From Publishers Weekly
A former religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times
, Lobdell recounts in this plainly written memoir how he became a Protestant evangelical, nearly accepted Catholicism and, in the end, rejected faith altogether. Central to the arc of this memoir is the unfolding sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, which Lobdell covered in depth during his time as a religion reporter, beginning in 2000. Despairing of the role of priests and bishops in that scandal, he refashions his identity as a crusading reporter out to cleanse the church of corrupt leaders. But after finding that his investigative stories about faith healer Benny Hinn and televangelists Jan and Paul Crouch appear to make no difference on the reach of these ministries or the lives of their followers, he gives up on the beat and on religion generally. Lobdell subjects his faith to the rigors of rationalism. If Christians are no more ethical than atheists, why belong to a church? It's a curious utilitarian argument that sounds more like a rearview explanation than a revealing account of loss of faith. Still, the memoir's strength lies in the wrenching emotional toll exacted by the Catholic abuse scandal. If nothing else, it suggests reporters may have been victimized by the scandal, too. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* Lobdell’s spiritual life had been a roller-coaster ride. During his late twenties, his marriage fell apart, he drank too much, and he cheated on his new—and pregnant—girlfriend. He was running away from responsibility as fast as he could. So when a friend told him he needed God—he suspended church attendance when a teenager—he listened. Slowly, things turned around. He secured a new job, marriage to his second wife went well, everything seemed to be falling into place. Attributing his newfound success to faith, he became a born-again Christian and, later, seriously considered converting to Catholicism. He became a full-time religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a job that exposed him to other faiths and to stories of abuse in mainstream religion circles, especially the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. Before long, he was wracked with doubt and stopped attending church altogether. “My long honeymoon with Christianity had ended.” Finally, he reached a turning point at which he concluded that there is no God. Lobdell’s spiritual journey fascinates, not least on account of the irony of his trajectory from agnosticism to belief to atheism while covering religion. It’s a story that may raise eyebrows among believers and nonbelievers alike. --June Sawyers