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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. Yeah Baby!

    It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something which he does not at all believe exists. –Mohandas Gandhi

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

      You are correct.
      No atheist fights against god. That would be rediculous.
      So what is it then?
      It's the beliefs we are fighting against.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • chubby rain

      And the bigotry and intolerance.

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

      Mostly, it's a fight against people hurting others based on beliefs that cannot be proven.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  2. Duh

    Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. I don't know any deeper spiritual feeling that what that brings upon me. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson

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

      Love it!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Deanne

    To each their own, says this atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  4. rad666

    Since Woman was an afterthought of God's imagination, maybe she can figure out if Adam had a penis before Eve was around or did God modify him later?

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

      What do you think was telling Adam to ask god for a "friend" in the first place?

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

      amazing how many mistakes there were in a supposedly perfect creation by a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent deity.

      maybe its next attempt was better.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  5. beechwoodguy

    After watching the History Channel on Ancient Aliens, I feel as though my faith, not in God or a superior being, but religion in itself, is waning. The facts are the scientific facts, not some fairy tale we been led to believe. For me, I believe in something way bigger than us is out there, just don't know what.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  6. chrism

    I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:7

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

      But, but your GAWD will accept us at the Pearly gates since he is a forgiving gawd and we are only using the mental tools he supposedly gave us. So, no repenting is required. You shanty town of heaven is bullsh|t. Is the devil good because he punishes bad men? See how stupid your lies go?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  7. krk

    Sounds like a very smart lady! Welcome!

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

      Sounds like a lady who stopped thinking & just left it up to her feelings. Goodbye!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  8. tsant

    Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves-Matthew 7:15

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

    Too bad she went to Catholics – they are not Christians, they play at it and call themselves that, but Christ said anyone who wants to seek God would go through Him, not though bishops/archbishops/primates/cardinals/patriarchs/pope and then to Him.

    And Mary is not the one to be worshiped.

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

      You mean to tell me that other Christians don't have leaders of the church??

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

      I am Catholic and I don't worship Mary. I don't know a Catholic that does. The Nicene Creed, "I believe in ONE GOD..." and the Roman Catholic church was the beginning of Christianity. The other protestant religions didn't get their start until King Henry VIII created them. check your facts ignoramus.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Randy

      @krk – I mean to tell you that to talk to God and Jesus, we don't have to go through different levels of the church, talking to them, so that we can talk to Him. That's what the Catholics tell you – you need to go through me to get to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

      You are also told that you need to confess to the priests and be forgiven from them.

      No, you go to Jesus and ask His forgiveness. No man can provide forgiveness.

      You do not pray to another man – which the saints were/are. You do not pray to Mary.

      You pray to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

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

      @Amanda – Christ was the beginning of the Church, and the 12 disciples, not the Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics wanted to keep power to themselves so they prevented people not in their ranks from seeing the Word of God.

      And being a Christian, I will not be calling you names even though I believe your information is flawed.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • pinostabaum

      actually, @krk, yes. the protestant branch of christianity is all about rejecting authoritarian leadership, and replacing it with authoritarian scripture and holy law. this is why christians who stress biblical creation, and biblical literalness in general, tend to be protestants: if their authority is wrong, then they are wrong. protestants may follow leaders, but their leaders have no more authority than they do.

      and while the literalists may make protestants look silly, remember that its this rejection of authoritarian leadership that led directly to the rise of western style democracy and american/scottish classical liberalism.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Amanda – Randy has a very typical misunderstanding of the Catholic faith and sacraments. His kind of ignorance is actually a little worse than many atheist who actually ask the same questions the Church does. Randy just repeats the ignorance he has been fed.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Randy

      I have no delusions that I will convert anyone here away from false religions. Read your bible and understand it, then listen to your church leaders and compare, then you will find the truth.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  10. MyohoRengeKyo

    I pray sincerely for the day that all religions work not to divide us into those who do or do not believe in god(s), but to awaken the wonderful potential in all human beings. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo

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

      And I pray to the noodly appendage that the last priest will be killed by being strangled from the entrails of the last politician.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  11. Gays Are A Disease

    See, atheists? There is a God and even your fellow atheists are starting to realize it! Convert before it's too late and you doom yourselves to hell!!!

