I don’t care for Patheos.
There – I’ve said it. It’s out for all to know and see. Some people already knew that, some might have guessed it, but now it’s unequivocally declared. I don’t care for it.
For the sake of the two or three out there who don’t know what a Patheos is… It’s basically a one-stop shop website of all the major world religions – including atheism, which any atheist worth his or her salt will adamantly claim that atheism is not a religion – with the goal of providing fair and balanced information about those religions. It’s a religion web portal with links that lead visitors to blogs, columns and reference materials regarding each belief system. Many of you are familiar with the Catholic bloggers publishing there, some of whom include Mark Shea, the Crescat, Marc Barnes and Fr Longenecker, to name a few.
So what’s not to like, right?
Several things, in my opinion.
First off, let me be absolutely clear. This isn’t about the bloggers – directly. I have no axe to grind with any of the people who blog there – although I do have a challenge for them, which I’ll be getting to later on. I don’t know any of them personally, and for the most part, regarding the blogs I regularly read before they migrated to Patheos, their sites are top-notch. I believe they are true and faithful followers of Christ and His Church, and blog out of love for Christ and His Church, and aren’t doing this merely for the money. I just choose not to patronize them anymore, or link to them. Furthermore, I’m not upset/jealous/miffed that I’ve never been asked to join Patheos. In fact, if they’re considering inviting me, here’s my pre-emptive answer: Thanks, but no thanks. Never in a thousand years. For me, blogging is a hobby, and in my opinion, once money is involved (Patheos bloggers are paid in some degree or fashion – based upon page views and/or “clicks”, I believe), it no longer remains a hobby, but becomes a job. I already have a job. Not that there’s anything wrong with making money off blogging. I’m all for folks earning some cash off of what they love to do. I do believe, though, one ought to exercise discretion in choosing the venue whereby they earn said money. But that’s my opinion, nothing more.
The whole concept of Patheos (which is an admixture of the words “path” and “theos” – thus, “path to god”) is to provide seekers a site where they can get unfiltered, balanced information on the world’s major faiths, and “engage in a global dialogue about religion and spirituality”, in a “safe and welcoming environment”. In and of itself, that is not a bad thing. The Internet is a rough and tumble place, full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, so having a place that seeks to mitigate all that is good. The creators of Patheos are committed to not supporting or endorsing any one religion. Fine, I can accept that, too. We live in a pluralistic society, and it’s good to inform oneself of what other faiths teach and believe so that interactions with real live flesh and blood people can be done with tact, respect and intelligence.
So far so good.
But where things break down for me, are in the details, regarding the Catholic portal itself. In a word – awful. Factual errors, and even some doctrinal squishiness. Let’s take a look. This is from the Religion Library: Roman Catholicism page:
Roman Catholicism is a worldwide religious tradition of some 1.1 billion members. It traces its history to Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant preacher in the area around Jerusalem during the period of Roman occupation, in the early 30s of the Common Era.
Notice any problems there? Let’s see – the Church was formed much earlier than stated (and what’s with the PC “C.E.” crap? Couldn’t the Catholic page at least use “A.D.”, seeing as how it was the Catholic Church that invented it in the first place?); there’s a discrepancy between the number of followers in the chart and in the first sentence – a difference of 10%. And actually, according to an April 2010 Zenit article, the number is 1.167 billion members. And if they wanted to be technical, Catholics – being Christian and all – follow Jesus Christ, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, through whom we come to God. Finally, Jesus of Nazareth was much more than “an itinerant preacher” – the least they could have said was “It traces its history to Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Church teaches and believes to be the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who taught and healed throughout Galilee, around the year 30 A.D.”
Here’s their sources for the “Quick Facts” page:
Quick Fact Sources include www.adherents.com, www.bbc.co.uk/religion, The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions (2006), The Encyclopedia of Religion (2005), the Religious Movements Page at the University of Virginia, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (2002), and the Encyclopedia of World Religions (1999).
Hmmm. Why not use data and material provided by the Catholic Church? It’s not favoritism or implied endorsement should Patheos use accurate data and prime source material, direct from Catholic sources. You know, Wikipedia might even be more accurate. At least it would be more current.
