How a Religion Reporter Lost His Faith

William Lobdell, the religion beat reporter for the L.A. Times, has an interesting first-person column out about how covering religion for the newspaper made him lose his faith.

He traces the arc of his faith and his job. How, when he was first assigned to the beat, he reveled in the opportunity to cover religion seriously since so many mainstream media treated it like a "circus". Then he immersed himself in the Orange County religious community, his reporting of others’ faith and spirituality deepening his own. And finally the disillusionment: Catholic sex scandals, intolerant sects, and money-hungry TV preachers, causing him to not only stop attending church but to disbelieve in God altogether.31329570_4

It’s a sobering tale that speaks to me as a "soft" atheist who — like Lobdell, I presume — envies the community and comfort religion affords some people, but in the end cannot make the leap of faith.

10 Responses to How a Religion Reporter Lost His Faith

  1. Mike S says:

    Ben, thanks for sharing this one. I used to be in the ministry and find myself struggling with my faith now. I can very much relate to Mr. Lobdell. I find it bizarre how you can read the comments to the article and pick out the zealots and those that are more open minded. I’m afraid I would have been one of the zealots a decade ago.

  2. Mike S says:

    Ben, thanks for sharing this one. I used to be in the ministry and find myself struggling with my faith now. I can very much relate to Mr. Lobdell. I find it bizarre how you can read the comments to the article and pick out the zealots and those that are more open minded. I’m afraid I would have been one of the zealots a decade ago.

  3. Brian says:

    Why do we put so much faith in the individuals that commit these scandals? True faith, I believe, is centered on God not the acts of humans. Sure it is disappointing to hear about these scandals, but it shouldn’t cause someone to disbelieve in God. If so I question how strong Mr. Lobdell’s faith was in the first place. If you truly believe in God, then throwing your entire faith out the window because of a few (yes a few – the media does it best to paint a dark picture) bad seeds makes no sense.

  4. Krishna says:

    I back Brian… It’s got to do with how one interprets *faith* – the reason why he could readily lose it.

    You’ll find corrupt, sullied elements in every faith, sect or religion. If possible discredit them or just plain ignore them. But by opting out of faith before you could crystallize your beliefs around an alternative axis, you are denied the only source that fuels hope in times of extreme distress. That could be devastating.

    Another truism is that those who give up faith so readily, don’t exist in a vaccum. They espouse something else without calling it Faith – a tribe to which most atheists belong.

  5. Jeremy Welch says:

    I come from a very religious, southern baptist family. My brother is currently in divinity school, and my grandfather was a pastor. Yet, through exploring the world of knowledge and thinking about many of the things Lobdell discovered, I lost my faith in high school (I’m agnostic).

    There are times when I wish I could offload all of my thoughts and problems on to a god, but I know overall that I’m very content with the fact that I do not believe in a Christian god.

  6. Chris Yeh says:

    The essential conundrum of faith is that you are asked to believe in the unseen and perfect, yet take direction from the seen and imperfect.

    By definition, no man can accurately represent the will of an all-knowing and all-powerful God, but most religions call for this.

    The fault lies not with faith itself, but with the beliefs and people that we choose to follow.

  7. Krishna says:

    Hey Chris,

    Very well put…brilliant…!

    I suggest instead of `taking’ direction from the `seen and imperfect’ (that’s the mistake we commit), *seek* directions from the unseen and perfect (by sincere prayers and meditation not necessarily from any particular God, just to your soul), the results could be wonderful.

    I’ve been a beneficiary of meditation, trust me ! By meditation I just mean the simplest form of listening to conscience, that’s it! No protocols here. Do it as frequently as you can while you travel, during the intervals at work or play – whenever you are indecisive, disturbed or restless…

  8. “The essential conundrum of faith is that you are asked to believe in the unseen and perfect…”

    I believe in God, but my God has never asked me to believe in the unseen and imperfect.

    I don’t believe that religion is required as a vehicle for faith, so the dictums of the Pope or fist-shaking preachers are just noise to me.

    My faith is in the spirit that I believe exists in each of us.

    People look upward to some imaginary heaven, but heaven is
    within us.

  9. “The essential conundrum of faith is that you are asked to believe in the unseen and perfect…”

    I believe in God, but my God has never asked me to ‘take direction’ from the unseen and imperfect.

    I don’t believe that religion is required as a vehicle for faith, so the dictums of the Pope or fist-shaking preachers are just noise to me.

    My faith is in the spirit that I believe exists in each of us.

    People look upward to some imaginary heaven, but heaven is
    within us.

  10. Sorry for the multiple posts.

    Here’s what I meant to say:

    “The essential conundrum of faith is that you are asked to believe in the unseen and perfect…”

    I believe in God, but my God has never asked me to ‘take direction’ from the seen and imperfect.

    I don’t believe that religion is required as a vehicle for faith, so the dictums of the Pope or fist-shaking preachers are just noise to me.

    My faith is in the spirit that I believe exists in each of us.

    People look upward to some imaginary heaven, but heaven is
    within us.

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