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

      You are a disease – bigotry and ignorance.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      Ever heard of Poe's Law?? Look it up...

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

      Troll. Go choke on your own turd

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jules

      See this is what I don't get. Why would an invisible but omnipotent being require us to believe in it and worship it for 0-100 years or doom us to eternal punishment. Isn't that the worst form of pride? Isn't pride bad?

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

      Not now, not ever. I enjoy watching Christians squirm because I'm an atheist all too much... though, honestly, I have never understood why they squirm. It has nothing to do with them on any level...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • pinostabaum

      no, thank you. have a nice day.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    I guess that Libresco is just a Jew, which wants to mock the Christian West.

    Ain't her parents Jews?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  13. QS

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

    This simply made me laugh!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  14. LaTuya83

    This woman was never a true atheist I'm sure this was all a publicity stunt, anyone with half a brain doesn't all of a sudden start beliving in fairy tales, I'm sorry but that's a fact. This is like saying that a straight man can go from being straight to gay overnight or at all is not possible you either are or aren't.

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

      Yes- well put!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • chubby rain

      As a fellow atheist, saying someone is not a "true" anything seems religious. "True catholics", "true christians", etc. If she didn't believe in a god, she was an atheist and if she now believes in a god she is no longer an atheist. Doesn't mean she wasn't a true atheist at some point. Leave the dogmatic interpretations to the religious folk.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Benedictacc

      So the atheists are saying, "Well! She obviously NEVER was an Atheist!" Just like an Atheist who was a Christian "NEVER really was a Christian"? 🙂

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Jules

      You are saying that people aren't capable of changing their beliefs? You are BORN an atheist or Christian or Muslim? Come on. That's ridiculous. Just as people sometimes decide they no longer believe in the existence of God, someone can decide there is one. People actually do change in their lifetimes, and that is a good thing.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Glorifundel

      Re Jules:

      "You are saying that people aren't capable of changing their beliefs? You are BORN an atheist or Christian or Muslim? Come on. That's ridiculous. Just as people sometimes decide they no longer believe in the existence of God, someone can decide there is one. People actually do change in their lifetimes, and that is a good thing."

      I would say with all sincerity that you are born without a religion, and that your culture (specifically parents) have a defining role in pushing you towards a religion. If you were born a particular faith wouldn't it stand to reason that there would still be people worshiping Zeus? Every religion has a education system about that religion, if it was innately true, you would think that you wouldn't need to spend so much time to make someone believe it is true.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Denverian

    Awww. I rejoyce with Heaven! will keep you in my prayers- 🙂

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

      Amen and praise God ! 😀

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

      Aww – Rejoyce! Is that like doing Joyce twice? Lesbians rock!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jules

      No rejoyce means to read Ulysses twice, which is all the hell anyone needs.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  16. bob

    birch, you genius. my posts appear spontaneously from nothing.

    so can any of you brilliant atheists on the cnn forum do what's never been done in eons & explain where morality comes from if we're cosmic accidents?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Society...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      "so can any of you brilliant atheists on the cnn forum do what's never been done in eons & explain where morality comes from if we're cosmic accidents?"

      Morality comes from an innate ability to think, and use logic and common sense. It's an ability that some people simply don't have, so they turn to religion... But those of us who have fully functioning brains can have morality without being told how to act...

