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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. Jack

    Hello, everyone is welcome to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    July 3, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  2. Bob

    Luk 16:19 "Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.
    Luk 16:20 "And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,
    Luk 16:21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
    Luk 16:22 "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.
    Luk 16:23 "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
    Luk 16:24 "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
    Luk 16:25 "But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
    Luk 16:26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'
    Luk 16:27 "And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house–
    Luk 16:28 for I have five brothers–in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
    Luk 16:29 "But Abraham *said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
    Luk 16:30 "But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!'
    Luk 16:31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"

    July 3, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Bob

      Interesting how Elmo wants God to prove Himself this scripture speaks to that, so we see today the words of the Bible coming true again. That they will not believe even if someone is raised from the dead.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Bob

      Also look at Jesus response when he was tempted by satan on the mountain same old tricks from long ago
      at 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
      Mat 4:2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
      Mat 4:3 And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
      Mat 4:4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"
      Mat 4:5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,
      Mat 4:6 and *said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'"
      Mat 4:7 Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"
      Mat 4:8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;
      Mat 4:9 and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me."
      Mat 4:10 Then Jesus *said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'"
      Mat 4:11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      @Bob, or since Bob or Boöb in the parlance of Bob changing Elmer to Elmo.

      Very poorly disguised attempt to look like another blogger agreeing with you. The reply was written in the form that might be used by some else replying.

      Whatever!

      July 3, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      ElmerGantry
      The poster with the screen name "shwmin" asked the following question,

      "How much proof would be enough, What is your criteria for proof?"

      July 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |

      _____________________________________

      Bob (or Böob in your parlance of changing names from Elmer to Elmo) what is your response to that question?

      July 3, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |

      July 3, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Quoting bronze age tribal sayings is proof. LOL

      July 3, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. ajoseph1234

    God created us as triune beings – body, soul and spirit. We relate best to those things that are physical such as plants, animals, nature with the physical component of our being – the body. We relate best to those things that transcend the physical while touching our inner emotions such as love for another person with the emotional component of our being – the soul. And we relate best to those things that transcend both the physical and emotional whose existence cannot be explained by the physical and emotional with the component of our being that also cannot be explained by the physical and emotional – your spirit. In order to deny God, you must first deny your own spirit. But such an act can be likened to a prince choosing to live as a worm. Sadly, this is the path many who have posted comments here are choosing.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      The poster with the screen name "shwmin" asked the following question,

      "How much proof would be enough, What is your criteria for proof?"

      July 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |

      _____________________________________

      What is your response to that question?

      July 3, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Cricket cricket cricket

      July 3, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  4. ElmerGantry

    shwmin stated the following regarding proof of god,

    "How much proof would be enough, What is your criteria for proof?"

    July 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |

    That is an interesting question, what would constïtute proof of a god?

    A visitation by any creature would be problematic. A creature from a sufficiently advanced civilization would be indistinguishable from a god. Such an advanced creature could perform feats that could totally astound scientists, feats that even a young one of their culture would understand. So a visitation by someone would not be compelling in this regard.

    It seems to me that something that would grab attention would be a series of individual events each of which is so statistically improbable that the probability of these events taken together would so small as to get peoples attention.

    Such an event might be the simultaneous,
    1) world wide total and permanent remission of all cancers,
    2) world wide regeneration of limbs of all amputees,
    3) world wide total cessation of sëx trafficking human abuse,
    4) world wide total cessation of child abuse,
    5) world wide cessation of all hostilities,
    6) world wide sudden curing of diseases cause by genetic defects.

    Since Jesus makes many clear, simple, and unequivocal statements about prayer,

    Matthew 21:21:
    I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt,not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
    _______________________________________________________________________
    [A true believer can ask a mountain to throw itself into the sea, and it will be done. LOL!]
    _______________________________________________________________________

    Mark 9:23
    All things are possible to him who believes.

    Luke 1:37:
    For with God nothing will be impossible.

