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. Chong

    Thanks be to GOD. 🙂 it's wonderful to be Christian yet Catholic.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Cheech

      Time to get stoned!,,

      June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Yoshi

    @CNN "Prominent" Atheists that the rest of us have never heard of ????...also, atheists don't usually go to weekly mass with their boyfriends, FYI. Real Atheists understand tha our morality is pure because we don't need a magical afterlife promise in order to act like good people...we ARE good people

    June 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  3. mcccc

    Morality has absolutely nothing to do with christianity and anybody who thinks that it does has NOT read the bible. Morality is a very simple byproduct of evolution and that is all. It isn't some mystical thing given to us by god it gave us an evolutionary advantage to better survive in groups.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  4. gee

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

    June 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Maria jaockon

      The Bible is the inspired word of God. Old Testament and New Testament!!!! That is a fact!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • jones

      uhh...@Maria – these so called words inspired by god you referenced...who told you they were inspired by god?...the only sources referenced anywhere throughout history are those of men. Those men claimed to be inspired by god, but those men benefited from that magical untraceable "inspiration".

      June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Ting

      The Bible is the inspired word of God.

      First of all that does not qualify as a fact. Secondly, try reading it sometime. Your God is one evil son of a beach.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  5. bob

    This has been her plan all along, some religious stunt

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  6. Linden Pike

    I didn't read her blog before and I wont now. YOUR AD HERE

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Codepwned

    I'd have to agree with others. She was a lost soul who found a ground of people that brought her into a faith she could mostly agree with and have that sense of community many people needs. Some choose sports, others religion. Whatever works. It's when you start to live by scripture written 2000 years ago when the world was very different that you are looked at like a nut... and rightly so.

    Religion is not inherently bad, nor is a gun. Either misused can wreak havoc as shown by history.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • John

      Something designed with the specific intent on killing another human being is not bad?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • jones

      it's also designed to protect human beings

      June 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  8. Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

    Libresco, who had long blogged under the banner “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend,”

    Converting to Catholicism for the sake of your relationship is quite common. Being an atheist has nothing to do with it.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not my post.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is so.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  9. Independent Thinker....

    As an 'out' atheist for many years, I know 'prominent' atheists like the back of my hand. This article is poorly worded because it makes it seem like religion in general has stolen one of the atheists 'Golden' children. In fact, I have never heard of this woman but certainly wish her the best. Being an atheist is a tough decision and something Leah clearly had not finished wrestling with. You will be hard pressed to find a true Atheist turning back to religion. I was raised with religion and became agnostic around the age of 13 when I started questioning everything. I didn't officially become an atheist until I was about 24 years old; a full 11 years later. There are different levels of atheism and I am in the middle falling under the science crowd. Some atheist swear that there is absolutley no god. Believe it or not but this is a dangerous precident to set and you are no better than a religious person for saying it. I cannot say for sure if there is a god but I demand proof. The burden of proof lies with religion to prove their god's existence and until you can prove your god is real, I don't believe in him/her. Do you believe in Zeus? A unicorn? Why not? Just because you haven't seem them. (Light bulb moment) Oh, and for those that commented on believing in the power of prayer and how that is proof that god exists; I would like to give you a task. Please find one amputee and pray for them. Doesn't matter who they are or what they believe in. Just pray to your god and ask that they grow them that amputated part. If their amputated part grows back, please let me know.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Linden Pike

      God hates amputees. Didn't Dawkins teach you anything?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • OverHere

      Don't you know the standard Christian response to that yet?
      "God was merciful and let him live, only taking away his leg/arm."

      June 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Independent Thinker....

      That's my point Linden and OverHere. Prayer doesn't work and has actually be proven with 'Scientific' evidence but don't expect a religious person to believe that.

      "Give man fish and he will eat for a day. Teach man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Teach man religion and he will die praying for fish."

      June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  10. Kat

    Personally, she can choose whatever makes her happy. I take offense, as an atheist, that she believes morality is connected to big "G" god, but that's common. What annoys me, however, is that this just lights a fire under all the people who keep trying to convert me–at home, at work, hell, even at the doctor's office the other day. I'm sure I'll hear no end of this for months. It just makes me roll my eyes. Please have someone blog for you who really is an atheist–not questioning, not an agnostic–a real atheist. She seems like a good, questioning young adult, but, I agree with many people here that I doubt she was truly an atheist, just confused. And now, I get to suffer for her confusion and subsequent "conversion." Joy.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  11. jimmy

    interesting how she came to religion...the need for an external source of our moral obligations. most atheists, marxists and so on are decent people who want to see good done, but they have always argued that people should do good deeds "just because" with no philosophical justification to back it up...only the point of a gun. so we are forced to "do good" by having our taxes taken from us and redistributed. once we see that doing good springs from a transcendent creator and not from our fleeting material world, it changes from being an obligation to simply a way of life.

    i am a faithful believer in god but not necessarily in religion. i also fully embrace science and reason. but they can never answer the core question: "why is there something instead of nothing?" only a transcendent creator outside of space-time, beyond matter and energy, could have brought something out of nothing. that's exactly what the big bang was.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  12. Phil

    Christians convert to atheism everyday, that's not news.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  13. TooDark

    I think this smacks of caveing to get along with the boyfriend. Why is CNN referring to her as 'prominent'. No disrespect to her, but I've never heard of her and I'm an avid atheist web reader. No matter.

