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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. Tim Jordan

    Going from being rational to believing in an organization that tolerates child abuse and prides itself on the ridiculous luxury of Vatican City makes perfect sense...

    June 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      As much sense as god haveing a plan for every thing including Hitler, abortion, international s ex trafficking, malaria, etc

      June 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Kevin Smith Jr.

      Disregarding Indulgences, the crusades, prosecution of "witches," killing people who could prove the laws of physics and molestation of boys, she chose to join the Catholic Church? How ironic. If anything, wouldn't she join a non-denominational church? FFS, she could have joined any other religious organization at that.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  2. sybaris

    [sarcasm] She was never a true atheist [/sarcasm]

    June 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  3. JasonB

    I just don't get the concept that one needs religion to learn morality. It's just not true. Atheists can be exceptionally moral people and religious fanatics can be some the the most self-serving amoral people on earth.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • n222s

      Jason, atheists can be moral, to be sure. And, given the level of discussion on this board, angry, insulting, insecure, vain and petty.

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

      No spit, Sherlock – atheists are people too! People are all of those things. But atheists don't preach their morality while hypocritically doing the exact opposite, which is what some – not all, mind you – religious types do. A lot of fundies, it seems

      June 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Exactly right Smurfette,

      Good comment.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • n222s

      Smurfette you applaud my understanding of the humanity of atheists yet fail to acknowledge that hypocrisy is another feature/failing of humans as well. We could be on here all day trading instances of hypocrisy displayed by Christians and atheists.

      Atheists DO preach a moral code and seek to impose it upon others Atheists have banned freedom of religion in communist countries, for example, As many atheists on this board have gleefully pointed out, a moral code doesn't require the existence of God or a religion.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  4. Ben

    Ah, well. Not everybody has the fiber to stick with rationality indefinitely.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  5. friday today

    She was never an atheist. As someone said earlier, once you're an atheist, you never go back. For me, becoming an atheist was like unplugging myself from the Matrix to see real truth, and everyone else who has not unplugged are still sleeping in their pods in some imaginary dream.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • JMO

      Many people prefer the red pill and don't want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes. Religion blinds you to the true potential of reality with a fairy tale to paper over the stuff you can't understand.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  6. Aaron

    With a SCHNOZ like that, she should be JEWISH ! !

    June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  7. Matt

    As a person raised Catholic and who fully participated in the church and rituals through early adulthood (at which point I "came out" with my agnostic views), I'm skeptical of this conversion. I do find it hard to fathom how someone goes from an atheist worldview to a religion with very specific and frankly, often nonsensical dogma. It is worth noting that she is not actually fully embracing the doctrine of her chosen faith, but rather going with the cafeteria plan and picking the pieces of the religion she likes. I have not read her blog, but I'm curious how she arrived at the conclusion that morality is dependent on a super being, and the holy trinity of catholicism in particular.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Aaron

      People do stupid things for love. I even tried to find Jesus once during a rather bad breakup. So glad that didn't happen and I've moved on.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  8. Me

    Sorry but just because you belong to a "Christian" denomination doesn't make you a Christian.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Well.....

      I agree

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  9. paul

    Last time it was an article about 'atheist pastors coming out' and atheists made it seem like they officially 'won', and now it's one girl who switched her views and theists are parading it around like it's some sort of proof for god.

    People change. It doesn't mean anything, just hope they're happy with it.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  10. Tim Jordan

    Wow, another "top atheist blogger" I've never heard of.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  11. Joe

    I grew up religious, and was heavily into church during my high school years. It was when I became a father myself and knew what unconditional love is truly about that I became atheist.

    I realized that: no matter what my son does or would ever do, there is no way that I would create a special place for him to torture him for the rest of his life. My spirit of love and forgiveness for him just runs too deep. I realized that if we're truly God's children, then he must not truly love us if he created a place called Hell. I realized that my love and my forgiveness must exceed that of God.

    I do believe that Jesus existed and was probably an amazing person. I don't like when people say disrespectful things about him, because the record says that he only loved everyone and never did anything to deserve being put down 2000 years later. He fought the system. He helped teach people how to treat one another.

