My initial reaction to questions asking about the belief of a particular religion is that the question is seeking to understand the beliefs of that religion, possibly to include an analysis of what the questioner believes is a contradiction in the beliefs of that religion.

Though I contribute regularly on SE-Biblical Hermeneutics, I'm relatively inexperienced on this site. Recent evidence suggests I may have misunderstood the purpose of this site.

For example, there are frequent questions about beliefs espoused by the Catholic church. I have doctrinal disagreements with Catholicism, but I do not use these questions as a platform for those disagreements. Where I know what a writer/speaker accepted by Catholics has said, I share my thoughts (e.g. here); where I do not, I prefer to leave answering to those who do.

There have been quite a few questions recently about the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and several about the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In both cases, non-adherents to these views have used the questions (and their votes, though this is less surprising) to disparage these religions. Why?

A handful of examples from posts that have been active recently:

These all strike me as very legitimate questions. Yet the comments on these pages--and sometimes the answers themselves--are being used as a vehicle for criticizing these beliefs.

Two specifics that I find surprising:

On the first question noted above, the most upvoted answer (by 4x right now) assumes the adherents simply don't fact-check their beliefs and so they believe out of ignorance.

On the last question noted above, the most up-voted answer (by 7x right now) is an answer that does not attempt to engage with the beliefs of the adherents. It responds on the basis of textual criticism, which is not used by Latter-day Saints to adjudge the authenticity or authority of the Book of Mormon.

(to be sure, I think textual criticism is very interesting, but isn't this a topic for SE-Biblical Hermeneutics?)

If I have misunderstood the purpose of this site, I welcome the chance to learn a bit more. If I have not misunderstood the purpose of this site...then why do we keep doing this?

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    Questions and answers should not be used as platform for those with disagreements of other denominations. IMO, this happens too often with some users. Questions with rebuttals already in place within a question is, in my opinion, a poor way of asking a denominations understanding of a particular subject matter. It results in endless quarrelling in the comments. – Ken Graham May 28 at 19:25

I actually came to meta with similar question. The second most upvoted answer in regards to the last question has 3 paragraphs that are against an LDS view, citing a known anti-Mormon. The first most upvoted answer as stated also doesn't reflect the LDS view point fully.

I am curious how a denomination tag doesn't set the authority/viewpoint being asked, especially when the question is in regards to one denominations beliefs that other denominations don't hold. Different denominations have specific beliefs, and one of the LDS's is the Book of Mormon. Who else would have the authority to answer unless there was a question like 'Why doesn't 'denomination X' believe in the Book of Mormon?'

The tagging page states:

A tag is a word or phrase that describes the topic of the question. Tags are a means of connecting experts with questions they will be able to answer by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories.

So IMO an expert of a particular denomination would be a member of that faith and should be able to expect tagged questions to be asking for their denominations perspective. Those not of tagged denominations can answer if the answer reflects the denominations perspective. Answering otherwise or adding contradicting information seems like bad faith in that it looks like an attempt to put said denomination in bad light, to mislead those seeking answers from said denomination, or even plain misunderstanding a denominations beliefs. There are thousands of denominations so obviously there are difference in opinions. If denomination X answers about denomination Y and then also points out 'flaws' or arguments against said belief when answering a question this seems like an attempt to tear down instead of building or helping understand one another.

disclaimer I am LDS, and the last question especially seems like a fine question that I would expect the OP to want LDS answer, yet several answers seem to have posted answers that the LDS would not support

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    Tags don't set scopes, because you can ask questions about denominations but not from their perspective. So questions should always explicit specify the scoping they desire. – curiousdannii May 29 at 23:04
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    @curiousdannii what is an example of a question about a denomination that wouldn't be from their perspective (I don't think I've ever seen a question about a denomination not asking from their perspective, there are some edge cases when comparing denominations or their beliefs)? Given the example I reference, no other Christian denomination (except some RLDS or related denominations) believe in the Book of Mormon, so I'd assume that no other denomination gives the Book of Mormon any authority. That could be stated in an answer instead of conflicting answers – depperm May 29 at 23:13
  • Church history, demographic, and other factual type questions. I don't see the problem with the answers on that question: everyone, LDS and others alike, acknowledge that there are no manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, so textual criticism is impossible. – curiousdannii May 29 at 23:59
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    I guess the point I'm trying to make is this question seems to clearly ask for an LDS perspective, as no other faith really believes in the Book of Mormon much less its authenticity. One of the answers states sources that don't reflect an LDS answer and posts that they are evidence that the LDS view something a certain way when the 'evidence' doesn't reflect the actual truth. – depperm May 30 at 20:22
  • The other answer only focuses on textual criticism (while valid not the only evidence a LDS person might reference). Other methods can be used as evidence of the Book of Mormons validity include: bayesian statistical analysis, stylometry, the 12 witnesses. – depperm May 30 at 20:24
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    I guess my biggest gripe is that the answer didn't state that it was from a non LDS perspective. Something like No besides the LDS or its offshoots even believe the BoM to be scripture because of XYZ, acknowledges that the answer is from a non LDS. Then they could if they wanted give an LDS perspective on how they would answer such a question. To me the answers come off as putting the LDS beliefs in bad light without any effort to clarify that they are not in fact LDS beliefs and that they would have a different answer then what is provided – depperm May 30 at 21:28
  • The question has been (rightly) closed, so feel free to ask your own scoped question. – curiousdannii May 30 at 21:31
  • @depperm thanks for these thoughts--this question also struck me as one that called for an LDS perspective. I couldn't help but wonder...the question was about translation, and since nobody except Latter-day Saints (and a few offshoots) believe the Book of Mormon is a translation in the first place, how can the question be answered except from a Latter-day Saint viewpoint? To those who believe the Book of Mormon was originally composed in English, the question of translation is moot. – Hold To The Rod May 31 at 4:49

