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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. nytw

    I guess she needs to leave her personal opinions at the door and start doing what the pope says to do.

    June 22, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  2. Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film

    So where did she find these smart Christians? I have yet to find any. They are sometimes smart in other areas of existence, but when they start talking about religion, well, "smart" isn't a word that describes it. Nor is "sane".

    June 22, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Maybe she was just a bit confused and was having a conversation with a Smart Car

      June 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  3. Moby Schtick

    Maybe she got notice that the RCC is bringing back the Inquisition. I'd claim to have converted, too.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Smurfette

      NOOOOOO BODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

      June 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Biggles! Fetch...THE CUSHIONS!

      The Spanish Inquisition could only occur in a populace cowed by religious oppression and uniformity. In an environment that is less religiously homogenous, something like an inquisition would trigger revolt. That is why a theocracy is so dangerous – it allows religion to behave at it's ugly worst, and the times and places in this world where a religion was totally in control prove that the result is horrific and inhuman.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  4. MichMan

    The rigidity and intolerance Christians think is an inherent part of atheism is because all religions are based on such a transparent fairy tale that it is difficult to fathom that people could be so ignorant. This is not meant as an insult, just an observation. In Christianity, most point to the bible as the "word of God," yet, the facts are (admitted by Christians who are capable of acknowledging the obvious) written by men. It has been proven that the Bible has morphed over the millennia into something far different from where it came. The most obvious reason for this is that the printing press was not invented until 1440. This means that for about 70% of the time that Christianity has been around, the Bible was reproduced by scribes who changed much of what they were transcribing, intentionally, or not (see "Misquoting Jesus, written by Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at University of North Carolina). That makes it very difficult for thinking people to accept as a basis for believing. There are many examples in the Bible of very non-Christian values (as they are now accepted) that the adherents are either ignorant of, or choose to ignore (such as who can be your slave, and how to treat them when they don't do what they are told). This makes it difficult for non-believers to accept strictly on the basis of "faith" when all evidence points elsewhere. When the Emperor marches down the street naked and all of the followers are raving about his beautiful wardrobe, it is difficult not to be like the little boy on the side of the road and scream: "what are you talking about, his junk is hanging out."

    June 22, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • wrong side of the bed

      Nailed it!!

      June 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • mlg4035

      Beautifully and succinctly stated!
      Thanks for your comment!

      June 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Anonymous Joe

      Not only might the scribes have mistranscribed the words either purposefully to fit their individual biases or through inadvertent "drift" but also the translators of the texts through from the original through intermediate languages might have mistranslated the original texts purposefully to fit their agendas., mistakenly by their lack of understanding of the original language and intent, or through "drift".

      June 22, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Rosendo

      The Word of God was Holy Spirit inspired meaning God was in control in the writing of His Word. If the scribes changed it why would they make it harder to be a Christian? Christians are persecuted and ridiculed. I think skeptics should actually read the Bible instead of trying to come up with reasons to support immorality in one's life.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I've read the bible multiple times. It is easily the most horrid, divisive, and immoral pile of dreck I've ever read.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Rosendo

      In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

      June 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Not only was there translational and content drift, but there was, initially, known individual intended audiences. Depending of when in the cultic development process, the text arose, they contain very different concepts, (even though on the surface, they seem to be saying the same thing). For example in Mark, Jesus was a human elevated to divine status, (down > up), In Luke he gave up divinity, became human, and went back to divine status, (up > down > up). In John, (because of his Gnostic/Zoroastrian dualism influence), Jesus was always divine, and temporarily became human, (divine > divine+human > divine). Then they fought about it for the next five hundred years. To this day Jehovah Witnesses, (the modern day Arians), do not believe in the co-equal divine status of Jesus. The "filioque procedit" fight from the Council of Nicaea, in some ways continues to this day. (Of course "genitum non factum" is a linguistic piece of meaningless drivel).

