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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. Jason

    I was born Catholic/Unitarian and could have been perceived as "devout" for a while. Let's put it this way, reality took hold and I realized that what you believe is your own personal choice, however, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Mohammed, Buddha and the many other deities and prophets out there just want us to live our lives as good people. Once you realize that, it doesn't matter what or who you think will be there at the end of your time on Earth. It's what you do with the time here that really matters. If the Christian God does exist, and what the Bible says is true, then as long as you were a good person your sins will be forgiven and you will be welcomed. Funny, how all the major religions collectively have this tenet in their doctrine, but few of their followers in the world seem to actually practice it. They mostly seem to be about appearances and money. I wonder how that idolatry will be dealt with by whatever redeemer they believe in? I guess we'll see. Or, we won't and it really is the end and there's nothing. Either way, I'm sticking with the be-a-good-person thing. Just seems right, either way the end goes.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Linda

      exactly!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • mlsantosh

      Exactly be good do good !! if there is an after life, you already reserved a place if not ..you had a good life here on earth with people who you have helped blessing you ..Religion for cultural and humanity purposes is all good .Religion for the word of god or fear of god leads to wars ..

      June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • coloradom

      So then who decides what is good and what is not?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • mlsantosh

      Common sense should be enough to distinguish between good and bad .. if another person is getting hurt by your actions it is bad .. simple . I go by that principle .. I may not completely eliminate not hurting others but i make sure i don't do it deliberately ..

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What if the other person is Osama bin Laden? Or the guy molesting your child?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  2. NFLD thought

    I guess we will near soon the guilt that drove her to this.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  3. Fred Flintstone

    How confused can you get?

    Atheist blogger on a religious website.

    Title to her blog referes to here boyfriend/relationship twice, her insecurities twice ("geeky", "picks fights"), and atheism only once.

    Just happens to discover that the best source of "Truth" and "Moral Law" are ever so coincidentally that same religion as her boyfriend.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Jack

    This is not as uncommon as people would like to believe, I have known many atheists who are now not only Christians but leaders in the faiths. I beleive its the result of asking ones self many more questions, the typical christian relies on there upbringing and simple faith...Atheists on the other hand have to look into everything much more deeply and often but not always they find Christianity fits their morals and answers their questions.

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

      I just do not find this to be true. Maybe just in your circle of friends?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Derek

      I know many religious leaders who are now atheists..

      June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jack

      As a concert promoter my circle of friends is in the thousands and its really not uncommon... Everyones looking for answers and atheism doesnt offer anything but negatives or denials. Its not a very promising future and its easy to see why someone would choose faith and a future beyond this life over the atheist belief.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Tim Boyer

      Jack, I agree with you. Devout atheists that come to a saving faith often make the best witnesses.

      Take care and God Bless. <

      June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • laurab68

      I will be an agnostic athiest until the day I die. I am a good person, I try to help others when I can, but I have too many issues with being a "Christian" to ever believe in the Bible, the Church and everything they stand for. I am not a sheep, I prefer to make my own decisions on life instead of being indocrinated into any particular religion. I raise my children the same way.
      For myself, I view religion and cults as one and the same. Both are taught to believe in a strict sense of principals or rules, that each is the correct one and you are taught not to stray.....
      I have had too many experiences with ghosts or sprits to disbelieve that it's just lights out when we die, but in regards to heaven, hell or pergatory, for me it's a "I'll believe it when I see it".

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  5. Virgil Cain

    Quitter! Quitters never prosper!

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

      Spoken like a real fool

      June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  6. JAEZUS

    All she wants to do is MAKE MORE MONEY. Way to go, religion, you did it again.

    Worthless human being.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  7. An Atheist

    One word

    Boyfriend.

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

      Two words.

      Wants diamond ring.

      Ok, that's three ...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If so, we'll see how well the relationship and the faith hold up when her priest tells her she should stop living/sleeping with him out of wedlock. She has embarked on a difficult path that one should not choose lightly

      June 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  8. JT

    Most atheist have a better moral compass than so called Christians especially the Catholic church. Very few Catholics actually practice what they preach. She will eventually come to her senses.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jack

      I have never found that atheists are very moral people, actually most I have known have been liars and hostile individuals.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Ron

      Funny never seen an atheist missionary feeding the poor? This isn't the first time you have stuck your foot in your big mouth though is it?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Derek

      right and being prejudice against religions especially Catholics demonstrates your point so greatly. There are bad people every where atheist and religious alike. I see no greater lack of morals in the religious sect as atheists.

