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I provided an answer to this question citing an example from Norse mythology, and it was deleted for being considered offensive:

It's not well-publicized, but we discourage citing religious texts as fictional works due to the risk of offending.

I've read a Meta question, considering exactly this kind of situation, and it seemed clear to me that such examples are valid. Besides, this particular question was asking for the earliest example of an often used story device, and we know Norse mythology by the accounts of many fiction books from Christian (non-believers) authors.

I did a quick google search to find if someone actually considers Norse Mythology a religion nowadays and it seems there is a German Neopaganism. Now, it's not in my interest to offend anyone but considering a census conducted in 2013 found 16,700 member, it seems odd that I should refrain from using Norse mythology as an example.

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    The question you answered specifically says "in fiction". Thus, citing Norse beliefs is saying a religion is fictional. – Wad Cheber Sep 22 '16 at 20:10
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    And more than that, it is arguably NAA, since it does not actually answer the question asked, just like giving an example based on exoplanet astronomy would be. – Adamant Sep 22 '16 at 20:12
  • @WadCheber If I reference the Christian author that for this example made the tale of Loki and Thor journey to Utgard (clearly fiction) would that make it ok? – Ram Sep 22 '16 at 20:13
  • @Ram if your example is from a work of fiction rather then a "holy book" it would move it into ontop, for example you can use quotes from homer's stories as they are not canon in greek mythos/religion. maybe a mention that the author based it on real norse beliefs as well. – Himarm Sep 22 '16 at 20:15
  • If the question had asked for the origin of the idea, or the inspiration behind it, a religious (or scientific) real life answer would be fine, in my view. But the question asked for a fictional work. – Adamant Sep 22 '16 at 20:15
  • One thing, though: if you can find a good candidate for the first fictional example, writing that answer and mentioning the religious source as a possible inspiration should be fine. Just avoid treating a religious source as fictional (explicitly or implicitly). – Adamant Sep 22 '16 at 20:21
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    You can use them all you want. Just don't state or imply that they're a work of fiction. Simples. – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 10:55
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    Give to Myth.SE what is Myth.SE's and SFF what is SFF's – bleh Sep 24 '16 at 20:29
  • @bleh I know that Mythology SE is the main place for mythology, just like Anime & Manga SE is the main place for Anime. Yet we treat Anime like fiction and don't flag answers when they serve as sci-fi/fantasy elements. – Ram Sep 24 '16 at 23:54
  • I know, just making yet another ad – bleh Sep 25 '16 at 0:46
  • @bleh I'll join that page, I respond well to superliminar messages – Ram Sep 25 '16 at 2:20
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    I'm with @Adamant. Leaving aside rules and such, IMHO, the specific answer being referenced is simply not a valid example of what the question asks, regardless of whether its source is ontopic or religious-offtopic. In all fairness, this is at least partly the fault of a very vague and under-defined question. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 29 '16 at 17:08
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This answer was flagged with a link to our policy on answers that cite religious works. According to that policy, an answer which states or strongly implies that a religious work is fiction should be deleted. Your answer does not specifically say that Norse mythology is fiction; however, the question asks for a fictional source (both in the title and body) so by answering it with a source from Norse mythology you are implying that Norse mythology is fictional (otherwise it wouldn't be an answer to the question). Consequently, I deleted your answer in accordance with our policy.

Regarding the (low) number of people who would consider Norse mythology their religion: it is not up to the moderators to decide what counts as a religion. If an answer citing a religious work is flagged as offensive or the flagger otherwise cites our policy on such answer then the responding moderator is obligated to delete the answer. Furthermore, one of the posts in the policy thread mentions some similarly ancient religions:

...most answers that treat religious texts (regardless whether they're Judeo-Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Druidic, Pagan, Ancient Roman, Ancient Greek etc....)...

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    to be fair, richards answer is +3 (25/22), so its not exactly hard site policy, in fact its one of the most divisive vote ive seen on meta. – Himarm Sep 22 '16 at 20:17
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    @Himarm ASR's answer is +18. – Null Sep 22 '16 at 20:18
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    his states to flag something you find offensive, thats not the same as saying all religious work related answers are off topic or disallowed. with a slight edit even the accidentally implied statement that norse mythology is fictional could have been cleared up. a simple, "these stories could be based on the norse belief yadda yadda" instead of outright deletion... from ASR answer "Things I would flag as this is explicitly saying that a religion is fictional." – Himarm Sep 22 '16 at 20:21
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    @Himarm And the post was flagged. – Null Sep 22 '16 at 20:24
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    @Himarm - Then it would be NAA, as much as citing the US as the dark world version of Canada would be. – Adamant Sep 22 '16 at 20:25
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    @Adamant thats up to the OP to decide if its not an answer. he may not have realized that it came from a religious source, and may broaded up his scope, or he may state that hes un-interested. plus at worst imo its a bad answer, not NAA. – Himarm Sep 22 '16 at 20:26
  • @Himarm - Indeed, if the OP wants to edit their question, NAA posts may become proper answers (and vice versa, which is why this is not always a good idea). – Adamant Sep 22 '16 at 20:28
  • @Adamant plus then it would hit the review que, and not be locked, like mod deleted answers are. – Himarm Sep 22 '16 at 20:29
  • @Null I don't agree that mythology should be considered a religion, but since it's a site policy I accept it. – Ram Sep 22 '16 at 20:56
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    @Ram it's considered non-fictional by policy, even if it isn't 'factual'. Religion doesn't come into it. – AncientSwordRage Sep 22 '16 at 22:06
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    @AncientSwordRage yes I get it, although I think it's an arbitrary policy that limits the concept of fiction: one that deprives this site of the abudance of early works that started most narrative devices used on fiction. – Ram Sep 23 '16 at 0:52
  • @ram - Better to limit the scope (marginally) than risk the occasional religious flame war. Religious believers (of any stripe) are not renowned for their restraint and moderation. – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 10:53
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    @Ram Any religion's historical teaching is mythology to someone who doesn't believe, so your statement could be construed as, "I don't care about religions I don't believe in." To say it another way, a religion is contextualized by "sacred stories" which others consider mythology. This certainly applies to the most prevalent religions. – jpaugh Sep 23 '16 at 16:25
  • I am sorry I just had to comment on this. "According to that policy, an answer which states or strongly implies that a religious work is fiction should be deleted". In denial much, are we? Any such rule is a limit to free speech. If there is such a rule, there should also be a rule banning answers implying some religion or another IS real, if you want to keep objective. Otherwise whoever made this rule should be ashamed of himself. I find the whole idea of this rule very offensive. – Drunken Code Monkey Sep 25 '16 at 21:18
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    @DrunkenCodeMonkey I don't follow how "everyone knows that all religious texts are fiction...even believers." Surely you recognize that a religious person believes that his religion's scriptures are non-fiction? In any case, religious texts do not have any special status -- they are simply deemed off-topic along with all kinds of other texts, like textbooks, history books, biographies, novels that are not in the science fiction or fantasy genre, etc. – Null Sep 27 '16 at 5:21
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I made the initial comment and raised the flag. I was a bit conflicted on doing so, since you had not specifically mentioned any religious text, but you also had not listed a distinctly fictional work either.

