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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. JP

    Great, another convert to the "god of the gaps." Some sort of "win" for believers? Not hardly. All this shows was that she was woefully under-developed in her initial position to begin with. Any atheist who feels the need for an external "moral compass" is certainly not atheistic as a result of a well-thought out and educated take on the matter. She probably just took the trendy contrary stance while she wore a lot of black in Jr. High and thought The Matrix was a crowning achievement in mankind's philosophic endeavors.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • closet atheist

      Couldn't agree more. Have to wonder how much real thought she put into her original position.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
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    June 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  3. atheist@heart

    I've pulled a few scams in my time. Hasn't everybody? It was only ever worth scamming gullible people. Scam anyone else & you end up in deep trouble. I hear that Illuminati & Bilderberg is full of gullible people. Isn't it about time someone scammed these outfits?
    If you're still into scamming, ONLY EVER SCAM THE GULLIBLE. The rest just ain't worth the trouble.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • The Corrector

      I actually like your approach to Illuminati & Bilderberg on this one atheist@heart.
      Your approach on this one may well go viral from this very blog.
      Can you actually get away with scamming gullible organizations like Illuminati & Bilderberg?

      June 27, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • rory

      Let's start to promote world peace in the worldwide media today,love you all

      June 27, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  4. seo clearwater

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    June 27, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  5. WASP

    @earthen: "God first created mankind in the spirit realm, before he formed man in this 3 dimensional realm"

    well by your statement you have no understanding of science. we don't exsist in a 3 dimensional realm, our reality consists of more than 3 dimensions. 3 dimensions would be length,width, heigth there is also time. so in the very least we exsist in four dimensions and there are theories that this exsistance is made of many more dimensions we have yet to fathom.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      One of those being the spiritual?

      June 27, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Steve

      We are NOT physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. You don't have to like it. You don't have to agree with it. But that's just the way it is.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • ME II

      @Steve,
      "We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. You don't have to like it. You don't have to agree with it. But that's just the way it is."
      On what exactly do you base us being "spiritual beings"?

      June 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
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    June 27, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  7. Beccs

    Why is this even news? She's hardly "prominant" in the atheist community. In fact, until this made "news" I'd never heard of her. Now if it was a truly prominan atheist like Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers or the like who had converted it might be news worthy.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:49 am |
    • Chileno

      How about Anne Rice? Author of Interview With A Vampire, also an Atheist-turned-Christian.

      June 27, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Robert

      Chileno,
      I, for one, am not an atheist because someone else is or isn't so it's really irrelevant who converts one way or another. Sheep play follow the leader, thinkers think for themselves. I'm more than capable of considering the evidence or lack there of and making up my own mind. the original poster has a point, who really cares what the chick no one has ever heard of converts to. I'm sure there are millions of conversions every year, the only thing that makes this one news worthy is the nothion that the christian right will use it as a stick to bash other atheists with. It's a shame they just don't get it. The atheist community wishes her well, but her choices are not our choices.

      June 27, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • WASP

      @robert: very well said. i would applaud you........hell i think i still will. *round of applause*

      June 27, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Beccs, welcome to how us Faithful feel when the Belief Blog editors post articles about pastors or imams that are hardly known in their own denomination let alone outside in whole of the Faithful community. The editors attempt to make them look prominent and that all should know and feel represented by them. Take the article about the pastor that said slap your Gay child. When it was found that his congregation was no bigger than most churches, we asked why was it news other than it was just another bigot.

      When you discover and come to the realization that the main purpose of the Editors is to make sure that the Faithful and the Atheist remain in conflict and at each others throats. Just look at articles/stories. A week ago it was about a pastor ..... another one that was not known in the general Christian community... that now has converted to Atheism. This week it is a Atheist not only converting to Christianity but all the way to Catholicism. That way they could also have anti-Catholic Christians joining in with some Atheist attacking this lady.

      We are here for the entertainment of the Belief Blog editors . All of us.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • tallulah13

      Mark, the pastor who wished to hit gay kids was in the news because it's horrible - not just for a religious person, but for anyone. I would hope that any leader, no matter how minor, who advocated child abuse for any reason would be subject to public scrutiny and public castigation - even if that person were an atheist leader telling parents to hit their kids if those kids considered converting to a religion.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:52 am |
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    June 27, 2012 at 4:11 am |
  9. Jack

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    June 27, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Lily von Shtupp

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      June 27, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      @ Lily: Sounds like a good idea. Should I loosen my bullets too? Say yes.

