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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. Chris

    Wow, I may guess that this is a girl was an atheist for attention and now switched for the same reason. Maybe try Hinduism next I'm sure that will light up the blogs again. Cudos to Justin another plausible explanation, and point about the origins of catholicism. I wonder how much truth she is going to find in an antiquated system of social control.

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

      I was an atheist, then realized it required more faith to be one than to be a Christian. Regardless of what people believe good morale character is found in those who believe in something.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      Then you weren't an atheist, and your description of self as such is intellectually dishonest.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Guest

      I believed that no deity existed and that we simply formed from the big bang and evolution.

      That in itself is the definition of being an Atheist.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Guest

      "intellectually dishonest" LOL quit trying.

      Next you'll be saying we have this "intrinsically paternalistic view"

      June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  2. Dave

    There's no way she could have been an atheist if she believed, as she said, that morality is "external from us." That statement alone indicates that she always believed to some degree.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yawn, you guys use the Scotsman deal more than anybody. Give it a rest already

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

      'You guys'?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Dave, it's not like that's a requirement of being an atheist...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Josh

      Was about to post something similar. The assumption that morality is external, that man would have no moral compass without the divine (or some other external force) strikes me as ignorant. I wonder if she considers emotions "external" as well.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  3. Mary

    She needs to watch what CAtholicism believes in and does to those who dont want to believe in the same thing.

    .youtube.com/ watch?v=GNZ-sOzXWEk CAtholicism across time and against true Christianity

    June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Well.....

      Are you kidding me? You’re going to believe what a youtube video tells you about a religion. WOW!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Mary

      I can't believe the level of stupidity. It is not a video on youtube. que bola de pendejos. But it is the very truth of what religion specially here Catholicism is all about, not close at all to Christ. Yes youtube has a collected Biblical evidence of false churches against the truth of God. Yep. Indeed they do. I think if its not Islamic radicals disguized as Charles an American writing on here, it is fools altogether.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  4. AtheistHuman

    I guess he/she likes to get molested by priests!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  5. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    nutter

    June 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  6. Gays Are A Disease

    There is a God atheist and he can save you if you just believe in and worship Him! His free gift of salvation can be yours all you have to do is abandon your stubborn pride and your love of sin!!!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • OOO

      Get a life.

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

      apparently there are many gods that can save you.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Gays Are A Disease

      OOO, I already have a life, an eternal one with Jesus.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      Fred Phelps, is that you?? When did you get a computer?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You have no proof that the christian god exists. How can you be so sure that the christian god exists and not the God according to Islam peace be upon him.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      Sin is a creation of mankind. Enjoy living your life as the punchline of a 2000-year-old joke.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • M.E.

      But sinning is just far too much fun, sorry.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • sam

      We've got to stop feeding this troll.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Just so you know - the person who posted first here as Tallulah13 is actually a troll who uses my name and pretends to be muslim. I make no secret that I am an atheist. This person is very silly, and apparently is too cowardly to create his/her own screen name.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  7. Jbb4real

    Most athiests moral beliefs were taught to them buy their parents, who in more cases than not were taught their morals through religion. So even an athiest morals are rooted in religous teachings and beliefs.

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

      Nothing says "moral" like the Catholic and LDS corporations.

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

      wrong

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      Hilarious. Tell me more about the morals that were around in 1600 – you know, witch burning, slaughter, etc. Funny how we grew out of those even with religion. We will enetually outgrow fairy tales too.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • chubby rain

      There were societies and therefore morals before the christian religion.

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

      Atheists have no morals. You worship the Devil who is a liar.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      My specific atheist worldview is amoral. I practice ethics that transcend the morality touted by christianity.

