Paradise Lost

Friday, August 17, 2007


As a born-again Christian, L.A. Times reporter Bill Lobdell was frustrated by media coverage of religious people. So he lobbied his editors and prayed for the religion beat. He eventually got his wish, only to lose his faith in the church and in God after eight years on the job.

Comments [22]

Molly Pace from Zirconia, NC

I enjoyed Mr Lobdell's book. I think that sometimes in the confusion of God with Churches, people leave God or Jesus behind. The Church is still composed of human beings

May. 19 2009 03:15 PM
Jennifer from NYC

(continued from above)
In private moments, when one isn't expounding a leftist theory, or deconstructing the media -- the moments when you're not living in your head--many atheists still deep down hope for Him. Those moments when the human heart is full of self-hatred, despair, hopelessness, sadness, grief -- we long for some kind of transcendent grace. We cannot go it alone.

Even Richard Dawkins admitted (on the Brian Lehrer Show) that he can't prove that God doesn't exist.

To all turned off to organized religion, but still, perhaps secretly, longing for spiritual practice of some kind, (I think Mr. Lobdell falls into this category), I recommend looking into Buddhism. It teaches compassion, peace, and non-violence (as Jesus did) and it might be the answer for you.

Sep. 09 2007 06:55 PM
Jennifer from NYC

Thank you for this interview. I am a practicing Catholic who shares Mr. Lobdell's anger and despair over the sex abuse scandal and other misdeeds by the Church. I am grateful to God that somehow, for some reason, I have not lost my faith, and I've been able to find a church where I feel comfortable.
I'd like to add a comment about Brooke's side comment, "it's a hard habit to break." I did not take that to mean "she was welcoming Mr. Lobdell to the enlightened inner circle of agnostics or atheists." Rather, I took it as an admission that as much as atheists try to intellectualize God away, the possibility of His existence somehow still has a hold on their heart, somewhere deep inside (maybe even for Brooke herself!). No matter how bad humans treat other humans, no matter how much life disappoints, no matter what tragedies atheists put forward to disprove his existence, we still do need what God can provide.

Sep. 09 2007 06:55 PM
Peter ungar from New Rochelle, NY

How can someone who knows what is going on in the world believe that a just and benevolent deity controls the destinies of people? Computer science provides the concept to understand this. People of faith keep theirs behind a firewall impenetrable to the disturbing realities of the world. They even think that maintaining the firewall is an act of virtue.

Sep. 01 2007 10:06 PM
Bing McGhandi from

What held me to faith for so long was guilt (I was catholic, go figure). How could I be so ungrateful as to lose faith? But I have ultimately decided that the whole life-after-death issue is a sort of emotional blackmail to get you to do what people want you to do. And let's face it, the whole Jesus thing is pretty goofy. There's no logic to it. The trinity? What's that all about? It's a goofy justification for untenable contrary logical positions. But some people get a little extra squirt of dopamine for convincing themselves that they believe ever more ridiculous things. They are like addicts in that sense. It literally becomes a "hard habit to break"! Heheh.


Aug. 22 2007 11:26 PM
Pedro Henrique Abreu Santos from Muzambinho (brazil)

I am catholic and I do love my church, I love the Pope so much and I love the bishops. I am very sad when I see people that do not love the church, because I have the catholic church like a mother in my life.

Aug. 22 2007 11:25 AM
John Stanley from Virginia

The Infancy Gospel Of Thomas
c. 150 C.E.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas was probably the first of many attempts by the early Christians to document the first twelve years of Jesus's life, bridging the gap left in the second chapter of Luke. The original language of the text is unknown—Greek or Syriac are probable—but the story was popular enough to survive in numerous translations, redactions, and parallel stories, including several Egyptian infancy gospels, as late as the Protestant Reformation. The text may have influenced the authors of the Koran.

The gospel's portrayal of Jesus, though perhaps alarming to more orthodox sensibilities, would have been quite familiar to early Gentiles, as the young Christ displays all the precociousness, cleverness, and even destructiveness of the child-gods in pagan mythology. In the early passages of the story, Jesus shows a disturbing tendency to kill off his playmates when they displease him. He eventually learns to channel his divine abilities in more constructive ways and realizes his calling, culminating in the trip to the Jerusalem temple closely paralleled in Luke 2:41-52.

