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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. Bet

    I find her willingness to convert even though she questions the catholic church's positions on contraception, hom.ose.xuality, and "other aspects of religious liberty" a little bothersome, and I really hope she's not just caving in to pressure in order to get married.

    What really bothers me about this discussion is how many people are bashing her appearance. Her nose is too big. Her complexion is bad. Her eyebrows aren't shapely enough. Really?

    First of all, she looks fine. I'm sure most of us here aren't exactly supermodels. Second, it's not relevant to the article. Third, I don't see these types of posts about the male writers here on CNN. I'm sure there are a few here and there, but I've read at least 15 or 20 about comments about this woman's looks. I've only read 5 or 6 pages of the 51 pages here, so I'm sure there are a lot more.

    Rude comments about a writer's appearance are bad form no matter what side of the fence you're on.

    /soapbox

    June 23, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • popeye1128

      You are correct. Childish comments about appearance only hurt the poster's credibility.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  2. Doc Ock

    People change their minds and some many times over. Look at Anne Rice. It's certainly not uncommon, especially in young people. Next year she may be a vegan Hindu , and a gun toting Baptist the year after.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • Doc Ock

      Maybe she'll even become a scientologist 🙂

      June 23, 2012 at 12:35 am |
  3. Ryan

    Poor kid.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  4. whencehence

    It's a chemical in the brain called oxytocin. Only mammals have it. It helps us have compassion for others, and therefore we tend to be moral. As simple as that. Psychopaths have almost no oxytocin in the brain.

    Atheists are just as moral as religious people. No difference at all – morality doesn't come from "god"!

    June 23, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Timetowinialwayswin

      Oxytocin evolved for a purpose, einstein said everything comes about for a purpose. The red shift discovery had him saying there is now a necessity for a God. Your butthurt is like candy to me.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • whencehence

      Atheists are just as moral as religious people. No difference at all – morality doesn't come from "god" but a brain chemical oxytocin, research shows.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  5. Timetowinialwayswin

    The butthurt in these comments is overwhelming. PRAISE JESUS!

    June 23, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Entertained Tyler

      Juses doesnt cause butthurt, only priests.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • popeye1128

      What a troll. All your 'butthurt' comments are very unseemly for a believer. Are you happy you finally got a response from someone? I hope so.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • CNN is biased and Christian bashers

      Popeye, he's not a believer. Just trying to make believers look bad. It's working, I see.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  6. pastapharian

    I read a lot of bloggers. I never heard of this woman before. "Prominent" is probably a huge stretch.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  7. THATGUY

    You hear that? That is the sound of butt hurt let the butt hurt flow atheist. Its ok let it all out.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Timetowinialwayswin

      In the name of the Lord thine butthurt shall flow forth unto thou atheist community of stinky little crybabies

      June 23, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      Yeah man! If God doesn't exist, how come there so many BIBLES that he wrote?

      CHECMATE, ATHIESTS

      June 23, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  8. popeye1128

    "Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on."

    And what are those facts?

    June 23, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  9. Peick

    The article completely dodges the question that converted her: What is the foundation for our moral compass? It's much easier to throw mud than to try to answer this question honestly.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      Altruism is woven into our genes.

      At some point, our ancestors' genes became more successful when the ones who knew how to reciprocate helping others had a tendency to survive longer. Anyone who can't figure out murder and stealing is wrong without a book telling them so is a complete psychopath.

      Religion bothers me in part because it hides and preserves psychopathic genes and suppresses tendencies toward genuine altruism. Without religion, psychopaths spread their genes less and truly good people would spread their genes more.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      All you have to do is look back over time to see how our morals came back. 2000 years ago they didn't have the world we do now, 1000 years ago they didn't...as we've evolved (big frightening word for some christians there) we've also changed our morals to suit the world.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • whencehence

      It's a chemical in the brain called oxytocin. Only mammals have it. It helps us have compassion for others, and therefore we tend to be moral. As simple as that. Psychopaths have almost no oxytocin in the brain.

      Atheists are just as moral as religious people. No difference at all – morality doesn't come from "god"!

      June 23, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Chaz

      Read her blog post, it might answer that question.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  10. silentR

    Once you realize the truth, that there is no God, you cannot go back.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • THATGUY

      ahahah she went to God because she saw the truth. Her going to God completely invalidates your point.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Tom Hartman

      Once you realize the fact that even a large part of scientist (Einstein was one) believe in God, you realize how dumb you sound.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • M Johnson

      This video proves the story of jesus and all the "gods" who came before him are nothing more than myths based on astronomy:http://youtu.be/61ReohCr35U Don't be afraid of the truth.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @THATGUY: Basically what 'silentR' means is that she was never really an Atheist. true Atheists don't give up logic and reason for a fantasy world.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • Timetowinialwayswin

      M Johnson next time try to use a video with relevant sources. 99 percent of the claims in that video are quite insulting to the pagans that still practice their religion, because their religion simply doesnt have that in it.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • M Johnson

      To Tom Hartman: Your statement is completely false. The overwhelming majority of scientist are atheist. And that's a fact.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  11. Lisa

    “I had one thing that I was most certain of, which is that morality is something we have a duty to..."