      And no, I learned this myself, as the 'morals' being infused by my education and socialization had more holes than Swiss cheese. and not the domestic kind, but the 'alpine lace' variety.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      'worship the devil'? you are a tool...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Jbb4real

      Geez..... I am not a fan of religion either, I just stated the obvious. but I have noticed that most proclaimed athiest that I have met or seen posting are so narcissistic that they refuse to admitt that there were any influences to the formation of who they are today.
      I have not been to a church in 38 years but I do acknowledge the role it played in my development through my parents who were devoute Christians. And I hope that their beliefs paid off for them when they passed. If not I do know that they paid off while they were still alive because it brought them great joy to be a part of something big, in which they could fellowship with others and help the less fortunate through their contributions. So Church helped make my parents happy, for that I am pleased and see nothing wrong with, but it does nothing for me.
      Oh and I want to add one last point, my father was no sheep, or follower, he was a very strong leader, well educated, and he still believed in something greater than himself. I think they call that being humble.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Dliodoir

    The very essence of everything, matter, did not always exist. It is irrational to believe that matter has always existed and never required some external force, act or energy to create it. 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. The matter that became our universe could not have appeared from nothing. There was a beginning. . .an act of creation.

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

      Argument from ignorance: "I don't know, so the answer must be God".

      No. You don't know; therefore the intellectually honest answer is, "I don't know", not "it must be god"

      June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And then there's the problem of infinite regress.
      Who created the Creator?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      No, a reasoned deduction that an omnipotent force that our human mind characterises as a diety is a perfectly rational answer. Perhaps not the only reasonable conclusion, but certainly A reasonable conclusion. There must have been an act of creation where something was created from nothing.

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

      To suggest anything as the cause of that moment when matter (or rather, energy) started to exist is purely conjecture. It's no more logical than thinking it was just always there. There's no more evidence for one explanation over another.

      The ONLY logical answer is: I don't know.

      And the only logical position to take when you don't know: agnostic atheism.

      "I don't know what started the universe, but I certainly don't believe it was a magical sky wizard, just as I don't believe it was always there – I don't believe anything, because I don't have any reason to believe one thing over anything else."

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

      Where did God come from? Same problem.

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

      It's elephants all the way down. I looked.

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

      You're right Doc, that is an issue that philosophers and theologions have pondered for ages. And yet the omnipotency of the force that created matter is an answer. Perhaps not one acceptable to some. But it certainly answers the question.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • chubby rain

      This position is week. Even if I grant there was a first cause, it doesn't prove anything else. Christian morals, beliefs, heaven, hell. It proves virtually nothing.

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

      The hypocrisy with your post is comical.

      "Matter could not of existed forever, god however did exist forever so he could create matter".

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

      And who created that creator, dear?

      And what makes you think that even if there is a creator that he cares about you?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Nobody here but us tallulah13s

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

      The only bang that thought he was big was the Devil, when he got thrown out of Heaven. The Devil is who the atheists, agnostics worship. That's why they hate Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

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

      Lot's of simplistic infinite regress posts. . .but no one addressing the issue. . .well a couple of you did. An omnipotent force that is beyond our understanding is one answer for how what we know as matter, the building block of everything, came to be. It could not have always existed. There may very well be another answer but other than an unknowable, omnipotent creator nothing else yet proposed makes sense.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Dliodoir
      How likely do you think it that The One God – Creator and Shaper of the Universe is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, anthropomorphic and anthropocentric?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Alma

      True. And that is my opinion too.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  9. QS

    So only parts of those religions fit her moral system, yet she chose to convert to Catholicism KNOWING that she didn't agree with, and wouldn't adhere to, the church's stance on those issues.

    What was the point then? She just converted to a belief system that she will always refuse to abide by as she is supposed to based on that religion's tenets, so it seems pointless to have converted in the first place.

    Sounds like the epitome of setting oneself up for failure.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      When I started school I didn't understand everything i would learn. But as I studied, some things started making more sense.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Kae

      It takes those devil worshippers awhile to stop jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  10. blaakwater

    Prominent? Activity on a single website makes one prominent? Why is it REAL "prominent" atheists have never heard of her or the Patheos Atheist Portal? Atheists don't convert to Catholicism, they revert to Catholicism. I suspect her boyfriend had much to do with her decision, which is fine. We really don't need young, susceptible, weak-minded women spouting "I'm an atheist" who roll over when their beliefs are rejected or ridiculed by others.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  11. Aaron D.

    I find it disingenuous to call someone who is obviously agnostic an atheist.

