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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. We know the truth...

    It's pretty clear that she did this as a result of peer pressure... Her boyfriend and all the 'Smart Christians' she works with... She was feeling insecure and decided to become one of them.... Religion is on a constant search for weak-minded people and they've found one.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  2. Alfred

    is it me or does she look like Adrien Brody?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  3. Why_Bother

    Being an atheist does not mean you can't agree with some of the morals taught by the church. Being an atheist is more the point that these morals are not handed down by a higher power but created by man in a way to respectfully live a righteous life. Most atheist live by a set of moral standards that the church would accept, it's really a matter of a supreme being that is the main argument.

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

      That and our morality actually means something because we're not just doing it out of fear of the invisible man in the sky.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Mbane18

      Agreed, except that those morals that we abide by today did not exist 2000 years ago when Christianity started. They still do not exist in other religions like Islam. To us they seem normal but Christianity was the foundation for every western nation and our values were though on us because of it.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Mbane18 – Agreed, except that those morals that we abide by today did not exist 2000 years ago when Christianity started"

      I am sorry but that is wrong, they most certainly did exist before christianity. Heck the ancient greeks were discussing the idea of morality and ehtics long before christianity came about.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  4. Jacquest Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    “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.”

    Could not agree more. I have a feeling she wasn't really an atheist. If an atheist were to change their mind, it wouldn't make sense for them to just jump right into a religion. One would think it would be a gradual process.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Mbane18

      Catholicism is the original Christian church. Not only that, Catholicts are very easy going people, unlike hate spreading Evangelicals. Catholics do not take the Bible literally either, rather they look at it as a moral guide. You can be a completly normal person who embraces science, technology, and basically every thing around you and still keep your belief system.

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

      Mbane. Its called "cafeteria christianity" where people cherry pick what scriptures they want to believe, and write off anything bloodthirsty or irrational as "metaphor" when really there is no explanation around killing your wife on the your wedding night if you discover she is not a virgin. Heck, Catholics largely don't even follow the dictates of their church (birth control). Its a combination of "I want to appear sane but want to go to heaven just in case". All you do is give credibility to the nutbars who you can at least compliment for going all the way and taking it for what it largely truly is. THere are two roads:

      1. Fundamentalist – I believe all of it literally and even if there are irrational and immoral things in it I will rationalize those to justify. In other words "I will twist my mind to make it fit."

      2. Liberal Christian – Some of it is too silly to believe in and contrary to the evidence but I need belief to escape from the painful aspects of life. In other words "I will twist the words to make it fit into reality".

      Both fail terrible but the former at least has greater integrity if less humanity.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  5. Tom Watts

    A stumble of faith.

    See http://clergyproject.org/
    Priests/Clergy coming out as Atheists.
    CNN should cover this ..... but no!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Jacquest Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Look at the top of CNN on the Belief Blog. There is an article about a former pastor who is helping church leaders come out as atheist.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Huebert

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/13/unbelieving-preachers-get-help-to-come-out-as-open-atheists/

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

    Atheism is just as much a belief system as Christianity, or Islam. It can also be just as radicalized.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Tom Watts

      Yawn! We have science on your side, you have faith (aka delusion/wish thinking)
      We win.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • matt houston

      The problem for Athiests is that science is based on human sense organs and their bases of contact, which means that with all their scientific instruments, there will always be some things in the Universe that do not relate to those sense organs. Things which are irrelevant to vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, thought production & perception. For such things, humans can only postulate and use abstract methods to describe them...forever doomed to be beyond the ability to verify such things for themselves.

      Multiverses, what happens in black holes, singularities, dimensions beyond the third, the true nature of time, base foundation of all matter and energy...etc...these things will never be known.

      It doesn't mean that god(s) exist, nor does it mean otherwise. But the honest person would just say, "I do not know. I hope to find out in the end." And that person would try to live a productive non-harmful life. The end.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • LinSea

      Faith and science are not enemies. It is extremists who insist on pitting one against the other.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  7. atroy

    She is a woman....they tend to fall for such things.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  8. eric

    you dont need g-d to have morality.

    The big difference is that atheists believe that everyone can get along if we admit and accept our differences, many religions (such as Christianity and Islam) say that if you are not one of us and believe the same as us your are going to hell.

    I accept your decision Libresco. although we may not agree anymore, I believe we can still sit side by side at the table of humanity

    June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Mbane18

      Actually, Hell is never mentioned in the original texts of the Bible. It's a mistranslation of the King's James bible. It actually refers to a garbage dump outside Jerusalem with the bodies of criminals, and those who commited suicide were dumped and subsequently burned (to avoid desease). If you weren't a good person, that's were you would end up instead of being properlly burried. .

