Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace
The first thing a reader should know is that LOSING MY RELIGION: HOW I LOST MY FAITH REPORTING ON RELIGION IN AMERICA — AND FOUND UNEXPECTED PEACE is not anti-anything. In fact, William Lobdell, a former journalist for the LOS ANGELES TIMES, purposely carved out a niche for himself as a religion columnist to find interesting, relevant stories to share about all religions because he didn’t think faith was getting good coverage. His hope? To give back and hopefully enrich his own faith along the way.
Lobdell’s memoir is heart-wrenching and honest, something all great memoirs should be. And like a great journalist, his stories were unbiased — he wrote of miracles and also of scandals. His personal position shifted like a tide waxing and waning.
He was an evangelical before becoming a Presbyterian, before studying to become a Catholic. His journey is thoughtful and poignant. Most interesting to me as a cradle Catholic-turned-retired Catholic is that he would cover the Catholic priest sex scandal by day and go to his Catholic classes by night.
He shares in painstaking detail the behind-the-scenes stories of the columns he wrote for the paper — the televangelists, the faith healers, the aforementioned sex scandal and more, with the added layer of where it all fit in his spiritual journey at those times. Did the good stories make him more faithful? Did the ugly ones bring more doubt?
Another “revelation” for me in the book was the research and simple question we can ask ourselves about believers: Are Christians more moral than non-Christians? Do they divorce at a lower rate? Do they have fewer abortions? You may be surprised — but not shocked — to learn that no, Christians are not less likely to sin.
While reading the book, you will likely explore your own faith journey, no matter your age. I have often been amused that the people who claim to be the most religious are also the most close-minded and — at least from their actions — spiritual in word, but not deed. Why bother to ask “What would Jesus do?,” but then do whatever the hell you want anyway? You can argue all you want that it should be about God and not people, but who is the church filled with? Lobdell’s book focuses more on the people than the ideology, but there’s some of both in his true story.
While I would hope LOSING finds a wide audience of believers, skeptics and non-believers, I have my doubts. Prove me wrong. Don’t judge the book by the cover, the title or, more specifically, the subtitle. For God’s sake, don’t e-mail Lobdell and tell him that you haven’t read the book, and yet you’re praying for him and hope he’ll write another one about finding it again. Instead, read the damn book and then do something — like, say, volunteer, feed the poor or help those less fortunate, like Jesus wanted, and not pester someone like Lobdell. He does not speak from a bully pulpit, but through his factual, real experiences, and how that intersects with his true yearning for a faith he could believe in and, yes, practice.
If you were one of the nincompoops who stopped watching Oprah when she did chose Eckhart Tolle for her book club because you thought it was un-Christian (it wasn’t — you didn’t read that book either, did you?), then no, you are not open-minded enough to read this one. A little logic is required here. He’s not making crap up. Journalists will most likely relate to the book. Intellectuals will lap it up. Skeptics will find great source material because Lobdell himself became so well-read about dogma and doctrine and religious history. I’d bet you he knows quite a bit more than most cradle Catholics and people born in a particular religion.
The point is not to read it and then come to any conclusion yourself. It’s a memoir, not a how-to. There are plenty of other books that delve deeper into ideology and atheism, but that isn’t this book’s purpose.
If we are. in fact. a part of a new renaissance, where the majority of the country claims they are “spiritual, but not religious,” then smart people like Lobdell enrich that experience with speaking his own truth and asking some hard questions that can bring us closer to our own authentic selves and ideas about the universe.
Thinking is a good thing, and it is in our brain that we begin to feel, including the spiritual energy that connects all things. While I might hope for that awakening for Lobdell, telling someone something does not make them feel it. —Malena Lott