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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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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
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Another poignant extract (p.244): "I had changed in another way. I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded in logic and reason, requires a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. I used to think that you simply made a decision: to believe in Jesus or not. Collect the facts and then decide for your self. But it's not that simple. Faith is something that is triggered deep within your soul - influenced by upbringing, family, friends, experiences and desires. ... Faith can't be willed into existence. There's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul."
It is largely Lobdell's sincerity and cognitive humility that make his story so interesting; he never claims to know all the answers, only that the one he once relied on no longer works for him. A very good read for atheists and believers alike, I think the church needs to take to heart stories like this and rid itself of the corruption, hypocrisy and disingenuity that cannot possibly be harmonized with a God-based mission.
As someone who has experienced some of the very same happiness and despair through formal religion, I felt like Lobdell took the words right out of my heart. Throughout the narrative, I found it so easy to understand how and why Lobdell reacted to certain experiences and facts: good, bad, and ugly.
I think the book is written in such a way that even someone with unshakable faith could come to understand the validity of nonbelievers. Doubters or straight-out atheists are often condemned for being selfish, taking the easy way out, or not making enough of an effort to be open to spirituality or conversion. This book makes a powerful case for faith being simply the suspension of intellectual reason that is NOT a matter of choice. Similarly, disbelief is merely a truthful declaration that some altered reality does not exist for a certain person.
Doubters out there, particularly those who once had deep-rooted faith, should find great comfort in the story of this kindred spirit.
I believe ALL practicing religious people should read this book and seriously contemplate what about a church's structure, lack of oversight, and apparent prestige invites corruption, and what can be done to reform this corruption. Efforts MUST be made to establish real congregations that are not wrought with atrocities, hypocrisies, and irreparable damage to the youngest and most vulnerable of our world. Without TRUE (not band-aid) reform, I cannot see how on earth any religious institution could continue to survive, much less thrive, with any shred of integrity and credibility, now that the truth has come to light.