Community Features

OnlySky creates space for
meaningful conversations on our site.

The process of making the nonreligious a more influential voice in our culture starts in our discussions with each other.

How and why we are building OnlySky’s community

OnlySky brings something new to the nonreligious community: storytelling, journalism, and opinion from an explicitly secular perspective.

Our audience is the rapidly-growing population of the religiously unaffiliated in the United States, currently 29% of U.S. adults. We want to bring the process of discovering secular life into the open and into a community of others doing the same.

Until now, most online media for the nonreligious has consisted of blogs with a focus on religious criticism and church-state separation aimed mostly at self-described atheists and humanists. OnlySky expands on that contribution with a media site that engages the full human experience from a post-religious perspective for a much broader secular audience. Organization is by subjects rather than authors, and the layout and look are closer to Salon or Vox than to a blog network. Our comment sections are likewise closer to those of media sites like Slate and the Washington Post, with fewer features like text formatting and GIFs so the conversation stays focused on content substance and an exchange of thoughtful opinion.

Thanks for helping to build an exciting new resource by and for secular, nonreligious, and religiously unaffiliated people.

Community Features

Facilitating these conversations is part of our commitment to participatory civic media—the use of technology to amplify voices in our own community to effect social change. That model relies on a genuine exchange of ideas, not a one-way broadcast. So in addition to featuring our own creatives, we want to find and amplify the best voices in our user community and help you do the same.

  • Commenting
    • Registered users can comment on any published article, sharing their perspective to add to the discussion.
  • Real-time Conversations
    • Enables registered users to post content, like, reply, follow or share and opt in to be notified “as it happens” on the site.
  • Topic & Author Follows
    • Registered users can follow authors and/or topics of interest. When content is pushed out, users will be notified through the OnlySky personalized feed panel and via browser and email notifications.
  • On-site Community Feed
    • A centralized home for all registered users’ on-site notifications. The news feed displays trending content, news alerts, live stories, community and engagement activity, and more.
  • Track conversations by following comment threads.
  • Mute (ignore) commenters you don’t want to interact with.
  • Create your own communities by following other commenters.
  • Up-vote comments.
  • Sort comments by time, popularity, activity, most liked, most active, and most replies
  • Keep track of your own commenting activity through a notification menu.
  • Follow authors, topics, and sections you’re most interested in

To create your own FREE member account with access to all the community features above, click HERE.

Community Guidelines

For comments and elsewhere on the site

  • Go out of your way to be kind and supportive, even toward someone who is not. 
  • Threats, hate speech, and defamatory comments will not be tolerated. 
  • Do not post assertions that have been confirmed false or misleading by subject-matter experts such as public health authorities. Egregious or repeated violations, such as those with a high propensity for causing harm, will result in post removal and a site-wide user ban.
  • Trolls—commenters who intentionally incite annoyance or offense to inflame others—will not be tolerated. Repeated trolling will result in a site-wide ban.
  • Go after ideas, not people.
  • Always be de-escalating. Never miss an opportunity to lower the temperature of an exchange.
  • Don’t proselytize religious beliefs.
  • Keep it relevant and substantive.
  • No advertising or spam content.
  • Posting URLs is allowed in comments, but all will be pre-moderated.
  • Do not advocate violence or illegal activity.
  • Avoid graphic descriptions or depictions of violence or sexual abuse, especially but not exclusively those involving children.
  • Preserve privacy. Do not reveal personal information you may know about someone else.

We have created a single sign-on process for the website and the commenting system, eliminating the need for multiple accounts. If you are logged in to your OnlySky account, you will also be logged in to the commenting section. (Not registered yet? Sign up here.)


In the first two months of our launch, OnlySky used an A.I. moderation algorithm (aka the Nannybot) to help keep discussions within the bounds of the community guidelines. Starting March 23, 2022, in response to input from our commenters and an assessment of the algorithm’s performance, we are suspending the A.I. moderation on a trial basis, relying instead on our users to help keep our comment area a civil place for intelligent discussion. Please help us identify bad-faith users and inappropriate comments by using the flag system, and thank you for keeping the guidelines at hand for your own reference as well.

If you have concerns about the comment system or anything else on the site, we want to hear them! To prevent them from going unseen, and to avoid clogging the comments, please visit our Help page or email


What is the bell-shaped button in the bottom right corner?

The bell opens and closes a tray where you can see topics you follow, replies to your comments, and more.

What is the tray all about?

The tray is where all of your information and activity lives. You can view and manage lists of topics, writers, and other users you follow, and you can see which articles you’ve commented on recently. This is where you’ll see all your updates. You can sign in, log in and sign out from inside your tray. If you’re ever looking for something related to comments, this is where you’ll find it. Your tray sits off-screen when not in use, then slides into view when you click on the floating bell button at the bottom right of your screen.

How do I sign up to receive desktop notifications?

The sign up is visible for users at the top of the tray. Click “Activate Now” to begin receiving notifications.

Do I need to register to leave a comment?

You can view comments without registering, but you must register to leave comments.

How do I follow topics, writers, or other users?

Simply click the ‘follow’ button next to a site section, topic, writer’s name, or user’s name. You’ll be notified in your tray of new articles published on that topic or by that writer, or of comments posted by a user you follow. You must register to use this feature.

What is my feed?

Your feed is a running list of the topics and writers you follow. You can access your feed by clicking the bell button and the Feed tab at the top of the tray.

What is my profile?

The profile is a list of the articles you’ve posted comments on. You can access your profile by clicking the bell, then the Profile tab at the top. You can also see how many other users have liked your comments and how many are following you.

What is the community tab?

You can access your profile by clicking the floating tray button and clicking the Community tab at the top. This will show you a list of topics and writers you follow. You can click the ‘X’ to unfollow the topic or writer. You’ll also see a list of people who follow you; they receive a notification when you post a comment.

How do I know when people reply to my comments?

These notifications are listed inside your tray under the Feed tab. You can turn them off in your Profile settings tab.

How do I turn on/off notifications?

You can specify whether and how you want to be notified about breaking news and about topics or writers you follow. Turn these on by clicking the Activate Now or Try Again link that you see near the top of your tray.

What are badges?

Badges are icons next to usernames that tell you more about the user, such as:

  • Moderator: Indicated with an “M” in a green circle. This status is assigned to OnlySky staff and select writers who are able to enable and disable comments and view flagged comments.

What happens if I delete a comment that has replies?

If you or a moderator deletes a comment that has replies below it, the original comment will be replaced with a “content removed” banner, but any replies made on that content will remain.

What happens if I’m banned?

Users who violate our community guidelines are subject to being banned from commenting. There are varying degrees of commenting bans made at the moderators’ discretion. All bans are final—due to limited staff capacity, there is no process for appeal. 

How do I manage my notifications?

In your tray, you can choose to enable email alerts and desktop notifications by clicking the gear icon. When you enable email alerts, you will receive them when another reader replies to your comment or posts in a conversation you are following. To receive desktop notifications, you may need to disable your ad blocker.