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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. Nicholas Delavega

    Well that is pathetic. I hope she gets her senses about her sooner rather than later. The problem I have with her decision is what she says it is based on; morality. If she would only look at what the philosophical, and more importantly scientific answers are to the origins or morality, she's see that it is simply a product of evolution, as is neoteny, altruism, hair color and teeth. It isn't a mystery at all, but she quit looking for the answers, though they are readily available to be found. It really is just sad that she decided to quit using her whole brain and just follow her amygdyla into obliviousness.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Consultofactus

      The challenge that atheists face is two-fold; If it is true that we, and everything else in the universe is some kind of cosmic fluke then there is no right or wrong, no immoral or moral. You and your loved ones are merely unfortunate lumps of meat awaiting a certain and ignominous end. What you do with with life is without any consequence bet it considered helpful or harmful to those you contact – because they are as utterly devoid of purpose as you. The second is where most "atheists" can be found....unwilling to accept the logical consequence of their utterly meanigless lives as atheists, they cite humanity as being self-transcendent, in the end, this becomes a religion with themselves as its god – think Nietzsche.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • IO

      Nick- There is nothing pathetic about her exercising her free choice, even if she is wrong.. isn't that what u advocate?

      and oh consultofactus- humans are born with an instinctive sense of right and wrong, how did you assume that there is no right or wrong "if" the atheist world view is true?
      many atheist live very moral lives so how did you come to your conclusion?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  2. mlsantosh

    Funny how in USA religion card is played by rich and very rich whenever convenient .. but if a true word of god, to spread your wealth is uttered by a president, he is a commie a socialist a fascist all in the same line 🙂 that makes Jesus a commie 🙂 too ::)

    June 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Sailor101

      Your point is muddled and unclear. Please rephrase and repost a comment which is a bit more comphrehensible.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Consultofactus

      You are half right – Jesus did say feed the poor, heal the sick, clothe the naked....he wanted us to do this from our hearts and our free wills – NOT by the force of an over-arching government threat to take civil and/or criminal action if you choose not to – that will be reconciled by Him.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • IO

      he also did not require "government action" to prevent "sins" like abortions etc (if you think that's what they are in the first place)

      June 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    Now that she's Catholic, I hope she follows what the Bible says and keeps quiet from now on, especially about religion.
    "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
    I Corinthians 14: 34, 35
    "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."
    1 Timothy 2:11-14

    June 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  4. CJ

    CNN IS TABLOID. They know it, and they're fine with it because it's paying off in spades. I come here only to see what misinformation people are filling their brains with. If you read this, i hope you will consider that there are far more relevant, honest and interesting news organizations that report using reason and evidence and not the sensationalism of CNN and Fox. CBC news for example.

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

      In the US all journalism is yellow journalism. Being a business first and news agency second will do that to you.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      For all you dyslexics out there, the CBC is the Canadian Broadcorping Castration.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • sam

      LOL Doc

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • IO

      hey doc don't fake mun of dyslesix... lool

      June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  5. Rainer Braendlein

    If Libresco would know, what a bad religious club she has joined, she would become impotent.

    Pope Gregory VII (a little bit more dangerous than Benedict XVI)

    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 3:32 pm |
  6. rad666

    Hey, more money in preaching God's word. Look at all the wealthy TV preachers preaching to their flocks.

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

      Be NOT Deceived! The wealth of the nations is small against the wealth of the on HIGH! Be not of impoverished spirits and and empty hand but WEALTH in either should you hold! The TRUTH and the AMAZING light of the enemies of Begel and the cider presser of the GREATEST sin. Know him as LUCIFER and the rising MOON!

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

    Notice how so many atheists just can't stand the thought of losing one of theirs to the other side. They ridicule her and find it unbearable that she might have her own perfectly sound reasons (and, no, I don't mean landing a husband, which is more cheap vitriol). The atheists treat their conviction with a lot more rigidity than most believers do. It's funny how they don't notice their own intolerance exactly mirrors what they profess to disdain.

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

      Actually, I'm disappointed in the response of most atheists here – I am an atheist myself.

      However, I will say that I think her foundations for atheism were probably weak to begin with. I don't know that as fact, and certainly don't proport that she wasn't an atheist. But I suspect that the reasons for her atheism were probably poor arguments to begin with.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • blinky

      ialsoagree, Why start out with that prejudice? Why not say, instead, that people are not all alike and take different paths to answering very tough, big and personal questions?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Scott

      One of "theirs"? Atheists tend to believe in the individual, and don't tend to claim ownership over others or participate in groupthink.

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

      The rigidity and intolerance you refer to is because all religions are based on such a transparent "fairy tale" that it is difficult to fathom that people could be so ignorant. This is not meant as an insult, just an observation. In Christianity, most point to the bible as the "word of God," yet, the facts are (admitted by Christians who are capable of acknowledging the obvious) it is written by men. It has been proven that the Bible has morphed over the millennia into something far different than from where it came. The most obvious reason for this is that the printing press was not invented until 1440. This means that for about 70% of the time that Christianity has been around, the Bible was reproduced by scribes who changed much of what they were transcribing, intentionally, or not (see "Misquoting Jesus, written by Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at University of North Carolina). That makes it very difficult for thinking people to accept as a basis for believing. There are many examples in the Bible of very non-Christian values (as they are now accepted) that the adherents are either ignorant of, or choose to ignore (such as who can be your slave, and how to treat them when they don't do what they are told). This makes it difficult for non-believers to accept strictly on the basis of "faith." When the Emperor marches down the street naked and all of the followers are raving about his beautiful wardrobe, it is difficult not to be like the little boy on the side of the road and scream: "what are you talking about, his junk is hanging out."

      June 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  8. lipe

    If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.
    – G. K. Chesterton

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

      He must have been a believer to think that.

