Author of “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace”

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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mbecker8510 // Jan 12, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Hi sorry i havnt read your book but its a shame that you would give up on God because of what you have found here on earth. Where did God say that this would be a perfect world and that all of the people would be perfect. God gave us a world and let us do what we please. I pray that someday you write a book Found my faith again.

  • 2 Doubting Thomasina // Feb 23, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Dear Bill:

    I cannot thank you enough for writing “Losing My Religion”. I am a “cradle evangelical” who left church 25 years ago at the urging of my heart. I thought that because I had walked away, the influence of that religion would dissipate. I’ve come to realize, however, that the powerful beliefs of my childhood religion are still sitting there in my soul, like a Trojan horse. I have started to confront them and the violent, “loving” God I grew up with. I received your book yesterday afternoon and read it almost straight through. Your passion for your faith, your compassion for humanity, your honesty, and your struggles with your doubt (including the fear of hell) are all things I can relate to. Your very personal story is encouraging to many of us who can’t believe anymore, and don’t know where “next” is yet. Thank you.

    If you are interested, another incredible and riveting de-conversion story is “Leaving The Saints” by Martha Beck, whose father was one of the main apologists for the Mormon church.

  • 3 tonyspeed // Feb 26, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Unfortunately, that which triggered a loss in faith is exactly what the bible prophesied. In Matt 7 Jesus told his disciples that many would go off into destruction, and few would find everlasting life. In that same verse he reveals that oppressive wolves would sneak into the flock. Of shocking note is the fact that Jesus said many would come to him in the last day and claim to be his followers, even doing many great works and performing miracles in his name, and yet he would reject them as those who had been disobedient to his moral teachings. This great rebellion from true Christianity is a very central teaching of Christ. However, Christ said he would continue to be with true Christians until the end. He illustrates it clearly with the “wheat and the weeds” found at Matthew 13. So the very thing that broke your faith is the very thing Jesus foretold.


  • 4 maxus // Mar 2, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Your book is much appreciated … and I can understand how you arrived at the place you are in your journey. The number of authentic believers is not large according to the scriptures – but there out there. CS Lewis wrote about these ‘new men’ in Mere Christianity. After reading your book, I do respect your position … and think you would enjoy the information available at http://www.cfcindia.com.

    Jesus Christ spoke about the charlatans you wrote about … coming before him extolling all they had done in His name. Jesus said he would say to these people, “depart from me you workers of iniquity – I never knew you.”

    All the best,

  • 5 Bob // Mar 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I haven’t bought your book yet, Bill, but I have heard you on Hugh Hewitt and appreciate your honesty and transparency. I went through a horrible time a year ago that challenged my faith, yet somehow I have retained it and (I think) came out even stronger.

    My mom died a year ago, and I had prayed for her healing, or at least for her to be with us for another year. That was not to happen, and after she died, I had a lot of trouble praying. Whereas it normally would flow out, I would shrink back and get quiet inside myself. I had prayed for many others and various maladies, seen people get healed, but to have God say no with my own mom’s life was a bit much. It was like I was tired of praying (for her I prayed day and night during the worst of it), and frankly feeling burned in the end. YET, at the same time, I was somehow aware that God understood my feelings, and was going to pull me through each day because He loved me regardless. In time, the flow returned, my perspective and pain about my mom’s death changed, and I am mourning healthily.

    Reason why I mention this is because on Hugh’s show he had mentioned the marathon you ran, and he ended up carrying you to the finish line when your leg got injured. I thought, wow, that’s kind of what happened to me last year. I got “injured” in faith, and had to be carried while unable to “run” in prayer. Your marathon experience is a better explanation of my own, figuratively speaking. Maybe God is carrying you now, and that’s why you’re feeling “unexpected peace.” You’ve certainly been hurt, seeing all those hurt people yourself (anyone would, and have some crisis of faith), but maybe, in very mysterious ways, God is carrying you to an even deeper, more secure faith in the future.

    In any case, I look forward to reading about your experience. Thanks.

  • 6 wkb206 // Mar 30, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Mr. Lobdell,

    Thank you for Losing My Religion – it is an important contribution, both powerfully conveyed and piercingly insightful. As a questioning Christian believer, of course, I am disappointed that your immersion in the community led you away from it and from belief, but, to paraphrase Chris Rock, “I understand.” There is certainly much in the Christian world that needs fixing, starting with our own behavior and our institutions.