    Anyway, once I realized that my love and forgiveness are greater than that of the Christian God, I became at peace being atheist. I believe in the cycle of life, and think that it's beautiful. I don't feel a need to live forever, nor do I want to. I think it was fear of dying and fear of nothingness, non-existence that scared me. I'm totally at a calm peace with it. Everyone else is welcome to believe what they wish.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Chad

      @Joe "I realized that: no matter what my son does or would ever do, there is no way that I would create a special place for him to torture him for the rest of his life. My spirit of love and forgiveness for him just runs too deep"
      @Chad "so, you mean that if your son decided to cut all contact with you, you would coerce him into restoring that contact? You would not allow him to separate from you if that was his expressed desire?"

      =========
      @Joe "I do believe that Jesus existed and was probably an amazing person. I don't like when people say disrespectful things about him, because the record says that he only loved everyone and never did anything to deserve being put down 2000 years later. He fought the system. He helped teach people how to treat one another."

      @C.S.Lewis " "I am here trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any of that patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. Nor did he intend to."

      Anyway, once I realized that my love and forgiveness are greater than that of the Christian God, I became at peace being atheist. I believe in the cycle of life, and think that it's beautiful. I don't feel a need to live forever, nor do I want to. I think it was fear of dying and fear of nothingness, non-existence that scared me. I'm totally at a calm peace with it. Everyone else is welcome to believe what they wish.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • n222s

      Joe, I disagree with your conclusions but posts such as yours give me hope that not all atheists are insulting, vain bigots that enjoy tormenting others based upon their beliefs.

      Though you may never come back to God as I hope you do I'm certain you will always try to do the right thing. I wish you well.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Sandman

      I'm glad to see someone else who can't buy in on the idea of Hell just because you won't do what I say. Many a night in the ready room was spent on that topic. The sky pilot could never get past the idea that I laughed at the concept.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • 1927 henritta

      That BS from the church. Not from God. This. Is why I Hate!!! Them SO.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  12. JAANC

    atheists are such angry people they rarely make positive contributions to discussions of any kind because they are so busy feeling mad that they have nothing to be hopeful or happy about (or it would seem that way since they are so spiteful and unaccepting of anyone else).. the fact that she still questions some things is a good thing. zealous belief in ANYTHING (or in the absense of an anything) is not good, intelligent people make good choices based on the information available and realize that everything is not perfect no matter what precept you prescribe to.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Novo

      @JAANC please explain why you think atheists are "such angry people" as you put it and cite your sources. I say you are completely wrong.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • sybaris

      Christian Fallacy #297 – Atheists Are Angry People

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Well.....

      Exactly, no one has all the answers, no one person knows everything. The need for proof all the time has got to be what makes them so angry because they are so exhausted and frustrated that they can’t find proof for everything.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • laura

      Intelligent people also don't jump to conclusions or make generalizations about a group of people.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Well.....

      @sybaris.... Atheist Fallacy #298 – they think all Christians can only be Christians if they are perfect and never sin (forget they are human).

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Smurfette

      I'm not an angry person. I'm not angry at all. or a person. I'm imaginary – but people talk to me. Just like . . . . hmmm . . .
      So chill, Jaanc the Wanc – it's all noodles

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Theron

      I'm an atheist, and have plenty to be happy about. Christians seem to be the ones that are always angry about something.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Tim Jordan

      I'm angry that more people don't see that the RC Church tolerates the molesting of children, yes. I'm angry that a kunt like Joel Osteen's organization is able to be tax free. So, why aren't you angry JAANC?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Susan

      I wouldn't say 'angry' as much as 'disappointed'. There is wonderful peace the human race could realize if there were not so many religions and greed keeping us at war all the time.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  13. Bible Clown©

    Anyone who writes about religion all day long already has it, regardless of their rationalizations. Are you Christians saying this proves something? Suppose she'd converted to Islam, would you all follow?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Hey Bill Deacon,

      Would you consider a conversion to Islam as genuine?
      Or would it be nonsense because the conversion would not be to Christianity?

      Just asking.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • 1927 henritta

      Catholic church not good

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Tom

      Good point. While the majority of people move from religion to atheism, a rare desertion back (especially to Catholicism) pops up on CNN's front page.

      That, in itself, means something.

      She probably got more attention from this, than from any other earlier writing. Maybe it's a publicity stunt ? .. Maybe in a year, she will be tired of being saved and will announce she is going back (we will never hear about that, that's for sure) ?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  14. Carlos in FL

    I honestly find the venomous responses surprising and frankly disappointing. If you don't like the woman's decisions, that means you have to insult and criticize? That's a rather childish way to approach things, isn't it?