    The point is, WOW!!! Immediate, and total suspension of disbelief. Truly sad. Like the h0 m 0 phobe Kirk Cameron and his former suposed "devout" atheism, one has to wonder how shakey her reasoning was for disbelief in the first place to be so totally and specifically converted. Reason brings you to diselief....blind leaps lead you to religion. Even if morality is somehow external to us (which it provably is not) how does that take you to any sort of deity without a plethora of bald assertions?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  14. DaveG

    Let me now summarize the conversation:
    Atheist: You are so stupid.
    Christian: Welcome, we love you.
    God: I Am.
    It's the same all the time every time. Nothing has changed. If you are an Atheist you are constantly wasting your day telling people they believe a fairy-tale. If you are a Christian you are doing your best to love people. If I were an Atheist I'd figure out what I'm doing with my life as it only lasts maybe 80 years. Christians, get more power and experience to not be at the mercy of anyone's argument because that is after all the only thing an atheist has is an argument. Sorry guys but think about it that's all you have is an argument. oops.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Horus

      And the "case" for god is not an argumentative theory of man?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • snowboarder

      lol. you say that as if yours is the only religion in the world. comical.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • TooDark

      DaveG – Wow…generalize much? Nice how you paint with such a broad brush. But no matter how “constantly” atheists point out the flaws in reasoning of theists and the gross immorality of most, but particularly the xtian god, you don’t seem to have a tangible argument for your point of view. Yes…our lives on Earth only last 80 or so years and the fact is that this is the only life we can say with any certainty that we have. You have two choices:

      Try to be a good person because it makes THIS existence better.
      Try to be a good person out of fear from the eternal mob boss in the sky and what could happen to your spiritual kneecaps.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Rynomite

      Yes. Christians have spent so much time "loving" people.

      How bout they spend their time trying to force a 2000 year old book and its questionable morality onto others? Spend their time preaching hate and intolerance?

      Atheists try to get people to understand its a fairy tale because of THAT. If Xtians/Muslims tolerated what others believed and did not try to make their beliefs into laws, most Athiests woudn't bother trying to make people understand reason.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  15. tony

    Many extracts of the bible point to proof that the all-powerful, and loving god written about there almost certainly never existed, and was made up. Could have a been a visitation by some lowish tech aliens tho'.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • DaveG

      Like I say... Life only lasts about 80 years. Wasting thought arguing things you say are imaginary makes you dumber than the ones who believe it. At least they have a reason they believe it. oops

      June 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • MK

      As opposed to going through life blindly following whatever you're told, DaveG?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • OverHere

      @DaveG: I'm not wasting my time on this Earth at all. While you're singing songs and praying for salvation, I'm NOT missing football games on my couch every Sunday. Tell me again who's wasting what.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  16. Mark from Canada

    Seems suspect to me. I'm skeptical. I'm an athiest social scientist and have been researching the topic heavily for years. I never heard of this girl, but this sounds like someone who was not well footed in her belief and understanding to begin with. Or, it is an attention grabber. She blogged for a Christian website to begin with, so it sounds kinda planned. I'd like CNN to do an article for Christian's converting to athiesm and hear their side to the story, because I'm certain that those people would have far more rational and interesting things to discuss and share.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jay Stevens

      reminds me of theonion.com/articles/man-on-verge-of-selfrealization-instead-turns-to-g,28507

      June 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Pete the Ninja

      if you are talking about the article, it says she blogged for a religious website, not a christian website, there is a difference. It is one that i am sure someone of your obvious wisdom and intelligence would recognize. Anywho, try not to be bitter, you seem a bit grumpy.

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

    Has any atheist here ever even heard of this chick before?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. Eva

    Yes she is still lost. Yes Religion is not the answer. The answer is Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with him. This world is going down the tubes fast so it is what you believe that happens after you die that eternally matters.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Leaping Larry

      People who tell you the world is falling apart are always promoting some totalitarian ideology and using a false fear to get people to go along. Even with serious economic problems, we are a LOT better off now even a century ago, with massively improved medicine and medical proceedures, vastly improved technology, and a whole slew of other things.

      Things are MUCH better now than the Dark Ages, when religion was in control.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Journeyman

      Go handle some snakes and let the Orthodox amongst us do the real work...or should I say "works" (gasp).

      June 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  19. tony

    She couldn't get married in a Catholic church if she professed atheism.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  20. Ting

    She needs Catholicism to find her moral compass? Now that's funny. Any wagers on how long she stays in the club?

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

      Until the co-dependency of being an insecure female in need of ego stroking and a husband wears off.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Until the divorce or the ratings begin to drop again.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:01 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.