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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. vk9999

    As long as not a Islam we glad.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Bet

      " a Islam"? Are you at all literate?

      June 23, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • vk9999

      kat walk on keybored

      June 23, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      we also drunk

      June 23, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • Bet

      "kat" "keybored"

      Right.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  2. steveorevo

    Sorry honey, but morality doesn't come from Catholism
    It comes from a sense of self realization and, more importantly, being able to think beyond the self, your future self (I.e. children, offspring,metc.) and how you would want that next generation to co-exists and live. It doesn't come from automatic condemnation, born sin or fairy tales.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  3. JohnDoe

    Is it rational to say there is no God? How could you possibly know that for sure. It sounds like a belief or even better faith.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Rob Huber

      How can a Christian possibly "know for sure" that there is a God? Or a Christian God?

      Christians don't believe in the countless Gods that fall outside of Christian dogma. The only difference between a Christian and an atheist is that we atheists don't believe in one more God.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      You don't understand atheism at all.

      You probably don't believe in fairies. It doesn't mean that fairies don't exist, but you're not going to bother believing in them without evidence. You lack belief in fairies because you don't have evidence for their existence, but you don't say "fairies don't exist".

      June 23, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • matt in nw

      most atheists have but their trust in the sciences, and its formed the foundation for their 'beliefs'. Their 'faith' that the Scientific Method will show them the 'Way' has proven to accurate thus far.

      you can put their 'faith' to the test anytime you like......in the here and now. Can god based dogmas honestly claim the same?

      June 23, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • JohnDoe

      @all
      I am a christian which is a faith. What I am saying is identifing as an atheist is a faith too. There is no way ycu could know for sure there is no God so it is a faith. Just like my faith in Jesus Christ.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • matt in nw

      John...

      wheres he been for the last 2000 years? today hes reduced to hopping from gap to gap as science progresses – god of the gaps. Think about the concept of omnipotence for a moment....time, control of physics, complete understanding of biology, chemistry, math..ect.... and the best you can do is a few badly written , inconsistant holy books?

      June 23, 2012 at 2:51 am |
    • JohnDoe

      @matt
      What does science have to do with it? Because we know how and why things happen somehow means there is no God?

      June 23, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • JohnDoe

      @matt
      Also for the last 2000 years He has been spreading his Gospel across the entire world through the bible and His Spirit . For the last 2000 years his message has been continuously and strongly opossed but has always managed to prosper.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • matt in nw

      science has everything to do with it ......as it advances, it has the annoying tendancy to contradict the creation stories...which calls into question 'the word of god' ...which threatens the livelihood of all who make their living selling god.

      soooo for a couple thousand years he was pretty hands on...with destroyed cities, world engulfing floods, healings and resurrections right and left,.and 2000 years ago he decides to be hands off??? and use human agents? why? to what end.....what is the reason for the brutal system in place? ( for any organic matter to live in needs to consume other living organic matter) Who would CHOOSE this set of rules for our existance? do you REALLY want your god to be real?

      .

      June 23, 2012 at 3:39 am |
  4. gwtars

    Darn. It would have been cool if Buddhists were let in on her debates. Contemporary Buddhism, not having any deities, but having lots of common sense and scientifically correct views on life and the universe, and does not judge people, would have been a better fit.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Iphegenia

      Most forms of Buddhism have supernatural beings – essentially deities – there just isn't a creator deity.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  5. Sam Fisher

    She said that she "chose to be Catholic." Whenever anyone says that I tell them that your beliefs should choose you. How can you choose what you believe in? You don't choose to believe that two plus two equals four. It's a fact and it is something that you cannot deny. I've also never understood why people muddle-up the question of creation with morality. How are they even related? Morality is like beauty. It is interpreted by the individual. It isn't an unequivocal fact that is undeniable. I personally believe that murder is wrong. That doesn't mean that I am correct. That is just my opinion. I'm sure someone could justify murder if they really tried. People always say life is sacred. Says who? Living people always say that life is sacred because they have an invested interest in life. You don't ever hear any dead people say life is sacred. This lady probably just wanted publicity. The atheist schtick was probably getting old for her so she decided to turn a few heads by choosing to believe in some ancient myths.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Iphegenia

      Would it have been wrong to murder Hitler in 1938, before the war and the Holocaust? Stalin in 1925? Pot Pot in 1965?

