Off-limits?

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tiwonge
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Off-limits?

Post by tiwonge » Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:25 pm

When writing a religion question, are there things that are, perhaps, off-limits?

Some religions don't allow adherents to talk about certain things. (The whole Xenu thing in Scientology, or for a more mainstream example, what goes on in a Mormon temple, or possibly even the name of God in Judaism.) I know I've seen Xenu mentioned in Scientology questions, but I don't know that I've seen anything in LDS questions about the Temple or endowments. Should it be a possible question topic, or should such a question be avoided?
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:57 pm

tiwonge wrote:When writing a religion question, are there things that are, perhaps, off-limits?
The highest honor a quizbowl writer could receive is a tirade from Tom Cruise or a fatwa from Ayatollah Khamenei.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:01 pm

I haven't ever felt the need to edit anything out about actual religions (I'd hardly consider Scientology one of those), but I do try and avoid commenting, positively or otherwise, on the nature of the beliefs or asserting things that aren't true (like all Muslims are terrorists or Catholics worship the pope).
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by tiwonge » Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:04 pm

How would you feel about including details about Temple rituals? Mormons consider them "sacred" and won't talk about them outside the temple. They're very uncomfortable hearing others talk about them, too.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:21 pm

People who aren't adherents to a particular religion are under no obligation to follow the guidelines of said religion.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by jonah » Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:40 pm

The Golden Fleecing wrote:People who aren't adherents to a particular religion are under no obligation to follow the guidelines of said religion.
Certainly, but what about those who are adherents of the religions in question? As a moderator and a Jew, I have been uncomfortable reading questions that use the four-letter name of God (rendered in Hebrew). I'm not observant/superstitious/whatever enough that I let it stop me, but I hesitated, and I can certainly envision moderators or players who might be unwilling to say that word. Without knowing a great deal about other religions, I imagine there are potential answers that players might not want to give based on their religion and other text in questions that moderators might not want to read based on their religion. I don't know what the right solution is here, but I do think there is a potential issue.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:38 pm

Let's not get too worried about this. Are we going to allow the risk of giving offense to shade what we can say about other subjects, for instance that creationism, global warming denialism, and monetary neutrality are all notoriously wrong theories that nonetheless find adherents in the University of Chicago economics department? And in the case of religion, I've rarely seen evaluative statements made in quizbowl. If anything, I think clues like "this crazy religion holds that if you're a faithful adherent of it, you get to run your own universe as God after earthly death" would be helpful. Merely mentioning the name of God, already an abbreviation, isn't, and shouldn't be, offensive.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:49 pm

For every religion there are at least a dozen ways to offend a devout adherent. Quizbowl can either cripple its religion distribution, or accept the fact that occasionally really religious people are going to feel that a question went over the line. They can always take solace in having the last laugh when the question writer/editor burns in hell or equivalent.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by bdavery » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:27 pm

AFAIK, many major religions (or local churches) post material about themselves online, and so anything you find on any of those is not only fair game for questions because it's publicly available, but should have the added benefit of higher accuracy to help prevent protests.

As an active Mormon, I know my Church has put out a fair amount of information about the temple, both on the official websites http://www.lds.org or http://www.mormon.org and in booklets you can find in the library room of most local church buildings. But there are certain things about the temple we don't discuss, and to get even close to that --or its equivalent for any other faith-- in a quizbowl tournament, when there are so many other possible topics to ask about for any religion, is unnecessary.

Purposely nearing anything that might offend someone is not necessary to generate a detailed question on any religion or its practices. And if you're trying to attract new teams to the circuit (and keep them), offensive question writing will bother K-12 coaches, principals and parents enough to boycott your tournament --and becomes part of the local rumor mill enough to scare off others from joining up.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:35 pm

Add "excoriation from Bryce Avery" to the previous list.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by evilmonkey » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:04 pm

I can't think of anything that would be a helpful, unbiased, factual clue that would be offensive to me from a religious point of view. Realistically, profanity in questions probably makes me more uncomfortable.