    John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

    John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

    John 14:14 If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.

    Nothing could be simpler or clearer than Jesus' promises about prayer in the Bible.
    So there you have it, straight from Jesus in the New Testament in clear, simple, and unequivocal terms.

    So to convince people there is a god, pray in sincerity and earnestness to accomplish the six items above and you will get the attention of many.

    I do not know if this is sufficient or not, therefore,
    Question for others,

    Do you have suggested additions for events like the above?

    Any other suggestions as to what might constïtute proof of god.

    July 3, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Dudley

      W T F is a "shwmin?"

      July 3, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      Very well said. It's so obvious and simple but christians either run from it or make excuses for god. He's practically daring them to test him. The other alternative is that there are no true believers in existence. Thank you for reminding me of those bible verses.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Sputnik

      A Swmin. That's a brand of bike...right?

      July 3, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      @GodFreeNow,

      You are welcome,

      Elmer

      July 3, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Godfree I'm glad you agree. I see from a previous post that you are a collector of p.or.nography. You may not be aware but many of these images are the result of Human trafficking. Someone, I believe it is Bob, on these boards has challenged us to pray to end human trafficking and there are those of us in agreement. Will you join us Godfree in this experiment? Pray with us now that the Lord of hosts, maker of all that is seen and unseen, the giver of life end the abuse of others as objects of pleasure. I believe if you pray it Godfree, that it can happen. Will you try?

      July 3, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      1) unlike GodFreeNow I do not collect pörnography, period.
      2) it sure seems like your are setting up GodFreeNow for a failure for which you can use that against GodFreeNow later.

      Matthew 21:21:
      I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

      GodFreeNow is obviously a non-believer (correct me if I am wrong GodFreeNow) and as such does not fit Jesus' criteria mentioned in Matthew 21:21 so any prayer this person would make would be ineffectual.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Dang, hit the post button too soon,

      Remember the burdon of proof is on the claimant and GodFreeNow, to the best of my knowledge, is not claiming that prayer works.

      It is up to the believers who claim prayer works as stated very clearly, simply, and unequivocally in the above New Testament passages attributed to Jesus.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      You're copping out again Elmer. While you may not collect you are providing cover for Godfree. I am not making any claims about prayer other than I believe that if Godfree earnestly prays for the end of human trafficking in his life that it can happen. His silence speaks volumes about his fear to enter the trial. He is either addicted to his habit and refuses to take the chance it might be lifted from him or he fears the power of prayer and what it might mean in his life. Either way my point is not that I might pray and change Godfree but that HE might pray and be changed. I call coward on both your parts.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      @Bill Deacon,

      I am not copping out or covering for GodFreeNow.

      If this person collects pörn as he/she says he/she does, then that is clearly not right and as you correctly state those images are typically the result of human traficking and I find that reprehensible.
      But asking a non believer to pray to end human sëx trafficking, child abuse, etc is disingenuous.

      Remember what Jesus stated,

      Matthew 21:21:
      I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

      GodFreeNow being a non-believer would be ineffectual in this prayer.
      Jusus states that you must have and don not doubt, does he not.

      How would asking someone who does not have faith and does doubt come any where close to efficacious prayer?

      July 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Oooops,
      ...must have faith and do not doubt...

      July 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well, my experience has been that by praying for someone over time that eventually one or both of us has changed. I will add Godfree to my list. But, I am not the one requiring proof, you and he are. I submit that the proof you need lies within the act of your own penitential prayer.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      The burden of proof always resides with the claimant, always.

      Can you imagine how messed up or court system would be if that were not true.
      The same with scientific inquiry, the burden of proof is with the scientist making a claim.
      The same is true for people who claim prayer changes things

      Not different here.

      Asking the non-believer to support the claims of the believer is non-sequiter, pure and simple.

      If you did not believe in a claim I was making, would you accept the burden of proof. I think not. In any case you should not.