      If it is wrong to kill, why were religions almost universally in favor of invading Iraq, despite the unjust nature evident even before it started?

      Morality is not a universal, or an abstraction. It is you and what you do (or fail to do).

      June 23, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Scott

      There are objective wrongs. Everyone has a right to an opinion, it is an incessant need on part of humanity to express oneself. Everyone has a right to freedom those who oppose it are wrong. Murder is wrong. That is just your opinion. Slavery is wrong. That is just my opinion. That's odd thinking. There are clear wrongs. For me that doesn't make obvious a deity.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Scott

      You can create any scenario with imagination, by presenting the most basic moral question and adding fantasy or some ambiguous situation but let's establish the most generic to create a precedent. Should you kill someone you disagree with? Should I hurt others for personal joy? There are obvious wrongs. That is all i am establishing. There are universal wrongs. You can add more scenarios to dirty up the water but at the core there are distinguishable wrongs..Peace..Well, life is harder. There are less absolutes in life.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  6. JohnDoe

    Why do atheists think their beliefs are so rational. To think that the universe started randomly out of nothing ignores the scientific tenant that everything that happens happens for a reason. It is no more rational then saying an apple falls to the earth for no reason.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Mike

      Atheists don't believe the earth started randomly. Most of them are not absolutely sure how the universe came into being but that doesn't mean they believe an old guy with a beard created it in seven days.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Mennoknight

      Thinking that the creator is some old guy with beard simply means that you get your understanding of God from the Simpsons and not the Bible.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • JohnDoe

      @Mike
      Maybe more atheists then I realize think the way you say but not the ones I talk to.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Kat

      Sigh. This again. So gods do not come from random nothing? Actually, they don't. People create them.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Tan

      What a ridiculous comment. The Big Bang theory is not an atheistic belief, it's a scientific theorem. Besides, it doesn't hold that the universe started randomly out of nothing. You really need to go back to school my friend. Also, this scientific "tenant" you just made up that "everything happens for a reason," is in fact a bit of religious philosophy that religious people tell themselves to explain why tragedy or negative events occur in people's lives. And just like nearly all the mythology in such religion, it's completely irrational and unprovable.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      1. There is no scientific tenant (whatever that means) that says everything happens for a reason.

      2. To say God always existed, but the universe can't have always existed is called "special pleading". You're giving God special immunity from logic that you apply to the universe, and you're giving God special immunity for no logical reason.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Trollercoaster

      Well, im not going to yell at you because you are set in your ideas and trying to tell you otherwise is just stupid. But atheism can be argued to be more rational because we never said the universe came from nothing. We say it was created in the big bang, there is also other ways explained through physics. You should watch Stephen Hawkings explain it, he does a great job.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Mennoknight

      The big bang had incredible design involved. You and I ended up here and the creator knew it the moment the whole thing started.
      It only seems random and chaotic when you refuse the rational concept of a creator.
      Chaos leads to disorder.
      Creator leads to purpose and design.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Rob Huber

      An atheist does not cling to a particular belief regarding the origins of the universe. If the evidence shifts in a different direction, so be it. For an atheist, it's okay to "not know" and unnecessary to fill in unknowns with conjured spirits.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Mike

      Mennoknight –

      Ahh...Mennonites. I know you Mennonites have the idea that you are open minded Christians who are accepting of everyone but when it comes to action your almost but not quite as bad as the evangelicals. You are bit more self-righteous about your beliefs. You love to tell everyone how the persecution of your ancestors gives you a special understanding of the nature of the universe.

      It was a generalization. I have read the bible a few times, cover to cover, and God is portrayed as a paternal figure.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Stephen

      JohnDoe – Catholics do not believe God is an old guy with a beard, a la the Sistine Chapel. That is merely and an artistic rendition, not a theological statement. In reality, the Catholic Church believes that God is without form. Consider too that the originator of the Big Bang Theory, Georges Lemaitre, was a Belgian Catholic priest. In other words, reason and faith do not contradict each other. I sincerely hope that you will at least begin an honest inquiry into the basic tenets of the Catholic Church.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Reason and faith DO contradict each other. You believe god began creation "before" time began. That's not at all illogical. Nope. Not a bit.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • Bet

      @ JohnDoe

      It's "tenet", not "tenant", and is usually used in reference to religion or philosophy, not science, but whatever.

