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I thought this was going to die on its own, but it seems people have started answering it, so we'd better discuss it.

Do the Abrahamic Holy books claim that their God is omnipotent or omniscient?.

The assertion is that this is a 'skeptical' question because "it's a factual statement". However we are not a site dedicated to answering all 'factual' questions. We are focussed on science and pseudoscience, with some forays into history and a few other specifics. Allowing any factual question is going to broaden the site too far. The question is really about religion, or possibly literature. If we are going to aloow these questions because they are 'factual', why would we not allow 'factual' questions about the contents of the Harry Potter books? Or mathematics?

There is already a site devoted to answering questions exactly like this, and the questioner has given no reason for asking it here instead of that site, except for the slight inconvenience of having to ask his three questions in three different places (in practice one answer spoke for two of his books).

  • Confession: I don't much like the question, but it seemed on the borderline - I hoped a perfunctory answer was the quickest was to get over it and quickly move on, but that attempt failed. – Oddthinking May 5 '12 at 1:23
  • I have to say, I thought this question was bad for a host of reasons - it's not notable beyond the questioner's skepticism, it's too broad, and the only things that can be cited to answer it are religious texts, so it's definitely not related to scientific skepticism. I'm all for erring on the side of including borderline questions, but this was too much for me. – jozzas May 6 '12 at 7:59
  • I don't think that we should make the hundreds of questions about religion or literature off-topic because of this single question. Let's keep our heads cool. – Sklivvz May 6 '12 at 17:17
  • It is indeed a question that could be discussed at more length on other sites, but there is a core skeptical question that is useful to answer here if only so skeptics don't talk the same sort of unthinking nonsense as religious fundamentalists. The factual issue is whether source religious books consistently say what many of the believers in the religions claim they say. Skeptics who want to spend time debunking the views of the religious should care about the answer to this question. – matt_black May 7 '12 at 19:11
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When we say "No! Religious questions are off-topic!", I think we need to be clearer.

Untestable claims are off-topic. If it isn't possible to produce empirical evidence to answer them, in either direction, they are not a topic that can be answered empirically. (Some would go further, and say you couldn't answer them meaningfully, but I am holding back from that position.)

As a subset of that, any questions that are about purely supernatural claims that do not impinge on the natural world, are off-topic.

As a subset of that, many (not all) religious claims are off-topic. Whether God is omnipotent is off-topic.

Many potential literature questions have similar problems. Is Picard a better captain than Kirk? Off-topic.


The author clearly side-stepped this issue by making the question(s) not about whether God exists and is omnipotent, but about the contents of the Holy books.

For this reason, I haven't closed it. I note that two people have voted to close. If you (i.e. the community, not the OP) feel this isn't the sort of question that should be on-topic, I do suggest you add your vote to close.


Mathematics is an interesting one. Is it on-topic? Never given it any thought before. I would argue it is off-topic on Skeptics.SE because you wouldn't attempt to answer it empirically. ("This study showed that 98% of all instances of sqrt(2) in the population were irrational...")

  • You're missing the point. " Is Picard a better captain than Kirk?" is off-topic on all of SE. "In which Star Trek Episode does Picard play the flute?" is testable, and empirical evidence can be produced to back it up. That make it on-topic at Science Fiction, but not on topic here. – DJClayworth May 7 '12 at 13:31
  • @DJClayworth: You make an excellent point. Now, I am backtracking to work out why the flute question is off-topic, and whether it would ever be on-topic. (e.g. what if Obama made a political point in a speech that was based on the fact that Picard never played the flute? Would it be on-topic then?) – Oddthinking May 7 '12 at 14:36
  • @DJClayworth: "In which Star Trek Episode does Picard play the flute?" is off topic (not about a real claim), but "Was Star Trek was the first TV series to feature an interracial kiss?" is perfectly on-topic. – Sklivvz May 7 '12 at 15:50
  • I'd certainly be more inclined to consider it on-topic if there was a pseudoscience or similar claim involved ("you can learn to access hidden memories by playing the flute, just like Picard in Star Trek"). A political claim would be (IMO) less on-topic than a psuedoscience claim, but still more on-topic than this question. But I think those are unlikely scenarios. – DJClayworth May 7 '12 at 15:53
  • @DJClayworth FYI we already discussed this for historical or literary quotes and the consensus was to keep these questions if possible. – Sklivvz May 7 '12 at 15:58
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    I don't believe this is as simple as "Did X say this?". In those questions "X" is usually very well defined, and its just a case of finding a source that attributes X to that person. Here X is loosely defined, and answering the questions requires a much more complicated set of skills including knowledge of translation and biblical-era culture. "Does some work of literature contain phrase X" is of course a trivial exercise for anyone with an electronic copy of the work. – DJClayworth May 7 '12 at 17:00

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