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. catholic engineer

    Blaise Pascal comes to mind. He noticed that "Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true." That's why atheists have blogs and come to this one regularly. They must fight against the terrible possibility that it may all be true.
    Believers are accused of having blind faith. Atheists, however, are victims of "blind assumption" – the assumption that all reality is available to atheists through five senses and that the atheist's mind is infallible in understanding reality.

    A question for atheists: what was Pascal noted for other than the hackneyed Pascal"s Wager.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Well, yes reality is perceptible through one of the five senses, or instruments that we use to magnify them.

      That's the definition of reality. Thankfully, your doctor operates, you know, in reality.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Atheist Engineer

      He was a mathematician and scientist in some respects. Fluid dynamics, pressure, etc. Hence the Pascal unit of pressure. I guess his Pascal triangle's were neat too...

      All of which really has little to do with a conversation about religion. Modern scientists, privy to a great deal more information than Pascal and atheism is much more readily accepted (and discussed).

      June 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      Thanks, Atheist Engineer "He was a mathematician and scientist in some respects....ALL OF WHICH REALLY HAS LITTLE TO DO WITH A CONVERSATION ABOUT RELIGION." The next time some says that science disproves religion, remember your own words.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Maybe they come to this blog (I had not heard of it before this article. Someone must have forgotten to mail my news letter) to find like minded people. Too debate and question their views. Organized atheism is usually a reaction… to faith based groups attempting to push their faith on others through law. You need only see the debates over abortion and contraception to see these faith based groups in action. Medically they have no grounds.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son


      June 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  2. teezzur

    I was a Catholic – but I escaped! She will eventually do the same if she has ANY back bone. I read and research this subject and have never heard of her either.... but, if she is honest and does her research honestly, she will discover the history of lies, and brutal treatment of people that not only the Catholic church is responsible for but other religions as well. By the way, every year the Pope prays for peace, and if anyone could get a prayer answered you think it would be the Pope..God's not there!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      if you think that religions are responsible for all history's violence, wait til you find out what man has done on his own. Read about the twentieth century, the most bloody and godless period in history.

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

      Actually, God has answered a prayer of mine today! Why do you equate Christianity and Catholicism. Catholicism is a religion. Those who persecuted Jesus and crucified him were VERY religious. One man, the Pope, making intercession for sinners is completely against what the New Testament and Jesus teaches. Therefore, the Catholic religion has it all wrong. It is a personal relationship.

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

      @ catholic engineer
      The twentieth century is full of wars started by religion lol. In fact..almost all of them.

      @ Isaac
      > Actually, God has answered a prayer of mine today!Why do you equate Christianity and Catholicism. Catholicism is a religion<
      Catholicism is a denomination of Christianity.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Linden Pike

    As a PROMINENT atheist, I can assure you that this "blogger" is as unknown as you are to your local gym.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Valharic

      Yep, gotta agree. As a reader all of the major aithiest blogs, Dawkins, Myers, AronRa, Thunderf00t to name a few, I have never heard of this person. It seems to call her prominent is far reaching.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Something To Think About

      Linden, since when does one HAVE to be prominent in society or famous to be known to convert from atheism to Christianity? The fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter! A person can be a life-long atheist and finally come to see the light of Salvation through Jesus Christ at any time and be proud to proclaim their conversion which means their eternal Salvation.

      So, one does not need to be known world-wide as an atheist in order to be able to convert and proclaim it proudly! Don't be so afraid that just maybe there is a God who is watching you and whom you will have to answer to when you pass on. Because that there is and that that will happen, there can be no denial of as you will certainly SEE when your time comes. The time to consider converting is Now, while you still have the chance and while you are still incarnate on Earth. Once you cross over, it will be too late to do anything about it and unless you savor the thought of a place eternally devoid of Lght and of God's Love, you too will rethink your position and hopefully decide to join the rest of your former atheist brothers and sisters who have converted and who continue to.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  4. patrick

    She works for a religion web site as an athiest but now believes. Sounds like a set-up.

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

      Exactly. The fix is in.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Eda

    Why did she convert to Catholicism if she doesn't agree with the church on social issues? That's one of the reasons I stopped being a Roman Catholic. Couldn't she find a more progressive denomination?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  6. Gfreas

    She should have picked a different religion if she disagrees with its teachings right off the bat. That's the point of religion, you just believe in it; they are not democracies, at least Catholicism isn't.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Catholics debate all sorts of issues. Leah is certainly welcome to the faith. She is now going to experience the ridicule of the world but that is just part of the deal. Welcome sister!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  7. q8r1

    Her reasoning is flawed. You can have a moral compass without the need for organized religion. How many wars have been fought in the name of a deity? Many people perceive that the world is becoming increasingly corrupt from a moral perspective. I question whether there is actually an increase in the prevalence of moral corruption compared to incidence, the latter of which is governed by the increase in population. A further complication is created by the internet which allows every idiot to broadcast themselves to the world (note irony regarding this posting).
    People would do well not to run to organized religion to find moral guidance but rather to look into themselves and become better. It can come from small gestures... try smiling at someone, opening the door for a lady, helping your older neighbor take the trash cans out to the curb. These gestures cost you almost nothing but will provide the sense of community which organized religion dictates to the masses. It is much more meaningful, in my opinion, to come up with an idea yourself and act on it rather than doing what the church thinks is best. Are we humans or muppets?

