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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. A E

    Funny, you would never see a story about a small-time religious blogger going Atheist, but this makes the US news page.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • daveinla

      Story has more relevence that Trayvon Martin shooting or gay marraige.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • OnceAgain

      Actually, there was a story not so long ago about a long time pastor that turned atheist. Just putting that out there.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  2. angryersmell

    Sell out.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Lester Singleton

      Not selling out as much as buying in.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  3. RLee

    Can You Say MARKETING! Sheesh! I am not an atheist by any means, but I know a scam when I see one! What's this; a faith conversion! To the Catholic Church no less. Really! GLWT – Good Luck With That!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  4. Ghost

    I don't think this story is over yet.
    There is now a fly in the soup, if you know what I mean.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  5. WhiteSaladin

    That dude is ugly.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • no

      HAHAHA!!!

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • LOL

      brilliant!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  6. snowboarder

    odd that morality would be her reasoning to go religious.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Lew

      Yes, especially her view that morality is something we have a duty to AND is external from us. Very odd indeed.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • snowboarder

      i agree with her that it is external and learned behavior, but i see no real connection from that to religion unless she has fallen for the fallacy that cathocism has a monopoly on morality.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • traviskurtz

      It's the, where did objective morality come from question that converted her

      June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  7. Tim

    You pay them enough money, you can get them to believe anything.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  8. Joel

    It's "Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults," not "Rights of Christian Initiation of Adults"

    June 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • DT

      slow down Joel

      June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Billy Joe

    Good for her. Now go make lots of babies so the priest can molest them. Chop chop.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Kafir

      LOL

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

    Wait...so it came down to questions about morality, and she chose...CATHOLICISM? Apparently she didn' t do her homework...I'm sure there's more to this conversion than we know (and it having little to do with the finding of faith).

    June 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • ImCatholic

      Ozzy,

      What is your beef against Catholicism? No church is perfect, and I blame some of the leaders of the church for letting pedophiles hide as priests, but the Catholic faith is wonderful and welcoming.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Ozzy

      My beef? Where to begin? How about the 'support'/'neutrality' stance they took against the Nazis during WWII? The pope during that time actually corresponded with the Nazi party, acknowledging their actions. How about the Inquisition? How about the Crusades? How about the mass cover up of pedophilic priests? How about their continued denouncement of life saving contraception in AIDS stricken regions of Africa? How about their desire to control the bodies and rights of women in their patriarchal faith?

      Shall I go on?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Joseph

      It's probably not a coincidence that her boyfriend is Catholic. It will focus your attention more on those kinds of specifics – like Catholicism versus Hinduism.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Steve

      Ozzy Ozzy please. You know the Catholic Church was virulently opposed to the Nazi regime, after all it discommunicated one of the highest ranking ones in Joseph Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda). He was rightfully discommunicated for marrying a protestant.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Elle T

      Agreed, Ozzy! Especially since Catholicism is one of the more conservative/strict religions out there. How the hell did she go from a non-believer to that?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Serenity

      You clearly do not know much about God and faith. We will pray for you.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  11. CNNuthin

    Anyone feel like she "found faith" because of her Boyfriend? She wanted his...um...loving and converted for him. She is not special or unique. She is another girl who changes everything about herself for a guy. Happens all the time. And her arguments are terrible. She states that morality is a religious idea. That is just not true. Some of us don't commit crimes because we have respect for others and are trying to make life easier for everyone. Not because we hope to get rewarded by some magic being who promises us things. We do it because we all have to share this life and this planet and treating others how you'd like to be treated still applies to the faithless.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Nathaniel

      I am curious to see how Catholic she is a year after the breakup.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Superstar

      My thoughts exactly, but again, if she's the kind of woman willing to change her entire life for a man, she belongs in the Catholic church. She just needs to beware sending her future children to Catholic church...

      June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • guest

      Treating others as you wish to be treated..yeah..How do you atheists apply abortion to this commandment?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • aw

      CNNuthin, I take great offense as a woman to your comment about this youg lady deciding that God exists. So, because she came to a conclusion different from yours, in your eyes she's doing it for a man? So you think all women are so naive that they can't make these decisions for themselves? Well, let me tell you something. You are obviously an atheist... and so you have a right. In MY opinion.... athiests are the most egotistical, NAIVE breed of man around. You think all this LIFE on this earth, man, plants, animals, came from nothingness? Naive.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Joseph