      There is no scientific tenet that says everything that happens, happens for a reason. You may be confusing this with Newton's Third Law of Motion: "When two bodies interact by exerting force on each other, these action and reaction forces are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction", or in it's simpler form, "To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction", but somehow I don't think so.

      "Everything that happens, happens for a reason" is just a bit of fluffy pop psychology that is used to explain why bad things happen. It's definitely not science.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  7. Carlos Chino

    Reblogged this on Carlos Chino and commented:
    My only thought to Leah Libresco's conversion to Catholicism has nothing to do with her choice of religion and everything to do with religion itself. The comedian Ricky Gervais said in an interview that religion does not own a monopoly on "good," and I must say that I completely agree with him. My own spiritual path has been a long and rewarding journey, full of up and downs that I appreciate and try to learn from. If Libresco believes Catholicism is something that will give her life purpose, the more power to her, but I respectfully disagree at this point and I reserve the right to change my mind. To all the agnostics and atheists who are about to bash her decision, I hope you show the same respect you expect to receive from Christians and prove to everyone that religion does not own "good."

    June 23, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • John G.

      That's pretty fluffy, Carlos. Don't think I'll read your blog.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  8. Cheyla

    Well it is certainly news to me that the catholic church is the "go to" for morality! geez...

    June 23, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  9. Billy

    I guess if she is happy but that is sad.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  10. syntax

    I jumped from Catolicism to Atheism about 45 years ago and find it difficult to imagine jumping back, but of course it is possible. If you need a god to be moral you have a very weak sense of morality. Maybe it is better for Leah to convert, if she feels in danger of being immoral and directionless as an atheist. After all, the only legitimate reason to believe is wanting to believe. No other reason survives rational examination. I wish Leah a fulfilling life as a catholic.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • MandoZink

      Well said.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • Feigned Ignorance

      Just curious, what is "morality"? Under your system, it's not easy to see you as having "strong" morality when you have no Higher Authority that sets a standard against the easy path of doing whatever you want. Pretty easy to be moral in your own eyes when you're the one who sets the ultimate standard. Full disclosure: I firmly believe the highest priest in the Roman Catholic Church has equal standing to you in setting the standard of morality for the human race.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      @Feigned Ignorance
      It's really sad that you can't figure out on your own that being bad to others is wrong and need a holy book or an imaginary god to keep you from acting like a lunatic.

      The rest of us can figure out on our own that killing, stealing, and unkindness is wrong.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • syntax

      Feigned Ignorance: when you say "God is good" (or moral etc.) you are implying that there is a standard of Good that is independent of God. Well, THAT is the standard of good that interests me as an atheist. Whatever standard you subscribe to, at the moment of action you are alone with your action, and the idea of morality through AUTHORITY becomes irrelevant. Faith in a moral God, who sets the moral standards, has never kept countless believers from behaving immorally. History is witness to this.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  11. Chris

    "...sheep amongst wolves.."

    June 23, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  12. Evangelical

    This is a very pleasant story unlike so many of the negative stories about faith that CNN runs. Looks like CNN runs 1 positive story about faith per week. The rest are all negative or about ho-mos-exuals.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • LinCA

      @Evangelical

      You said, "The rest are all negative or about ho-mos-exuals."
      You must have missed that she's openly bisexual.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Evangelical

      She also has a fiance so the bis.exual part doesn't matter. What ho-mos-exuals don't understand is that it is not the orientation that is sinful but the behavior. I will pray for her. I'm sure that it will be one step at a time, but she is taking steps to get her heart right with God. This is a win for the good guys.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Joe

      Your definition of 'positive' seems to be a story that you agree with. If you only find one story positive a week it suggests you are a bit of an extremist.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • John G.

      Evangelical has posted here for a long time under many names, and she is VERY extremist. Her religion is about as inhuman as it gets.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • Mennoknight

      That is because she has Chosen whom she will have s.ex with.
      Morality is a choice.
      All moral decisions are a choice.
      It is called free will
      She chose to follow God because she figured out that it made sense.
      What I cannot figure out is why so many atheists are so fatalistic. So many think that they have no choice in their actions.
      Christianity sets you free by saying you are ultimately in control of the most important decisions in your life. It is the greatest gift of God to be able to choose freely to follow or not to follow.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • Evangelical

      @Joe

      Apparently you haven't been reading the blogs for the last couple of weeks. I challenge you to find articles that cast Christianity in a positive light.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Evangelical

      @John G.

