One of our jobs as moderators is to keep the site clean. This includes deleting posts that do not belong for one reason or another. This usually involves leaving a comment about why the post was deleted, then deleting it. Deletions are not necessarily permanent as an OP may edit them and ask to have them un-deleted.

Common candidates for deletion include posts that are not actually answers to the question or are very low quality. These are usually brought to our attention by the community through the use of flags. Sometimes the choice to delete is very obvious: the answer is a troll or flame or is on an unrelated topic or not even in English.

Today I deleted several posts that were basically variants of "Islam believes X instead" because they were obviously not relevant to the focus of this site. However sometimes the line isn't quite clear. We often get content from people who label themselves as Christian (which per the site definition is valid for anybody to actually do) but then go on to express views that are clearly not Christian and to my knowledge are not representative of any segment of Christianity.

Usually I just leave these alone and let the voting system take care of them. We have quite a collection of such answers in the more-than-ten-downvotes side of things.

Sometimes edge cases come along where it's not quite so clear. For example consider this answer:*

The view that there is no God except as the figment of men's imaginations is patently non-Christian, yet it makes a pretense of defending itself as a view held by "some" Christians. I could easily deduce from the voting and comments that the community generally agrees that this view does not represent Christianity.

The question here is, should such edge cases be deleted? Should this site be cleaned up so that only answers that garner some level of acceptance from the community here survive in the long haul or should heavily downvoted/low quality/not representative answers eventually be deleted as well?

* Please don't make this thread about this answer in particular, I would like to know how the community feels about cleanup of answers in general.


5 Answers 5


Something I want to mention and I think it deserves its own answer. Users have a lot of power on SE. The burden to find and delete bad posts is not completely on the moderators. Here are the things you can do to control content on this site (and any SE site.)

  • At 1 reputation and as an anonymous user you can suggest edits to posts. These require community approval, but they are a great way to start helping to fix bad content immediately, if you can make an edit to improve a post without changing its meaning please do so. This is available to all users under 1000 reputation and most suggested edits are approved/denied nearly immediately. Plus you get 2 rep for every accepted edit that you suggest.

  • At 15 reputation you can start flagging posts. This is a great option if you cannot cast close or delete votes. If you can vote to close and that is all the post needs just cast your close vote and don't flag, but if you can't vote to close, or the post is egregious in some way then please use your flags.

  • At 500 reputation you can start voting to close posts. This is an excellent option for several situations. If a post just needs some work to be on topic or constructive voting to close can send the message to the original poster that they need to clean it up and then it can be reopened. Its also the best way to deal with offensive posts (in addition to flagging).

  • At 1000 reputation you can start editing questions and answers without them requiring approval. This allows you to fix errors and spelling and grammar immediately instead of going through the approval process.

  • At 2000 reputation you can begin to vote to delete questions that have been closed for 24 hours. This is incredibly useful, but you should be careful not to delete questions that have good answers.

  • At 4000 reputation you can vote to delete closed questions as soon as they are closed and answers with a score of -1 or lower. This is where the real power comes in. You can delete the bad stuff, you cannot do it alone, but it certainly gives you the power to perform moderator type actions.

In short, as we grow as a site and as our user base grows and more people have access to the 2k/4k tools (which will be 10k/20k tools when we come out of beta) our users should have more ability to perform mod type tasks and help us clean up the bad and low quality posts.

  • 2
    This is a great answer for "How can we delete blatantly non-Christian answers?" but it doesn't actually address "Should we..." - in trying to work out whether an answer is "not an answer" or not, it would be great to have just a little more guidance in the top-voted and accepted answer here. Commented May 23, 2015 at 2:57

There's no easy answer to this; there are several possible approaches but each one is flawed.

Strict self-identification

If we stick religiously to the view that anyone who self-identifies as a Christian is a Christian for the purposes of this site, and that their definition of Christianity is therefore valid, we run into the kind of problem you've described. Someone who doesn't believe in God at all and instead believes that water runs uphill and the sky is a lovely shade of green at all times, but wants to call themselves a Christian and attribute those beliefs to their faith, can come along and answer a question according to their (supposed) belief set and strictly speaking, according to our rules, their answer would be valid.

The alternative is to define Christianity a different way, by laying down some fundamentals of what all "Christians" believe - but we've avoided that for very very good reasons and rightly so in my opinion. (In a nutshell: we'd never agree).

Let the mods decide

Caleb, you've shown yourself to be a brilliant moderator and I trust your judgement. But just like the rest of us, every moderator has their own idea of what is and isn't conversant with Christianity, even in its very broadest sense. So if you were to delete an answer because it was blatantly non-Christian even if the answer insisted "Some Christians think..." then there could be trouble. BUT I think there's a way out of this one: we've talked before about "Some Christians say..." questions and I think the same should hold true for answers. Name a specific group, or speak only for yourself (and identify which denomination etc. you belong to if any).

