On Thursday, May 28th, Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor, attended a provocative talk at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne. In Losing My Religion, author and former Los Angeles Times religion beat writer, William Lobdell, explains how he lost his faith while covering religion. His story? As a troubled young adult, he accepted Jesus into his life, after a moving retreat at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. However, the rock bands were too theologically light to sate his yearning for more doctrine.
As a result of his interest in deeper theology, Lobdell started attending Catholic Church functions. However, the sex scandals that rocked Churches in Boston and throughout the world made Lobdell keenly aware of the hypocrisy of religious believers. The same people who were preaching about God’s love were living their lives in a manner inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. And equally troubling, church attendees who knew that their priests were guilty of molestation were eager to defend pedophiles for their service to the Church.
When Lobdell was having doubts about the morality of Christians, he did research on the internet, to see if atheists were more immoral than Christians. Also, he wondered if prayer indeed works. The answer, for him, was a resounding “no” on both counts. Armed with this understanding, the Los Angeles Times religion beat writer who was once enthusiastic to spread the Good News was now yearning for something more honest and less hypocritical. After a while of deep thought and reflection – and seeing Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” play – Lobdell became an atheist.
Although he was an atheist, Lobdell had a message for the 90% non-theist crowd of 40 that was critical of the atheist establishment. Instead of merely critiquing religion, freethinkers need to find something positive and constructive to put in its place. In other words, there needs to be an atheist alternative to the community and charity that are a foundation of organized religion. As an audience member, Leslie Zukor couldn’t agree more. “That’s why I love humanism,” Zukor explains. “It combines atheism with living an ethical lifestyle in this one chance we’ve got at life.”
And as secular humanists, we at the Reed Secular Alliance hope that William Lobdell can find the non-theist community he is looking for.