This question created a debate about the scope of comparative religion (or in that case, comparative ideology) questions, which can be found in the comments there. The issue seems to be as follows:

  • Is a question which asks for the Jewish view of X on topic?

    • If so, how much information about X must be provided? Does the information need to be in the post, or is externally linking enough?

What is the difference between the above question, this question

Is Christianity Avodah Zara?

and this question

Among the gentiles, why Job and Bilaam were recognized as prophets whereas Muhammad was not?

What is the burden of the asker to supply the information about non-Jewish topics in his question, and when do they apply? The above closed question asks for the Jewish values that would lead to a given position, and the necessary background to the position is linked.

2 Answers 2


Well, I tried changing the question to make it more explicitly a comparative Jewish question, since apparently that intent wasn't clear, and I have now removed all reference to the specific political ideology as anything other than self-identification.

However, asking what about Jewish beliefs cause those who adhere to them to be more likely to believe things in other areas seems on topic to me.

If there was a study which shows that Orthodox Jews are less likely to believe in catastrophic anthropomorphic global warming* than Jews who are not of that religious affiliation (so reform, conservative, unaffiliated whatever) I would think it perfectly on topic to ask why.

I think the real opposition is that the concern is that the topic is contentious. That is not a reason in and of itself to close questions though. But I'm not really all that emotionally vested in this question. If it stays off topic, so be it. But I would appreciate a consistent explanation as to why. If I went back and looked, I could probably come up with 10 counter examples instead of just two, I'm just not vested enough to do it. (But here is one).

If the mods just don't want the question, OK.

I want to explain what I mean by that last line. There was a question asking for a product recommendation about which Beis Din to use in Monsey. That got pounced on so hard by the moderators it made my head spin. Closed as primarily opinion based, and then locked to prevent comments (I had started writing a comment before it got closed, and then ended up being the motivation for locking, I think).

Now, to me it is patently obvious that there was nothing more opinion based about that question than the many other product-recommendation questions that are open and are accepting answers. Rather I suspect it was a (perfectly reasonable) concern about a rapid deterioration into Loshon Hara, etc. that making recommendations about specific people's services would entail.

I suspect this is the (subconscious) motivation for closing this question - it expects a lot of attention on the politics, which creates endless pointless debate, and not so much on the Judaism.

I'm OK with that, but would appreciate if that was clearly stated, if that is the reason.

* An example that came out in chat

  • 1
    "If the mods just don't want the question, OK." -- scope should be set by the community through discussions like these, not by the mods by ourselves. Our job is to apply the community's will (if we know what it is :-) ), not to thwart it. Aug 29, 2014 at 0:13
  • @MonicaCellio, it seems to me (my impression) is that the mods tip the balance here (the question has 6 upvotes at this point). Anyway, my point is that if they are concerned it creates extra policing, effort, too much contention, OK. But I would appreciate a clear, consistent reason why in this case.
    – Yishai
    Aug 29, 2014 at 2:14
  • 1
    Yishai, As DoubleAA mentioned in his comment, there were already three close votes before he used his mod powers to put the question on hold, so the application of mod privilege in this case is marginal.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 29, 2014 at 13:43
  • @IsaacMoses, and there were 5 upvotes. So the mod power took a close situation and pushed it in a specific direction. So what is the difference between this and this question?
    – Yishai
    Aug 29, 2014 at 13:58
  • @Yishai upvotes don't have an effect on whether a question gets put on hold. The only difference between what the mod did and what any other (sufficiently repped) user could have done was that it took one more vote instead of two.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:33
  • @IsaacMoses, I'm using up votes as a proxy for "should stay open" since there is no "should stay open" vote. I think that is a reasonable assessment of community sentiment.
    – Yishai
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:35
  • 2
    @Yishai, are you recommending that users should consider upvotes when deciding whether to vote to close? I'd advocate against that. Closure should be based on the community's standards, applied as objectively and universally as possible. Upvotes are expressions of an individual post's popularity, not necessarily of what the community thinks the standards for question-inclusion should be generally.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:37
  • Part of what makes the question contention-prone is the core issue here: the ideology to be compared with is named, but not defined (and, in fact, is inherently not a well-defined concept). So, you get answers that assume a certain definition and arguments about whether that's the concept or set of issues people are thinking of when they measure it against Judaism.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:44
  • @IsaacMoses, all I am saying is that a positive vote means that the voter wants to see the question answered and thinks it is appropriate for the site. Do you disagree? (I am not suggesting that close voter should hold back because of the positive votes already in place).
    – Yishai
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:54
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:55

I wrote the following in an answer to the now-deleted earlier question asking specifically about the avodah-zara question:

The wording of the question body is not ideal (our standards were probably looser in 2009), but the question of the title, and the question that answers generally address, is IMO on-topic here. "Is Christianity avodah zara" is not in kind different from "are Oreos kosher" -- we can't be expected to know the details of Christian practice or Oreo manufacture, but we have reputable sources from people who have looked into these matters. Good answers will draw on those sources.

To me, a key difference between this question and the politics one is the expectation that there are Jewish writings on the subject. I don't know if I would have closed the politics one; I was still mulling it over when it got put on hold. To my eye, the politics question asks answerers to do much more work than the others, and it would be better if the question articulated the political values in question. (Not just a link; bring it into the question.)

As for the Muhammad question, I think it's a weak question and maybe it should be closed, but "why don't we recognize as a prophet somebody who came hundreds of years after prophecy ended (and didn't usher in the messianic age)" is, at least, answerable without requiring additional knowledge.

  • 1
    By the way, regarding Jewish writings, apparently academic writings that are not from a religious perspective, about Judaism, are acceptable (perhaps that is still not finalized), and there is every reason to suspect that a social scientist has looked at this question.
    – Yishai
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:15

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