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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. Bob

    She finally knows the truth and the truth will set her free great story thank God

    June 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  2. Bob

    She finally knows the truth and the truth will set her free great story thank God for this

    June 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  3. Howie

    The supposed 'objective morality' she is seeking simply does not exist. The very idea is just a side effect of evolution. As a species we have a better survival rate when we work together in a society. In order to work together we have to have certain rules that allow us to trust our neighbors and work together. So the so-called moral code is just a survival mechanism. That's why different societies can disagree so completely on basic questions of human rights and government policies. Unfortunate that this woman let insecurity, fear, and societal pressure overwhelm her better instincts.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  4. Jeremy

    I had never heard of this woman before and I pay attention to a lot of the online atheist community. The way she describes her friends telling her her arguments made little intellectual sense seems likely to me because she never gave any evidence besides her own emotions. Emotion is not a good pathway to uncovering knowledge.

    Also, her first presumption, that morality is objective and uncovered like in archaeology, is not how most intellectual atheists approach the question. Most atheists I know and listen to understand morality is not completely objective because we're still learning how certain actions affect other people. We are still constructing morality, indeed like an architect. A presumption of objective morality has a theist bias. We don't even ascribe to the morality in the Bible in modern society, so how can Christian morality itself even be objective?

    June 29, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      I agree. Objective morality is not a given. And why would it require a god and specifically the Catholic version of god?

      June 29, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Wouldn't it be surprising though that once the construction of your subjective morality is complete it looks a lot like the objective morality of Christians? Would that be enough "proof"?

      June 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Horus

      @Bill – yes, it would be proof Christianity, like all religions, was a cultural construct containing morality – something inherently "human".

      June 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  5. Jeff

    Morality comes from empathy. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Those without it perhaps need an external source. It existed long before this particular brand of Christianity. I'm thinking that this is a conversion based on the boyfriend's faith. That being said though, I think the upside of Christianity is it's followers duty to try to adhere to the principles of honesty, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, and self restraint. That they are required to choose this behavior over opposite kinds I think sometimes leads us to believe that these behaviors are found only in Christians. Empathic people know that one doesn't necessarily have to believe Jesus died for our sins to behave in a correct and responsible manner.

    June 29, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Sim34

      I don't see much empathy in the way conservative Christians treat gay folks, people of other faiths, atheists, or basically anyone who isn't just like them.

      June 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  6. Bob

    You guys are really funny someone deserts the rank of atheist and forget it man its worse than if you leave the church. what a bunch of morons instead of being happy for her that maybe she found something that most of you haven't

    June 29, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • tallulah13

      Bob, I honestly don't care what she believes. I'd never heard of her before this article, and I don't anticipate hearing about her again (unless CNN decides to run another article). My main complaint is that the author of this article calls Ms. Libresco a "prominent blogger" when no one seems to have heard of her. Apparently, the author (or his editor) decided to create interest in the story by overstating the importance of the subject.

      And Bob? What she found is something I considered and eventually rejected because of lack of evidence. You may not get this, but some people don't need hollow threats or promised rewards to be decent humans. As Jeff says in the post next to this, morality comes from empathy. As far as I can tell, religion tries to subvert empathy in order to create an "us versus them" mentality that may create a bond between church members but creates a division from the rest of society.

      June 29, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Bob

      tallulah13 and Jeff
      I haven't heard of her either but I will say this if you feel the Christian religion takes the them against us approach It has failed or the people have failed in there understanding. Its a sorry state of affairs, I don’t know how to say this without sounding religious but Jesus message was come as you are. It is the deepest form of relationship that can be and it’s between man and His maker not man and church. Anyone can share the experiences of salvation also some need help to understand and move on beyond their own learned ways. Without the explanation of these things without religion getting in the way is what the church is supposed to do.
      I don’t know this blogger or the reasons that they posted this but the topic is actually of great importance and relative to today. There are other blogs here that deal with other topics that are off track in there teachings. We see ones like this that gives hope and tells all are welcome and all types come out and make negative comments. This then makes you wonder why do they feel the need to do this. I haven't seen one article here that talks about faith that there aren't more negative insulting comments than good ones. This is a faith blog and those of faith can post happenings and share the awe of their experiences if atheists want to read then fine but insults and curses just don’t work move on and read something else like the vote on health care or anything that pertains to the world. Reading something that disturbs you and constantly coming back to it makes you wonder about the motives and sanity of these ,people move on. Don’t try to silence the posters with insults and criticism or grossly negative comments.