    And Catholicism is the moral compass by which her life will now be led?

    June 23, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  12. popeye1128

    Publicity stunt or she is so young she really doesn't know what she does or does not believe. Time will tell.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • silentR

      Publicity stunt indeed.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  13. Blast Hardcheese

    pastapharian you're right!

    You cannot play a raisin, because it is not a musical instrument or a game.
    You cannot smell a dream, because a dream is not a tangible object.
    You cannot debate a fundamentalist, because a fundamentalist is not a person capable of rational thought.

    I know that some verbs don't go with some nouns 🙂

    June 23, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • pastapharian

      asome. did yo read the story of Hank a few pages back??? Outstanding post!

      June 23, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • pastapharian

      oops, sorry about the typos!

      June 23, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      Yeah, I love that one! Seen it before, but it definitely bears repeating.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Bryan

      A raisin can easily be used as a musical instrument. So there goes your whole bigoted argument from the start.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • pastapharian

      Byan: such anger! Bst is making a very simple point. Don't play dumb – assuming that you're playing.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Guest

      Amen to that! 🙂

      June 23, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  14. Eamon

    It obviously wasn't by using Logic, Scientific methodology, reason and evidence. The truth? well you've found philosophy but that isn't a demonstrable reality. I'll have to read this blog but if she uses faith in any context than she was hardly a skeptic because the basil definition of faith is belief without evidence. This is completely objectionable and quite sad from a human perspective.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  15. yo yo

    I'm unimpressed. This proves nothing.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  16. betweenathensandjerusalem

    Reblogged this on Between Athens and Jerusalem.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  17. PRISM 1234

    For those who want to know God....

    Lord, my God, You are very great.
    You reign in majesty and glory, and all that exists testifies of who You are.
    There is no end of Your wisdom, God, and my heart is in awe as I consider all things you have created.
    I am so small, Lord, a speck of dust in vast universe, and yet, You tell me that I'm loved by You and that You have prepared a place for me where You dwell in majesty and glory, that I could share eternity with You in your presence.
    This is more then I can comprehend, or could even imagine.... Therefore I owe You everything: my life, my affections, my trust, and I owe to honor You, and not take Your love for me for granted and treat Your commandments lightly...

    I am a fallen creature, God, by sin that dwells in me! But I reach out to You and plead that You make out of this sad, confused, broken and futile life a treasure for Yourself, that You may rejoice in it and be glad for the life You've given me.
    I love You, God my Father, even with a selfish love I only know to love with, but You who made all things, and are the Lord of all that was, is and ever will be, and who said "With Me all things are possible", to You I lift my heart , soul and my whole being in hope.
    You are my hope, God my Father, and in Your Son Jesus I find boldness to come before Your throne of grace.
    Thank you, Lord God for your mercy toward me, thank you that you have not left me orphaned in this world, to wander in darkness without knowledge of you, but have drawn me to Yourself because of your endless mercies. In your love and faithfulness redeem me, and make me a new creation, through my trust in Your Son Jesus Christ, who bore my sins on the cross of Calvary that I may be cleansed and made righteous by His sacrifice, and accepted as your son/daughter through faith in Him.
    Lord God in You is all my hope, and this day I make as a memorial of your love, mercy and faithfulness toward me, for all eternity !
    Amen

    June 23, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Peteyroo

      And what do you have for those of us you don't want to know God?

      June 23, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • ponymangic

      Get a life. For real.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  18. sillybonobo

    Plenty of moral systems don't require religion. Even if you want absolute moral realism, Catholicism is a stretch. You don't need God to have a moral code, even to be a moral realist...

    June 23, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • ponymangic

      Couldn't of said it better myself.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • JC

      My thoughts exactly. Atheism and strong moral values can coexist in a person.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  19. PeterTO

    She's converting from Atheism to Catholicism because it fits her moral system? Um, ok, but does she actually believe in God now, and if so, why? This just seems so utterly bizarre that I suspect it's either a stunt, this person was never truly an atheist in the first place, or there's brain damage involved.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Counterww

      Typical atheist banter. Elitism and then mocking the person when things go against their viewpoint or how dare someone believe in God.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  20. Nicole

    She has a catholic boyfriend, I am guessing that has a great deal more to do with her decision than a sudden belief in Catholicism.

    You can bounce from atheism to agnosticism to liberal theism and back again with relative ease. I'm an atheist, and I'm finding myself moving towards a more agnostic view. Becoming a full on catholic, though, is head scratch worthy. Very odd jump unless there is social pressure or some sort of goal in mind (in other words, disingenuous).

    June 23, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • pastapharian

      shemay just be trying to get laid. not everything requires a deep philosophical debate 😉

      June 23, 2012 at 12:20 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.