      Evangelical has NOT posted here for more than a month and NOT under different names. And I am only extreme for God.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • LinCA

      @Evangelical

      You said, "This is a win for the good guys."
      You may want to wait before you claim victory.

      You said, "She also has a fiance so the bis.exual part doesn't matter. What ho-mos-exuals don't understand is that it is not the orientation that is sinful but the behavior."
      It appears that she practices the homosexual behavior that you find so repulsive. Here is a quote from her blog:
      "I’m bisexual because gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates." (emphasis mine), see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/tag/lgbt

      June 23, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • John B.

      Back to that dreary lie. So you are now not HeavenSent, even though you admitted just last week that you change names because CNN "bans" you?

      June 23, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Bet

      Eva, you're such a liar.

      "she has a fiancé so the bise.xual part doesn't count". Aside from dismissing actions that you've condemned over and over, he's not her fiancé, he's her boyfriend. Apparently she's having s.ex, and she isn't married yet, isn't that a problem for her new found christianity? She supports gay rights and contraception, too. Aren't you afraid she'll pollute your perfect idea of christianity with her new-fangled notions? And you don't know that they're relationship is monogamous, so she might be *gasp* still having s.ex with women!

      "I'll pray for her". I shouldn't be surprised by your astounding level of arrogance. Isn't she lucky, to have god's own personal assistant intervening on her behalf. You should have her whipped into shape in no time at all.

      And if you haven't been posting in a month, then someone is doing a stellar job of imitating you, right down to you pompous, self-righteous tone. Or you're just a liar. Gee, which seems more likely? LOL!

      June 23, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • Bet

      That should be "their relationship" and "your pompous, self-righteous tone", dang it.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:50 am |
  13. Ralph Kramden

    Too bad she did not have a nice conversation with William Donohue, head of the Catholic League, when she was converting. That would have cured her.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:37 am |
  14. Samar

    Don't want to be mean..but i guess this is all public – Confucius says: one who is hollow will make irrational decisions

    June 23, 2012 at 1:32 am |
  15. Get Real

    In 100 years everyone will be vegetarian and atheist, they will look back at our culture as childish (at best).

    June 23, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • JohnDoe

      100 years from now people will look back at people that thought everyone would turn out like them and think how arrogant.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Old Fashioned

      Yes, 2000 years later – I don't know HOW that Jesus guy stays relevant. He's SOOO, like first century A.D. I figure you're right that 100 years from now everyone in the future will read your post and see what a uniquely wise, modern, advanced thinker you are. Good job, out-thinking all of those 200 centuries of backward people.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • NorCalMojo

      That willl be a great comfort when they're living in sewers hiding from robots.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:41 am |
  16. MandoZink

    As an atheist I am not a bit surprised. She obviously had not yet gotten her rational side to reconcile with the recognition of her mortality. That perspective normally becomes very solid and comforting as your science knowledge opens up your awareness of reality. She apparently wasn't truly free yet and got caught by her fears. Maybe this will just be a flat tire in her rationalization that she will eventually fix.

    Oh, the embarrassment of being vocal for a cause you didn't yet understand. I wish her luck. Many of us atheists started out with 12 years of an excellent Catholic education. They taught some of us all too well. We saw the light. She should get a good science background, study Particle Physics and then think some more.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • particlemaster

      where did the particles come from?

      June 23, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • LeAnn

      Exactly. I can't see a true atheist converting to Christianity, of all religions, and remaining in the faith for very long. It gets old real quick. But some people just like that moral structure. I personally would rather lose my moral compass than embrace mythology.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  17. Nate

    Haha, now that she's not atheist, she's either stupid, a sellout, or a coward. People are going to disagree with you. Grow up.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  18. Blast Hardcheese

    http://heychristiangirl.tumblr.com/

    Excellent place for a newly Christian girl to get inspiration

    June 23, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  19. Serenade Eega

    She converted to a religion that she felt fits her paradigm of life. Being that she is living in a western country that is not completely out of the ordinary.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  20. goneaerial

    If you're concerned about morality why on Earth would you become a catholic!?

    June 23, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Ralph Kramden

      Is there any religion that is more moral than secularism? I doubt it. Maybe certain Buddhist sects, but most religions are pretty immoral in practice.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:41 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.