Tuesday, March 31, 2009

William Lobdell at Kepler's March 25, 2009

Host Bobbi Emel (seen with Bill Lobdell in the picture at right) reports:

William Lobdell was a long time religion beat reporter for the Los Angeles Times and is currently a visiting professor at UC Irvine. His memoir, Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting On Religion in America and Found Unexpected Peace, is a heartfelt story of his search for peace and meaning, first through Christianity, and then, eventually, atheism.

One of the aspects of his book that stood out for me was that there was no vitriol, none of the caustic anger at religion that can be seen in Hitchens’ God Is Not Great and Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Instead, with a journalist’s objectivity, Lobdell reports on his own story. His talk at Kepler’s on March 25th was a good example of Lobdell as an individual and as a reporter.

In person, he is gentle, funny, and well-spoken, entertaining the large audience with stories from his book and answering questions honestly about his journey from being “a mess” to born-again Christian to a doubting Christian trying hard to keep his faith and, finally, to a non-believer who finds peace as an atheist.

What caused him to “lose his religion?” Ironically, it was reporting on religion, a goal to which he had aspired for years as a young Christian. When he was given a full-time job as the LA Times’ religion reporter, he was ecstatic. He wrote on a variety of religions and faiths and was heartened by wonderful stories of people of faith doing amazing good works in spite of tremendous odds in their personal lives. However, he soon started investigating and reporting on the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals. As the years passed and the episodes of abuse he uncovered became worse and worse, he was unable to keep his faith in a God and a system that perpetuated such atrocities. Through careful and lengthy reasoning and soul-searching, he decided to forego his Christian faith.

Again, in contrast to Hitchens and Dawkins, Lobdell answered a question from the audience by saying that, while he is an atheist, he is not “anti-theist.” When the questioner asked him more about this, Lobdell simply said, “While I’ve seen a lot of bad that has happened because of religion, I’ve also seen people doing great things because of religion and I just don’t think it’s all bad.”

Losing My Religion is an easy read and cathartic for people who have taken the same journey while at the same time being a fascinating insider’s look at the sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church.

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