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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. Soda Bob

    This is news? I was an atheist before I was an agnostic before I was Christian before I slowly and subtly came to be agnostic again. Ben Franklin at one point believed that the universe held many inhabited worlds, and that each world had its own creator-god; he later came to consider himself a Deist. Almost everyone goes through different phases of belief (or non-belief) through their life.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  2. Neurological Map

    A person's moral compass is derived from two sources: 1. From life experience. 2. From brain chemistry.
    This why it is hard to find a universal moral platform. The difference in societal norms/taboos shows how cultures around the world have evolved varying degrees of good and evil. To convert to a religion because you can't disprove that morality comes from a divine source, shows how tremendously ignorant you are of neuroscience, general biology, and of recorded human history regarding the vast array of religions. Sure, there's a lot of good that comes from religion, but why must you immediately fill your void in knowledge with fanciful and irrational beliefs? Constantly search for the truth. Question everything.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • 3rd Plebeian

      "...shows how tremendously ignorant you are of neuroscience, general biology, and of recorded human history regarding the vast array of religions."

      Spoken like a true objective moralist.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Neurological Map

      3rd Plebeian:

      Why, thank you.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  3. John

    I will not question her personal conversion or conviction, as faith is something that is very personal, and if she chooses to put her faith in the doctrines of a specific religion that is her personal choice, and I will not dispute that. I will however dispute the last part of the article and I quote:

    “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.”

    The mere detail of her transforming her faith (which is the foundation of any religious believe, since they cannot be refuted or proven), into fact (something that can be proven or disproved via scientific method) is what troubles me. This speaks of an overall trend in current moral and religious discussion in the society, where people feel that merely because they believe in it, makes it a fact.

    This behavior is what is causing much of trouble in our discourse in society, from morality, to politics, to law. Just because I believe something to be true does not make it so, and we should always question the fundamental assumptions we make in our believe, without this act of humility, we can never openly discuss our issues without it becoming a tantrum between a pair of 3 year-olds.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  4. 3rd Plebeian

    Interesting that Mehta, an atheist, felt compelled to mention that "the conversions from Catholicism to atheism are much more likely to happen than the other way around." Way to get on the defensive! Shore it up! Nothing to see here! But "conversions"? Was that a slip of the tongue? Conveniently figurative? Sigh. The irony seems lost on most atheists. Indeed, one need only read a book like Dawkins' best-selling "The God Delusion" to discover that atheists proselytize in a manner no different to the most zealous of fundamentalist Christians (something Libresco is most certainly not).

    June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  5. AK47blazer

    well good for her, once you give up reason and science the world is an easier place, ignorance to reality is BLISSSSS. wish I could do that but I'm intelligent.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  6. Convert Too

    Chrfis wrote: "...and Protestantism came about so a king could get a divorce. Great basis for a religion." Wrong! The Church of England did that. Martin Luther in Germany started the Protestant movement. Don't be an ignorant poster.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  7. drewthinks

    Notice anything missing in her conversion? At least in this article, no where does she accept that through some mystical, magical thingee did Jesus somehow die for her sins. If you cannot reasonably admit that weird contrived event as fact, then you are no more a Chrstian than the most moral non-Christian. Hurray for her, she has found a body of moral philosophy that aligns with her own innate morals. So what. That still doesn't make her a Christian.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  8. John-117

    Booyaahh Atheists. Ouch that's got to hurt. Don't let it sting too much

    June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Horus

      You illustrate a significant difference between atheists, and believers. Atheists aren't competing for souls; merely pointing out that one can have moral compass without religion. If through internal reflection and reasoning this lady decided to change her mind and that makes her a happier, more satisfied person then good for her.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • John-117

      Not competing for souls, huh. Oh, the denial and dissatisfaction of the atheists on this comment section say otherwise. Thank you for your input.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • The Token Square