    Having had a unique spiritual background (i.e., christened Prebyterian, baptized Baptist, Lutheran elementary school, Jesuit Catholic junior high and high school, WASPy protestant college with largely Jewish friends, adult convert to Episopalism, etc.), I have certainly been exposed to numerous faith disciplines and the inherent conflicts within and among them. While this has not led me away from faith, it has helped to develop my beliefs in a far more idiosyncratic way. I was taught by the Jesuits to question, so I have. Many of the answers, of course, are troublesome at best, especially given the observably wide gap between what we supposedly profess and what we actually do as Christians and some of the more fanciful aspects of our written creed. Thankfully, I have not been exposed to the horrors that you so powerfully exposed in your journalism, but my own experience has supplied me more than enough examples of hypocritical piety and other faith-reducing occurrences.

    My response has been to evolve into a more spiritual being (i.e., a firmer believer in the mystery that is God) and away from being so religious (in the since of being fiercely loyal to any one practice or discipline of faith). Based on my life experience, I am ever more powerfully convinced of the existence of an ultimate life force as well as the inherent distortions of this reality that occur when humans translate it. I believe that I can continue to develop myself to be in greater alignment spiritually, emotionally and behaviorally with this ultimate life force – how I conceive of what is popularly called “God.” To the extent that an organized discipline of religion – in my case Episcopalianism – can help, great; if not, then I focus on my personal journey toward God and not the earthly realm.

    It is in this spirit that I share a wish for you as a non-believer (that would be called a prayer for me, a believer) that you stay true to your pledge “never to cling to my disbelief as I did to my Christianity” and that your experiences going forward in life increase your openness to the possibility of an ultimate being/truth. In this way, should you begin to see the better side of faithful humanity in action more consistently, you could be open to returning to it should this state be an even more compelling experience for you than your current non-belief (in a reverse of the way that the overabundance of unfaithful behavior pushed you away from belief). In this way, you can have the best of all worlds, belief if it suits you or none if that’s better. It’s in this flexibility, I have come to believe, that we can continue to experience the wonder of this world, flawed and human though it may be.

    Thank you again for such an honest and unflinching book – you have helped to shed light on an unfortunate aspect of our selves and our world that certainly needs it. I am sorry that the toll was so high personally though (not in terms of your evolution to nonbelief but in terms of the emotional and physical cost of your journey).

    All the best!

  • 7 joyful // Apr 30, 2009 at 2:36 am

    What do an atheist and a Christian have in common? They both have faith without proof.

    I have your book on order and am looking forward to reading it. Unlike you, I have never believed in God. Happily, I am from a family of non-believers, and married into a family of non-believers — so we have no arguments on that front. Up through my teens I attended Catholic Church when I visited my grandmother — not because I believed, but because she did and it made her happy.

    I am in my mid-40’s now. I have a solid marriage, a great career, 2 wonderful children, and have been “blessed” with good health . My prayer is “May God grant me the strength to maintain my non-belief in times of tragedy!” Atheists are not shallow people — I can only speak for myself, but I spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating the universe, religion and the meaning of life. I find spiritual strength in nature. I focus my energies on the present moment — because who REALLY knows what happens when we’re gone?

    Atheists can be very ethical, highly moral people (as you well know). I have many religious friends, and I respect their beliefs. I just want the same from society in return.

    I look forward to reading your book!

  • 8 lucy ricardo // May 3, 2009 at 2:14 am

    I just put down your book. Oh my gosh. Finally! I have found what I’ve been looking for: an experience nearly identical to mine; someone who speaks eloquently to what I have been living with silently and anonymously for the past several years. I cannot express fully the gratitude and excitement I’m feeling at knowing I’m not alone. Thank you for articulating so well what I (and I suspect many others who are willing to look honestly at the evidence and their experience) have been wrestling with, but could not adequately convey, or even fully understand.

    There were many times while reading (actually, devouring hungrily) your book when I said out loud: Oh my gosh! You used the exact phrases I’ve written in my personal journal as I’ve gone through my own “crisis of faith” and ended up exactly where you describe yourself to be at the end of your book.

