Eric Hansen’s intimate memoir explores the ripple effect of lost faith.
Eric T. Hansen’s Losing My Religion is a suitably irreverent and entertaining memoir about leaving the Mormon church.
The book begins with the ending of the author’s faith, something that happens at the hands of a recalcitrant German to whom he was acting as a missionary. It then takes a sweeping look at the history of the Mormon church, including its more salacious and interesting bits, and ends with a somber discussion of what faith really means.
Losing My Religion is sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and generally engaging. Its history portions, delivered with a wink and a nod, are particularly interesting, especially when they trace the link between Mormonism and the American religious scene. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is portrayed as a delightful, colorful character, part showman and part mystically minded con man.
The book’s observations on faith and doubt are compelling. The narrator is a reliable and approachable presence, especially during his internal questioning about the true nature of the church. That sort of questioning, his story shows, led to some head-butting in his traditional Mormon home.
Hansen’s changing faith is compellingly traced, from praying for God’s guidance to exploring the “true” nature of the church to finding some sense of validation in questioning. The important relationships that impacted Hansen’s faith journey are also captured.
The generally lighthearted tone sometimes belies the serious nature of Hansen’s story, which is also one about loss. Hansen moves from certainty about God’s presence to certainty about God’s absence. His is a wholly human story—not about a lightning-bolt transformation, but rather about a gradual erosion of beliefs. What remains is a quest for meaning.
That quest plays out through the book, and Hansen’s ideas about how faith impacts writing are fascinating. His own writing, he shows, moved from sermons to exploring other human characters; that journey is particularly meaningful, tying his personal faith into his outward creative expressions.
The book is organized into four sections: “A Boy With the Big Idea,” “Eisenhowerland,” “Americans in Heaven,” and “Leaving the Garden.” This organization works well, moving the book’s consideration of faith from a big-picture discussion to a more intimate and immediate arena. The final section is more of a lament; Hansen discusses how he misses the meaning that faith previously provided. Still, it reads as a less certain section than others in which subjects are explored with more nuance.
Eric Hansen’s intimate memoir explores the ripple effect that comes from a loss of faith.
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