When I started OnFaith over seven years ago, I was an atheist. Actually, I was an angry atheist. You might well ask why on earth I would want to have a religion web site. The fact is, as a journalist, I had been covering political and cultural issues for the Washington Post for over 30 years, and I felt religion was a huge story that the media (yes, the dreaded elite-liberal-East-Coast-secular media) was not covering. I mentioned it to Don Graham, then owner of The Washington Post, now head of Graham Holdings. He suggested I start a religion web site. I told him I knew nothing about religion and less about the internet. He replied that nobody was perfect and challenged me to do it. What choice did I have?
With the help of my friend, author, religion scholar and then-Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, I began gathering a group of contributors and telling a few friends. I might as well have told them I was having a sex change operation. Even my husband, Ben Bradlee, who actually does believe in God and with whom I had had quite a few heated discussions about religion, was shocked. In fact, he still is. To this day, when the subject comes up, he never fails to remark to people, “Can you believe that Sally is doing this?” Where was the person he thought he had married?
It turned out that starting a website was really fun and the subject was endlessly fascinating. The more I read and spoke to people and studied religion, the more I realized how little I really did know. I also began to understand more.
Certainly much evil in the world has been done in the name of religion, but much good as well. There were so many brilliant people in history whose lives had been devoted to searching for answers, and many of them were believers. There were so many compelling points of view. I came to respect those of many different faiths and those with no faith. More importantly, I came to understand the incredible power that faith has in the lives of so many people. Some 90% of the people on this planet are guided by their faith.
I lost my anger. Jon Meacham talked me out of being an atheist. I don’t use that word any more. When people ask me what I am, I tell them I’m a “somethingist.” There is a Dutch group who actually call themselves “somethingists.” I believe there’s something there. I don’t know what it is. But then, nobody does for sure.
Many of my friends and colleagues will say that they are not interested in religion. One religious friend in the South was lunching with a woman who totally dismissed the subject. “Are you interested in sex?” he asked her. “Yes, of course,” she replied. “Politics?” “Yes.” “How about foreign policy, gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights, abortion, the environment, immigration, sports, crime, art, history, literature, films, philosophy, music, evolution, morals, values, ethics, the questions about why we are here?” She was stunned silent. “Well, darlin’,” he said, “then you are interested in religion.”
Religion is about everything. It’s just the word that’s a turnoff.
Someone once asked me what made a good story for the Style section of a paper. “Anything interesting,” I told him. “Anything boring is not a Style story.” I feel the same way about religion and about our new site. Religion does not have to be and is not boring. You will never be bored by OnFaith. You might not agree with everything that is written, but you will learn something, and you may come to respect and understand the faith or lack of faith of others.
I have never been more fulfilled, more consumed, or more excited about anything than what I am doing now. We are all looking for those precious moments of transcendence, for a sense of the divine, even if you don’t call it that. There are times I have experienced it, and I crave more. We are all looking for meaning in our lives. What could be more interesting than that? That ultimate meaning as understood by people is what we are going to be covering every single day on“OnFaith.
We hope you will join us. You really don’t want to be left out. Religion is where the action is.