    After growing up in a Christian home, “straying” as a teenager, then returning to the fold with great conviction and enthusiasm as a young adult, my entire circle of friends and social life revolved around our evangelical church. I volunteered as a Pioneer Girl leader, then became a youth group leader for six years. I sang in choir, helped out in the church office, then “the Lord provided me with” my dream job as a paid church secretary. That was when the reality of my pathetic marriage and the underbelly of the church began to chip away at the certainties I had espoused.

    Like you, I fought back the doubts. I worried that my faith was not strong enough. I prayed more often and more fervently. I went to dear, and open-minded friends, looking for the magic bullet; the thing I needed to know and/or to get right to make the doubts go away. I followed their inevitable instructions: Read the Bible and pray more; Let Go and Let God; recognize that on this side of eternity we will not have all the answers. You know, the usual, pat answers. But inexorably, over time, and despite my efforts to do the things I had been instructed to do, the doubts quietly and gradually built up, until one day I dared to consider the possibility that it all might not be true.

    That was a scary day. But I was not struck by lightening. I had crossed a line in the sand, and I found myself willing to step further and further away from that line, and the comfort of everything I had known and been taught and fervently believed. I won’t bore you with the details. (You can read your own book for a similar story – at least as far as your doubts, questions and internal turmoil are concerned; my day to day life was much less interesting!).

    Like you, I was a true believer, but am no longer. Like you, it was not a choice. There are two paragraphs in your book I just had to underline because they summed up so much of what was happening in me: “Spiritual suicide infers that people make a conscious decision to abandon their faith. Yet it isn’t simply a matter of will. Many people want desperately to believe, but just can’t. They may feel tortured that their faith has evaporated, but they can’t will it back into existence. If an autopsy could be done on their spiritual life, the cause of death wouldn’t be murder or suicide. It would be natural causes–the organic death of a belief system that collapsed under the weight of experience and reason. ” And: “Christians often talk to those who have fallen away from the faith as if they had made choice to turn away from God. But as deeply as I missed my faith, as hard as I tried to keep it, my head could not command my gut. I know now that it was wishful thinking, not truth. I just didn’t believe in God anymore, despite my best attempts to on to my beliefs. Faith can’t be willed into existence. There’s no faking it if you’re honest about the state of your soul.”

    Like you, though I don’t believe in the god of the bible anymore, and certainly not in the institution of the church, I cannot bring myself to embrace with enthusiasm atheism. Like you, I find many of them as guilty of the vitriolic fundamentalism and bigotry as they accuse their counterparts in evangelical christianity to be.

    Like you, I have found a surprising amount of peace, joy and especially gratitude since I silently walked away from christianity; much more so than I ever had on a consistent basis while “leaning on the everlasting arms.”

    As an introvert, I don’t mind spending a lot of time alone. In fact, I enjoy it. I’ve walked away from all church activities, and though I see the closest of my christian friends occasionally, I avoid the topic of the faith as much as possible. I don’t particularly want to announce my apostasy. I don’t particularly feel a need to “come out of the closet.” Still, it was extraordinarily heart-warming to read your story, and to know that I am truly not alone.

    So I just want to say, Thank you!!

  • 9 MJ // May 28, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I just finished your book, and I really appreciated the deference and respect you showed to believers as you came to a place of disbelief yourself. And while I cannot tolerate listening to Howard Stern, because he makes fun of people, I smiled at your “Howard” test for honesty, and I applaud your efforts at transparency in your writing.

    The specifics of my path are different, but I have come to a similar place. I view the Bible as a mostly political document, designed to unite and control the masses, which contains some inspirational stories. Included is the story of a man called Jesus – his character reflects a spiritual maturity to which I aspire, even if I have doubts (and really don’t care) about the miracles and the whole death and resurrection tale. Jesus taught Love, and he lived it.

    Organized religion, also, seeks to unite and control the masses, substituting prescribed thinking for individual thought – why else would Catholics not be encouraged to read the Bible themselves? The adherents to these religions are good people who want to live well and do right, and they want to belong to a community that believes as they do. I respect that. The leadership, however, is cloaked in secrecy, sitting in most cases on piles of wealth – completely anathema to Christ’s teachings. This leadership sets itself up as an unnecessary intermediary between the faithful and the God they believe in, by appealing to people’s fears (fears of Hell, fears of being poor, fears of suffering that only God can relieve).

