This is probably impossible, but I wonder, if it were, whether there would be support for it or not.

Regarding greed, Thomas Aquinas wrote:

... greed for any temporal good is the bane of charity, inasmuch as a man turns away from the Divine good through cleaving to a temporal good.

Regarding vainglory, he also wrote:

... it is praiseworthy that a man should "take care of his good name," and that he should "provide good things in the sight of God and men": but not that he should take an empty pleasure in human praise. [...] wherefore it is said of the magnanimous man (Ethic. iv), that he cares not to be praised.

Even more, in the same section he states:

[Pope] Gregory [the Great] ... reckons pride to be the queen of all the vices, and vainglory, which is the immediate offspring of pride, he reckons to be a capital vice: and not without reason. For pride, as we shall state farther on (II-II:152:1 and II-II:152:2), denotes inordinate desire of excellence. But whatever good one may desire, one desires a certain perfection and excellence therefrom: wherefore the end of every vice is directed to the end of pride, so that this vice seems to exercise a kind of causality over the other vices, and ought not to be reckoned among the special sources of vice, known as the capital vices. [...] And since many vices arise from the inordinate desire thereof, it follows that vainglory is a capital vice.

Now, the Reputation System in SE, through the use of badges, reputation, and rankings, can induce users to sin via e.g. greed and vainglory. Naturally, this ultimately depends on each person, but does not deny the fact that SE might act as what John Paul II called a structure of sin, which calls for its removal/reform.

Upon this reading of the situation, it might seem logical that a significant amount of users might be interested in eliminating such system for Christianity.SE. Is this the case? Is this actually possible? Would this ultimately lower the quality of the Q&A the site get?


As you say, this isn't particularly feasible – the entire Stack Exchange platform is heavily dependent on the reputation structure. For example:

  • Reputation dictates how many privileges you have on the site. It would be absolute chaos if all users could perform all actions, even users with practically no experience on the site. For more info, see the privileges page, or my overview.
  • Reputation is used as a "currency" in bounties – without reputation, the bounty system disappears, making it impossible to reward great content or encourage people to answer difficult questions.
  • Very low reputation usually indicates a user with very little experience on the site, indicating that they may not have yet received a nice welcome or a clear explanation of site policies. If reputation goes away, it's much more difficult to find, let alone help, newbies.

Similar proposals have been made on Meta Stack Exchange, and haven't gotten very far – though in that more secular environment, perhaps the ability to brag is more of a feature than a bug. See, for example, Hide the rep and badge count on a user's info box on answers and How to disable/remove all badges and reputation?.

For what it's worth, a particular user's numerical reputation actually plays a very small part in what other experienced users think about them. Just because someone has 5k or 10k or 20k or 50k doesn't mean that that person is automatically respected by others. In fact, there are several users with reputation levels similar to yours whose content I respect much more than that of quite a few 10k+ users.

So yes, while the reputation system could be an encouragement to vainglory / greed, its practical usefulness means that it isn't going away anytime soon. Probably the best approaches for people struggling with this would be to avoid posting on Stack Exchange, or to do what some of our users do, and continuously use bounties to give away the vast majority of their reputation.

  • "or to do what some of our users do, and continuously use bounties to give away the vast majority of their reputation." But as bounties are public, and actually highly promoted, won't this just also feed their pride? Giving should be done in secret after all. If reputation is actually a problem for anyone, then they need to deal with that between themselves and God, and not look for a whitewashing solution. – curiousdannii Jan 25 '18 at 0:12
  • @curiousdannii The bounties are high exposure while they are running, but while not secret, they kind of fade into oblivion after a while. How much bounties somebody has offered is something I rarely run across unless really digging into somebody's profile. – Caleb Jan 25 '18 at 9:00
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    @Caleb Perhaps this question should just be closed as a pastoral care question? Can we do that on Meta? :P – curiousdannii Jan 25 '18 at 9:17
  • @curiousdannii Touché! – Caleb Jan 25 '18 at 9:20
  • @curiousdannii True! The very fact that I'm aware of such users is an indication that their giving was not done privately :) – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 25 '18 at 14:06

One problem this site is suffering from lately is a lack of +1's. I think reputation on the site is pretty important and it gives some air of credibility to users who know the ropes and are good askers or answerers. The purpose of the reputation system on the site is just gamification, not to lord it over people or anything.

Voting Trends

The site hasn't been +1'ing that much in the last two years, there's more and more questions and answers, but less and less are being voted up. But it's really been hard to accumulate rep in the last couple of years. So, I'd encourage people to go out and vote like we did when the site started. When the site started, we went out of our way to +1 everything that was remotely interesting or somewhat correct in order to promote the site and keep our Area51 ratings high enough to graduate.

We were one of the fastest growing beta sites and I thought one of the best managed, thanks mainly to the level-headed pro-tem mods. My suggestion would be to encourage more reputation to increase the level of Q and A (and engagement).

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    Absolutely! It's definitely a shame that voting has declined. – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 25 '18 at 13:38
  • @Nathaniel I'll argue that this has to do with how many people are participating, and how hard it is to get good questions on this topic. As the number of dupes go up, I'd expect to see the amount of voting go down. – KorvinStarmast Jan 25 '18 at 20:57

If anyone actually feels that their gaining of reputation on this site is feeding sin in their lives, there is a simple solution for that individual: they can mark all of their posts "community wiki". This means they won't get any reputation for their posts, although the rest of the system will continue as it is.

  • This isn't really a solution either. This also has side effects for the site in the way those posts are handled and even when users use that feature we often revert it if there isn't a compelling reason for the feature to be applied to the post (most commonly it's done by new users that don't understand that all posts are community editable anyway). – Caleb Jan 27 '18 at 11:08
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    Also without rep they would be unable to participate in ways that make them more effective contributors to the site. All the functions serve a purpose on the site and experienced users that don't get access to them is a detriment to every other site user who doesn't benefit from the community moderation tasks that high rep users are expected to participate in. – Caleb Jan 27 '18 at 11:10
  • @Caleb Absolutely. – curiousdannii Jan 27 '18 at 11:45

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