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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. John Geheran

    Well at least she did not convert to that poilitical ideology masquerading as a religion of peace.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Bob

      Morality and Morality Laws are a by-product of self preservation and nothing more.

      We create morality laws to prevent others from doing to us what we witness happening to others or to prevent others from doing things to others or themselves out of a genuine simple wish of generic harmony. Harmony breeds a safer environment for everyone including yourself. To build an army is self preservation. To be married is self-preservation of our children and their futures. All of these things are designed to ensure stability of a community and people as a whole.

      Creating morality lists and following them are 2 totally different things! Humans are meant to live in a hierarchical society, to do otherwise would be chaos. While some may enjoy chaos, a majority do not!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  2. jellylee2020

    People change their mind and religion all the time. More evidence that religion is a lifestyle choice. So one atheist turned into Christian, plenty of priests and pastors coming out as atheist everyday. Religion is for the weak. For those of us who know and are comfortable with who we are are guided by our own conscience rather than what others tell us what is right from wrong.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • 1927 henritta

      Yes! Religion is weak. Read your Bibles and be the Best. U can be

      June 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Jay

    The problem with her logic is that, even if there was a God, you don't need a God to have morals. You don't need a God to have faith in yourself. You don't need a God to love. Believing in something doesn't make it true and more importantly believing in something written by many different people from extremely low educational levels by modern day standards over the course of a 1000 years is in itself illogical. Believing in yourself, your abilities and the abilities of your fellow man both good and bad is the ultimate in release from a Religious belief. If you lack the ability to simple acknowledge that NO ONE knows what/why/where for ALL questions in the universe then you are no different than a computer and you deal in absolutes of black and white and that shades of unknown are impossible for your comprehension. Contemplating your own existence is the equivalence of explaining to an ant that's it's about to die due to a magnification of radiant energy thru a focal lens solidified molten silica from a distant ball of burning hydrogen a hundred thousand times the diameter of the ground it is standing on.

    It's okay to be afraid of death.

    It's okay to not know the answers to everything.

    What's not okay is just making things up to suit your needs because they are convenient.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  4. catholic turned athiest

    I wish her the best along her new path. I am not convinced of her reasons, sicne what she opposes, the church is not going to change any time to soon, but still best of luck.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • 1927 henritta

      Catholicism. Is why at of people. Are athies

      June 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  5. yeahalright

    Which side the facts are on? Which side the FACTS are on? That's hysterical. And she picks the Catholic church, which can't actually prove any of its supernatural, supersti..tious beliefs?

    And Morality comes from without? Hey if she needs a pretend man in the sky judging her at the end of her life in order to act well during it, well, then I'm glad she went that way.

    The way I look at it, true morality is what you do when NO ONE is watching.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  6. Robert

    I read a lot there about morality. What I didn't hear was a belief in god.
    She admits to disagreeing with many of the core tenants of catholicism yet chose that route for it's moral compass?
    I think the only person more confused by her decision than other atheists is her.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • catholic turned athiest

      Agreed. The Catholic church hardly practices what it preaches. It is very intolerant actually, which is one of the main reasons I left it. How about all those priests sitting in jail right now for their acts of morality.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  7. PamOh

    Thanks alot. You just encouraged all the Bible-thumpers to annoy me even further.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Mike

      Now they will use her example as "proof".

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  8. Mike

    It is an obvious stunt. No one can convert to Catholicism unless they've gone through successive rounds of brainwashing since birth.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  9. Leaping Larry

    Check out her reason for conversions: "After a back-and-forth where her friend asked her to make an argument about where moral law comes from, she couldn't think of any.

    Okay, that is just lame beyond words. She cannot think of things like "long-term cooperation bestows long term prosperity without fear of reprisal, whereas theft and rape and other crimes are at best one-time gains, and carry significant risk of harsh reprisal. Humans are actually social animals, and that social nature is acheived in kind behavior and alienated in negative behavior. Furthermore, if you commit crime, then you live in a world of crime. Moreover, actual experience of crime and social chaos has traditionally encouraged people to want improved systems of society. All very easy to understand, and none of it requires a God or religion to develop. Chickypoo was just too stupid to see this obvious reality.

    We won't talk about the morality she has chosen in the Bible, most of which is truly hideous.

    "She then realized that it had to come from something like a person or being." Of course it did. It came from many people, as described above. It came from the natural interaction of humans. It looks like she got dazzled by the phrase "moral LAW" – got faked out by that second word, which is only the codification of the natural morality of humans. Indeed, when religions have been gotten their fingers into creating such codes, the usual result is hands being chopped off, an eye for an eye, death for trivialities, and other totalitarian monstrosities.

    "I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant." My my, what a tanglebrain! Went tap-dancing into the minefields of abstract jargon, and could not see the basic concepts at play. Platonic truth? Not relevant in the least. "Abstract and distant" Those are your miscenceptions, chickypoo; they have nothing to do with reality. "Moral Law (capitalized)"? The real concept is "human decency."

