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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. matt houston

    Believing in anything is fine so long as you don't say you "know", but rather you "believe". So long as she is happy, that's all that matters...and she ain't hurting others.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  2. Fred

    What a moron.....religion is for the weak of mind and spirit......Did she have a tramatic brain injury?.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Clearly. She "blogs" for a living.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  3. LeoTheGreater

    Jesus hated religion and all things clergy: hypocrisy, pretense, devouring widow's property, lengthy show of prayers, rituals,greetings,high seats, supernatural, white washing tombs, decorating graves; religious uglies sought to arrest and kill him. Tell me what part of Religion, Church, Clergy, Rituals, Jesus loved! Or was a member of? NONE! Because while Jesus may have been a Jew by birth, he was an Atheist by choice; that's why they tried to kill him; Jesus testified to religion’s evil and the religious wingnut clergy of his day sought to throw him over cliffs, stone him, whip him, beat him, mock him and crucify him, which is no different than religious wingnuts do today to atheists and gays alike, especially in Muslim countries.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  4. Nathaniel

    She makes one HUGE logical error when she says about morality: "And it is external from us."

    There is simply NO evidence for any such claim.

    In fact, all research in the field is showing that morality, like so many other traits ranging from intelligence to se.xuality to self-awareness, is a spectrum on which many animal species, especially mammals, fall and practice to one degree or another. We take morality to new heights, but we've witnessed all sorts of selfless, altruistic, social, and other "moral" acts in primates and other species. We've also done a LOT of research into the morality in infants and toddlers and how the ability to "be moral" or take the thoughts, feelings, and impact of actions on others into account when making decisions and taking actions changes and grows over time in direct correlation to other physical and intellectual developmental milestones. Both of these things seem to clearly argue for naturalistic and social development of morality over an external one granted to us.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      No, I disagree.

      "Morality" is a contemporaneous consensus of our understanding of right and wrong. An individual can choose between right and wrong, but the collective definition is an agregrate – and therefore has to be external from an individual, though not external from humanity, which is perhaps the way you interpreted this.

      It is very easy to find examples of where individuals disagree on what is right and wrong. The consensus is not always clear. Religion does provide this clarity ... at a price.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "It is very easy to find examples of where individuals disagree on what is right and wrong. The consensus is not always clear. Religion does provide this clarity ... at a price"

      maybe i misunderstand what you are saying here but I disagree. religion does not provide a clarity on 'right or wrong', it instead attempts to claim an authority on it and say it is written so therefore there is no argument but at the end of the day, a person arguing with a person on right and wrong is no different than a person arguing with a 'book'. The book does not carry more weight.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  5. twoinchtammy

    This is ridiculous! I am calling this a publicity stunt to get her name/blog out there more. Morals? She is choosing to change her belief system in religion, not based on her faith that some higher power exists, but because it gives her morals?!?! Oh Jesus Christ, that is a crock! Religion does, for those apparently too stupid to learn morals by just being a good person, provide a good outline for the masses for what moral lines they should follow. However, that seems like an incredibly weak reason to become something so opposite to what you were. Publicity stunt, or the poor girl knocked her head too hard...

    June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • junior

      2 inch Tammy, Grow Up

      June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      I am going to blog about boycotting her blogs.

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

      Hey Junior...get a freaking point! Because throwing random, off the wall insults is productive conversation, right? Oh, I am sorry, were you offended by my blatant "blasfemy" of your so called "saviour's" name?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  6. Bob

    I think it's sad, but I can understand the search for meaning, wherever it may lead. It takes quite a bit of strength and courage to live with rational thinking instead of a religious crutch and I've known many people who just couldn't do it.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  7. not a real atheist

    She probably converted for her boyfriend. More than likely he will only marry another Catholic. you know it's crap when the end of the article says she is switching to the side the facts support. Facts support atheists, that is why religion relies on faith, because it doesn't have facts. Lady you give atheists every where a bad name.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      The only fact she wants to support is that her boyfriend will not put a ring on her poor blogger finger unless she converts. Girls will do anything for $$, including sell out their beliefs.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  8. The Jackdaw

    She will have to stop blogging. Christians don't want women to work.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  9. DDM

    Evidently she can't figure out how to be 'good without god' ? That logic is available everywhere – golden rule, Buddhist Eightfold Path of Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness,
    Right Concentration, most of the 10 commandments (not kill, etc). The Catholic church is full of corruption and pedophilia. What a sad come down for her!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      All human inst.tutions have problems and the Catholic church is no different. They are no different to a corporation caught with some skeletons in the closet. Unlike corporations, they can't simply fire the CEO and change some board members to make it all better.

      Everyone wants answers to the ultimate questions. Religion exists to fill this void. It's a hard path to accept that "yes, this is all there is". Irrespective of the logic involved, the promise of life everlasting as a crutch / purpose in life / motivation to get out of bed in the morning is seductive.

      Personally I am not surprised that Leah Libresco chose Catholicism. Of the mainstream religions Catholic theology is, I think, the closest to the teachings of Jesus and with two millenia of theologians thinking about it, the doctrine is self-consistent. That which cannot be explained is simply designated as a "mystery" and an act of faith is the price of admission.

      One could argue that there are serious issues with the power structure, particularly regarding the role of women, but I will credit Catholicism for at least being consistent and not a commercial sell-out to gather more shares in the 't.thing' compet.tion.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  10. B

    To all atheists that care about this article: What do you care, after your dead we are all worm food, right?

    Move on, enjoy whats left of your life, dont get caught up on the small stuff.