There are some questions that are asked, not because the poster is honestly looking for an answer, but because he is looking for an excuse to engage in polemics. Jesus encountered many of these kinds of "gotcha" questions. Since I do not have His gifts of discernment of thoughts and intentions, I prefer to treat questions that could be honest as if they were, and answer as politely and factually as possible, which seems to be in accord with the purpose of the site. If the questioner's mind is already made up and he is more interested in carrying on a dispute than getting answers, this will become evident sooner or later. I would rather disengage, or even not engage in the first place, rather than be drawn into a possibly rancorous and probably fruitless attempt to convince or convert anyone.

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    I don't think we should be afraid of 'gotcha' questions if the objection is truly legitimate. If something is wrong, something is wrong, regardless of how painful the truth may be. If a 'gotcha' question makes us realize that we were wrong about something and brings us closer to the truth, we should be grateful for it. – Spirit Realm Investigator Jul 18 at 21:12

There's a gray area between questions about historical criticism of religion, religious figures and religious text and doctrine.

We don't allow questions that are like "What does God think about ..." and we don't allow questions like "is X a sin" without more context.

I think that Mormon question at the end was the best example, I don't want to delete a highly voted answer unless the OP clearly states that they want an answer from an LDS perspective (tagging just sets the subject, not the authority), otherwise a non-sectarian answer is perfectly acceptable, the problem is the question should have been closed before it could be answered because it appeals to authority without defining whose authority.

Answers on Jehovah's Witnesses questions are often flagged and you don't see most of 'em, we often let the ones that have research done and the JW adherents that participate on the site usually begrudgingly accept the judgement of mods, even if they disagree with the answers. Almost every sect has its share of gotcha questions, I could think of thousands and these are useful as Peter Maurin would say, for the clarification of thought. Even worse than sectarian gotcha questions are Noah's Ark questions, these are not useful for the clarification of thought, we can all rally around our common dislike of those. So I would use as my guidepost when it comes to flagging gotcha questions (and I would suggest flagging them because they have a tendency to not get closed and get heavily answered) is whether it is more or less useful to clarify a particular doctrine than a random question about Noah's Ark.

  • how does tagging not set the authority/wanted response? If I tagged a question with catholic or jehovahswitness or lds I'd expect the answer to be from their perspective, not from another denomination looking in. Those not of tagged denomination can answer as long as its the beliefs of said denomination. The last question IMO would of course be asking an LDS perspective because LDS believe in the Book of Mormon not say another denomination. Same with questions about catechisms, I'd expect a catholic answer not a baptist, JW, or LDS answer/perspective, even when not stated. – depperm May 29 at 20:05
  • @depperm it just sets the subject. You would tag Catholicism on a question about Luther's opinion of the Catholic Church, it wouldn't be appropriate to give a Catholic answer about Luther's opinion of the Catholic Church, right? – Peter Turner May 30 at 3:30
  • yes but that falls on one of the edge cases, and lutherans separated from catholicism. Considering Mormons consider themselves restoring the gospel (and thus separate from from other denominations) how would a tag of lds not be from an LDS perspective? the question is about one of the beliefs that is basically unique to the LDS faith. – depperm May 30 at 19:57
  • @PeterTurner I think I understand now the difference between tagging and asking for a denomination's view within the Q's text. Thanks for the clarification. I was confused for this LDS question but I now see how the OP should have made it explicit what kind of perspective is expected in the answer. Unfortunately, it was an abandoned question. – GratefulDisciple Jun 6 at 2:29

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