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William Lobdell's journey of faith—and doubt—may be the most compelling spiritual memoir of our time. Lobdell became a born-again Christian in his late 20s when personal problems—including a failed marriage—drove him to his knees in prayer. As a newly minted evangelical, Lobdell—a veteran journalist—noticed that religion wasn't covered well in the mainstream media, and he William Lobdell's journey of faith—and doubt—may be the most compelling spiritual memoir of our time. Lobdell became a born-again Christian in his late 20s when personal problems—including a failed marriage—drove him to his knees in prayer. As a newly minted evangelical, Lobdell—a veteran journalist—noticed that religion wasn't covered well in the mainstream media, and he prayed for the Lord to put him on the religion beat at a major newspaper. In 1998, his prayers were answered when the Los Angeles Times asked him to write about faith. Yet what happened over the next eight years was a roller-coaster of inspiration, confusion, doubt, and soul-searching as his reporting and experiences slowly chipped away at his faith. While reporting on hundreds of stories, he witnessed a disturbing gap between the tenets of various religions and the behaviors of the faithful and their leaders. He investigated religious institutions that acted less ethically than corrupt Wall St. firms. He found few differences between the morals of Christians and atheists. As this evidence piled up, he started to fear that God didn't exist. He explored every doubt, every question—until, finally, his faith collapsed. After the paper agreed to reassign him, he wrote a personal essay in the summer of 2007 that became an international sensation for its honest exploration of doubt. Losing My Religion is a book about life's deepest questions that speaks to everyone: Lobdell understands the longings and satisfactions of the faithful, as well as the unrelenting power of doubt. How he faced that power, and wrestled with it, is must reading for people of faith and nonbelievers alike.


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William Lobdell's journey of faith—and doubt—may be the most compelling spiritual memoir of our time. Lobdell became a born-again Christian in his late 20s when personal problems—including a failed marriage—drove him to his knees in prayer. As a newly minted evangelical, Lobdell—a veteran journalist—noticed that religion wasn't covered well in the mainstream media, and he William Lobdell's journey of faith—and doubt—may be the most compelling spiritual memoir of our time. Lobdell became a born-again Christian in his late 20s when personal problems—including a failed marriage—drove him to his knees in prayer. As a newly minted evangelical, Lobdell—a veteran journalist—noticed that religion wasn't covered well in the mainstream media, and he prayed for the Lord to put him on the religion beat at a major newspaper. In 1998, his prayers were answered when the Los Angeles Times asked him to write about faith. Yet what happened over the next eight years was a roller-coaster of inspiration, confusion, doubt, and soul-searching as his reporting and experiences slowly chipped away at his faith. While reporting on hundreds of stories, he witnessed a disturbing gap between the tenets of various religions and the behaviors of the faithful and their leaders. He investigated religious institutions that acted less ethically than corrupt Wall St. firms. He found few differences between the morals of Christians and atheists. As this evidence piled up, he started to fear that God didn't exist. He explored every doubt, every question—until, finally, his faith collapsed. After the paper agreed to reassign him, he wrote a personal essay in the summer of 2007 that became an international sensation for its honest exploration of doubt. Losing My Religion is a book about life's deepest questions that speaks to everyone: Lobdell understands the longings and satisfactions of the faithful, as well as the unrelenting power of doubt. How he faced that power, and wrestled with it, is must reading for people of faith and nonbelievers alike.

30 review for Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    Another lost my religion, found my religion, lost my religion book. For some reason, I'm unable to look away, there's a magnetic pull to these books. I have no idea why. Really, does it matter why someone believes "x" and some other guy believes "y"? Maybe it's my secret desire for faith. Maybe it's me hoping to find faith so that life is easier... Maybe I just want to understand how people can have faith when there is some horrible shit going on in the world. I'd love an ounce of that faith to Another lost my religion, found my religion, lost my religion book. For some reason, I'm unable to look away, there's a magnetic pull to these books. I have no idea why. Really, does it matter why someone believes "x" and some other guy believes "y"? Maybe it's my secret desire for faith. Maybe it's me hoping to find faith so that life is easier... Maybe I just want to understand how people can have faith when there is some horrible shit going on in the world. I'd love an ounce of that faith to make things easier. (it would make it easier, right?) I'd love to have some comfort with why my friends have had to bury their babies and why I have to go into work and see innocent children with brain tumors. WHY!?!?! I digress. The author, Bill Lobedell, is at a trying time in his life, a divorce, affairs, a pregnant girlfriend, a so-so job... he's seeking answers. Bill's friend, Will, suggests he go to church, stating his problem was his missing God. I had to laugh when Lobdell wrote, "...it felt like a way out. If Will had said ... 'You need crack cocaine. That's what missing in your life,' it probably would have sounded good too." So the author joins a mega church, and his faith blossoms. He becomes a regular in the church and decides he'd like to take his journalism career into reporting on religion. And that blossoms. He believes this to be a gift from God. He writes stories about people of faith and how/why they believe in God. One of his stories is about an older woman who was violently assaulted by a man. At his trial, she offered her forgiveness and gave him a bible. She said, "God knew this attack was going to happen" and thus, God had him attack her so that she could bring him to the word of God. (WOW) Another story is of a family that prays for their sick newborn in NICU - God saves him, only to take him to Heaven 8 months later. They are okay with it because, "God is in control." (double wow) After several years, he feels he has outgrown the mega church and finds a new spiritual home in the Presbyterian church... then he decides to become Catholic. (What an unholy evolution!) AS he begins his classes to become Catholic, a major story unfolds. The legal battle of Father Harris, a local superstar priest and educator accused of... wait for it.... sexual abuse of males. (Holy balls! What a shocker!) This scandal in itself does not turn Lobdell off of religion, but he starts asking questions. "It started to bother me greatly the God's institutions- ones he was supposed to be guiding - were often more corrupt than their secular counterparts. If these churches were infused and guided by the holy spirit, shouldn't it follow that they would function in a morally superior fashion?" (HAH HAH HAH!) According to many studies, from the Pew Research Center and the Barna Group (an evangelical group) There's not a lot of difference in "moral" behavior. Christians divorce at about the same rate as atheists. The Christian youth has the same rate of STD's as the non-Christians. (more fun facts are available in the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.) So, at this point the author is thinking that he still digs Jesus and the church. Those things are still pure, but it is the institution that is rotten. (right?) Then he writes a story on Mormons who have been shunned by family and friends, and shut out of their communities because they left the church. (How very Christ-like!) More questions. He writes on faith healing. (including that ass hat, Benny Hinn) and has more questions. Why, if the bible promises in several passages that you can pray and be healed, do people pray and not become healed? This leads him to a website called "Why Does God Hate Amputees?" (I shit you not!) So he questions things more. Needless to say, he struggles with his faith... which is slipping away. When he loses it, he finds religious ceremonies comical. (I found this to be true myself. At a recent funeral, I asked my niece as she returned to the pew after receiving the Eucharist, "So, was Jesus tasty?" Hello, Satan!) In the loss of his faith, he remains respectful of others... Lobdell writes of other Atheists like Hitchens and Harris: "I am not as confident in my disbelief as they are. Their disbelief has a religious quality to it that I'm not ready to take on. I look at my Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends -many of them intellectuals - and it stops me from insisting that only I know the truth. I know only what is true for me." Maybe that's what I have to remember. What is right for me. I'd give this book 5 stars, but I knocked him down a bit for giving so much love to Howard Stern. (ick)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Walter

