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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. Katy

    Love it! Ha Ha! I get the converting to Christianity because Christ was an incredible loving person. But Catholic? That is sort of weird. Good luck to her. I hope this helps her find even more peace and love in her life. No matter what, God loves all people no matter what religion. (At least my God does).

    June 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  2. PrimeNumber

    If God exists, you would need an instrument to detect Her/Him. And there is such an instrument. It's called a soul. Probably, this young woman discovered her soul and it was full of data about God – data which takes eternity to process. Atheists insist they have no souls. I believe them. If they had such an instrument, they could detect God. But then, I'm not always orthodox in my beliefs.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      "Soul" is apparently another word for the capacity to apply magical thinking to your view of the world. It works just as well for astrology, ghosts, honest politicians and other faerie tales.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "But then, I'm not always orthodox in my beliefs."

      or sane apparently

      June 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  3. my2cents

    A woman of her convictions!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  4. ropeswingcities

    right next to this article on the front page of CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/22/justice/pennsylvania-priest-abuse-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

    You don't need religion to have morals. If anything, we've learned that religion gives you a convenient way to justify a sincere lack of them. Grow up.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • my2cents

      Here here. For someone who blogs on the subject I believe she shows a serious lack of depth on it. Many great philosophers have written on the subject of morality, few equate religion to it.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Frode L

      Isn't that a famous quote from Mao, or was it Stalin? Fill me in please...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Sir Thom

      Frode: Which quote? We can try to look it up for you.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  5. Steve

    In all honesty, many atheists had said she was not an atheist long before she announced her conversion. If you believe in objective morality, you are already a believer. I think she was a believer of some kind but just did not know about it.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  6. MarkinFL

    Either she does not REALLY believe or she never based her belief in logic in the first place. To claim that you can suddenly believe in the existence of a god simply because it gives you a basis for a moral compass is just north of silly. It will be interesting to see if it sticks as she goes through all the strange supersti.tious rituals of the church. Will she actually believe its all based in reality?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Steve

      She had weird believe. For example, she believe in objective morality. First, I see no evidence of that and second, where would it be coming from?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Simple, social cooperation is a survival trait. The golden rule is pretty much one of the oldest concepts in ethical behavior and is a natural product of a civil society. And the golden rule is pretty much all you need. The rest is just a way to apply the rule.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  7. bob

    Science cures sickness, puts people in space, powers your walmart laptop
    try praying for them things wont happen what does this tell you ?

    this lady planed this as a publicity stunt .. all religion has is tricks to confound the dumb and get their weekly donation

    June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Fred

      Science also leads to radiation poisoning, frankenfoods, and a lot of genetic abnormalities.
      Yep, science sure is infallible.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • my2cents

      And the technology that allows people to post comments on a site like this – and the ability to do it for 20 more years than they could 40 years ago. Funny how our perspective gets skewed......

      June 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Science is not about infallibility. Actually its fallibility is its greatest strength. It will be questioned and improved over time. Of course the Pope is infallible. Right?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  8. Katie

    Sounds like she was more of an agnostic than an atheist...

    June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  9. Sumo

    "Prominent Atheist Blogger"?

    I've been deep into the online Atheist community for many years now and have never even heard of this chick.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Frankly, neither have I. But it makes the story much more interesting.....

      June 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  10. oshptest

    i smell a publicity stunt.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Mike

    Even if you decided to suddenly believe in god... Why of all religions Catholicism? I'm baffled. Absolutely baffled.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • JB

      Can I get an Amen!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • ImCatholic

      Mike,

      What do you have against Catholics?!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • jimbob22

      IMcatholic,

      The whole Vatican support for the Serbian holocaust and the Croatian Ustashi is a bit distasteful.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  12. rom

    A scientist decided the world is actually a disk and not round. He said it's just easier that way to get around.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  13. Smurfette

    A lot of young boys were reared in the Catholic church

    June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  14. ra

    I agree with Robert that she ended up in a strange place for someone searching for morality, and she even now has doubts about some of their main tenets, so as mike the ex-Catholic said, it sounds as if romance has a big part in this. I don't care if she is atheist or catholic and never heard of her, personally. But then I wouldn't read a blog about someone picking fights with her boyfriend, either, and who cares? To each her/his own, and this isn't a trend of anything. Looks to me like a girl who blogs who has a boyfriend who is Catholic, and she wanted to be in his faith...maybe she wants to be Catholic for other reasons. Whatever makes her happy...why would anyone be angry about it?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  15. theunforgivn81

    Sorry, but she's not prominent at all - not even among internet atheists.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Mike

      Agreed. Never heard of her before today.

      Why don't they run a story about Matt Dillahunty or Rich from "Living After Faith"? Former preachers who are now atheists.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  16. trent

    I suppose her Catholic boyfriend is happy.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      And THAT probably explains the choice of religion more than anything else.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Now I get it. She wants to get married and he's hesitating. Now she can't use contraceptives due to her new found religion. Convenient.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • ra

      They can't get married in the Catholic church unless she becomes Catholic, but who knows if that was any of it or not. Whatever....

      June 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  17. lindaluttrell

    She sounds as though she hadn't made up her mind one way or the other. I wonder what REALLY changed her mind...

    June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  18. 1927 henritta

    The churches. Bs not the word of God this is why I HATE them so.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  19. bubbles

    And atheists think its impossible.Here's the proof they wanted.No brainwashing involved in this story..

    oh wait atheists deny any type of evidence

    June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      why do you think atheists think its impossible?

      and why do you think its the atheists that deny any type of evidence? they arent the ones that try to claim every scientific discipline is wrong and that a book is right.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Arbiter

      Proof of what? That people can say one thing and mean another?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Ancient Curse

      Proof? Evidence? Where? Of what? Someone changed their mind - that's about it. I give it a month - she'll be back.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • ra

      What exactly is this proof of though, bubbles? You don't think any Catholics are becoming atheists or whatever else? It's proof she lives in a country where she can changes her views and blog about it. Otherwise who cares? Who cares if someone stops believing in God? To each her own.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  20. QS

    Anybody who can disagree with some of the most basic, fundamental principles of a religion and still somehow convince themselves to start believing in it, is suspect in my book.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • ra

      Well, peer pressure and romance have changed a lot of minds over the years...lol. But whatever the case good luck to her. I have the feeling she will search elsewhere before she is done, but to each her own.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Mike

      Amen.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:39 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.