DC recently hosted a guest article by Bill Lobdell, one-time religion reporter for the LA Times:
No doubt John Loftus views this as a big catch for DC. And I’ll admit that if you go fishing in the toxic waste dump of atheism, sooner or later you’re bound to reel in giant mutant frog or salamander–of the two-headed variety.
Let’s evaluate some of Lobdell’s statements:
“When I wrote an essay for the Los Angeles Times in 2007 about how I lost my faith reporting on religion in America, I prepared for an avalanche of criticism. I was sure I’d be branded a tool of Satan or worse. But here’s what I didn’t expect. The vast majority of them—I’m talking 99 percent—were supportive in their own way.”
I don’t know why that’s supposed to come as such a big surprise. The LA Times is a liberal paper to begin with. And newspapers tend to self-select for like-minded readers. Would it comes as a great surprise to discover a strong correlation between the political views of Rush Limbaugh and the political views of his radio audience?
“But most readers simply thanked me for honestly expressing my doubts about faith and revealing how tortured and helpless I felt as I lost my once-firm grip on Christianity.”
His “once-firm grip?” I think it’s safe to say that religion reporters for national newspapers are pretty wishy-washy to begin with. They are chosen for their ecumenical tolerance. Their high comfort level with religious pluralism. It’s not as if the LA Times would ever hire Albert Mohler to do the religion beat.
“Several e-mails came from pastors who no longer believed in God but felt they couldn’t tell a soul.”
Imagine making faith in God a job requirement for Christian ministry! How unfair can you get!
“Another arrived from deep inside the Vatican. All said they felt like outcasts with no place to turn.”
Hopefully he didn’t sign his name “Benedict XVI.”
“It reminded me of Mother Teresa, one of the most revered religious persons of our time. She symbolized for millions the beauty of Christian devotion, sacrifice, holiness and works. But she suffered excruciating doubt. Recently published letters in Come By My Light reveal that she felt absent from God for the last 50 years of her life.”
As a Protestant, I can’t say that Mother Teresa was ever my role model. Try again.
“Several recent studies have shown that there’s little difference in the moral behavior of evangelical Christians and atheists.”
That’s a very dubious statistic, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s true. If so, what does that comparison mean, exactly?
Is Lobdell claiming that evangelicals behave like atheists–or that atheists behave like evangelicals?
For example, is he claiming that evangelicals behave as badly as atheists? How would that commend secular ethics?
Moreover, don’t atheists like Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins claim a strong correlation between religious belief and outward behavior? Don’t they claim that observant Christians are dangerous to the common good precisely because they put their fanatical faith into practice? So if Lobdell is right, then they are wrong.
“So it’s time for religious doubt to come out of the closet and be dealt openly and thoughtfully.”
I wonder if he feels the same way about scientists who privately question Darwinism. Is it time for them to publicly voice their doubts–without fear of reprisal?
“If Christianity is true, its teachers can dispel just about any doubt.”
What a ludicrous statement–as if Christian teachers have Svengali-like powers over their listeners.
“I have a different theory. I think there are so many closet doubters because people sense there’s no God who personally intervenes in their lives.”
That may be true. Many professing believers entertain false expectations. That sort of faith is easily falsified by rude experience.
“Optimistic Christians ask me if the outpouring of concern, love and support after my original essay was published restored my faith in religion. It didn’t. But it did give me a new appreciation of humanity. Most of us are doubters to one degree or another.”
If doubt is such a virtue, why doesn’t it cut both ways? He talks about his “20-year journey from evangelical Christian to reluctant atheist.” But why couldn’t “honest doubt” chart a 20-year journey from reluctant atheist to evangelical Christian?
Lobdell is very lopsided in his appeal to honest doubt. What about doubting atheism? There are, in fact, many people who started where he ended and ended where he started. Doubt is a two-way street.
“And there’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone.”
Like a crowded cemetery. Rows upon rows of tombstones. Very comforting.