To use a parallel, were someone to answer a question about the first appearance of Lilith, we have a definite rule against the use of the Bible, since it's considered a canonical religious source (Lilith is also not directly referenced except for a single line in the Book of Isaiah which quotes the name but does not provide any detail). Similarly, Songs of the Sage (a text from the Dead Sea Scrolls) would not be valid as a "fictional reference" even though it's considered apocryphal by most Christian and Jewish sects. However, you could quote Nick Cuti's "Lilith," which is a clearly fictional story.

Similarly, to provide the Norse example, if you could have pointed out a clearly fictional work that references Norse mythology, such as Marvel's comic books, that would work as an example.


I posted about this to my Facebook page and someone quipped that this would scuttle all of the Star Wars answers. I took it for the joke it was at first... and then realized there's some truth to it. There are people putting Jedi down as their religion. And while I haven't met someone who takes the works of Lucas as literal gospel, I have a friend who survived an otakukin cult where the members believed themselves to be reincarnations of Final Fantasy characters, so it's not out of the question.

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    You were right to do that under the current policy, however I'd like to make an argument for the status of ancient mythology as religion. I'll gather some info and post an answer in the policy thread. – Ram Sep 23 '16 at 11:46
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    I think it's important to note that Jediism, while started from Star Wars, as a religon does not focus on the myth and fiction found in Star Wars. Therefore none of the Star Wars questions or answers could be cited as religious. – Matthew Green Sep 30 '16 at 14:03
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The problem with the question on meta being cited by Null as defining our policy, is that the answer that has been accepted seems controversial, with a score of 3 by way of 26 up and 23 down votes, while another answer has the much higher score of 20 and seems almost unanimous, with 24 up and only 4 down votes.

The accepted answer states:

Any answer which states (or even strongly implies) that a religious work is a work of fiction should be immediately flagged for moderator attention, pending deletion.

The highest scoring answer concludes:

By either metric most answers that treat religious texts (regardless whether they're Judeo-Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Druidic, Pagan, Ancient Roman, Ancient Greek etc....) are simply not providing a good answer, and I'd expect them to get the same response as using Time Cube as a scientific source on Physics.SE - it's just not on topic. Downvote and move on.

As per the accepted answer, the answer didn't state that a religious work is a work of fiction. A case could be made for implying so, but a simple edit would've fixed that.
As per the highest voted answer, it may not have provided a good answer, but voting would've solved that.


So no, the answer should not have been deleted, should possibly have been edited (either by the OP or someone else), and should have been left open to vote on.

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    It doesn't matter that the accepted answer is controversial; the highest-scoring answer is the one that reflects consensus. Which is why I think that the highest-scoring answer should always be accepted on policy discussion questions (though it seems you disagree :-) ) – Rand al'Thor Sep 23 '16 at 12:21
  • @Randal'Thor I've corrected that. – SQB Sep 23 '16 at 13:18
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    A "simple edit" to make sure the answer wasn't implying that a religious work is fiction would render it not an answer since the question is looking for a fictional source. It would be deleted either way. Furthermore, the highest voted answer to the policy question says to delete posts that are flagged, which this one was. – Null Sep 23 '16 at 14:05
  • @Null As discussed in chat, that is not what "not an answer" means. Also, I don't think the highest voted answer advocates deleting without evaluating the flag. – SQB Sep 23 '16 at 15:19
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    I still find it intriguing that my answer is so controversial when the next most popular answer is basically identical, at least in its conclusion. – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 15:34
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    @SQB Your comments in chat indicate that you think this answer made an attempt to answer the question. However, I don't think that answering a question looking for a fictional source with a non-fictional source can be considered an "attempt" at answering the question. That's like someone on SO asking for help implementing an algorithm in Java and getting an answer on how to implement it in Python -- the answer is totally useless to the asker because the answer is violating the conditions of the question by answering in a different programming language. – Null Sep 23 '16 at 16:02

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