Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Losing My Religion

Former LA Times religion reporter William Lobdell caught some attention in 2007 when he announced his loss of faith. In 2009, he turned his story into a book: Losing My Religion (New York: Harper, 2009) recounts Lobdell's conversion to Christianity, his early, enthusiastic work reporting on the best representatives of religion, his gradual discovery of the magnitude of corruption in the religious world, and his eventual turn to what he alternately describes as deism or atheism.

One can effectively trace Lobdell's trajectory by reading his brilliant articles, which he has conveniently assembled at his book's promotional website, but the book is so compelling, and so well-written, that I would not suggest passing it up. By all means, read both the book and the articles.

To give you a sense of his style, and his common-sense manner, here are a few of the many passages in the book that struck me:

On the hiddenness of God:

I felt angry with God for making faith such a guessing game. I didn't treat my sons as God treated me. I gave them clear direction, quick answers, steady discipline and plenty of love. There was little mystery in our relationship: they didn't have to strain to hear my "gentle whisper." How to hear God, love Him and best serve Him shouldn't be so open to interpretation. It shouldn't be that hard. (160-161)

On "miracles" wrought by God:

When a tsunami wiped out more than 225,000 people in Indonesia in 2004, the media featured several survivors who claimed God had miraculously answered their prayers and saved them. It made me want to scream. If He answered their prayers, why did He sit by and allow the killing of nearly a quarter-million people—many who were praying, too, as they were being washed away? (212)

On the comfort of believing in a random world:

At least now when I see injustice and suffering—my guitar teacher's beautiful boy, all of three years old, died of a brain tumor the day I'm writing this—the randomness is just that. A God in heaven didn't sit by while the little boy died. To simply know that tragic stuff happens is a much more satisfying and realistic answer. (277)

On what has taken God's place in his life:

So what has taken the place of God in my life? A tremendous sense of gratitude. I sense how fortunate I am to be alive in this thin sliver of time in the history of the universe. This gives me a renewed sense of urgency to live this short life well. (278)

People like Lobdell give me hope. Read the book.

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