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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. James PDX Mostly Straight

    The very premise, that morality is external to us, is fallacious. So no surpise that she would come to the fallacious conclusion that facts are on the side of Catholicism. What facts? The fact that God killed every person on the planet in a fit of rage and then forced the last surviving family to repopulate the planet through incest? Please. She either converted because she felt the need for a god or for the sake of sensationalism.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  2. tjber89

    This women is a complete moron I am disgusted at this, basically she didn't want to do the work required to prove her original belief so she coped out and did what was easy

    July 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  3. outputcomment

    Even worse is the last statement of this piece.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  4. Leftcoastrocky

    "Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism" and gains a large following and riches.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  5. James the Canadian

    What a total cop-out. It sounds like she couldn't rationalize morality as possibly the creation of human beings – god forbid (pun intended) that we should take credit for the creation of our own morality.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  6. emefkay

    "Top Atheist Blogger?" Never heard of her; and after visiting a few atheist discussion boards, it turns out that I'm not the only one. couldn't even find her blog with a simple google search...this is a sensationalist headline, not news worthy.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  7. JMissal

    Sounds like a set-up by the Vatican to me.

    And for those of you who don't believe that the Vatican wouldn't/couldn't plan such a thing over YEARS, think again. The secrecy shrouded in that city is far greater than that in our very own Pentagon.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  8. Jim Ryan

    I'll bet the Vatican is happy that someone finally used the "In" door because the "out" door needs some oil on its hinges.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  9. pattymc

    she chose to go back into the matrix

    July 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  10. DanW

    She traded her devout belief in atheism for a different devout belief. Happens all the time.

    July 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Joe Labriola

    You can be "moral" without being a Catholic. What a short-sighted tool.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  12. WhatWhatWhat?

    She was never an atheist, she was just pretending so that she could switch later. Anyone who says that religious delusion answers more questions than science is completely whacked out of their skull.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • JonDconde

      "Science" answers almost no net questions.. In fact it's fundamentally meant to create more. As a Biophysicist I believe that believing in something greater then ourselves is good and allows us to see and be captured in the wonder of life, as long as it is taken in context. The fact that realistically unintelligent self-described "intellectuals" use "Science" as a means to discredit something they themselves cannot prove or disprove truly disturbs me.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  13. tim

    looks like the character in Crying Games...clearly not as smart as the fictional character though.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  14. pawnyourhalo

    There are many roads to belief, and many roads to disbelief. And there is overlap. I know quite a few "religious nonbelievers" - mostly Catholics and Jews - who simply enjoy the culture in which they were raised, but don't really believe. Likewise, I know many faithful atheists, who don't have a god, but are completely positive that there's more than we understand at work in the universe. We see a lot of extremists in print - rabid believers and rabid nonbelievers - but for most honest people, there's a lot of hope and not a lot of absolute conviction. This is no shocker.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  15. PumpNDump

    Newsflash, her catholic boyfriend DUMPED HER. Her conversion is based upon the musing of an unattractive, confused woman who knows very little about science and decided to convert. End of story.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  16. tony

    It's here "bottom" that she seems to be best known for. She's pretty much a self-inflated nobody egotist.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Nancy

    I am an Atheist and active in the secular community online and have never heard of this person. "Top" atheist blogger? Ummm no. She's young she has a great deal to learn.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • pawnyourhalo

      Or unlearn! Perhaps that's why she selected an organization that is dogma-rich. All the comfort of structure, with none of the pressure to prove/test/exhibit your devotion, such as Evangelical Protestants have. Being tested on the Baltimore Catechism is a lot easier than speaking in tongues.

      July 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  18. Dan

    It is safe for her,she is female Priests only want boys.

    July 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  19. Doug

    I've never heard of this woman. But from a cursory look it's quite obvious this is about her boyfriend.

    And anyway, where are all the CNN articles about all the Catholics becoming atheist?

    July 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  20. Brandon

    It's fairly obvious from her former banner "Unequally yoked: a geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend", that she converted to please her boyfriend. I don't care what religion you are, but I do find it strange that she goes straight from being an atheist to, not just a believer, but to a specific religion. I find it pathetic that she would do that just to please her boyfriend, but if that's what she wants, more power to her.

    July 1, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • richteel

      Brandon,

      I find it odd that people found it odd that she picked a specific religion. Yes, I am sure her boyfriend had a big influence on her decision to convert to Catholicism and I would have been surprised if she converted to another religion.

      I am a christian, protestant, who questions critically questions things about Christianity and looks for proof. I am not an atheist but I have questioned God's existence and have come to the conclusion that there may or may not be a God and that it does not matter what the truth is. What matters is where we find our moral center and only religion can provide that. I have heard arguments from atheists stating that they were raised with good morals and have a good moral center. This may or may not be true but I would argue that it is easier to shift your center to appease your desires when the corner stone that your center is built upon was created by yourself for yourself rather than believing in an unmovable corner stone laid in place by someone/something greater than yourself.

      I do have a problem with Christianity as it is not open to honest helpful debate on positions and ideas. There are several things that I have a hard time accepting and desire to debate however the church frowns upon open discussions on most things as written in the Bible. I also see the same problem in nearly all religions which is most unfortunate as I think these types of open discussions would only strengthen the church and religion overall.

      I have seen a great deal of negative comments about Leah's move but I fully support her an wish her the best. I also encourage her to continue to question and challenge others as to why the church believes in one thing or another. I think if the church was more open to honest debate and different ideas that the church would be much better as a result.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:02 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.