      June 29, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, you're one of the worst examples of Christianity on here, then, Bob. You insist that all must believe what you say is the Word of God, even though others who are far more knowledgable about theology disagree with your interpretation. And you interpretation is all about "us versus them".

      June 29, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • tallulah13

      Bob, there is not a single shred of proof that you god exists, but on the basis of your faith you happily consider gays and atheists to be "perverts". Please explain again how your faith doesn't divide.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Kenn Ferro

      Bob, We are always sad when someone deserts the ranks of reason for the realm of fantasy.In addition I utterly reject the oft quoted notion that because you believe in an imaginary sky being, that you are de facto happier. This blogger will make a fine Catholic or so she hopes and I wish her the best, but the fact she has decided to delude herself; period.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      Bob,

      In one post you call atheists and gays 'perverts' and in the next you tell us not to be insulting. It is this type of atti.tude that keeps us coming back.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Bob

      I thought that the only way to deal with the gays and support community was to insult them since that is all the replies I ever received back from them. Just trying to communicate on a level you would understand.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What lies you tell, Bob.

      June 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  7. God-less America

    Why is this story still up here? She was a nobody, still is a nobody, and has had her 15 minutes.

    The only thing prominent about her is her nose. She doesn't speak for me, and never will.

    June 29, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Bob

      We can have all kinds of perversion from the likes of atheists and gays but when it comes to someone taking the high road its like a bunch of hornets. I am so glad America is still a Christian Nation and there are actually some good people in it.

      June 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • tallulah13

      Bob, I get that you hate people who aren't exactly like you, but you are wrong about America. While the majority of it's citizens are christian, the United States is based on the secular promise of equality and freedom. The theocracy you desire is more in tune with Iran than with the United States.

      June 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • ME II

      @God-less America,
      I agree that she hardly rates a "top Atheist" appellation, but that hardly relegates her to a non-person, or "nobody", status. And what the hell has her nose got to do with anything? Really, try some logic sometime.

      p.s. I think her reasons for converting are almost a bad as your's for discounting her.

      June 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  8. Carl S.

    As an atheist activist for two decades, I know who the "top" atheist bloggers are, and this woman is NOT one of them. Hemant Mehta, PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Justin Vacula, yes. This woman, no. I had never heard of her. Good riddance to her.

    June 29, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • Kurt

      Agreed – I've been a pretty active reader of the most prominent atheist blogs/sites for years, and I've NEVER HEARD OF THIS PERSON. If P.Z. Myers or Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris go over to the dark side, then maybe we'll talk.

      June 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Dave

      Agreed. Never heard of her until I read this, which is odd considering I read quite a bit on this subject.

      I was also struck by the lack of clarity in the article with regards to her reasoning, and found her occasional use of the word "proof" odd when she describes the typical discussion of evidence among skeptics. Odd because skeptics usually are careful to point out that absolutes like "certainty" and "proof" aren't useful when trying to asses the veracity of claims.

      I'm going to read her previous posts out of curiosity.

      June 29, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  9. Chuckles

    I wonder how often someone converts to Christianity from being an outspoken atheist vs. the other way around. I have a feeling, this isn't supported by facts, that a lot more people decide to break from the church and become atheist instead of this woman's conversion. This is mostly because I can't really fathom a legit reason to convert to a religion after being an atheist. This woman's reason, the morality idea, can be easily answered and satisfactorily too.