    When the girl near the end of the book asks what takes the place of God in your life, an answer immediately jumped into my head: Love. In my current place on the path, I believe that God is Love, and that we are indeed made in God’s image – all of us sparks of Love energy at our birth. The human experience is one of learning Fear, and the spiritual path is one of choosing to replace Fear with Love. Fear is not the opposite of Love, so much as it is the absence of it, just as darkness is not the opposite of light, so much as it is the absence of it. When I “pray”, I visually surround the one I am praying for with white light, sending them Love and peace as they take whatever step is next on their path.

    It is interesting to me that while you discuss your loss of faith in a personal God, you don’t mention how this affects your view of the Soul. I am curious…

  • 10 cowalker // Jun 5, 2009 at 8:15 am

    I just finished your book and found it riveting. I was a cradle Catholic, back when that meant the Baltimore Catechism, daily Mass, mean nuns, 12 years of Catholic school and 4 years of Catholic college. By the time I was in my early twenties I was an atheist. (I credit a good Catholic education with providing me with the tools to think my way out of religion. I was lucky enough not to be molested by the high school molesting priest because he liked boys.)

    It seems unlikely that my perspective on religion will change, given that I am now 57. My husband followed pretty much the same path as I.

    You described atheists like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens as evangelically zealous atheists, and you said that you are not as confident as they. I suspect it’s not that you lack confidence–you lack anger.

    As a person who was raised from infancy on a mythology that was presented as absolute truth, I share their anger. It feels as though something has been stolen from you when you realize that the security of of having a Daddy in the Sky is no more real than Santa Claus. It feels like a loss. It leaves you feeling deceived, cheated, stupid and exploited. It makes you want to lash out at the God you know doesn’t exist. It makes you want to be vocal for the sake of others who are still in thrall to the mythology.

    It took a long time for my irrational anger to dissipate. I’m still angry when people want to impose their religious morality on me by law, but more frequently I feel pity for, or amusement at believers.

    If believers don’t want to be afflicted with angry atheists they should teach the religion controversy to children instead of their particular religious “truth.” Teach them about all the world religions and about non-believers. Shelter them from religious ritual until they are twelve or so. Then let them choose whether to participate in services with one or both parents. At 18 or 21, they can choose their religious paths for themselves.

    We both know that is sooooo not going to happen!

    I followed a plan similar to this with my children. They attended Sunday school for Grandpa and Grandma. We told them that we, their parents, didn’t believe in God, but we wanted them to know what their grandparents’ faith was about so they could decide for themselves. We talked with them about what we believed and why, and why others believed differently. The private school they attended made a point of featuring cultural and religious diversity. After they made their First Communions (which made the grandparents so happy), we gave them the choice to continue in Sunday school and attend services accompanied by us, or to stop going to church. No rewards for guessing what they both chose.

    They are both young, non-angry, atheistic adults now. We have had frequent conversations over the years about religion. They have quietly attended family-related religious services such as weddings and funerals. We have told them that we will love and accept them no matter what they believe, and if a spouse wants them to convert, and they choose to do so, we will never argue with them about it. Their beliefs are their own business.

    It would be way too scary for believers to miss the window of opportunity presented by the gullible infant mind. But they will therefore be forever baffled and upset by the attacks of the angry atheist.

  • 11 bernie // Jun 10, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Thank you Bill Lobdell for your book, “Losing My Religion”. As I’ve gotten older, I find it increasingly difficult to sit down and read a book. But with your book, I sat down and read it in two days. Your journey really made a lot of sense to me. I was raised a Catholic schoolboy and was very much imbued with my religion as a young person. But somewhere in my twenties I was at Mass and for the first time really listened to what the priest was saying. He was speaking about some afterlife. Then it hit me that this was BS and that I really didn’t believe it in my heart of heart. I don’t believe any religion knows what happens in some imagined afterlife. I’m now 66 and even more convinced of this the more I’ve seen of the world. As Virginia Wolfe, the feminist writer, said when asked what happens after death, “We go back where we came from.” I see organized religions as dangerous on two fronts. First, they divide people into camps which leads to friction and often violence, look at Muslim terrorists today or even Northern Ireland recently. When I was a Catholic schoolboy I remember feeling superior to the Protestants around me cause I had “the true religion” and they didn’t. Secondly, I think religions focus too much energy and resources on some alleged afterlife when those things could be put to better use in the present life. I believe that we already live in paradise, this world is a paradise , or it could be if humankind learned to organize itself along more humanistic lines. All of us, humans and animals, are here for a brief moment together in this paradise and we should spend our time and resources trying to make it a better place for all of us and that doesn’t mean enriching some religon. Imagine if, instead of some big cathedral that sits empty most of the time, the building was open around the clock and people could drop in to get needed medical attention, or food, or help with the rent, or just to sit and talk to another person if they’re feeling lonely. I guess that’s too much to expect but I can dream, can’t I?? Again, thanks for your book, it hits the nail on the head.

