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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. BigJoeRice

    Thats OK; a few touchy feely catechism sessions with her local priest and she'll be be an ex-Catholic quicker than you can say Romney is honest.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Smurfette

      I can't say Romney is honest. Nope. I tried, but – nope,

      June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  2. Aaron

    Religion does not hold a monopoly on morality. Neither do atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Tammy Wynette

      No atheist ever made that claim

      June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  3. pt6071

    You have an innate sense of right and wrong the way you have an innate fear of the dark–human psychology is an evolutionary condition. You don't need God for that.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  4. mandarax

    The Christian excuse is typically "Well, then she was never a real Christian in the first place." So, I guess that apples right? She must have never been a REAL atheist to begin with. *sarcasm*

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

    She had an obscure "atheist" blog on a religious website? Clearly a staged "conversion".

    June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  6. jimbo

    She doesn't sound too bright.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      A month ago...when she was atheist...would you have still said that? I doubt it you hypocrite.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  7. QS

    How anybody could even consider looking to any religion in this day and age as any kind of moral standard is beyond me.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I suspect you are correct. It is beyond you.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • pt6071

      It's entirely wrong to ask "Does this religion justify my morals?" The proper question is "Is the religion correct?"

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Author Charlieg

      I wish I could say it is the good example of us Catholics, but...

      We have some work to do. The strangest thing about God is that if he does not come up to you, direct and personal, no proof is sufficient. When he does, and he has in my life, no proof is required. God is transcendent. To be transcendent is to transcend logic. Logic is words. Therefore, God transcends words.

      God is imminent. The Jewish name for God, HaShem, the Tetragrammon, means, the Personal Name. "Personal," imminent. When he touches us, it is a very personal touch. The Greek word, "Therapy," means to touch. When we are touched, and yes that can be taken two ways, no other proof is required. When God touches us, we want to reach out and touch others, making them better, healthier, happier. Yes, that means touching, and not pushing. That means compassion and not force. That is where the conservatives have it all wrong.

      I hope that answers the question.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  8. hanna

    Why equate morality with christianity or any other religion
    Isn't one more moral if he/she has an inner desire to be so, than the one who is moral in fear of "higher " punishment

    June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Answer

      Simple.. that is their angle.

      They have to use this timeless ploy because they have nothing else.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What triggers the inner desire? What if my inner desires differ from yours or my definition of "goodness" is radically different? Do we vote because truth is an exercise in democracy? Do we fight because might makes right? Were does your innate sense of right and wrong come from and why is it superior to mine?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Author Charlieg

      When the Ethnic, who do not have Torah by nature observe the prescriptions of Torah, they are a Torah for themselves even though they do not have Torah. They show that the Torah demands are written in their hearts. Their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus. Romans 2:14-16

      June 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  9. letsallBeGrateful

    Lets all be grateful she didn't go islam.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  10. Simon

    I wonder who has done more for the poor and given more to charity throughout history.....Catholics or Atheists? Gee, now that's a tough one! Lol

    June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • OOO

      Atheists were too busy hiding their non-beliefs and keeping their heads on.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Answer

      Simple call... atheists do.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I went down to the atheist food drive but no one was there. I felt so depressed I went to the atheist hospital but there wasn't one.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • OOO

      Make yourself happier then.. Every hospital without a religious name stamped on it can be considered athiest.
      Better now?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Trumpy

      EVEN IF Catholicism has done "more for the poor" or "given more to charity" than atheists over the years, even if that is true (and on a per capita basis, I'd challenge it)...it still doesn't mean the moral or spiritual teachings of divinity are correct or accurate in any way.

      It's a non-argument. Catholics could have given more to charity and STILL be 100% wrong on all things "god" related.

      June 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  11. blinky

    Organized religion is not for me, but I've never met or corresponded with an atheist who didn't come across smug, shallow and unable to keep a consistent viewpoint. Seems to me that the average Christian has more honest doubt, and I respect people who are struggling sincerely instead of putting on a pretense of knowing for sure one way or the other.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Aaron

      Those who scream loudest get the most attention. There are many atheists who could really care less whom you pray to, or that they pray to no one.

