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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. Bet

    She never was a true atheist.

    /sarcasm

    She probably wants to get married and he won't marry her unless she converts. I know several women who became religious or changed faiths, not because they really believed, but because the man insisted they change. After the divorce, they changed right back.

    Or, she saw a lot more dollar signs in religion.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • debbie

      exactly!! Just another gimmick to have another blog. I call BS

      June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • snowboarder

      my mother converted to catholicism to placate my step-fathers family.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    Libresco has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. What is better? Pan or fire?

    Maybe it had been better for her to remain an atheist than to become a Catholic.

    The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is no more Christian Church, because her God is de facto the pope, but not Jesus Christ.

    According to one of the most important docu-ments of the RCC, the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church), the RCC is an occult body with the pope as its magical head. The RCC is a very strict hierarchy and everything is controled by the pope, there is no space for the Holy Spirit of God.

    The true Christian Church knows no papacy, no hierarchy, but is ruled by the Holy Spirit. Of course, there are local pastors and bishops, but they get elected by the congregation or a group of congregations. There is no superbishop (pope), which forces pastors or bishops on the believers.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

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

      Not every Christian wants to handle snakes and worship Joel Olsteen.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • MK

      It's funny when one religion tells another how wrong their ideas are.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • MK

      You believe that your "true" church is headed up by a "holy spirit", yet think that having a pope to head up a church is ludicrous?? LoL! It's all so silly!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Me

      Are you on drugs?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Stentor

      My God can beat up your god. Or at least serve them up a really great spaghetti dinner.

      May you be forever touched by his noodly appendage.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  3. LordEarlGray

    Seriously? Catholic? After the Catholic Church's well known attempts to subdue women, cover up atrocities by child-molesting priests and keep the priesthood all male while denegrating Catholic nuns, that is the last thing a self-respecting thoughtful person would committ to.

    Keep in mind that some priest decided what gospels to include in the Bible hundreds of years after anyone who might have actually known Jesus had died I doubt Catholicism is much closer to what originally went down then than any other sects. The Eastern Orthadox Church considers itself to be the church closet to the original teachings of Christ and the Apostles, too. I think the BF is actually the reason she's changing.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  4. Beth Redstone

    She's still young, not mature. She may change many times before she's actually an adult. Why would anything a child says about her beliefs be of any interest to anyone?

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

      It is because this almost NEVER happens.
      And that is also why this is so suspect.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  5. bkcombs

    you don't need religion to be a good person. sure, religion provides insight to being a virtuous person, but there isn't anything in the book that you can't learn by just being a kind-hearted person.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Emilio Dumphuque

    How absurd. ...and of all religions and cults, the favorite of pedophiles and Fascists!
    Is this the first part of a joke?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  7. Hammertime

    CNN (censored news network).

    June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  8. jim tom

    Honestly, I don't see how someone could convert to Catholicism. Their beliefs are so outlandish, you would have to have them instilled as a child. (speaking as someone raised Catholic)

    June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Journeyman

      Some can hack it...some can't. Don't criticize those that could.

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

      Having catholicism instilled as a child made my husband an Atheist. And it doesn't seem like he has no moral compass, he is one of the nicest, most honest person in the world, and I am proud that he doesn't need God to be afraid of to make his good decisions. I am a protestant converted to Catholic in my 20s. And now I converted to still believing in God but not believing in any organized religion. Having seen my brother going through calling to be a catholic priest and evidencing the scary brainwashing he got from the priests he consulted, and seeing how willing he was to cause damage to the family helped me leave the Catholic church for good.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    Libresco has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

    Maybe it had been better for her to remain an atheist than to become a Catholic.

    The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is no more Christian Church, because her God is de facto the pope, but not Jesus Christ.

    According to one of the most important docu-ments of the RCC, the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church), the RCC is an occult body with the pope as its magical head. The RCC is a very strict hierarchy and everything is controled by the pope, there is no space for the Holy Spirit of God.

    The true Christian Church knows no papacy, no hierarchy, but is ruled by the Holy Spirit. Of course, there are local pastors and bishops, but they get elected by the congregation or a group of congregations. There is no superbishop (pope), which forces pastors or bishops on the believers.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • OOO

      Any morality written into the bible already existed inately in man. That"s how it got in the bible. No god, no Jesus. These were just figures used to create the religions and exert power.

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

      The "true Christian church" you talk of is over run by rock and roll, racism, culture, health and wealth, YouTube preachers, politics. Not one Protestant even made a impact in the last election expect for gay marriage Baptist Obama. Read a history book and grow up.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Soda Bob

      I'm not a Catholic, I'm an agnostic. But that's just silly. That's no different than saying someone that goes to a Baptist church worships the minister. I know several Catholics, and they all understand the Pope to be a figurehead, and an administrator of their church here on earth, not someone to be worshiped.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Journeyman

      You are right. For a period of time the Protestant Church was the Christian Church, but now has entered a state of crisis by gay ordination and preaching the gospel of the cheap grace, supporting gay marriage, etc..

