Losing My Religion
The struggles of a religion reporter whose work begins to erode his faith.
While writing a column on religion for an Orange County, Calif., paper, William Lobdell loved to inspire readers with stories about people of faith, such as the elderly church organist who was brutally beaten by a man high on drugs, yet focused on seeing that her assailant got a Bible and necessary support after getting out of jail.Skip to next paragraph
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A freshly born-again Christian, Lobdell was a husband, father, and journalist who saw evidence of answered prayer in his own life as well, a life that he felt had been transformed by faith. Covering the religion beat was the perfect job for Lobdell – until the day that his work began to destroy his faith.
Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America – and Found Unexpected Peace is a compelling personal story of faith found, cherished, and then lost. Lobdell’s courageous memoir doesn’t set out to score points in the debate between atheism and religion, but simply to recount a spiritual journey, one he desperately hoped would end differently from the way it did.
Lobdell is a gifted writer. Avoiding the disparaging polemics that often characterize the debate between nonbelievers and people of faith, he turns his own story into a fast-paced, engrossing tale, one that is sure to be popular with nonbelievers, but deserves to be read by Christians as well.
The story begins with Lobdell’s initial journey toward religion. Feeling he had messed up his life by his late 20s, Lobdell came to faith after a good friend told him, “You need God.” He began a gradual but sincere spiritual search at an evangelical megachurch, moved eventually to a more intellectual Presbyterian community, and finally took catechism classes to join the Catholic church (in which his wife had grown up). He read voraciously on matters religious.
Lobdell was happy when he was able to begin writing the column on religion for the Orange County paper. And when his dream job finally came his way – work as a religion reporter at the Los Angeles Times – it seemed an answer to prayer. The L.A. Times job led to award-winning investigative work – but also to disillusionment.
Six months before the clergy sexual abuse crisis broke wide open in Boston in 2002, the Catholic dioceses in Orange County and Los Angeles agreed to pay a $5.2 million settlement to a single individual, Ryan DiMaria. The young man had charged a highly popular priest and high school principal with abuse. Msgr. Michael Harris, whose nickname was “Father Hollywood,” turned out to have other victims as well.
Lobdell dug into the first of several cases that would lead to years of investigation, hundreds of hours of conversation with abuse victims, and repeated discoveries of church hypocrisy and hard-ball tactics in the treatment of victims and their families.