    To: therentistoodamnhigh – "we know its a historical fact that no part of the New Testament was actually written by anyone who ever met Jesus or witnessed the events first hand; much of the New Testament was written 200 years after the death of Jesus."

    We do? Perhaps you could demonstrate what we know by showing your proof? Otherwise, it's not what you "know", it's what you *believe*, you assume, choose your term.

    Personally, I have my faith, and I have yet to see anyone posting here showing me a reason that I should change. Faith.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Personally, I have my faith, and I have yet to see anyone posting here showing me a reason that I should change. Faith."

      If your faith is in something untrue, then you are attacking us and backing laws to control us because a human minister is manipulating you. Christians seem to be barely restraining themselves from burning us all as witches, and they prance around carrying signs saying OBAMA IS A MUSLIM although they know he's not. If a magic sky daddy is behind it all, why then you are perfectly justified in lying about us and sending us to jail for defying His Word. Hate on, brothers, and never forgive, in God's name. If it's not true, then you are just another Taliban.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  15. abcdxyz

    Don't be a fool, Leah–the U.S. Catholic bishops have done gone crazy!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  16. Guest

    the opposite of love is not hate. It is apathy.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      By that definition, the opposite of hate is also apathy.

      That's quite a dualism you have there. Syllogistically then, does love = hate?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV
      Yes. Also, was is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Doc,

      Careful now Doc, Big Brother is watching. We don't want to end up in Room 101 at MiniLuv.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  17. Doc Vestibule

    A friend of mine surprised me a while back by announcing that she was getting married, moving to the other end of the country and converting to Catholicism.
    I asked her if that meant she and her fiancee had stopped having pre-marital s.ex – to which she replied in the negative but was rather proud that they'd stopped using birth control, like the Pope commanded.
    After I told her that she's all ready going to hell in that case, so she might as well be smart about her life here and now and use a damn condom, she stopped talking to me.
    She is now a single mother.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      It's all part of (some) god's plan...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Exactly, gods plan.

      God has a plan for everything, right?
      Gods plan would include things like Hitler, international s ex traficking, child abuse, drugs, malaria, etc, etc.
      Since every thing is part of God's plan who are we to criticized these and call them bad?
      Who are we to criticize an all knowing, all caring, all powerful, ever present God?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Maybe is was Quetzlcoatl's plan.
      Can't trust a snake god.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  18. Hugh Jass

    Not buying it; I suspect she was Catholic all along and did this as a stunt.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • michigan

      @ hugh jass i'm not buying it when a Christian becomes a atheist they must have been a atheist all along. lmao no peoples views change.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      mich, totally agree; people pretend to believe just to keep the piece and keep the local christians from burning their houses in the night.

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

      Michigan...you are right. People are born atheists and then brainwashed into believing the myths of their parents (religion), country (nationalism) and economy (consumerism).

      June 22, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  19. HCom

    And this is big news because....

    June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  20. Confused

    What "facts" support Catholicism? I simply can not understand her thought process. More power to her if she found faith in religion, but she lost me on "facts."

    June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • michigan

      what facts support atheist? what is the atheist view on how the world was created? give me facts for your answers please!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Everett Mack

      Her boyfriend is catholic, what is to be confused about...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • jimbo

      If she had any thought processes she would still be an atheist (if she ever really was one).

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Some guy

      Atheists don't claim to have facts. Well smart ones at least. What they would say is that they have theories in explaining how the universe started (string theory )and skepticism towards religion and its lack of facts.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • jimbo

      @michigan There are many thing about the natural world that neither you nor I understand. The difference between us is that when I don't understand something I don't try to cover that fact with bullshlt.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • nojinx

      Atheism is a lack of belief. It needs facts like not believing in Gandalf of Middle Earth needs facts.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "what is the atheist view on how the world was created?"

      Sigh. You want to be told that the "atheist god" created the world in x minutes and He made it out of "atheist particles" using "atheist miracles," then He wrote an "atheist Bible" so we could "worship Him." You can't understand anything else. If I say, the universe is incomprehensibly huge, and we are only beginning to understand it, you will say "Ha! My Bible explains EVERYTHING." Sure, before Creation there was a formless void. What did God stand on when He made the world? WHAT? YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN THAT? See, nobody's got the answers handy; we can't know what things were like before the Big Bang. But science makes good predictions, while the Bible didn't even predict the English language or the Irish potato.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:24 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.