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I'm a secular humanist; I say this first.

I am, however, interested in religious discussion and dialogue, but my bias tends (for obvious reasons) towards the free-thinking reasoned response.

My views openly conflict with the majority of the users. So; is there a role for a non-believer voice on a site such as this? Or is it the intention that every answer should derive from scripture, doctrine and dogma?

Should I just leave the site well alone?

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    A lot of my answers were downvoted because of the more open approach I took to them. This is upsetting me because I'm still answering the question, just through a more open lens than religious. – user92 Aug 31 '11 at 0:57
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    @Arbiter ...possibly your answers are being downvoted because they reflect your belief that 'open' and 'religious' are opposites. – the dark wanderer Mar 7 '15 at 1:17
  • Now that it's five years since this question, and you've got 5000+ rep, how has it worked out for you? As expected, or otherwise? – KorvinStarmast Sep 15 '16 at 22:27
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Revised to address your edited question...

If you drop the evangelism idea, that removes a lot of my misgivings. Still, there's a time and a place: if I'm trying to make sense of some thorny philosophical issue, then bringing in an outsider's viewpoint can be helpful...

But... No one likes the guy who goes around quoting the C++ FQA on questions from folks who are just trying to solve a problem without abandoning their platform. In the case of the example answer you linked to on lonesomeday's answer, no one was asking about regional legal issues, historical origins of gender roles, or your personal opinion - the question was specifically, explicitly asking for Biblical sources. While you may have had the knowledge to contribute there, your personal point of view likely prevented you from doing so.

My views openly conflict with the majority of the users.

There's a really good chance that, for the majority of users, their views will conflict to some extent with the views of... the majority of users. 'Tis the nature of the topic. If this is gonna work, it'll be by respecting the views of other users even while disagreeing with them, and avoiding the trap of turning every question into a sectarian battlefield.

If you can do the same, and stick to contributing where your knowledge is applicable and on-topic, I don't see any reason why you couldn't survive here.

  • I phrased that badly; that is not my aim - indeed, I don't really know why I included that. Perhaps I should just edit that out. I'm not out to convert - just discuss a topic of intense interest, but with a viewpoint that is clearly conflicting. See also my comment starting "Re other sites" on another answer here (to Mark Trapp) for more info. – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 17:18
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    And actually, to take your analogy - I would be the guy who shows up on meta-Ruby to ask "I've used Ruby in the past (not currently); but - are you guys interested in jQuery answers when they are relevant? or should I stay out and you can just discuss Ruby?" – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 17:20
  • @Marc: revised to address your revised question (and include a better programming analogy...) – Shog9 Aug 24 '11 at 17:57
  • I took "..lonesomeday's answer.."'s "lonesomeday" quite literally and went about checking the question revisions to see if OP actually shared a link. And then it clicked and I scrolled down. A link or some obvious formatting seems appropriate. – Bleeding Fingers Dec 16 '13 at 6:52
  • Added, @hus787 (note that the answer has been since deleted though) – Shog9 Dec 16 '13 at 7:34
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No, don't go anywhere! I think a non-religious perspective will actually be frequently very useful.

You ask

Or is it the intention that every answer should derive from scripture, doctrine and dogma?

As far as I am concerned, these are not the only way to religious truth. For me (a high church Anglican) human reason is God-given and therefore its use in pursuing religious truth is not only possible but mandatory. The classic Anglican image is that of the three-legged stool -- scripture, reason and tradition -- none of which can stand without the other two. If you are going to contribute something based on human reason -- especially if it challenges a blind recital of scriptural texts -- I for one would be delighted to see it.

If you're here to convert, however, I think you're doing the wrong thing. This is a Q&A site, not Speakers' Corner.

