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. Leaping Larry

    "Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on."

    Fact: Something that has actual existence. A piece of information presented as having objective reality.

    Here is a complete list of verifiable facts related to religion:

    June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Leaping Larry

      Sorry I hit ENTER before I finished.

      Jesus Christ is Lord.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Leaping Larry

      I HAVE MY OWN TROLL ! ! !

      This is great! I have always wanted a total moron to troll me, and I got a doozy! This is great!

      I'm really happy about this! What fun to have an idiot mimic you!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Actually, your post was funnier in its unfinished state. And made its point rather well – read it again!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • FaithIsNotAVirtue

      It was finished.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  2. jim

    "Her blog now gets 20 to 30 ties the traffic". Seems like it was a wise financial manouver.

    $$$ Cha ching.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Leaping Larry

      The old "I once was lost but now I'm found" gig is very lucrative.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  3. OnlyOne

    Ok, I'm Catholic and frankly surprised she chose catholicism in its current state – one I'm deeply ashamed of. Still, welcome and all that – just curious about what makes her a "prominent atheist blogger" considering neither I nor anyone I know have ever heard of her?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  4. Nate

    As someone who was raised a pretty devout protestant and made the exact opposite conversion to atheism, this seems very odd to me. All of the "morality" and other things she saw in Christianity were exactly what I didn't see, which is why I left. The same applies to most other religions. I think the Catholic choice is particularly odd, given their history and recent actions. To each their own, I guess.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Nate

      I guess that is why I should have focused on the morality of Christ instead of the morality of fallen humans.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Nate, as a fellow seeker of the truth, I concur. The radical morality of Christ is the ONlY reason I'm Christian today. Most self-proclaimed Christians.. aren't.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Wendy

    I praise God for her conversion. . . . . . .and whether she's Catholic or Protestant, if she believes that Jesus Christ died for her and rose again then she's good!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Joseph

      Her next boyfriend may be Muslim.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  6. bob lloyd

    Good for her, she made the right choice

    June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  7. Guest

    I am not an atheist or Christian but knowing a lot of people who are I highly doubt any person who converted to religion after being against it would say "I believe the facts are on Catholicism's side." Truth and Fact as used by believer's are almost never spoken by anyone who questions their god's existence.

    She was either always an agnostic or really wants to marry her Catholic boyfriend which requires she convert.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  8. Faith, schmaith.

    Faith, you say? How much faith do you really have? Would persons of faith stand on the ledge of a tall building, pray to the god that loves them to catch them before they hit the ground, and then jump? How many persons of faith diagnosed with lethal diseases pray to the god that loves them for a cure rather than seek medical care, and of those persons how many live? What person would invest a large sum of money, simply on faith, without research, relying on the god that loves them to answer their prayer for a return on their investment? The answer is that nobody with an ounce sense of has that much faith in "god." So the next time some god-sick fool tells you how to live your life or tries to influence governmental policy to toe a religious line, tell them to put their faith where there life and money is. You'll find their genuine faith in this god that loves them is paper thin. They will lecture you about how god is not to be put to the test, he does not like that. That is a convenient way to avoid putting faith, prayer, or belief in "god" itself to any test. People, learn to read something other than the Bible, exercise your inherent faculties of reason, act on evidence not faith. When we all do that, the world will be a better place.

    And to Leah, I would say that morality existed long, long, long before the catholic church. Only wilfull ignorance, or an atheist blogger pulling a publicity stunt, would see a fountainhead of morality in the catholic church.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      I agree with the sentiment of your post.. mostly. Just be careful about challenging the "faithful" to jump off ledges or anything else foolish to "prove" their faith. I recall the pilot of an Egyptair 767 directing his aircraft into the sea (and killing all on board in the process) just to prove precisely that.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mark

      well said

      June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • LinSea

      Faith, like any good thing, can become misdirected or misused. Following your logic, since thousands of people drown every year, water must be bad and we should therefore ban all forms of swimming, water sports, and oceanic transport. Maybe even bathtubs? Large buckets? Or, some people misuse their telephones to harass their exes or schoolmates they don't like. So the telephone must be a bad thing.