    And it saddens me that just because she didn't want to find the answer to one silly easy to answer question, she adopted ignorance instead.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  12. Phillip

    So you have to be religious to have a sense of morality? Really? Wow, way to follow the herd and not think for yourself girly......
    I absolutely have a sense of morality and I don't need anyone's books, gods, goddesses, deities, golden tablets, scrolls, magic rocks, or anything else to tell me that or to explain it to me. You do not need religion to be a good person or to have good morals.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  13. Mark

    It was either that...or spend the rest of her life listening to her future Catholic mother-in-law constantly reminding her that she is going to hell.

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

      lol 🙂

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

      If she was already living with that boyfriend out of wedlock, something must have been said. No telling, though, what the background on this really is.

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

      Bingo

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

      Bingo, x2

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I feel bad for the boyfriend since as a good Catholic, her legs have to snap shut like a steel bear trap until they're married.

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

      Doc, that uncomfortable mental image will haunt me the rest of the day.

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

      i have been there and done that.

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

      Mark, an expert on hell, knowing that where his father (the Devil) resides and where he's headed!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  14. T

    If you look at this logically, she was most likely not an Atheist in the first place. Pathetic story CNN.

    Why don't you do a report showing that almost 20% of American's are closet atheists. The group has doubled in the past 20 years. Seems that might be a more compelling story.

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

      And your source is?

      A simple google search will show you more people are Closet Christians because they do not want to be ridiculed by Atheist who have an ignorant outlook of Christan expectations. Christianity and Cathloicism teaches that no one is perfect yet Atheist look at those who arent perfect to be non Christian and form extreme judgments upon them.

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

      Because atheists totally go door to door ridiculing. Yep. Or they get you on the street corners. If they see you wearing a cross, boy, look out.

      Christian persecution is the biggest non-issue known.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Another christian playing a victim...

      Americans hold more bias against Atheists than Muslims and Mormans.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Guest

      Reference all the comments on this board. Reference all the comments associated with a faith based article. Atheist comments outnumber the faith ones 10:1 easy, most of the faith ones simply defending themselves from attack.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  15. SUNNY

    "morality is something we have a duty to" – yes I feel the same way, but yet here we are in a world of millions of very spiritually dead demons (alot of them in high positions – but don't let that fool you) walking earth who think everything is in the name of freedom.

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

      Do you have a point or just random unrelated nonsensical rambling?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  16. Dan

    Welcome, sister. It makes me glad when one finds the truth, glory and love that is Jesus Christ.

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

      Meet Mr. Passive Agressive

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

      Sorry, you won't see any of the hatred that flows freely on this website from me.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  17. PrimeNumber

    From some of the comments posted here, the atheists seem to have borrowed their modus operandi from some misguided Christians: believe as we believe or we'll heap abuse on you.
    It's good for atheists that religion exists. It keeps them from confronting very serious problems: "if I met another atheist who is smarter than me, could I stand his company?" Or "why do my emotions keep diluting my reasoning ability?" Or, "is my reasoning flawless?"

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

      religious people blame it on their PRIDE? whatever that is? Proud? Not Proud? Stuborn? Religious people use that when they know they are wrong.

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

      Actually, I've addressed (or personally experienced) all of those questions.

      I've met many atheists smarter than me – and I consider myself pretty smart, at least in my field of education, my degree is in chemistry. I got along great with atheists smarter than I, I often find they are more midly tempered than I am, and had a lot to teach me.

      It makes perfect sense that emotions can get in the way of logical thinking. Emotions are a product of brain chemistry that we don't have a lot of control over.

      I'm certain my reasoning isn't always correct. It's why it's important to have discussions with people. If they can demonstrate why your logic is flawed, than you can formulate new opinions based on positions that are likely to be more logically sound. I know of no better way to get closer to what is probably the "truth."

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  18. sasha

    nowhere in the article does it say she suddenly believes in god, just that she likes their moral beliefs. Thats kinda strange

    June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  19. bob

    She'll be a great catholic. a hippocrite. any enlightened open minded person would have a hard time changing to christianity let along go full blown catholic. So she now believes in the holy trinity when it says plain as day "you shall worship one God, I am a jealous God." opps catholics have the power to make 3 into one sorry logic.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Janice

    It seems suspect that she's made such a change. I wouldn't be surprised if she had been Catholic all along only to make such an announcement and get the attention she has–in an attempt to convert/affirm others who question.

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

      But...but...that would be a lie...a sin!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 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.