      June 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • MichMan

      Rosendo, Where do you come up with the idea that people who choose not to believe are immoral. That is a rather harsh assessment of a group of people that you do not know personally. This is called bigotry, and is not a part of what is considered "Christian." One who violates the rules of their own religion, yet points to others as immoral, is what atheists refer to as hypocrites.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Rosendo

      MichMan That was a very good response. By good, i didn't really mean good. hahah but anyways I do think Ungodliness is immoral. Christian's are not perfect as well, everyone is a hypocrite. I would really enjoy to continue this conversation else where. I have been a Christ-follower for about 5 years now and have studied a lot about various topics. here is my email if you'd like to engage in a friendly conversation: delrio_019@yahoo.com

      June 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  5. Chuckles

    Interesting article, though I'm still not quiet clear why she chose Catholicism out of all the religions and how she can reconcile her many years of atheism without having some doubts. But hey, more power to her, if she wants to start wasting time on sunday to go to church, waste more time praying among other things, it's her business.

    My bet, however, is that she lasts maybe 6 months to a year before seeing too many issues and either becomes an atheist again or just a unpracticing catholic like the rest.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      she chose catholicism based on romantic convenience.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • fred

      Based on what happened to the chosen ones in the Bible she could have made a worse choice.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      The fact that her longtime boyfriend was a devout Catholic had absolutely nothing to do with it at all, I'm sure.

      Nobody has ever converted for a love interest before, nosiree

      June 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  6. Mortran

    The real reason is her boyfriend. Happens quite often with women.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Yeah, but does she understand that she won't be getting any "meat" on Fridays?

      June 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • newman007

      My thought is her boyfriend threatens to abandon her so she caved in. From her look, she isn't getting "meat" from another other male. A woman change her mind? NOOO... Really! 😉

      June 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Smurfette

      @ newman – don't let looks fool you! I'm only 2 apples high and I'm bright blue, but there are some days I can barely walk (and certainly can't sit) after a session with some of the other smurfs. And Pappa Smurf? He's the worst! Guy packs a smurfsicle that would choke a horse!

      June 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  7. fred

    Tom Tom
    Look out your next! Suggest you begin with harp lessons immediately there is no time to waste. Hate to see you just wing it.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  8. The Dude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eqKb5ViN_Q&w=640&h=360]

    June 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  9. IslandAtheist

    I hope she guessed right.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      And that her god honors guesses

      June 22, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  10. mlg4035

    It's so funny how everyone believes *their* is the only one. It proves that god is merely a human construct.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • mlg4035

      Read: *their* as "*their* god".

      June 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  11. mike

    Not sure who the "other mike" is asking why the sky is blue........I was on the topic of Darwin

    June 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  12. mlg4035

    I want to believe in god...but there are so many of them, it's hard to choose! LOL!

    June 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      The Norse gods are very en vogue right now. If you want to be a little hipsterish, go with the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian gods.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • mlg4035

      HAHAHA! Actually, I prefer the Asian pantheon...

      June 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Perhaps Gozer?

      Gozer the Traveller will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii the Traveller came as a very large and moving Torb. Then of course in the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex supplicants they chose a new form for him, that of a Sloar. Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day I can tell
      you.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • wrong side of the bed

      Choose to worship a rock god or goddess.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • mlg4035

      And, there's always the Didacts and Narpets from the Fountain of Lamneth as well!

      June 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      You could choose Einstein's gods. He apparently believed in 2 or more. He also believed that they could laugh, so i guess they're personal sentient beings.
      Dont ask me if this is part of his Spinozism because i honestly dont know.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Most Christians pick the god of the armies, (the Lord of Hosts), better known as Yahweh Sabaoth, (you know, the grudge holding one, who required the human sacrifice)

      June 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Einstein also thought god didn't like to play dice, but later admitted he probably did.

      June 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  13. Youwhat

    Einstein described himself as agnostic or a pantheist. I think we can agree he wasn't very religious. You call HYPOTHESIZES faith. Sorry Mark, science steers clear of absolutes the vast majority of the time unlike religious faith. I'm sure you know what a hypothesis is judging by your remarks. Either way, you judge science on empirical evidence, not on what a first century flat-earther said that an invisible man told him.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • The Dude

      Puck Einstein. His opinion means nothing.