      You are deliberately ignoring the billions of people in the world whose faith provides a framework for them to become better people, and instead choosing to judge and condemn all of them based on the actions of the extreme minority, which is completely unfair and unjust.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • I AM

      Just a few questions. These aren't meant to contradict your statements at all, I'm just curious. When and where do believe was the emergence of the ' moral man '. ? What do you believe was the bases for man to construct a moral life ? I've never thought of these things before and would like to know from some of the readers what their thoughts are. Thanks

      June 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Mark

      Our morals evolved just like our brains. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_ethics
      Humans are pretty weak animals, we survive mostly because we help each other, which lets us form stable societies and cooperate and multiply. Morals are an advantageous evolutionary trait, no divine origin required.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  9. greens47

    The Catholic Church (along with the similar Orthodox and Coptic Churches) is probably as close as one can get to the earliest and most accurate expression and practice of the original Christian faith. As a person who values reason and "the facts", I'm sure that figured significantly in her decision. As a fellow Christian, I say, "welcome"!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  10. Boomer

    That's great for her, or whatever. No harm done by her switching, so good for her. I actually had the opposite happen to me recently. But the point of my comment is: Who cares? How is the news of a blogger with and audience of around 500 converting to christianity deemed for national coverage? I have a bunch of friends on facebook, and I switched my beliefs. CAN I BE FAMOUS NOW?!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  11. doctore0

    She got more traffic to her site...

    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  12. nojinx

    While her decision may not seem logical to some, I think the key here is that we all take the time to examine our beliefs and the beliefs of others. Too many of us are taught what to think instead of how to think, and that harms our ability to grow as people and adapt as citizens.

    Don't give your children fish. Teach them to fish so they can choose their own when they are ready.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  13. RadicalModerate

    Christians are just those who consider the eye witness testimony of Jesus of Nazareth and decide to take him at his word and follow him and the teachings of the first Christians. Rather than just continuing to spout personal opinion, she thoughtfully considered the historical evidence in the light of our human condition and made her decision. With his claims to deity, he is either a liar, lunatic, or lord. I have more respect for a cynical atheist than someone who says he was a "good teacher".

    June 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Boomer

      Nice point, but they weren't eyewitness accounts. The already were the stuff of legend because the gospels of the new testament were written decades and decades after Jesus died.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • steve

      Actually I learned very early in a Catholic upbringing that most of what was written in the bible was written in the mirash form. Word of mouth was the way information was communicated during that time period. People knew the true story of jesus from word of mouth. The stories in the bible were similiar to the way we say- "9/11 at ground zero" ground zero is a nuclear explosion, yet we today know what is being portrayed.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      I think I detect a fan of one of my favorite writers, CS Lewis. Although I don't know that Jesus ever claimed to be a deity- he claimed to be the son of man, the same as the rest of us.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  14. GAW

    Everyone has reasons for converting from one ideology to another. Some do the homework, for others it's emotional and experiential and for others to provide structure or un-structure in their lives. Whatever the change may be no one will be entirely satisfied and accept the change.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • nojinx

      True. Sometimes we choose to believe things only because we want the to be true.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  15. BOBBY

    Just another stupid person who needs something other than her common sense to feel a sense of self worth...pitty

    June 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Ben A. W.


      June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      Why is she stupid? There are very bright believers and very ignorant atheists. Whether she believes or not has nothing to do with her native intelligence and whether she's a good person. I'm sure you would agree with that. Or do you believe that when someone stops believing they automatically become brilliant and wonderful to everyone around them? Now THAT would be supernatural!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • LinSea

      It's even more stupid to automatically label everyone who has a different belief system than you as stupid.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  16. joey

    ha ha, typical herd mentality, both sides

    June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  17. Mary Quinn

    Agree with other posts... I had NEVER heard of her till now.
    Big whoop nothing story.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  18. B. Sloan

    This lady seems to be a flak. I don't think she was really a non-believer to begin with. I might understand if she became a Uniterian, but Caltholic, give me a break!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  19. Pat F

    Whatever sells, right?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Mary Quinn

    Perleezze! Her boyfriend is RC. What d'ya think was her motivation?
    2 + 2 = ? Theists this might be a hard one for you.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Ah, an atheist that believes her ability to add single digits is proof positive of her intelligence. Good for you.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 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.