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Religious CEOs: eHarmony Founder, Neil Clark Warren


The dating site creator has made his living wedding practical algorithms with a faith in godly love.

It's been stated that faith and rationality are two models of belief that are resolutely incompatible.

Conversely, there's another take on this theory -- as Pope John Paul II stated in his encyclical letter of 1998, "Fides et Ratio" -- that claims faith and reason aren't only attuned to one another, but essentially symbiotic, a collaborative unit.

As it turns out, the latter notion is the money maker. Marrying faith and rationality is not only spiritually beneficial, but can be profitable as well. Just ask psychologist and eHarmony founder, Neil Clark Warren.

Dr. Warren effectively integrated moral elements of his evangelistic religion with practical constituents of business management to create the most popular online dating site for American singles.

Born in 1937 to an all-American family, the self-proclaimed "Iowa country boy" primed himself for a journey down a spiritual and entrepreneurial road to enlightenment by earning a bachelor's degree from Pepperdine University, followed by a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. He went on to finish a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Chicago.

Upon completing his doctorate, Warren began his own psychological practice In Pasadena, California, building research relating to the components that assemble a successful marriage while also sitting as Dean at Fuller Theological Seminary.

It was at Fuller where Warren decided to focus his life's work toward understanding what makes marriages fail, and finding strategies to help relationships thrive.

In the mid-nineties, Warren met with Pete Hart, former CEO of Mastercard (MA) who "encouraged him to adapt [reasons of success he found] to the Internet so that [he] could create a truly meaningful pool of individuals to match," according to Brandchannel, a media blog.

Thus came the birth of; a site that promised to provide meaningful insight on how to meet the person of your dreams, while keeping good ol' Christian morals as well.

The dating service was a huge hit with his evangelical peers. The site focused on matching singles for the purpose of matrimony, and publicly shied away from quick hookups -- or one-night booty calls, so to speak.

The religious right also took a liking to Warren's relationship with James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry that hopes to help couples "build healthy marriages that reflect God's design" and help parents "raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles."

After appearing on Dobson's radio show in August 2001, eHarmony received 90,000 new referrals, according to USA Today. However, in 2005, Warren began to distance the company from the conservative Christian community to try and achieve greater mainstream involvement. This decision -- while profitable for the company -- caused grievances on both ends.

Running on a platform open to only heterosexual applicants, eHarmony suffered an inevitable fate when a New Jersey man complained to New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights that his registration to eHarmony was rejected due to his homosexual classification. The company settled the suit, created a satellite site, and offered the first 10,000 same-sex registrants a free six-month subscription.

While this gesture, launching an associated service, cut them loose from prejudicial criticism, it ignited the flame with the religious right. Many evangelists felt that eHarmony should have gone down fighting, and even argued that allowing a same-sex service was a betrayal to the Christian community.

And it's a good thing he did. Time would show that the protest rally by evangelical adults had zero effect on the success of eHarmony since the site's subscribers were of a much younger demographic.

As explained in the Los Angeles Business Journal, Richard Cizik of the National Association for Evangelicals sifted through statistics to prove that the evangelical youth was an entirely different animal than their folks. "Thirty-two percent of young evangelicals voted for Barack Obama, twice the percentage that voted for John Kerry," Cizik explained. "Four in 10 young evangelicals say they have gay friends or relatives. And 52 percent favor same-sex marriage or civil unions."

Warren's eHarmony currently leads competitive online-dating sites like Yahoo Personals (YHOO) and (IACI). With over 20,000,000 registered users and an average of 236 eHarmony members marrying each day, the company is proud to boast that they account for 2% of all US marriages (2007 survey by Harris Interactive).

And make no mistake, the evangelical founder is no hypocrite, either. He's been happily married to his wife Marilyn for 50 years and is the proud father of three married daughters.

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