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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. Steve

    All of this speculating why SHE did it is mute, We can know God only because He first knew us, just as we choose Him only because He first chose us (John 6:44; 15:16), and we love Him only because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

    June 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Huh?

      mute...?

      June 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Steve

      Moot

      June 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Sim34

      "We can know God only because He first knew us"
      You can drop the name of any god into that formula and it still works for those who believe in him, you know?

      June 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  2. Jack

    On this day, all are invited to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  3. Emmy

    You don't "switch" to a religion because of facts, you switch because of your beliefs. Obviously she doesn't see that the whole point of Catholicism is believing in JESUS, NOT their opinion on gay mariage and abortion. If she wanted to choose sides on controversial issues, then she should get involved in politics, then find Jesus.

    June 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Cq

      Emmy
      Does the same thing hold true for people switching to evangelical Christianity? Are they being encouraged to work out their feelings regarding the controversial issues before finding Jesus? Probably not, right?

      June 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  4. PRISM 1234

    In the Beginning there was God, and everyone BELIVED !
    In the End everyone will believe too, NO EXCEPTIONS!

    June 28, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Steve

      Ain't it da truth. Ain't it da trutth.

      June 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Sim34

      You boys remind me of the images of little German children cheering the trains carrying Jews to the death camps.

      June 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • ME II

      I thought that In the beginning, there wasn't anyone.

      June 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      In the beginning there was a zero infinity; in the end there will be an infinite zero. At least that's what our perspective and quantum mechanics imply.

      June 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • WWJD

      In the end, there'll be nobody to believe. NO EXCEPTIONS

      June 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  5. tuffboy

    It sounds more like a change from democrat to republican than athiest to christian. The christian morals are in line with her morals so she chooses to switch? I bought a house with stained glass windows and I love them. Does that mean I should join a church too?

    June 28, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Sim34

      Yup! It's like people choosing to be communists just because they find it to be the best match for the economy they have in Star Trek.

      June 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  6. Cal

    So when do we get the "Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism" article draws nearly 7000 comment article?

    June 28, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  7. mayflowertwin21

    She seems pretty young for her pronouncements to be given much credence. There are many Catholics who have gone the opposite direction for the same reasons, with equally strong examination of conscience.

    June 28, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Laura

      And I am one of them

      June 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  8. weighingin

    seriously, this makes me sick...

    June 28, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  9. ChiefKurtz

    “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.”

    Sounds like she's still unsure and still looking. Atheism is about belief, not about what you know.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • ME II

      "Atheism is about belief, not about what you know."
      Huh? ... lack of belief?

      June 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • ChiefKlutz

      Not even close

      June 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  10. Simon

    She claims she converted because she saw morality as being "external from us". The only way that makes any sense is if human beings had no understanding of why certain actions are good or bad. If someone told her it was good to hop around on one foot all day, would she follow their advice without question? Of course not. And if she was told to stick a knife in a helpless old lady, would she happily do so. I certainly hope not! I'm quite sure she understands what moral instructions are sensible, ridiculous or wrong, so why does she think they need to come from somewhere else? (In any case, of course, they never come from a booming voice from the sky, just other human beings – so the idea that religious moral instructions are from an "external" source is absurd.)

    June 28, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  11. Kebos

    Really. I follow "religiously" the top bloggers and I've never heard of her.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • Dervid

      Me too, no idea who she is. If Richard Dawkins had converted, then it might be news ... otherwise, boring ...

      June 28, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Steve

      @Dervid

      "Me too, no idea who she is. If Richard Dawkins had converted, then it might be news ... otherwise, boring ..."

      No you wouldn't. You would respond with the usual, "he must be losing his mind..."

      LOL!!!

      June 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • ME II

      @Steve,
      ... still news.

      June 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  12. Pumpkin Plan

    Someone essentially lend a hand to make seriously articles I'd state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and up to now? I amazed with the research you made to create this actual post amazing. Fantastic job!

    June 28, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  13. Peteyroo

    Top? Prominent? I'd like to see what you call average or regular.

    June 28, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  14. Bryce

    Hmmm...I'm pretty familiar and I guess "prominent" on online atheist websites and I've never heard of her, nor has anyone else I talk with regularly.

    Well, whatever. So she changed her world view? Good for her. Unfortunately her arguments for converting to catholicism does very little to prove catholicisms case. She claims she converted after thinking about death and morality and decided she liked the idea of ever lasting life. No kidding! As opposed to atheists that all wished they could die a short life? Silliness.

    And morality? Then she goes on to list but a few of the immoral tenets of catholicism. Someone already pointed out that it's not like the arguments for catholicism have changed over the pats 100 years.

    "I've really thought about it and...I've decided to become a muslim because I kind of like the concept of a bunch of virgins when I die"

    Such solid logic.

    Anyway, good luck to Leah. That's one conversion and according to global statistics about 2 million catholics de-converted during 2011. I'll take those numbers. (Now if only CNN ran a story for all of them)

    June 28, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  15. Bill

    I understand her conversion and agree with the concept of a moral compass. Treating people well and doing good are completely arbitrary and/or subjective otherwise. However, she could have picked a much better moral compass than the Roman Catholic Church.

    June 28, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Zed Mezcalhead

      I agree. Her compass is a little wonky. She needs yo invest in a new one. One that points North instead of south.

      June 28, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • Zed Mezcalhead

      I agree. Her compass is a little wonky. She needs to invest in a new one. One that points North instead of south.

      June 28, 2012 at 3:08 am |
    • Cq

      Moral compasses, like the real ones, have to be calibrated to where the north magnetic pole is, which fluctuates pretty much every year. Using an outdated idea of where north magnetic is will lead you astray, and religion tends to set their moral compasses by ancient moral norms that don't even come close to indicating where the moral pole is today. Because they rely on outdated information religious moral compasses aren't that useful anymore.

      June 28, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  16. bananaspy

    So.. what facts are there? As far as I'm aware, we're still arguing the same points about religion we were 2,000 years ago, and religion is still providing the same stale answers. Catholicism offers no more "answers" regarding morality than science does, or any other religion for that matter. If you want a truly moral philosophy to live by, look into Eastern philosophies.

    June 28, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Cq

      2000 years ago people believed in thousands more gods than they do today, but the various arguments have whittled that number down to just a handful. Once everyone realizes that the same arguments against the Greek, Roman, Norse, Chinese, Aztec and other gods work equally well against their god then this particular superst.ition will fade completely.

      June 28, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  17. edocol

    enjoy your 15 minutes traitor

    June 28, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  18. Peteyroo

    Has CNN run out of topics? This one is getting a little long in the tooth. It seems like it's been around for months. How many new posts can there be after 90 pages?

    June 28, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  19. James

    Never heard of her...why is this a story?...

    "Prominent Mall Santa now believes in the Real Santa" This stuff gives me a headache...

    June 28, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • augustghost

      LMAO

      June 28, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • Mike

      Now that is some funny stuff right there! Love it!

      June 28, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Peteyroo

      James, you are spot on! Mall Santa meet Leah.

      June 28, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • Dervid

      ^^^^^ Good one, LMAO!

      June 28, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Laura

      Very funny, James!

      June 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  20. hghhhghghghghhhhr

    I JUST HAD A MAD SHROOM TRIP, WANNA JOIN MY RELIGION

    June 28, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Sim34

      I don't know. Are shrooms better for seeing God than burning bushes? 😉

      June 28, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • ME II

      I'm guessing it depends on the bush.

      June 28, 2012 at 5:06 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.