      If she thinks that morality is a religious idea, she isn't very well read. "Good Without God" and a host of other books have excellent explanations for the basis of morality – and the deficiency of religiously based morality.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      @aw, The same applies to guys. Don't get all upset because I did not make my post gender neutral about for an article about a girl whose own blog was called, "A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend." My mother is Catholic, my father is Jewish and both kept their faiths when they married. Your assumption that I am an athiest is wrong by the way. I just feel that the answers are not here and we will never know unless someone comes down and says that they are God, and even then I will be skeptical. Going on Faith is just giving up on questioning the situation. Naivety is to say "Well, a magic man did everything because my parents and this book told me so" without asking "Does it make sense?" I am not ruling out that there may be a God, but I am not letting it rule my life.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      And Guest, I am not entirely for Abortion. You are making an assumption as well that if someone is not with you, they are against you on every issue. It is situational and if you can't think of times when it is better to save a mother's life, when a child will be suffering and so on, then you are just an uncaring person. Isn't your belief that there is someone to take care of these children? I mean, why would God put them in this situation unless he will protect and nurture them in the next life? Is he that uncaring? Does he deserve worship for making babies suffer and die just after birth?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "You think all this LIFE on this earth, man, plants, animals, came from nothingness? Naive."

      this from a person that I will therefore asusme believes in a spell casting supernatural being that just decided one day to create earth (maybe he was bored and wanted a laugh, who knows) and they proceeds to screw up creation but blames man for doing so. yeah, we are the naive ones, uh huh.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Elle T

      If she converted in order to get married, I think she may have been straightforward about it (if she were a true Athiest that is). I am an Athiest and my fiance is Roman Catholic. I am actually willing to convert in order to get married to him – lucky for me though, his parents are so desperate for grandchildren that they are willing to overlook my beliefs so long as we stick to certain Catholic traditions during the wedding ceremony.

      If I had to convert, it would be on the surface only. I would still question God and religion and label myself as an Athiest.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Serenity

      Elle T, God would rather you not convert than to convert and live in sin as a hypocrite.

      It is okay for Catholics to marry non-Catholics. So don't become Catholic, unless you truly want to. It is not in the interest of anyone (especially for your in-laws' conscience) to force you to pretend to become one.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • intoped

      @guest "Treating others as you wish to be treated..yeah..How do you atheists apply abortion to this commandment?"

      Simple. When I was an organism of a few cells I was not even close to being myself. Do not pretend you do not understand what I mean because nobody organizes a funeral for a 10-week miscarriage. If you want to be pro-life be against capital punishment, wars, guns, etc

      June 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Gryphon

      @aw

      You don't even understand that atheism has nothing to do with what someone thinks about the origin of the earth... why should anyone listen to criticism from someone who is deliberately ignorant on the subject they're speaking about?

      January 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
  12. anotherwhiner

    Whatever floats each person's boat. Good on her....whatever she wants.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  13. m0rtis

    ok.. WHO slipped her the kool-aid? fess up!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      @m0rtis, Her boyfriend seems like the likely suspect. I have have "experiences" that I felt were divine. Then I realized I had drank from someone else's "special tea." But that seems to be a reoccurring theme with older religions. Someone drinks/eats something and suddenly experiences weird visions. Face it, all of your spiritual gurus were on drugs. Christianity just seems like a "Drunk" religion to me. The whole Water to Wine thing gives it away.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  14. NBPT Voice

    Interesting- since the development of morality and norms in society drove the formation of religion- she seems to have it backwards?!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  15. John D

    Why CATHOLICISM, though?

    I mean, say what you will about the Protestant churches, at least most of their beliefs have a basis in scripture. Scripture's man-made, but at least it's got the veneer of inspiration to give it some authority.
    The Catholic Church is full of rituals, practice, and doctrine that are obviously the creations of men.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Chris

      ...and Protestantism came about so a king could get a divorce. Great basis for a religion.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Superstar

      It's because CNN was getting a lot of grief from all their anti-Catholic posts recently that they had to make the child touchers feel good about themselves

      June 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Lew

      Protestantism did not come about so a king could get divorced. Henry VIII started the Church of England, in part so that he could get divorced, but also so he could sever Roman Catholic control over England. He made himself head of the church, still practiced the sacraments and those who denied the reality of them were deemed heretics. It was nothing like Protestantism in his time and they still executed Protestants, Evangelicals and Lutherans. The Protestant conversion of the Church of England happened under his daughter, Elizabeth's reign.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  16. PrimeNumber

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. " C.S. Lewis
    Atheism simply doesn't get the job done on the important questions.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Biker

      Neither does full out blind belief.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • snowboarder

      what important questions?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Dood

      Biker, it's not blind belief at all. Many prominent scientists were Catholic. The Big Bang Theory came from a Jesuit priest in either Belgium or Germany, not from Hubbell. Maybe the atheists shouldn't be so closed minded.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Nathaniel

      Neither does wishful thinking and blind faith in evidenceless claims.