That’s not all. In the “Overview” section, there are a number of categories that go into slightly greater detail of what the Church teaches and professes. For the most part, they’re not bad. It’s unfortunate that there are virtually no citations from the Catechism, or Papal Encyclicals. One section, called “Gender and Sexuality” spends most of the time talking about why women can’t be priests – and even states that “the question of women in the priesthood remains very much alive…”. Well, that’s only true because there are so many of those who disagree with the doctrine of an all-male priesthood, and they won’t accept what the Church teaches.
Also, the topic of abortion. In the “Religion Library” section, under “Topics”, is the heading “Abortion”. Here you can find a number of articles written from various belief systems, including Catholicism. Of the two columns there, the one that caught my eye is titled “Abortion From an Ethic of Compassion”. Here’s part of what it says:
For many who believe that abortion is dangerous to a woman’s body and detrimental to her psychological wellbeing, this will still mean that abortion should be banned. To those who see abortion as basically safe, although accompanied by the attendant risks carried by all medical procedures, it will mean that the woman should be entrusted with the decision about how to proceed. Compassion for a woman finding herself in the difficult position of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy means not just sympathizing with her position, but giving her a full range of options on how to deal with it and providing love and support, not judgment and condemnation, about the decision she makes.
I’m sorry, but that’s not a Catholic position. Abortion kills a child. Abortion is an intrinsic evil – that’s the Catholic position. Yes, we are to be compassionate towards those who chose to have one, but not by being merely sympathetic and providing “a full range of options”. That’s being complicit with evil.
Here’s the thing – if some of these basic things on the Catholic page are incorrect or squishy, then is it logical to presume that the other faith channels have inaccuracies on them as well? How could anyone trust that what they’re reading is correct, if they go to another website – or one of the Patheos Catholic blogs – that states something completely different? That represents a problem, in my estimation.
What else? Well, on the Catholic Portal page, there’s a link to the National Catholic Reporter. Seriously? I doubt none of the bloggers there link to that publication. Granted, prior to Patheos’ recent launch of Version 3.0, there were links to America and Commonweal, too, so I guess this is sort of an improvement. But the Distorter is probably the most non-Catholic Catholic publication out there. I would have expected better.
And then there are all the ads. I get it – it takes money to run a big website, what with servers, bandwidth, office space and salaries (hey! Patheos is hiring too!). It’s a big time operation, and that’s how it makes its revenue and pays their bloggers. But the site looks like a NASCAR vehicle. And many of the same ads show up on the blogs as well. I know that the bloggers have no control over which ads show up, but it’s strange reading Francis Beckwith’s blog, and there are 3 Mormon.org ads. Not that I have anything against the Mormons – but I have to ask myself: would those ads be on any of these blogs if there wasn’t any compensation involved?
At the bottom of each blog, there is an “All Things Patheos” banner with links to different Faith Channels, Resources and other sites. Would these bloggers link to these sites, some of which are inimical to Catholicism (such as atheism), or are heretical in nature (such as Protestant sites), if they weren’t collecting to what basically constitutes a paycheck? Believe me, I understand – it’s the price one pays for being part of Patheos, or any such organization. To me, it would seem to knock one’s integrity a bit to state day in and day out “The Catholic faith is the One True Faith which provides the surest means of salvation”, while at the same time linking to sites that either deny God, decry people of faith, or have contrary views of salvation. But that’s just me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “sell out”, but I don’t recall seeing any such links prior to them becoming Patheos members. Again, it’s just the cost of membership to be on the team.
Patheos -the site itself – is very popular, and has a huge following. It’s soon to be the biggest religious portal site on the Internet. To which I say – so what. I know I’m not influential in any great or small capacity, where my opinion will make a difference one way or another, but since a few people over the past few weeks asked me what I thought, I figured why not write about it. Yeah, this isn’t as funny as Star Trek, but I’ve given some of the reasons for my dissent. And who knows – maybe it will give others pause to think and consider.
Earlier I wrote I was going to present a challenge to the Catholic Patheos team: Writing for Patheos implies endorsement of the information and material presented on the Catholic reference pages – at least that’s how I view it. Some of that data is inaccurate, and perhaps not as strong as it could be. I think it behooves you to review what is said about the Catholic faith on the Patheos site, correct what is wrong and strengthen what is weak and inadequate. It’s your workplace – clean it up. If you think there’s nothing wrong with the information and material as it’s currently presented…well, then maybe it is merely for the money.