a few things (not necessarily all) that come to my mind in response to your post:

We naturally put limits on the sorts of questions that can be asked here; you seem to accept this when you talk about banning questions on football or celebrity gossip. What, then, should be the limits we put on questions posted—and why?

The point of a StackExchange site, as we understand it, is primarily to provide objective (in some sense) answers to questions; thus, regardless of why people might come to the site, we have a specific reason for existing. We therefore usually accept only specific types of questions that in our experience we can answer objectively.

The criteria we have for what's acceptable as a question aren't subjective, nor are they arbitrary; they've been arrived at after a few years of experimentation. They've allowed a good number of people to ask and answer some interesting questions, and they seem to be working for most people. (Though it does also seem that most people do take a few tries before they really get it. I'm not sure this is avoidable.)

Let's start with something you seem to have difficulty with: the idea that "posts cannot discuss 'truth' or debate who is a real Christian, but must accept all beliefs". This follows on from the fact that as a StackExchange site we are here primarily for objective answers, not for debate or discussion. If I answer a question from a Catholic view, another person from a Southern Baptist view, another from an Orthodox Christian view, and a fourth from a sedevacantist Catholic view, which one should be accepted as the objectively true answer? How would we arrive at an agreement on the question "What is 'Christianity' and who is a 'real Christian'?" Chat is designed for that sort of discussion and debate, and we do have those discussions in chat. But on the main site, we can't provide an objective answer without coming to an agreement on those questions, and we have found by experience that it appears impossible for an arbitrary group of sincere believers to agree on that question in any way except the way we have, namely by stating that any group who calls themselves Christian is considered Christian for the purposes of the site. (This by the way addresses your question whether one should accept someone who claims that Muslims or Buddhists are Christians. Since neither group claims to be Christian, they are not considered Christian for our purposes.)

You give an apparent counterexample of someone being unable to run a "Java" program, posting on StackOverflow, and being told that what they had posted was not Java—according to the international standards committee responsible for Java. However, there is no such committee for Christianity, and there are an incredibly broad variety of views within it. We can't discuss what is "valid Christianity" in the same sense one can discuss what is "valid Java" simply because there are tens of thousands of groups, all with different (sometimes wildly different) beliefs, all of whom believe that they have the unique "valid Christianity".

What we've found is that the only way forward, the only way not to have questions tail off into endless lists of alternative viewpoints (none objective in any sense) is to ask primarily not what is true, but what various groups believe to be true, and why they believe them to be true. That's what gets enforced here, so that we can provide the kinds of answers the site was designed for.

As far as questions being closed: "closed" is a relative term, and always subject to reversal. We put debatable questions "on hold" before we close them, we don't close questions that seem to fit within our usual criteria, and we have this very Meta site for discussion of specific closed (or on-hold) questions that someone believes should be reopened. After review and a voting process by relatively high-reputation users, any question can be reopened if it seems to suit the site. We invite the user to come back, re-edit, and request reopening.

Edit— One other thing: You're asking about what it would take for this site to be made successful. Another poster has commented on the number of hits to the site—the number of people who visit. As far as the ability of people to participate, given the rules you feel are too restrictive: based on a quick Data.SE query, we've averaged about 3.5 unclosed questions per day, and 12 answers every day since the site was opened 4⅓ years ago. While miniscule compared with (say) StackOverflow, these numbers don't seem to indicate that people have problems with posting questions or answers while keeping to the site's rules.

I'm not sure I've answered all your questions here, but those are the first couple of responses that come to mind :-)


Allow me to share in your candor. As I have not been offended by yours, I hope that you will not be offended by mine.

I think your three reasons for why people would post are valid. Those are the primary reasons. I don't think your objections on how moderation practices are affecting that are valid. In fact, I think your objections demonstrate a lack of knowledge of the site policies, their history, and their justifications. Your meta participation, for a four-year member, is practically non-existent. Your mischaracterizations of the site policies and failure to understand the justifications is a direct result.

Examples of your misunderstanding:

  1. You give a faux quote of a hypothetical poster who would be upset at there being a question that compares Islam and Christianity.

