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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. LeoTheGreater

    But religion is more than just a belief, religion wants to impose a universal morality which is why it has always attracted the kind of person who thinks other people’s private lives are their business. And giving respect to this mentality is exactly what’s got us into the mess that we’re in. All people are born atheists, with no idea about supernatural gods of men and then religion comes along, grabs the children after birth and turns their minds into a filthy swamp of supernatural stupidity.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • aw

      "All people are born atheists, with no idea about supernatural gods of men and then religion comes along, grabs the children after birth and turns their minds into a filthy swamp of supernatural stupidity."

      You are wrong. When I was a small child, I would see and feel spiritual presence all the time, without being "taught" it. I was afraid of this at first. As a grown up, I have seen many things and heard many things as have my children. God is there, is here... and we are never alone. And you...need to wake up and smell the coffee.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      mental illness can be inherited aw, you might want to get that checked out if you claim your children feel it too.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      I must confess. Your analysis of religiosity seems a bit moronic. I guess your just not a scholar or deep thinker. We will just have to accept your ignorance I guess.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • intoped

      When I was a child I would feel the presence of my teddy bear's soul. Therefore teddy bears have souls.

      June 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  2. Danny

    Can any catholic let me know what they are taught in regards to what is needed to go to heaven?

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

      Little boys give them heaven on earth.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      It is all laid out very clearly in the Catachism of the Catholic Church which is available on line! The bottom line. . .believe that Christ died for your sins and keep your soul in a sufficient state of grace by observing the sacraments of His Church and exhibiting said grace in your good works. Distilled to it's simplest form. . .salvation is acheived through faith in Christ.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • intoped

      Dliodoir, did Jesus die for Danny's sins? Danny, what have you done?

      June 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  3. chris

    Religion is the scourge of society and is everything wrong with the world. Without religion we could use commen sense to tackle social and moral issues. IT would be an amazing grand place with out religion. You might even say earth would be heavenly but I guess if youd rather wait till you're dead to find out there is nothing be my guest.

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

      Take a good look thru this website:

      http://www.nderf.org

      I don't mean browse...but spend some time and look closely.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      This is probably one of the dumbest comments I have read on this post. I wouldn't know where to begin my response. This is far beyond ignorance.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  4. bluemalak

    If she really wanted to go back to the essence of christianity, she should have studied Messianic Judaism, it's more to the point with less man made doctrine.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yes, God himself printed that book on his golden printing press in Chicago. Not man made. You are a twit.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  5. Dliodoir

    Congratulations to Leah! Good luck and many blessings.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      You are blessing her? Are you God?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Common Sense

      And while walking with God...are you also saying that she needs luck?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      The Jackdaw, I'm wishing that God blesses her. It's a common expression and a common sentiment. I suspect you understood the meaning and your question was posed out of spite. Bless you too!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      Common Sense, wishing another person luck, or hoping for luck yourself for that matter, is also common in the idom of the English language. So yes, I do hope she has luck in her life and all that she undertakes. We all rely on intangible and unpredictable and capricious aspects of life to work in our favor. I hope they work in hers and I similarly hope they work in yours!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  6. Ghost

    Just goes to show that there are sell-outs from all walks of life.
    Gotta put food on the table, I guess.

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

    I guess one possible answer is in the views to her blog. If youu can't make money beating em, join em.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  8. We know the truth...

    Here's the flaw in her reasoning... In the fourth paragraph, she says "Morality... Is external from us." Perhaps some people have no innate moral compass, but many of us do. But even if you don't, do you really not possess the logic and common sense to figure it out for yourself?? Religion is for people who lack the ability to think for themselves. Libresco devolved significantly today.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • JellyBean@We know the truth...

      "Morality... Is external from us." I called BS on that as well when I read it. She is a hack.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • vulpecula

      Was she secretly hiding thoughts of murder and felt she needed a god to tell her not to? Or, is she denying her inner sense of morality because she wants exceptance from her boyfriend and his family? Wouldn't be the first woman to convert to her man's beliefs in exchange for security.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  9. LeoTheGreater

    An agnostic is a wannabee believer sitting on the fence about what supernatural god myth to believe in, just in case. lol What part of ghost don't you know about? What part of Leprechaun don't you believe in? Which Pasghetti Monster don't you accept? hahahahaha. OMG, if there was one: What part of Darkness do you think might exist that prevents you from admitting it does not? In case I said that too fast; we are past masters at complicating the issue because "NOTHING" turns us on!

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

      Dude,

      to be an agnostic isn't a bad thing, it's part of being an atheist. To say definitively, "There is no god" just can't be done until we study every atom in the entire universe and find nothing. Keep in mind, I also believe you can't say without absolute certainty there isn't a teapot floating around the sun between mars and the asteroid belt. Both are highly unlikely and I operate within this world believe that both a god, or at least the god of abraham and the teapot most likely don't exist.