      I understand your feelings. When I moved from agnostic to atheist, I went through a very angry time. I felt lied to by those who loved me. I wanted every one to know that I was right and that if you were part of organized religion you were not only wrong but stupid too.

      Smug and shallow, as well as kind and considerate can be found in any "group" of people.

      June 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  12. Rahula G.

    Who really cares?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  13. CNNuthin

    Breaking News: Prominent Catholic blogger converts to Atheism. Janet Cross, host and blogger for the page "Jesus is the answer" today confesses that she no longer believes in Catholicism. When asked why, she responded, "Well, I asked myself, who is helping the poor, the sick and the unhappy in this day and age. And I realized, that the answer was not Jesus." From here she proceeded to ask other questions like, "If two men are in a car crash at the bottom of a cliff, and both are airlifted to the hospital, Both men use the lords name in vain during the situation though. If one man survives to the airport and gets last rites and the other does not, would they really let only one man into Heaven?" And "Why is there AIDS?" She admitted that she was more troubled with the first question. Attempts to reach Janet have gotten no replies but a message left on her answering machine informs callers that all the money she has saved from not trying to buy her way into heaven has allowed her to start enjoying life. She is currently on Vacation in Rome and admiring the architecture in the Vatican, something, she said, is often overlooked by many visitors who are just there to listen to the Pope speak about interpretations of the Bible.

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

      If she can't answer the question of why there is disease, she has no business being a Christian blogger

      June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      @Bill, After all that, the AIDS thing is what you comment on? Hahahaha

      June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  14. Brian

    Personally I think both sides have it wrong in one form or another. One thing I've found to be true and factual is the existance of the "supernatural" and by determining that fact then by proxy it is highly possible that Deities do in fact exist. However, most of today's monotheistic religions say that only thier God exists and all the others are fake. That is just as short sighted as the athiets. Me I don't follow any specific religion mostly because most of the current religions are hypocritical and make no sense in today's world. They are fine for some but not for myself.

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

      Aliens. Inter-dimensional space seeders who brought life over here to watch for entertainment purposes.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  15. HERE IT IS!!! THE VIDEO THAT CONVERTED THE VERY PROMINENT . . . uh, what's her name?

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4yBvvGi_2A&w=640&h=360]

    Proof positive!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • jon custer

      BANNANA MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111BBQ nice XD

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  16. Smurfette

    blue smurfs

    June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  17. georgeD

    Let's see what she converts to after she learns about the true history of the Roman Catholic Church.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Most Catholics are well acquainted with the history of the church both good and bad. We choose to keep the faith in spite of the human failures that have occurred because we find the elemental truths there more compelling. It's like a relationship you have with someone who isn't perfect but you love them anyway.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  18. SparkBunny

    Yeah, there is definitely a lack of journalism here. Was she raised atheist and then converted? Was she raised catholic? Did she just appear out of the ether just in time to become a catholic? Sounds fluffy to me. Don't bother asking the hard questions unless someone's becoming an atheist, right? Then you have to know their entire life story and raze them about their stance. But if you're choosing to become christian, hey that's great! (pat on the head) Go have fun!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yes, when one comes to Christ, they are accepted just as they are.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  19. Moron

    I hope her children get molested.

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

      That's just ugly. And trollish.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • OOO

      Agreed...

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

      Spoken like a true atheist!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • johnh77

      Such kind thoughts. Sure makes me want to be a part of the world of atheists.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Dave

      That is sick.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Ting

      How do you know that this piece of sheet is an atheist?

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

      well you have to admin, if she's joining the Catholic church the odds of that happening just skyrocketed

      June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  20. ProportionalResponse

    Eh. Let her go. For every one that leaves Atheism, 1,000 convert to Atheism. (I just pulled that number out of my butt, but I'm trying to make a point about the conversion wave towards Atheism.) I've never read her blog, but I'd like to know what facts she thinks lead to Christianity, and Catholicism specifically. That is one hell of a leap.

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

      Wow,
      I never tried the word hell. Just assumed the filter would catch it.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Alain B

      You don't convert to reason, you acquire it.

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

      You know I think its great that you are searching for truth but why wouldn't any person love a God who came and paid the price of your sin and mine with his own death just to bring us to him...because he knew there was no other way...What a God I serve, I love him because he first loved me.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:05 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.