    • Comparative religion is allowed and always has been, as long as it is being compared to Christianity.
  2. You wonder why "conversation and debate" is banned.

    • How is it you can be a Stack Exchange user for years and not realize that this is discouraged network wide?
    • It's not banned either. It's just reserved for the chat rooms. Main site content must focus on questions, answers, and comments that serve to make those questions and answers better.
  3. You ask what is hurt by allowing an author of an answer to come back and defend himself?

    • Are you not doing that now? There are multiple avenues and opportunities to defend an answer, primarily in comments below it. This is not to be confused with debating God's Truth in an answer, but the factuality and logic of an answer.
    • Meta is the formal avenue for questioning a moderator's or the community's actions.
    • Deletes can be undone and nothing is hurt by deleting then undeleting, except maybe a few egos.
  4. You claim the difference between "The Bible says X" and "Some people interpret the Bible to say X" is a hair's width.

    • Not so at all. Surely you are aware of the massive number of mutually exclusive doctrines on all kinds of things. And they all read the same Bible! The first is a claim of authority, while the other is merely descriptive. The site is not trying to be authoritative, just descriptive.
    • The paragraph where you say that really shows that you are criticizing something you do not understand. You are saying that some questions are not allowed, but indeed they are.
  5. You say "any serious discussion of what different groups believe must surely at some point discuss why they believe this or where the idea comes from"

    • "Why does group x teach doctrine y?" is on topic.
    • "What is the biblical basis for doctrine y?" is on topic.
    • "What is the history of doctrine y?" is on topic.
    • "What is the argument for/against doctrine y?" is on topic.
    • To cover your specific example, immersion, all questions above would work and probably are already on the site.
  6. You state there's some kind of "classic paradox of politically correctness" happening on the site.

    • What utter nonsense. First, no one is telling you what to believe to participate, nor are they telling you that you have to "accept" anything.
    • What the site policies do dictate is that any group that self-identifies as Christian is within the site's topic, and you must be respectful of that. You are not required to answer those posts, agree with them, or even read them at all. In fact, you can filter you home page to exclude/include certain tags.
    • Your belief that "truth matters and that not everyone who calls himself Christian" is not a quality metric for deciding what is on topic. Ironically, the belief itself is on topic.
    • There is no ban on questions that ask who is a Christian as long as they are accompanied by "according to [person/denomination]". Otherwise, who's opinion is the one that actually answers the question? How useful would it be if a hundred internet people I don't know, self-identifying as Christian, authoritatively tell me some other person is certainly not Christian, rather than a question about a denomination or theologian I do know telling me who is and isn't Christian?
    • Your Java example is entirely stupid. In no way is the Java spec comparable to the Bible, and in no way are their respective uses comparable either.
    • Neither Muslims nor Buddhists self-identify as Christian, so their beliefs are off-topic, except how they may relate to beliefs of those who actually do self-identify as Christian.

I am baffled that this post is by someone who's been using Stack Exchange for over four years.

