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June 22nd, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – She went from atheist to Catholic in just over 1,000 words.

Leah Libresco, who’d been a prominent atheist blogger for the religion website Patheos, announced on her blog this week that after years of debating many “smart Christians,” she has decided to become one herself, and that she has begun the process of converting to Catholicism.

Libresco, who had long blogged under the banner “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend,” said that at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass.

“I had one thing that I was most certain of, which is that morality is something we have a duty to,” Libresco told CNN in an interview this week, a small cross dangling from her neck. “And it is external from us. And when push came to shove, that is the belief I wouldn’t let go of. And that is something I can’t prove.”

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According to a Patheos post she wrote on Monday, entitled “This is my last post for the Patheos Atheist Portal,” she began to see parts of Christianity and Catholicism that fit her moral system. Though she now identifies as a Catholic, Libresco questions certain aspects of Catholicism, including the church’s positions on homosexuality, contraception and some aspects of religious liberty.

“There was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth,” Libresco wrote about Catholicism in her conversion announcement post, which has been shared over 18,000 times on Facebook. “I asked my friend what he suggests we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together.”

At the end of the post, Libresco announces that she is in a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults class and is preparing for baptism. She will continue to blog for Patheos, but under the banner, “A geeky convert picks fights in good faith.”

According to Dan Welch, director of marketing for Patheos, Libresco’s post has received around 150,000 page views so far.

“Leah's blog has gotten steadily more popular since she arrived at Patheos, but a typical post on her blog is probably closer to the range of 5,000 page views,” Welch wrote in an email. “Even now, a few days later, her blog is probably getting 20-30 times its normal traffic.”

Libresco’s announcement has left some atheists scratching their heads.

“I think atheists were surprised that she went with Catholicism, which seems like a very specific choice,” Hemant Mehta, an atheist blogger at Patheos, told CNN. “I have a hard time believing how someone could jump from I don’t believe in God to a very specific church and a very specific God.”

Mehta says that Libresco’s conversion is a “one-off thing” and not something that signals any trend in atheism. “The trends are very clear, the conversions from Catholicism to atheism are much more likely to happen than the other way around,” he said.

But while atheists were puzzled by the conversion, others commended Libresco.

“I know I’ve prayed for her conversion several times, always thinking she would make a great Catholic,” wrote Brandon Vogt, a Catholic blogger. “And with this news, it looks like that will happen. Today heaven is roaring with joy.”

Thomas L. McDonald, a Catholic Patheos blogger, welcomed Libresco to the fold: “Welcome. I know this was hard, and will continue to be so. Don’t worry if the Catholics make it as for difficult for you as the atheists. We only do it to people we love.”

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Libresco says one of the most common questions she has received is how she'll deal with atheists now.

“The great thing about a lot of the atheist and skeptic community is that people talk more critically about ideas and want to see proof provided,” Libresco said. “That kind of analytical thinking is completely useful and the Catholic Church doesn’t need to and should not be afraid of because if you’ve got the facts on your side, you hope they win.”

Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Catholic Church

soundoff (7,475 Responses)
  1. vulpecula

    I wonder how long after the first concept of a heaven it took for the religion that thought of it to adopt a no suicide clause.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  2. Glorifundel

    "at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass."

    I am not certain why this would be a difficult question to answer. We intrinsically need other people for our own survival. We need them for mechanical things like food, clothing, and shelter. We need them for our own mental health, friends, communities, lovers. I am not certain how you could find it difficult to find a moral compass given these things.

    I wish her well, but I find her decision (or at least the reason given for her decision) to be unlikely seeing as it is very easy to come up with good morals without any religion added to the mix.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Right

      Yup. Cooperation and human decency yields far more long-term benefits than crime. Game Theory proves it repeatedly. Easy to understand.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  3. Mr Mark

    Prominent atheist? This is the first I've ever heard of her.

    Prominent atheists are people like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, the late Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. These are people who are well known to the public and speak out in public as atheists. They get booked on TV to take an atheistic position in a discussion.

    Known to be atheists are people like Bill Gates, Lance Armstrong, Woody Allen, Ricky Gervais and Billy Joel. They're atheists, but they don't go around announcing it. No one is inviting Billy Joel on the air to discuss his atheism.

    "Who knew" atheists are people like Rafael Nadal, Jack Nicholson, Mark Zukerberg and Larry King. These are people one might be surprised to find out are atheists.

    Leah Libresco? Never heard of her. Prominent? That's just CNN trying to spin a non-story into a "lookee, lookee! An atheist converted to Xianity!! Let's all make a big deal about it!"