      How about this: if there had been no man, there would be no gods.

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

      If there were no believers in god in such huge numbers, there would be no need for a label of those that don't believe.

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

      LOL... Typical 'logic' from someone who believes in pregnant virgins and talking snakes...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • snowboarder

      i wonder what his basis was for such a statement.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • lipe

      How about this, if there’s no god, then I can have a world of my own where anything I want to do is not bound by moral laws.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  9. nojinx

    "Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on."

    I found the problem: she thinks facts are a matter of opinion.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  10. Metta World War

    If I were a girl who looked like a man, I'd convert to anything to marry a guy too

    June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  11. Yeah Baby!

    So many comments generated by one decision. Seems like Christians are saying "Welcome!" while atheists are saying "She's stupid." And who represents the more loving group?

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

      The christians are desperate.

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

      Yeah, lets all pick one thing that a small population from a group participated in, then base the entire morality of that group on the few actions of a small population.

      So, how about that KKK?

      How about those crusades?

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

      The one's who don't say you'll be burned alive and tortured for eternity for making the wrong decision.

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

      well in one of her latest blog posts she states that she is BI so lets see what her new friends think of her when they get wind of that. I dont think her atheists friends would care at all...

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

      "Who represents the truth?" may be the better question.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Metta World War

      Atheists are just questioning her being an atheist in the first place.... it just seems like she was really an agnostic but labeling herself as an atheist...

      If it were the other way around, Christians would be saying "she's stupid" and "going to hell".... Your comment alone screams ego disguised as humility.... as a Christian, aren't you supposed to pray for us atheists and not condemn us?? so yea, you're definitely not the more "loving" group at all

      June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive.

      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 a god or gods.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Dave

      Well, Christians would have melted her flesh on a stake for converting to Atheism if we still lived in the era of Church rule. All atheists are doing are questiong her rationality.

      So I don't know, who do you think is more loving?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Scott

      Who represents the more loving group? The one that "appears" to be more loving is the one who thinks it has won. If the "welcome" was genuine, it would have been directed solely at her... not trumpetted in a CNN article.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • IO

      in the words of Rodney king "Can we all just get along?"

      June 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  12. Melissa

    So she gave in to Christian pressure. How enlightening. In other words, she was never atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      Aye..you tell them who is or is not a true atheist Melissa.

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

      If she didn't believe in a god/gods before her conversion, then she was an atheist. She just wasn't a very skeptical person, or she just wants a smoother beginning to a life with her boyfriend. Who knows the real reasons except for her, but if she didn't believe in a god/gods, then she was an atheist.

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

      That makes no sense. If she did not believe in the existence of a diety, she was an atheist. She later came to believe in a diety and now she's a theist. If someone goes from being a theist to an atheist were they never really a theist? The point is, change happens and the change does not negate the previous reality. I thought atheists were rational?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Dlioder

      There's no requirement of skepticism, knowledge, or rationality to be an atheist, merely disbelief.

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

      Well, you're an atheist because there is zero evidence of an existence in god. There is the same amount of evidence today that there was yesterday i.e. zero ... so yeah she was never really an atheist since no new information has been brought to the table. That's what makes her atheist claim subject to disbelief

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      The very essence of everything, matter, did not always exist. It was created. How was it created? I understand and accept the big bang theory as how our current universe was created. But the singularity from which the big bang eminated had mass and contained matter. It could not have appeared from nothing. There was a beginning. . .an act of creation.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  13. Dave

    She converted to the dominate religion of her locality and selected her significant other's religion to be the one true religion.

    Color me surprised.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      i am sorry but my box of crayons did not come with that color

      June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • sam

      @chair – it's probably 'burnt sienna'.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  14. Revelation

    traitor

    June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  15. BeNotDeceived

    Be NOT Deceived! The way and the LIGHT and the moon is setting! I am the BESSUM of Malta and the light SPREADS as the MOON water melts! Do not associate with FALSE prophets and avoid BEGEL of the CORN the associate of the FIEND that tempted our holy parents with the cider tree and DRANK of their sin!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  16. CanOnTo

    "At the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass." Well, sure, if killing neighbours who work on Sunday or disobedient teenagers is moral to you, then go right ahead and believe whatever you want.

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

    Never heard of her. Don't care. Religion is a mental illness.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  18. Delusions 3:15

    Read her idiotic blogs. She's all "like fer sure man". "I just heard about, like, fer sure, like this Greek Idealism man, an like, I think there really IS a "chair" out there somewhere". OMG. Who the hell cares ? Maybe Katey Perry. The Roman Church is welcome to have the fool. She'll fit right in.

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

      I did read them, and they aren't like that at all. In fact, I was pretty disgusted with the rampant snobbiness and pretentious intellectualism of her posts.

      Thinks pretty highly of herself, that one.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      Jeesh, insults all around. One implies she is an airhead and the other that she is snobbish.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • CanOnTo

      Hey, leave Katy Perry alone! Katy rocks!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  19. WOW

    Ha Ha another one bites the dust LOL.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      And in other news... One-third of all Catholics leave the church.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  20. ChristianMom

    God works in mysterious ways! Believing in God and knowing there is a higher power is so different than going to a church and getting wrapped up in the politics in a church. I'm a believer and I pray, however the church isn't for me. I don't think there is a God... I know there is a God... and he serves us all.

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

      OK... You put yourself out there. Now don't run away.

      How do you know there is a god?

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

      She ran away.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • ImWithJeebus

      You can't know for sure, that's why we call it faith.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      Your connection with your faith is a very personal thing and that is something to be respected. It does not need a news article. It does not need a billboard. It does not even need a bumper sticker, and it does not need to be explained. I am glad you commented here.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:37 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.