losing my religion

September 25, 2009 at 2:25 pm 12 comments


I had changed in another way. I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded in logic and reason, requires a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don’t. It’s not a choice. I used to think that you simply made a decision: to believe in Jesus or not. Collect the facts and then decide for yourself. But it’s not that simple. Faith is something that is triggered deep within your soul — influenced by upbringing, family, friends, experiences, and desires. It’s not like registering to vote.

Christians often talk to those who have fallen away from the faith as if they had made a 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 hold 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.

– from William Lobdell’s book, Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace.


Entry filed under: belief, books, leaving.

supernatural beliefs the devil in dover

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amy  |  September 25, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I’m totally going to read that.

  • 2. the chaplain  |  September 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Christians often talk to those who have fallen away from the faith as if they had made a 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.

    That’s what Christians have a hard time getting. Once that mental switch hits the “off” position, faith can’t be turned back on. When it’s lost, it’s irrevocably, irretrievably gone. The only way to get it back would be to have a lobotomy.

  • 3. Sabio Lantz  |  September 25, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    1) Lutheran little boy thinking of being a minister until 14 yo then turn atheist.

    2) Scroll ahead: I converted at 17 years old. Triggers: find best friend dead, potential girlfriend, instant encouraging moral community, superstitiously inclined mind. Bang ! Christian.
    Did I get the gift here, or get it back or ?? How did the switch go back on.
    I didn’t weigh all the faiths out there, it was the one available.
    The environment changed and the benefit of religion outweigh previous costs.

    3) Scroll ahead: Girlfriend gone, non-believing girlfriends available, more secure after death of friend, new ideas, see through much of the jargon and techniques of this religion, travel, experiments away from peers. Bang ! I can’t squint and pray pretending I believe it all. Slow deconvert.

    4) Scroll ahead: But wait, though I had shifts and learnings, I am still an atheist, but could I change back? Is it a gift like Paul and this author (albeit Atheist) wants us to think? Imagine this — Terrible disaster meets my life (somehow my wife leaves), Christian community comes to my aid and other desert me. A new Christian woman enters, my life. My job has a very religious boss who I respect and I would benefit from converting. It is a fairly liberal Christianity that let’s me keep hold non-literalist, pluralistic, orthopraxy-oriented faith.
    Gee, would I convert again.

    All to say, faith may be the consequence of many things coming together, lack of faith the same, new faith just means another big change.

    Think about atheists converting in their later years — fear of death, suffering, lost friends. Humans don’t value reason as much as they profess, we are willing to sacrifice it (albeit subconsciously) if the gain is large enough. That don’t sound like a gift, but a sneaky trade !

  • 4. atimetorend  |  September 26, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Sabio, I think you are saying that beliefs are beliefs, and they are shaped by different things? The use of the word gift does seem a bit odd in that quote. I don’t know if it accommodating language on his part or if it is something he views as a gift. Maybe it is a gift for some and not for others?

    chaplain: I once received a prophetic prayer / “word” from someone which I dubbed (privately) “the prayer of lobotomy.” Lots in it about trusting and not thinking. Some conservatives/fundamentalists make the shift to a different form of Christianity, but I agree, it might take a lobotomy to go back to the same form.

    And a note to anyone who is thinking of reading the book, since I didn’t write up a review. The book is interesting, and you will learn a lot about the authors coverage of the Catholic church sex scandal, which he covered when it was first breaking, as well as his journey into and out of faith. It is written at a fairly, hmmm, low reading level, like a newspaper piece might be. While it deals with complex issues, it is written in a newspaper-piece style.

  • 5. Zoe  |  September 28, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Do you recommend it ATTR? I haven’t read it but was hoping to at some point in the future. I was wondering if it would be a good book to give to Christian friends or family as a way to break the ice about one’s own deconversion?

  • 6. atimetorend  |  September 28, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Overall I recommend it and I think it would be a good book for anyone, Christian or not-Christian, to read. He has a very sympathetic view towards his former faith and struggled a great deal to hold onto it. At the time he left the faith he was in the process of joining the Catholic church, so his coverage of the Catholic sex scandal was very significant. That means there is a good bit of discussion about hypocrisy in the church. I suspect many protestants would write that off as a Catholic Church issue. It is a really quick read so worth checking out of the library to review if you can.

  • 7. Zoe  |  September 29, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Okay thanks ATTR. Sounds good.

  • 8. Lorena  |  September 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    It is written at a fairly, hmmm, low reading level, like a newspaper piece might be. While it deals with complex issues, it is written in a newspaper-piece style.

    Interesting! In writing school I was taught that that’s the way to write. That there is no need to puff up the writing with long, obscure words to get your message across.

    I was thinking just yesterday of ordering this book. I think I will now.

  • 9. atimetorend  |  September 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    That’s an interesting point Lorena. Now I’m wondering if I puff up my writing with flowery words… Maybe newspapers specifically *avoid* using words at a certain level?

  • 10. Lorena  |  September 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I just read your bit about checking the book out of the library.

    Interestingly enough, around here, the libraries don’t have most of the atheist/ex-Christian books.

    People around here are into not too much of anything. So they aren’t exactly Christians, but they aren’t atheists either. So even if the society is severely secular, there wouldn’t be a demand for atheist books, since well, it is rare that somebody will leave the faith.

  • 11. atimetorend  |  September 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I live in a quite religious area, so maybe that’s why. I have been surprised to see a number of fairly new books I was thinking of buying turn up on the library shelves. I’ve also started doing inter-library loan and it seems I can get almost anything I ask for just by sending an email and paying 50 cents. And w a i t i n g…

  • 12. Lorena  |  September 30, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I think you’re a good writer, and I don’t think you over-write.

    What you’re warned of in writing classes is what I call the “Sam Harris” syndrome, but only in the End of Faith.

    The first part of that book reads like an academic paper written by an 80-year-old professor.

    But there is a trend in professional writing circles to write using everyday language, as opposed to academic language. Perhaps that’s what that writer was going for.

    It is a good thing. If he wants to reach ex-Christians who aren’t necessarily English native speakers, he will be successful in

    As for the library, lucky you, I guess. It helps that the US has so much population: more people more chances. There are more folks in California than in the whole of Canada, so that greatly reduces my chances :(

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