      The long and short of it is, agnosticism might seem like a cop out to some (and for some people it is), but just like atheism, there is no one defined group of people who all have the same belief as agnostics.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • intoped

      Chuckles,

      Same is true for elves. Are you agnostic about elves, too? what about tooth fairies?

      June 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  10. blaqb0x

    “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.

    I'd love to hear the "facts" about the talking snake, talking donkey, and talking bush in the Bible.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • yeahalright

      I know, the facts stuff is laughable. I'd respect more the standard "I had a completely unverifiable supernatural experience that no one else can understand" line.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Marianne

    Good grief. Here's the truth of it all...she's only becoming a Catholic so she can marry the boyfriend in his church. I am Catholic and I wish her luck, but the Catholic Church isn't all it's cracked up to be.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  12. Atheist

    Its a shame Leah that you fall into the trap of religious d**bags. What made you give up your reason for fairy tales?

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Hoopla12

      Yup... It happens sometimes that emotional attachments win over reason.. I'm guessing that her relationship with a catholic boyfriend had something to do with it... "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. " ... How one jumps into a conclusion that Catholic beliefs are true using reason? I GOT NO IDEA.. I'm 100% sure she hasn't used her reason correctly and jump to some silly belief...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  13. Legit

    It's a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit that is working in her. I'm sure she will continue in this holy and divine journey of her purpose of life and ultimately she will be a born again Christian

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Robert

      Is that what you call her boyfriend. I think that's the only thing "working within her".

      June 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  14. carol

    Had she chosen to become a Buddhist, or even a Quaker for that matter, I'd take it more seriously. As it is, the pick-and-choose-regardless-of-contradictions just makes me shake my head. Deciding to be a Catholic is simply not on a par with realizing that you're an atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      Carol don't shake your head to much it might fall off. I don't think there is much substance holding it together.
      The woman saw the light like many of us have. Give her a break

      June 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  15. Metta World War

    That guy looks like Shia Labeouf... sorry i mean that girl

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  16. Connie

    God works in mysterious ways... That's another "fact"....

    June 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Hoopla12

      do you even know what the word "fact" means?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • yeahalright

      aka nothing religious makes sense or can be proven.

      None of your god's "mysterious reasons" is a good one for why a 4 year old can suffer in excruciating pain from cancer for 2 years and then die.

      If he is real, and he allows things like this, I reject him. Forever. Send me to hell. I want no part of him.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • ChristianNow

      @yeahalright

      No. Christians cannot absolutely prove their faith through logic, but neither can atheists, so what is the point in fighting and getting angry with each other. Everyone has a different belief that they must discover for themselves. Lets respect one another. It is sad that a little girl dies of a disease at the age of two, but in reality we all must die. What about the 90 year old man that died of a heart attack? Does this make you angry? Is there any difference? We sinned and the penalty of sin is death. I can't wait to be dead and go to heaven (whatever way I die), but I have a duty in this life on earth. I do not believe in Jesus because I am afraid to go to hell. I believe in Jesus, because I have never known anyone who spoke like he does, lived the life he did, and had the wisdom that he had. I believe he was real and the son of God. He has given me his unconditional love, which I cannot say for anyone else. People need to be loved. No doubt about that. Hope you have found what you were looking for. I wasn't always Christian btw.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  17. DOCFEE

    I've got my own moral compass to steer by
    A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky
    And all the preaching voices –
    Empty vessels ring so loud
    As they move among the crowd
    Fools and thieves are well disguised
    In the temple and market place

    Like a stone in the river
    Against the floods of spring
    I will quietly resist

    Like the willows in the wind
    Or the cliffs along the ocean
    I will quietly resist

    I don't have faith in faith
    I don't believe in belief
    You can call me faithless
    I still cling to hope
    And I believe in love
    And that's faith enough for me

    I've got my own spirit level for balance
    To tell if my choice is leaning up or down
    And all the shouting voices
    Try to throw me off my course
    Some by sermon, some by force
    Fools and thieves are dangerous
    In the temple and market place

    Like a forest bows to winter
    Beneath the deep white silence
    I will quietly resist

    Like a flower in the desert
    That only blooms at night
    I will quietly resist
    Neil Peart

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

      'Freewill' is another great Rush song for free thinkers.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  18. Patrick

    So she picks a group led by child molester as her moral guides?

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      Stupid comment. Wise up

      June 23, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • intoped

      She picks a religion whose leaders are all old males with hats.

      June 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  19. dnsbubba

    Who? I have no idea who that person is.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  20. Jesus Christ Superstar

    I wonder how many people on here actually care about this stupid woman, compared to how many people just want to fight argue and debate religion.

    PS. Catholic priests touch little boys, and Mormons are polygamists. Christians kill white jews instigate.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Billy fisc

      And you are a fool

      June 23, 2012 at 11:02 am |
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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.