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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. barlowc

    Obviously never read "The Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris.

    July 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  2. Realy?

    Well, I watched her interview and she didn't have one good explanation about her switch other than she decided that morals had to come from somewhere. She sounded dumber than a rock. There wasn't one intelligent reason coming from her. It was weird. Perhaps someone paid her a lot of money to switch and she needed the cash. Who knows. It was just one of the weirdest interviews I've ever seen. She's young and immature and just because she blogs a lot doesn't mean she is rational or has critical thinking skills. It was sort of laughable and I was embarrassed for her after watching her interview. Stupid is as stupid does (to quote Forrest Gump)

    July 1, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  3. rich

    sooo....where is the coverage of the catholics and other religious people that abandon religion, and reach a rational decision for atheism??????

    July 1, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  4. Mary

    Well like Ive said, make sure you study your religion good! First find out wht the Popes really do (replace Jesuschrist with a man whose ideas contradict all that Jesus says not to do). Then study the origins of Christinaity, go thru the entire History of mankind and church kind. Then study wht the apostles did and how they didnt rule like a Pope but united and in the name of Christ without ever replacing Him. Study the letters of Paul to the church of La Odicea, because that is what the Catholic church is. It will and has never made it as the church of Christ /God. It is the CULT for which the true Christian church gets mislabeled by the very cultic assasins that the greater catholic cruzades in the name of jesus killed how many? when Jesus expressedly said not to kill not to do other than forgive....anybody acting in Christ's name who kills is not a true Christian. Then find out the oaths of the Jesuits and Dominicans and how they persecuted the Lollards, and the Anglebis, and all the followrs of Christ's disciples. Catholic church is the one who kills all the true Christians. to begin wtih...then if you still want to stay with the false or antichrist Pope....dont call him a Father for there is only one Father in Heaven, do not kiss his ring or his toes, and do not believe that the bones of St. John the Baptist are his...but another set of chicken bones displayed for the unbelief in mankind to see. Then I hope you arrive to true Christianity, which is nothing close to Catholicism and its billions of people that religion of satan has killed over the centuries and since its inception by Constantine in the year 382 a.d. which mixed with the Ishtar temples and pagan practices. That is what Catholic means.

    July 1, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • kml

      "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9)
      He was using hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point) to show the scribes and Pharisees how sinful and proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, and instead setting themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers.
      the problem of many protestants is the only rely on the Bible.. can you tell me when the first Christian Bible was formed? and who decides which book to be included? why did the Gospel of Thomas, Judas and other gnostic gospels were not included in the Bible?

      July 1, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  5. FN_Jerk

    Ahhh....The FN evolution of our species continues...

    July 1, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  6. Dan

    As an atheist, I'm glad to see that she explored the evidence and then made a decision. Sad to see her go the way of Pascal's Wager, and a bit odd that she chose Catholicism as her way. I wish her luck.

    July 1, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  7. Jim Ryab

    Obviously whomever this person is, she misses this simple concept. It's not what you think it's how you think. Maybe she can be the first believer to take the late Christopher Hitchen's challenge. He challenged, "you have to name me one moral statement made or one action action taken by a believer that could not me stated are acted out by a non-believer. This is the "Hitch Slap" for those deluded individuals who believe that religion is a prerequisite for morality –

    July 1, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Jim Ryan

      Obviously whomever this person is, she misses this simple concept. It's not what you think it's how you think. Maybe she can be the first believer to take the late Christopher Hitchen's challenge. He challenged, "you have to name me one moral statement made or one moral action taken by a believer that could not be stated are acted out by a non-believer. This is the "Hitch Slap" for those deluded individuals who believe that religion is a prerequisite for morality –

      July 1, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  8. Alexander T!

    I wonder when CNN will do a profile on someone who stops believing.