    June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bunsen Honeydew

      Nobody does "Got you to look!" better than CNN.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Olsonic

      agreed

      June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. The Token Square

    I'm happy for her. If she feels morality is external, then it is only natural that she would seek the external source of that morality and eventually adopt the expressions of lifestyle that best fits her idea of morality. While I disagree that morality is external, nobody's expression of morality or religion threaten me unless they use it as a reason to infringe upon my rights. In point of fact I feel her actions and words contradict because, if morality were truly external, she wouldn't need to find the external source "that fit(s) her moral system." How would she find something that is external to "fit" something that doesn't exist internally? Regardless, she has every right, as I do, to find an external system and associate with people who best fit our morality. I wish her continued success and prosperity.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  5. Coop

    Hemant Mehta, an atheist blogger at Patheos, told CNN. “I have a hard time believing how someone could jump from I don’t believe in God to a very specific church and a very specific God.”

    Maybe you have a hard time believing anything.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • OOO

      What?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Maybe you believe any old garbage.

      Hey, I need $50k for a medical treatment, can you wire me that money?

      Don't believe me? Why not?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  6. CNNuthin

    I was an Atheist until I found the Church of Odin! DMy God has given me the power to smite you, if I choose to. The laws of my god are more important than the laws of man.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  7. OOO

    I think Sam Harris has a blog. I never heard of Leah. How did she become more prominant than Sam?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  8. El Flaco

    As a bright kid, I actually listened to and thought about the hellfire and brimstone sermons shouted out by our Baptist preacher.

    In my childhood nightmares, Jesus was the Monster who was chasing me. If he caught me, he was going to kill me and throw me down to hell.

    When I grew up and realized that Jesus had been dead for a long time and couldn't hurt me, I felt wonderful.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      The rantings of a simpleton.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  9. Journeyman

    I wanted to convert to atheism before I read some of the venomous posts on here...what an angry community.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • MK

      Did she think she was amoral when she was atheist?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • The Token Square

      Dear Journeyman;
      If the article were about a Catholic renouncing their religion and adopting atheism, and the responses were emotional and not always nice, would you consider all Catholic's angry and therefore reject Catholicism as an option? While you are free to judge a worldview by a sampling of the people who claim to hold it; I'd say you'd want to consider it more on its own merit. Unless, of course, you only wanted to find a way to paint all atheists as angry in order to validate your own worldview. In that case – good luck with that!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Joseph

      One doesn't "convert" to atheism. One stops believing, like you (probably) did with Santa Claus. And why would anyone WANT to be an atheist? I am an atheist, but that's because I can't believe in fairy tales or lies. I can enjoy wishful thinking, but not at the expense of reality.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  10. Winterpeg

    Well, some people get it and some don't! Am I disappointed in her, NO, she has never demonstrated any any intelligence facts that have a scientific background. I leave her with this thought:
    From Richard Dawkins , The Greatest Show on Earth :
    "If history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology,
    those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they
    are deluded to the point of perversity."

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  11. Mary

    Good for her!! we'll be praying for you

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Plucky

      What did you do before, curse her?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  12. wimanf

    Finally, the switch turns on and she can see the light. The Bible promises that you can only find God if and only if you seek Him with all your heart and it appears that she did that. That is the reason why she left atheism, which promised her really nothing but an empty life. What about you atheists she left behind, what are you waiting for? Believe or not, she has made the right choice – a life full of joy and eternal security. Congratulations to Leah!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  13. Double B

    Quinn, is probably right, but geez, of all the religions she could have chosen...she went with the pedophiles??
    No God to God's messengers on Earth who abuse children...great plan!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      Nice. Condemn the whole for the transgression of a few. Your simply brilliant.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  14. Harry

    So enjoy supporting the Pedophile Priests. Hope you don't have a little boy and still attend that Church.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      The church is doing just fine. Your the one that's screwed up.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  15. TruthHurts

    Yea I smell an engagement and wedding coming soon....fortunately she converted in just enough time that it won't make things complicated....

    June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  16. billsf

    And next year she'll be saying, "Allah Akbar"!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  17. larryb

    lame...totally lame. if you need a church to find your moral compass then you do have problems

    June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • csnord

      Precisely. You don't need religion to find a moral compass. In fact, "religious morality" has been responsible for most of the most heinous behavior of the past 2,000 years. You want a moral compass? Try this on:

      Never knowingly and avoidably harm another person.

      There isn't a single teaching from any religion on earth that is not covered by that statement. No religion required.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Perfrid

      And where do you get your moral compass from?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      Really. And how do you find your moral compass? Watching the 5 o'clock news.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  18. 2cents4free

    I thought she was a smart person until I read the Catholic part. Really? She chose to be Catholic? Well at least she's not a young boy huh? Good for her though.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  19. Bayousara

    She is too young to have it figured out yet. She will change her mind several times in her lifetime. Other than that, I really don't care about her beliefs and don't know why she has to blog anything. Just believe and shut up!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      "just shut up" tell me you are not a first amendment advocate. Or should we just censor religious freedom?

      June 23, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  20. New Gawker

    she just learned how to make a lot more money. No one probably listened to her stupid little radio show.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      Ah! Your just jealous because she became a Christian and your still just an atheist.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:46 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.