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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. Annie's Daughter

    Leah, my Sister in Christ – WELCOME!
    I have been nurtured and sustained by my Catholic faith over my 65 years on earth. Throughout my difficult childhood I always found comfort and acceptance by those in my hometown Catholic Church. In fact, it was a refuge for me. The wonderful ladies of the Women's Sodality (now all deceased) and the priests treated me no differently than the other children – even though I was often shunned and excluded by other adults (educators, neighbors, friends' parents) due to my father's alcoholism. I will pray your initiation will be complete. May you find that peace that comes from spending time with God and knowing Him as a kind, gentle and loving Father who loves you very much.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Notashamed!

    wondering why Anti Jesus post are accepted, but my Pro Jesus response mysteriously disappears?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • G

      Darwin likes birds more than the supernatural. He deletes your posts from outerspace.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Petercha

      Good question, Notashamed!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ---
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-nthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sn-atch
      sp-ank
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-oon
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).


      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete...

      June 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • sam

      Seriously? Ugh, please.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Because you used a rude word and the rude word filter supressed your post.

      Posts here conform to application of "survival of the fittest for publication".

      If you used a word like doc.ment or at.tude or const.tution, your post won't appear.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It took me ages one day to realize that I used the word "J-pan". Even today it took me half an hour to realize I used "t-the".

      "t-t" is such as rude, rude word.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Notashamed!

      So "moron" can "hope her children get molested" but apparently the truth straight from the word of God has to be filtered? Their was nothing vulgar in my post. What a lost world. Thank you Jesus for overcoming this world! I will sit her and wait faithfully.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Notashamed!

      I guess you'd better get the "Holy Spirit" on the case then...

      Look at the dang list of word FRAGMENTS.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  3. Kirk Cameron

    I sure hate gay people because I'm told to. However if Jesus wanted a "hot carl" I would give it to him.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  4. MoralCompass?

    How does one join an organization that systematically protects pedophiles because of the moral compass they provide?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  5. G

    Apparently this one doesn't come from a monkey.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  6. db

    Who are these lady douchbags who use this whole '/sarchasm' thing? And what about this one: '/sarchasm off.' What can we call you? Fem-douchbag? Ella-douchbag? I'm open to suggestions, but we really need a term for these kissy face retarded females with the black-rimmed glasses.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • sam

      What the hell are you talking about, douchebag?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  7. No need to believe

    I put my moral compass in my back pocket.... Than sat on it. 😦

    June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Cris

    Hmm, i think she's just doing it for her boyfriend's sake...

    June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Then she has rolled a dice bigger than she imagines

      June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • sam

      She's joining a faith that she has issues with already – issues concerning some of their most basic tenets. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  9. x-Muslim

    All Real Atheists, Please Ignore this PR Camping..
    don't retaliate

    June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      Yeah...all you "real" atheists....not those fake ones.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Nambla Priest

    Creationism is the truth!!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • No need to believe

      Your right, you tell'em! Now hit them with the one about the giant fish that people can live in. Then follow it up with building a boat for a giant flood.... Then really seal the deal close it with the fact that The word of god is only 29.95 with shipping and handling off amazon! Let's get to converting!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  11. Eric

    Hmmm... publicity stunt?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    My comment bases on facts. Just check it out. The period of 666 years you can calculate.

    It only needs some spiritual knowlegde to realize that 666 is identic with the 666 of the Revelation/Bible.

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

      numerology? seriously? shall we throw in a little astrology, too?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Rainer,

      then it is purely coincidence. We can reverse engineer data to provide the conclusion we want. It is 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' illogic.

      /sarcasm on
      What's 6 x 7? 42. Since 42 is the answer to life the universe and everything, then 6 weeks must have meaning.
      /sarcasm off

      June 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  13. Nambla Priest

    We need more little boys in church!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Lesli Jeffrey

      I think a lot of people are starting to think that of the male species in general – but I think it would be wrong to generalize all men – don't you?!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  14. Map Hillu

    Haters hating haters.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  15. Jesus was a space alien

    I find it is usually the other way around. Former religious folk become atheists. Sounds like she was not honest with herself in her beliefs.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Even Steven

      Sounds like a FAKE blogger for the christian right went "Atheist" just to "turn."

      I CALL SHENANIGANS!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm not sure I agree with you on the demographics of the demographics of the changes. But, assuming you are correct, wouldn't the rarer event be accorded more interest in the scientific community? What sort of extra normal causation must exist for someone to develop into a Christian?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Solitairedog

      It does appear that she decided to throw logic right out the window. Her words, without the article-bs: "I had one thing that I was most certain of, which is that morality is something we have a duty to,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.” Her premise is bull and her conclusion is that it is a belief to which she clings with no proof whatsoever.Whatever her motivations, she has lost her respect for her own brain. That's what I call "brainwashing."

      June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  16. Solitairedog

    I did not see, in the article, a mention of the religion with which she was raised. Is she simply returning to the Catholic Church?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  17. jon custer

    why is it news that one aithest converts to a religion and not news that athiests/non-religious is the fastest growing group in america? this has little to no significance to anything sadly =[ she isnt a prominent athiest either. call me when hawkings, AronRa, thunderfoot, bionicdance, or the amazingathiest turn christian of anyone from the athiest experiance turn christian then it might be news worthy.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And yet atheist pointed to evidence of Christianity's invalidity when a backwoods, unknown preacher turned atheist because his flawed theology failed. The word parsimonious comes to mind. Call me when Billy Graham or Pope Benedict becomes an atheist. On second though, never mind. The whole world can become atheist and I will stand on the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  18. Answer

    Who is she? don't know.

    I can take a guess as to why this person became religious.. fear.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I can see how an atheist could become fearful.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Blessed

      You're very right...fear as in hell or Heaven!!! I chose Heaven too!! You really may want to consider it yourself!!!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  19. A dose of reality

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
    (a) Astronomy;
    (b) Medicine;
    (c) Economics; or
    (d) Christianity
    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
    (a) historian;
    (b) geologist;
    (c) NASA astronomer; or
    (d) Christian
    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;
    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
    (d) your average Christian
    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
    (a) Architecture;
    (b) Philosophy;
    (c) Archeology; or
    (d) Religion
    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
    (d) All of the above.
    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;
    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;
    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
    (d) my religious belief.
    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
    (b) A mafia boss
    (c) A drug pusher; or
    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
    What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
    (d) All of the above.
    The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • G

      Want nothingness, dissolve in nothingness! Your loved one are all nothing!!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • cataclysmicstar

      I love you.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Lesli Jeffrey

      The Bang Theory was at first thought to be too Christian a theory – maybe because the author is a Catholic Priest.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  20. McJesus

    WHO IS THIS? Never heard of this person. Who paid for this PR stunt?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • mayorkl

      Smart money is on the Catholic Church...

      June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • G

      I paid for this PR stunt DIRECTLY from my PayPal account. Like it?!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I love how if a believer express even doubt the atheists jump for joy over the "awakening of the human mind" But if a non-believer comes to revelation it cannot be genuine. Do you people even recognize your bias?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • sam

      'You people'? Seriously?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 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.