Information overload is a problem for interfaith-interested readers. Discovering useful, trustworthy news about religion is complicated. For more than a decade, major media’s interest in religion has been steadily growing. Newspapers may be in decline, but not religion reporting or multifaith stories. A big slice of religion stories today involve more than one tradition, and often Christianity, which once owned most of the American religion page, is not one of them. Most of us have a confusing view of a huge arena.
That said, hundreds of web-engaged journalists, academics, activists, and artists are making interreligious news and reflection more accessible. Dozens of sectarian publications are posted, many with excellent content. But a distinctly interfaith-friendly, independent set of resources is emerging. Compelling new content is arriving every day, and aggregators are helping shorten the needle-in-the-haystack searches to find the good stuff.
This month we’re looking primarily at news sources. Next month we’ll consider interfaith magazines and journals.
The list below is not comprehensive. We’d love to hear about your favorites, but we think these ten represent a good starting point. They are not listed in order of excellence. Rather, they come in different flavors, serve different constituencies, and bring a variety of achievements to the religion table.
- The Religious Diversity News Feed at Harvard’s Pluralism Project includes 25 different religious news feeds. One of these is an interfaith feed that aggregates 50 linked stories every two weeks, each link showing a headline, date, and source. Half an hour on this site offers a quick journey through the plenitude of issues on the interfaith global agenda.
- The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Weekly Update is focused on religion’s involvement in major national, international issues. The free newsletter features important polls, research on particular issues, analytic articles, and a linked list of the ten most important religion news stories each week. To be fair, the Gallup Poll’s religion section provides similarly important information and analysis, but its scope is the whole world and primarily focused on polls, where Pew’s Forum explores all sorts of news and commentary regarding the many facets of religion and public life.
- Religion & Ethics is best known for its television program, America’s only national religious news show. R & E also maintains an electronic Newsweekly that provides an engaging but not overloaded combination of weekly religious news, commentary, and archived programs.
- BBC Religion feels like a British version of Religion & Ethics. Their websites both have bells and whistles (calendars, educational modules, and much more). BBC Religion doesn’t have its own weekly television show. On the other hand, it can lean into its enormous archives to enrich its schedule. Another BBC gift is making available various kinds of religious/spiritual music to listen to while you’re reading interfaith news.
- Faith in Public Life (FPL) sponsors a free Daily News Reel that aggregates ten or 15 of the most interesting religion news stories of the day, five days a week. It quick, free, and useful. Each link has a headline, its source, and a one-sentence summary. FPL is an independent multifaith publication. Along with a passion for the news, its staff clearly share a commitment to religion, spirituality, peace, and justice.
- Fifty years ago American newspapers had large religion sections, mostly gone today. Yet with a computer, you’ve infinitely more access to religious news than your grandparents could have imagined. It’s delivered in different ways. The New York Times does not have a separate section on religion, but its writers cover religion when it connects with their particular bailiwick, those stories are gathered, a story or two each day, under the name Religion and Belief. As you might imagine, these are lengthy, well-written, engaging stories covering dozens of different traditions.
- The Washington Post went a different direction, sponsoring an interfaith blog called On Faith that provides one of the most engaging religious forums in America media. Where religion is part of the news at the NYT, On Faith maintains a handful of different religious arenas where edgy, provocative blogs appear each day. Recent postings include “Saudi women’s vote great news – if this were 1911,” “‘Atheism is cool,’ says Archbishop of Canterbury,” “The Case for a Day of Rest,” and “Booing a gay soldier?” It provides a rare forum for on-the-ground leaders from across the culture to write seriously about religious matters and get heard above the pundits’ din.
- Despite its reputation as a left-wing tabloid, the Huffington Post offers the most far-ranging and engaging religious news and commentary on the web today. Former Princeton University chaplain Paul Rauschenbush recently became HuffPo’s senior religion editor, and a good thing became better. He is grandson of Walter Rauschenbush, whose “social gospel” of the early 20th century gave Christians a new sense of peace and justice.
HUFFPOST RELIGION has a large stable of writers from all sorts of backgrounds in addition to aggregating good material from numerous sources. It may not be the Times, but it’s always interesting. Dozens of photographs change from day to day illustrating stories about religious festivals, ceremony and ritual, vestments, food, personal spirituality, ethics and justice, peace and violence, the ancient and new age, theology and practice – all that, and more. Thin gruel, perhaps, if you read nothing else, but a feast for those who’ve been hungry for more vital religious dialogue in the culture and not found it elsewhere.
- Alltop, known as a virtual magazine rack, is a web news aggregator of staggering proportion. Each week their religion site posts five featured headlines from approximately 100 religious publications, each directly linked to the story. Perusing their site, you’ll recognize all the familiar traditions and probably bump into ones you’ve near heard of. Anyone who thrives on the multiplicity of religious stories has a cornucopia here. Remember, it is not comprehensive, leaving out as much as it includes. Such is the volume of religious, interreligious dialogue on the web today.
- Religion News Service (RNS) moves us to the professional level, a 78-year-old service providing content by subscription to more than a hundred newspapers, starting with the New York Times. With 35 reporters, correspondents, columnists, and stringers, RNS may well be the world’s largest religious content provider. Their daily Religion News Roundup arrives for free each morning, a brief summary of yesterday’s news cloaked in a wry sense of humor. Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief, reports that increasingly RNS’ original content will be available for free on their website, a service to us all.