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

      From the human mind. Why is that such a difficult concept for "believers" to comprehend?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • bob

      so fraud, innately explain why human life (made up of cosmic dust) is worth more than kool aid mix.

      note that you also have to define "worth" in terms of a random universe.

      in other words, if i don't value human life, how can you say i'm wrong?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Logic

      There's nothing spontaneous about your post. You typed it at a specific time, it was reviewed at a specific time, and then posted at a specific time. Also, it didn't come from nothing. The internet, electronics, and computers are all physical things in time and space.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • sam

      ::sigh::

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Pheadrus

      The easy answer is humanity... society has learned right and wrong from the ground up. There were moral codes, ethics... right and wrong... long before there was religion, particularly christinaity.

      Religion NEVER had a claim to morality... morality is simply claimed by religion.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • bob

      John, if two human brains disagree on a moral issue, who's right?

      atheists contradict themselves on the most fundamental issues & pat themselves on the back for their cleverness.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      "note that you also have to define "worth" in terms of a random universe."

      Your inability to find true value in your life is the result of mistakes you've made... Turning to religion to find 'value' is simply embracing fantasy in order to feel better about yourself... When reality is too tough to handle, weak-minded people turn to religion... Strong-minded people work to make their lives better... Time for you to grow up and face reality.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Who is right? The person with the most compelling supernatural fairy tail? Right and wrong are human constructs and also determined by society. The world may be random (kind of) but our sentience, our moral structure, our economies, etc have arisen out of it.

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

      so silly.

      if two atheists disagree on a moral issue, then who's right? no one.

      therefore morality doesn't exist for atheists.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Duh

      "Do unto others as they would do unto you" is not religion, it is ethics. If you treat others the way you want to be treated, the world would be a totally different and better place, and no religion needed, since there would be no cause to have to appeal to a man in the sky for help. You would be helped by your fellow man.
      We have two hands, and eventually you find out that one is to help yourself, and the other is to help someone else.
      Religion = mental midgets. Don't try to sit at the grown up table.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      "if two atheists disagree on a moral issue, then who's right? no one."

      You have to be incredibly weak-minded to believe that every issue has a definite right and a definite wrong... Your brain simply cannot process the information necessary to understand these concepts... I guess that's why you need all your moral decisions made for you... How sad.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Pheadrus

      @Bob claims:

      "if two atheists disagree on a moral issue, then who's right? no one.

      therefore morality doesn't exist for atheists."

      Thanks Bob. It's that kind of logic that make me weep for humanity. And...it's that kind of logic that keeps the religious, well, religious.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • bob

      there is no such thing as morality. logical positivists basically proved it (a lot of them are atheists – brave atheists who admit the truth. not like the cowards in denial here).

      so there's right and wrong. unless there's disagreement. then it's a "gray" issue. riiight.

      how many confused atheists do you need until it's a gray issue? so silly.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      bob – you pwn. I'm afraid your not reaching through though.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  17. HamsterDancer

    As much as atheists say humanity needs to "grow up" and give up these fairy tales. That pure rational logic naturally should be the way to be, human beings will not be that way.

    Scientist have found that the human brain is actually hard-wired for having spiritual beliefs. You can google for "God, hard-wired, human, brain" if you don't believe me. We can come up with all sorts of speculation on why this is so. It could be some sort of evolutionary survival mechanism. The primitive man who believed in a higher power might have greater survival capabilities. Or perhaps it is actually something evolution put in our brains to be able to perceive an actual "something" that exists. Argue among yourselves at your leisure.

    People can decide to hold a non-rational belief on an individual basis, true. But the fact remains that you will never, I mean NEVER get the majority of humanity to be completely atheist. We literally are not built for it.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Well.....

      That is very interesting... I may have to look that up to read more about this

      June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • chubby rain

      The term is anthropomorphism. We see purpose in the world because we like to think there is purpose behind our actions (which is mostly false as we rationalize half of what we do after we do it). Education will ultimately be the end of religion.

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

      I agree that human beings are predisposed to spiritual or supernatural beliefs, probably as an evolutionary bi-product, fearing the unknown made for greater survival odds.

      But don't equate that with theism, they are very different things.