      July 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If I was curious about the experience you described I might try to see if I could replicate it. Spiritual discovery is not a court or scientific enterprise. This is the mistake non-believers make. They think that they can observe revelation form outside the experience of it. Your reluctance to delve into it indicates something to me akin to fear that it might just turn your world upside down. I maintain that no one can pray about any evils they might be involved in and not be convicted. Godfree will either have to accept my assertion or test it for himself.

      July 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  5. joseph

    Truth be told, this life is a trial run for everyone. Some are wise enough to recognize the obvious and make the right choices. Others are too prideful too admit they are wrong. But the saying is true – pride goes before a fall. And considering the depth of eternity, this is a pretty long fall.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Truth be told, joseph, is that there is not a single shred of evidence to support the existence of a god, a devil, an afterlife or reincarnation. It would be really sad if you wasted the entirety of your existence doing nothing more than waiting for a reward that will never come.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      If there is an eternity where I am conscious then that will give me plenty of time for meditation. If not, you've just wasted the only life you'll ever have.

      July 3, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      How is it a wasted life to love the Lord and others?

      July 3, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      To love others is never a waste, but to love the lord if no lord exists, then yeah, that's a big waste. How much time in the day do you spend loving leprechauns?

      Also, if you're loving others to impress your superfriend and not just because it's right, then it's hardly love. At best, it's self-motivated self-preservation.... very lizard brain stuff.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  6. JimH

    She became a Christian, she says, because of questions of morality and a finding a moral compass. Well, if any religion knows about morality, it would be Catholicism! I bet her boyfriend being Catholic had something to do with it, too.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Likely more than something, more like had mostly to do with her con-verting.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  7. Blog photographe

    Bonne journée et à bientôt!

    July 2, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Et vous aussi! Merci

      July 3, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  8. Bob

    Wrenn_NYCthe treaty of Tripoli was done with the Muslims at a time when the US was ill prepared to defend itself. For three centuries up to the time of the Treaty, the Mediterranean Sea lanes had been preyed on by the North African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast (Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis) through privateering (government-sanctioned piracy). Hostages captured by the Barbary pirates were either ransomed or forced into slavery, contributing to the greater Ottoman slave trade (of which the Barbary states were a segment). Life for the captives often was harsh, especially for Christian captives, and many died from their treatment. Some captives "went Turk", that is, converted to Islam, a choice that made life in captivity easier for them Maybe you should do a little more research and see the truth.

    July 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  9. valwayne

    Congratulations to Ms Libresco, and welcome. As a Roman Catholic that has also thought long and hard about the nature of God, the Universe, the afterlife etc I'm happy to have another Roman Catholic that accepts my faith, but hasn't given up questioning, thinking, and exploring for the truth. We are all on our own personal journey through life, and to the afterlife, but it is nice to be rooted in a "Rock" as solid as the Church. Don't think for a second that being Catholic gives you the answers, or that the Church has the sole and only solution for every problem or evey situation. The Church is made up of, and led by fallible men and women, not enough women, and is on its own journey to continue to add to God's truth, and share it with humanity. And when you see things that don't seem right in the church remember that the Church has a time frame of millenia, and God has a time frame of eternity. It will work it all out over time, even if not in our lifetime.

    July 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
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  12. Jack

    Hello. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    July 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  13. Dan of Memphis TN

    I was a hard-core religious person. But that changed when I wanted to find facts about religion. Like understanding that religion is made by man, that lots of religions existed way before the Christian religion. Its like a club. Many clubs come and go. But this club will threaten you, villify you, put you down, death threats, hate speech. Why would I want to be a part of that club that is made up and have all these terrible rules and threats ? I don't. Not in my name. That is why I am no longer accepting the brainwashing. Religion is just made up. Simple as that.

    July 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      Your beliefs are based on emotion, not reason. Good luck to you.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • shwmin

      Thats why GOD had to put the definition of religion in the bible ...James 1:27.....