However, I think Jonah and Bryce Avery are on the right track with what they are saying. There are things that might offend someone who was really touchy about their religion - there are other things that will probably make most associated with that religion extremely uncomfortable. There are, notably, a lot of clues about religions. It shouldn't be that hard to avoid that one thing, and quizbowl avoiding that one thing will not "cripple its religion distribution".
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by dxdtdemon » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:12 am

There was once a Purim bonus that a team of four Jews was answering that I accpeted the motion of shaking a gragger when the answer was "Haman".
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:56 am

Quizbowl is a game of facts. What religions actually believe is the most important fact about religions, from a quizbowl perspective. Let's be clear: People are not suggesting we include comments like "religion X is false and inferior." What we have is an opposing group demanding self-censorship of actual facts about what those religions believe, a group which, apparently, really don't understand how quizbowl works.

What other true things should we not talk about because it makes people uncomfortable? Scandals about certain political groups? Genocides? (Might be some Turks playing, can't mention that Armenian thing!) Can we have a biology distribution with so many creationists and homeopaths in the world? Most fundamentalist churches are very uncomfortable with people studying Roman paganism--is the mythology distribution too offensive to keep? If we go down this road then every category becomes unaskable. Looking at the people advocating for removing all meaning from religion questions and the ridiculous consequences of doing so, I think it's clear the right thing to do is to scoff at the notion of considering this and move on.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by evilmonkey » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:45 pm

I think I used a faulty representation early when I said that we should avoid things merely because it made someone uncomfortable - that group of instances is much larger than the set of things that I believe is being addressed, and as you correctly mentioned, naturally leads to all sorts of absurdities.

The set of things that I was addressing were specifically those things that a religion believes it is a sin to speak aloud. The proper analogy to a non-religious situation case would be if we lived in a country where it was a crime with somewhat severe penalties to say a certain phrase out loud. In that situation, we would of course censor that particular phrase, so that our moderators were not imprisoned simply for facilitating the match. Adherents of those faiths to which this would be applicable believe we live in such a world, except that their punishment is worse than anything earthly could be. To that set of people, it is more than a mere discomfort - they might not get the "solace in having the last laugh when the question writer/editor burns in hell or equivalent".

Of equal importance to my argument is my belief that this set of things is very small. If I thought that doing this might cripple the game, I would not advocate it. However, for Catholics, this is an empty set. For Jews, it is one word. For Mormons, it is one set of rituals, which do not comprise a significant fraction of the set of all possible clues about Mormons. All told across all religions not created by science fiction authors, this list probably comprises less than half a typed page. Moreover, I do not believe this set of things can be extended in ways that will harm the game.

I hope this clarifies my earlier statements.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Nov 01, 2011 8:01 am

For Jews, it is one word.
That happens to be incredibly central to any discussion of religion.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Deviant Insider » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:42 am

I actually have discussed religion without using that word, as has everybody who has ever discussed religion, and I have been involved in quizbowl for 18 years without ever seeing it in a packet as far as I can remember. Nobody is proposing eliminating the word God, though some Jews do not write it, since there is no problem saying or hearing the word God.
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Re: Off-limits?

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:47 am

I find it interesting that this discussion came up while this MAGNI question was uncleared:
MAGNI, packet 13 wrote: 8. [NOTE FOR MODERATOR TO READ TO HIM/HERSELF: if your religious beliefs prohibit you from saying “Yahweh,” you may skip the text between the two asterisks. Otherwise, read this question as written.]
In the medieval Jewish satire Toledot Yeshu, an “Ineffable” one of these is stolen by Jesus which grants him his powers. The Mt. Athos-based imiaslavie group believed that one of these words is equivalent to its referent. Hildegard of Bingen used the word Aigonz as one of these in her constructed language, the Lingua Ignota. The Islamic ritual prayer dhikr involves frequent repetition of them. Muslims believe the Quranic text contains at least ninety-nine of them. Many different ones come from pronunciations of yud-hey-vav-hey, the Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton, * one example being Yahweh. * For 10 points, name these religious words or phrases that are “hallowed” in the Lord’s Prayer.
ANSWER: names of God [accept equivalents such as designators for God, words for God, words that mean God, prompt “names,” prompt “synonyms for God”]
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