Here we go!

We’re up and running. Editor Patton Dodd explains what’s happened, happening, and will happen at OnFaith.

I once had an idea for a magazine called The Misfit. I was not exactly sure what we’d publish, but I wanted something called The Misfit because I thought misfitting was the essence of being alive. We sorta fit into this world, but not really. I felt this was truer of me than most people, mostly for religious reasons—raised Southern Baptist, but it didn’t quite take; re-converted to passionate Pentecostalism after high school, but that didn’t last long either. Didn’t quite believe, didn’t not believe, couldn’t fit into church or very many good parties. But I suspected something like this was true of everyone deep down.

Also, I loved this Flannery O’Connor short story called “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and the villain of that story is an escaped convict dubbed the Misfit. He’s a villain, but he may also be Jesus, or at least a vessel of some awful mercy. A few years ago, I read the entire story out loud to a class of college students. It took a long time, the room was warm, and not much happens in the story until the end. But only one of my students fell asleep. It’s a really good story.

Welcome to OnFaith

We’re not The Misfit. We’re OnFaith, a website devoted to covering religion and spirituality in all its wonder and weirdness. I’ve written for and edited sites sort of like this before—Patheos, Beliefnet, Killing the Buddha, long may they live—and published essays and stories on religion and culture for a variety of mainstream and alternative publications. OnFaith was founded by Sally Quinn at the Washington Post in 2006, and it’s gone through a few iterations. Now that we’ve got our hands on it, it gets to go through a few more. We’re pretty excited about what OnFaith was, is, and can be.

We will continue to publish some daily news and opinion pieces from top writers and other folks whose perspectives need to be heard. But we have lots of other ideas, and we hope to get to do all of them in time.

Our first new initiative is to publish Weekly Issues—to have one topic per week and publish a mixture of stories, essays, videos, illustrations and more on that topic. Some topics will be evergreen, and some will be newsy or trending. Some will unveil religious angles on stories everyone is talking about, but where the spiritual tales have been occluded or ignored.

Here—I’ll stop being general and give you a taste of what’s coming soon:

God in the White House

National Faith League

  • an interview with ESPN columnist and King of Sports author Gregg Easterbrook on the ethical problems facing football
  • a profile of New York Jets chaplain Adam Burt
  • Greg Garrett (author of The Prodigal) on the Super Bowl as America’s Hunger Games
  • a video holding a mirror to our nation’s ecstatic worship of football
  • Laura Ortberg Turner (of Religion News Service) on the power of Powder Puff Football

We also have Issues in the works on what legal marijuana means for religion and morals in America (some of the answers may surprise you), approaches to sex and spirituality, and plenty of Pope Francis, then Jesus. And that just gets us through February.

OnFaith will grow and adapt as we publish and learn and hear from you. Indeed, part of what happens here is up to you. Our editorial team is exceedingly small (though we’ve been super lucky to recruit some amazing interns based in NYC, DC, and Florida, and we sing their praises daily). So we need lots of quality ideas and queries and submissions. I’ll be sending semi-monthly emails announcing upcoming Issues and asking for submissions on those topics. Sign up for that email here. You can also email us anytime at [email protected]

Again—the team is small. If your email is not answered, it’s not you, it’s us. (It might be you. But it’s probably us.)

Your Questions Answered 

Why has OnFaith Left the Washington Post?

Last summer, OnFaith was acquired by FaithStreet, a technology company based in New York City that is building an online directory of congregations and digital fundraising solutions. FaithStreet was part of the 2013 class of Techstars NYC.

What happened to the OnFaith archives? 

We have them all. We migrated many thousands of pages and we are in the process of improving those pages. Our site will grow over time, including new navigational tools that make all the content easier to find and more relevant to you.

FaithStreet’s directory of congregations is actually a directory of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Churches. Is OnFaith becoming a Christian site?

No. Building and maintaining high-quality, up-to-date directories takes a lot of time and resources. In the future, FaithStreet will include congregations from other faith traditions and also humanist gatherings. As FaithStreet grows, OnFaith will publish the best material we can find on religion and spirituality across the traditions and perspectives, including atheism and humanism.

You may have more questions, but those are the three we hear the most frequently. More answers will come in time, but mostly we ask that you stay in tune and stay in touch. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, comment on our pages, and help us grow OnFaith.

Patton Dodd
Written by

  • randumfaktor

    Why should we view “faith” in a positive light? What is the difference between religious faith and belief in astrology, alien abduction, or bigfoot? If someone is convinced that they see people and hear voices that others cannot see and hear, we label that as schizophrenia. How is religious faith different from that? (Now, for all of those who are inclined to remind me that I’ll burn in hell for eternity because I raised a question about faith: Thanks. I’ve already been told.) How do you defend your faith to a non-believer? What does it bring to you? How did you come to have it? What would be different in your life if you didn’t have it?

    • faithstreet

      That’s a lot of questions. Keep reading and participating — maybe some good answers will emerge.

    • Surprise123

      There is scientific research on religion that suggests that certain religions are capable of inculcating the ability to delay gratification for future rewards and promote impulse control — control of one’s instinctual sexual, emotional, and even, in some instances (as in the Mormon, Catholic, Jewish & Confucian – ancestor worship faiths, which emphasize education and mastering System 2 analytical thinking) automatic cognitive processes. Whether their success in doing so is dependent on adherents of these religions believing in a supernatural father figure, attentive to the moral conduct and prayers of “his children,” and a future – based promised land, is difficult to discern.

