The Story Behind Patheos

The Denver-based alternative paper Westword has a cover story on Patheos and it provides a lot of insight into how the site began and where it’s going:

Creating Patheos’s second layer involved bringing in established bloggers from multiple religions — and their readers. Site staffers identified the ten to twenty most-read bloggers in various traditions, starting with Catholic and evangelical and progressive Christians, but soon branching out to pagans and humanists (a catch-all for atheists, agnostics and other forms of spiritual but not religious belief). Then they courted those bloggers, asking them to join Patheos — not so much for the princely sum of around $200 a month (the pay depends on page views), but also for free hosting and tech support.

Today, the five most-visited named “portals” on Patheos are Catholicism, Evangelical Christian, Progressive Christian, Pagan and Humanist (though the most popular blog in that category is ardently Atheist); they also happened to be the ones with the most developed blogger communities. Currently, Patheos has eight Catholic, nineteen Evangelical, eighteen Progressive Christian, five Pagan, two Humanist, two Muslim, one Mormon, one Scientology and one Buddhist blogs.

Patheos has a full-time staff of seventeen, many of them hired right out of Harvard Divinity School; while some are continuing to add content to the site, others are marketing it.

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,” [founder Leo] Brunnick notes.

When you speak to a reporter for nearly an hour, you hope your soundbyte is a little more than a slightly-awkward=sounding excerpt from one sentence, but there you go.

For what it’s worth, when I was thinking about moving my site to Patheos, I got a lot of emails warning me against doing it, predicting that this site (or at least the comment threads) would be overtaken by fundamentalists…

It’s been a few months now and just about all of those fears have dissipated. Patheos continues to be a great platform for me — The problems from the old site are almost entirely gone, their staff is quick to respond to any issues I have, and it’s exciting to explore some of the new opportunities coming up because of the move. (In case you’re wondering, they didn’t tell me to say any of that.) Also, other non-theistic bloggers have joined the site and more of them will be coming soon.

I suppose that means we can all look forward to Patheos’ next phase: The inevitable war with Freethought Blogs. (Bring it, Cuttlefish.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Edivimo

    Mmmm… if you are planning for the “inevitable war” with Freethougth blogs you will need more fellow companions. Freethought blogs is pretty big right now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      Fuck the war. Make love. Atheist orgy style.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    I didn’t even know about Patheos to be honest, I just always come straight to this blog.  As for FTB, while I do go there and read quite a few of the blogs, I don’t like the idea that everyone should be on there, that creates a sort of “us&them” mentality where, if you’re not on FTB you must somehow be against them. That’s just silly.

  • Frederick Green

    The age old problem of inclusion versus exclusion.  What works for one may not work for another.  If you are happy and making good progress by being on Patheos then no one should be complaining about it.  This is and will continue to be one of my favorite blogs.  Keep fighting the good fight.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    On Richarddawkins.net and Secular News Daily the latest comments 
    concerning even an “out-dated” blog or news story, are listed  prominently
    and   send you to its site page. This gives long-buried blogs
    new life.

    Why not do this here?

  • Revyloution

    As a frequent reader here at Patheos, as well at FTB,  I’ll have to offer myself as a mercenary for hire.  My rates are cheap, and I have good credentials.  Make me an offer :)

    On a more serious note,  I’d like to see Hemant toss up a poll for his readers:
    Atheist blogs I read:
    Just The Friendly Atheist
    Pretty much Pharyngula, Friendly Atheist, or who ever is on top of the popularity charts.
    I came here from Reddit, I get all my atheist links from there.
    My blog roll is longer than my arm, and I spend at least 2 hours a day searching for the newest atheist content

  • Anonymous

    There isn’t much overlap between the blogs. If only visit FA and I don’t even notice the other Patheos sites exist. There is one link to the main page, but there aren’t any status updates about new blog entries or comments on the other blogs. No links to other blogs either.

    Probably the reason they can coexist and why the dreaded trolling people predicted didn’t happen

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    When you moved, I predicted that I would basically ignore all the other patheos blogs.  It has played out just like I expected.  I’m surprised that you don’t occasionally link to stories on other patheos blogs though.

  • Rich Wilson

    The Cuttlefish have popup ads. 

    I still go there, but I swear under my breath every time.

    • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

      They still make popup ads? I haven’t seen one of those for years thanks to Adblock.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    I’m surprised by the lack of trolls here. You’d think the proximity to theistic blogs would spill over to here, but I suppose there’s nothing like going into the Lion’s Den of FTB to make trolls feel like they’re suffering for their cause.

    • Anonymous

      As I said above, unless you visit the Patheos main site you wouldn’t even know the other blogs exist. There isn’t any cross-linking in the side bar. All sites are mostly isolated from each other

  • Spencer

    Patheos’s ‘humanist’ section annoys me. Not all atheists and agnostics are humanists. And their descriptions suck ass.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

    “Bring it, Cuttlefish”?  

    Not even a limerick?  A double dactyl?  Anapestic tetrameter?

    Don’t  make me write prose…. you wouldn’t like me in prose….

  • westley

    You also could have mentioned that daylightatheism moved onto bigthink.com:
    http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    I just hate the Disqus comments ><

  • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

    Hey, Hemant.  Hope you had a safe trip back home from Skepticon.  It was nice seeing you.  As I mentioned at the con I write for a similar site myself, except the God Discussion, is also different too.  We have one liberal Xian pastor who writes for the site, but the rest are from various backgrounds, including atheists and humanists.  The last is funny, because we have a Freethought area with an atheist writer and a humanist writer.  Go figure.  lol  I pretty much bounce all of the freethought section and I’ve mentioned humour of that division in the Freethought section to administrator of the site.  However, aside from reporting some religious news, the site is fairly freethinking.

    Now what’s this war on Freethought blogs you and Camel with Hammers are talking about?  That’s a matter of debate depending on who’s writing for what blog site.  :)  Camel with Hammers may think his is the best, you may think your site is the best, but hey…  I write for the best.  :D  Just kidding or am I?  You’ll never know.  ;)

  • http://www.kinapriser.dk/alarm-display-p-1674.html gsm alarm

    I too think that Leo and Cathie Brunnick have done a nice work for the sites feature portals having lots of religion related material and this  site also features nonsectarian histories, maps, videos of religious services, and weekly debates.


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