home
RSS
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.”

CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories

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.”

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Before you

    June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      like rain dances change the weather

      June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Flippy1124

      LOL!

      June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • modernrepublican

      Prayer teaches kids to fly planes into buildings. That's hardly healthy for society.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Krug Lamner

      Christianity is not healthy for children. One lady drowned her child because God told her to.
      Abraham was going to sacrifice his child to God because he heard a voice in his head.
      Moses heard voices from a bush while out in the desert by himself.

      When you hear voices in your head, you take thorazine. You don't create a religion.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Proven conclusively

      June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • zacharye

      Prayer does less than nothing. A study was done in hospitals and this was what doctors found out: If you tell a terminaly ill patient that you will pray for hem they will have a higher mortality rate than if you tell them you will not pray for them. T

      June 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  2. blinky

    There is a great deal of condescension toward Libresco on this board because she is a woman–from the atheists, most of all. If Libresco were a man, there wouldn't be the same kind of snide remarks, e.g. doesn't have a brain, converting to attract a spouse, etc.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Krug Lamner

      "You don't agree with me therefore you're misogynists"

      Ad hominem is such a poor argument. Good try anyway.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      no, if she was a he and his girlfriend was catholic, you would have the same responses.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Are you kidding me? Do you even read the CNN comments? It doesn't matter that she's a woman, it matters that she went to one of the most evil organizations in the history of man!

      June 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • blinky

      Krug, Not ad hominem. I gave two examples which have come up a lot. Those swipes don't happen against men nearly as often; they are reserved chiefly for women. Go back some pages and take a look at the posts. Then think about how a man would have been addressed instead of a woman.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  3. Dave

    Nice thing about America, one can believe in any lunatic fairy tale one wants to, whether atheist or cloud fairy.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • more likely

      to be a lunatic as an atheist than any other option

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Steve

      Exactly, she called herself atheist but she had many weird beliefs.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  4. david

    Hey CNN. Where is the Reason blog?

    June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  5. Danny

    What a wonderful story we will welcome you to the Catholic faith very joyfully the article mentions that most Catholics become atheists and not the other way around well although that may be a trend things can change as we see from this story. A priest once told me those who leave the church never learned the teachings of the church and therefore you cant love what you never even knew.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Sort of like, you can't fire me because I quit!

      Trust me, the ratio of those leaving to those converting will not change in the opposite direction. I can almost guaranteed she is becoming Catholic just so they can get married in the church.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Definitely proven

    June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Steve

      Actually, studies of prayer have shown they are entirely ineffective except as a relaxation/meditation tool.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • IO

      then i pray you change your opinion on this issue

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      like rain dances change the weather
      Definitely proven...in some people's imagination

      June 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  7. Dan

    She should be safe cause shes a girl.Hopefully.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 22, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      guess what?.....like rain dances change the weather

      June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  9. Steve

    LOL. She never was an atheist. Here is what she writes:

    For several years, a lot of my friends have been telling me I had an inconsistent and unsustainable philosophy. ”A virtue ethicist atheist whose transhumanism seems to be rooted in dualism? Who won’t shut up about moral lapses as wounds to the soul and keeps trying to convince us it’s better to be sinned against than sinning? Who has started talking about mortifying her pride and keeps pulling out Lewis and Chesterton quotes? C’mon, convert already.”

    June 22, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  10. nino

    What religion has to do with morality??? How can LIES and Money has anything to do Morality???

    June 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Astounded

      I recommend a few years of concentrated Bible study. You will then slowly begin to understand the inadequacy of your question. But more importantly, you will receive many more answers than you could ever have imagined in your wildest dreams.

      If your comment had been about science, I would have recommended: educate yourself.
      This is about more than science. It is about the truth. You owe it to yourself to gain understanding.

      I wish you well.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      you are right, it is about truth, which is why you dont open religious texts.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  11. Gray

    Hm. I wonder if CNN will report when she realizes that Catholicism, also, does not have all the answers and converts to something else. Islam? Buddhism (not technically a religion)? Judaism? Back to atheism?

