We've been reminiscing a lot lately--about all the building laws we violated by cramming nine people into an office meant for two; about frantically deleting the Chinese pornography videotapes that almost snuck their way into the Beliefnet e-store because at first blush their titles sounded Buddhist; about that guy who worked in the tech department who carried a big knife.
But our fondest memories are about the early days when you started showing up. For us, the real excitement came when "real" users (as opposed to our parents and college friends) arrived not just to read our articles but to talk to each other--and create prayer circles and memorials and use the meditations, and question our advice columnists. It was when Beliefnet became a community.
So on our one-year anniversary, we want to especially thank and honor those of you who have come to the site and participated. For old time's sake, we recently asked message board users to name the most interesting discussions--and these are the ones you chose. It's not to late to add your two cents.
It's really hard for us to fully convey our gratitude to all who have made this year possible. We're grateful to the investors who kept our doors open, to our advertisers, and to the many columnists and writers and artists who have contributed.
I'm often asked, what do people do on Beliefnet? This being the web, the pattern is different for everyone. Some people treat Beliefnet as if it's a single-faith site, going, for instance, into the Catholic area, reading the articles, talking to other Catholics, setting up Catholic prayer circles. Others supplement their dominant faith with information from other parts of the site. And still others have no allegiance to one approach and are genuinely sampling a bit from each platter on the buffet line. Some use it to get information; others to get inspiration; others to get direct spiritual nourishment. (Our guided meditations are among our most popular features.) And a host of others use the site to share their faith--and their doubts and questions--with others.
I know this is going to sound self-serving, and I really don't mean it that way, but I actually think that the existence of a site like this says something quite positive about our society. Here we have a multi-faith, multi-approach, multi-ideology site flourishing--at a time when we're supposed to be getting more fragmented, more contentious, more divided.
In my humble opinion, therefore, each of you who have contributed to this site should feel very proud.
So, from all of us at Beliefnet--thank you.
Some of you have asked for basic statistics on where we stand. In just one year, we've gone from, well, not existing, to being the number one religion & spirituality site on the web.
In the past year, we've:
On a personal level, there are a few things that I find most gratifying about the way Beliefnet has evolved. First, people from a breathtakingly wide variety of faiths, spiritual approaches, and ideologies come to Beliefnet and co-exist peacefully. Indeed, they learn from each other. Time and time again, we hear from people that being here has made them more understanding and tolerant. The web offers a paradox: Its anonymity often leads to intimacy. People open up, reveal things about themselves, and pose questions they'd otherwise be embarrassed to ask.
But as proud as that makes us feel, I hasten to point out that Beliefnet was not set up primarily as a way of promoting tolerance but rather as a way of helping individuals and groups meet their own spiritual needs. That is--your spiritual needs as you define them, not as we define them. Many people use Beliefnet not to stretch themselves but to fulfill and comfort themselves. Visit the prayer circles and see people dealing with life's most agonizing tragedies--cancer, addiction, the death of a child--and see friends and total strangers reaching out across the modem lines to offer prayers. Real comfort; not virtual comfort.