    Atheists may or may not be correct, Religions may or may not be correct, and no amount of science or faith can prove it to our mortal selves. Thats it, everything else is white noise.

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

      no amount of science can prove one way or the other? really? what about if we find life a=on other planets? What if we find aliens had a hand in human evolution? Not saying i believe in this stuff, but if science proves them true, it kinda screws the whole God thing.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • We know the truth...

      "Atheists may or may not be correct, Religions may or may not be correct,"

      No, that's wrong... The opposite of 'atheist' is not religion, it's 'deist'... There has been no proof as to whether god exists, but religion, particularly Catholicism, has been proven in hundreds of different ways to be purely fictional... Creationism? The Earth is 6000 years old? Pregnant virgins? Get real...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • B

      Did i say the opposite of Atheist was Religion? Nope.

      To the Alien comment: Could you not see a religion claiming that god created alien life in his image as well? The old testimate states god took 6 days to create earth and space, couldnt you see a religion intertwineing this with life on other planets?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Guest

      Ahteist, why does it negate God if aliens had a hand in human development? What if much of the Jewish/Christian legacy actually came from said alien race?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  11. Olsonic

    why am I being censored...

    June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • JellyBean@Olsonic

      The CNN modbots block any words that have t it, se x, and the like embedded in the words. Just add some spaces or dashes.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ---
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-nthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sn-atch
      sp-ank
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-oon
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).


      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Olsonic

      thank you.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  12. The Jackdaw

    Who knew Bloggers were people?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  13. paula D.

    Deep down, most atheists are Christian. You can tell because defend their position by slinging insults, "comebacks" and diatribes at anyone who suggests otherwise. Any follow-ups to this posting will undoubtedly be by another closet Catholic masquerading as an atheist. Atheism? There is no such thing; we're all God's children.

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

      So cognize all those bad traits are christian?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Colin Morgan

      I offer no snappy comebacks or insults. I only ask you to prove to me your god exists. If you do that one thing for me, I will happily kneel at the altar of prayer with you.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Ghost

      That should say:
      So you recognize...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • We know the truth...

      LOL... It's the "Everyone else in the world must agree with me" argument... The irony is that you're the reason that atheists are atheists... You're completely devoid of logic and reasoning.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      well thats a easy game to play paula.......any christian that responds to my posts are really atheists trying their hardest to convince themselves that there really is a god by repeating the nonsense they have been taught.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Steve

      Yes and God loves his children so much that he lets them die of ebola, bleeding out of every orrofice (sp?) in extreme pain while he hides cus you know, he cannot be here now and has to hide cus we need faith to believe in him otherwise he will torture us for eternity in hellfire (he has to, there is not other option for the omnipotent and his love). Man, as a race we really need to stop paying attention to iron age men.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  14. lil bitty man

    The process of converting from creation to Christ is a miracle to the converted and a riddle to the nonbeliever. Christians know the minds of the nonbeliever because they too once was a nonbeliever. The nonbeliever however will wrestle with this mysterious riddle until that miraculous moment of conversion becomes a personal experience that can't denied.

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

      Most of the time, no, they were never given a chance to be a nonbeliever. They were indoctrinated from birth, before they had developed any reasoning skills whatsoever.

      They also believed in things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, because that was what they were told as children. Unfortunately, nobody told everyone that Jesus is just Santa Claus for adults.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      riddle huh? i like the one from the hobbit.....what have i got in my pocket?
      mind you i would recommend not playing that one with a catholic priest.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  15. Andy

    In the end (future civilizations) humanity will come to realize that God is both immanent and pervades all of the universe. There is no such thing as God, on one hand, because everything is "God" in essence. The spriitual teachers now emerging into the public on Earth – the Masters of Wisdom – will show us that we are headed down a path towards growing wisdom and expansion of our awareness of the various planes of existence. There is a creator from which we stem, but our limited awareness keeps us fighting like children for now. Look up the emergence of Maitreya and you'll find some really interesting things on Share International's website. Maitreya isn't a god, he is like us but has travelled further down the path and comes to teach us how we too can become great beings, a great society as a whole, with unlimited potential in all arenas of living.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  16. Yakobi

    Huh. Most people don't choose to be insane, but in her case she did. Must be very weak minded to be infected by her significant other.

    THIS JUST IN...In the time it took for 1 atheist to convert to Catholicism, 1,000 Catholics have left the church.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  17. Huebert

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

    I have two questions

    1) What new facts appeared?
    2) Why do you believe that morality is external from us?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Nathaniel

      That's the logic error. She makes a firm claim about the "external" source of human morality that there is simply no evidence for. In fact, there is pretty interesting research that suggest quite the opposite–that human morality, like speech, motor control, and other skills, develops over time and through practice and trial-and-error and that kids go through multiple, subtle, and complex stages of moral/immoral behavior throughout infancy and toddlerhood.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  18. DrewNumberTwo

    "at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass." And since those questions are hard, she's going to let someone else do it for her.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Colin Morgan

      lol My first thoughts exactly.

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

      Like

      June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  19. makeseriously

    Apparently the athiests who read CNN blogs are as intolerant as they accuse others of being... Judgements about her lifestyle and relationships without evidence, presupposing beliefs without reading her work, calling her a Bimbo.... Pot, meet kettle. He's black too.

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

      The vast majority of atheists here are not calling her names....

      June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • We know the truth...

      Atheists are only intolerant of the intolerance spewed by Christians... Mind your own business and we'll mind ours.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  20. daveinla

    Good for you! In my prayers.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
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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.