      Let us pray for a new reformation by a man like Luther or Bonhoeffer. There is a high need that people know again, where the Spirit really dwells.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Michael

      "Any morality written into the bible already existed inately in man."

      Can you prove it? I thought so...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Soda Bob

      It is just a matter of fact that Benedict is God in the RCC. He controls everything there like a dictator. This is independent from the sight of the Catholic believers.

      The Baptists rebaptize and hence are not better than the RCC.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  10. Pirate

    What a misguided soul converting to a belief in a false idol. Only faith and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster can truly lead to salvation. All Hail His Noodly Appendages!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • JellyBean@Pirate

      Thanks for the laugh!

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

      Hail. Actually, give Richard Dawkins an hour with this women and she'll figure out for herself how silly religion is.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  11. Danimal

    She obviously isn't very smart, or else she just really needs a rulebook to follow. You have to lose all your logical senses to switch to catholicism. Attention seeking behavior apparently.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Right

      She is smart, but she is easily dazzled by abstract constructions. Instead of asking why human decency exists, she trips all over "Moral Law" instead. Distracted by abstract jargon, secretly want to conform to boyfriend because marriage is her subconscious goal. And she's a bit weak intellectually.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  12. Crying Inside

    THIS is a crying Shame! Though I am very Faithful, Spiritual, & a lifelong follower of Jesus – Catholicism should be banned! Ma heart breaks for this woman. If Only people would Make Time to fully read & "understand the Boble, along with verifying from other sources (we are All Commanded to verify, verify what we are told/taught), she & billions would leave "Organized Religion". The original Bible was written in Aramaic, Not Hebrew or Greek. Pual (main writer of New Testament) was a snake & sheeep in wolf's clothing! He didnt know Jesus personally, & original Apostles of Jesus wouldnt allow him into their outreaches. Jesus taught the first two commandments (Love & worship God Alone & to love your neighbor as yourself!) In Pauls writings, he completely disregarded these commands. Paul also made agreement eith Constantinople to observe day of Lord & rest to Sunday to appease Sun worshippers & others; to bring "unity" about. Catholics worship & pray to Mary & various saints & statues! "Christians" pray to Jesus & cross! Folks, Open your eyes & get straight b4 it's too late! Jesus asked/answered many times, "Why do you call me good? There is Non Good except God!" God is the Only One which can save! Jesus didn't "wash away our sins". He showed us the way to God, love, forgiveness & Light! Why do you suppose Jesus & others would deny knowin you & so many when day of judgement comes?? "But Lord, Lord, I did everything inyour name.." "Be gone as I do not know you & your works!" I hope & pray my sharing had reached atleast a few people! The ststutes, crosses, etc., cannot protect anyone! ONLY GOD CAN PROTECT & SAVE! All these man made items are useless & at the detriment to your soul. Take heed & verify, verify, verify. Love & Peace your way!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Journeyman

      Go handle some snakes and keep your mouth shut.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  13. Joshua Ludd

    Looking to religion for morality? If you need a god to tell you how to be moral, you are doing it wrong.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Terry

      If not a Creator, then who should tell us about morality?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • FaithIsNotAVirtue

      Please give me the exact instance your creator told you about morality.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  14. Stentor

    Oh, puke!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  15. snowboarder

    the reasoning of a young girl. who would have ever thought.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  16. Colin Morgan

    Of the religions to look for a moral compass in, she chooses Catholicism. No, really. Read that sentence again. Yes, I'm an Atheist but if were going to start believing, Catholicism would probably be my last choice.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • debbie

      She just did it for her boyfriend. People never learn that if you don't do it for yourself, it's not true. Just another gimick to get people to read her pathetic blog.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  17. LeoTheGreater

    Healing, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness are virtues of mankind, not religion. First introduced by Jesus, the Compassion Concept was introduced to refute the age old archaic Mosaic Law of Revenge, eye for an eye etc and eventually was ostensibly adopted by every religion on earth as the Pharisees themselves were so corrupt they hijacked the following of Jesus and eventually convened in Nicea in 325 CE, changed their name and called themselves Catholic. Nevertheless while all religions preach the Compassion Concept of Forgiveness, they do not practice it. Even in Western Society, the concept of forgiveness is totally missing from the Justice System itself when a mistake will hang the albatross of a criminal record around your neck all the rest of the days of your life. A pretentious parody of deceitfulness existing in every system today, AS WE SPEAK.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Journeyman

      Not every Christian is snake handler, cute little skateboard rocker, or health and wealth preacher, Protestant. Read a history book.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  18. mdell27

    I will choose an organization which protects pedophiles and allows them to molest children as my moral compass.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  19. Nikk

    She did it for the boyfriend, whether by her own choice or by his insistence. My guess is the latter

    June 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  20. How to understand her in one easy sentence

    Title of her blog: “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend”

    June 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Nikk

      Exactly.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • JellyBean@How to understand her in one easy sentence

      Hear, hear!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
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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.