    This is a slow-starting but ulitmately riveting spiritual memoir. There are two primary storylines that fascinate: the subjects that the author covers as a religion writer for the Los Angeles Times and the story of the impact that this vocation has on his spirituality. It is both sad and ironic that in finding his vocation he loses his faith, in no small part due to the egregious behavior he uncovers in the supposedly devout. A warning in the spirit of full disclosure: Lobdell sensitively handle This is a slow-starting but ulitmately riveting spiritual memoir. There are two primary storylines that fascinate: the subjects that the author covers as a religion writer for the Los Angeles Times and the story of the impact that this vocation has on his spirituality. It is both sad and ironic that in finding his vocation he loses his faith, in no small part due to the egregious behavior he uncovers in the supposedly devout. A warning in the spirit of full disclosure: Lobdell sensitively handles the defining topic of his religious reporting career, but the stories themselves will shake anyone's faith. Unfortunately, the toll it takes on the author is palpably relayed and, in the end, I understand where he ends up even though I am saddened by it. What I value most is that in this frank and largely unflinching memoir, the author often challenges us to examine our own assumptions and beliefs. I, for one, emerged more conscious of and comfortable with my own faith, and appreciate that I was tested by the (implied and occasionally explicit) questions in book. A must read for true believers, skeptics, doubters, atheists and anyone else interested in spirituality and its relation to our world. As troubling as it is at times, the journey, so compellingly relayed, is as indelible as it is valuable.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    I am an atheist. I figured I would throw that into the ring the first thing so that people reading this review would know exactly the perspective from which I’m writing. For the first 10 years of my life, I had only a passing acquaintance with religion at all. After my parents divorced, my mother began attending church again (St. Robert’s (Catholic) in St. Charles, MO, or – after it was built – St. Elizabeth’s in St. Peters on occasion). Even then, I was never under any serious pressure to believ I am an atheist. I figured I would throw that into the ring the first thing so that people reading this review would know exactly the perspective from which I’m writing. For the first 10 years of my life, I had only a passing acquaintance with religion at all. After my parents divorced, my mother began attending church again (St. Robert’s (Catholic) in St. Charles, MO, or – after it was built – St. Elizabeth’s in St. Peters on occasion). Even then, I was never under any serious pressure to believe. I guess mom felt that religion classes on Wednesday and church on Sunday would inculcate faith without any effort on her part. And she was right to an extent. Up through high school, I accepted what I was taught without much thought. Toward the end of high school and the beginning of college (where I was taking a number of religious-history courses), I began to lose that façade of belief. Until recently, however, I remained an agnostic. It’s in the last five years or so that I’ve dived off the fence and plunged whole-heartedly into depraved godlessness.^ I have my father to thank for not indoctrinating me in any particular faith. He was and remains largely religion free. (Though he attends church with my stepmother, I think it’s more for the social camaraderie than for the dogma. He’s an avid reader of books exploring the contradictions of faith and the events that may have shaped Biblical writings – some of those tomes supplied by me.) It was not always so. When he left high school he entered seminary to become a priest. To this day, he doesn’t discuss why he left after a year and returned home. Considering the nature of the scandals that have plagued the Church in the last few years, it’s easy to imagine what he may have heard, seen or endured to make him leave. On the other hand, my father is not one to pursue a fruitless course. It’s more likely – in his case – that he realized the priesthood was not for him, left seminary as soon as possible, and didn’t discuss it much with his family because they remained faithful to Rome and he didn’t want to hurt [email protected] When I saw William Lobdell’s book at my library’s used-book sale, I was naturally intrigued by the title and immediately laid down my 50 cents to see what, if any, parallels I could find with his experience. Interestingly enough, not many. Like my own, Lobdell’s childhood and early adulthood were not particularly religious. However, his life took a decidedly less beneficent turn than my own. He became involved in drugs, he cheated on his girlfriend even after getting her pregnant, and his life was spiraling out of control. Until he found God. At this lowest point in his life, Lobdell found a group that discovered satisfaction, happiness and answers to life’s problems as a result of their faith. He embraced it and them, and did indeed climb out of the hole he had dug for himself. More accurately, I think, the author found a group of people who gave him the support he needed to turn his life around. That they happened to be evangelicals was beside the point (believers will take a wholly different view, one which Lobdell would have agreed with until his unconversion). Guided by his new found belief and supported by his new found congregation, Lobdell kicked the drugs, created a healthy relationship with his girlfriend (and subsequently, wife), and established a satisfying career as a journalist. In fact, he began writing a weekly column about the positive activities of various churches for the Los Angeles Times Orange County edition.+ This went on for several years but then the Jim Bakker scandal erupted, and the Jimmy Swaggart scandal, and the TBN scandal, and – most distressing for Lobdell – the sexual-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. At the time when the first stories began coming out about pedophile priests and the bureaucracy that covered up their sins, Lobdell was in the midst of converting to Catholicism. At no point does Lobdell deny the power of faith in a person’s life and acknowledges its own role in his redemption but he couldn’t square the activities of the Church and other spiritual leaders with the faith they preached. It went beyond accepting the fact that men (and women) were flawed and would sin. He asked whether or not a truly God-inspired ministry could sink to such depths of greed or sexual depravity. Surely, people called to the ministry would represent the better part of humanity and be able to resist the worst sins that humans were susceptible to. This led to study into the basis of faith and nonbelief and eventually to a repudiation of his own. In my opinion, the most telling reason for Lobdell’s atheism – because it succinctly states a major reason for why I can’t believe – is an observation he makes midway through the book: I felt angry with God for making faith such a guessing game. I didn’t treat my sons as God treated me. I gave them clear direction, quick answers, steady discipline and plenty of love. There was little mystery in our relationships, they didn’t have to strain to hear my “gentle whisper.” How to hear God, love Him and best serve Him shouldn’t be so open to interpretation. It shouldn’t be that hard. (pp. 160-1) In the end, Lobdell characterizes himself as a reluctant atheist. He’d like to have faith in a higher power but he can’t reconcile what he feels and sees with the God of his early evangelical faith or of his Catholic training, and he sees no other faith with any better claim to knowing God. As he writes in the epilog: I do miss my faith, as I’d miss any longtime love, and have a deep appreciation for how it helped me mature over 25 years. Even though I’ve come to believe my religion is based on a myth, its benefits are tangible and haven’t evaporated along with my faith…. To borrow Buddha’s analogy. I’ve just spent eight years crossing a river in a raft of my own construction, and I’m now standing on a new shore. My raft was not made of dharma, like Buddhism’s, but of things I gathered along the way: knowledge, maturity, humility, critical thinking and the willingness to face my world as it is, and not how I wish it to be. (p. 279) I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in religion, in faith, in why we hold it and why we lose it. ^ Part and parcel with the radicalization of many of my beliefs as I grow older. I thought I was supposed to get more conservative as I approach senescence? @ It’s thanks to my aunt that I know what little I do of my dad’s early years. + And not just Christian denominations. He emphasized the positive activities of all faiths – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    This wasn't as meaty philosophically as I would have liked. The author didn't just turn his back on organized religion, he quit god. Jeez, for that, I would have expected a little more. Yes, organized religions can be barbarous, and, as practiced in many churches of every sect, hideously pretentious and even laughably ridiculous. What kept me reading was not the author's struggle (ho hum), but his recounting once again the horrific revelations about the leadership of the Catholic church as they This wasn't as meaty philosophically as I would have liked. The author didn't just turn his back on organized religion, he quit god. Jeez, for that, I would have expected a little more. Yes, organized religions can be barbarous, and, as practiced in many churches of every sect, hideously pretentious and even laughably ridiculous. What kept me reading was not the author's struggle (ho hum), but his recounting once again the horrific revelations about the leadership of the Catholic church as they strove to hide from their parishioners the abuse their priests wreacked on innocent children. Raised Catholic, I know whereof I speak when it comes to authoritarianism, god rest their merry little souls. I was interested to read in the last pages that hell isn't mentioned anywhere anymore--churches believe their clientele find it off-putting. Yes, I would think so. Let's hope there is still a little corner somewhere for these men of god to rest their weary little fannies. The author tells us that he decided to write this book when news articles on his de-conversion initiated a huge response from his paper's readers. That's exactly what Marley and Me author John Grogan said about his decision to write his bestseller. All I can say is that religion is something most of us can talk about from experience, so it does tend to draw an audience. Have to edit this to add a great article found 3/30/10. -------------------- Years later now, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, UK Catholic leader, admits to sexual misconduct. A spokesperson at the Vatican was on television saying that "he's sorry. He won't do it again." Somehow this made me think suddenly of the confessions this man must have heard over the years. No matter what Catholics got up to in their private life, i.e., "I slept with my brother's wife," to "I hit my little brother because I hated him for breaking my doll," we were forgiven by just asking. Perhaps he thought after all the forgiving he's done for us, it is time to forgive him. He's only a man, after all. The only thing is that he has not claimed to be "just a man" all these years but something special: God's ordained minister. Anyway, time to declare if ever there was that emperor has no clothes. I'd forgive him, but not the crime, if there was one. For that, he'd have to pay, just like everyone else. Not speaking of this man in particular, but of the abuses in general, I don't think the sanctity of the confessional speaks to criminal activity. Somehow we are back in that sticky wicket: can/should confessional revelations be used as evidence in a court of law? Anyway, just thought I would put these thoughts here since I don't have anywhere else to put it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erik Dryden

