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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. LouAZ

    19 years old ? Honey, you ain't old enough to know Jack Schmidt !

    June 23, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • LinCA

      Or jack shit.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  2. Ian

    Wow, I actually got a pop up ad from that site. Pretty sleazy site.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  3. whencehence

    Morality chemical:

    June 23, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  4. Chuckles

    I do find it highly amusing when I see someone trying to call atheism a "religion". Lets face it, that person is trying to drag us down to their level, as if by proving atheism to somehow be a legit religion like their own they can point out we're ridiculous as they are.

    As the saying goes, "Don't argue with an idiot. They'll just drag you down to their level and win"

    June 23, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • whencehence

      Well put! LOL!

      June 23, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  5. whencehence

    Now go eat some flesh and drink some blood. Great for breakfast on Sunday morning. Beats pancakes!

    June 23, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  6. Theo

    It seems she found a better future by living a lie and being famous for it.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  7. Hunter

    I predict she'll be a Wiccan next. Then Pentecostal. All those coming Catholic babies she'll pour out will be doomed to drowning in a tub.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  8. Lurchi

    Wow, she's so prominent that neither me, my Atheist/Agnostic friends nor any of the atheist FB pages and websites I visit don't even know who she is. lol

    June 23, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Elle T

      Hah! First I've heard of her too.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • matt in nw

      Truely....

      I dont know everyone sure....but i should have heard of a 'Prominent' atheist.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Wes

      Most of the atheist and agnostic people I know have never heard of her or that site. /shrug I also think you can find a moral compass without a 2000 year old book and someone telling you what that is.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Peteyroo

      I have never heard of her. CNN was desperate to find any atheist conversion they could dredge up.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  9. Jacob Walsh

    Her argument against religion was actually an argument for another religion. You can't say that humans' "moral compass" exists in it's own plane. It doesn't. Human morality is something that humans have evolved because being moral benefits society. That is much more reasonable argument than "People just know what's right and wrong." Well... yeah they do, but how? Evolutionary biology.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • whencehence

      Ever heard of a chemical oxytocin? Look it up TED. Very interesting!

      June 23, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • whencehence

      Morality chemical:

      June 23, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  10. whencehence

    People are moral. We have evolved that way, even though religion tried to kill it.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  11. matt in nw

    This is just a stunt..... a REGULAR atheist blogger on a religious site? i dont thinks so....

    June 23, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  12. D

    Huh, wonder what she'll do when the preponderance of the evidence mounts up on the other side again?

    June 23, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  13. Alex

    What shocks me is that so many's argument for religion is that it provides you with a moral compass and without religion everybody would kill each other. how about it doesn't benefit you to or you would go to jail or most feel bad when they kill. on a final note how about not killing or stealing because I'm white not black... jk because I'm a good person

    June 23, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  14. whencehence

    The kid seems to be very unstable. I hope she won't try devil worship next?

    June 23, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  15. thewackey

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/22/justice/pennsylvania-priest-abuse-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/22/justice/pennsylvania-sandusky-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

    Christianity's moral compasses

    June 23, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  16. CRC

    A small amount of logic and common sense proves athiest belief to be nothing more than a belief which is a religion that does not believe in a god, nothing more, nothing less. The Christian religion is the only logical choice for religion and I wish her well but would like her to continue to understand that the entire Bible is either literally true or it is a waste of your time. I hope she understands that when you realize the Bible is entirely true you can see how it becomes the backbone of all of mankinds code of morality and ethics and that is what makes it stand out so strongly from all other religions and philosophies. Faith and trust in Jesus is all you need.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Alex

      no

      June 23, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • whencehence

      Atheists are people that believe in reason, logic, evidence and facts. They are "rationalists". The word atheist just refers to one very minor specific area of their thinking. Referring to those people as "atheists" is like saying that a tail wags the dog.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • pastapharian

      your thinking is horribly flawed, your assumptions incorrect, and reasoning twisted. otherwise, great post.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      I think that there are invisible, untouchable fairies in the air around me.

      Your afairyism bothers me quite a bit. How can you be SURE that there's no fairies all around us?

      The Fairy religion is the only logical choice for religion and you well but would like you to continue to understand that the entire Fairy Writs are either literally true or it is a waste of your time.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • pastapharian

      Blast: your fairy beliefs go against those of the FSM and his noodly appendages – which have touched me personally. The FSM is the only logical choice. Follow the gourd!

      June 23, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Peteyroo

      CRC Crackhead, you couldn't be more wrong, my feeble-minded friend. Faith in Jesus is all you need for what? Evangelicals who believe in the literal translation of their fantasy book the Bible can't help themselves. There is no Magic Dad or Wayward Son. There are no unicorns or leprechauns either. You were cheated at birth by that mean old witch Mother Nature. She gave us atheists all the brains and power to reason thoughtfully while giving you single-digit IQs and no imagination. It's not fair, but that's how it worked out. Sorry for your loss.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Ting

      ' I hope she understands that when you realize the Bible is entirely true you can see how it becomes the backbone of all mankinds code of morality and ethics'

      Holy crap! Have you even cracked open a Bible before? Don't rely on others to tell you what it says. Read it yourself.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  17. jan

    Being an atheist means that you don't believe in a Supreme Being or Supreme Beings. It has nothing to do with a 'moral compass'. All religions have moral teachings that many people would support such as don't cheat or kill and really have nothing to do with believing in Supreme Being(s). Thus, I'm curious to know what caused her to suddenly start believing in a Supreme Being. It doesn't really make sense it's just because she agrees with moral teachings of the Catholic Church since supporting moral behavior and believing in a Supreme Being such as God are two completely different things.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  18. Angie

    No matter what road we may travel, may our journey (and hers) be blessed.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Blessed by leprechauns? Or maybe gnomes?

      June 23, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  19. Janvier

    I sense Leah was highly motivated to convert due to pressure from her boyfriend (and possibly his family). Interracial dating, I imagine, is much easier to accept than interreligious dating. After all, one individual will not pressure his or her significant other to change his or her skin color. Skin color is not generally expected to change. Ideology, on the other hand, is.

    I'm an Atheist dating a Muslim and I have certainly felt pressure to embrace 'God' on more than one occasion. As much as I care about him, I know that I could never accept an ideology based on something in which I simply do not believe. That being said, successful couples make the effort to understand one another. I offered to study the Qu'aran with him so we can both learn more about Islam as depicted by the interesting (though controversial) book. In turn, he has offered to look at life from a more humanistic point of view. Many Christian religions tend to look at mankind as a cluster of sinners. Islam, at least as my boyfriend interprets it, appears to encourage a more optimistic view. We try to practice humanism by bettering ourselves in small ways.

    Time will tell whether or not we'll stay together. Differing faiths could make for a difficult marriage. Luckily that's a long time coming for two 19-year-olds. =)

    June 23, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  20. TAK

    Good thing she's not a young boy.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:36 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.