Some science fiction and fantasy stories describe religious subjects in a fictionalized setting. Probably the most obvious example of this is the His Dark Materials trilogy. I imagine that some of the material in that trilogy might offend some Christians, but not being Christian myself, I lack the relevant context to judge this directly. Wikipedia certainly seems to think that people have been offended, at any rate.
We've discussed religion previously. By the standards set out in those questions, I think it's fairly obvious that His Dark Materials is on-topic while the Bible is off-topic (and one of the answers says as much).
But we can't stop there, because it is not enough to know what's on-topic and what's off-topic. We need to ask and answer these questions respectfully. So, given that we want to treat our users with respect:
- Is it OK to cite the Bible (or any religious text) in order to answer questions about fiction based on said text?
- What if the text explains things which are not directly addressed by the fiction?
- To give a concrete example: Suppose a user asks about Metatron's behavior or motivations in His Dark Materials. The answer cites the Talmud and other rabbinic literature for general information about Metatron's background, history, etc., and then discusses it in the fictional context. Is this OK?
- It's my recollection that His Dark Materials does not thoroughly explain who Metatron is or why we should care about him, so the alternative is a rather sparse answer. Does that matter, or should we always apply the same policy?
- What should we do about things like the Divine Comedy, which may not technically qualify as religious texts, but describe things which many people now literally believe to be true?
We had some discussion of answers that cite religious texts, but the most-upvoted answer seems to be describing the situation in which someone answers a question about, say, Harry Potter by citing the Bible, which is just a bad answer because Harry Potter has nothing to do with the Bible. I'm asking about the situation where the fiction is closely related to, and even based on, a religious text.
I realize this looks like three or four questions, but they're all just special cases of my real question:
When asking and answering about this kind of fiction, how can I best avoid hurting or offending religious users? What specific concerns should I bear in mind, and what sorts of things should I avoid saying or doing?