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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. Keith

    I went from being raised in an Evangelical church which teaches death and destruction and hatred of all others that are not the "right" sort of "Christians" to Agnostic. Then to Atheist, from there to Animist then back around to Catholic. Now I am an Animist that believes in a Spirituality that is Christ Centered, or a belief in what Christ taught.

    I am anti-Church to be the most accurate, if I could I would have them all disbanded, but in reality that would never work. I do think they should be taxed just like any other business in America because that is what they are. Radio and Television evangelist should lose any tax advantages and they should have to pay the same for their air waves as any other broadcaster.

    In my 60 plus years I have come to the understanding that spirituality is a part of “Man” and there is no one that does not have something that fills that place in their life even if they are Atheists. I am glad this young woman is following her own path.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't have a "spirtuality" – or anything to take it's place.

      I don't believe in ghosts, or gods, or psychics. I believe activites like meditation work by affecting body chemistry – it's already well established that controlling your breathing can affect things like heart rate, which can go a long way to producing a relaxed state. Nothing magical or mystical about that!

      We are sack of chemicals walking around. That's it.

      That doesn't make life LESS precious, it makes it MORE so.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      She's on talk radio - needs donations - Atheists have no cause to "give" to or pass the plate in front of...She caught on....

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Lester Singleton

      Taxing the church, great idea. Then you take away all reasons for the church not to open up the doorand become some of the largest corporations donating to the political party of their choice. There are benefits to not rocking the boat when it comes to tax free status. The church stays quiet and mostly neutral on most political issues for that exact reason. Take away their tax free status and there is no reason for them not to speak up much louder than before. Thats just what we need, more corrupt money flowing to corrupt politicians.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • k

      Keith: But remember that Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." So He is THE way, not simply one way among many. The fact that there is an absolute truth means that two people with divergent beliefs can't both be right. Religious organizations (and I'm thinking of the Catholic Church, particularly) ... through the guidance of the Holy Spirit ... serves as the guide for what is "right" and "wrong". I'm not saying that most people in this comment section believe that (many, many are atheists). But this issue of ultimate/absolute truth obviates the need for the Magisterium.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  2. Olaf Big

    Atheists convert to religion for one of two reasons: either need for emotional support in case of major personal tragedy or lack of education. I think in this case it is the latter. In literature and philosophy there are countless examples of how and why people maintain moral compass without turning to religion. So, yes, Virginia, there is morality without religion. Pick a book!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      I don't think that most ppl (religious or otherwise) would think that morality is unique to any certain type of faith.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Well.....

      I think your reasoning behind why people convert to a religion is pathetic, however you are correct that you do not need religion for morality, but most people need a guide to follow other than a book (that is possibly above their reading and comprehension level) to keep them morally straight. Not all human beings were blessed with foresight or enlightenment.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • bob

      Uncouth Swain: I disagree 100%. I think that most religious people believe that all followers of all faiths other than their own, and especially we athiests, are inherently immoral.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "I think that most religious people believe that all followers of all faiths other than their own, and especially we athiests, are inherently immoral."

      Well...I think most bobs are incorrect in their views of religious ppl. Same sound logic with that. Same amount of evidence too.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • @bob

      I can't speak for other beliefs, but Christianity holds to the complete opposite of your assumption. In fact, our immorality opens the door for grace. I wouldn't disagree if you assumption is that many Christians come across as judgmental, however.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Olaf Big

      Well.... This is not so much reasoning as empirical observations...

      June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  3. who

    True atheists couldn't care less about who believes in what. Most of the militant atheists that are commenting on this article are wannabes.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • OOO

      Why don't you ask one rather than making a sweeping, incorrect generalization.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Well.....

      You’re my favorite atheist 🙂

      June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      aye.....no true atheist would care at all.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • who

      I try to not make sweeping generalizations. Hence the word "most." In addition, don't miss the fact that I referred to the people posting comments – Not "all" atheists.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • sam

      @who – semantics.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  4. Gethetruth

    She is probably a lesbian convert to boot.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Chad

      And Jesus loves her just as much as the gossips and liars and the rest of us sinners...

      June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  5. MOJO

    Who cares!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      The most sensible statement on here

      June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • tom LI

      Ditto.

      IMO we give these 20-somethings too much credit and voice for being smart anyway...so tired of hearing them whine about everything...

