In relation to: According to Eastern Orthodoxy, is googling the serial numbers of a software and using cracks a sin?

In the comments to the above linked question, depperm correctly points out that, as written, the help center makes all "Is X a sin?" questions off-topic.

However, there are questions that are not constructive for the format of this site. These include questions asking for:

  • is "X" a sin questions that ask whether a certain action or belief is sinful

  • "Truth" questions that do not focus on what a specific group of people teaches

The separation of those two bullets is, I believe, the issue. In that same post CuriousDanni suggests the question is on-topic due to the focus on one denomination, which is not technically specified in the help center.

I believe it is legitimately possible to answer "Is X a sin?" questions when properly formatted and directed toward one tradition or denomination. However, I also recognize that human habit will be to not give a documented answer, but advice.

Below I've posted two answers seeking community consensus.

  • One in favor of adding "...that do not focus on what a specific denomination or tradition teaches" and making "Is X a sin?" questions on-topic in that context.

  • One against the change and leaving "Is X a sin?" questions permanently off-topic.


4 Answers 4


I am in favor

I am in favor of adding "...that do not focus on what a specific denomination or tradition teaches" to the "Is X a sin?" definition and making such questions on-topic in that context. The final Help Center entry will read:

  • is "X" a sin questions that ask whether a certain action or belief is sinful that do not focus on what a specific denomination or tradition teaches
  • 2
    How about this wording: "Is X a sin" questions, asking whether a certain action or belief is sinful, that do not ask for the teachings of a specific denomination or tradition. Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 19:28
  • 1
    @Nathaniel, I'm delighted with that wording.
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 19:33

I can see the merit in updating the wording, but I think the proposed change runs the risk of being too specific. When these help messages start reading like a formula that can be exactly followed or not we start ending up with people that try to force the point by following the letter of the law rather than the spirit. Without any real understanding of why such questions are discouraged people start getting pedantic and try to tack on something useless to "fix" their question and make it pass the "site rules". Alternatively people come along and start closing or editing questions to make them fit the formula without actually making them better. We cannot have a rule to catch every scenario, it is better to treat the help pages as general guidelines to, not a formula to follow.

The question you link is actually an example of this. The revision history tells the story. What they really wanted was to ask "is X a sin", but in order to keep their question open they were forced to pick a tradition. They even tried to say "any answer welcome" in spite of adding the Eastern Orthodox scope, and the question got closed. Frankly I don't happen to think that's a useful scope for that question and they would have gotten more response by framing it differently. Encouraging just patching on "according to Y" contributes to people missing the point of question scoping.

I would propose a simpler edit to the text:

open ended "is X a sin" questions that ask whether a certain action or belief is sinful

I think the addition of "open ended" (and the change in quotes) is probably enough to set the stage, but leave the door open for other ways to scope questions that just a formulaic and boring "according to Y".

  • 1
    I understand the desire to be minimalist in the changes (and I'm definitely OK with it). Can you provide an example of a non-open-ended "is X a sin?" question that doesn't rely on denominational scoping?
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 4:18
  • 1
    @JBH The issue may be more with questions like "Is saying 'gosh' a sin according to Protestants" – in such a case, "Protestant" is a pretty useless scope, so it's very open ended, but according to a rules lawyer, it would be technically valid with your language because it mentions a tradition. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 22:53
  • As for the revision history, what it most clearly shows is that I decided I had erred in unilaterally closing the question, so I immediately reopened and edited. I'm not convinced that the EO scoping is useful or sufficient, but I thought that my edits were helpful and moved the question into the "let the community decide" realm. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 22:55
  • 1
    @Nathaniel Ultimately the rules lawyer doesn't have anything to stand on because on-topic questions can still be closed as too broad. The bigger problem I think is people tacking on scopes rather than thinking of good questions from the ground up.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 13:09

I am NOT in favor

I do not agree that the help center should be changed and believe all "Is X a sin?" questions should remain off-topic.

  • Without adding reasons, I think I'm going to have to downvote this. Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    @Thunderforge, I'm the OP and the reasons for and against were provided in my post. Curiously, since my original post was seeking concensus (did you read it?) I must assume that a downvote here doesn't mean "your answer is of low quality" (which is meaningless since I wasn't soliciting feedback) but "I support all other answers above than this one."
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 16:58

It Depends on the Denomination

My opinion (i.e. deeply held belief) is that my church has the answer to every moral quandary (or the answer can be be deduced from first principles) so it would make perfect sense that any "is it a sin" question can have that added to it.

If your church preaches relativism, then this may not be the case.

So, I think you can only unequivocally tack on the denominations to denomination believe themselves to be the fullness of truth. Otherwise, the answer is we don't really have an opinion on that (which may be too boring to leave over, although I don't believe "attracts boring answers" is a valid close reason)

  • I see your point, Peter, but doesn't this boil down to one of the other two options? How are we, the community, to judge whether or not the selected denomination meets this definition? How can we expect the average OP to know that the tradition or denomination they're interested in has relativistic opinions that won't produce a definitive answer? I suppose what I'm asking is, is this a practical option?
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 21:13
  • I think that's why we vote to close questions - there's no mod hammer close on these sorts of questions.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 21:15

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