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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. nojinx

    I hope she did this for the right reasons and not simply because of her desires.

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

      Catholic boyfriend = catholic mother of catholic boyfriend = conversion

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • birch please

      Smurf = winning.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      smurf= a lot of guessing

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • sam

      Not a bad guess, though. She's already saying (per the article) that she has issues with parts of the faith. So...kind of a weird choice, if she doesn't agree with some of the basics.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Jesse from KC

    I think, if needing a moral compass is the reason for switching to any religion, you're just not doing enough research. Most religious laws are based off of laws that are much older than the religious texts they appear in. The Code of Hamurrabi is one such. And while many of those codes don't fit todays society, neither do many of the religious laws found in said texts...

    I'm not going to go so far as to say that her boyfriend converted her, like many people on here have... I understand it, as an agnostic and not an atheist... There is a human need that is filled by religion that is hard to be met elsewhere. The comfort of what happens when we die... I've spent my entire life without that comfort, and many times I've "converted", only to find myself changing my mind the more I talked to people who were actually religious... No discussion, just acceptance...

    June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • traviskurtz

      The question isn't what is right or wrong; the question is what ontological bases do you have in providing right and wrong claims?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  3. birch please

    Thats fine, just make sure it does not influence your political choices.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  4. bob

    do you atheists who claim superior intelligence even read philosophy? she's got it right. atheists have no rational basis for morality. to claim both morality & reason is a non-sequiter. atheists who claim morality can't claim reason. atheists who claim reason can't claim morality.

    to claim both is hypocrisy or confusion. probably both.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • birch please

      Yes we read the philosophical branch known as ethics....

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

      you're a dumb t-wat

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • sam

      Oh bob.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • bob

      yeah, ethics. that branch of philosophy that can't answer if it even exists, but produces volumes of books pretending it can.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • birch please

      Do you exist bob?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Smurfette

      @ birch – of course bob exists – I looked up "t-wat" on Wiki and there he was

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  5. What a fraud...

    There is one fatal flaw in her reasoning...

    Morality is doing what's right no matter what you're told...
    Religion is doing what you're told no matter what's right.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Way too generalized there chief. Not all religious people ignore their internal moral compass just because of what a book says.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Well.....

      True "Morality is doing what's right no matter what you're told..."
      WRONG "Religion is doing what you're told no matter what's right."

      June 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      "WRONG "Religion is doing what you're told no matter what's right."":

      That is PRECISELY what religion is... American Christians are a perfect example of it....

      June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      You are still wrong fraud.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  6. QS

    Why does it seem so surprising to religious people that we Atheists would be just as skeptical about someone making a claim like this as we are about the religion itself?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Well.....

      I’m not surprised. You should be skeptical. Why do atheists think religious people should have no doubt or question their faith? They think we are no longer true believers, did it ever occur to atheists God wants us to question and not follow him blindly?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  7. cc

    Many blessings to you on your new journey, Leah. It's not an easy path you've chosen but I'm sure you will find your way.
    May the Word be a lamp for your feet and a Light to guide your path....

    June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • birch please

      Its the easier path, thats for sure.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Dave

      Yeah, being a christian in america is a pretty difficult road

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

      I agree that using the 'word' as a torch would be a good start.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  8. traviskurtz

    Drumcode; so microscopes tell us where morality came from? That's just silly.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  9. nojinx

    How would other theists feel if she had converted to a form of Islam? Worse or better than Catholicism?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  10. ShesOnTheChristianPayroll

    She's a faker people... no atheist with half a brain would convert to Catholicism of all things using such lazy reasoning..

    June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      Aye..you tell them.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • traviskurtz

      You're arrogant or autistic; maybe both

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • ShesOnTheChristianPayroll

      Arrogant or autistic.. nice, I'm glad that you have something intelligent to bring to the conversation.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • cc

      In fact, a very famous atheist did convert to Catholicism in the 20th century and is now a a Patron Saint of Europe. Edith Stein, also known as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • ShesOnTheChristianPayroll

      You misunderstand me.. I am simply saying that this is lazy reasoning. I don't believe she is really an Atheist. I am not saying it's unreasonable for people to convert to Catholicism. Just... in this case, it's fishy. She blogs for a Christian website as an Atheist... say what?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  11. richard

    Who?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  12. Melissa Robbins

    You were never EVER a true Atheist then... If you ever doubted your beliefs, its because you were AGNOSTIC... just another confused soul making a bad name for Atheists. While I am sure the blog was good, and pro-atheism, I am not convinced that this person was ever truly who they said they were. I have studied religions, I have contemplated the reasoning behind them. I have come to understand the basic principles behind why a person could believe. But never once, have I ever faltered in my own belief that there is no god, no deity, no heaven or hell. I am a true Atheist!!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Metta World War

      this

      June 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      Aye...you tell them Melissa....you tell them who is a true atheist!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Kae

      Agnostic, atheists all worship Satan.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • birch please

      Hahaha, yes an atheists who does not believe in any religion, worships the one anti-god in one religion.