Let the community decide

We've already found there are quite a few trolls around, and quite a few people here who feel their purpose on the site is not to seek and share knowledge but to challenge others' beliefs and promote their own. I'm at risk of stuffing beans up my nose here but it wouldn't take much for a group of militant atheists to club together, upvote non-Christian answers and downvote answers that do explain the Christian perspective. It's abundantly clear that voting is about how well an answer answers the question, not whether the voter/community agree with it, but we know people abuse votes. All of which gives us two problems if we measure the validity of answers by the number of votes they get:

  1. In some cases an answer may (appear to) address the question brilliantly but fail to provide an explicitly Christian viewpoint, and thus would (or at least should) be upvoted. (In such a case it probably means the question was off topic so perhaps this scenario is not all that likely)

  2. People could use their votes maliciously in an organised fashion as described above, so the votes would not correctly reflect the community's view

Let the OP decide

The "StackExchange Way" is for the OP to accept which answer they found most useful. To address your question, Should this site be cleaned up so that only answers that garner some level of acceptance from the community here... arguably community acceptance doesn't matter, the only acceptance that matters is that of the person who asked the question. Again this gives us problems; if the OP is not a Christian they are liable to select the answer they like best rather the one that most accurately explains the Christian position. It also doesn't of course mean that the other answers are wrong.


I really don't know.

  • Good thoughts, I'm just a little sad the Conclusion section is empty :) Just a little bit of commentary ... (excuse me while I abuse the comment system for a moment)
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:30
  • Re strict self-identification: that's the one case that the community voting model seems to handle pretty well. I'm generally inclined to leave those alone.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:30
  • Re let the mods decide,: thanks for the vote of confidence, but I want to mention there is another way. Posts that collect too many flags eventually get automatically deleted by the system without a mod having to make a judgement call!
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:30
  • Re: let the community decide: we already have organized counter voting (the worst bad answers routinly get a few upvotes right off the bat) but this is generally outweighed by the larger legitimate user base here. If you ever spot a case where something is obviously not working with the voting system, flag it! If need be we can also bring those cases up on meta.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:30
  • Re: let the OP decide: this works to a point, but because organized abuse is actually a problem, mods can and occasionally do step in on this one. We have had a couple cases already where we've deleted whole Q/A combos because both the question and answers were just organized trolling.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:30
  • 1
    @Caleb Thanks. The real reason for the negligible conclusion is I had to dash off for an appointment! I think from your comments two things become clear. One is that we need to encourage flagging, and the other is that as with any open project we're dependent on there being more legitimate users than trolls/vandals/etc.
    – Waggers
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:48

I think those general questions should have been clarified and edited to not provoke anwers that don't fit on Christianity.SE. The question in this case was too general and although God is relevant to Christianity, not every question about him is.

I agree that that answer should be deleted as it does not fit on here.

  • 1
    I agree that was a problematic question in the first place, but I don't know how you can make a case that a QnA site about Christianity should care about answers that say there is no God at all. Isn't that like going over to Cooking.SE and answering all questions with "There is no spoon."?
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 9:47
  • @caleb, agreed, i reworded my answer
    – user301
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:01
  • I'm still puzzling over whether I agree with our bolded statement, but the rest of it makes sense now. I may eventually go ahead and delete that answer, but I think I'll let it stand for a while for the sake of discussion here and to see if the community comes to a clear consensus on what do do with such issues. BTW, we can still go back and make that a better question, if you have any ideas...
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:32
  • 1
    @Caleb "Can God make a rock that is to big for Him to move?" is a question about God that is not relevant here. I doubt there are very many such questions that will actually be asked here, but they do exist.
    – jimreed
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:02
  • @jimreed: Huh, sure enough. I couldn't think of any examples off the top of my head but that sure is one.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:03

I think the question you are really asking is: What are the boundaries of self-identification?

No matter how badly we want to avoid this stack being Survivor, we all know deep down that there's more to being a Christian than just saying you are a Christian.

A post that clearly states "denomination believes X" should generally not be deleted even if that denomination is closer to the fringes than most. But, when someone shows up claiming to be Jesus and their followers will self-identify as Christian, any posts making that claim are going to get downvoted and flagged and should be deleted.

I trust the wisdom of the moderators in this area.

When in doubt, the moderators can always defer to the community by asking a pointed question on meta.

You also pointed out in comments on another answer that the system will automatically delete posts that get too many flags without waiting for moderator action. I had not realized that before. I assumed that if someone added a comment stating that they had flagged the post, then I would just be giving the moderators more work if I flagged it too. Now I realize that we can use flagging sort of as a "vote to delete" for borderline cases.

Can the moderators undelete a post that has been automatically deleted by flagging? (I'm thinking about a concerted effort by a small group to silence a given viewpoint they disagree with.)

  • Yes, moderators can see what has been deleted and un-delete at discretion. Also, multiple flags show up groups together as a single event with a list of voices, and the more voices that chime in on a given issue the easier it makes our jobs to decide whether or not to take action on something. Don't hesitate to make appropriate flags just because somebody else probably already has.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 13:37
  • 2
    Only spam and offensive flags auto-delete, the other flags never cause automatic deletion. You get real delete votes at very high reputation, those are distinct from flags. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:47

If we accept that it's called "Christianity" and not "Godism" for a reason, then it is not inconceivable for one to believe that Christness is incompatible with, or at least does not require belief in a God. I, a Christian, hold that position myself. I recognize mine is very much a minority position, but I'm not sure that qualifies it as an illegitimate form of Christianity that cannot be mentioned where it is relevant to the question asked. So, frankly, the boundaries of self-identification should be limitless. Any sort of boundaries we wish to put in place are inherently arbitrary.

  • Considering our community guidelines on questions that pose the questions to specific traditions rather than throwing them wide open, it is unlikely that new questions will come along that call for an answer from such a perspective. You're welcome to try asking them, but I have to warn you questions posed "to make a point" usually don't fare very well.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 21:50

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