      June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  6. Plucky

    I'm amazed she was unsuccessful at turning her boyfriend into an atheist so they could marry outside the church.
    What a tool he must be.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  7. Dl

    If you need God to find a moral compass, you have larger issues... so in your heart you think it's ok to judge, shame & condemn gays, fo example?... or demonize those you don't agree with you as 'evil'?... cuz that's what the Christian God is all about

    June 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Lex

      Your comment is the most ignorant and uninformed that I have heard today, and that is saying a lot.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  8. Kevin

    Talk about taking a step backwards. I was raised Catholic, but never got confirmed because I didn't feel like I was ready to make that decision at 13. Now I'm in college and learning about the history of the Catholic church in a class of mine.. crazy stuff. Crazy how people would want to be associated with organized religion.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  9. AverageJoe76

    She's up to something. Because going BACK down the rabbit hole with all the dogma is tedious. It's like forcing myself to do homework when no ones going to grade it, AND.... it's not even a class. Relieving myself of religion was like dropping a 50lb weight off my back. Such a burden. All the insignificant things they have you worry about.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      She's up to something? Oy vey...how dumb can you be?
      If you had heard of this girl about a week ago you would have praised her for being an athiest. But since she made the big atheist sin of becoming a theist....you think she is up to something.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  10. Jaser

    that is bad , soon he will be insane because christianty is full of contradictions and distortions , (three gods and in the same time one god ) biffffff , it's better for him to stay as he was , or to be a Muslim because in their creed there is only one God ,not three and one in the same time .

    June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      And he'll cut your throat (slash in the koran) if you don't go along with the dude

      June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Jaser

      why you always accuse without evidence , the Quran in the internet you can get it , read it for me and bring for me the verse that says slash because you didn't do the duty

      June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  11. Oscar Pitchfork

    You just can't decide to "believe" in something! Is this woman a complete idiot or just a spotlight-hugger? When she went from Christian to Atheist, it only proved that she never was really a Christian. Now she wants to 'try" 'being' something else? She's either just pulling everyone's chain, or she's pulling her own. It's a dismal commentary on all the cluless people who actualy nurse from the teats of idiots like these...

    June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • 111Dave111

      As lifelong atheist who had Agnostic/Atheist parents (one from a Catholic background, the other from strong Methodist parents) I understand I may be in a very different place. I can't see me converting, but my parents had different aspects (but they never wavered). So it would be interesting to know Leah Libresco's siblings, parents, and grand-parents religious values. Did she grow up Catholic? How old is she? Are there other parts of her life that reflect publicity seeking, besides being a prominent blogger for a religion website? Who contacted whom Dan Merica, CNN?

      I worry this kind of thing (including publicity from CNN) will bring even more christian evengilists to my porch. It is the most offensive and disgusting thing that christians do. I am also not fond of them adding 'god' to the pledge of allegiance and money.

      Do you have a DisBelief Blog sponsored by CNN?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  12. Horus

    Ok, so according to some well intended folks on here, I need to have relationship with God, or find Jesus, or something along those lines. So explain to me in realistic terms how anyone can have a relationship with something absent, or someone who died over 2k years ago. I just don't get the whole "finding Jesus" thing. Can I find Zeus, or Ra? They seem much more interesting.....

    June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      LSD -

      June 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • dave

      throw out the dogma and approach The Lord from a spirtual view. If your heart is in earnest then you'll find what your looking for. All the Dogma came afterwards.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Lester Singleton

      "So explain to me in realistic terms how anyone can have a relationship with something absent, or someone who died over 2k years ago"

      Going strictly on the belief of the Christian faith, they dont believe that God is absent and the reason for Easter is the fact that Jesus rose again so the belief is that he didn't die over 2k years ago. As far as realistic terms, it is something that you have to determine for yourself through a personal exploration. Don't ever expect anyone to explain something to you because you will always be let down.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  13. Simon

    Finally....a smart Atheist! Congratulations!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Good riddance.... but on the bright side, atheists have shed a retard from our ranks and sent her over to your larger flock of retards... she'll blend right in...

      June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  14. a person

    im a catholic and actually, most catholics believe in the big bang and evolution. and i support gay marriage and in rare cases, abortion if the woman is desperate. and i also believe that atheism does make sense in many ways, but is just too depressing for me. and btw, stop hating on her, if she wants to be catholic, dont call her a horrible person or anything, it's her choice

    June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Horus

      News flash – You're not really Catholic then.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • John

      well then most Catholics would be quick to disagree with you as your views clearly disagree with what their Bible says. The bible is apparently very anti-gay and so your approval of them would just lead them to accuse you of not being a real christian. Doesnt sound like a group I'd want to be affiliated with

      June 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Lester Singleton

      LOL Horus!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  15. cyberhackster

    Hey, there's money in god - no god, no money

    June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • x-Muslim

      Cannot be more true... well said

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  16. old atheist

    I and my husband are atheists, former christians. My husband is one of the most moral people I know. He not only has a very high moral standard, he lives it. He is honest, kind, and understands his obligations to do the right thing, even when it is difficult. Religion is not a requirement or even an aid to morality. Most of the world's evils have been committed in the name of religion.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      They (world's evils) still are

      June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jaser

      yeah , WW1 and WW2 the main responsible for them is religion , what a stupid mind you have

      June 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • dave

      or in the guise of religion. Their actions expose them for what they are.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • DR Smith

      Old Atheist,
      How do you, as a self proclaimed atheist, define the "right thing"?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  17. Alfons the Libertarian

    An atheist and a religious believer are identical in that both believe in something which is unable to be proven true. Might as well believe in the tooth fairy!!!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Except they don't.