      Dear John-117,
      Your glee at the assumed distress of others for being proven wrong as opposed to glee at obtaining a new covert is rather telling.
      First; wouldn't you want to exhibit Christ like behavior and leave the petty childishness to others? But it isn’t for me to judge just how good a Christian you are or are not – that is your own personal spiritual journey. But it still seems contrary to what I know about your religion.
      Second; this behavior indicates a deep insecurity in your own worldview that requires you to seek external validation through acquiring converts AND pointing out the "wrongness" of those who are presumably different than you. Indeed, it may point out similar insecurity in atheist who would do the same back; but two wrongs are still just two wrongs. Why, might I ask, are you so insecure in your worldview?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  9. Tanya

    Leah, congratulations on your conversion. Think of Christianity this way..."If Christianity is NOT TRUE, and you have spent your entire life believing, you have only sacrificed the time you have put into your faith during your lifetime....BUT if Christianity is the truth as the Bible states, then your Eternal Life is at stake, and therefore Christianity is of the utmost importance. Best of luck to you in your blessed journey and always know that your father in heaven loves you, forgives you and is ALWAYS with you. Do not let the negativity of others drag you down and doubt your decision. Read John 3:16 for assurance.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Noocrat

      Believing out of fear or greed (eternal life) is not the basis of love. You do not love your god, you're either afraid of him or afraid of death.

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

      I certainly won't be placing such a bet for my spiritual well-being. I've heard that rationalization before. I can imagine St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Hmmm...so belief in God was all part of a bet to get in to Heaven, for you, correct?"
      Yes, sir.
      "Sorry, that's not what this is all about. If you wanna gamble, go to Vegas. Buh-bye."

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

      In other words: she really wants her Catholic boyfriend to propose to her but she knows it won't happen until she converts.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Well...

      Not quite... Either you believe or you dont believe, that straight forward. Its not like you have a get out of jail card for accepting the idea just incase.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Andy

      Tanya,

      I'm not sure you realize it, but you just pointed out the greatest retainer of most religions, especially Catholicism – fear. The fear that you might end up in hell IF your belief turns out to be true. Not much conviction, if you ask me. Based on this article, I seriously doubt the young lady was ever an actual atheist. This feels more like a pro-Catholic ad.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • No Thanks

      Apparently you've never bothered to analyze the logic in your statement. Hint: there isn't any.

      You are assuming that there are only two possible outcomes: one in which Christianity is "true" (for lack of better term) and one in which it is "false." You assume that if it is "true" you will be saved (if you were a believer), and if it is "false" then you have no chance of being saved either way.

      What if any other number of religions are "true" and there is a God, just not YOUR version of God, and you are d@mned anyway due to the fact that you followed the "wrong" religion?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  10. nojinx

    Sometimes we choose to believe things only because we desire them to be true.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • right

      Like atheism!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      @right
      Atheism is a lack of belief. Way to show your ignorance.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Andy

      Tom,

      Atheism is the belief that there is no god. Way to show YOUR ignorance.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Andy

      Tom,

      After reading some of your other posts, I'm not sure where you actually stand. I am an atheist. If you are as well, I extend my apologies. As an atheist, I believe in myself.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @Andy

      Atheism is the lack of belief in god or gods and the supernatural.

      >belief that there is no god<

      Can you spot your mistake?

      One does not believe in a negative.

      merriam-webster

      athe•ism

      1 archaic : UNGODLINESS, WICKEDNESS

      2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity

      wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

      Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[4][5][6][7] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[8][9] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.[9]

      As far as where I stand, I am atheist. However I try to be fair and see things from the perspective of others and actively avoid hypocrisy. (Though no one is perfect) This may be why you’re having trouble fitting me into a stereotype

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  11. Darw1n

    Traitor

    June 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • k4815162342

      Touche! LOL

      June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  12. Noocrat

    Way to give up your beliefs for a guy. Showing real strength in your personal convictions.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • John-117

      Funny how the boyfriend didn't convert for her.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Exactly.