      “What would be different in your life if you didn’t have it?” One thing successful religions are capable of doing which most secular ideologies are not, is the transmission of values and wealth across generations when society is not homogeneous. Because religions get into the nitty – gritty of mating practices – who can have sex with whom and under what circumstances, SUCCESSFUL religions are far better at transmitting values into the future.

      A secular atheist couple may go to great lengths to ensure that its children are educated well, but their values (usually) preclude them from shunning or exiling a child who decides to marry a Mormon or a Muslim. They have very little control over the values of their grandchildren.

      “How do you defend your faith to a non-believer?” I don’t have to. You’re the evangelist here, promoting the values of a life free from religious faith. What proof do you have that the freedom- promoting, individuality-promoting values of atheism produce a better life (as you define “better”) than a life immersed in the values of the Mormon, Catholic, Jewish & Confucian – ancestor worship faiths, those faiths that promote System 2 analytical thinking across generations)?
      And, once you have examined whether an individual life based on atheist values is “better” than a life immersed in the most successful religions, you then have to ask whether the children of those individuals also lead better lives.
      Because if you’re only looking a single data point – the individual – at a certain point in time – the present, you’re missing the overall picture.

      • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

        Well thanks for being honest – you value tribalism and exclusion to “maintain your values” but it seems like your values are tribalism and exclusion. Not something I would be proud of but feel free to wall yourself off from the world and die of attrition. Good riddance!

    • Scorpsign

      @randumfaktor:disqus Great questions. First I will answer you last question – what would my life be like without faith because for decades I led a secular life.
      In many ways my life would be the same. I would still be a caring and driven person that works hard, watches sports on TV and treats people the way I want to be treated. The biggest difference without faith would be my priorities. Without faith I would probably be focused on making more and more money while being less generous with what I make because my Christian faith has shown me the importance of people and relationships, which is very hard to do with faith let alone without it. I know that one from personal experience.

      What my faith brings to me is a sense of purpose, perspective and direction. Sort of a mental compass. My Christian faith helps guide me to make the decisions I want to make to be the person I want to be. It especially offers direction when life happens and it seems as if everything I do is wrong or the world is against me because nothing is going right. Faith really helps me stay focused on getting through the storm and the power of prayer to share my deepest thoughts, suggestions and complaints with a loving and graceful Father.

      How did I come to have it? Not sure anyone totally “has it” because part of a healthy faith is doubt and over time I have had many doubts for many of the same reasons others choose not to believe. I still have doubts today after giving my life to Christ almost 8 years ago, however I keep believing after I examine both sides of my doubts. The biggest clincher for me is simple. Do I trust what Jesus said in the Bible? Creationism vs. Evolution?. Wasn’t there, not sure. What is the Trinity and how can God be everywhere? Stumped again. However, I believe 100% that Jesus is the only person to ever live without sin or lie and I believe every word he said in the Bible. Therefore, it is always pretty easy to maintain at least 51% belief if I trust what Jesus said.

      Lastly, how do I defend my faith to anyone? I don’t. My goal isn’t to argue someone into believing, it is to be a living example of how someone that wants a personal relationship with Jesus lives. My hope is that others will see relationships I have with others and the constant smile on my face and want to know why I am so happy. Then I will tell them as much as they are willing to hear. Like Rick Warren says: The Gospel is meant to be shared, not shoved.

  • WmarkW

    On Faith started terrifically, then bogged down due to a combination of: 1) after a while, there just wasn’t all that much new to discuss; 2) too many columnists all said the same things; 3) moderators used a very broad definition of “offensiveness” to take down legitimate comments that didn’t toe the party line.

    A revitailzed On Faith should include more different perspectives: a secular conservative, a Muslim who comments on issues not specifically about Islam, and an occasional opponent of gay marriage. You don’t need ten echo boxes of Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite.

    • faithstreet

      Thanks for this note — you’re talking our language.

  • Daniel Fryar

    Hey, Patton. Looks great! I’ll keep reading.

    • faithstreet

      Thanks, Daniel!

  • jahnabibarooah

    Excited to see how the site evolves. All the best.

    • faithstreet

      Thank you

  • BeyondTheology

    I find the new webpage format annoying to read.

    • faithstreet

      Thanks for the feedback? To be sure, our design will be iterative/in process as we grow.

  • jpcarson

    I hope you include a RSS feed, and not just rely on Facebook/twitter.
    I say there is a “sacred cow” that On Faith – just as Christian religious professionals, and apparently religious professionals of other faiths – failed/refused to discuss – instititutonal evil, including its manifestations in corporate/governement agency law-breaking – and how vocationally privileged people, Christian (or those of other faiths) who are members of secular professionals – enable it by “looking other way” when to do otherwise would jeopardize their “idols” – their professional standing and economic security. “On faith” has given this reality – as forboding as it is for civilization reaching year 2100 more-or-less intact – a “pass” since 2006, making it complicit, to that institutional evil and the enabling role many of its readers play in institutional evil related to how they make a $.
    I commend On Faith consider MLK’s “letter from a Birmingham Jail” and its larger message of how religious professionals enable institutional evil, by taking no exception to it, because to do otherwise would not be in their professional/economic interests.
    Please feel free to push back.

    • faithstreet

      We could find counterexamples in the archives to counter these claims, but mostly we’d just way stick around, see what we do, and also feel free to pitch stories to this end.

  • LaurelhurstLiberal

    Any chance of the occasional pagan perspective? I don’t think On Faith ever got around to including those, but there are lots of us out there and we use the web!

    • faithstreet

      Definitely. In the works.