Are questions of the form

What's the difference between [Jewish thing] and [Religion X thing]?

on- or off-topic on the site?

For reference, the FAQ list mentions briefly what's on- and off-topic, and there's a list of on- and off-topic topics linked thereto, but neither discusses comparative religion.

To be clear, I'm thinking of questions like "I know that basically, the first 5 books in Christian's Bible forms the Torah. However are there any subtle difference between torah and those books?" and "Do Jews and Muslims worship the same G-d? If so, do they understand G-d the same way?".

I think you should clarify further that you're davka not asking on comparisons between religions in their entirety's, as those would be automatically too broad. (I know that it is contained in your question, but I think it should be more obvious.) –  HodofHod Feb 22 '12 at 22:57
@HodofHod, I hereby do so. I should also mention that I'm referring only to questions comparing Judaism with another religion, and not those comparing, e.g., Jainism with Scientology. –  msh210 Feb 22 '12 at 23:00
There are, to date, two answers: one can be summarized as "allow 'em" and the other as "ban 'em". The former currently has 1 net vote; the latter, 5. I'll let this sit another few days, and if nothing changes over that time then I will close the two main-site questions I mention in my question here and add a note to the FAQ indicating that comparative religion questions are out of scope. –  msh210 Feb 27 '12 at 2:46
Update: I have closed those two questions as out of scope. –  msh210 Feb 29 '12 at 17:10

3 Answers 3

I say it depends. You know the famous story about the Rabbi who said "you're both right!"? Well @DoubleAA and @ShmuelBrill are both right! (But the third guy, you know, the one who says "But Rabbi, they can't both be right!"? He's wrong.)

If someone asks a question like "How does Judaism or Jewish Law view <various aspect> of <religion x>?", then that question should be absolutely on-topic. These are questions specifically about Jewish Law (Halacha), and Jewish views (Hashkafa). Examples of such questions:

However, if someone asks something like "What are the differences between how Jews do <thing>, and how <religion x> does it?", then that's off-topic. This is a question that compares two different religions, one of which is out of the scope of this site, so the whole question is off-topic. Examples:

Hat tip: @msh210. –  HodofHod Feb 27 '12 at 4:00
PS. I did mention question type #1 in my answer (although a side-point, it was bolded). –  Shmuel Brin Feb 27 '12 at 22:11
@ShmuelBrill True, and I did notice that. However, I tried to make it clearer. In addition, I don't think we should limit questions of the first type to those that have already been discussed in seforim. –  HodofHod Feb 27 '12 at 22:34
Huh???????????? –  Shmuel Brin Jul 24 '13 at 21:25
@ShmuelBrin Sorry, I didn't think you'd get notifications from that. I'm testing some updates to the referencer. –  HodofHod Jul 24 '13 at 21:26

There are two reasons I think that we should not have these questions:

These questions look like boat programming questions. The Meme of Boat programming came from a question which was asked on stackoverflow as to how to program on a boat (how much fuel does one need to run a laptop, etc. It is hard to see on the screen dump and the original question was deleted).

What is the problem of "boat programming"?

It has nothing to do with programming!! It may have to do with sailing, it may have to do with laptops, but it doesn't require a programming expert for an answer. It needs a sailor.

So too with "Comparative religion" questions. I would be OK if someone asks here "Why do you pray five times a day on Yom Kippur and asks on Islam.SE the same question and compares the answers on his own. However, asking here "Do Jews and Muslims worship the same G-d? If so, do they understand G-d the same way?" is

  1. Counterproductive - most people who are experts in Judaism aren't going to be experts in Islam
  2. Goes against the purpose of this site - "Jewish Life and Learning - Stack Exchange is for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more." These questions aren't 1. "for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition" as neither Jewish law nor Jewish tradition discusses Islam and 2. "anyone interested in learning more" as these questions don't further Jewish knowledge at all.
  3. Pushes away experts - experts would gravitate to websites which discuss technical questions in their field. Unless these questions are discussed in Jewish books (in which case they should be welcome), these are not the types of questions experts would want to see.


I mentioned Islam here because one of the questions mentioned by the OP was about Islam. I am of the same opinion if the questions being asked are about any other religion.

This agrees AFAICT with the part of HodofHod's answer that discusses off-topic questions, and doesn't touch on the part of his answer that discusses on-topic questions. –  msh210 May 8 '12 at 5:58

I say in. The questions are asking for the Jewish perspective on something which is the greatest thing we have to offer. Additionally, it is likely one of the few times some on these non Jews will have to interact (albeit virtually) with a Jew and it is an opportunity to give over good information and impressions about Jews and make a Kiddush Hashem. On the flip side, it means mods should keep an extra close eye on comments and answers thereof to make sure the tone stays appropriate.


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