    Just awful. Lobdell becomes religious for shallow, selfish reasons, and he leaves religion for shallow, selfish reasons. He becomes an evangelical Christian because it stirs his emotions. He becomes a Presbyterian because becoming a Catholic is too radical a shift for him at the time. He becomes a Catholic because Catholicism is really old. As a religion reporter, Lobdell never really attempts to learn about the faiths he covers, instead focusing on feel-good human interest stories. In fact, his Just awful. Lobdell becomes religious for shallow, selfish reasons, and he leaves religion for shallow, selfish reasons. He becomes an evangelical Christian because it stirs his emotions. He becomes a Presbyterian because becoming a Catholic is too radical a shift for him at the time. He becomes a Catholic because Catholicism is really old. As a religion reporter, Lobdell never really attempts to learn about the faiths he covers, instead focusing on feel-good human interest stories. In fact, his limited descriptions of the doctrinal beliefs of various denominations is laughable. For example, he says that Mormons believe that we all originated in "a crystal orb in outer space," knowledge he apparently gained from reporting on ex-Mormons. He begins to lose his faith once he starts looking into money scandals, child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other abuses of power by religious leaders. It's beyond me how a reporter who is supposed to have expertise in religious matters did not know before then that religious leaders sometimes use their positions to enrich themselves or exercise power over others. It amazes me that a man can base his beliefs on the honesty or likability of pastors and priests.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    I chose this book as part of a series I started assembling when I decided, about a year into the loss of my own faith (details in my review of Leaving the Fold), to come out on Goodreads as a new non-Christian and to listen to the experiences and wisdom of those who have traveled this road longer than I. What I love about Lobdell's book is his peace and maturity as he reflects on his journey. When he writes about his experiences becoming a Christian, he lets himself share what his perspective wa I chose this book as part of a series I started assembling when I decided, about a year into the loss of my own faith (details in my review of Leaving the Fold), to come out on Goodreads as a new non-Christian and to listen to the experiences and wisdom of those who have traveled this road longer than I. What I love about Lobdell's book is his peace and maturity as he reflects on his journey. When he writes about his experiences becoming a Christian, he lets himself share what his perspective was - without a hindsight judgment. If he says something like, say, "I felt God moving," he doesn't immediately qualify that with, "But it was probably just exhaustion and wish fulfillment." The reader has already figured out how the book ends from the title - Lobdell doesn't need to be ashamed of what he thought and felt at the time, and he isn't. Especially in the epilogue, Lobdell paints an incredibly compassionate picture of his life after religion: I do miss my faith, as I'd miss any longtime love, and have a deep appreciation for how it helped me mature over 25 years... I don't know what the future holds in this new land. I don't see myself crossing the river back to Christianity... I don't see myself adopting a new religion. My disbelief in a personal God now seems cemented to my soul. Other kinds of spirituality seem equally improbable. (p. 279) When I first left Jesus, I was nervous because I didn't want to be part of the angry Atheist crowd that is so popular in some literary circles. Lobdell presents a beautiful alternative, someone whose faith was genuine and whose loss of faith is just as genuine, but who does not make unnecessary criticisms or judgments of his former companions. Lobdell very much inspires the direction I tentatively attempt to travel now. Structurally, this book spends some time with Lobdell as a lost young adult, abusing substances and making cruel decisions in relationships. The author then narrates his introduction to Jesus and the huge changes in his life, presented with respect and appreciation. He goes into great detail about some of the massive stories he covered as a religion reporter (the Catholic Church sexual abuse nightmares, certain aspects of Mormonism, unreliable faith healers, incidents that don't seem miraculous without a lot of mental/ethical gymnastics) that confronted him with evidence that eventually caused his doubts to overwhelm his faith. I dropped a star from my review of the book because the stories became a bit repetitive and seemed to stall the personal journey narrative with which I was trying to engage, but that is probably more a statement of my own tastes than objective merit of the book. In a final, relatively related note, I read a used copy of this book. Some reader before me used a yellow highlighter to draw attention to certain passages, which is part of the fun of buying a used book, but I noticed that this person seemed most interested in Lobdell's harshest moments - when he points to parts of the Bible that don't make much sense, when he relates hard evidence of wrongdoing by faith healers, when he shares some of the more.. archaeologically dubious claims from the Book of Mormon. I think the reader before me is angry about religion and wanted a more forceful book. The curious part is that this reader had to work hard to find any of that in a book that is otherwise almost entirely gentle and patient, and it serves as a nice reminder to me of just how well Lobdell does at sharing his story and making his points in ways that are patient, gentle, and respectful. I recommend this book for anyone in the process of leaving his or her faith who is afraid that the only alternative is hostile atheism. Lobdell provides an alternative perspective that I love.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    This interesting and well-written book gives believers and unbelievers alike an opportunity to reflect. It is the story of the spiritual journey of William Lobdell, who went from unbeliever to evangelical to Catholic, worked as religion reporter for a major US newspaper covering the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal among other things, and subsequently lost his belief in God. As a Christian of the reformed and evangelical stripe, I found Lobdell’s journey fascinating, sad, and instructive. Let me take This interesting and well-written book gives believers and unbelievers alike an opportunity to reflect. It is the story of the spiritual journey of William Lobdell, who went from unbeliever to evangelical to Catholic, worked as religion reporter for a major US newspaper covering the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal among other things, and subsequently lost his belief in God. As a Christian of the reformed and evangelical stripe, I found Lobdell’s journey fascinating, sad, and instructive. Let me take those in turn. Fascinating. Lobdell is an experienced writer and that comes through on every page. As one who has struggled through many a book full of good ideas and poor writing, this was a nice surprise. I did not expect Lobdell’s move from the shallow evangelicalism of his conversion and early Christian experience to the Catholic Church, but it does make sense in hindsight. Nothing seems to drive Protestants to Rome like the rootlessness of contemporary evangelicalism, which so often puts emotion and experience in the driver’s seat, despite the fact that emotion is a terrible driver and experience an even worse navigator. With them in control, there’s no telling where you might end up: Rome or somewhere worse. I will return to the roles of emotion and experience in the last section. The quality of Lobdell’s storytelling comes through in the middle section of the book when he really starts to dig into the underbelly of the corruption of institutional religion. This made for riveting and stomach-turning reading. The two main targets of his investigative reporting are the Catholic Church and the Prosperity Gospel industrial complex. Now while I have a measure of appreciation for the Catholic Church, despite fundamental and important differences, I have no appreciation at all for the prosperity gospel and its preachers, those misery-sowing peddlers of a false and damning gospel. Ahem. Where was I? Oh right. This brings us to the book’s sadness. Lobdell has his heart and soul crushed by the steady willful evil of a cold church bureaucracy and the unfathomable suffering of many many innocent, vulnerable people. I felt the anger welling up as I read the stories of these atrocities; I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sit with these victims and hear their stories. I don’t know how anyone can handle that emotionally. So I have a lot of compassion for how hard this would have been. What is also sad is how unprepared he was theologically to grapple with these realities. It seems, from a distance, that the kind of Christianity Lobdell was discipled into was very acclimated to the comfortable affluent Southern California world. This is probably the norm, but it does leave one totally unprepared to relate to the majority of Christians in the world today, not to mention the majority of Christians throughout the ages, who have and who are suffering in all kinds of ways. Oh, and the Bible, which in many ways is a pretty brutal book. Well it was an instructive book in a number of ways. From very early in his journey, Lobdell expressed doubts about the character of God as revealed in Scripture. However, he never seems to doubt the certitude of the moral assumptions that give rise to his doubts and questions. There is a lot of sentimentality there. The justice and judgment of God, which the author found so hard to accept, are the very things that would have anchored him in the face of such unimaginable evil as he encountered. Theologian Miroslav Volf, who hails from the Balkans and has seen his share of human evil, is right that without a God of judgment, the cycle of violence goes on and on, because only earthly justice is left. Likewise the sentimentalist is utterly unequipped to face the depth of evil humans are capable of. The imprecatory Psalms are an embarrassment to the sentimentalist, but they are a lifeline to the victim or troubled bystander of injustice and evil. To return to my previous point, the assumption that emotion and experience are fundamental arbiters of truth is never questioned: ‘If I experience something, then my interpretation of that experience is true.’ Near the end of the book, he even says something about “his truth.” Oprah couldn’t have said it better - and it has all the objective solidity of an overcooked spaghetti noodle. These are deeply modern (even post-modern) assumptions, shaped by the prevailing philosophy of our time and culture. Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor famously calls ours a Secular Age, in contrast to previous ages. Where once it was well-nigh impossible not to believe in God, given the available explanatory frameworks, now we are 200 years downstream from the enlightenment and it is, culturally speaking, pretty well impossible TO believe in God. Unless one is able to zoom out a bit and see these things as the passing fancies that they are, it can be extremely disorienting and even destructive to one’s faith, as in Lobdell’s case. In the last portion of the book, the author makes some attempts to voice his doubts and see if anyone can give him satisfactory answers. The questions and problems he raises however contain deeply embedded assumptions that again are never questioned. He decides to weigh the truthfulness of Christianity in part by measuring the moral quality of those who identify as Christians. In America. I almost laughed out loud. This approach might work in Afghanistan or in China, where there are no massive cultural incentives to identify as Christian. But in America, even twenty years ago, Christianity was such a cultural expectation that these studies are basically useless. The shortcomings of these famous Barna studies were known even at the time, although perhaps not widely enough. Consider what has happened since: the fastest growing religious identification is the “nones”, as in, no identification. The ‘mushy middle’ of cultural Christianity, which was made up of mainline denominations and weak evangelicalism, basically hollow and doctrinally and morally indistinguishable from the surrounding culture, is quickly evaporating. What we are left with increasingly is a hard secularism on one side and a committed convictional Christianity on the other. It is even more like this in countries where secularism is more advanced, such as Canada where I live. Not too many people left here still claiming to be Christians if they aren’t personally committed to Christ. More recent and better-designed studies measuring the moral behaviour of believers has yielded different results, but I would still argue that this is a pretty terrible way to go about deciding if something is true. Regarding the nature of prayer and of God’s providence, Lobdell again makes an assumption which renders the question essentially impossible. He assumes that the pattern of answered prayer and the observable fortunes and sufferings of people’s lives should immediately reveal to any observer the validity of God’s existence by vindicating his claim love his people. In fact he seems to demand that this be the case. It’s difficult to know where to begin with an assumption like this, other than to say it is utterly foreign to the whole thrust of the New Testament, but utterly consistent with a very reflexively unreflective North American way of thinking. His friend John, a presbyterian pastor, hits the nail on the head with this comment on page 239: “The fact is that [God] has not chosen to reveal everything to us. I can whine and complain that He hasn’t, demanding that God make it possible for me to understand everything. But when I do that, I’m getting pretty close to self-worship, lifting myself to the position of God, or perhaps even to a position superior to God, demanding that God function on my ground rules instead of me, humbly in worship, functioning on His.” And that more or less describes what is going on in this book. In the end, Lobdell opts for a kind of unbelief that happily keeps all the moral and ethical capital of a Christian worldview while rejecting the Source of that morality and ethic. And since it can take a couple of generations for those fumes to dissipate, it’s quite possible he will live on borrowing happily and thinking all is well. His is a very Christian kind of atheism. I am sure that many unbelievers and questioning believers will take encouragement from this book. It is a very human thing to find comfort in companionship. As a believer, I think it is a clarifying and revealing tale for anyone concerned with the state of Christian discipleship.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    A personal journey from from born-again Christian to doubt to loss of faith. The author doesn't try to convince the reader to think one way or another, but simply recounts his own experiences. As a journalist covering religion, he tells of the impact of investigating the Catholic pedophile scandals as well as religious frauds and deceptions; and of exposure to people of many religious persuasions. He brings forward the satisfactions and benefits of belonging to a faith and believing in a persona A personal journey from from born-again Christian to doubt to loss of faith. The author doesn't try to convince the reader to think one way or another, but simply recounts his own experiences. As a journalist covering religion, he tells of the impact of investigating the Catholic pedophile scandals as well as religious frauds and deceptions; and of exposure to people of many religious persuasions. He brings forward the satisfactions and benefits of belonging to a faith and believing in a personal God; the distress and conflict of doubt; and the overriding importance of honesty with oneself. He describes how, while a believer, his interpretation of everything in his life reinforced his faith and notes the selective attention we all apply to evidence and events depending on whether they reinforce or challenge our current viewpoint. To his surprise, he found himself happier and with more peace of mind as a non-believer. He feels his life has become freer, simpler and more precious to him.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    Interesting, unapologetic and honest look at someone finding religion and then upon closer examination coming to the realization that he no longer has his faith. It is an interesting look in to one man’s journey through religion in America. I enjoyed his description of his journey in coming to believe and his honest explanation of why he no longer believes. He honestly addresses his happiness in finding religion and then as his journey progresses his disillusionment and the reasons he no longer Interesting, unapologetic and honest look at someone finding religion and then upon closer examination coming to the realization that he no longer has his faith. It is an interesting look in to one man’s journey through religion in America. I enjoyed his description of his journey in coming to believe and his honest explanation of why he no longer believes. He honestly addresses his happiness in finding religion and then as his journey progresses his disillusionment and the reasons he no longer has faith. I think those who believe and those who don't can equally learn something from this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    There are really two parallel stories in this book. The writer is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and he takes some of his coverage on corruption in religion to make one of the stories in his book. They range from the aggrandizement of televangelists to the nefarious pedophiles in the Roman Catholic Church. The author also writes on the isolationism from mainstream society of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). He intertwines these articles with his own faith that eventually self There are really two parallel stories in this book. The writer is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and he takes some of his coverage on corruption in religion to make one of the stories in his book. They range from the aggrandizement of televangelists to the nefarious pedophiles in the Roman Catholic Church. The author also writes on the isolationism from mainstream society of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). He intertwines these articles with his own faith that eventually self-destructs after witnessing first-hand the hypocrisy and criminality that he is writing of. Mr. Lobdell had (or was struggling) to attain a personal relationship with God and/or Jesus. With each essay he wrote exposing the sordidness of the upper echelons of a Church who are purportedly much closer to the Supreme Being then their flock, his faith slowly evaporated. This second story is the journey of the author having a personal relationship with God (this intimate connection has always had a ring of irrationality to it) to becoming a non-believer. I had a case of déjà vu when reading this book. Here in Canada we had the Mount Cashel debacle during the 1980’s where young boys in Newfoundland were sexually abused by priests. Mr. Lobdell brings up a good point when he mentions that “sexual abuse” is just a euphemism for a much more serious offence. Going even further back in time, was not the Protestant Reformation a rebellion against the licentiousness of the Catholic Church? Religious institutions have had hundreds of years of experience in protecting themselves from their own immorality and as Mr.Lobdell’s book well demonstrates they are very good at it. Part of the problem is that we always put people of faith (whether they are leaders or just mere believers) on a higher pedestal- as if belonging to a religious grouping provides a type of superiority within a community.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I tend to shy away from books about religion, or even atheism (or even, for that matter, nonfiction). I'm not religious and I don't need to have my atheism reinforced and yet I was attracted to this by a NYTBR that made the point that it wasn't pedantic. And it wasn't. The author is a journalist and an excellent writer and he writes about his journey to religion and back with great empathy. There were maybe 3 paragraphs I couldn't read (a long letter from a religious leader trying to woo him bac I tend to shy away from books about religion, or even atheism (or even, for that matter, nonfiction). I'm not religious and I don't need to have my atheism reinforced and yet I was attracted to this by a NYTBR that made the point that it wasn't pedantic. And it wasn't. The author is a journalist and an excellent writer and he writes about his journey to religion and back with great empathy. There were maybe 3 paragraphs I couldn't read (a long letter from a religious leader trying to woo him back to the fold). It strikes me: my partner was watching a documentary about prostitution that, he said, "first showed the good, and then the bad." This was equivalent in terms of religion. He also includes a couple of really great Mark Twain quotes (which are now torturing those who email me) and one other great quote, from the author, on what happes to people who lose their religion, rebutting the notion of "spiritual suicide": "If an autopsy could be done on their spiritual life, the cause of death wouldn't be murder or suicide. It would be natural causes--the organic death of a belief system that collapsed under the weight of experience and reason."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rushabh