  • 12 Teresa // Jun 24, 2009 at 3:22 am

    Your book was fantastic. I couldn’t put it down. I have three middle school boys and they had to fend for themselves as I was reading. I am a Catholic and a social worker. My career has always been in the area of child and adolescent mental health. I was aware of the sexual abuse scandal within the church but did not have faces put with it. Your book provided me with that evil information. I’m ashamed of being Catholic at this time. I know people will say, “These were specific priests within the church that did these unspeakable acts. Don’t punish the whole church.” It’s not just a couple of priest. It is the whole system. How do you promote priests, who have hurt children or covered up abuse, to the Vatican? Where is the accountability and justice? Jesus always spoke of protecting children yet our own church chose not to do that. The Catholic church does not preach the word of God. It preaches submissiveness, loyality without question, and deceit. We do not talk about generousity, community, love, service, respect for all life (not just abortion), diversity, personal journey with God, etc. Within the church I attend, we have been instructed not to hold hands during the “Our Father”. Does that sound like community to you? Our priest is not allowed to wash the feet of parishioners during the last supper. Does that sound like service to you? We have liturgical police at our mass. If our priest does not follow the specific mass, he will be called upon by the archbishop. Does that sound like diversity to you? Our diocese will not promote specific Catholic teaching of people like Richard Rohr, Ronald Rolheiser or Joan Chittister. These servants of God speak of their true meaning behind scripture and our individual relationships with God. This book has strengthened my spirituality and my disgust with organized religion. I will continue to be Catholic but only to be a thorn in its side and to protect the vulnerable. I will continue to challenge the hierarchy and be a pillar of what God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit truly are: LOVE.

  • 13 jeffwrite // Jul 19, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Glad to learn your book is in its 4th printing — hooray.
    I am a former religion reporter (former because staffing cuts eliminated the beat). My religious background is Unitarian Universalist (I also drink nonalcoholic beer — see page 246.) I often wondered if being a Christian believer would have made me a better religion reporter — I would “get it” and represent believers with more authenticity. When sources asked me my religion, which was often, I would tell them Unitarian, hoping that that sounded sufficiently Christian to them, though of course it’s quite nonChristian (recovering Christian).
    I came away impressed/amazed with the earnestness and kindheartedness of many believers, but even more amazed at how they could possibly believe what they professed to believe. The experience ultimately pushed me to a deeper embrace of secular humanism/atheism/panentheism. I feel as if I have a sociologist’s fascination with the topic.
    My two siblings are evangelical Christians. We get along.
    Thank-you for an important book. May its success continue.

  • 14 lifenow // Aug 1, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Your book (Losing My Religion) was cogent and heart-felt. It was a powerful read which conveys a sense of loss and peace. I thank you for your words. Though I too have walked the path of theodicy, our destinations have been very different.

    You made the point that your faith died not of suicide but natural causes. In my mind a picture appeared. It was of a river moving slowly in a desert. People come to the river and drink and there is life. However, some come and kick dirt into the river. Others come and deficate in it. Others come and molest and rape children in it. It gets to the point that one just can’t take it anymore and so walks away from the river and into the desert thinking there must be some other water out there somewhere. The person walks for days and weeks. At the end this poor soul dies from lack of hydration. One could say it was natural causes. However, if there be but one river in a desert and you walk away from it, you may not have cognitively decided on spiritual suicide but your actions lead to the same location – death.

    I thank you for this book. It is a corrective the entire Church needs lest a larger number of souls wander away to die of natural causes.



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