Why witnessing in GD?

For as long as I’ve been here, I’ve wondered why explicitly religious witnessing is part of the criteria for posting in Great Debates. To me, if you want to say how much you love your deity of choice, it seems like a MPSIMS or IMHO topic. Religious debates about its adherents, about its wording, laws, etc. are ripe debate topics, but if one guy is just going on and on about how his deity blessed him, there is no debate there and no changing his mind with arguments or facts. Why put that in GD?

The fact of the matter is, that people will try to debate someone who is witnessing, even if the OP is not open to debate themselves.

I think that will happen here regardless of which forum the witnessing takes place. There are plenty of debates that go on in IMHO.

Can’t we say “this isn’t the forum for debating, if you have a debate, post it in GD”? We do that with other subjects, mods move topics to tell people to stop threadshitting and create anew topic all the time

Meh. Isolating witnessing to a single forum was a good call. Might as well be GD. Back in the day, several posters and mods quite enjoyed ripping out throats and shredding the corpses (I suppose some still do, but it’s lost a lot of savagery)…and since GD already has the drains installed, it seems like the best place to me.

Don’t care if it ruffles feathers, I still miss DavidB.

But if it becomes a debate, it gets moved to GD anyway.


Except for the part about ruffling feathers, which I don’t quite understand.

The fact is Great Debates was more or less created as a forum for witnessing. We had a poster who would post witnessing threads in General Questions. Like a Jeopardy contestant, he would stay within the letter of the rules by posting his OP’s in the form of a question. Something like “Where you aware that God sent his son Jesus to save mankind?” or “How would it change your life if you accepted Jesus as your savior?” He posted a lot of these and people would get annoyed so they’d jump on his threads. The poster didn’t care because he was witnessing the faith. The people that were arguing with him didn’t care because they enjoyed arguing. But the rest of us were getting annoyed at the way these threads were filling up General Questions. So a new forum was created for people who wanted to argue and it was explicitly stated that all witnessing threads belonged there.

AIUI he left some wounded feelings. :shrug:

Explaining the history doesn’t necessarily justify why it was ever a good idea. AFAICT the OPs are usually single-subject zealots with no other board interactions, they don’t have coherent or factual arguments, they will never be persuaded by debate, and they often disappear after a short burst of zealous proselytizing. And the debate, such as it is, usually follows the same predictable pattern of ridiculing unsubstantiated beliefs and superstition, which the zealot categorically rejects, and so it goes.

This isn’t at all the same as discussing religion or religious subjects in some factual or philosophical sense – like the value of religion in society or what we might mean by “God” – and indeed such discussions can be really interesting. But “witnessing” in the sense of mindless proselytizing seems to me entirely pointless. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of tolerance for peddlers of any of the standard suite of conspiracy theories, and it just seems odd to me that this particular weirdness gets a pass.

I am not clear why witnessing wouldn’t belong better in IMHO, but it’s probably historical. That’s just where they decided to put it. It hardly matters anyway - if someone is witnessing, they aren’t going to debate no matter where it ends up.


My understanding of Great Debates is that it’s created to be a place for more contentious topics that can get out of hand. By applying some limited debate-like rules to them, they can contain them a bit better.

I don’t think the OP’s intention matters. Witnessing needs people factually trying to debate it, lest it wind up everywhere on the board. If you know you’re going to be challenged, you’ll either bring good arguments or not bother.

4 years ago I started a thread opining that witnessing should be in IMHO. It went nowhere.

Two years ago Czarcasm started a thread on the basis of another post I made on the same subject. Result, nada.

I agree with the OP, but this is set as in stone as surely as the site’s page format settings.

Heh! Not always! (Speaking as a participant in two separate “Star Trek Transporter” IMHO debates.)

Let’s say debates on religious or political topics usually get moved to GD, at least if they become heated.

Can someone explain what witnessing actually IS?

Does it always have to fall under the heading of religion/god, or can it be about other topics?

My limited experience with witnessing threads have all been religion-based, so that is my default. But I’ve no context for the word “witnessing”. I don’t understand why someone has to go to GD and type out a lengthy OP about (AFAICT, anyway) god. Is the public airing part of the witnessing process?

Just trying to understand something about the concept, and how it came to be in the first place WRT the SDMB.

Moon Hoaxers and Birthers and Truthers would also get moved to GD. And I think tomndebb and Jonathan Chance are perfectly capable of shutting down a thread in Great Debates if the OP is patently not engaging with other posters, whether the OP is peddling conspiracy theories or religion.

Cafe Society has lots of witnessing…about foods, movies, TV shows, books, etc. It really is “witnessing” – and even sometimes a debate, as when the matter arises of what is allowed to be put on a hot dog!

I think the question is, what is to be gained by moving them to IMHO?

Is it the idea that the reason for the OP is to declare his opinion, not ask for arguments against it? If so, would moving it to IMHO mean no one can argue against his opinion? Would people be limited to posting things like, “Well, my opinion is that God is imaginary,”? Would people be able to say “I disagree. NEXT!” What would be the point of that? Would it basically be a de facto instruction to ignore those threads, because argument isn’t allowed and the OP isn’t going to listen, anyway?

I think the point of putting them in GD was to get them out of General Questions, and as witnessing invariably lead to people arguing the justification for that opinion, it necessarily fit better in Great Debates.

Besides, opinions can be debates. In fact, I would argue that many debates are at the root opinions. That’s why they are neverending. Opinions about the validity of the premises, about the weight of individual arguments, about the importance of the values that frame the judgement. For example, the debate over Abortion is largely a contrast in values rather than logical positions. Sure, there are some facts like DNA, brain activity, and other scientific features that contribute to evaluations. But the root of the conflict appears to be over the value of individual life versus the value of choice of the mother.

Witnessing, especially religious witnessing, seems to fit into that category. If you just want a platform to spew your opinions without feedback or questioning, that’s what blogs are for. This board is about discussion and debate. If you think your opinion is so important, defend it and justify it.

I understand the IMHO is GD-lite. ISTM that politics, religion and philosophy are good fits for GD.