    An excellent book by a journalist about his journey embracing Christ, investigating the Catholic Church and eventual parting of ways with religion in general. It really is a book in 3 distinct Acts: Act 1 - From arreligious to an evangelical to (almost) a Catholic: Its unclear whether Lobdell was an atheist to begin with (I think not), but he clearly was not a practicing Christian. A rough patch in his life led him to turn to God and seek support and solace in the Church. He has nothing but good wo An excellent book by a journalist about his journey embracing Christ, investigating the Catholic Church and eventual parting of ways with religion in general. It really is a book in 3 distinct Acts: Act 1 - From arreligious to an evangelical to (almost) a Catholic: Its unclear whether Lobdell was an atheist to begin with (I think not), but he clearly was not a practicing Christian. A rough patch in his life led him to turn to God and seek support and solace in the Church. He has nothing but good words for the church that he joined and the people he met. All of them come across as very rational, yet very devout. They support him and help him get on the road to becoming a devout Christian. Act 2 - Investigating the Catholic Church: Lobdell was the religion reporter for the LA Times when the Catholic child molestation scandal broke. He investigated various such allegations and returned disgusted as what he saw as a fundamental breach of trust - the priests were supposed to be spiritual shepherds for their congregation and they abused this trust to permanently mess up the very children that they were trying to teach. What made him even angrier was systemic failures in the Catholic Church to expose known child molesters; instead the Church treated it as an internal matter, merely dismissing priests or even worse, moving them to other parishes where the pattern of abuse continued. The Church used its might, money and lawyers to squelch any complaints or protests whatsoever from the children that had been thus abused. Act 3 - Embracing Atheism: Investigating the church really seemed to cast a shadow upon Lobdell's faith. This led him to dig deeper and investigate the underbelly of the Christian faith - televangelists, preachers who claim to faith heal, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (largest Christian TV station in the world) and look at the economics of what was going on. Again, what seemed to make him really angry was not the millions that the preachers (or their churches) were making but the straightforward duping of the congregations and complete abuse of their trust. He notes stories of quadriplegics and terminal cancer patients given false hopes that they would walk out of church, healed (they weren't). What's even more heartbreaking is that people would put their faith in God and the faith healers and stop taking drugs thereby making things worse (and in some cases dying). Lobdell talks about how it was hard for him to let go. He had a difficult time dealing with death - what happens after and if he was going to hell for abandoning God. He talked to friends and preachers about his loss of faith and certain qustions about God that had been bothering him - and didn't get any answers that he considered good enough. Its unclear if this was so because he had already made up his mind and was talking to these preachers almost as "due diligence" or out of a genuine need to resolve things. On a personal note, the third act of the book really resonated with me. I went through something similar when I left the Jain fold around 2000. Its hard to deal with the fact that there is this life and then that's that - ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But if you come to terms with that, it makes life really nice. The worst that can happen to you is death. Every moment past is never coming back, so enjoy it to the fullest. Doing something you don't like to do is a monumental waste of time. Its also "simple". I don't have internal conflicts about being an engineer doing science by day and talking in an unknown language to beings whose existence is unprovable at night. I don't have to come to terms with reconciling faith and evolution or having to deal with things that I cannot measure (or view someone's measurement of the same). All in all, a great book. Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rod Horncastle

