People aren't interested in the inter-religious dialogue that's found a home on Patheos, Shore continues. "Everything is a process now," he says. "Everything is a question or discussion. People are looking for confirmation of what our higher selves are aware of. I am pro-division."

As for the site's name, Shore jokes that it sounds like another word with Greek origins, pathos: "How pathetic is that?"

******

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.

According to a 2004 Pew study, 26 percent of the people looking at online sites with religious content are searching out information about other religions. Half are doing so just out of curiosity, while another 28 percent say they use the Internet to try to convince people of their beliefs. In a 2010 study on religious knowledge, Pew found that only 6 percent of Americans read books or visited websites to learn about other religions once a week or more.

Even on Patheos.com, the majority of visitors go to the portals for their own religions. "People tend to read things that confirm their own viewpoint," says Dalrymple, who'd like to see the Evangelical portal regarded as the "op-ed page for Evangelical America."

Some Christian bloggers think "there's no value in a pluralist world," says Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Progressive Christian blogger for Patheos, and so they've refused to jump onto the website because of that. But Reyes-Chow says he's also gotten a positive response from Patheos: His readership has doubled from about 20,000 per month to 40,000, and the comments posted there are by thoughtful people, mostly progressive Christians interested in discussing ideas about faith — not drive-by trolls.

Not all atheists were thrilled when Hemant Mehta, who writes the Friendly Atheist, joined Patheos in July, either. A friend and fellow atheist blogger told him he "wouldn't be caught dead on a site like that," Mehta recalls.

"Some people are really uncomfortable with this separate but equal," adds Pagan blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters. "It's like a movie bleeding through to your movie."

"There's a lot of energy intra-religion," Brunnick notes.

Still, Patheos keeps pushing interfaith dialogues between the portals. Come early 2012, it will have "Faith and Family" and "Faith and Politics" sections, in which the views of multiple religions on issues such as abortion and homosexuality will be placed side by side. Brunnick also plans on producing a lot of content to demystify and clarify Mormonism and Islam, hot-button religious issues in the upcoming election.

"The political season will be interesting," he says. "I'm not worried at all. I'm excited about missing two of the big no-nos." And those would be religion and politics.

Although statistics show that an increasing number of Americans — including 57 percent of evangelicals — believe there is more than one way to salvation, religion still largely determines a person's politics. And while more people are identifying as spiritual but not religious, only 6 percent or so say religion isn't important in their lives.

The Internet makes it easy to share information. But at the same time, it also fosters the long tail, creating a haven for people who feel alienated in their non-virtual lives. And so it creates an "echo chamber" of ideas, blogger Smith says, where people just hear what they want to — and criticize those who say something else. Beyond a follow-up Q&A with Dalrymple, Smith has not written again for Patheos.

"We even have very different views of the facts," Dalrymple says of Americans these days. "People on the right and people on the left live in different worlds." He describes this as a "balkanization," adding that he hopes Patheos will provide factual information for those who've been bunkered down in forts with people who think just like them.

Brunnick's vision of the Internet is a bell curve. The majority of the people are in the middle, and the wings are filled with people who will never be happy. He sees three major reactions to the religious pluralism the Internet is fostering: assume that all religion is bad and retreat from it; recognize that there are lots of different ideas in the world and engage with them; or assume that everyone else's opinion is bad and double down on what you already believe. To make money, Brunnick says, he only needs to reach the second group.

"You could compare Patheos to ESPN," he says. While the team you care about the most is clearly your own religion, you want to be exposed to how other teams are doing, what they're thinking.

"It just hasn't been done well in religion," Brunnick says. "Do people want to hear a really complicated answer? No. Do they want to hear different perspectives every day? No. But I do think that the brand of Patheos will represent the place to go if you are looking. Maybe someone will only want to hear a conservative Christian perspective, but the best conservative Christian bloggers will be at Patheos."

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18 comments
mma fight
mma fight

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diesel-benz
diesel-benz

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).

D_erford
D_erford

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?

diesel-benz
diesel-benz

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.'

diesel-benz
diesel-benz

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?

 
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