      July 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Terilyne

      Dog, it is the exact opposit...Religion = blind faith. Athiest = belief only after proof of truth.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • shwmin

      How much proof would be enough, What is your criteria for proof?

      July 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      @shwmin,
      What does this passage you quoted say about all the mega-churches and tele-evangelists?
      James 1:27
      "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

      July 3, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      It says that whether you're on TV or just a dumb guy who posts on a blog that the true acts of religion consist of caring for the needy. I don't worry about the guy on TV so much as I do the dumb guy on the blog. How about you?

      July 3, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  14. Matthew

    It makes perfect sense she would become Catholic. It is at the intersection of faith and reason. It's a thinking man's religion.

    July 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Bob

      Thinking man's religion is an oxymoron. All religion is wishful thinking and lazy thinking. You can't explain something, so you choose god, which explains nothing. You might as well choose a pink elephant! Do you believe the wafer becomes the body of Jesus and the wine his blood as required by the church?

      July 2, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  15. just sayin

    She obviously converted because a Christian called her stupid for not beliving in God.

    July 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  16. smk

    In Quran God speaks to the whole humanity ....

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside God?' " He will say, "Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets.[5:116]

    The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    When My servants ask you about Me, I am always near. I answer their prayers when they pray to Me. The people shall respond to Me and believe in Me, in order to be guided. Quran [2:186]

    When God ALONE is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion. But when others are mentioned beside Him, they become satisfied.[Quran 39:45]

    When they are told, "Believe like the people who believed," they say, "Shall we believe like the fools who believed?" In fact, it is they who are fools, but they do not know. [Quran 2:13]

    O people, worship only your Lord – the One who created you and those before you – that you may be saved. [Quran 2:21]

    July 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Terilyne

      Those are just words written by Men/Man not the word of a "God".

      July 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Good luck with your proselytizing. The only more hated group on this forum than gays and atheists are muslims.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  17. RogerFinnay

    The anti-white state religion say white people have to be gone from the face of the Earth via mass immigration and "assimilation".

    Hail to the anti-white religion! The bringers of oblivion to white folk!

    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-white.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  18. Derp

    @Leah Libresco: Just admit that your boyfriend threatened to break up with you unless you converted to Catholicism. Much like children who will claim to believe in Santa Claus even though their better judgment tells them the story must be a lie, one feature of being an atheist or an agnostic is that you can pretend to follow whatever faith is most profitable to you.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • drmwlau

      Re Sctick on nothing. If no nothing, then how old is something, and how many digital clouds would it take to hold the number of millennia? My BS nominee is the ageless something.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  19. Derp

    @ Bill Deacon: Your misunderstanding is in thinking that the 2nd law of thermodynamics forbids any decreases, however transient they may be, in entropy. Also, the planet earth is not a closed system. If you merely include our Sun in the system, you have a massive source of increasing entropy outweighing all the (temporary) decreases of entropy that are taking place here on Earth.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm not talking about localized fluxes in entropy. I'm wondering how the simplest system (no universe) can become the most complex system (universe) without violating the law of entropy?

      July 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • outputcomment

      @ Bill Deacon

      You can't cherry pick what you're talking about. A discussion of entropy by necessity involves a discussion of entropy fluctuations.

      We went from the most 'simple' as you called it (i'd hardly say a ball of all energy and particles that ever have and ever would be is simple) to the most complex because not everything is the most complex. You're talking about galaxies that have ordered planets and various astral bodies as being complex. However, atoms exist in the vacuum of space as largely unordered and they contribute considerably to the overall mass of the universe.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not trying to cherry pick and not a physicist so please bear with me. I am using simple to mean the moment before anything existed and complex to mean the moment after which everything existed (or at least the components from which everything may be derived). If systems tend towards a state of simplicity how is it that the simplest became the complex? Your explanation of the conservation of energy satisfies for after the moment of creation going forward but how does science explain the localized and temporary reversal of entropy which by appearances violates the law just prior to creation (use existence if creation is a trigger)?