Aug. 22 2007 11:14 AM
John Stanley from Virginia

Mr. Salzman, Your errancy is in the assumption that the Bible is free of the complicity of the organized church, which you yourself rationally perceive as humanly, and even possibly mortally, flawed. In fact, one can consider the Presented Bible Collection as a total Roman Catholic Church Production. What you may benefit from is what was left on the cutting room floor by the early Cecil B. DePopes. I offer the following:

Aug. 22 2007 11:13 AM
Irving Salzman

Sad story, nothing to celebrate. But the truth of the matter is that Lobdell's "faith" was in an institution that let him down. What the Bible presents as faith is trust in a person (Jesus the Messiah) and his work of redemption. My prayer is that this is not the end of the story for Lobdell but that he will eventually and truly latch on to the marvellous grace of God.

Aug. 21 2007 05:20 PM
Jerry Lame from San Diego, CA

It was refreshing to hear the stories on atheism and loss of faith. They showed bravery, honesty and good-humor about this often-taboo subject. (Some of the comments here show why it is shied away from. People want their illusions to be treated as sacrosanct.)

We in San Diego have an on-going story about the Catholic Church's molestation scandal. The diocese, in order to avoid responsibility and the opening of files in response to the many lawsuits, has declared bankruptcy.
The newest twist is that the church tried to hide its assets and lied to the bankruptcy court. The judge has asked why, given this bad faith, the bankruptcy should not be thrown out, and the church left to face its many lawsuits.

This to me is yet another example of the willingness of the Catholic Church to lie and deceive to protect its power, wealth and prestige. It is utterly untrustworthy. And this is the institution that brought you the New Testament! Why on earth trust IT anymore than anything else the Church testifies to??? What is hard for me to understand is why this religion continues to have the many loyal adherents it does. Mr. Lobdell's reaction was that of a reasonable person faced with a revelation of deceit and immorality at the heart of a formerly admired and trusted institution.

Aug. 21 2007 05:10 PM
Kevin Ortman from Omaha

Yet another free thinker has come to make an informed, logical decision. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bill.

Aug. 20 2007 02:57 PM
Bill Carr from Seattle

Bill Lobdell wanted to give religion the fair coverage he believed the mainstream news media didn't give. While meeting his obligation to his readers and publisher to find and share truth about the effects of religion in the world, Mr. Lobdell lost his faith. That faith surely matched the faith of many religious people. It failed because it didn't stay sheltered from facts and because Bill wasn't doomed to employ the endless rationalizatons and redefinitions that might have let him continue to assert God belief.

The habit of mental reference to supernatural agents and places continues for some time after a person rejects faith on a rational level. No-one wants to have to spend time getting over habits That should earn a hint of sympathy in a humane world. Truth and empathy can get in the way of religion. Attack the people who speak truthfully and who would put a human light on the inner struggling of any apostate. :-(

Aug. 20 2007 05:17 AM
Sheila Kollasch from Arizona

I am delighted that you presented the topic of today's program. I feel that it was very well-rounded. I am an ex-Catholic by choice and agnostic. I have morals and believe that if an act feels bad, it is. I want to say, too, that I am incensed that the priest mentioned was allowed to use “vow of poverty” as his defense in order to distance himself from his own sex act, basically disavowing any notion of responsibility. What about his vow of celibacy? I wish the woman had a high-powered lawyer as well. Too bad for “their” child who gets caught in the middle. This is one more reason for me to continue to distance myself from the church.

Aug. 19 2007 10:42 PM
John Stanley from Virginia

How rational is it that a God gets credit for puny miracles, while millions have perished by Acts of God? What a frivolous and flighty God. Talk about your Teflon Creator. How rational is it that God requires humans to fight HIS/HER/ITS battles?

How likely is it that a creator would resort to dictation to sometimes illiterate "prophets" to spread HIS/HER/ITS holy word. Let me see a glowing Bible actually willed into existence by an all powerful entity. Then I would have no need to BELIEVE. I would simply acknowledge the reality of a supernaturally crafted object.

Religion, examined logically and removed from the strong EMOTIONAL involvement all religions seek to instill in those "lucky" enough to have FAITH, is ludicrous beyond belief.