    This book is very accurate: William indeed lost his Religion. I don't for a second think he lost his Christianity. He never had any. Sorry Bill, but if you had a friend who actually reads their Bible carefully maybe they could have explained this to you. You embraced Religion...the best and worst America had to offer. A big waste of time. So why do I state such harsh claims? Because... Very early on YOU stated you could not get past the contradictions in the Bible. That is where your journey ENDED. This book is very accurate: William indeed lost his Religion. I don't for a second think he lost his Christianity. He never had any. Sorry Bill, but if you had a friend who actually reads their Bible carefully maybe they could have explained this to you. You embraced Religion...the best and worst America had to offer. A big waste of time. So why do I state such harsh claims? Because... Very early on YOU stated you could not get past the contradictions in the Bible. That is where your journey ENDED. It stopped before it even began...you did not have a Word of God that was ever trustworthy. You traded in God's scriptures for liberal feel good religion - you threw out Hell, Sin, and a Just God and Savior. You placed your trust in MAN and foolish scholarship. You even ended up a Catholic: Which tells us you barely researched the Truth of Christ at all. You didn't do your research. And you call yourself a Journalist?! (Did you investigate those contradictions.) You even lived somewhat close to John MacArthur and his church (all the truth you needed). You were so busy with Benny Hinn, the Pope and other pathetic theologians that you never got much truth at all. MacArthur could have easily answered all your questions - but we know you would NOT accept the Biblical answers God presented. Christianity was never what you were looking for. Your views on homosexuality clearly show us this. Your Jesus was never the Jesus of the Bible. But I really enjoyed the book. No one should ever claim to be an expert on Christianity if they ignore the Bible. It's amazing how easy it is too see where people fail. Just compare God's truthful Word to people experiences. It's black and white. A real Christian theologian and Bible lover can see a Benny Hinn (false teacher) and a pedophile Priest (lots of those apparently) a mile away. Wolves in Sheeps clothing only fool the foolish. Even children are smart enough to recognize evil when they see it. It's the adults that sustain the corruption. William showed us this wonderfully. I loved the authors kind and respectful reflection on his faith journey. I always tend towards the nasty, brutal, truthful reflections. And I hate Howard Stern... That you like him tells us alot about your character William.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    I heard the author speak about his experiences promoting this memoir on NPR. His story piqued my interest having had a crisis of faith and paradigm shift in my own life. His story was resonant with my experience, I was moved by his faith in God and his faith in, and admiration for, the community (or communities, since sects can be divisive sometimes)of believers. People respond to problems with theology, institutional and individual failings and foibles in a variety of ways. It seems to me that I heard the author speak about his experiences promoting this memoir on NPR. His story piqued my interest having had a crisis of faith and paradigm shift in my own life. His story was resonant with my experience, I was moved by his faith in God and his faith in, and admiration for, the community (or communities, since sects can be divisive sometimes)of believers. People respond to problems with theology, institutional and individual failings and foibles in a variety of ways. It seems to me that the abuses Lobdell observed and reported on in many faith communities eroded his personal faith despite his own concerted efforts to maintain faith in God and separate his shock, indignation and pain at the paradoxical behavior of trusted leaders and earnest or unquestioning believers who deny or fail to acknowledge perfidy of ecclesiastical leaders despite substantive evidence including confessions, from his faith in God. I feel his memoir is an honest attempt to explain his disillusionment with organized religion as the result of several years of struggle with his own conscience. I do not think his faith was naive, simplistic or weak. Nor do I believe his painful disaffection resulted from unrealistic expectations that truth will out or that all people of faith must be without flaws or sin. I feel Lobdell witnessed a pervasive pattern of malfeasance, taking advantage of believers and an extraordinary systemic anathematizing of earnest, honest people who lost or changed faith in some communities. Ultimately I interpreted Lobdell's story showing that peace and transcendence can come or be found in unexpected ways and depend on commitment to conscience over belonging to or protecting communities, especially exclusionary communities that sacrifice individuals callously to protect institutional interests.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Though it's called "Losing My Religion," it starts with the story of how the author found his religion. What struck me about this book is how human it is in every word. It's not a polemic against religion. The author writes with love and empathy towards his past born-again Christian self as well as towards his current agnostic self -- and towards the people he met in his career reporting on religion. (Well, most of them. He had no use for the televangelists.) I recommend it for anyone in any rela Though it's called "Losing My Religion," it starts with the story of how the author found his religion. What struck me about this book is how human it is in every word. It's not a polemic against religion. The author writes with love and empathy towards his past born-again Christian self as well as towards his current agnostic self -- and towards the people he met in his career reporting on religion. (Well, most of them. He had no use for the televangelists.) I recommend it for anyone in any relationship with Christianity -- whether you're Christian now, were Christian, are thinking about becoming Christian, or are thinking about leaving Christianity. It's not a book that is supposed to change your mind or sway you one way or another (despite Hitchens' blurb on the back). It's simply a portrait of a human being struggling with his own experiences and beliefs, and will give you a lot to consider if you meet it on its own terms. I don't know how it would affect someone who was in a relationship with a religion other than Christianity. Much of it involves Christian cultural norms, and it resonated with me because of my personal experience with that culture. I don't know how good a cultural portrait it is for someone who hasn't been part of that culture.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Mcnulty

    I just finished “Losing My Religion” by William Lobdell. This is one of those books that you hate to put down and think about whenever you are not reading it. It started out a little slow but I stayed with it and I am so glad I did. I found Mr. Lobdell’s story was much like mine. He starts out in a mega church and goes through many transformations eventually ending up in the catholic church. Slowly over time the questions become greater than the answers. He starts to feel his belief drift away f I just finished “Losing My Religion” by William Lobdell. This is one of those books that you hate to put down and think about whenever you are not reading it. It started out a little slow but I stayed with it and I am so glad I did. I found Mr. Lobdell’s story was much like mine. He starts out in a mega church and goes through many transformations eventually ending up in the catholic church. Slowly over time the questions become greater than the answers. He starts to feel his belief drift away from him. He puts forth an amazing effort to hold on to the belief he has had for so long. Eventually he has to admit to himself that he no longer believes in a personal god. As I was reading about his falling away from the church it just broke my heart. I know how hard that process is and how much you have to give up as far as friendships and community goes. I highly recommend this book for anyone going through a similar struggle with their faith. I admired his compassion towards those who remained in the church. He could have come out of his struggles full of bitterness. Instead I felt he continued to try to retain relationships and cultivate understanding. 4 out 5 Stars on this one.:) D Share this:

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    As a Born Again Christian turned Reluctant Atheist/Judaism Enthusiast, I find books like this one to be terribly interesting. Lobdell respects those who find comfort and purpose through religion, but struggles with the lack of moral courage in many churches. He decides that he cannot reasonably believe that Christianity and God are real when he has made a career out of discovering corruption in religious institutions and throngs of people scrambling to protect the criminals among them. I tend to As a Born Again Christian turned Reluctant Atheist/Judaism Enthusiast, I find books like this one to be terribly interesting. Lobdell respects those who find comfort and purpose through religion, but struggles with the lack of moral courage in many churches. He decides that he cannot reasonably believe that Christianity and God are real when he has made a career out of discovering corruption in religious institutions and throngs of people scrambling to protect the criminals among them. I tend to believe that religion has brought a lot of beauty into this world, despite the hatred and shenanigans that accompany it. And while I quite enjoy attending religious services, holiday celebrations, and other gatherings, I've never been convinced that God has a hand in any of it or, if God does exist, that s/he has much interest in how we're carrying on down here.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rick Harrington