      July 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • outputcomment

      @ Bill Deacon

      I apologize if I miss what you are asking.

      You seem to be asking how the creation of something from nothing does not violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Consider this, prior to the existence of everything, the 2nd law of thermodynamics did not exist. Do you see what I mean? You can't ask how entropy explains the formation of nothing from something because before the something, entropy as a concept never existed. Entropy can only be discussed in the context of matter that exists, not as a function of matter that did not exist then.

      Fortunately for science, the question that you are asking is not a question that science can answer due to, with the exception of this one rare example, there has not been a verified observation of something actually being created from nothing. While i'm sure this claim is debatable: science is the study of observations.

      Ultimately your question can be further refined to: how does science explain the creation of the creator?

      So to respond to you original question, no the science of the Big Bang theory is not self-contradictory because the science is based on a system that existed when it happened. The big bang theory makes no claims to what happened prior to the formation of the mass or energy that existed within the big bang mass.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Output. We are now jibing. Thank you. If I understand you correctly, since there is no observable proof that the laws of physics existed prior to the BB, we do not have a set of theories that can be tested. So my next question is, if a set of conditions existed (anti-existed?) prior top the BB that would contravene our currently understood laws, how would we ever observe them?

      In short, If you can't observe the universe outside of science and I can't conceive of it without God, how will there ever be "proof" of either this alternate scientific structure or of God? If this is true, isn't the demand for "proof of God" just a parlor game?

      July 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I probably should have said "can't observe the pre-universe..."

      July 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • outputcomment

      @ Bill Deacon

      Ah sadly my last post didn't post. Here's a recap:

      I agree that trying to demand evidence that God (or for that matter science as well) was responsible for the origin of existence is a parlor game at least and perhaps a total waste of time at worst. It's not that the topic is not worthy of discussion, its just that the impossibility of moving the stalemate in one direction or the other is maddening. Until the explicitly obvious proof (God appearing and revealing himself explicitly to man kind or irrefutable scientific evidence to suggest the contrary) appears at our feet, it will be one of those discussions reserved for esoteric discussions or CNN article comments ( 🙂 ). Proof presupposes our own understanding of the claim in question, and I think our understanding is still very new.

      July 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      As to the "something from nothing" bullsh!t. Why does anyone think that "nothing" ever existed or even CAN exist? Anyone?

      I don't believe that a state of "nothing" is even possible. Sure, in a vacuum, there's no GAS, or on a number line there's a conceptual "zero," but that doesn't say anything about any sort of actual "nothingness." I'm sick of all the "something from nothing" ridiculousness. Why should we assume that "nothing" is even a viable possibility? Why believe in "nothing?"

      July 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @Bill Deacon

      You make a good point about observation of pre BB. It reminds me of the scenario that could happen in a few billion years by intelligence that would not be able to observe any other parts of the universe than that directly around himself/itself. (Because of the speed at which the universe is expanding and the universe "flying apart.") If such a scientist were to find all our writings and studies of multiple galaxies, they'd conclude we were completely wrong and it was some sort of religion or what have you. Similarly, we may now be beyond a "barrier" that does not allow us to see and test conditions to truly understand the fundamental nature of the universe.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • outputcomment

      @Moby Schtick

      This conversation is getting better and better.

      In my opinion, we humans are creatures of curiosity. We have the luxury of spending time contemplating these questions in depth which I think is largely responsible for why anyone cares about the matter. While I agree that existence before existence was probably boring, the moment between pre-existence and post-existence does seem like a pretty exciting point in time, no?

