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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. huskiemom

    Good luck, Leah! I'm glad you did something that most atheist won't dream of doing: You did your homework!

    I'll be praying for Leah and I welcome her!

    June 24, 2012 at 5:45 am |
  2. huskiemom

    Good for Leah! I will be praying for her and for a smooth conversion. I'm glad that she did something that most atheist won't do: her homework!

    God bless, Leah!

    June 24, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  3. CamNYC

    Life is about learning and growing – whether or not I agree with someone, I certainly respect that faith (or the conclusion, after genuine reflection, that there's nothing to believe in) is among the most personal elements of the human experience. I would never tell someone else that my beliefs were right and theirs were wrong or stupid or evil, or whatever insanity people from all teams (Christian and Atheist included) seem to spew so freely – it's the height of both ignorance and arrogance. If Catholicism resonates for Leah, more power to her. She's extremely intelligent, asks tough questions and will bring a lot to her new community.

    June 24, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • Smurfette

      My faith revolves around taking 6 month old babies, and shoving their chubby little arms into meat grinders, while their parents watch, screaming, and helpless. We use the blood and gore to anoint ourselves, before, during, and after we fornicate with goats. This pleases our god, and is the holies of holies imaginable.

      If someone explained that to be their faith, you wouldn't speak out about it? You wouldn't criticize it? You seem to be mistaking freedom to believe and follow religion with freedom from having your religious beliefs questioned

      June 24, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  4. Muhammad Waqas Fazal

    Happy for her. This just shows that debate and intellectual questioning opens your mind to different worlds. I am a Muslim, I still appreciate her conversion to Christianity. 1 step forward. God bless you

    June 24, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  5. bryanbeus

    Cool story. I support:)

    June 24, 2012 at 5:20 am |
  6. Likealion

    "Reality, in fact, is always something you couldn't have guessed. That's one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It's a religion you couldn't have guessed." C.S.Lewis

    June 24, 2012 at 4:49 am |
    • Rock T.

      Ah, but religion poisons everything it touches, whereas reality does not, so you are using a false equivalency there.

      June 24, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • CamNYC

      Great quote, Lion – I'd never heard that before.

      And Rock, I'd never say religion as a whole is toxic – it's *people* who insist they are right and everyone else is evil that causes division – rarely the belief systems themselves. If "religion poisons everything it touches," how do you explain the achievements of folks like Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, etc. and those who try to perpetuate their work even today? Each of them were driven and guided by their various religious beliefs.

      June 24, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • arbolast

      isn't it sad when crazy people talk? it's like listening to the babbling noises from a flatulent vacuum cleaner.
      there are no gods.
      nothing based on falsehoods has any validity whatsoever.

      June 24, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  7. Tiffany

    Glad to see Leah joining the fold. Theological mystery doesn't mean something we're unable to process; but rather so vast we'll learn and grow forever, while still realizing Truth. Pax Christi!

    June 24, 2012 at 3:40 am |
  8. Kathryn

    Jesus Christ said "If anyone come unto me I will in no wise cast out". She was being in her own words. “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend,” now she's given in for love and become equally yoked as a Catholic. Not a mention of Jesus Christ so I trust the Church will be teaching her the New Testament. Never confuse the Church with God in Christ Jesus.
    And don't forget the 2nd Chapter of Acts !! Happy Christian Life 2 You! Put on the full armor of God – look it up. Blessings

    June 24, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  9. kubush

    She thinks the facts are on the side of the catholic church? Does she understand what "facts" are?

    June 24, 2012 at 3:29 am |
  10. Trent

    This is why I love Catholocism

    June 24, 2012 at 3:25 am |
  11. SpecOpsMike

    Damo: The sperm from the man hits the egg within the woman. What makes the child before ultrasound finally finds it in the womans womb? Figured it out yet? Facts, please. Now, noone knows that. Fact. Have a nice day, Damo. Try to be more respectful to your Higher Power.

    June 24, 2012 at 3:20 am |
    • HPKZ

      You mean when gametes turns into a zygote then into an embryo through cellular division?

      June 24, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • tallulah13

      SpecOpMike probably should have gone to biology class back in high school. This is why skipping school is bad.

      June 24, 2012 at 4:35 am |
    • Damo

      Human somatic cells have 46 chromosomes, whereas sperm and eggs have 23. When a sperm and ovum combine their chromosomes to make a zygote, this results in the correct 46 chromosomes needed for a unique new individual. The zygote's chromosomes are steadily duplicated, resulting in cell division over and over again, producing more and more cells and moving from one stage of development to the next, eventually producing a fetus. I can go into more depth, if you like. We know these things. We teach them in schools. We even know how magnets work.

      It's a miracle all right, but not the way you mean. Life, the Universe, Everything... it's wonderful, I have nothing but respect for it, and I wouldn't insult this fantastic marvel of a universe by pretending a tooth fairy made it with magic.

