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Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America Hardcover – 15 Mar 2009
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When editors at the "Los Angeles Times" assigned Lobdell to the religion beat, he believed God had answered his prayers. As a serious Christian, he wanted to report objectively and respectfully about how belief shapes people's lives. But something very different happened. Slowly his reporting drifted to the paradoxes of religion - how can Mormons believe their own scripture? How can Christians?And soon to the underbelly of religion: why do so many churches become corrupt? Why does faith drive people to refuse to accept criticism or questions, and even to demonize apostates? Each story chipped away at his faith. Eight years later, after intense encounters with believers of all sizes and shapes, he realized that his faith in God was gone. "Losing My Religion" takes readers on a profound journey from agnosticism, to a born-again conversion, to a roller-coaster of extremes of the spirit - and ultimately to a new, deeply satisfying form of contentment without God. This courageous memoir speaks both to the doubts of believers and the yearnings of doubters.
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We read of his perseverance in pursuit of his dream job, eventually landing the post of religion writer for the Los Angeles Times. And by his own account he seems to have been very good at that job. But still the church didn't quite meet his needs, and he decided to become a Roman Catholic. Even while undergoing special Catholic training classes he continued his investigative journalism, often into priest-paedophilia. At the very moment he was due to be formally accepted into the Catholic Church, he was breaking a big story of Catholic priests sexually abusing children in their care. Nagging doubts that hadn't been of too much concern now rose to the surface and he decided to delay his official conversion. The appalling catalogue he helped to unveil continued to grow, and as it did so his faith dwindled, until eventually there was nothing left of it.
Losing My Religion is a page-turner that grips from beginning to end. It's an honest description of what it's like to fall into religion, and out of it again, and on the way we discover the true horror of the Catholic-priest-paedophilia scandal in America.
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William Lobdell spent many years as a Christian, moving from a non-denominational church to Presbyterian, and finally undergoing courses to convert to Catholicism. He was an enthusiastic Christian, praying and reading his bible frequently, attending church with his family, and working as the religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times. While most of Lobell's religion and faith reporting is upbeat and shows good things about faiths of all kinds, things start to change for him as he begins to see that oftentimes, the faithful don't live morally and that in many instances, there is little difference between the morality of atheists and the faithful. As Lobdell begins to investigate the child abuse scandal within the Catholic church and the antics of numerous evangelicals associated with organizations like the Trinity Broadcasting Network, he begins to ask more and more questions and finds that the more he asks, the less his faith can answer.
I found Losing My Religion to be a very authentic read. Anyone who has ever dared to question their faith knows there are only two possible outcomes: questioning leads to deeper faith, or turns you away from it altogether. And when you've depended on faith for many years, when you're surrounded by people who are faithful, if you turn away from it, you find it is a very lonely journey. People rejoice when someone is "saved" but few are as happy for you when you walk away from that salvation. Lobdell doesn't get self-righteous about his weakening faith. In fact, he seeks answers that could keep him in his faith. But ultimately, he has to go with what his head and his heart tell him.
Unlike Richard Dawkins, who can be patronizing to non-believers, Lobdell is respectful of people who maintain their faith. He doesn't attack anyone for believing, he simply articulates his own thoughts and feelings. He brings up many of the same questions that many doubters raise- the questions that either have no answer at all, or answers that are at best unsatisfying.
Anyone who has gone on their own questioning journey, and who has come out the other side feeling more contented and at peace than when they started will appreciate this read.
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.