I'm an atheist, and I grew up in the Methodist church, albeit with incredibly decent parents who taught me to love my fellow human beings and judge people based on how they treat others, not their religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

I have many problems with Christianity, not least its legacy of bloodshed, anti-Semitism, intolerance, and oppression. On all these counts, Judaism is superior in my eyes, because the oppressed are obviously morally superior to their oppressors. I have never seen Jews trying to make legislation supporting their own religious views and interfering with other people's lives - in the U.S., that is a uniquely Christian (and primarily evangelical) course of action.

I'm currently studying the history of Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary, or at least auditing courses there, and it has made me very interested in the history of Judaism - it is impossible to understand the origins of Christianity without reference to Judaism. As such, I have been asking a lot of questions here, but I am always afraid of inadvertently causing offense.

This meta question attracted some useful answers, but they are mostly related to mistakes that I, as an atheist, am unlikely to make - for instance, I wouldn't refer to Jesus as "Christ", because I am convinced that he was just a man, nothing more or less. I already understood the issue surrounding the use of "NT" and "OT", so I wouldn't make that mistake either. My interest is historical, not devotional (i.e., I'm not concerned about whether one religion is "right"), so I don't have to worry about showing bias towards one religion. I'm asking about more general guidelines.

Therefore, I have to ask a pretty broad question: What should I keep in mind in order to avoid causing offense? What are the most important things that I should bear in mind?

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    This question is really offensive and shows a remarkable lack of sensitivity for someone who claims to... nah, I'm just kidding. Good question, well asked, and thanks your sensitivity in asking it.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 2:29
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    However, I really don't see how this is different from the other Meta question (besides that the other isn't answered sufficiently).
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 2:33
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    One thing that you (in particular) might want to bear in mind and that isn't mentioned (I don't think) on that page is that we don't give a hoot about Jesus. So questions about what Jews believed or practiced ~2000 years ago are better asked without going into detail about e.g. what Jesus said they practiced or believed.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 2:36
  • @msh210 - Then it's a good thing that we have no idea which, if any, of the sayings attributed to Jesus are authentic. :) I am not interested in what Jesus is claimed to have said, I am only interested in what modern scholarship says about him and his historical context. Actually, the answers to the other question suggest that Jesus-as-a-Jew is on topic, but only the historical Jesus, not the guy Christians call the messiah.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 2:49
  • @msh210 thanks for the suggestion; I just edited something about that into my answer on the other question. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 3:28
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    Re your comment ("Jesus-as-a-Jew is on topic, but only the historical Jesus, not the guy Christians call the messiah") -- not really. Questions about Judaism are on topic. Questions about individual Jews that aren't questions about Judaism aren't on topic.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 4:16
  • Not an answer to this question per se, but worth noting for you that questions of Jewish History that are unrelated to Judaism are off topic (cf meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/1474/759) and are better suited for History. For example, this recent question: history.stackexchange.com/q/23963/1719
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:37
  • @msh210 - There seem to be at least a few questions regarding Jesus that have been deemed on topic. judaism.stackexchange.com/a/61964/9723 I think the deleted question about whether there was halachik justification for stoning him based on the contents of John 8 was on topic as well, since the question was more related to Jewish law than it was to Jesus specifically.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 6:46
  • The questions you mention are questions of halacha. See my immediately preceding comment here.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 6:58
  • @msh210 I'm cool with that. I'm not trying to cause trouble m just trying to feel out the site and what is and isn't acceptable here. I sincerely appreciate your help in that regard.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 7:20
  • @MonicaCellio, do you agree this is a dupe? I really don't see how it differs from the preexisting question. (And note that in response to this question you edited an answer to the other, and that the answer posted here would work just as well there.)
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 12:38
  • And @WadCheber, too, for that matter. I know you claimed in the question that this is not a duplicate, but can you explain why not? Your current explanation above is focused on the answers that the older question has attracted to date -- but whether something is a duplicate really doesn't depend on the answers it has attracted to date.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 12:41
  • @msh210 yeah, I think it's probably a dupe; I didn't want to make that decision last night, but I'll go ahead and close it as such now. I edited the other answer because you rightly pointed out that the answers there could use a little more work. At the time I wrote my answer there our questions from non-Jews were mainly from Christians, but the question itself doesn't presume a Christian perspective so let's address it all in one place. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 13:23
  • @msh210 I didn't say it wasn't a dupe. I actually wasn't sure about that, so I figured that if it was, the site would sort it out soon enough. I'm cool with it closing. I tend to agree with the decision, even though the original question could use some more comprehensive answers.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


One thing that I think could easily cause some issues (and I think you have already seen this here) is that there is often significant tension between academic understanding of scripture and history and traditional Jewish understanding of the same. Asking a question assuming the academic point of view (for example, "Was this particular verse of the Torah written by J, E, P, or D?") might not get the best response.

That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad question (I don't really know where we stand on that), but you will likely get some negative responses.

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