  • See here for the type of answer I mean: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/114/… – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 9:32
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    Here is my two cents. The example answer tries to correct the question instead answering the questions. Apart from that I think the answer looks correct. We should consider all questions are valid and relevant. – Jamess Aug 24 '11 at 9:46
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    @Marc I do think you need to take Christianity seriously to participate well on this site. I'm not convinced that "an old book" as a term for the Bible is well-conceived. Criticise, yes -- but I think a level of respect is necessary if this is going to be a useful site rather than a ranting place. – lonesomeday Aug 24 '11 at 9:52
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    @lonesomeday I mean that in the literal sense; it is a book, and it is old. Nothing more; nothing less. – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 16:36
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    @Marc Oh, I'm sure you didn't mean it offensively. But some Christians would find that jarring or offensive. This is a sensitive area, and if we want it to be successful, then respect for those sensitivities are crucial to this. – lonesomeday Aug 24 '11 at 16:45
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    @lonesomeday then which point do they dispute or find offensive? The fact that it is old? Or the fact that it is a book? Or is it merely in combination as "an old book" that it is offensive? – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 16:55
  • @Marc I can't remember the context exactly, but it was something like "why pay attention to what an old book says?" I think this misses the point that the Bible isn't just any book-that-is-quite-a-few-years-old, but rather the source and inspiration for Christian faith. – lonesomeday Aug 24 '11 at 16:57
  • @lonesomeday the context was "... in that an ancient text, even if it has much wisdom/observation on human nature...". I can cite the entire thing if you like, but it got deleted once, so... – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 16:59
  • @Marc My point was, in any case, general, and not predicated on your actually having said anything objectionable! Just that for this site to succeed, it needs to be based on mutual respect -- by everyone. – lonesomeday Aug 24 '11 at 17:04
  • @lonesomeday which is why I have not, as far as I know (with not-insignificant religious knowledge) been disrespectful... – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 17:15
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I think religious sites are a bit of a honeypot for this, and it's understandable for someone who isn't Christian to want to participate and try to make sure the "non-Christian" perspective is represented, but I would personally hope that you would leave well enough alone, at least when it came to providing answers.

Let's try to abstract the behavior to something less charged: would answers from a person who hates games and thinks people who game are misguided be welcome on Gaming.SE? Would answers from a person who finds off-the-cuff truthiness valid be welcome on Skeptics.SE? Would answers from a person who thinks math is just the wrong way to approach a problem be welcome on Math.SE?

I think there's more than enough room on the internet for Christians and non-Christians to go at it in a constructive manner, but if I'm trying to find answers to questions about Christianity, the last thing I want is someone trying to dispute the premise of the question, or arguing in the comments about the robustness of an answer that quoted dogma or the Bible.

I think there are a lot of ways to alienate potential experts on a site like this without adding "you're going to have to defend everything you say against people who don't believe" to the mix. It just doesn't seem like a particularly constructive use of one's time.

But by all means, if you have questions and are looking for the Christian perspective, you should ask them. I don't think this site will get very far if we only accept questions from "true believers".

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    my purpose is not to refute everything; it is a: to add balance, and b: to note that not every life decision needs to be based on religion, even to the believer. And yes, a "believer" would be welcome on Skeptics, and it would be valid to discuss the points raised. My intent was also to explore some of my own experience (as a recovering Catholic). Personally, I think it odd the theory that religious premise should go unchallenged and be somehow privileged and immune from critique. But... I think I agree with your conclusion. – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 14:59
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    I'm sure you didn't mean it that way, but it sounds a tad condescending to hear Christianity.SE needs to have non-Christians here to provide balance. I don't recall that coming up with other sites. For questions that don't require a Christian perspective, it doesn't seem like those would be on-topic for this site anyway. Christianity.SE should, by all means, be as rigorous as the other SE sites, but it doesn't seem helpful to have someone challenge the religious perspective of an answer when someone coming here is looking for exactly that. – user72 Aug 24 '11 at 15:11
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    @Marc I realize that I didn't make it clear my issue isn't with asking questions or trying to understand Christianity, just that providing answers from the non-Christian perspective on a site intended to be for getting answers from the Christian perspective doesn't seem that constructive. I don't think this site will get very far if we consider questions from non-Christians tp be categorically off-topic. – user72 Aug 24 '11 at 15:27
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    No insult was intended. It is complex, especially when religious debate flies in the face of things like equality law (for example, on gender issues), or presents unqualified and dubious science (both genuine examples from today; in both cases, I would argue that to discuss such purely on religious terms is folly). Still, maybe the best thing I can do here is (via this question) help the community debate what is/isn't welcome on the site, and then take my leave. – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 15:28
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    Re "other sites" - I would have no direct experience to comment from. I am, however, a recovering Catholic - baptised 3 times (don't ask), confirmed, 10+ years serving on the altar, reading in mass, etc. But not belieiving. I also took additional (extra-curricular) courses/qualifications at high-school on religious studies focusing on Christianity, and have read a range of religious and secular texts, and have considered various views at length before asserting my humanist beliefs. It was my view that this qualifies me to at least discuss Christianity, no? – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 16:52
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    @Marc: You're qualified. However, please do remember that we're not here to "discuss" anything. This is a Q&A site, not a forum. – Kramii Aug 25 '11 at 6:10
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    @Kramli I am pretty familiar with the format ;p – Marc Gravell Aug 25 '11 at 6:50
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    @Marc: Please excuse me, but of course you are! However, other readers of your previous comment may not be, and I think it is important to be crystal clear here. My fear is that if any SE site might degenerate into discussion rather than maintaining the nice crisp Q&A format then it will be this one. Do forgive me if I'm just being paranoid. – Kramii Aug 25 '11 at 21:52
  • @Kramii your concern is valid and noted; it was never my intent to be chatty – Marc Gravell Aug 29 '11 at 19:11
  • I think the analogies are a little off - because you compare non believers to people hating Gaming. non believers don't necessarily hate Christianity, after all - everyone is a non-believer before they become a Christian. – CiscoIPPhone Aug 31 '11 at 12:28
  • I think a better analogy would be someone who doesn't play games, but has a curiosity about games. – CiscoIPPhone Aug 31 '11 at 12:32
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I'm a secular humanist