    July 1, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Peteyroo

      I'd like to see that, too. Unfortunately, this blog still has several months to run–sigh.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  9. Bob

    Dinky you are so off its not a easy walk, rewarding, but not easy

    July 1, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Booby, you're posts are extremely hard to understand. You need clearer punctuation–please.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  10. drinky

    Just another lost buffoon who realized her life was pointless and jumped on the "oooh...I have faith" bandwagon. Weak minded people need fairy tales to believe it...and the thought of "I can't do anything good without religion guiding me" is a bunch of hogwash...

    July 1, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Alexander T!

      Word!

      July 1, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  11. W.G.

    Well ... the article ended correctly , Lebresco is just swtching sides . She´s not repenting , so going from being
    an Atheist to a Catholic , is to Main stream Christians like going from the frying pan and into the fire . True Reborn
    Christians do not believe in Marion worship or praying to the saints . To them it is a form of "necromancy" . As reborn
    Christians we believe what the Bible says in 1st. Timothy 2:5 where is says Jesus is the only intercessor between
    man and GOD .

    July 1, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Peteyroo

      You don't talk directly to God?

      July 1, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  12. John Smith

    What is soooo stupid about CNN is the articles they put out (and over) for the masses to read on this site. "Atheists becomes Catholic (which is essentially a CULT anyway) after a lifetime without God." OH REALLY?! A LIFETIME WITHOUT GOD! Seriously, seeing they give no age that I can see in the article, if it wasn't for the picture (which OBVIOUSLY shows a woman in her 20's or early 30's) I would assume this person to be say 70 or 80 years old. Seeing this IS NOT TRUE, then one must assume this older KID has ZERO life skills, so we can also ASSUME she made a decision based on that. An attempt at least made from getting more information than what she had previously. The ONLY problem I see is her decision to join the Catholic church, which many of us who study the word know is essentially a cult. Praying to the Virgin Mary and having a priest pray for your sins is wrong and not needed. When you pray, you pray to God and his Son, and no one else. "For God is a jealous God" as it is written, and you shall have no else before you. You need help? Then pray for it. The Virgin Mary or your family priest can't do it for you.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Peteyroo

      I believe she is 19 years old, or thereabouts. A "lifetime" hardly seems appropriate. You are quite right, John.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  13. shamrock

    So happy for you Leah.
    I'll admit that there are some confusing parts of being Catholic, for example, I'm Catholic and gay. However, the church brings such warmth and happiness to my life, I'm sure it will do the same for you. Prayers of thanks for your conversion.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Shammy, why prayers of thanks? Had she converted to Islam, would you be so happy? Had she become an evangelical, would you have been so happy?

      July 1, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  14. whitmanguy

    Militant atheists and fundamentalist Catholics are cut from the same cloth: both groups think that the world is utterly knowable, and they know what's to know about it.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • Alexander T!

      I don't think you know anything about atheism, then.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Peteyroo

      What is a fundamentalist catholic?

      July 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  15. Bob

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AT_bMuFBfs&w=420&h=315]

    July 1, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Give it up, booby. Quit spamming us.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  16. No Truth, Just Claims

    I cannot see how a man of any large degree of humorous perception can ever be religious - unless he purposely shut the eyes of his mind & keep them shut by force.
    - Mark Twain

    June 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Roland

      Then why did Mark Twain make such a hero of Joan of Arc (after he spent years going through the French archives)? Joan's faith and Catholicism soaks through every page.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:42 am |
    • Know What

      Roland,

      There's an interesting article about this here:
      http://www.theawl.com/2012/04/the-riddle-of-mark-twains-passion-for-joan-of-arc

      It might have been that Twain was bowled over and enchanted by her bravery, dedication, innocence and courage rather than that a supernatural being was actually with her, guiding her or revealing things to her or anything like that.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  17. Thien

    Welcome to the Catholic Church

    June 30, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  18. bob

    Look for Lee Strobel listen to his testimony and proving that God exists and his conversion from atheist to believer from death to life and enjoy the truth not the garbage that the comments say.