    I think everyone should think carefully about their spiritual beliefs and I'm glad she's done so. But I don't think her spiritual journey is over yet.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      One would hope it has just begun

      June 22, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  12. Steve

    How is she a prominent Atheist exactly? I have heard of many atheists, but that's the first time I hear of her. If I had heard of her before, I most likely would not have considered her an atheist at all.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  13. Mike

    It's no wonder she couldn't find the roots of morality, she was looking in evolutionary science. Psychology and sociology have done a much better job of showing how morality has developed than the branches of biology.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Steve

      It's pretty simple. It is called the golden rule. Even babies and most animals actually get it as well. This is not objective morality though.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Who wants "objective" morality anyway? Morality, by its very nature is subjective. Anything else is just a stagnant rule that will eventually be abused or outdated and eventually ignored by more and more people. Keep it loose and wrapped around the golden rule which is the closest thing to an "objective" morality since it is useful for social cohesion.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  14. Ed Sommers

    I wonder if this enlightened convert-woman can explain to me, the meaning of all the "god bless you's" that
    I hear these days. I had a phone call this week from some right wing group that wanted me to call
    my congresswoman and ask her to vote against some measure the EPA supports. I refused, explaining that
    I agree with the EPA. She said "you agree with the EPA"? Well god bless you! Huh? God bless you... is that
    a request? Is that a wish? Is that an order? If anyone can tell me, well, god bless you!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      it's a prayer

      June 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  15. modernrepublican

    She's right about one thing, morality is external to individual human relativism. No atheist with half a neuron takes the position that morality is unique to and defined by the individual. However, the problem with her, and most christians, is that they choose the easy road. Rather than accept the burden of complicated moral decisions, to which they must apply critical thinking and rational inquiry, they turn off their mental faculty and accept as true and infallible a set of principles that we developed in the very infancy of our civilization. The biggest problem with this is that its an illusion. The religious leaders in the catholic church are routinely forced to abandon the moral principles in the bible. If morality comes from god, then the moral principles in the bible would be unalterable. If morality does not come from god, then we'd be able to apply our moral intuition to the bible and parcel out which bits we find harmonious with the changing moral zeitgeist. Which of these two conclusions are supported by the evidence?

    The most shameful part of it all is that she believes that she needs divine permission to be moral. How could there be any larger of a disgrace to humanity than that?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  16. blinky

    Guess what? All people are DIFFERENT. There is no one conviction to settle on, and atheism is one among all the other convictions because it makes a metaphysical assertion like the rest. "No" is as much of an assertion as "Yes."

    Whether to believe or not can be a very individual and personal decision. I don't see how you can talk someone out of making their own path, whichever way it is. This country was founded on tolerance for others' convictions. I wonder if that wisdom has been overlooked amidst the mudslinging?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  17. Tim

    “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"

    Is there a manuscript?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • sally

      CLICK on the LINKS.

      Geeze...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  18. Goose66

    I support her conversion to Catholicism, and I hope she finds answers and solace in the Church. However, our inherent "morality" can be explained in terms of evolution. For example, the idea of "do unto others..." is just not something that Jesus said (Matthew 7:12), I believe it has become hard-wired in us through evolution. While humans were evolving into social animals, those that lacked certain innate values, the "morals" that she references, were likely killed or expelled from the tribe or collective. This is because these shared values are a necessary component of society, even in its most primitive form. Those lacking these innate values, having been shunned from the group, lacked opportunities to reproduce, and therefore were weeded out of the evolutionary chain. As society became more advanced and laws and police have replaced the required innate values, these "immoral" people have creeped back into the human society.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Drew

      Even Native People's of the earth understand and know that Monkies are not our brothers, Why don't you?

      June 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  19. bubbles

    i think there is a deeper reason why atheists pick Christians/Christianity out of all others.I mean..its pretty much evident why even in their posts.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • sally

      Ok...clue us all in then.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      bubbles, there are more Christians in the US than any other religion. Christians are the ones trying to get Biblical laws turned into secular laws. This is why we talk about Christians. Trust me, the Muslim faith is no less ridiculous.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • bubbles

      oh but no other religion matters to you? Are you talking about the real Christianity or the "braches" of it?

      2 different things.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • bubbles

      •branches

      June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @bubbles

      Who is trying to legislate their religious view of morality? Who is trying to take away rights from people they don't like? Who is trying to stomp all over the 1st amendment, but cry persecution when they are pushed back against?

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      That's the "no true scotsman" fallacy. Christian is defined as "follower of Christ". By this definition, even Mormons are considered Christian. I know that stings you but you can't really argue with the definition of the word.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Somehow Christians seem to be the only ones not aware of how they affect everyone else even while they lobby to restrict everyone else's civil rights based on their own weird arcane beliefs. It like wondering why someone you are beating is mad at you....

      June 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  20. Tim

    Is there a full interview? I see nowhere in this summary the word Christ or Jesus.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • sally

      It isn't an interview, they are quoting from her blog. And they have included handy links to it.

      Derp, Christians are smart!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Because it didn't have anything to do with Jesus or God. You don't go from atheist one day to Catholic the next unless there is some ulterior motive or driving force.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108
Advertisement
About this blog

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.