      June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Steve

      It is true that there was no Hell in traditional Jewish believe and that "Sheol" was simply "the grave" as per what atheists believe occurs after death. But hell was a christian invention hence the "knashing of the teeth" and more particularly a description in the gospels where a man in hell is asking for his tongue to be quenched etc. It is an explicit story indicating that man was cut off and would not be helped. Certainly indicated he was conscious of what was occuring to him. Also believe the early Christians believed in a literal hell, heck they were desperate to convert by "any means necessary". Love, hate, threats etc. By the last gospel the jews were of their father the devil. Now that is hate that helped justify pograms and that little man with the thin moustache no doubt. As an aside, interesting how the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife, now that is faith. Believing with no eternal reward. I wonder how many knowadays would drop their "god" if that was the case. Would be a more honest assessment of their faith, that is definite.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  9. Huh?

    This is news? Who cares?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  10. dino547

    Good news and i am happy for her.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • OOO

      You realize this must be a stunt, don't you?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  11. blaqb0x

    The front page headline says "Top atheist blogger goes Christian". Umm, never heard of her. What's she the "Top" of again?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Robert

      I guess top sounds more significant than "blogger no one ever heard of"
      So I guess those priests that became atheists were actually "top priests" huh? LOL

      June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  12. LeoTheGreater

    WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT RELIGION?
    We must remember that religion CAN be a great source of humor as well as great tragedy, guilt, self-loathing, fear, misery, cruelty and pain. And one could argue that anyone who gets their morals from some ancient text might as well get their personality from a micro chip and I find it hard to argue with that point of view.pcondell

    June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • J

      As well as a great source of healing, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  13. Morals?

    How can you look to a religion that has a history of abuse and cover up, that is still ongoing, for morals?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Dave

    Im sure she did this for completely selfish reasons.(eternal life, acceptance from her boyfriends family/marriage)

    June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • JellyBean@Dave

      Spot on Dave. Won't be the last time a woman changes herself or a man.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  15. Mark

    Why do atheists spend so much time on the Belief Blog? Every story about religion is overrun with atheistic comments. If religion isn't for you, why spend so much effort saying that religion isn't for you?

    Even if there is no higher being and no afterlife, living a life according to the moral code at the heart of most religions will make you a person other people like to be around. The humility of accepting that there is something greater than you is needed in today's everyone gets a trophy society.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • dino547

      Why do atheists spend so much time on the Belief Blog
      ========
      Their lives have no meaning or purpose and they are searching for answers

      June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Olsonic

      Because religion influences the way that peoples, communities, and nations behave.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • OOO

      Everyone who follows a religion is free to come here and tell everyone else why their wrong? And we can't do the same?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How many of the believers here ever exhibit humility? Since when is a god required for moral behavior? Do you have any evidence that believers are more ethical and moral than non-believers?

      As for spending time here, the last time I checked this was a free country. People use their time as they wish. Why do you care what they say or do if it has no effect on you? You're not forced to read this forum; there are thousands of others.

      It always makes me laugh when I read this sort of complaint. You can be certain that if only believers posted here, there would be no forum at all.

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

      Why do you have this idea that atheists have no moral code simply because they don't have a list of rules, a book or a preacher telling them what to think and how to act?

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

      Do you really think that this girl had no morals as an atheist and before she joined a religion?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Because you people are a drag on the progress of humanity

      June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • eric

      the reason why atheism is starting to become more out spoken is because of people saying what you said. You assume people need to follow the exact same rules as you do. The world doesn't work that way. I dont need to feel like there is someone standing over my shoulder to be a good person. I am a good person because I feel that it is right, not because i am told that it is right.

      How would you feel if another group gained power, and they made rules that you dont agree with, like pork is outlawed, you need to grow a beard, your wife cant get life saving surgery because blood transfusions are evil. To say that everyone needs to follow your text is wrong, and what is worse is that people in power feel exactly that. "if your not christian, your not american"

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  16. Lars Babaganoosh

    That's a woman?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  17. El Flaco

    It's just a brain chemistry thing. She gets a dopamine high when in a Catholic Church.

    Most people who attend church simply inherited the practice from their parents or they married someone who does. Every time I get a new wife, I get a new religion and a new dog. So far, I've been a Catholic and a Protestant. I converted and attended services with my wife just to make her feel good. I can't say that attending church has ever done me any good. Most of the time, I'm arguing in my mind with the sermon.

    There's a really cute Greek Orthodox gal I've had my eye on ...

    June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  18. j

    What a coincidence - the religion she chose as 'correct' just *happened* to be the one her husband also holds.

    Awfully convenient for them; would have been terrible to have to spend Sunday mass in different churches.

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

    “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.”

    Doesn't sound like she was much of an atheist if she had that belief all along.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Atheism is not a doctrine or a set of beliefs. It's not a philosophy. I don't believe in ghosts, but that doesn't make me a 'no-ghoster.'

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

      Exactly. Morality external from us. What a crock. We are morality. We make our morality.

      To me that's worth a heck of a lot more than obeying out of fear to some crock somebody made up, pretending god said it.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  20. IslandAtheist

    I bet she gets married soon.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      Perhaps the boyfriend (orhis family) wants a church wedding?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:26 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.