03/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Losing My Religion & The Last TV Evangelist

The other day we were shooting a video in West Hollywood and I decided to take a break and ducked into a coffee shop. On my way back I was approached by a young Asian man who looked about 18. Since I grew up in Japan I figured he was Japanese and asked him in his native tongue if he spoke Japanese. When he got over the shock of being talked to in Japanese by a white guy, he finally got around to asking me for a donation to his cause which was affiliated with the Unification church, commonly known as The Moonies.

We talked theology for awhile and I asked him if Rev. Moon was sinlesss. Yes he said. He was the second incarnation of Christ and was thus a perfect man. I asked him if he had ever read any Anti-Moon literature. He didn't seem to have. I urged him to do so, because if he could read anti-Moon materials and still keep this faith that would be a good indication that he wasn't being brainwashed, but coming to a rational decision about his faith, having taken in a number of points of view. He smiled, but I noted a slightly glazed look.

I remembered my Japanese friend this week as I noted the release of books by two friends, Bill Lobdell and Phil Cooke. Bill was a guest on my talk show last week and I'll be posting it online in a few weeks. His book, just out this week is called Losing My Religion:How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America-and Found Unexpected Peace.

Phil on the other hand has written a book called The Last Televangelist: Why the Next Generation Couldn't Care Less About Religious Media

Both are important books regardless of your religious or philosophical orientation. Bill, once a devout Christian, has left his beliefs behind as a direct result, he says, of encountering one too many religious leaders who are hypocrites. He is especially critical of the Televangelist movement.

Phil Cooke knows many of these religious leaders, having produced programming for many of them. He believes that major changes are ahead in religious programming if it is to survive and be relevant.

Bill is asking big questions that have been asked by human beings for centuries, and though he says he no longer believes in God, he did tell me that if you look closely at the cover of his book, the extinguished candle does have just a bit of a spark left.

Phil still believes but is focused on making religion relevant to the masses.

Whatever your beliefs, I think you'll enjoy both of these books. If you believe in God, Bill's book might just challenge you to be a better believer by showing you one man's journey from faith to unbelief. If you don't believe in God, Phil's book might give you a new perspective as he seeks to make religion appealing and accessible to all.

Both are working hard to think big thoughts and I'm grateful for their work.

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