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

      Ron, come on. It doesn't require a missionary to do that. There are plenty of good people of no particular faith that do good for others. Without calling themselves missionaries. Without expecting celestial brownie points.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      sam. Can you name any? You know like St. Aquinas, St. Jerome, St Thomas, St. Paul, I could go on but you get the idea. Where is this great pantheon of atheistic humanists?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  9. Anon

    What a moron!!!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  10. Journey

    Message to the GOP: your using of multinational corporations to solve national problems, callous treatment of the poor, war on science will come back to haunt you. There is no hiding it! I don't care what your leaders say.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • sam

      Journey was an awesome band once. And that is just as on topic as your post.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I saw Journey. They weren't that awesome

      June 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  11. superpaul3000

    I bet CNN had to search hard to find someone who actually went from an atheist to a christian instead of the usual other way around. Most people that I've heard of making this regressive step have suffered some sort of brain damage either due to substance abuse or some sort of blunt trauma. Besides, if its morals she's after then why not become a christian atheist? I see nothing wrong with that. Follow the moral teachings of Jesus without believing in some mystical ghost like being.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Because maybe she's more honest than you superpaul3000?

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

      Freakin' A, I couldn't have said it better myself.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • superpaul3000

      What do you think I'm not being honest about?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • junior

      That heresy has been around since before the Council of Nicea

      June 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  12. rosh7674

    In next 500 words she will convert to islam. Cool Thanks for hard work our Catholic compatriot

    June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  13. Brad

    Love conquers all. Even common sense.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Ding ding ding

      We have a winner.

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

      I find it hard to believe she was ever a true atheist. It sounds like she was really an agnostic. No real atheist would ever convert to Catholicism. An agnostic may– or you may find God, but not such a radical, oppressive religion. This could even be a set up to make herself and her blog popular. I just don't buy it.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Now it's Jen committing the No True Scotsman fallacy. Second one in 6 minutes!
      You atheists are no better at logic than the religious who post here.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @b4bigbang

      And yet you make a generalization fallacy, good job. And Jen, "true atheist" is a non-sensical term. Anything short of belief in a god, and you are atheist, that's all there is to it. There is no requirement of a certain level of knowledge about logic or arguments, just anything short of belief.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      You know b4, you're really good at making yourself an irrelevant tool.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Actually HawaiiGuest, although i should've said "it appears", I must say that my comment looks valid right now.
      I've been posting on Belief for quite some time now and i dont recall ever seeing 2 of the same fallacies committed in such a short period of time.
      I guess i'm just a bit stunned, seeing as how so many atheist posts were claiming intellectual superiority until this article.
      You atheists must be a bit stunned at the news of your 'sister' suddenly turning into a 'moron' (as one of the posters put rather succinctly).

      June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      JAEZUS

      All she wants to do is MAKE MORE MONEY. Way to go, religion, you did it again.

      Worthless human being.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      An Atheist

      One word

      Boyfriend.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      astuartgirl

      Two words.

      Wants diamond ring.

      Ok, that's three ...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |

      Three ad hominems in a row!
      Keep up the bad work atheists!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @b4bigbang

      I cannot know the reasons for her atheism, or her conversion except what is written inthe article. I never considered her my "sister" because I am not related to her, and the other use, the use you were implying, is a religious thing. And I don't consider her a moron now, unless she were to say something moronic.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  14. CNNuthin

    Has anyone on here ever met this "God"? I just want to know if he is as much a massive jerk and psycho as this book describes him as? Feeding children to lions, encouraging incest and polygamy, even let's his own son get murdered in his name. If I ever met him, I'd probably tell him that he is horrible and disgusting and if he were on Earth, he'd be arrested and put on trial for his crimes against humanity.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Ron

      "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God"......."the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing"

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

      "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. "

      June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You should tell him so! Tell Him every day! Keep at it until you are certain that he either hears you or refuses to listen.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  15. Derek

    I don't see how anyone can go from not believing in God to doing so just because of needing a moral compass. She obviously was not a true atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Fallacy Alert: Derek committed the "No True Scottsman" fallacy.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Corr: "Scotsman" with one 't'.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      As an atheist, I have to call out that obvious use of a "no true scotsman" fallacy.

      You nor I can claim she was not an atheist, "true" or otherwise – whatever that's suppose to mean.

      What we *can* say, however, is that it's unlikely her atheism was based on the solid arguments and opinions that many atheists have come to realize.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Derek

      I am a True Scotsman..

      June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Ron

      Spoken like a true fool

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  16. mlsantosh

    Seriosuly .. What does morals have to do with religion .. I don't sleep with my sister and I am not religious .. I don't steal from my neighbor and I am not religious .. She was always a catholic or maybe going through some bad financial situation "the church had to bail her out " ..