Aug. 19 2007 10:29 PM
John Stanley from Virginia

If you teach the child, you will likely have them for life. They will carry the diet, and their taught fables to their graves, the statistics show. IT IS INDEED a harder indoctrination to break than a drug habit. I applaud and value the open and logical examination of religious tenets and the undeniable misuse of religious "believers" since religion was first used as a tool of the intelligent and the cynical against the fearful and gullible. Mullah Omar continues to hide while MARTYRS lives continue to end like the final moment of the Sopranos. The MOST religious of Jews in Israel exempt themselves from military service in Israel. How convenient for them that there are less pious Israelis to protect them.

Although I have over a dozen years of professional Catholic "training", my parents never believed these fables of virgin births and elevations to heaven. So I am proof that being reared in a reality based home can inoculate one against the most unlikely and the most persistent fables mankind can muster.

As an over 60 person, I say I can RESPECT NO GOD which allows such pain, such suffering, such injustice to persist throughout all of human history.

Aug. 19 2007 10:29 PM
james hardwick from Irving texas

It is supersition vs reason

Aug. 19 2007 09:34 PM
IrwinjSchneiderman from New York City

Congratulations on having the temerity to give atheism equal time If the only reason for leading a moral life is the fear of going to hell then you're not very moral.

Aug. 19 2007 08:14 PM
Ted Apelt from Lutz, FL

I could not help but notice the similarities between this story and this one:

Skeptical Inquirer magazine : May 2004
Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures
A former leader in the New Age culture - author of nine titles on auras, chakras, "energy," and so on - chronicles her difficult and painful transition to skepticism. She thanks the skeptical community and agonizes over how the messages of scientific and critical thinking could be made more effective in communicating with her former New Age colleagues.

Karla McLaren

I think the lesson from these two stories is clear:

Never, NEVER believe anything, ANYTHING at all that does not have solid, clear, convincing evidence that the belief is true. Don't take someone else's word for it. Find out for yourself. (I love the show "Mythbusters", because they are very good at doing this.)

Aug. 19 2007 08:06 PM
Jon from Manassas, Virginia

I too noted this reporter's flip comment about religion being a hard habit to break. I heard the warmth in her voice as she identified with Mr. Lobdell and seemed to endorse his choice.
I find this a dismaying theme in NPR hosts who regularly treat their guests, who express a personal faith, with incredulity and mild condescension. Religion as a human institution will regularly disappoint those who place their faith there and will provide ample fodder for criticism. The real story, which doesn't sell, is in the lives which are changed quietly and positively through a well grounded faith in God and in the acts of charity and kindness which ensue. I hope and pray Mr. Lobdell regains his faith.

Aug. 19 2007 05:10 PM
susan from chicago

What most don't remember: The Council of Trent which mandated celibacy was a reaction to the myriad of "bastards " of the Church. The Church was going broke supporting the offspring (children) of the Popes, Cardinals and other church members.

The difficulty of this reporter is the confusion of Religion and Theology and Spirituality. I suspect this reporter still has has his inherent Spirituality, and maybe even belief in God, but has found that Religion is merely another Human Institution. The Catholic Church is just another Corporation, a very giant multinational corporation. (That is why this tax-exempt status is pretty bogus.)

Aug. 19 2007 12:50 PM
Julie Ludwig from South Haven

The aside from Brooke in this story was telling of something - but of what I'm not sure. When Mr. Lobdell made a reference to "losing" his faith, Brooke murmured, "It's a hard habit to break, isn't it."

I don't attend church and am not a member of any religious faith but it does seem to me that losing your faith over one terrible demonstration of the power of corruption of one church is not what faith is deeply about.

The implication of Brooke's comment was that she was welcoming Mr. Lobdell to the enlightened inner circle of agnostics or atheists.

It struck me as oddly naive for On the Media - which usually strikes me as a program which tries to see The Really Big Picture - to appararently affirm Mr. Lobdell's equating the corrupt and violent human manifestations of the organized church with the great mystery we all live in that some call god.

Aug. 18 2007 11:31 PM
Michael Chance from Saint Louis, MO

Mr. Lobdell reminds me of Jesus' parable of the sower, and he's a seed that fell on rocky ground. He sprouted up quickly in his acceptance of his faith, and was enthusiastic in his faith early on, perhaps overly so. But he didn't have any deep roots in his faith, so, under the wilting heat of doubt and others' failings, his faith withered and died.

This isn't a story of a religion reporter losing his faith because he got too close to his subject. It's a confirmation of the warnings of the Gospel. Once again, you've missed the true point of the story.

Aug. 18 2007 10:55 AM

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