    OK, so I find this really funny: Just yesterday, I was visiting my extremely well-read friend who is just exactly 20 years older than me, and facing not just his mortality, but the fact that he can no longer master things. A cellphone, for instance. Or walking to the library to return a book which friends had so helpfully transported him to borrow. There was some sense of resentment that the return trip, whether by him walking or by the helpmates returning, was never anticipated. Getting old can OK, so I find this really funny: Just yesterday, I was visiting my extremely well-read friend who is just exactly 20 years older than me, and facing not just his mortality, but the fact that he can no longer master things. A cellphone, for instance. Or walking to the library to return a book which friends had so helpfully transported him to borrow. There was some sense of resentment that the return trip, whether by him walking or by the helpmates returning, was never anticipated. Getting old can really make a person cranky, don't I know. Well, of course, I offered to return the book along my way, since I would be walking right by the library. But, well, you know, I glanced at the book, and decided I might like to read it. Despite the lines of people no doubt more justified in their desire than I am in mine, queued up in orderly fashion as the computer can now arrange. I wasted no time, and am only now an hour and a half beyond the library's opening, so I don't feel too bad. Nor, for that matter do I regard it as a terrible sin that my friend had once pilfered some hundreds of dollars in library fines proffered him in a part-time job he once held as a college student, when he realized that there was quite literally no accounting for the fines. I guess it weighed enough on him to tell me. I guess my own sin of stealing a read from this book weighs on me that much. So I'm confessing it publicly, dear reader, to you. Yes, I secretly read books about religion. Off the record. Privately. Anyhow, I was just dying to see how this story would unfold. I was glad to find the author not overly intellectual. He is honest in his telling, and skilled as the celebrated journalist he actually is. I could easily get away with this without any worry about any accounting. Ordinarily a somewhat painfully slow reader, I do find that I can be extraordinarily quick if the read is of merely professional interest. I guess that's the case with this one. I mean, I've differed from Richard Dawkin's take on religion, suggesting that he throws the baby out with the bathwater, to make an utterly atrocious pun on Jesus. This one disappoints me for mildly different reasons. And those, if you are a careful reader, have already been embodied in what I've written to this point here and now. It seems that baby Jesus has now been placed in some sort of limbo. And it's hard for me to get past the pure coincidence of the book landing in my hands. Well, it would be if there were any program to my reading at all. The book ends with a kind of celebration of Howard Stern. I must say that just as the movie "8 Mile" did for me on behalf of the rapper M&M, I may have to take another listen to Howard Stern. I'd rather thought him to be a celebrant of gross and crude, which of course, he is, and, you know, I'm in favor of better taste than that. But there seems to be something about honesty and openness that I'm missing. Well, until you see what's generally hidden by attempts to distinguish, by rules of civility, the ranks of us radically equal humans, I guess you don't really know what gross is. Which it is the burden of this book to expose. Not just the evil of the Church or churches of whatever denomination, but the evil more generally of the fictions we pose for ourselves. The fictional postures we make of ourselves. The fictional narrative we try to fit ourselves to. Etc. But, you know, ultimately if playing out a role in public makes me somehow less than good, I'd like to see the gutsy person I'm meant to be. Or rather, yuch, no I wouldn't! A bit of taste is a good thing. I've never cared very much for Howard Stern, but then again I never really considered him very different from lots of priests I've known. They just cloak it better. Sorry. So yeah, no personal God for certain. But not quite random either. Now, I've gotta go see a Man about a Book. It's the decent thing to do. Plus, I wouldn't want to be accountable for my friend's fines. Oh. I meant I've gotta go see an institution about a book, silly. There's just no accounting for Capitals in English. Confused? Me too. But I can say this about religion. Get lost! You're in the way of my life, which has always been partly truth and partly fiction. I think the author agrees with me. Maybe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Grrlscientist

    Unlike most people who were raised in a religious household and grew up surrounded by religious people, I never experienced a “crisis of faith” since I never believed there was a god any more than I believed there was a Santa Claus or a Tooth Fairy. However, some of my friends are religious and because I value them as people, I have listened to them from time to time as they pondered aloud the deep questions that all of us face in the wee hours or after experiencing a significant loss or other l Unlike most people who were raised in a religious household and grew up surrounded by religious people, I never experienced a “crisis of faith” since I never believed there was a god any more than I believed there was a Santa Claus or a Tooth Fairy. However, some of my friends are religious and because I value them as people, I have listened to them from time to time as they pondered aloud the deep questions that all of us face in the wee hours or after experiencing a significant loss or other life-changing event — the same questions that journalist, William Lobdell, addresses so eloquently in his memoir, Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace (Collins; 2009). The story begins when the author realizes that he has made a disaster of his life at age 27 by filling his nights with alcohol and his days with running away from the terrifying responsibility of a wife and new baby. He was so adept at this that, by the time his 28th birthday arrived, Lobdell looks over the wreckage of his life and is disgusted with himself. “I could barely admit it was my birthday,” he writes. “I couldn’t stand the person I had become. I found no reason to celebrate my life.” He confided his predicament to a good friend. “You need God. That’s what’s missing in your life,” his friend told him confidently. “I was a lot like you until I surrendered my life to God. Why not try it? It can’t hurt. Look at where you are with you in control. Get yourself to a church, Billy.” The author, desperate to try anything, went to church the following Sunday. His transformation was nearly instantaneous. “It was like discovering a great new author,” he writes. “[O]nly the writer of this book — or at least the one who inspired it — was the creator of the universe. I thought, finally, I had found the answers to living a quality life. The secrets had been there all along — in ‘Life’s instruction Manual,’ as some Christians call the Bible.” The church, an evangelical megachurch, assigned a spiritual adviser to him, who urged Lobdell to attend a religious retreat, which he does, reluctantly. After several days filled with song, prayer, “honest sharing” and worship, very little sleep and inadequate nutrition, the author (predictably) experiences a vision and ends up becoming a born-again Christian before returning home to his wife and kids. His behavior and attitude change and his health problems are ameliorated. His wife and children begin to attend church with him and his relationship with them improves. His professional life is rejuvenated: he even begins to tithe. Lobdell falls in love with a perfect god, a god who loves him unconditionally and who gives him whatever he wants — well, sometimes. For example, Lobdell prays for $50,000 and, miraculously, a former employer eventually comes through on an old debt. Lobdell wants to better glorify his god so he spends years praying to be assigned to a religion writing job at his newspaper. In 1998, that finally materializes too. He finds great joy in writing stories about the religious people in his community and is eager to go to work each morning, and his writing begins to win numerous awards. In short, the “God Thing” was working well for him. As an estranged Christian who rediscovered god as an evangelical, Lobdell then discovers that he is attracted to the extensive history and elegant rituals of the Catholic Church — which coincidentally, was the childhood faith of his wife, Greer. Seeking to make a more lasting commitment to his growing faith, he and his wife pursue Catholicism. But to convert, they must take religious classes for one year before being formally accepted into the church. But his deepening knowledge of Catholic doctrine troubles him. Eventually, the author decides to compromise, by “planning on being a Cafeteria Catholic, picking which parts of church doctrine I would keep and which I would ignore.” Unfortunately, at the same time, his journalism career led him to investigate the Catholic Church for another reason; the sexual abuse of young people by priests — aided and abetted and even covered up by the Church itself. As this scandal explodes around him, Lobdell becomes painfully aware of the deep rage that many religious people display when their faith is threatened; of the chasm that exists between religious ideals and the lives of those who claim to be religious, and how the entire Catholic power structure allowed priests to abuse their power to gratify their own carnal desires, leaving thousands of destroyed lives in their wake. But abuse of power is not exclusive to the Catholic Church; it is a feature of organized religion itself. Which led Lobdell to wonder, if organized religion doesn’t live according to the Bible, why should it expect anyone else to do so? As if that was not enough, Lobdell could not find comfort in his faith outside of the church, either. For example, his research found no scientific evidence to support the healing power of prayer, despite fervent claims to the contrary. Most damaging, he found no evidence that any amputee’s missing limbs had ever been regenerated, so he concluded that the “most logical answer to why God won’t heal amputees is that either God doesn’t care or doesn’t exist.” Lobdell is routinely tortured by the cruelty of disasters large and small, such as the Indonesian tsunami and the death of a premature baby. Nor does he find solace from studying the living example provided by evangelical Christians: statistics on evangelicals revealed that “Christians, as a group, acted no differently than anyone else, including atheists.” Sadly for him, Lobdell does not even find comfort or words of encouragement in Mother Theresa’s book, Come Be My Light , which chronicles her spiritual crisis that consumed the last five decades of her life! (Curiously, Lobdell gets the name of this book wrong in his book!) By the end of this book, we find a wiser and humbler Lobdell, who writes that “I’ve just spent eight years crossing a river in a raft of my own construction, and now I’m standing on a new shore. My raft was made […] of things I gathered along the way: knowledge, maturity, humility, critical thinking and the willingness to face the world as it is, and not how I wish it to be. I don’t know what the future holds in this new land. I don’t see myself crossing the river back to Christianity… [or] adopting a new religion. My disbelief in a personal God now seems cemented to my soul. Other kinds of spirituality seem equally improbable. Besides, I like my life on this unexplored shore.” This is a highly readable and honest story about one man’s journey into adulthood. It carefully outlines the many serious issues associated with religion — any religion — and the questions that any thinking person will ask about the supposed nature of god. I highly recommend this book to everyone, religious or not, because there is much of value to be discovered here. For example, as an atheist, I am particularly troubled by what the author might have done if he hadn’t immersed himself into religion at the beginning of the book. Where can he, and others who are in a similar stage of their lives, turn to deal with the reality of a badly damaged life? Where could Lobdell turn to change himself and his life, if not to religion? These are some of many questions that I think people should seriously think about, regardless of whether they are religious or not because, whether or not there is an afterlife, how we deal with others in this life is crucially important. NOTE: Originally published at scienceblogs.com on 30 March 2009.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stewart

