In order for a question to be valid here, it needs a notable claim. That makes sense - you don't want anybody making up a crackpot idea and then having people investigate flimsy claims.

There is a category once removed from that, however, that I think is useful - the pastoral illustration. As a pastor, I hear lots of inspirational stories, and I'll tell them to large audiences in a church setting. Some of these are true, some are embellished in the telling. (If another pastor tells me the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure you can see from space, I may have to vomit.)

As a firm believer in Truth, however, I don't want to mislead my congregants, and this is a useful place to vette them. To the extent that I can source a pastoral story like this one:

Is there a church in Ireland that has as its ministry providing toilets for local pub patrons?

to an individual making the claim, or provide sufficient detail to make it testable, is it on-topic?

  • To clarify: by "illustrations" you mean "examples", not "pictures".
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 9:53
  • Yes. The term illustration as used in a sermon is an explanatory story used to illustrate a point. It is a standard homeletical definition. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 10:52
  • I'm asking because we have this question: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1327/…
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 11:09

1 Answer 1


One individual making the claim does not make a claim notable, the criterion of notability is that a bunch of people believe a claim. I see two potential problems with allowing those questions:

  1. Do people believe an example literally? Aesop's fables can be seen as simple stories that explain deeper moral/intellectual issues, however no one believes that wolfs talk, etc.

  2. How many people does this reach anyways? I understand a sermon might be attended by a lot of people, but it could be a very localized claim -- which won't get an answer.

We are weary of accepting any claim, let alone a "type" of claim, automatically. If a claim is notable, then it should be mentioned by many sites or many people. They should also report the claims as fact. It should be easy to find examples of it. If you can't find any other example of it, then I'm afraid the claim is not notable.

On the other hand, if you can find many different people claiming that the contents of a pastoral illustration are literally true, ask away!

  • Usually said illustrations make the rounds in books, magazines, or in this case, preachers and pastors share them. The "large group" would typically be both church members and other preachers. I'm specifically talking about illustrations that purport to be true. Given your last paragraph I think that makes this question safe. Thanks! Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 11:13
  • 1
    Only problem? Most of this going around isn't online- it is word of mouth... :) sadly a lot of preachers still cling to dead trees and sound waves... Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 11:14
  • @AffableGeek right, but we are interested in their followers repeating the claim: "My pastor said so and so happened! How cool is that!"
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 11:22

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