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

      Being a true atheist does not require one to have a closed mind – that is, to be closed to the possibility one might change one's mind. You can believe something, completely and truly, one day, and not believe it the next.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  13. nojinx

    Well, better that she embraced more than one faith than to spend her whole life believing only one thing.

    It is rather unusual for this to happen outside of State and Federal Penitentiaries, though.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  14. HamsterDancer

    I see lots of hard-core atheists are having a rough time with a well-educated non-believer changing. I have no problem with it. Human beings are alot more complicated than simple black & white on this subject.There is a large amount of gray area that most people in the world float in on the subject of spirituality. It's not the old joke of being "a little bit pregnant". People go through their whole lives wavering back and forth on the subject. Very few of us reach a rock-solid, unwavering decision.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  15. Jasin

    I would have to think the increase in traffic her blog has rec'ved would have something to do with inspiring her to "convert".

    June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  16. Truth Wins!

    To Leah:

    Congratulations! Hope you find your anchor and faith in the one true God .

    Remember this is not about any denomination but it about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Religions=Ponzi scheme

      Your usename does not coincide with your statement.

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

    Good for her. If this makes her happy, then that's enough for me.

    As for my future, I'm happy to be an atheist with high moral standards that I did not glean from the Bible or any other religious text. My moral compass was set both internally (I know right from wrong) and from my fallen away Catholic father and atheist mother.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  18. Dandy

    My guess is that she just wants to get hitched.. and becoming Catholic is very convenient...

    June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • OOO

      No, No, No...Really. She now believes that a virgin birth happened, that 1/3 of god was her son and that he died but came back to life and floated to space.
      And she can't use birth control any more.

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

      It's actually quite easy for an atheist and a Catholic to get married in the Church. I know because I'm doing it. So that's not the reason.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @OOO but a virgin birth DID happen. The basic materials of the universe simply popped into existence. Then, another miracle: under perfect simultaneous conditions of temperature, time, pressure, and light, these materials came together and produced proteins and amino acids which were encoded by DNA. No action was apparently required from an outside intelligent influence. This produced life on this planet. Now THAT'S a virgin birth.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • sam

      @catholic engineer – really? Don't forget the part where back then, cesaerean section was also referred to as virgin birth.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  19. nimesh

    As an agnostic I can't fathom how someone can go from being irreligious to a believer or even vice versa.
    Brain injury could cause that conversion. I'm not being facetious, I just can't understand that.
    The only reason I'm agnostic and not atheist is because I consider it arrogant for a person with limited information to rule something out totally (in this case a supreme god of the universe.)

    June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      I agree with your reasoning for being agnostic. I am, myself. I don't see how any human can prove or disprove God. It's not like he's taking requests for confirmation.

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

      This is what bothers me about agnostics. That somehow there needs to be total and absolute proof for something to be proven. If something is said to be 99.9999999999% accurate then most people consider that to be true enough. Compared to say religion which has precisely ZERO evidence to back up any of its claims. Not having the full list of evidence may prevent some people from stating what the truth is, but that doesnt prevent us from stating what ISNT the truth. In this case, god.

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

      Atheists don't "rule something out totally."

      In fact, you ARE an atheist, you just don't know it.

      Theism means to "believe in a god or gods."

      Do you believe in a god or gods?

      No?

      Guess what, you're an atheist! Atheist is the opposite of theist, it means "not to believe in a god or gods."

      What it does NOT mean is to "believe there are no gods." That is a misunderstanding that many people assign to atheism, but has never actually been a part of the words usage (even in ancient times, atheists were those without god, while other terms were used to refer to those that BELIEVED there was no gods).

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      By the way, I'm an agnostic atheist. I don't think it's possible to know if god does or doesn't exist, but I don't happen to believe in one myself.

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

      you couldn't have said it better... right on !!!

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

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    ― Marcus Aurelius

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

      Atheists worship Satan.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Atheists worship Satan."

      Lying is a sin. Duh!

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

      @Kae you can't worship something you don't believe exists. 😉

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 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.