Lattin, Don 1953–
Lattin, Don 1953–
Born November 15, 1953. Education: Graduated from University of California, Berkeley.
Journalist. San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA, staff member for two decades. Consultant and commentator for numerous television news shows, including Dateline NBC, PrimeTime Live, Good Morning America, Nightline, Anderson Cooper 360, American Morning, and Religion and Ethics News Weekly. Religious writing instructor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
(With Richard Cimino) Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 1998, revised edition, 2002.
Following Our Bliss: How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge, HarperOne (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to numerous periodicals, including the San Francisco Chronicle.
Don Lattin is a journalist. Born on November 15, 1953, he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in sociology. He wrote about religion for the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly twenty years, in addition to writing for a number of other periodicals. His experience in journalism was sought by the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches classes in religious writing. Lattin has served as a consultant and commentator for a number of national television news programs, including NBC's Dateline NBC; ABC's PrimeTime Live, Good Morning America, and Nightline; CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and American Morning; as well as PBS's Religion and Ethics News Weekly.
Lattin published his first book, Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium, in 1998 with Richard Cimino, and later updated the book in 2002. The book looks at the shift of religion in America to be more centered on personal faith and practicality. With increased religious pluralism in the country, the authors also suggest that religion's influence on mainstream life and culture in the country will also become more pronounced, with incursions into the workplace, science, and the health industry.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, jointly reviewing the book in Spirituality & Practice, opined: "Wellresearched, thought-provoking, and wide-ranging, this is a bellwether volume for anyone interested in contemporary developments and future forecasts in American religion and spirituality." John Moryl, writing in Library Journal, commented that Shopping for Faith is "filled with interesting real-life stories and provocative projections." Booklist contributor Michael Spinella noted that "although it may surprise few, this fascinating inquiry into religion in America will enlighten many." A contributor to Publishers Weekly described the writing style as "accessible and clear," adding that readers will be able to measure "how their own religious lives fit into the larger American landscape."
Elizabeth Powers, reviewing the book in First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, commented that the book is "an oddly refreshing read," adding that "readers can learn much of interest in this book about church-growth consultants, congregationaltrend specialists, the International Church of the Four-Square Gospel, and Mormon missionizing among the nonwhite immigrants of California. There is also much to ponder for those of a conservative religious persuasion." Powers suggest that the accompanying CDROM is "the most useful aspect of this book." Powers noted, however, that "though Shopping for Faith is informative, its references, even to statistics on church attendance and denominational membership, are most often not to primary but to secondary sources. The authors also neglect to tell us whether the predictions they offer are valid for the next five years or the next hundred. In such a volatile marketplace, I would not bet on the latter." Wade Clark Roof, writing in the Christian Century, observed that the authors "speak of ‘varieties of spirituality,’ but do not provide complete profiles of the kinds of people who embody them, or show how people of the different groups differ in lifestyle and outlook." Roof concluded that "religious leaders and scholars would do well to ponder the many pressing questions raised by Cimino and Lattin's impressive book."
Lattin published Following Our Bliss: How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today in 2003. The book shows how the 1960s period of spiritual exploration influenced American Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism in expanding their focus to lecturing on more than the basic principles. He also documents what effect the shift of many Americans to Eastern religious traditions had on the society at large.
Melissa Jones, reviewing the book in the National Catholic Reporter, called the book "wide-ranging," adding that "for those old enough to remember the '60s, this is a book that will pique memories, and perhaps a sense of loss. For those too young to revel in nostalgia, it is a primer for Gen X that explains and describes the '60s foundations of many religious trends and movements at work today." James A. Overbeck, writing in Library Journal, found that Lattin "covers a wide range of topics" and "writes well," concluding that Following Our Bliss "will be of interest to those who participated in such movements and to the children of such groupies." A contributor to Publishers Weekly remarked that the chapter on the secondgeneration American Buddhists is "particularly engaging."
In 2007, Lattin published Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge. The account looks into modern religious cult leaders, focusing primarily on David Berg and The Family. Berg gained an evangelical following from younger hippies in the late 1960s who shared his views on materialism, spiritualism, and sexual freedom. He travelled the world with his followers, encouraging his female followers to seduce men to join the group. With all the polyamorous activity, the group soon found itself with a large number of children who were taught from a young age to be sexually active with the adults or other children, whether consensual or not. One of Berg's sons, Ricky Rodriguez, who was being primed to be the group's future leader, grew to resent his father, and other adults who forced sex upon him at an early age, and murdered several members in the group along with his nannies before killing himself. Lattin accounts for the group's desires to live this lifestyle and the socially deviant activities the group promoted.
In an interview on ReligionWriter.com, Lattin explained his fascination in writing this story. He clarified: "The fact is, I didn't know just how dark it was going to be before I started. Obviously, I knew about some of the disturbing aspects of The Family—I reported on them for an article I wrote in 2001." Lattin continued: "Having come of age as a journalist during the cult wars of the 1970s, I have always been interested in new religious movements. The intensity of the conversion and belief and devotion makes for a compelling story, whether for good or evil. There's an interesting question there: When does a new religious movement make the leap from being a cult or sect to a religion? The second generation gives you a window into that process, because the question is whether they will keep the faith or not. So I didn't go looking for horror stories; I was interested in what happened to the children born into The Family."
Rosette Royale, writing on Bookslut, wrote that "Lattin deserves enormous credit for researching the story of Berg and The Family. He's pored over documents, talked to Family defectors and delved headfirst into the seedy realm of child exploitation. Most people wouldn't have the stomach to go as far as he did." Royale revealed that, "as slimy as this may sound: the book's best parts of the ones touching on the group's sexual proclivities. This could be explained away by suggesting that prurient interest makes for rapid page turning." Royale also noted that "what does strike you while reading Jesus Freaks is how destructive messianic leaders can be." Booklist contributor Mike Tribby called Lattin's focus "a little shaky" at times, but concluded that the book is "a treasure trove for those curious about aberrant cultic enterprises." A contributor to Publishers Weekly mentioned that the book is "an arresting if uneven account of the Family," pointing out that "some aspects of the Family … are carefully researched, while others … are underreported." While noting that the book "reads like a suspense novel," Thomas A. Karel, writing in Library Journal, described it as "a valuable expose, with welldocumented sources, of a fringe group that is still active worldwide."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1998, Michael Spinella, review of Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium, p. 284; September 1, 2007, Mike Tribby, review of Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge, p. 20.
Christian Century, March 17, 1999, Wade Clark Roof, review of Shopping for Faith, p. 318; September 20, 2003, John Dart, review of Following Our Bliss: How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today, p. 14.
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, June, 1999, Elizabeth Powers, review of Shopping for Faith, p. 52.
Library Journal, November 1, 1998, John Moryl, review of Shopping for Faith, p. 88; October 15, 2003, James A. Overbeck, review of Following Our Bliss, p. 73; August 1, 2007, Thomas A. Karel, review of Jesus Freaks, p. 101.
National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 2003, Melissa Jones, review of Following Our Bliss, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, September 28, 1998, review of Shopping for Faith, p. 93; September 29, 2003, review of Following Our Bliss, p. 61; June 25, 2007, review of Jesus Freaks, p. 49.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (April 12, 2008), Rosette Royale, review of Jesus Freaks.
Don Lattin Home Page,http://donlattin.com (April 12, 2008), author biography.
ReligionWriter.com,http://www.religionwriter.com/ (October 12, 2007), Andrea Useem, author interview.
Spirituality & Practice,http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ (April 12, 2008), Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat, review of Shopping for Faith.