    Travel books have attracted me during my life, the literal travel books featuring new places and people, history books taking me to unfamiliar eras of the past, and science fiction books that lift me to new worlds in the future. I also like the type of travel book that shows me a person's journey of changing beliefs, whether religious, political, or social. In my experience, most people inherit the religious and political beliefs of their parents and childhood environment and stray little from Travel books have attracted me during my life, the literal travel books featuring new places and people, history books taking me to unfamiliar eras of the past, and science fiction books that lift me to new worlds in the future. I also like the type of travel book that shows me a person's journey of changing beliefs, whether religious, political, or social. In my experience, most people inherit the religious and political beliefs of their parents and childhood environment and stray little from these beliefs in adulthood. What especially interests me is the person who makes big changes in his or her beliefs. William Lobdell is one of those persons, who grew up an Episcopalian, stopped going to church at age 17, became an evangelical Christian in his late 20s after several personal crises, then decided to study to become a Catholic. Lobdell's job as religion writer for the Los Angeles Times brought him in close contact with the sexual abuse scandal of U.S. Catholic priests. That scandal was a catalyst to his losing his faith not only in the Catholic church but in organized religion and God as well. The book is well written, easy to read (I read it in a day), and thoughtful. The problem of suffering of innocent people, the contradictions in the Bible, and the philosophical incoherence of so many of the major world religions is commented on. After Lobdell threw off his religious beliefs, he wrote, "Frustrating, endless confusion about how the world worked disappeared. My life makes better sense now, without a personal God in the equation." Christians, particularly fundamentalists who believe every word of the Bible is literally true, always have to make truly amazing mental contortions or become "cafeteria Christians" to square their beliefs with reason and reality. They remind me of Claudius Ptolemy and later apologists for the belief that the sun revolved around the Earth -- including the Catholic and Protestant churches until the 19th century. Epicycles and other amazing complications were added and added to rationalize the old system. However, simply changing one's belief to that of the Earth revolving around the sun explained our reality so easily and simply.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kennedy

    This is a compelling story of how a respected religion reporter, William Lobdell, a committed evangelical Christian and almost-Catholic, came to lose his faith and today lives as a "reluctant atheist." The author has achieved an amazing feat. While he no longer has any belief in God, he is able to chronicle his life of faith, and his experiences as a Christian, as though he still believed. That is, he doesn't look back with a cynical eye and belittle his blossoming and maturing faith. This fealty This is a compelling story of how a respected religion reporter, William Lobdell, a committed evangelical Christian and almost-Catholic, came to lose his faith and today lives as a "reluctant atheist." The author has achieved an amazing feat. While he no longer has any belief in God, he is able to chronicle his life of faith, and his experiences as a Christian, as though he still believed. That is, he doesn't look back with a cynical eye and belittle his blossoming and maturing faith. This fealty to his former self allows the reader to fully experience his immersion in faith and the transforming effect it had on his life. At the same time, he is also able to write vulnerably, and without rancor, about why ultimately he believes he was duped by religion, and why faith no longer makes sense to him. Even as he explains the implosion of his faith, he mourns the loss of it in his life. His is a finely nuanced story that both believers and nonbelievers can appreciate. It's hard to argue when he says, "What the Bible promises -- peace and serenity -- I've found in larger measures as a nonbeliever." Peace and serenity is what we all long for. Many of us find it difficult to achieve, so we ping pong from one new thing to the next. I also sympathize with his reasoning that if God existed, His presence would be more apparent in people who call themselves Christians and in churches and faith organizations that lay claim to belief. The failings of individuals and organizations are widespread and, as he discovered while covering the Catholic sex scandals, sometimes depraved beyond belief. For an entirely different take on falling out of faith, read Mark Curtis Anderson's Jesus Sound Explosion. It's the story of an evangelical Christian's reversal of faith eyed through the lens of the author's love affair with rock music. Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine (Plus) is another classic of this genre. I might agree to my own Faustian bargain if it meant I could write like this!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Lobdell's faith journey is not that different from mine. He embraces Christianity, jumps into it with both feet and has powerful emotional experiences. He feels that nothing will ever change his mind about Jesus and that he will always be loyal to his faith. He believes that God is calling him to be a reporter for the religion section of the newspaper – previously, he did other work at the paper. When he gets the job, after trying for about a year and a half, he sees it as validation from God. Gr Lobdell's faith journey is not that different from mine. He embraces Christianity, jumps into it with both feet and has powerful emotional experiences. He feels that nothing will ever change his mind about Jesus and that he will always be loyal to his faith. He believes that God is calling him to be a reporter for the religion section of the newspaper – previously, he did other work at the paper. When he gets the job, after trying for about a year and a half, he sees it as validation from God. Gradually, however, his enthusiasm for his faith fades. What seems to kill his faith is his observations that so many Christians and Christian leaders are hypocrites. He covers the Catholic pedophile scandal at length, detailing the horrible things that priests did and the bishops who allowed the priests to keep molesting and sheltered them, which is almost worse. He covers the story of Benny Hinn, a faith healer who bilks poor and desperate people of their money. He studied statistics about religious people compared to non-religious people and finds out the Christians are no more likely to live holy lives than non-Christians – in fact, atheists and agnostics have a lower divorce rate and give more money to charity. These facts surprised and disturbed him, and he begins to feel that if God is so powerful, why can he transform the lives of his followers? Eventually, it is the loss of his innocence that leads to the loss of his faith. Many people will say That the way Christians behave is not relevant to the goodness of God – but I really relate to what this author is saying. I had a very similar faith journey – initial enthusiasm, throwing myself into Christianity, and then becoming disillusioned by the cruelty and hypocrisy of many Christians that I knew . It was good to know that I am not the only person who has gone through this kind of faith crisis and come out the other end.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shana

    Much as I try, I have a very difficult time wrapping my mind about faith. I understand that it is significant and meaningful to many, yet I have never experienced it. In an attempt to learn more about the nature of religion and faith, I read Losing My Religion. Lobdell starts out as a young man heading down a not-so-great path, but finds comfort as a born again Christian. As he becomes an evangelical Christian, he also pursues journalistic writing on topics of religion. Then, he and his wife star Much as I try, I have a very difficult time wrapping my mind about faith. I understand that it is significant and meaningful to many, yet I have never experienced it. In an attempt to learn more about the nature of religion and faith, I read Losing My Religion. Lobdell starts out as a young man heading down a not-so-great path, but finds comfort as a born again Christian. As he becomes an evangelical Christian, he also pursues journalistic writing on topics of religion. Then, he and his wife start pursuing Catholicism because she wants to reconnect with her childhood religion and he wants something with a rich history. But the timing wasn’t so good. Just as he is taking classes on Catholicism, the priest sexual abuse cases start to appear in the media. He begins to cover some of these stories, and after speaking with survivors of priest abuse, his faith begins to falter. As he learns more about some of the horrific cover ups of abuse, Lobdell questions religion more and more until finally, it is gone. This book didn’t a negative, “you should quit religion too” kind of message. Rather, it was a very personal exploration of one man’s progression from non-belief, belief, strong belief, questioning belief, and no belief again. He highlights the great aspects of religion while also acknowledging the difficult points that some are quick to cover up. His conclusion really resonated with me, because I want to believe the best in everyone in everything, but oftentimes find it hard to do.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beckie

    When William Lobdell began covering religion for the LA Times, he thought he had been called to that position by God. A recent convert to Christianity, Lobdell dove into inspirational stories of how faith affects people's lives. At the same time, in his personal life, he moved from an Evangelical church to a mainline one and nearly converted to Catholicism. Then he saw the dark side of religion: the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, and the inner workings of Trinity Broadcasting Network When William Lobdell began covering religion for the LA Times, he thought he had been called to that position by God. A recent convert to Christianity, Lobdell dove into inspirational stories of how faith affects people's lives. At the same time, in his personal life, he moved from an Evangelical church to a mainline one and nearly converted to Catholicism. Then he saw the dark side of religion: the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, and the inner workings of Trinity Broadcasting Network. Reporting these stories led to Lobdell's loss of faith. "Losing my Religion" is a captivating read. The parts chronicling Lobdell's time as a Christian take that worldview a a given, the later portions of the book assume it to be false. This allows the reader to see Lobdell's thinking change, rather than just hearing him reflect on how he used to be. It's disturbing to think about how much covering religion can do to a person, and jarring to hear a (former) religion reporter say what he really thinks about various faiths. Regardless of what you think of Lobdell's faith, or later lack of faith, reading about the stories that changed his mind will break your heart.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mediaman

