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. Rynomite

    Sounds like she found Xtian Pen!s.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  2. Colin Morgan

    morality r hard. pleaes tell me how to thnik.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  3. Sarda

    Read the book " The philoshopy of divine love" by Swami Prakasanand Saraswati. It's awesome!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Horus

      Ok, and you read "the God Delusion".....

      June 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  4. MK

    I wonder if her boyfriend pulled the ole "if you don't believe, there's this horrible place that our god will send you to that's filled with fire and devils and suffering for all of eternity when you die. But God loves you, sister!"

    June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Ting

      He played the "If you want to get married..." card.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  5. nojinx

    It is very unusual for this type of thing to happen outside of State and Federal penitentiaries.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    From a little Lutheran:

    Libresco has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. What is better? Pan or fire?

    Maybe it had been better for her to remain an atheist than to become a Catholic.

    The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is no more Christian Church, because her God is de facto the pope, but not Jesus Christ.

    According to one of the most important docu-ments of the RCC, the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church), the RCC is an occult body with the pope as its magical head. The RCC is a very strict hierarchy and everything is controled by the pope, there is no space for the Holy Spirit of God.

    The true Christian Church knows no papacy, no hierarchy, but is ruled by the Holy Spirit. Of course, there are local pastors and bishops, but they get elected by the congregation or a group of congregations. There is no superbishop (pope), which forces pastors or bishops on the believers.


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

      Stop bashing one ridiculous church so that you can promote your ridiculous church.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Mbane18

      The Pope is not God. He's just the representative of the church. Go educate yourslef.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Everybody, who doesn't warn his neighbour against danger, becomes guilty. The RCC is a danger.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Sophia

    So maybe she should have gone with the Orthodox Catholic Church first if she wanted to go with Christian, but hey sounds like the boyfriend is Catholic and well if you are going to get "married" you both need to be Catholic...get my point?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Rob

      Dear Sophia,
      To correct your assertion, No you both do NOT have to be catholic to be married in the catholic church. Preferred, but not required. The agreement is the non-catholic agrees to raise any children as catholics.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  8. John

    it's fairly obvious at this point she was never a true atheist. Unless she recently suffered some traumatic brain injury that wasnt mentioned in the article

    June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Dliodoir

      What's a true atheist? Based on her writing it appears is she satisfied the one requirement. . .she didn't believe in God.
      John 9:25 – The one thing I do know is that I used to be blind and now I can see!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  9. WMesser58

    Oh,BTW you do not have to have a religion to believe in morality that is why you bozo's will always be wrong. Now go kiss the pope's @$$

    June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Jamie

    hmmm – sounds like she was never really an athiest to begin with, and just hadn't picked her specific religion yet.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  11. Whiskey Preston

    I mean, look at her face. Of course she is going to do whatever she can to land any man that would remotely show any interest in her. That includes abandoning all reason for a dopey cult that centers itself on cannibalistic blood rituals and pedophile coverups. Good for her. At least she won't die alone in a room full of parakeets, halfheartedly blogging about the rational enlightenment that she will now never achieve. To the opiated masses, you can have this one.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • WMesser58

      @Whiskey Preston Well said

      June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • FA

      right on, brotha!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  12. jim

    It's a test of intelligence and critical thinking and she failed badly. She's young though, so there's time to grow wiser.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  13. WMesser58


    June 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  14. Mike

    “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."


    June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Horus

      Yeah for someone that requires facts, I'm at a loss for how that plays into the RCC at all.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  15. Karen Conner

    As a non-catholic follower of Jesus, all I can say is PRAISE THE LORD and welcome to the family. I rejoice to have a new sister in the LORD. And as one who was born abnormally late in life who has MANY friends not of the faith, I know she will continue to have MANY friends and conversationalists with those outside the faith. As for those who say "she is still young and will change her mind" that's what many said about me 22 years ago. But as the saying goes, once saved, always saved, you can't change who you are once you are born again. Again, as I said earlier, PRAISE THE LORD and let's rejoice with the angels in heaven over our new sister.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Olsonic

      What kind of dance to angels do? Are they ballerinas, or do they ever just want to get down and grind? Do they dance on like, a dance floor? They have dance floors in heaven? Are they made of wood?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • OverHere

      Born Again = Misplaced Motivation
      Let me guess, you were at a low or lonely point in your life and needed "salvation" otherwise directing your attention to God to motivate you to get off of your butt and do something with your life. Through this, you believed that your prayers had been answered, but what actually happened was YOU ALONE turned your life around. Instead of having hope in yourself, which is what anyone needs to live a fulfilling life, religion following folk, try to say it was their faith in the Lord. Sad.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  16. Leaping Larry

    Guess which religion would be "the one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth" if her boyfriend wa sMuslim?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • MK

      Good point, Leaping.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Eisener

    Most of you need to get real. That's her faith. Not mine, not yours. If I am an atheist leave me alone. If you are an atheist I will leave you to be with your belief, just like I will leave a person of any religious belief alone. Who am I to dictate the belief of other. Really, please, LEAVE ME ALONE.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Leaping Larry

      Who am I to dictate the belief of other? A Christian.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  18. snowboarder

    morality is a societal construct and evolves constantly. practically every religion lays claim to it.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  19. Freethinker Seeking Reason

    Yet another CNN hit piece against reason and promoting supersti-tion. I read a lot of atheist blogs, and I've never heard of her. This really smells like a PR stunt. Of all brands of woo she picks the pedophilia club? Really?!

    On the other hand, Hehmant Mehta is awesome and changes the world for the better a little bit every day.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  20. OhMyDog

    "Don’t worry if the Catholics make it as for difficult for you as the atheists. We only do it to people we love.”

    That about sums it up for most religions: we love you, therefore we make you suffer. God loves you, so you must suffer, he loved his son Jesus, so he had to suffer. Suffering is the essence of our faithful being.. halb halb halb...

    As for the ex-atheist blogger: if she found something worth persuing, good for her. If she however starts trying to convert people, starts preaching, starts disrespecting other points of view besides catholic and christian, then this lady will ehmm suffer... 'Cause that's her new destiny. Have fun with the pope and his enlightened view of women...

    June 22, 2012 at 1:45 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.