    "It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth." It is not a Person" (capitalized), it is the collective experience and desires of the human race. It is not "Truth", because you cannot prove it even exists, nor that any morality comes from it. Laws and the desire for human decency LONG predate Christianity.

    We won't talk about how studies conclusively show that religion does not improve human behavior at all.

    "And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth." Catholicism?!?!?!?! Have you not been paying attention?!?!?!?!

    Glad to see you go, chickypoo. There is big money on the "I was an atheist, but I found Jesus" circuit, so cash in.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • jcguy

      put the bong down and slowly back away....

      June 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Steve

      JC funny how you tell him to put down the bong and yet don't address any of the points he stated. It was quite good wasn't it? Hence your lack of response and attempt to slag it without anything behind it. Tssk Tssk. If he is using the bong I suggest you do as well as it might actually lead illumination in your case.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  10. OhNoYouDon't

    She either likely did it for the boyfriend, or some sort of personality disorder is at play.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  11. Jillicentix

    converts to christianity = free publicity. smart woman indeed.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • OhNoYouDon't

      ... and then there is that aspect. Oh, yeah.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  12. The Jackdaw

    This bimbo "blogs" for a living, how well thought out are any of her decisions do you think?

    June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Who pays her to blog?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Probably her parents.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  13. Metta World War

    He's a she?

    June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  14. Lauren

    Hmmm, and she thought it was a guy lol

    June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  15. Science and Reason

    She'll be back.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  16. FL Jimmy

    Believers only believe in their god, not all the hundreds of others like Thor, Jupiter,Krishna, etc. When it comes to all the other gods they are atheists. So Atheists are just people who believe in one god less than they do.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • setnoescapeon

      You've now mastered the art of repeating things other people though of. Congrats!

      June 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      I can tell by your thoughtless comment that your not in the Mensa group of genius. I do believe that a 5th grade adolescent
      Could do much better.

      June 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • intoped

      There is something special about pointing out that an atheist simply believes in one less god. The religious crowd becomes really uneasy when they hear it.

      June 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  17. Niki

    Seriously? Morality is why she switched? What does it say about human beings if they have to use religion as a clutch to be moral. We can't be good, moral human beings if we aren't promised heaven? Pathetic.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Seriously, if you're only acting morally because you think someone is watching, you aren't really acting according to any morals, you're acting out of fear of judgment.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • understanding

      She seems to have realized that the existence of morality (if you beleive morality exists) is evidence of the existence of God. Without God there would be no morality. There would probably still be laws, in case you're wondering, but they would probably be very different laws than what we have now. Not pathetic.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Without God there would be no morality"

      opinion, not fact

      June 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  18. The Rev

    Praise God!

    This is why we will continue to preach the Word to all of you that are so adamant that our words are in vain. Science can explain away much...but not all.

    Christ died to save each of us and He will meet you where you are at and when you are ready. He will NEVER leave your side. As long as you draw breath, it is not too late to accept Christ into your heart!

    Peace be with you all!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Well why not after we draw breath? Why's there a time limit on it? Our souls are eternal after all, right?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Christ died to save each of us and He will meet you where you are at and when you are ready. He will NEVER leave your side. As long as you draw breath, it is not too late to accept Christ into your heart!"

      why?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Steve

      Science cannot explain all: classic "god of the gaps". Science cannot explain it YET, God must have done it...lol.

      Yes Jesus died for us...sigh. 1. So if he had failed we would all be damned for eternity in hell by the father. Sounds moral doesn't it? What a nice sky daddy. 2. So someone else should be accountable for our sins? That causes problems doesn't it? 3. Peace? Jesus stated in the Gospels that he did not come to bring peace but to bring a sword. Or in Luke where for those who do not want him to be king should be brought before him and slaughtered. The Buddha is a far better role model. 4. When Jesus comes on his cloud on judgement day he will come to bring peace through destruction and then everlasting torture. Heck he makes Hitler and Stalin look like choir boys (they both were at some point as youth...lol). Amazing that people believe the Bible is goodness. You really have to twist your mind to believe that.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  19. d

    Founder of the theory of expanding Universe and Big Bang theory = A Catholic priest.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      Steve. Your comment as written describes you as somewhat of an illiterate in these matters. Your totally outside the tangent of reason. I suggest you post comments in forums that can accept your rants a measure of acceptance. Why not try cartoon network for starters.

      June 23, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  20. Anchorite

    This proves a major argument of a lot of atheists about religious intolerance. I have heard Christians claim they are justified in using threats of damnation, peer pressure, and outright force to convert because they say converting through example doesn't work and one of their duties as a Christian is to bring everyone to the faith. Libresco shows you CAN get someone to change their beliefs and convert through reasoned debate.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 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.