      The Parah people are an indiginous population that have supernatural beliefs, but are (and always have been) an atheist society.

      The human brain is NOT hardwired to believe in god, it is hard wired of supernatural beliefs in general though.

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

      Excuse me, I typed Parah but it's Piraha.

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

      No, we are hardwired to find patterns, and if there are none we will make them up.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Duh

      Can you say forced evolution through the inquisition and the killing off of those that did not believe. This was forced evolution of the human race, and now science looks at religious brains and states they are hardwired. Well FRIGGIN DUH. Go look at non-beleivers brains and tell me they are hard wired. NOT!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • HamsterDancer

      Geez or Jesus 🙂
      Lots of anger in the responses here! Listen, I'm just a guy with questions that run so deep for such a simple mind. The conclusions you have about how the world works are perfectly fine if it works for you IMHO. I just always think you never know.
      Alfred Korzybski, a well known philosopher and scientist said "The map is not the territory". By this he meant that the human brain, along with its senses, and with is learned cultural bias, and even with the extension our scientific instruments gives us, has only made a rough map in our minds of the REAL world (the territory). I just keep it open that there is alot more going on in the territory that what we now know.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  18. Sam

    Prominent? This is like a pastor in a small town converting. Call me when Sam Harris converts...

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

      OH you mean like this priest
      infidels dot org/library\historical\vincent_runyon\left_ministry html

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  19. NOT MY CHAIR

    “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.”
    yea it does come from something external, it's called culture.

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

      so if two cultures disagree on a moral issue, then who's right?

      no one.

      that's why morality is an illusion for atheists.

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

      Ok, bob, I know you have an axe that you're steadfastly grinding, but at least try and stick to actual logic.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      to view it on a purely animal level (which we are) there is no right and wrong their is survival and death. we use the guidelines we are taught to survive in the society we are raised in, or you could just call it morality.
      also if to religions disagree on what to call their god, which on is right?
      no one!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I think bob's point is that we cannot autonomously derive morality from our own conscience since it will always be relative to the external world. When you believe that your mind is all you need to know right from wrong, you are establishing yourself as the moral authority, and neglecting the notion that others may disagree with you. It would appear then that the moral atheist is essentially saying "I am God". Religion then is the exercise of discerning which moral values can be applied universally. It should be easy to see that this can degenerate into "My God is right and yours is wrong"

      June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • sam

      Bill, if bob had actually attempted it the way you just did, and not been a jackass, I'm pretty sure he'd have received a discussion in return.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  20. Justin

    Lame! I don't understand how an atheist could convert to Catholicism, of all things. This seems staged. Nothing against Catholics, but any atheist, just for being an atheist would have done cursory research to discover just how much the Romans sythesized to early Christianity to "create" Catholicism. I would have a difficult time believe she converted knowing this, unless her non-Catholicism was an impediment towards marriage to her boyfriend. Women will do crazy stuff to please potential mothers-in-law.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      from being an atheist for as long as i can remember, a lot of people that claim to be atheists really aren't. it does seem to be a popular trend.

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

      Justin, as much as this would be a completely black & white, rational decision for you on the subject, the majority of humanity floats in a gray area on this, drifting back and forth between atheism and strong spiritual beliefs (usually rooted in the culture they were raised in).
      Human beings aren't the Vulcans of Star Trek. We have the logical, rational side of us and also the non-rational, (and I don't mean irrational) emotional side. Both make us who we are. With the rational we wouldn't have all the science and tech we've got, and with the non-rational, we get art, music, and perceptions about the world that don't fit into a box, like love.
      Why do we have rituals? If you want to get married you just sign a license and the contract is done. Why do we have a ceremony even for a civil union? Why the elaborate rituals for funerals, graduations, etc. These speak to the non-rational parts. They hold meaning and give some type of framework to things. They are not logical, but are necessary for they way the brain works. Spiritual beliefs are a part of that.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 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.