      Atheism is a LACK of belief in a god. It is NOT (necessarily, it is for *some* people, but not all) a belief there are no gods.

      Understanding what you're talking about really helps you not look foolish.

      -Agnostic Atheist

      June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  18. Butterfly

    What is with all the atheists converting to Catholicism nowadays? They need to log a few years in Protestant Churches before becoming Catholic. These people show up and think it is the Jedi Order or something like that and when it isn't these are the types that start groups like Opus Dei to make up for their disappointment.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • k

      Ok ... so you've seen The DaVinci Code (hence you know the of the existence of Opus Dei). But do you know anything about the actual Opus Dei ... or who started it? Your comment is just nonsensical.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • SoTrue

      Actually the priest Josemaria Escriva started Opus Dei and he was born as a Catholic.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  19. Will

    I was raised Presbyterian and spent over 20 years in the church. I went to Christian schools from Kidnegarten through senior year of high school. Once I got out on my own, I came to the stark realization that my entire belief system was a hand-me-down from my parents. It is impossible to prove the existance of heaven or hell. The Bible is a flawed book written by flawed men. Many of its' stories simply cannot be taken litterally by sane humans. Religion exists because of the fear of death and the inability to admit that maybe your parents were wrong. You don't need God or Jesus to have a moral compass... just a functioning brain.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • J-Pap

      Well put! A functioning brain is all one needs.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Chad

      But where does morality come from? You presume it's just common sense and yet so many smart people are doing so many horrible things and twisting morality to fit their lifestyle. Libresco converted to Christianity because she realized that morality had to be from an external source. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in "Mere Christianity," when he said that when you look at the facts, you'll discover that the principles we taken for granted, fairness and generosity, are universal across different cultures and yet not natural to our selfish flesh. This idea that you need to treat people the same and to play fair has to come from some external source, which many realize is God.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • sam

      Chad, it's possible to come to the conclusion of the golden rule all on one's own. At the basest level, it's cause and effect. Cause trouble, get trouble back; don't cause trouble.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Calaveras Cal

      Chad,
      "This idea that you need to treat people the same and to play fair has to come from some external source,"

      Wow! You win this year's Leaping Logic Contest!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Chad

      If you're looking for a full logical explanation of the external source of morality, this blog ain't the place! Check out C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" if you've got an open mind and are willing to read a longer explanation of this belief.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • AthiestMom

      I'm sure it's been said, but since when does one have to be religious to have morals? Some of the biggest hypocritical loose women and men I have ever met were Morman & Catholic.
      Who would one need to teach their child morality with a book of lies and fables? Really!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  20. bob

    The entire backstory that she was an atheist is a fraud. it will come out that she was religious all along. Religious groups promote these type of stories all the time to try to gain followers that are on the fence, as if to say this person who is more extremely anti-religious than you converted, therefore you should convert. Nothing about "hey, we arent molesting young boys anymore".

    June 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Ryan M.

      Do you have evidence for these claims? Isn't it ironic that I am asking a seeming Atheist this question?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • John

      what evidence do you need? A true atheist converting to any religion is just as ludicrous as the idea of Osama bin Laden applying for US citizenship. Atheism is based on facts and if you choose to change your mind and believe in something which has absolutely no facts or scientific evidence to back it up then you were not a true atheist. Perhaps she was agnostic, but for her to claim she was an atheist was just erroneous

      June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • x-Muslim

      BOB, you and me know that it was all planned...we know the real story and the real facts 🙂 let them play..
      in my country (Pakistan) we get daily dose of stories that how some Christian or jew or hindu converted to islam by the miracle of GOD and by persuasion of Preachers..
      so...ignore it... As Sam Harris Says... no need to retaliate, no need to label us Atheist, we need to relax and get change things little by little.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Ryan M.

      (For John) Actually, Atheism has to make a number of assumptions, as does science, which is inductive- it cannot lay claim to something that is not observable. Anywho, for your perusal, some assumptions of Atheism can be found here:

      http://www.lyceumphilosophy.com/?q=node/117

      June 22, 2012 at 2:58 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.