      June 27, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  10. lolliverse

    Well, I'm just one person – but I've spent an inordinate amount of time reading religious and atheist blogs for the past few years, and I never ran across this "prominate" blogger until now. Why is it news? Because it's unusual. most transitions between religion and non-religion are going the other way. So one person of limited public note goes the other way and the trumpets sound and the bells ring out! Thankfully, the trend is in the opposite direction.

    June 27, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Cq

      Chalk it up to the Christian love of a good Prodigal Son story. Wait until Katy Perry's pop career dries up and she makes her (already planned?) return to singing Christian music. Then you'll really see the fattened calf being brought to the party!

      June 27, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      I expect this is just another case of CNN "stirring up the animals". This is a nothing story, but look how many posts have been made about it. Then why am I even posting myself? Many of the posts are instructive in how people think, as well as how they react to criticism. Yes, I'm human too and have my faults. However, the more you know about human thought, the more you know about yourself. I just wish the really stupid bloggers would go somewhere else. OK, the last sentence will attract the trolls, but then, it doesn't matter.

      June 27, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  11. Guy

    Clearly God never gave this unfortunate person a brain.

    June 26, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  12. joseph

    You can live in neither the past nor the future. Neither can be touched, smelled, heard or seen. Yet we plan our lives around them, life and death decisions are based upon them, and somehow we understand if either one were to disappear – so to would existence as we no it. If the mind instinctively knows to believe in such concepts despite their lack of physical manifestation, how much more the Author of past, present and future. Instincts suppressed leads to disorder obsessed. Disorder obsessed is the product of a mind repressed.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  13. Ben

    Ironic that allegedly after being an atheist, with all of the flavors of christianity she would convert to one of the most oppressive reliigions to women and gays.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I wonder if she was in Saudi Arabia, she would have converted to Xtianity. Actually, I don't wonder that at all.. OF COURSE NOT. That's how religion works...wherever you're born, you're born into the "right" religion.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Cq

      Edwardo
      In fairness, that works for all other kinds of cultural things as well. Take sports. If you grow up in India you're more likely to be a cricket fan than an American football fan. Missionaries are making inroads in new markets, but it's still mostly regional.

      June 27, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  14. Edwardo

    Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place. It is of course, the place you strive for and name “salvation”. Yet, it experienced a war (Revelation 12:7). How can there be a war in a perfect place and if it happened before why couldn’t it happen again? Why would I want to go to a place in which war can occur? That’s exactly what I’m trying to escape, aren’t you?

    June 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Cq

      I've often speculated what conservative Christians would do if they went to heaven and found that God let everyone in, regardless of creed or disbelief. Some of them, I think, would be so upset that heaven isn't exclusive to just them that they'd actually leave which, you know, would be pretty ironic considering where the only place they could go would be. As it is, a lot of them seem to already think that they know the best choices that God should make, so maybe they're headed for that place anyway.

      June 27, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  15. joseph

    Instead of asking what came first – the chicken or the egg, a more useful question to ask is who came first – the man or the womb, or which came first – the future or the past?!

    June 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • motherearth

      You still don't know what came first..the chicken or the egg??? The egg developed when the chicken( aka-small dinosaur) evolved from giving live birth to laying eggs, after larger predators began dieing off. Really haven't you got it yet ?

      June 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Ben

      Evolution occurs when the offspring differ from the parent's genetics, so a bird that was almost a chicken laid an egg with the genes for the "first" chicken.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Cq

      Ben
      Domestic chickens were bred from particular species of wild jungle fowl, I believe, so it was a rather rapid case of actual intelligent design, as most farm animals are. Still, you'd need to line up several thousand generations of chicken to get from that wild bird on down to the genetically altered meat factory that gives us our McNuggets today, but if you walked down that like you could easily see how the birds would start to look different down the line. What gets me is how creationists somehow can't see how something like this could happen naturally over a hugely longer period of time. Simply amazing!

      June 27, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Write4U

      Definition of an egg:
      "In zoology, an egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg (Latin, ovum) is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing embryo can survive on its own. The term "egg" is used differently outside the animal kingdom, for an egg cell (sometimes called an ovum). Reproductive structures similar to the egg in other kingdoms are termed spores, or (in spermatophytes) seeds."

