By early 2008, they'd quit their jobs and moved together to Denver, where Cathie had been based when she worked for J.D. Edwards. Brunnick had already been thinking about starting Patheos; Cathie helped make his thinking more concrete.

They got married that April. Each has two children from previous marriages, so at any given time, their tidy Lone Tree home has zero to four kids in it. Combining their families required figuring out what to do regarding religion — but beyond providing their childhood backgrounds, the Brunnicks will not discuss their family's current religious beliefs.

In stories about Patheos, Cathie is often described as a "Lutheran-turned-Evangelical," but she won't confirm that. She will, however, chat giddily about her favorite TV show, The Biggest Loser, and admits she usually cries at the end of each episode.

Leo and Cathie Frazzini Brunnick see the Internet as a path to religious understanding.
anthony camera
Leo and Cathie Frazzini Brunnick see the Internet as a path to religious understanding.
Warren Cole Smith learned the power of Patheos with his post on Mormonism.
Warren Cole Smith learned the power of Patheos with his post on Mormonism.

The Brunnicks say they don't want people to assume that Patheos is just pushing their own beliefs. That definitely wasn't the goal when they started working on the site that first summer in Colorado.

Brunnick wanted to create a place where people could go to find answers for their faith-based questions: "Does God exist?," "What are the origins of Islam?," "What language did Jesus speak?" — one of the queries most often posted on Patheos. The Internet makes it easy to search for answers and avoid awkward face-to-face discussions that could come off as ignorant or offensive, Brunnick explains. Besides, many people don't know anyone who is Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu to ask those questions of.

Unlike most websites devoted to religion, Patheos would present information on all the world's major religions — and do so fairly and accurately. The goal was to create a site that "hosts the whole conversation," Brunnick says. A site where people could discuss their ideas about faith — and while they might not come to an agreement, they should be able to reach an understanding. "We want to be educational without being too complicated. To educate without being reductionist," he explains. "But the world is a pretty complicated place."

Finding financing was definitely complicated. The Brunnicks quit their jobs to create Patheos, and they knew they needed to start big if they wanted to make money. As Google, Apple and Facebook were gobbling up their competitors, success was clearly dependent on scale. But Beliefnet, the only other major multi-religious site on the web, had been bought by News Corporation, then tossed aside, so the time looked right.

To sell their concept to investors, the Brunnicks pointed out that 64 percent of Americans use the Internet for religious purposes. According to a Patheos-sponsored study, more than 70 percent of Americans consider religion important in their lives, but at the same time, more and more people are leaving congregations and searching for what to believe in. Patheos could be the place where they'd find the answers.

But secular corporations didn't want to touch the project, which surprised the Brunnicks. No venture-capital companies were willing to invest in a religion-based website, even if it was neutral. Brunnick couldn't just present the numbers as a business deal; the moment one member of a company felt uncomfortable or alienated, the deal was off. "People would hear religion and just say no," he remembers. "They're too afraid."

Nonprofits shied away, too. The larger, secular charities didn't want to get involved with religion, and the religious ones didn't want to chip in for a site that placed their beliefs as just another choice on the smorgasbord of world religions.

Still, so far Patheos has raised $4.5 million through approximately fifty individuals, each investing an average of $150,000. Many of the investors are friends or former colleagues.


Finding funding wasn't the only challenge. Populating the site was a major project, too.

The base layer of Patheos contains 75-page profiles of more than fifty major religions, including eighteen subsets of Christianity, three subsets of Buddhism and three subsets of Hinduism, written by academics with doctorates in religion and each double-checked by both another academic and a believer. A 1,000-word summary of each of these profiles is included in the site's "library" and covers origins, history and important reading material, as well as how the religion sees gender and sexuality.

"We asked a lot, a lot of people," Brunnick says. To develop the list of religions Patheos would include, they contacted seminaries, the editor of the Encyclopedia of World Religions and people at the Pew Institute, the massive think tank that researches aspects of American life ranging from attitudes about immigration to religion. "We were very careful to be very clear about the different delineations of Hinduism, Buddhism or Christianity," he says. "Even if people have never heard of Vaishnavite Hinduism, that's what we're going to call it, because that's what it is. As a lived tradition for someone who is Hindu, they might not even call themselves a Vaishnavite Hindu."

While often the divisions between faiths and even branches of faiths are blurred, on the Internet, clear divisions are necessary to make a site navigable. "Of all the labels, the hardest one is the one called 'esoteric traditions' or 'emerging traditions,' but everyone wants to be an 'emerging tradition' because 'emerging' is just so positive and forward-looking." Brunnick says. "Esoteric traditions" roughly translates to what academics call "spiritual but not religious," or "New Age." But hardly anyone who is a follower wants to be called "New Age," and "spiritual but not religious" isn't very sexy, either. Internally, Patheos calls the group "SBNRs," notes Brunnick. "I don't know what we're going to name it, but I do know, whatever we name it, we will ultimately change it."

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All religions are based completely on ignorance. "I don't know/understand, so God must be responsible".

Scientology doesn't even mention Overlord Xenu until you've invested thousands of dollars, simply because of how outlandishly stupid the story is.

Mormons actually believe Smith pulled the story out of a hat, instead of his ass.

Christians believe their god is "loving", despite the Bible's story of him murdering thousands of innocent people (twice).

It goes on and on and on, all beliefs based on made up stories, assumptions and ignorance.

Jonathan van der Berg
Jonathan van der Berg

I don't see how scientology can be classed as anything spiritual. One only needs to read a little of the history of that "religion" to quickly realise that it is nothing more than a pyramid style business scheme posing as a religion (and behaving like a cult).


Atheism is based on irrationality. "I cannot see, touch, smell or hear something that is, by definition of being supernatural, beyond that which can be seen, touched, smelt, or heard, so it must not exist."

It is also based on a similar unprovable assumption: "Only matter and energy exist."

Then add the fact that most atheists do not follow their beliefs to their logical conclusions. If they did, they would have to admit they consider rape, murder, stealing, etc 'wrong' only out of personal preference or because they believe 'might makes right', not because those acts are objectively immoral.

Atheism - 'irrationality in the name of reason'.

Hidden One
Hidden One

You are an expert on all religions? How many are there, then?


D_erford, You don't know anything about atheism. To correct you: "I cannot see, touch, smell or hear something that is, by definition unknown, beyond which can not currently be seen, touched, smelt, or heard. I don't know/understand, so I need to try to find out more before I can come to a conclusion."

Please answer the following questions: If your God exists, who or what created your God and why do you not worship that being instead? What existed before your God? If nothing existed, how did your God come into existence with no external input?

Belief in ANY religion is pure arrogance. What proof do you have that YOUR religion, out of the thousands that came around before it, is the right one? Is a man-written storybook all you need to believe with absolute certainty there is an invisible sky daddy? That, is the very definition of ignorance and you are a prefect example of it.

FYI, morality is purely a human social development.

Atheism - 'Asking questions in the name of learning'.Christians- 'I know the answer, God.'


Hidden One,I never claimed to be an expert on anything. You are making an assumption.

To answer your second question: Its impossible to know how many religions there are because anyone can believe what they want. Currently there are 22 "major" religions (Including the "religion" scientology"), but that doesn't count the individual sub-religions.

Example: The descriptive name "Christian" is an extreme generalization. There are over 38,000 denominations that call themselves "Christian". Which is the "right" one? Why?