- Catholic News Agency - Sunday, February 15, 2015

Austin, Texas - It is hard to ignore the fact that religious intolerance has reached a boiling point the world over in the past year or so.

The radical-Islamic groups ISIS and Boko Haram have become notorious for killing and persecuting Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and Africa respectively. Anti-Semitism in parts of Europe is at its highest point since World War II, with violent incidents against Jews doubling in countries like France and the United Kingdom in the last year.

Just this past week, an incident in which an atheist American shot his three Muslim neighbors is being investigated as a hate crime.

In the midst of this increasingly polarized world, Shawn Bosse and Justin Halloran are hoping their new website, Deily.org, can help make a difference.

“It’s obvious that the world is being separated unfortunately into a lot of ‘us’ versus ‘them’,” founder Shawn Bosse told CNA, “and it’s our belief that one of the best things the internet can do is…share more information with more people. We really believe that not only will it be a great tool for people to understand their own faith more deeply, but hopefully a tool to broaden their horizons and broaden their understandings of their neighbors.”

In what can be described as a part-Reddit, part-Wikipedia platform, the website covers information on all the major world religions, either uploaded by community users or sought-out experts such as clergy and professors. Content includes everything from passages in sacred texts to videos, religious art and music, and sermons or religious lectures. Users can either “praise” content they like, or “flag” something as inappropriate. An advisory board spanning all major religions is being assembled to ensure the information for each religion is accurate.  

Mr. Bosse and Mr. Halloran have been colleagues in the past, working with online marketplaces such as Ebay and Homeaway, and they both share an interest in religion. Mr. Bosse studied religion as an undergrad, and Mr. Halloran’s family has a history of pastoral care- his dad went to a Catholic seminary at one point, and one of his grandfathers was a pastor. They saw a hole in the religious experience that wasn’t being filled yet – an online space to learn about the world’s major religions.

“We looked at what was available as a primary source, or a first-consideration site for all the religious content online, we were very amazed almost to find that it didn’t really exist,” Mr. Bosse said. “There wasn’t one platform, one site on which all of the content had been aggregated, made easily searchable, indexed, and also presented in a consistent way.”

Deily.org was born, a play on the Latin ‘Dei’ for God and the idea that religion should be a daily life experience not just confined to a church or temple or mosque one day a week.

“That’s something we’ve heard a lot from the clergy that we’ve met with,” Mr. Bosse said, “What tools do we have to keep people engaged in the community?”

“We’re trying to build tools and services that they need to connect with their congregation to reach more people,” he said.

There is space on Deily.org for individual churches to create their own pages and add content, where members can ask questions and share understandings. The idea of an online platform could be the first step for curious people who might be intimidated to walk into an actual building and start asking questions, Mr. Bosse explained.

“Someone who grew up in the Muslim tradition might not walk into a church, to try to understand Christianity,” he said. “But in the privacy of their own homes, going online and trying to understand more about Christianity might be something that they would do, because it’s a safe venue in which to begin that journey of understanding one another.”

The motivation for such a website became personal to Mr. Bosse when his son came home, confused about a new friend he’d made who was Muslim.

“He said I have a friend and he’s a Muslim, I don’t know what that means but when I see the news I hear all these negative things,” Mr. Bosse said.

“Having a resource where we can go on as parents and watch a video about the basic beliefs of Islam, and so that (my son) can have a broader and deeper understanding of it, that he might see more than the tidbits he sees on the news, I think that’s an important thing.”

Mr. Bosse hopes that as more individuals and congregations begin using the site, some of the polarization people are feeling in today’s world will start to dissipate.

“I think the large majority of people of faith, no matter what their faith is, they are people trying to live good lives, trying to teach their family good traditions,” he said. “And what we really hope through the explanation tool is that people will discover that a lot of the teaching of their own religion are very similar to the teachings of other religions, that we’re not so different.”

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