Wikipedia:WikiProject Religion/Manual of style

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The WikiProject Religion Manual of Style has been created through the efforts and broad consensus of contributors to WikiProject Religion. Please follow these conventions when you contribute to religion articles so that they are neutral and stylistically consistent for better and easier reader comprehension.

Difficulty of field[edit]

Religion related articles are among the most contentious on Wikipedia. Editors' involvement is often personal, stemming from their support for the religion concerned or their dislike of it, or their attitude to religion in general. The disputes that arise have often required the intervention of the Arbitration Committee, and several individuals, both supporters and opponents, have received topic bans, and in some cases bans from Wikipedia altogether.John Carter


Lead section[edit]

Leads should follow the guidance at WP:LEAD, in particular "The lead should be able to stand alone as a concise overview. It should define the topic, establish context, explain why the topic is interesting or notable, and summarize the most important points—including any prominent controversies. The emphasis given to material in the lead should roughly reflect its importance to the topic, according to reliable, published sources, and the notability of the article's subject is usually established in the first few sentences. Significant information should not appear in the lead if it is not covered in the remainder of the article." WP:NPOV needs to be carefully followed.Dougweller

The article should begin with a declarative sentence telling the nonspecialist reader what (or who) the subject is. This sentence should describe what the religion itself says about itself and/or the religious subject in question and/or that religion's views about the subject. SPCP1

The lede of an article on religion or religious subjects should be comprised entirely of an objective description of the religion/subject. It should not contain critiques or criticisms of the religion/subject, and it should not contain apologetics for the religion/subject. A critique, in this context, means stating that the religion/subject is false or mistaken. A criticism, in this context, means stating that the religion is bad or harmful or deceitful or just plain wrong. LISA JH

In the lead section of an article relating to this MOS, the name of the article should be the first words used in the article and should be included in bold print. The first sentence of the lead should be a brief introduction/summary of the meaning of the word and should contain the word religion or, in the cases of articles relating to only individual specific religions, the name of the religion. John Carter

Body sections[edit]

The body contains the history and practices of the religion and the subject in question.SPCP4 It should also address differences within the religion, the views of other schools of thought and other religions, and academic points of view.

Criticism sections[edit]

The consensus of the Project is that Criticism sections should be avoidedRSPP4. However, differences among various schools of thought in a particular religion should be described and explained.SPCP3,7 Suggestion: With regard to criticism, any article dealing with religious beliefs must choose between an all or nothing approach. If a criticism section is included, then all known critical views must be represented. Alternatively, there is no criticism section, and no critical views will be included.

Neutral point of view[edit]

Articles within the scope of the Project must adhere to the Religion section of the Neutral POV policy:

In the case of human beliefs and practices, Wikipedia content should not only encompass what motivates individuals who hold these beliefs and practices, but also account for how such beliefs and practices developed.

Wikipedia's NPOV policy often requires that material be presented from multiple points of view. This means providing not only the points of view of different groups as they exist today, but different groups in the past, and, where relevant, opinions of existing groups which have changed over the years.
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, as per the five pillars of wikipedia. One of our primary tasks is to provide sufficient explanatory information on a subject for it to be understood by a typical reader. In the case of human beliefs and practices explanation involves not only describing what motivates individuals who hold specific beliefs and practices, but also an account of how such beliefs and practices came into being and/or took their current shape.
Wikipedia's articles related to religion will naturally draw from the sacred texts of that religion, where such are available, as well as reliable accounts, both internal and external, which supply information on the religion. They also must draw on material from modern archaeological, historical, and scientific sources as required.
It is very possible that adherents of a given religion, or of a specific group within that religion, will object to a critical historical treatment of their faith. These individuals may prefer that the articles describe their faith according to their tradition and understanding, which often differs substantially from the views held by academics and others, including historians, sociologists, and other interested academics. It is also very possible that individuals who are not adherents of a given faith may feel the exact opposite, and prefer that the views of such academics and others be given primacy within wikipedia content. Our NPOV policy demands that all reasonably significant points of view, internal and external, be presented with due prominence in our content without prejudice.
On this basis content regarding such disputed matters should perhaps be adjusted to read something similar to "Adherents of this faith believe X, but many (or most)[discuss] independent critical outsiders believe Y."
Articles should present both rational and mystical perspectives, if they exist, on a given matter, and clearly distinguish between them.John Carter

Use of foreign terminology[edit]

It may be appropriate in some cases to use material in languages other than English. This might particularly be the case with religions like Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, where there seems to be some reasonable academic support for believing that the text of some of their religious texts has remained substantially the same for a great length of time, possibly to the period when the texts were first written, is still available in what seems to be the original language, and the original meanings of the terms used may be less than adequately conveyed with English translation. It is often the case that translations of terms fail to communicate the specific meaning or meanings of the original language, and use of such original language in articles relating to those religions may be appropriate. If transliterations are used, the first appearance of the term should be included as a link, and all transliterations, including the first one, should be italicized. They should not use capital letters, except in cases where the word would also be capitalized in English.John Carter

A specific example of how to use such language can be found here:

  • During the holiday of tabernacles (Succos, Succot, in Hebrew: סוכות) Jews are commanded (have a mitzva, in Hebrew: מצוה) to shake a palm branch (lulav, in Hebrew: לולב) and lemon like citrus fruit (esrog, etrog, in Hebrew: אתרוג) ("eθroɣ").John Carter

Reliable sources[edit]

It is important to include known religious and classical sources SPCP2, and to a lesser extent secular and academic scholarship regarding the religion or subject.SPCP6 WP:NPOV must be followed.

The religious scholarship of experts in religions should not be considered primary sources, and should not be considered inferior to academic scholarship of these religions. However, it should be clearly noted in the text of the article (and not only via wikilink) whether experts in a religion or religious subject are internal experts (rabbis, theologians), or external experts (academics), or both.LISA

One difficulty which is likely to be encountered with some religious material is how much weight to give substantially differing religious experts on a certain topic. As an example, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Roman Catholics often have rather seriously divergent opinions regarding both the translations of texts and their meanings. In many such cases, it may well be reasonable to include such divergent opinions in separate subsections, or, if necessary, in separate child articles.

Also, there is another question which will arise, particularly regarding some more recent sources. There have been times when sources which might otherwise be considered to generally meet RS standards are in fact rather sensationalist works which seem to have been at least in part been created for reasons other than purely academic ones. In some cases, these works may be reasonably seen as promoting a certain opinion regarding the subject, but there may not be any clear internal evidence to support such conclusions. In such cases, it is probably a reasonable best practice to initially include the information from such sources only in a section on "Current opinions" or such, until and unless the academic response and/or specifically religious response can be reasonably determined.John Carter

Scope of guideline[edit]

This guideline is specifically intended to deal with articles relating to religion or individual religions. However, it is believed that the nature of the material in articles on other subjects in wikipedia, including such topics as philosophy, individual philosophical approaches to subjects like Scientism, mythology, alternative medicine, the New Age in general, alternative medicine, alternative views and others are likely to encounter the same difficulties. This material may apply to them as well. John Carter

See also[edit]

MOS Guidelines
WikiProject style guides