Skip to comments.Coming to terms with doubt: How reporting on religion cost writer his faith
Posted on 03/10/2009 8:44:54 PM PDT by delacoert
It started out as the dream job for a passionate Christian -- reporting about religion for a major newspaper. But writing about other people's religions ended up costing William Lobdell his own.
The former Los Angeles Times reporter chronicled his soul-wrenching, emotion-laden journey in the recently released book "Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America -- and Found Unexpected Peace," published by Harper Collins.
Lobdell's spiritual journey led him from an uninspired Protestant childhood to agnosticism before he attended a weekend Christian men's retreat where he was "born again."
Concerned with what he considered to be uninformed, uninspired coverage of religion in the mainstream press, Lobdell asked for the religion beat at the Times. He started with a biweekly column, which "was deepening my faith," he said. Then in 2000, he was offered a job covering religion full time.
"I had made it. I credited my faith and constant prayers," he wrote.
For the next five years, Lobdell interviewed ministers and miscreants, pastors and perpetrators, evangelists and victims. He dug deeply, wrote openly and won awards for his work.
But in his life, "We lived a version of Christianity Lite, a feel-good brand of faith that didn't extend much past Sunday morning." After much thought, he and his wife, Greer, decided to study to become Roman Catholics.
While he struggled with his beliefs and doubts, Lobdell was encountering people and situations that tested his faith daily: Mormons who professed a strong devotion to faith and family while "punishing" ex-Mormons with utter rejection; fraudulent televangelists who fleeced thousands while living a life of luxury; faith-healers who preyed on the desperate; Roman Catholic clergy who molested children for years and their superiors who covered for them.
Covering the clergy sex abuse scandal shook Lobdell to his spiritual core. His last stories covered the human debris left after a Catholic missionary to a remote Alaskan island basically raped a generation of its native boys, and an Oregon court trial in which high-paid lawyers heartlessly defended a priest from the requests for child support for his sick, penniless son.
"My problem was, it no longer shocked me," Lobdell wrote.
He quit the religion beat and continued writing for the Times until August 2008. Two years ago, he wrote a first-person account of his spiritual odyssey for the Times.
Reaction to his article and his book (released last month), has been more favorable than Lobdell had anticipated. Some ministers have called it a "must-read" and a "wake-up call" for their flocks, the broader free-thinkers community has praised it and at least one theological seminary has made it required reading.
"There is a real hunger for seeing the other side and learning about doubt and not just being fed the good stuff," said Lobdell, 48. "Within Christian churches and other religions, you are not allowed to express doubt."
A handful of active pastors have told Lobdell that they no longer believe in their faith, but have no one to talk to about it. The author has been asked to speak at a number of churches. His first book-signing sold out.
Lobdell has no regrets about "coming out" as an atheist in a country that self-identifies overwhelmingly as Christian or at least as theists.
"I'm grateful that I can help other people come to terms with their own doubts," he said.
It sounds like a wonderful book. I'm going to look for it.
Yes. And I keep on getting to learn it.
The devil is one clever dude !! Smart, too. Beware.
It’s a shame the reporter did not investigate the proof behind Christianity instead of just getting sucked into the bad people’s stories he was covering. Of course, as a Times reporter, that’s the only kind they would have him cover. All this proves is that you are who you associate with.
Religions are political entities, not unlike joining the Republican or Democrat party. Once the initial fervor wears off and the corruption within the entity becomes evident, no spiritually aware person can remain a loyalist for long.
What a big surprise that the religion stories the newspaper had him cover were all negative ones.
Tell me what you believe.
This is what happens when you build your faith around men (pastors and televangelists) and the institutions of men (a set of religious catch phrases, a church, Sunday service attendance, etc) and not build your faith on the foundation of God, his perfect judgment and grace, and his plan for salvation as it is laid out in the Bible.
A house with a solid foundation does not fall - even when the winds of the tempest blow against it’s walls. Unfortunately, much of Christian teaching today only teaches very surface material and does not build the solid foundations needed for trying times.
Exactly! A basic tenet of Christianity is that people sin and thus need a Savior. The fact that people, even “religious” people, sin does not undermine the Gospel - it confirms it.
We can’t judge a perfect God based on what sinful people do.
I just attended a talk by the writer of The Shack. It was a great talk, the crowd was quite appreciative. Toward the end he was asked about his negative view of religion. He said God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are the reason why he was able to heal from the horror of his painful past and his hope for the future, but that Jesus came as a revolutionary, to blow all religions away. The character in his book, The Shack, who represents a modern Jesus, is not Christian. ALot of people have a problem with this but the writer made the point that when all us exited the building, the ‘church’ would have left too - the people are the church and attempts to make an instituion out of them can fail painfully when the organization begins to take precidence over God. He has a heartfelt devotion to God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus but for him the ‘practice’ of religious sects get in the way. He said to us ‘if being in a group or religion is good for you then I support that, but I don’t support the need for this artificial construct called organized religion’ (I’m paraphrasing). I don’t think I will read the “Losing My Religion” book because I have heard that realities of human frailties within the context of church can be extraordinaryily painful because one wishes to be closer to God by participating in the church orgainzation and one finds oneself awfully close to the sinners who have faults like ourselves - very painful indeed. I think I would prefer other ways to get closer to God, but then I am not called to serve at a church as some are. I can think of a few friends who eagerly read this sort of thing though and will mention the book to them. Thank you for posting!
Religion is man’s attempt to reach God. Christ is God’s attempt to reach man.
Let’s just pray for this guy. Clearly he has a seeking heart, and Satan has been attacking him full-bore for years. Satan would not bother with him if he weren’t something special, someone who could really do good for the Kingdom. He needs to come home. I’m just going to commit to praying about him and for him continually. How about the rest of y’all?
Very sad tale.
I hope he takes his eyes off “religious men” and turns them to the Risen Christ.
Knowledge and ritual and experiences won’t avail... Jesus will, and He DOES.
I will also.
>and Found Unexpected Peace
Why not? The devil is done with you.
-- Matthew 18:5-6
IMHO, too many believers mistake morality for spirituality, and are then shocked by immoral behavior of believers who sin.