14

At some point we will have to decide if religious questions are on-topic, and where exactly we will draw the line to off-topic questions. There is a significant overlap between the skeptic and atheist communities, so these questions will inevitably be asked here.

I'll put up some example questions to have some basis to discuss this:

  • What is the evidence for the existence of God?
  • Is there a soul?
  • How can the christian god be benevolent if there is so much suffering in the world?
  • Is the world only 6000 years old as written in the bible?
  • Does faith healing work?
31

I would personally consider pure religious question off-topic here. We can't extend our focus indefinitely, and many of those questions are more about faith than about science. Religion is a topic many people care deeply about, allowing those questions could cause unnecessary friction.

Questions about claims that relate to the natural world, made by religious groups or people I would consider on-topic. If the religion or its proponents make claims about science, those claims deserve the appropriate scrutiny. This would be for example questions about creationism and faith healing. Those are fair game, even if we decide religion is off-topic. Those kinds of questions should not be able to hide behind a no-religion rule.

So, from my example questions I would consider 1-3 off-topic, and 4-5 on-topic.

  • 3
    +1 Totally agree. – rjstelling Feb 27 '11 at 20:20
  • 1
    Couldn't agree more! – BloodPhilia Feb 27 '11 at 21:06
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    there have been arguments scientific, metaphysical and otherwise made about the existence of the soul. its a hypothesis about which we can argue... skeptically... seems on topic to me. – justin cress Apr 10 '11 at 12:05
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    “Religion is a topic many people care deeply about, allowing those questions could cause unnecessary friction.” – horrible rationale, –1 for this. I agree about the rest, and that’s a way better explanation, no need to invoke people’s (irrelevant) feelings. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 17 '11 at 14:54
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    Many of the arguments for the existence of God are claims about science, for example intelligent design arguments such as Signature in the Cell by Meyer. Accordingly, question 1 should be lumped with 4 and 5, not 2 and 3, with an qualification that the question be implicitly scoped to "What is the scientific evidence...". – Edward Brey Apr 13 '14 at 21:48
13

Historical Claims

There are many claims made by religions that are not substantiated by other historical sources. I feel these should also be on topic.

Many of these claims are taught as fact in schools or reported as causes for current conflicts in the media.

Examples of these type of question are:

  • Did the Jews wander the desert for X number of years
  • Did King Herod the Great kill all the first born sons?
  • 1
    I asked whether sadrach mesach and abednego stories are coroborated by other historical data. That's deleted as off topic. Why? – user4951 Oct 29 '11 at 16:48
8

I totally agree. Just to be clear:

Questions about specific, factual claims are OK (religious or not)

Questions about philosophical views or metaphysical claims are NOT OK

  • 1
    You closed a question saying the FAQ stated "religion" or something wasn't allowed, but I couldn't find the "relig" string in the FAQ – Jader Dias Apr 7 '11 at 14:09
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    From our FAQ "Skeptics is about applying skepticism — it's for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. It is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself." – Sklivvz Apr 7 '11 at 15:02
  • But you are right, I should have expressed myself better. It's now corrected :-) – Sklivvz Apr 7 '11 at 15:06
4

Close to fabians answer, I would say, the criterion should be, whether there is a provable or disprovable question.

It is not necessary, that the question has a known, definitive answer you know - it would be enough if there is a thinkable way to answer the question objectively.

For example: Faith healing might be challenged statistically. Whether this has been done or not is not relevant to allow the question - it should be allowed.

But the question for the soul can only be answered with a restricted, clear, scientifically provable idea what the soul is. If such a definition is given: Ok. If not given: Ask for clarification - else: Close.

I can not imagine a testable definition for example 3 of the benevolent God.

Question 1 about the evidence for the existence of God would need a clear definition of God too.

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