  • RE comparatives always allowed: Well, hmm, one of my questions a few years ago was deleted, and the reason given was because I was asking for a comparison of other religions and Christianity, and that this was not allowed. (I asked whether followers of other religions use the name of their God or gods as a swear word. Not saying that's a particularly important or profound question.)
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 15:15
  • You ARE telling me what to believe to participate. I must accept that anyone who self-identifies as a Christian, is a Christian. It is one thing to say that the beliefs of any group that calls itself Christian are on-topic. It is quite another to say that I am not allowed to challenge that identification.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 15:20
  • Obviously any analogy is limited. But the Java programming language is defined by a specific document, the Java standard. Christianity is defined by a specific document, the Bible. A claim that the Bible cannot be read literally and used as a standard is a very definite "truth" claim. This is one of the paradoxes of the site rules: no one can say what is absolute truth, and we affirm that this statement is absolutely true.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 15:24
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    @Jay Not at all. You don't have to agree with the statement "anyone who self-identifies as a Christian, is a Christian" to participate. I don't and I bet most others don't either. The statement defines the site scope, not anyone's required beliefs... Why do you think you alone are entitled to decide to correct way to read the Bible? First of all, a literalistic reading is not the way it was read by basically any Christians for the first 1800-1900 years. Second, on any given passage different people will see the "literal meaning" differently.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 17:00
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    You would be very lonely here if only people who agreed with your beliefs were allowed to participate. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:21
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    @jay "You ARE telling me what to believe to participate" are you telling other people what to believe to participate? You assert that there is a unified Christianity who believe in the same things, there isn't and there never was - ever. Please read more about the history of the Christian church and especially before Constantine. The Bible cannot be read literally because it contradicts itself and Jesus himself spoke in parables. If you believe that Adam and Eve, the Jesus literally walked on water, and the world is flat and only 6k years old - so be it. I don't agree and I"m okay with it. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:23
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    @jay "Christianity is defined by ... the Bible." That's news to Catholics (for example), who hold Sacred Tradition to be equally important. And considering that Catholics, various Orthodox Churches, most Protestants, and Latter-Day Saints all have different Bibles, what is one to take as The Bible? Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:52
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    @Jay Re: your deleted question "I asked whether followers of other religions use the name of their God or gods as a swear word." That's certainly interesting, but it is about other religions, not Christianity. Further, it's not really about religion, but cultures and their non-Christian influences. It's just plainly off-topic. Experts in Christianity would likely not really know that nor have the expertise to find out. See comparative-religion tag.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:45
  • @Jay Re: "I'm not allow to challenge the position that X group is Christian". You are, just in the right places. The wrong places include questions that are scoped to that specific group and presume its legitimacy. The right place would be on questions that presume its illegitimacy.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:48
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    @Jay Re: "Christianity is defined by a specific document, the Bible." That is a dogmatic claim and not objectively true. Christianity, like all other religions, is defined by its practitioners. What they believe and do is Christianity, not the book they call their own. The site scope is about Christianity, not the Bible. The Bible is only a part of Christianity, not the whole of it. Hermeneutics is perhaps the site you are looking for, but maybe not, as dogmatic questions/answers are disallowed.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:55
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    @Jay "You ARE telling me what to believe to participate. I must accept that anyone who self-identifies as a Christian, is a Christian." No. This site's definition of a "Christian group or denomination" is "one that identifies itself as Christian." That doesn't mean you have to accept as Christian any group or denomination that self-identifies as Christian. But you do have to accept their right to participate here on Christianity.SE, even if you personally don't think they're Christian. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 23:08
  • @Jay Based on the beliefs of my denomination and the theologian it looks to for its understanding of true Christianity (Emanuel Swedenborg), and on our understanding of the Bible itself, I don't consider Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, or Protestantism to be doctrinally Christian. That probably covers over 90%, by adherents, of all groups and denominations that self-identify as Christian. And most of the rest wouldn't fare much better. Yet I recognize their right to be represented here on Christianity.SE for the simple reason that they do self-identify as Christian. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 23:14
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    @Jay I think your Java analogy is off base. The scope of this site isn't "Java" or any one programming language, the scope of this site is "all languages that are used to program computers". But we do limit questions to asking about a specific language, not just any language. Questions about Java (or Scala or Lua or Pya) don't have to be answered with citations of the relevant standard if somebody has the expertise, but they do have to be answered with answers from the right language. You can't answer Java questions with "You should really do this in C#"—which is what "truth" answers would be.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 6:45
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    To continue that analogy, a question about how to do something in Java might attract several answers as to the best way to do something or the best way to express the solution, but somebody saying "this problem is better solved with Python" would get deleted as NAA. In the same way a question about Catholicism here might get a couple answers approaching an issue a little differently, but they would each draw on Catholic theology, not Jehovah's Witness theology. But a question about JWs could only be answered from their perspective, not "they are a cult, you should believe Mormonism instead".
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 6:49
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    @Jay Why is the opinion of someone who DOES believe that he alone is so entitled not allowed to be expressed? You are entitled to get your opinion expressed, but only when it matches the perspective requested. You are not entitled (for example) to tell someone asking the Mormon perspective on Doctrine and Covenants that according to your theology it is not inspired. Caleb's analogy about answering a Java question with C# is exactly on the mark.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 14:36

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