    If there are other atheists who became christian, what were your reasons and why wasn't reason enough? If it was a miracle, was it explainable, or truly natural law defying?

    June 29, 2012 at 3:18 am |
  10. JamJam

    simple case of she wants to marry her catholic boyfriend so she plays the part for his catholic family read between the lines people... /facepalm

    June 29, 2012 at 3:04 am |
  11. hippypoet

    this story is equal to the bible, propaganda to promote a story based on no evidence but someone elses say so. whose to say this loser wasn't a believer all a long and just found that arguing the reverse in order to covert thru simple convo over the topic based on the belief of continued exposure to something would lead one to believe in it works....i do not subsribe that as i view it as weakness of character. but it does make sense logically as an argument. stupid people, which most are on average, are easily lead astray thru prolonged exposure to talking. most have little need for it as they normally just make noises to convey meaning. ah the days of cicero and proper speeches....will they come again...?

    June 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  12. GodFreeNow

    After sitting with this article for a few days, I've concluded that this is probably a case of what I'm going to call "preligion." These are a class of people that choose atheism without doing the reasoning work to arrive at the conclusion of atheist. Admittedly, I do not know this person, but I'm willing to wager that at her age, atheism was not a conclusion she arrived at after much study or critical thinking.

    As atheists who have taken this path know, once you reason yourself free of god, it is arguably impossible to return unless some new piece of evidence is added to the equation. If there were such a thing, all atheists would have to rethink their position.

    Personally, I am far more curious about her path to atheism in the first place than I am what caused her to go to now choose religion.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Exactly. For myself, I have a standard set of three questions I always want to ask someone who converted from atheism to theism or claim to have "turned away from god" and become an atheist only to return a few months or years later. People who claim to have been atheist but are now religious did not base their atheism on any sort of logical reasoning but merely on feelings. Feelings can led you toward theism as soon as any other conclusion–such as atheism.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      D'accord!

      June 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      I agree, if she had a good reason I would be interested, ....

      June 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  13. Moby Schtick

    I don't really care about the article anymore, but I think that Albert is insane.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • albert

      Ah, just what the world needs, another pedophile sympathizer.

      June 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  14. albert

    This woman is insane. The Catholic church is far removed from anything that the Bible teaches. Talk about brain washed!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Rose

      You ARE MISS INFORMED...-R

      June 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  15. albert

    "We only do it to people we love.” Yep, I am sure that line is used by all the pedophile Catholic priests.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Which are reported by victims groups to equal less that 7% to 9% of total Priest.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Mark's English Teacher

      The plural of 'priest' is 'priests'.

      (you got 'victims' and 'groups' correct in the plural form - why would you not say 'priests'?)

      June 29, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • ME II

      @Mark From Middle River,
      Sorry but, "RCC, now with less than 10% pedophiles..." is hardly a good slogan.

      June 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I wonder what the rates are among atheists?

      June 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • The Holy And Venerable Vatican Office Of Slogans

      We will be unveiling a new ad campaign soon, and we would like to beta test them on you. Let us know what you think.

      "The Catholic Church: There is a 91% chance that your children won't get buttfucked!"

      "Catholicism – We Are The Real Victims!"

      "Have You Ever Even Met One Of These "Abuse" Victims? Then It Didn't Happen!"

      "Send Your Children To Choir Practice! Father Bob Is All Better Now!"

      On second thought, those might not work. I think we should continue to change the subject with the health care contraception diversion strategy.

      June 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  16. albert

    So basically this person went from being atheist to becoming an apostate.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • ME II

      How so?
      Wouldn't she have to be in a religion first, to become an apostate.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
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    It's actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I'm satisfied that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

    June 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      What? Have you been drinking? What the hell are you saying?

      June 28, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  20. Jackslacks

    Conversion is a reversion to perversion.

    June 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You're a poet and don't know it

      June 29, 2012 at 3:02 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.