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Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America and Found Unexpected Peace Hardcover – February 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Printing edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061626813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061626814
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

209 of 220 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Arnold VINE VOICE on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've just finished reading three books on a common theme: losing one's (Christian) religion and becoming an atheist. All three are excellent, but each approaches the topic from a very different perspective. I thought I might review them all together, and post the combined review on each book at Amazon. I don't know if this is consistent with the Amazon review policy, but never mind.

The first book is Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker. I was slightly put off by the subtitle: "How an evangelical preacher became one of America's leading atheists." After all, one of the key points about atheism - and one that we have to keep reminding theists about - is that atheism is not an organized body of belief, it's no more a religion than "bald" is a hair colour. So how can anyone be a "leading atheist"? Who's being led? However if one substitutes "prominent" or "influential" for "leading", we can let that pass. And Barker is certainly influential: he's co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is one of the most active groups working to uphold the Constitutional prohibition on church-state entanglement, and seeking to counteract the negative image of atheism in this country.

The second book that I considered was William Lobdell's Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America-and Found Unexpected Peace. Lobdell is an award-winning journalist who covered religion for the Los Angeles Times.
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110 of 124 people found the following review helpful By George P. Wood VINE VOICE on November 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Losing My Religion is William Lobdell's memoir of becoming an evangelical, then a Roman Catholic, then a reluctant atheist. It is an engrossing and quick read. And unlike Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Lobdell is not vicious. He disagrees with believers, but he does not despise them.

Lobdell is an award-winning journalist who covered the religion beat for the Los Angeles Times. As a one-time resident of Costa Mesa, California--where Lobdell lives--and a former reader of the Times, I personally know some of the people Lobdell reported on, and I remember reading some of his stories. His reportage on the sins of Paul and Jan Crouch and their Trinity Broadcasting Network sticks in my mind even to this day.

The book begins with Lobdell's life in a mess. A friend tells him he needs God, and he ends up going to Mariners Church, an evangelical megachurch pastored by Kenton Beeshore. As he matures in his faith, he switches to St. Andrews Presbyterian, pastored by John Huffman. Eventually, however, he finds himself drawn to Catholicism, and he and his wife enroll in catechism classes.

At about the same time, he begins to cover a clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Orange Diocese, involving Father Michael Harris, the longtime principal of Mater Dei High School. In 1996, a one-time student at Mater Dei named Ryan DiMaria sued Harris and the Diocese and won a judgment of $5.2 million dollars. DiMaria also successfully forced the Diocese to reform the way it handled clergy sexual abuse cases.

Lobdell was disheartened at the way the episcopal hierarchy covered for abusive priests and vilified their victims, using strong-arm legal tactics to silence them.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Bonds VINE VOICE on December 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed this book immensely. William Lobdell is an award-winning journalist for the Los Angeles Times, and formerly covered the "religion beat" for that paper. In this book he tells his personal story of moving, over a 20-year period, from becoming a "born again" Christian at age 28, through gradual disillusionment, and ultimately to complete unbelief. In doing so, he draws heavily upon interviews and research he conducted during that time as a journalist reporting on religion-related stories. These stories revealed aspects of religion as actually practiced in America, uncovering behind-the-scenes activities that are less-than-flattering, to put it charitably.

Lobdell begins his book writing "By age 27, I had screwed up my life." If not as poetically expressed as the opening of Dante's Inferno, he has still set the stage for a personal odyssey through Christian faith, slowly increasing doubt, and ultimate abandonment of those beliefs. At this personal low point at the beginning, he met an old friend who told him that what he needed was God. Lobdell promised to go to church. He had been exposed to Christianity and church as a child, but had been turned off by the vengeful nature of the Old Testament God, and he abandoned religion as a teenager. Now, perhaps out of desperation to salvage his life, he found a home at a southern California megachurch, where the message was much more positive and life-affirming. Still, it took him a year to really begin to feel at home there and get into the spirit of the worship services, the music in particular. At about this time, some good things began to happen to him, such as becoming the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper, and improved health.
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