      I'm a very well read atheist (and like Lewis's work), but nothing I've ever read has led me to think an invisible being living outside reality was the font of human morality.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • intoped

      If you tend to respond to big questions with a simplistic "god done it" do not bother asking them because that response has never been a real answer.

      June 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Gryphon

      @Primenumber...

      So you quote a guy who is viewed by the theological and apologetical disciplines as an amateur and failure in his field and expect us to care? You should have quoted one of his fantasy novels instead. He was far better at fiction.

      Religion doesn't offer 'better' answers to the big questions, it offers up SIMPLER answers and then refuses to justify them with the real world.

      January 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  17. derp

    "Too funny!! They first have to track down 'derp' and that in itself is a lengthy process and then they have to explain why they violated his/her freedom of speech. Derp did not directly attack anyone...he/she made a comment based on factual evidence."

    I live in the Philadelphia metro area. They Philly archdiocese just spent $11,000,000.00 trying to keep a pe dop hile and criminal conspirator out of jail here. One of the three defendants plead guilty and testified against the other two. The evidence is a sad commentary on the "moral turpitude" of the catholic church.

    I guess it is somehow comforting to catholics to know that when they toss money into that basket every week, the money is going to the noble cause of defending child mol esters and conspirators.

    Yay jesus!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • sarahsaint

      It's a sad comment on the moral turpitude of a small group of people, out of millions. Get it straight. Better yet, get a new line.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  18. Mark

    So in her mid being moral is tied to believing in a religion? Wow, I must be very amoral?

    June 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Chris

      ...and if you need religion to tell you not to kill, etc there's something very wrong with you...

      June 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Joseph

      She picked a religion that conforms to her sense of morality. So she must have had some morals without religion. Why would she suggest that morality comes from religion when she is a perfect example of the reverse?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • aw

      Ever heard of the ten commandments? man made you say? I think not. How come atheism is in such a minority around the world? Don't tell me...EVERYONE is wrong but you, right? You don't have to be a Catholic, or any particular religion. God is here with us always in so many ways.... if you look. I feel quite sorry for you and all atheists as you have surely lost your way. Laugh if you will, but you a wrong.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Ever heard of the ten commandments? man made you say? I think not."

      I could write you a set of commandments right now if you wished, what on earth about them makes you think they could not be man made?

      and its interesting you talk about atheists as a minority as if the rest of the world all follows one religion.....which is of course nonsense. if only 1 religion is right then there are a billions of people out there in real trouble.

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

      Where is the ontological basis for morality, not whether you can be moral and atheist. read it again

      June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  19. gerald

    Wecome home Leah!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Drumcode

      Welcome to the world of the most hypocritical cretins in the world! yay!

      June 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      Now put some money in the hat we are passing around. And if you would like to make another monetary donation on your way out, there are bins at each exit. Ignore the homeless men outside, they just come for the free food. I know, we have the space to house them, but they are criminals and low-lifes and we love them and god loves them. Don't worry about giving them money, give it to us and we will make sure they get some of it.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  20. caesarbc

    People are still searching simply because they cannot understand what agnostic means...

    there is no way to prove one way or another that there is, or isn't a God.

    period.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Drumcode

      Yes there is. Science.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • vulpecula

      just like there is no way to prove there is or isn't unicorns, or Santa Clause, or a tooth fairy, or a flying spegetti monstor

      June 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • jcguy

      I am always surprised by the response of none believers to a person who has faith. i get being angry at a religious system or the church, but the teachings of Jesus Christ have little to do with the issues that cause people to go away from the church. Believe He is God or not, His teaching is correct and has no flaws, at all. As for science proving there is no God, that is just ignorant...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      depends jcguy on what you mean by 'flaws'
      i personally think condemning someone for being gay is most certain a flaw.

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

      cedar rapids i agree with condemning someone for being gay is yet another flaw in the church!! Its stupid! God loves all!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Liuping

      Actually, there is a very simple way to prove there is a God, but it's sort of up to him. He could easily settle all the religious questions/augments once and for all by himself known to everyone directly.

      How hard would it be for an omnipotent God to do that?

      June 23, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • tallulah13

      Liuping: I have doubts about this omnipotence thing, since god couldn't even cross the ocean to the New World until humans made sea-worthy ships and took him.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • cm

      Remain on the fence caesarbc – not a good way to live. Choose.

      June 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Serenity

      "He could easily settle all the religious questions/augments once and for all by himself known to everyone directly."

      Yes he does. When we die.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Gryphon

      @jcguy

      The lessons of Jesus the teacher are indeed good, but they are too often lumped in with flawed lessons from his followers and disciples.

      January 2, 2013 at 2:30 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.