      Draw your own conclusions.

      June 27, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Arvoasitis

      Ahh, yes. The age-old question: Did Adam have a navel? Why would he have a navel if he was formed out of dust? On the other hand, if he didn't have a navel, he wasn't entirely human, was he?

      June 27, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Cq

      Arvoasitis
      Better question, what "physical attributes" did God have to lead people into believing he was male? I mean, with no other Gods of his species to breed with, why would God be male? Wouldn't it be more likely that God was epicene?

      June 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  16. Star Performer

    Thank you for your confession atheist@heart.
    I will indeed get back to my success stories.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  17. Sam Yaza

    the things humans do for love never ceases to amaze me,.. i think that why I'm so fixated one you all,... my friend Gem Ori thinks its a fetish,... but what does she know,... any ways if you want to play christian for the one you love go for it,.. after all I'm always telling Christians they have to climb the tower of the demon to get closer to god,... so why not inverse,... remember freedom will always be in your heart you will never truly deny the rebellion in you i hate to be a D!ck but you already belong to your self,... i did my job,.. theirs no closing the book once you read it

    June 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  18. tony

    All her life??? What, 10 years post 14 and 2 years blogging? This "woman" was no atheist.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • lulz for Jesus

      No true Scotsman.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • philo66

      Well, actually, if she had no belief in a god, she's was an atheist. Reason is not necessary to be an atheist. One can be irrational and ignorant and also be an atheist. Now, to call her a "Top Atheist", that is a different matter...

      June 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Chertk Paglliarella

      Leah was always such a good moral and loving person that God called her.

      June 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Cq

      Was she like C.S. Lewis, raised a Christian, spent a few years in her youth going through an atheist phase only to return to her childhood faith?

      June 27, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • Armenia

      Just because she blogged for only 2 years is no indication that she was not an atheist all her life. Most atheist "know" before they actually come out and say it for their world to hear.

      June 27, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Sue

      @Armenia
      You mean she was only blogging as an atheist for 2 years?! That's just a phase she was going through, honey!

      June 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  19. slickteigkcmo

    God bless you and keep your faith strong, you are in my heart and prayers, halleluia, if I could ever be a friend, in faith, I would . God is great, and you have many blessings, that He has given you already, rejoice and know what you now believe is the truth, the way and the light, you will be taken care of by God himself and just believe, it is true, true peace and love..... we are His, and He is always, always there for us!!!!! May you never waiver in your faith, God bless all of us. Your Christian, Catholic friend in Christ, in kc, mo. all the best to you!!!!!!!

    June 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • wwwwaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

      wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

      June 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @wah

      You just confused the sh!t out of my iPad....

      June 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • wwwwaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

      Sorry, I couldn't control myself. I had laughed so hard I had to change my shorts.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Jesus consistently contradicts himself concerning his Godly status. "I and my father are one." (John 14:28) Also see Philippians 2:5-6 Those verses lead us to believe that he is a part of the trinity and equal to his father being a manifestation of him. Yet, Jesus also made many statements that deny he is the perfect men, much less God incarnate. Take the following for example: "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God" (Matthew 19:17). "My father if greater then I." (John 14:28) Also see Matthew 24:26 Clearly, Jesus is denouncing the possibility of him being the Messiah in those three verses.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Sue

      @slickteigkcmo
      Where is "He" exactly? Can you point out where he is?

      June 27, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  20. atheist@heart

    It's certainly looking very serious for Illuminati & Bilderberg!
    I've been throwing up constantly since I read Star Performer's last comment.
    The Corrector is a very serious contender too.
    What has gone wrong with this world has got nothing to do with religion & we know it.
    Excuse me, I need to throw up again – all over Illuminati & Bilderberg!

    June 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Star Performer

      Did you stray too far atheist@heart?

      June 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • atheist@heart

      Yes, I strayed too far Star Performer.
      This is why I'm constantly throwing up over Illuminati & Bilderberg.
      Get back to your success stories Star Performer.
      They were the only thing I had left to clutch at.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      what to know who the real conspirators of world domination and destruction,... here is a hint.....its got allot of followers,.. and the follow blindly even though there book talks of the New World Oder and destruction of everything

      June 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Star Performer

      Thank you for your confession atheist@heart.
      Permit yourself an answer to this violent sickness.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • JellyBean

      WTH are you babbling on about?

      June 27, 2012 at 8:05 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.