In December of 2021 a large number of atheist bloggers left the Patheos non-belief channel. It turns out that Patheos is changing its platform and limited the atheist’s ability to criticize religion. It’s a complicated issue as they are a private platform, but it cannot be denied that atheists are heavily discriminated against. OnlySky which is a startup out of the San Francisco Bay Area is providing a new platform for the secular community to blog, engage in journalism and advocate for secular life.
“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
This is a post that this blog has been wanting to tackle for the last couple of months. There has been a shift at Patheos that in the view of this blog demonstrates that it is not a healthy or solid platform. Many atheists have left Patheos and the reason why they left was disturbing when the actual reason emerged. Some people in the culture wars like to rant about cancel culture, however it appears its acceptable to cancel atheists because you do not like what they are saying. But this blog is getting ahead of itself.
Atheists Start to Leave Patheos in December of 2021
On December 6, 2021, Hemant Mehta announced that he was leaving Patheos. Moving day for his blog took place on December 15. You can read Mehta write about this in, “It’s Moving Day for the Friendly Atheist Blog.” In his post Hemant sounded positive about his blogging future. This blog is quite busy and when I saw that my first instinct is that he wanted to go to a more independent platform. The situation changed as many other blogs also announced they were leaving. Following Hemant is “Roll to Disbelieve”,”A Tiplling Philosopher”,”Daylight Atheism” and “Cross Examined” all followed suit. In many situations their final blog posts on Patheos was in mid-December. When this blog witnessed the migration, I knew something is up. I was curious as to what was going on. To date over thirty blogs have left Patheos by late December.
Patheos Will Not Allow People on Their Platform to Criticize Religion
The answer to this change emerged in early January of 2022. But first let me start by explaining that when Patheos launched they wanted to create multiple platforms for people to write. There is a Catholic channel, and joining it are Buddhist, Progressive Christian, Evangelical, Mormon, and many other platforms for multiple bloggers. It was the Religion News Service that explained what was happening to the nonbelief channel. Dale McGowan, who managed the channel explained that Patheos had made a decision to limit criticism of religion and wanted to take their blog in a more positive direction. And it was not just religion, Patheos wanted people to not be as critical in discussing politics. The platform wanted people to write positive posts about how to live a good life. The company is owned by BN media which is under the umbrella of Radiant. The company also includes websites like Beliefnet.
Adam Lee who is a writer at Daylight Atheism felt like Patheos was limiting their creative expression and ability to write what they want. This is what he told the Religion News Service, “Many of us felt this would require an editorial shift to such an extent as to make our blogs unrecognizable.” McGowen also told the Religion News Service that he thinks this is just a business decision by Patheos to rebrand. If you would like to read more about this, you can read the following articles.
- Religion News Service, “What happened to the nonbelief channel at Patheos?“
- Skeptical Science, “Why have all non-religious bloggers walked away from Patheos?“
OnlySky has been stood up for a month it appears. Shawn Hardin is its founder and CEO. Hardin is an entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay Area. He wanted to create a website that combines storytelling and have a focus on the secular point of view. “We think the unaffiliated are a woefully underserved segment of the population,” Hardin said. “We’re pretty optimistic about our opportunity to build a business that meets the interest of the audience and can invest in its own growth.” The name is inspired from the John Lenin song, “Imagine.”
After standing up this is how OnlySky describes itself.
“We explore how a natural perspective changes everything, from our place in the universe to the meaning of a single life.
Our audience is the rapidly-growing population of the religiously unaffiliated in the United States, currently 29% of U.S. adults. In a few years, our audience is expected to surpass every religious denomination in size. OnlySky brings the process of discovering secular life into the open and into a community of others doing the same.
We’ve gathered authors, educators, sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, poets, artists, musicians, comedians, climate scientists, folklorists, physicians, and some of the top secular activists to guide our exploration of a post-religious world.
This isn’t a one-way project where we talk and you listen. We want to build a meaningful community of users exchanging ideas well beyond the comment section, shaping what OnlySky can become, and making the nonreligious a more tangible and influential part of our culture.
We hope you’ll join the conversation.”
They are actively hiring as I learned in looking at the website.
Closing Thoughts and Patheos Engages in Cancel Culture
So, what are we to make of the changes at Patheos and the launch of OnlySky? Let me start by saying that I am disappointed in Patheos and would say that this is a good example of cancel culture in many ways. There are many people who do not like atheists and what they have to say. Atheists are discriminated against heavily, and in ways that evangelicals are not. But even that is complicated because it appears as if Patheos communicated their changes to the non-belief community well in advance. Kudos for the atheists who walked away and left as compared with feigning a false belief just to try and fit in. But as a private platform Patheos can also choose what they want to publish and promote. So can many companies in the technology industry. Twitter is a company out to make money. When they banned Donald Trump from theri platform, they didn’t censor him. They explained the rules and enforced them. As a private company they can ban Trump, me or others. That is the nature of the game. And as for the religious community at Patheos will they engage in criticism? That for me would be ironic as Protestants are known for “protesting” and considering what Martin Luther once triggered five centuries ago. That is an aspect to watch.
OnlySky looks like it is going to be a solid platform. But time will tell how this works out. But I’ve spent some time poking around and they are bringing a lot of people together. They atheist and secular communities deserve respect and a home. Especially as the United States becomes more secular. To OnlySky and the bloggers participating good luck and this blog wishes you well.