    June 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Neil

      Bob

      June 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Lee Stroebel using extremely weak reasoning. Very easy for the rational person to understand when reading his stuff, but for the unskilled in logic, see the book "The Case Against Faith."

      June 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Cq

      Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis, Augustine... all of them use weak reasoning, but what's really important to realize is that's all that they use, words! Their stuff is exactly like that editorial " Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". All they do is make a case for believing that God exists; they don't even come close to successfully arguing that God does exist. It's a shame that so many people are fooled into not seeing the difference.

      June 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Cq –

      And let's not forget that Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis, Augustine, etc. present nothing more than argument...not one single shred of empirical evidence. Watch a William Lane Craig debate and you will soon understand how one can present intricate, eloquent argument that ultimate says nothing. Prior to the Scientific Revolution, philosophy was our best-shot and deriving truth; now it's not much more than an enchanting college major, at least with regard to determining what is true and useful.

      June 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Cq

      Really-O?
      How did I forget Craig? Oy! Watching him on youtube reminds me of some Jedi trying to use the Mind Trick on people. You can almost see him wiggle his fingers...

      Christian "But I can see where evolution makes sense. There is just so much evidence for it."
      Craig "No, you don't see the evidence."
      Christian "No, I don't see the evidence."
      Craig "Now, let's talk about funding my missionary work..."

      June 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • jwt

      Lee could have been a used car salesman – the degreee of reality used in his religious spiel.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Punctuation! Please! No more run-on sentences.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  19. bob

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXqtBdULCfo&feature=related/embed

    June 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Stop spamming us.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  20. bob

    Hey guys don't fall into the trap of these atheists, gays and supporters that hate anything to do with what is right and true and honest. That’s what they do that’s who they are unlike most gays. Tom is one of the worst and doesn’t give a rats azz for you if you’re not gay or endorse gay ideals or actually care for anyone. Perverted distorted unable to have a normal give and take in a conversation. That’s because not only don’t they care but they are there to do one thing to disrupt and brutalize normal caring people. As witnessed this testimony to a girl that has come from death to life and they just want to pee on this just like a dog marking his territory. They need to make sure that everyone is as miserable as themselves otherwise what would be the reason to bad mouth a wonderful conversion. They are a extremely bad reflection on gays and any group associated with them.

    June 30, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Just Claims, No Truth

      I didn't see anything in this paragraph that was"right, true or honest".

      June 30, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Cq

      Who's "miserable"? You know, I understand why you guys need to claim this, but not many people really believe it just like not many people really believe that all Muslims are terrorists, or that the Jews control the media. The people who do believe it are just looking for an excuse to be bigoted. Give them half a chance and they'll turn on you just as easily. If you're looking for miserable people I'd start there. So, why not drop the propaganda and initiate some civil dialogue instead of what you are actually doing.

      June 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • JWT

      Sounds like you have had a miserable day – (but whats another for you),

      June 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "a girl that has come from death to life"? Her change of mind has more likely to do with making her boyfriend's family happy. What "death" was she in? What "life" has she found by rejecting conscious and objective evaluations based upon logic, turning instead to accepting delusions as "faith"? Clouding one's mind with dogma and fantasy is not life!

      June 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Bob seems to equate honesty with misery. I can see why you believe what you do, Bob, if reality makes you miserable. However, there is nothing right, honest or true about name calling. Hey, wasn't that Bob who was whining the other day about all the name calling on this blog?

      June 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Thank you Admiral Ackbar for the warning! Now I'm going to get back to my busy day of brutalizing normal people.
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dddAi8FF3F4&w=640&h=360]

      June 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      At least I see some punctuation creeping into your rants. They still make no sense, but they are getting easier to read–not that anything you say is worth reading, my feeble-minded friend. You remind me of the b*st*rds who stand at the exits of stores and hand out religious tracts. You live in a very small world since you hate almost everybody. What does a person have to do to get on your good side? Is it even possible? Say hi to your mom. Tell her I can't see her tonight.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:28 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.