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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. Mass Debater

    "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"

    At the heart of her decision was her Catholic boyfriend no doubt.

    “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."

    This is a huge error in reasoning. For her to come to that conclusion means she is assuming morality is top down, external, with absolutely no basis in fact or reality. If it is top down and Jesus is the top, then why would many cultures who have never worshiped Christ or any Judaic God have morals? And if it is top down (meaning morality is decided by a higher power) and there were and are other religions that do not worship the same God, wouldn't that mean their God's must be real as well? Or isn't it more reasonable to believe that morality comes from the bottom up from the empathy we feel for others dealing with hardship and adversity and our desire not to have those things happen to us or our loved ones. We need no moral code supposedly whispered in the ears of a few so they can lord it over others by claiming to have God's words on their lips. We just need to have empathy for our fellow man.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  2. Michael

    I personally know her. She has always been a Catholic and pretended to be Atheist in order to write a best seller book. Don't believe this liar for a minute.

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

      Exactly. The sad thing is that this scam will work because of the g-g-g-gullibility of adults that believe in fairy tales.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • asdf

      I assumed as much.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  3. A convert myself

    I think it is an eventuality that many aetheists, with particular ideas about God's existence and a high value on reason, will become Catholic. As Catholics, faith in God and human reason are complementary to one another, not in opposition to one another. Google the 1998 encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) by Bl. Pope John Paul II.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Holy Roller

      Not!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Just take everything you just said and reverse it and you might be semi-close to the truth.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  4. rumrunner

    typical human,. . Loser

    June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  5. Vinnie Vegas

    20 bucks says she's a Buddhist by next year.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Well.....

      LOL, sometimes you have to try a few faith paths on to find the right fit.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Jim

    I can understand saying "Hey this religion is pretty cool and it shows you how to live a kind of good,wholesome life I'm seeking for myself" but why that can't be done without abiding a book that condones slavery and the subjugation of women is beyond me.

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

      Because it does neither, it does not condone slavery, nor the domination of women. The bible sees these as two of many human conditions that are inconsequential to salvation. In fact, it becomes the slaves duty, as it becomes the wife's duty, as it is every other Christian's duty, to live in Christ and be an example to the non-believing slave owner, husband, wife, or friend. Christianity begins for a person in this world, but the journey is taken into the next. Slavery, injustice, pain, and suffering stay behind here. The Christian has faith that he or she goes onward without these.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  7. puckles

    Is she sleeping with her boyfriend? If so then they are both hypocrites.

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

      Well of course not. It is from her boy friend and his religion that she finds her morals.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "It is from her boy friend and his religion that she finds her more rolls...."

      June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  8. Belief Blogs Morning Speed Read for Monday June 25

    Prominent atheist blogger who converted to Catholicism says "just kidding".

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  9. x-Muslim

    I see lots of Easy money and lime light in her future..
    doe that make me GOD ?
    Money talks...Money Plans....Money Money Money..
    Stupid Religious people will embrace her now with all money for her requirements..

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  10. Anthony

    I'm sure the Catholic church has set this up from the beginning. Once you go atheist you don't go back. Converting to Catholicism because of their 'moral system' is like becoming a vegetarian because you want to eat meat.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • asdf

      At best its like becoming a vegetarian because you believe in eating food.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Bill

    It's a passing fad. She will be back to atheism after she gets tired of ritualistic practices and blind belief religion offers without any reasoning.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • mikereno

      Probably not, any person who has expended the energy required to maintain an atheist viewpoint for that many years will find the rest and peace of the rituals an easy yoke to bear. What will be hard for her is the treatment she will get by many atheists.

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

    filtered, anyone?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  13. Kyle

    What a fraud. I'm glad she chose the internaitonal pedophile association to provide her with a moral compass.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  14. WOZ

    Awesome!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  15. SLArbiter

    Haha, the opposing piece to "Pastors 'coming out' as atheists" is "Unknown atheist blogger begins to call herself Catholic, but still opposes them on various views".

    June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • OOO

      Right, that's the bone CNN had to dig up and finally throw out there for the "persecuted Catholics".

      June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • tez07

      funny, I had never heard of the pastor either

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Times Up

      funny T,
      That article was about a program that helps athiest pasters... that's plurel. Ie, he was the example chosen as a representative of a much larger group.

      This girl is focused on because of how rare this is. So stating she is a top athiest blogger is a bit disengenous.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • tez07

      which at the time of writing had one graduate......I just do not see the relationship between popularity and religious views being that important

      June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Times Up

      The point is that her story (this story) is very weak. And it is seems to be the best CNN could do to suppress the cries from the persecuted christians that CNN is anti-catholic.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Q1

    A coworker put it best (a "devout" person of religion): "Atheist scare me. There is nothing stopping them from killing somone."

    I will remain an unbeliever thank you very much.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • asdf

      I love this line. It's basically admitting that you would be out there slaughtering babies if you weren't afraid of hell. Some moral compass.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  17. MOJO

    She's ugly!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Obviously

    I wonder what will happen to her concepts of Moral Law and Truth and Catholicism when her Catholic boyfriend dumps her and she starts going out with a Jew?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  19. BryanP100

    I'm sure that's it, Bob... Fact is people go from being religous to being Atheist and back again all the time. I myself settled on being a Deist after going back and forth for 20 years.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  20. Tom

    Good people are known to do dumb things from time to time.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 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.