      No one is an authority on these matters. If they claim to be, they are delusional or liars.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  14. Athiests are smart?

    They think a lot, they are the only humans that can think fior others 😉

    June 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Mirror Mirror

      That's why Christians spend so much time running around telling everyone else how to live their lives, and how they can't do certain things, and how they will burn in hell for not getting their mind right.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Lots of Christians don't think, and force this on others.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  15. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @Mike,

    fair enough. Feel free to ask a direct question. I will happily answer it.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • mike

      Why is the sky blue.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      the elements and chemicals that make up the atmosphere.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Why am I blue?

      June 22, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Mike,

      If you insist, I ripped this off the internet:

      The blue color of the sky is due to Rayleigh scattering. As light moves through the atmosphere, most of the longer wavelengths pass straight through. Little of the red, orange and yellow light is affected by the air.

      However, much of the shorter wavelength light is absorbed by the gas molecules. The absorbed blue light is then radiated in different directions. It gets scattered all around the sky. Whichever direction you look, some of this scattered blue light reaches you. Since you see the blue light from everywhere overhead, the sky looks blue.

      Not sure what you are really looking for though!

      June 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @smurfette,

      At least two possibilities:
      1. You imagine yourself so
      2. That's the color Peyo painted you

      June 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Smurfette

      @ non-Gooper: yes, yes, those are possibilities. I am pleased to see that you are not positing that there are only 2 possibilities and, without evidence one way or the other, you are choosing one alternative. Truth be told, however, I was being used as a toy when the Blue Man Group was having a menage a trois – hence the blue.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Smurfette,

      Ummm ... I chose neither.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  16. The Dude

    With a face like that, she has no choice. Pretend you're a Catholic and have your one and only shot at marriage or spend your life alone with your principles intact with a battery operated boyfriend as your only source of release.

    It's a tough one.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Bet

      Pulling the "she's so ugly" card is a b!tch move. I don't doubt she's doing it because she wants to get married, but you're being an asshoel.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  17. IamHappy

    It amazes me how delusional the believers truly are. I love the quotes from their respective story books. It is their deep veiled fear that they may be wrong that pushes them to frantically spread the Word to those who essentially lack their every belief.
    Its funny how theistic believers don't instill fear in atheists when they preach, but a confident Atheist can easily shatter a theistic believer – it is because deep down the truth is there whether one accepts it or not. Long live education, experimentation and experience.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  18. Star Performer

    Dear Lord,
    Should I quit the human race for such utter garbage?
    Amen.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Lord

      "Utter garbage" fails my "love thy neighbor" test. Lake of fire for you.

      Sonny also says you have not sold all your goods and given the proceeds to the poor either. You may as well go on a rampage, because you are defying a lot of our instructions.

      Don't feel bad, though. There is no heaven or afterlife anyway. Death is exactly what it looks like – you just stop. Don't know why you humans can't deal with that.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  19. Star Performer

    Should I pray we no longer meet up with disbelievers?
    Dear Lord, I know you are glorious!
    Should I pray we no longer meet up with disbelievers?

    June 22, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Lord God

      Here is the answer to your prayers, my little one:

      If you don't want to meet with disbelievers, then go to the top of the nearest cliff and rapture yourself lightly into the winds.

      Prayer answered. You do the legwork. Oh, and when you die and everything stops and nothing comes after, uh, nevermind . . . it will be a happy happy place you are going to.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  20. fact prophet

    Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us

    by Abrahm Lustgarten ProPublica, June 21, 2012, 9:20 a.m.

    Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

    No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

    There are growing signs they were mistaken.

    Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation's drinking water.

    In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.

    There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

    Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves 2014 from which most Americans get their drinking water 2014 remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

    But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn't always work.

    "In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted," said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA's underground injection program in Washington. "A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die."

    June 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Never mind. Jeebus saves.

      June 22, 2012 at 10:20 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.