      June 24, 2012 at 5:53 am |
  12. CNN

    Breaking News:

    Former prominent atheist blogger now believes there is a heavenly creator living beneath the surface of Neptune. Story at 10:00

    June 24, 2012 at 3:13 am |
  13. Damo

    Isn't "prominent blogger" an oxymoron?

    June 24, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  14. Mary

    ÇAtholicism is not true Christianity but a conversion of pagan Constantine Emperor church which did not follow Jesuschrist's dogma. Catholicism worships the creation not the Creator, worships man and the things of mankind, and replaces Jesuschrist himself with a Pope who alters the Bible whenever convenient and has actually been the wide road and is the Harlot in scarlet from Revelation. Nofthing of the true Christ is represented in the Catholic church and the transgressions are great against God of all they have twisted, added to the Word, and on Christ's named killed billions.

    June 24, 2012 at 2:52 am |
  15. Mary

    ÇAtholicism is not true Christianity but a conversion of pagan Constantine Emperor church which did not follow Jesuschrist's dogma. Catholicism worships the creation not the Creator, worships man and the things of mankind, and replaces Jesuschrist himself with a Pope who alters the Bible whenever convenient and has actually been the wide road and is the Harlot in scarlet from Revelation. Nofthing of the true Christ is represented in the Catholic church and the transgressions are great against God of all they have twisted, added to the Word, and on Christ's named killed billions.
    True Christianity, was taught by the followers of Christ and it had nothing to do with killing but forgivness. Christ died for our sins but we still have to forgve others as HE forgave us. No forgivness no salvation. The Narrow Road which Jesus explained is not the Catholicism way at all. Jesus scolded the religious people of his time and moreso their religious leaders for beign ravenous wolfes disguized as sheep and destroyign the sheep for the sake of religion which does not save. All of the doctrine of Catholicism goes against Christ actually, and yes it is of satan who can perform signs and wonders and blind peopel to believe whatever even lies infront of their eyes.

    June 24, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • mickey1313

      @Mary it was Spanish Christians, not Italian Catholics that committed the worst genocide ( native American) in human history, so much for live and forgiveness.

      June 24, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • k

      You don't really know anything about Catholicism, do you? Start by reading our Creed. Then maybe turn to the Catechism. And stop reading articles and books written by so-called experts that actually know nothing about our faith. They're vitriolic screeching (much like your comment) is poisoning your mind ... rather than opening it to what the truth is about our faith. I'm not saying you have to follow our faith ... but at least find out what we actually believe.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  16. JGN

    Yeh I knew women who were 'college lesbians' too; being what they thought of as radical until it suited them to drop it. A real atheist does not suddenly convert to religion. If anything she was agnostic, meaning she had doubts about her religiousness rather than convictions about the absurdity of organized religion. And then she joined one of the most benighted sects!!
    Ha ha, I just got the one about the chip-'monk', very funny!

    June 24, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • Likealion

      LOL

      June 24, 2012 at 4:52 am |
  17. Tooch

    Leah has become delusional just as every other religious person has. The fact is: There is no god. Those who pray are simply talking to an invisible man...

    June 24, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • particlemaster

      thats what you feel is true. in the end your opinion doesn't really mean anything to these people.

      June 24, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed. She has been duped into three belief of an immortal soul, and is hedging her bets. Sad. Born again, has been proven too cause atrophy ( shrinkage) of the brain. She should have stuck to logic, it strengthens the brain, not disintegrate it.

      June 24, 2012 at 2:59 am |
    • JWT

      And yet it usually does no harm to believe in god – so let her believe as she wishes.

      June 24, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  18. JCizzle

    This proves one thing: There's one born every second.

    June 24, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  19. SpecOpsMike

    Kudo's, young lady. Realized that she is here because a woman and a man copulated. The sperm hit the egg, and then the scratching of heads from any scientist observes; what happend after that before we saw the baby in the womb? Well, that is where a Higher Power comes into play. Cannot figure out the fruit before it blooms? Beautiful.

    June 24, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Damo

      Scratching of heads? What? Do you think scientists don't understand what happens next? We do. Very well. And we learn more every single day. We add to our body of knowledge constantly.

      You consult a book that hasn't changed in millennia. You dismiss any new facts, or when that finally becomes too difficult you try to twist the meaning of words and pretend your ancient dogma isn't contradicted left and right by our expanding knowledge of the world around us.

      June 24, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      SpecOpsMIke: Your post was extremely confusing. Are you trying to say that the human reproductive cycle is somehow a mystery? If you find it so mysterious, you should probably consult a biology book.

      June 24, 2012 at 3:17 am |
  20. whybs on twitter

    "A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend... at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass"

    If her bf were a chip-munk, she'd have converted to Buddhism! 🙂

    June 24, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • mickey1313

      Lol. People who claim that morality is gods work, are obviously lacking in anthropology lessons. Middle are the result of 10's of thousands of years of evolution. The helped humans work together to prevail over much superior predators. But as we overcame nature, people began to hord as much as they could, and it is this greed that has become the downfall of virtually every society.

      June 24, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • mickey1313

      Middle – morals, darn auto correct

      June 24, 2012 at 3:07 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.