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

      There is NO such thing as a personal conviction. Everything you imagine or think of is the product and sum of everything you've heard elsewhere.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • AK47blazer

      He must be well hung

      June 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not my post, again. Why do you find it necessary to post something under someone else's moniker?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  13. George Zimmerman

    She was obviously never an Atheist as one can't go from Atheist to Catholic. Just as one can't go from knowing the world is round to believing the world is flat.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Now now, let's not do the No True Scotsman fallacy. She was an atheist whose emotional desire to conform to her potential husband was stronger than any intellectual position.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • John-117

      Denial is the first stage of the grieving process

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Well said Johnny.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Dan

      That's not quite fair. I can PROVE to you the world is spherical, not flat. You can't PROVE God doesn't exist. You can't prove he does exist either, but that still doesn't make it a black and white issue like the world being spherical. Then again we could enter into a discussion of perception, but I've always found that once everything becomes arguably untrue it's kind of worthless to be even discussing...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  14. Paul

    Converts to Romanism? Ok, that should last a few months if not weeks, if it's a serious conversion at all.

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

      "Converts to Romanism? Ok, that should last a few months if not weeks, if it's a serious conversion at all." It depends on her mental toughness. Catholicism is the highest, deepest, broadest phenomenon in history. The more she studies the more she will be drawn into it. She could have come to Romanism via Protestantism. But as John Henry Cardinal Newman observed, "To be deep in history is to cease being Protestant." To remain atheist would not be adequate. Evolution has apparently left a hole in the human psyche that nature itself cannot fill.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  15. Convenience

    Leah changing to Catholicism for the love of her man is like Christians voting for Romney and his Mormon cult. They say they believe one thing and rail against others for not believing as they do ... but when it is convenient for them, they will gladly do a 180 degree turn. Pitiful.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  16. CMH

    She switched to the 'side the facts are on?'. I don't think anyone who knows what facts are thinks the bible and 'facts' have much in common.

    The real pull of most religions is the promise of eternal salvation. It beats the athiest alternative, and all you have to do it give money to someone and do what they say.

    L Ron Hubbard once said "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” So he did...and he did. I just don't know why modern religions feel a need to 'out crazy' the old school ones.

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

      Catholicism/christianity is just scientology with a 2000 year headstart. Same fanciful tales written by men with alterior motives.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  17. Convert Too

    Heaven forbid a person seeking an inner life can make a choice that you don't like! September is the start of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation For Adults). It's a good way to find out if being Catholic is right for you. Go to any parish and ask for info.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      > Heaven forbid a person seeking an inner life can make a choice that you don't like
      That’s what we’ve been telling you brainwashed Christians for millennia. But at least you stopped killing us over it.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. FormerMember

    Not surprised. The RCC isn't really Christian. The RCC doesn't care what their members believe as long as they say they believe in whatever the Pope believes. With the RCC there is no truth, just a bunch of placated beings. Real christians don't belong to a church and you will know them by their love and the grace with which they live life. I can always identify a Catholic by their cross or their public gestures and displays, but I've never run across an RCC and identified them because of their love or grace. As the old saying goes, it takes one to know one.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Convert Too

      This must be one you missed: http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/chaplain-known-for-compassion-moving-to-new-post/article_0582f236-bc23-11e1-a4f4-0019bb2963f4.html

      June 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  19. whitney

    Good for her, she made a decision she believed in and wasn't swayed by anyone else's opinion.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Libresco, who had long blogged under the banner “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend,”

      Right....

      June 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  20. Horus

    Richard Dawkins is a "prominent" atheist. Stephen Hawkings is a prominent atheist. I have friends who post youtube vids that get more than 5k hits. This is just some lady who, I suppose after much internal reflection, decided to surrender to cognitive dissonance and naive realism.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Noocrat

      Or just to simplify relations with her boyfriend. People frequently give up their "convictions" for the sake of a relationship.

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

      Or maybe she just realized that life is not one lucky cosmic accident.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • nojinx

      "one lucky cosmic accident"

      That is a straw man.

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

      @Mrhanson:
      Makes much more sense to believe that an omnipotent being never before or after seen, threw some Ryu style fireballs into nothingness and created Earth. Good call bro.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:49 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.