Thanks for recognizing what that means and announcing your stance, it makes dialogue way easier.

I am, however, interested in religious discussion and dialogue...

SE sites tend to steer clear of discussions and dialogue and focus on Questions and Answers. Given that starting point, I do not see any reason why you would not be welcome to ask questions or give answers.

When asking questions, ask things about Christianity and expect to be answered from a Christian perspective.

My views openly conflict with the majority of the users.

The site is less about espousing your views and more about succinctly representing views in general. It is perfectly value for me (as a Protestant) to answer a question about something specifically Catholic if I have the knowledge needed to make a statement. Voting should help clear up whether my answer correctly represented that view.

  • re "SE sites tend to steer clear of discussions and dialogue" - I meant that more in the context of "this is a topic of interest, where I may have some contribution to make", etc. I am pretty familiar with the SE format ;p – Marc Gravell Aug 25 '11 at 8:14
  • @MarcGravell: I did see the diamond, I hope you understood my intended tongue-in-cheek tone. Even if I will try to convert you in any dialogue we have, I think that as a secular humanist you would be a valuable asset to this particular site. You can ask questions AND give answers from a perspective that I cannot. – Caleb Aug 25 '11 at 8:21
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I welcome you.

The truth is objective and able to take care of itself. We don't need to help the truth by keeping inconvenient views out.

I'm hoping for the site to become a place where we can at different times:

  1. assume without questioning: discuss matters based on certain assumptions, regardless of whether we agree with them
  2. question without assuming: present different points of view on a matter in a balanced fashion

If this happens, you and me, a humanist and a Christian, can easily fit on the same site. If it does not, I fear we'll both be leaving.

  • +1 Humanism and Christianity are compatible. To stand in the legacy of Desiderius Erasmus is a position of honour for Catholic, Protestant or atheist. – lonesomeday Aug 24 '11 at 12:05
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    @lonesomeday if humanism and Christianity are "compatible", then that is some other definition of humanism ;p The term is overloaded, but I mean secular humanism. Which is different to religious humanism and renaissance humanism. – Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 13:41
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    @Marc True, true. Nonetheless, I personally, as an academic Anglo-Catholic, would probably have more in common with you when it comes to religious method than I would with someone who believes the Bible is the literal word of God. – lonesomeday Aug 24 '11 at 13:49
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If you've come with constructive questions or you have experise and can provide answers - you're most welcome to participate.

Simply because you don't believe in something doesn't mean that you don't know about that something nor that you can't ask intelligent questions about it. I don't believe that hobbits are real (heretic that I am), but I could still answer questions regarding the hairiness or otherwise of their feet, and can ask perfectly valid questions regarding their stature in comparison to goblins.

This site is built on mutual respect and an interst in Christianity. As long as we have these, this site will benefit from our participation.

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    +1 for a good answer, and +2 for the hobbit reference. – Andy Aug 30 '11 at 15:38
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Christianity is diverse, and I suspect many of the best answers on this site will be summaries of a number of opposing views:

Roman Catholics believe X for Y reason. Meanwhile, Luther taught Z, basing his reasoning on Q. Most Protestant denominations follow Luther in this instance, but there's an iteresting exception with denomination K, which believes J for reason R.

Answers of this kind do not depend on the beliefs of the person writing them. And since secular humanists and other atheists often know far more about religion than many religious believers do, we may be best positioned to provide such answers.

I (ex-JW atheist) certainly intend to contribute to this site.

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You should answer the question that the person asking the question intends to ask, not use answers to express your personal viewpoints or preach your opinions. So you should first find out what is the question, and if it is not clear you can ask the OP to clarify the question.

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I would say welcome because not every question on this site has to spring from personal faith. Certainly, there could be some historical questions which have more concrete issues. For example, when was Jesus Christ born? We do not know the exact year, however scholars can narrow it down to a specific year range and present evidence for their point of view. There are similar situations with people and movements. For example, I think we all agree the Reformation happened and was a historical event. I personally would not like to see this necessarily as an evangelization site per se, but it still can accommodate a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds.

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