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

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by Allan
2009-02-15 12:49:56

Thanks for pointing me towards this book, Malena! Despite my own inveterate existential agnosticism, I always find these memoirs of personal spiritual growth fascinating. I personally have a lot more respect for religious folks who have actually taken the time to explore the world’s many spiritual options rather than merely mindlessly follow the dogmas handed down to them by their parents. By that standard Mr Lobdell definitely sounds like someone I’d like to read about.

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Comment by Albino Luciani
2009-02-17 20:05:47

This book is definitely worth reading; it deals in FACTS and TRUTH.

Lobdell may be a saint in the making, despite where he is now.

God knows any direction towards the divine or eternal will not be through the evil and pervasive corruption of demons like Rog ‘Mahal’ Mahony.

Other daily verified & vetted reporting on the USCCB (Unremoved Sexual Criminal Cabal Bishops) and Roman “La Cosa Nostra” Curia may be found at: http://www.bishop-accountability.org

THE SOLUTION? “Stop Donating Laity!” as St. Peter Damien correctly asserted.

“The only condition for the triumph of evil is for good men (or women) to do nothing!” as Edmund Burke reminds each of us.

Remember, the Curia’s Motto Remains = ISAIAH 28:15!

No Curia Punishment & Removal? No Laity Monies! It’s THAT Simple!

Fiat Lux & Veritas!

Albino Luciani,
Not Smiling, From Heaven

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2009-02-18 06:48:52

I don’t know what to say other than it seems in the Western World that religion is a wonderful thing in childhood and a horrible and limiting thing in adulthood. I think this man’s experience is a lot more common than is usually acknowledged.

Tom Barnes


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Comment by Ted Snyder
2009-02-18 09:32:23

After a lifetime of working to develop the Catholic Church’s social justice ministry and working against institutional inertia, the presence of extreme rightwingers, and the tendency of many to retreat into private piety, I have a few observations.

Inspite of what the reviewer says, most of the community meals, homeless shelter bed and other private outreach to poor people is proved by faith based groups. So yes, read Lobdell’s book and volunteer, but you may find yourself working along side religious folk.

I am disappointed, to put it mildly, to find that my Catholic Church is led by criminals, either rapists and abusers, or their hierarchical enablers. While my parish has not been confronted by abuse situations, I know of several prominent parishioners who have left and joined other denominations. I am sympathetic to Lobdell’s conclusion that he could not continue his instruction for entry into the Catholic Church. Why do I stay? Simple, I refuse to let evil win. There is no religious group Christian, Jeweish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. that has not been affected by rapist clergy or lay leaders and who have not tried to cover uo those crimes.

Finally, I find the Church population divided into two camps. One is the one described by the reviewer: speak the language of faith, but are closed to others. Another seeks the Reign of God in their actions and are quite open to others in the manner of Jesus. My pastor proposed making our parish the site for a “Loaves and Fishes” community meal for hungrey people in our neighborhood. There was a battle in which the two groups described above emerged. The former group objected to having “those” kind of people around -ignoring the fact that they already were around. Happily, the propposal for the meal site won. That was ten years ago. I tell this story to make the point that religion, like politics and economics, is an arena in which the human drama is acted out. The terms of the drama are different, but there is struggle. Religion is as much challenge as consolation.

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