      While it's true that nothingness is an absurd concept to the human mind, the "something from nothing" is important because if "it"(existence) always existed it might support one or more highly regarded schools of thought while simultaneously effectively disproving another equally regarded school of thought. "It's the question that drives us" (so lame)

      July 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • billdeacons

      After months of utter inanity on these blogs, the last several post have been the most open, civil and reflective I have seen on this topic. Thank you Output

      July 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  20. Bill Deacon

    I wonder if any of the scientist here can help me. According to the second law of thermodynamics all systems tend to proceed from a state of more complexity to a state of lesser complexity. How then is it that the fundamental moment of creation during the big bang is in direct opposition to this law? Is the science self contradictory?

    July 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • outputcomment

      That one sentence question has a multi-page response. The Big Bang theory is meant to explain the expansion of the universe. First, lets say the big bang mass was sphere of radius R with a maximum entropy of Smax. Where the potential value for Smax is contingent upon the value of R. As the universe expands however, R gets larger which allows for an increase in the potential value of Smax.

      Inside this closed-system sphere, due to movement of the particles and probability, pockets of order arise. The rising of order in one area of this system corresponds to a decrease in order in another area but Smax stays the same for the system. When the big bang mass was split into smaller systems, each of those systems was pushed towards equilibrium meaning localized changes in entropy within the system. These localized changes can have pockets of order. So while total entropy for the universe is increasing in relation to its' own physical expansion, pockets of order can form from the constant change in equilibrium without actually decreasing overall entropy.

      Thus, the big bang theory is not in violation of the 2nd law because there is never a net decrease of entropy inside the system, only localized fluctuations. Since Smax is always increasing as a function of available 3-dimensional space (always increasing), the potential value for universal entropy has increased since the big bang and not decreased.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Agreed that these last several posts are very civil and informative.

      As I recall, a stumbling block some have is the statement (probably stated in the vernacular language, not scientific language) is that the universe came from nothing. Actuall the vacuum is not empty in our every day understanding of empty. The vacuum is actually a sea of virtual particles that "come into existence" as particle and anti particles and subsequently annihilate and return to the vacuum. When this happens near the event horizon of a black hole it is possible for a pair of virtual particles to come into existence and one particle goes into the black hole and the other ejects from the system. Tha ejected particle now stays in our universe as it was not immediately annihilated.

      This idea that the vacuum is not truely empty and is not "just a theory" (vernacular usage), but has been reproducibly verified by experimentally measuring the differential force exerted on two very close plane parallel plates in a vacuum.

      This experiment demonstrated very clearly that the vacuum is not truly empty.

      outputcomment, you seem to have more knowledge about this stuff. Did I get it correct, and if not what needs to be corrected.

      THANKS, Elmer

      July 3, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Elmer, I think you are correct. The vacuum of space as we know it is not absolute. There are particles and of course there is gravity. The moment at the crux of this thread however is the point in time (before time?) at which nothing existed. Not essentially nothing or immeasurably nothing but nothing. What the Bible calls the void. As polite as the responses have been I think Output has declared he cannot substantiate how from nothing (simple) came something (complex) without a reversal of the second law of thermodynamics. I myself cannot explain this phenomena without invoking "God spake it into being"

      July 3, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      The second law of thermodynamics is not being violated due to a local increase in order (complexity) where there is energy flow local order can be increased but always at the expense of global disorder.
      Think of an air conditioner in a home. This air conditioner increases order by seperating the cold air molecules and expelling them into the home while expelling the hot air molecules into the outside world.
      But this comes at a cost, energy flow and mechanical work must be done to accomplish this and that process has an efficiency of less than 1. Some chemical energy had to be released to create the electricity, that had to be transported over transmission lines at a loss, that ran the compressor etc at more loss to accomplish the cooling. All at a loss that increased entropy/disorder more than the localized increase in order by cooling the home.

      Many many processes work the same way. Our own bodies for example are highly organized but could not exist without the flow of energy through our bodies. This chemical and mechanical flow of energy is less that 100% efficient and the net effect of our existence is to increase the global entropy.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sounds like a stretch to me Elmer. Why don't you and Output compare notes and tell me exactly when the laws of physics took effect.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:44 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.