    I read this book when it first came out and reread it nine years later--I originally gave it five stars but now have reconsidered. I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of intellectual honesty that came from this very good writer. He seems completely lost, from childhood Presbyterianism to years as an evangelical Christian to an odd attempt to convert to Catholicism to his research on Mormonism to ultimately giving up any faith. He truly is what Jesus' parable talks about when referring to the I read this book when it first came out and reread it nine years later--I originally gave it five stars but now have reconsidered. I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of intellectual honesty that came from this very good writer. He seems completely lost, from childhood Presbyterianism to years as an evangelical Christian to an odd attempt to convert to Catholicism to his research on Mormonism to ultimately giving up any faith. He truly is what Jesus' parable talks about when referring to the wheat among the weeds (or "tares")--he was one of those seeds that grew but then got smothered by the weeds. Rarely has a (former) Christian writer been so open about his spiritual journey, including his doubts, fears, anxieties and questions. This fascinating story reveals some insights into the mind of a (former) believer, though it often skims the surface and ultimately leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied due to the lack of true resolution. The reviews of this book inaccurately portray it as the man's life story, mostly focused on what some would consider a midlife crisis, when in truth the bulk of the book recounts stories Lobdell reported on. There is too much emphasis on what he learned as a religion reporter especially regarding the Catholic sex scandals and not enough time spent in explanation of his thought process that lead him to often-changing conclusions about his own life. He tells little about his actual conversion to evangelicalism other than he felt a need to do it. He then suddenly after about a decade as a born-again Christian decides that he wants to become Catholic, but he never explains that decision either. He is a wanderer. There are also indicators that he wasn't fully invested in evangelicalism. He often talks about his commitment to "God" instead of saying "Jesus" or "Christ," and admits a hesitancy in using the name of Jesus in talking with others. And what he claims to be the main teachings of Christ focus on the social issues but overlook many of the moral teachings that have become politicized by non-Christians. He also never believed in a literal hell (kind of a basic Christian and Biblical doctrine). He also refuses to become a member of an evangelical journalists group, worried about how he will be perceived. So there are many doubts as to whether he really followed through on the Christian commitment he claimed to make. There are also a few contradictions in his own beliefs. He overly admires (and overstates the importance of) a man named Ole Anthony standing up against a few TV preachers (Anthony didn't lead the charge against most of the major preachers as claimed in this book). Anthony was against those that teach the prosperity gospel (if you give, God will reward you), but Lobdell himself tithed out of a belief that if he gave God would reward him! He justifiably condemns priests for sexual abuse and affairs, yet Lobdell himself was sexually promiscuous and his marriage started after a pregnancy and him cheating on his first wife. He fails to connect his own failures to the human flaws that all have. The book is mostly about the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals--with shocking examples of how high church leaders lied, threatened, and covered up. It would be difficult for anyone to read this and justify being a member of the Catholic Church, which continues in its corruption though the PR people and sermon-givers have tried to convince the public otherwise. Lobdell should be praised for objectively standing up for the truth, especially in the face of him attempting to become Catholic at the time he was uncovering the horrible abuse. He obviously was impacted by his reporting (he decides to not become Catholic two days before the ceremony) and claims that he found his calling as an investigative reporter, but he glides over the fact that he sat on the exclusive papers that gave him the Catholic sex scandal story for nine months before he even looked at them! How could a reporter for the L.A. Times be given such evidence and just push it aside until a lawsuit forced him to look through them the day a story had to be written on the subject? Was he trying to cover up for the Catholic Church that he was planning to convert to? Was he just a poor reporter? He never really gives an explanation. So the main fault of the book is lack of self-analysis and self-understanding. This is one admittedly anxiety-filled guy who stumbled into his profession and his faith. That's not good in either case. He may be so used to his journalistic objective writing style that he had a difficult time opening up with his subjective feelings. (If he did a little reading between his own lines, he'd see that his doubts coincide with his mistreatment by Catholic officials and the negative reaction he receives from evangelicals to his pieces that uncover the money-hungry aspects of TV preachers. So of course he lost his faith when Christians were criticizing him.) It's too bad--this is the start of an interesting journey that doesn't feel finished yet, and because he fails to understand himself, in the end it's difficult for the reader to make sense of it all. An update would be appreciated now that it has been almost ten years since publication. Lobdell is worthy of praise for one major thing that has rarely been put in print before: proving to evangelicals that one can choose to turn away from a guaranteed faith (which most evangelicals believe is not possible, saying he must have never truly had faith to start with). He was a believer, now he's not. Explain that. And praised for even admitting that the Jesus of the Bible is angrier and more impatient than is preached today (a truth that is virtually ignored by every Christian denomination). He properly notes that almost no sane religious person today mentions hell, which is sad considering hundreds of years of Biblical truth and tradition. He makes dozens of valid points--if only the Catholics, Mormons and evangelicals will listen to his cries maybe his rejection of religion wouldn't be a complete loss.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Initially, I found that the most exciting thing about this book was the title. As I progressed through the book, I found myself drawn into the writer's struggle to reconcile his faith with the many tragedies he observed. I could relate to his struggle. I found his descriptions of survivors of Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal heartbreaking. This isn't a book I would read again, as I found much of the sexual abuse scandal descriptions difficult to read, but I would definitely recommend it to a Initially, I found that the most exciting thing about this book was the title. As I progressed through the book, I found myself drawn into the writer's struggle to reconcile his faith with the many tragedies he observed. I could relate to his struggle. I found his descriptions of survivors of Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal heartbreaking. This isn't a book I would read again, as I found much of the sexual abuse scandal descriptions difficult to read, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is questioning the existence of a God who allows horrible things to happen but is somehow let off the hook. The reading is somewhat dry and more of an investigation of facts and stories, but the reader is honest about his struggles. This book does not read like many memoirs where the author places himself in the middle of the story and you hear the deep dark details of his life. There is a bit of that, but if that's all you're looking for you'll probably be disappointed.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rosalía

    Be prepared to witness the child stepping forward to announce, "The Emperor has no clothes!" It was a VERY important book today in America and should actually replace the Giddean's (sp.??) Bible in every hotel room dresser. As You read, you watch William become a man of devout faith. Then, as he reports during his career as a journalist on the Religion Beat, you observe his powerful deconversion. His faith goes out in a puff of smoke, like a bright flame atop a candle that goes out and leaves a t Be prepared to witness the child stepping forward to announce, "The Emperor has no clothes!" It was a VERY important book today in America and should actually replace the Giddean's (sp.??) Bible in every hotel room dresser. As You read, you watch William become a man of devout faith. Then, as he reports during his career as a journalist on the Religion Beat, you observe his powerful deconversion. His faith goes out in a puff of smoke, like a bright flame atop a candle that goes out and leaves a trail of whispering smoke. He knows too much. The honesty, the heartfelt passionate honesty deserves kudos from all who understand and who have been through similar journeys to discover the first real peace they've ever had in their entire lives. "This is the most intellectually honest and emotionally courageous book I have ever read, and it's a page turner from cover to cover..."-Michael Shermer

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brett Bavar

    I appreciate the way Lobdell describes his experience of conversion to Christianity and his subsequent life in the church before telling his de-conversion story. It's apparent from this portion of his story that he was as sincere and committed a Christian as I've ever known, and I could really relate with a lot of his thoughts and experiences during that time. I think it's an important thing for Christians to see how people just like them can actually come to point of leaving their Christian fai I appreciate the way Lobdell describes his experience of conversion to Christianity and his subsequent life in the church before telling his de-conversion story. It's apparent from this portion of his story that he was as sincere and committed a Christian as I've ever known, and I could really relate with a lot of his thoughts and experiences during that time. I think it's an important thing for Christians to see how people just like them can actually come to point of leaving their Christian faith behind them. That said, I felt like this book focused a bit too much on the whole Catholic child abuse issue. I wanted more of Lobdell's own story and less of the abuse stories that I've heard before. They're familiar stories, and not pleasant ones to spend much time reading or thinking about.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Rodela

    A very engaging read about a reporters struggle with faith. I appreciate that the author is a reporter because it gives him the ability to really investigate his own feelings and look at them honestly and objectively. Also, the chapters detailing some of the more sinister and reprehensible activities of the Catholic church were pretty jarring and tough to read, simply because of the fact that they actually happened. I was a little disappointed by the superficial nature of the catalysts for the a A very engaging read about a reporters struggle with faith. I appreciate that the author is a reporter because it gives him the ability to really investigate his own feelings and look at them honestly and objectively. Also, the chapters detailing some of the more sinister and reprehensible activities of the Catholic church were pretty jarring and tough to read, simply because of the fact that they actually happened. I was a little disappointed by the superficial nature of the catalysts for the author's conversion and deconversion, but ultimately they were enough for him. And I'm sure many people make such important life decisions based on even less thoughtful reasons. Still, as a life-long agnostic, I remain fascinated by the reasons people choose to follow any religion and this book provides entertaining insight into that subject.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura Laramore

    This book won't be published until February 2009, but I got an advance copy of it (yay for librarian perks!). It's a tough book to read but a great conversation starter. The author goes from being essentially non-religious to a born-again evangelical Christian to what he calls a "reluctant atheist." His loss of faith is not a decision he makes lightly, nor does it seem to be motivated by anger or frustration. As a reporter, he covers the breaking Catholic clergy sex scandal story, but it's not t This book won't be published until February 2009, but I got an advance copy of it (yay for librarian perks!). It's a tough book to read but a great conversation starter. The author goes from being essentially non-religious to a born-again evangelical Christian to what he calls a "reluctant atheist." His loss of faith is not a decision he makes lightly, nor does it seem to be motivated by anger or frustration. As a reporter, he covers the breaking Catholic clergy sex scandal story, but it's not this experience alone that leads him to atheism. For me, the most interesting part is the final chapter and epilogue where he describes how rather than falling into despair, he finds greater peace and meaning now that he doesn't believe in God.

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