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

      Exactly.. I do not need religion to have morals.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • coloradom

      Ok, even if you don't believe in God or any religion, morals has a lot to do with it. Think about it this way: how do we define morality if there's no base for it. For example, do you define based on what most think is right? Do you define it based on what you think is right? What if someone disagrees – who is right? In religion, someone greater than us makes that decision so that we don't have to. There is then one specific right and wrong vs. everyone believing something different. In looking at history, what the majority believe isn't necessarily what's accepted later on. So was it moral then but not moral now? Is that even possible? Each person is free to believe what they want to believe, but morals and religion are completely intertwined.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Derek

      Most morals come from a history of religion. Even if you don't believe in a religion or God more than likely the morals you identify do come from a religion at some point that then became the norm for society. So, correct you don't have to be religious to have good morals, but for some it helps them find a reason to be moral. Some people need more than just be moral for the sake of being moral they need a purpose for it. Religion gives this to some people.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  17. Solitairedog

    I tried some of those words and you're right! That explains a lot. Thanks.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  18. DC

    Passionate atheists are closer to conversion than dispassionate agnostics.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      What about passionate agnostic atheists?

      Your comment seems ignorant because you seem to distinguish betwen agnostic and atheist, as though they are mutually exclusive.

      One goes to what you know (gnosticism means "to know" – or as it was used in ancient times, "to have knowledge of god") and one goes to what you believe (theist means to "believe in god" or "a god").

      Agnostic means the opposite of "to know" or "to have knowledge of god" – it means "to NOT have knowledge of god."

      Atheist means the opposite of "theism" – "not to have a belief in a god."

      Therefor the two are not mutually exclusive: agnostic atheist means "to not have knowledge of a god or gods, and to not have a belief in a god or gods".

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  19. Dave

    Does not seem like it some times but this is America. Welcome to the faith of your choice.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • jon custer

      +1. i am a athiest and i agree with this, to each thier own. keep your religion out of my life and i will keep my non-religion out of yours. i wish people would understand, however, that asking for fair and equal fourm and equal rights IS NOT persecution of thier religion. What is persecution is expecting to have your religion or your views trump someone elses rights. for example school prayer, i know it is a hot button issue but its a fact, school lead prayer isolates children who are of differant faiths. No child should feel isolated because some one else wnats to feel good about themselfs. let the religious people pray before school not in the class room. it dosnt belong there. we need to stop attempting to forge laws based on religious books, and forge laws based on common sense and ethics. Morality is subjective, morals are differant for everyone, morality is a poor reason to forge a new law, some moral codes say you can stone to death some one for a minor offense. this dosnt pass the common sense test. if we would all understand Morality is personal commen sense, logic, reason, and ethics are universale we would get along alot better.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  20. Rainer Braendlein

    Pope Gregory VII more obviously dangerous than little Benedict

    A lot of people still may know that the popes had more influence than today in the Middle Ages or dark age (this age lasted from 1076 to 1742 a. D., if you take the pope’s supremacy as indicator). However, they had not merely more influence than today, but they were the highest secular rulers and ecclesiastical rulers at the same time. This was an enormous concentration of power. The first pope, who really presumed to be pope-emperor or superemperor was Pope Gregory VII (1020-1085 a. D.). Below you can read some paragraphs of the docu-ment “Dictatus Papae“, which was probably drafted by him.

    Pope Gregory VII was one of the first men, mixing politics with religion. Like Muhammad he filled the world with blood, in order to increase his earthly power, honour and riches. Muhammad and the pope used religion as smoke screen for their malice:

    Docu-ment “Dictatus Papae” (by Pope Gregory VII, the Antichrist):

    (Extract)

    8. That the pope alone may use the imperial insignia.

    9. That of the pope alone all princes shall kiss the feet!!!

    10. That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches.

    11. That this is the only name in the world.

    12. That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors.

    19. That he himself may be judged by no one.

    That is without limit: These papal laws are still valid! It’s only that the today secular powers are too strong at the moment and the pope cannot behave like he wishes to behave. I hope the US will recover economically, otherwise the papal monster will seize rule again.

    Joke: “I believe in God, the Pope, the Allmighty!”

    Note: I guess, longterms the papacy and Islam will increasingly get displaced by the Beast (a community of godless states, ruled by the Arch-Blasphemer). That is, what we can observe today (states and their populations become more and more profane or secular), and moreover it is predicted in the book of Revelation of the Bible that finally the whole world will worship the Arch-Blasphemer (the head of the Beast) or the Wicked.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Seriously

      Lmbo...the Pope? Really? He only has power over Catholics, and last I checked there were far more Protestants and atheists in the U.S. than Catholics. Oh, maybe that's why the brown people from south of the border are illegally entering the country, it's a papal plot to take over America!!! Bahahahahahahaha, right. Up the meds, or the voltage buddy.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Seriously – You do know that the Catholic church is by far the world's largest Christian denomination don't you? And can you seriously deny that the world's governments are coalescing into The New World Order? What Rainier is talking about is the jockeying for power between Christianity, Islam and World Government. It's happening right before our eyes.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 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.