    June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  8. Noocrat

    So when will she convert back?

    A) Shortly after the divorce.
    B) Shortly after she finds out her new husband bats for the other team.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. RBSG

    She talks about a "moral compass". I would suggest that she is using intuitive logic rather than deductive logic to calibrate her own "moral compass". It's well-established that intuitive logic is highly fallible.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  10. RD

    If I had a nose like that I'd start praying too...

    June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  11. tony

    Obviously,an attention grabber.. there's no just way a true atheist will convert, its just not possible, they will always look for a rational reason for anything so called spiritual that occurs.

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

      totally agree. this has "publicity stunt" written all over it.

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

      What about Paul in the bible? He killed people because they believed in Jesus. Looks like he had a conversion!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Open Your Eyes!

      Ah Tony, quit all that baloney! There are plenty of established atheists who have converted to Christianity when they realized that just possibly there is a God who will not come to accept their soul or spirit when they pass on! They embraced the life of Jesus Christ thus, converted and were Saved. That was a great accomplishment and the knowing that they do not have to suffer it out later on or worry eternally by not converting while they had the chance in this world.

      See this for more on people who convert. http://www.conversiondiary.com/ There are many other examples as well!

      May God bless you to convert when you open your eyes by knowing that you have to pass on and that when you do, there is a higher power that will facilitate your being sent to an appropriate place for eternity. And if you had no love or acceptance of Christ, you cannot be in a place of love that was created by God as it would go against your very nature and that of the Universal Law of Cause and Effect. There will be only one alternative for you - a place completely devoid of love and of light. But that is your free will choice. Make it wisely as there is no turning back once you have made it and passed on!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  12. R. Lee Bays

    Call me cynical if you must, but I smell a nice book deal 🙂

    June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  13. DaveG

    Yes we atheists spend out lives telling you how wrong you are.
    Our monkey forefathers told us to do so.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  14. Horus

    Leah, could you elaborate a bit more on how came to the conclusion that the "facts" support the RCC? Thx.....

    June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  15. Lenny Pincus

    She has "problems" with the Catholic Church's stance on gay rights and reproductive rights. Hmmm. So she's not really Catholic.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Gfreas

      Right, Lenny P!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  16. Yoshi

    @Dan Merica. What qualifies this no-name as "prominent"?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  17. SincereAgnostic

    As someone who also wanted to believe, I understand the poor girl's struggles. It's a lot easier to just say "Xyz said it, I believe it, that settles it!" It is our nature to want to belong, and belief is belonging. But Catholicism is an unfortunate choice, since the bottom line is that you *must* buy into the whole package of beliefs to belong. I found Reform Judaism a much better choice, because it's mostly about your behavior (being a moral, ethical, and caring person), and they let me bring my doubts with me.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Well.....

      I don't know what Catholics you have met or where you are coming up with your view of the catholic church, But I converted to Catholicism and I still had doubts and I don’t agree with everything they say and I never had to, it wasn’t a prerequisite. And the catholic church does teach the same things as Judaism (“mostly about your behavior (being a moral, ethical, and caring person)”, Jesus was a Jew.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  18. Dliodoir

    Wow, the hateful and bitter comments here are really telling. Is this how "enlightened" and "rational" people treat others? No wonder she went for love your neighbor rather than hate anyone who isn't just like you.

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

      The problem is more the headline than the girl. It's tantamount to saying "Cardinal converts to Islam" or "Romney becomes Democrat" when it reality it's "Atheist girl no one as ever heard of becomes Catholic"

      June 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Well.....

      I feel more welcomed, appreciated, and loved in my church than I did when I used to be an atheist. All non-believers just want to tear you down to their misery.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  19. personal relationship?

    people keep saying the answer is to have a "personal relationship with Jesus" ... how exactly do you have a personal relationship with a fictional storybook character? I like Bella Swan ... is that my answer?

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

      when one finally comes to the realization that evolution is not biologically or mathematically possible, you have to consider the alternative as she did.

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

      It's called faith. The difference between Bella Swan and Jesus though, is that Jesus is real – he was a real human being. We all understand Bella Swan is a fictional story book character. Secular history validates that a carpenter by the name of Jesus lived. The books of the bible include first person narratives on witnessing and knowing Him. Bella Swan has not asked anything of you. Jesus has. Jesus is God and claimed to be. He also stated what trusting in Him would do for you. Read the Gospel of John. In that, there is all you need to know about Christ. Don't follow him, it's your choice. Hell is a choice too, and those who will go there have freely chosen that destination. I pray you choose eternal life in Christ.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Dave...it's "believe in me or you're going to hell" that is problemo #1 for a lot of athiests.

      Really good ideas don't need threats to get behind.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Well.....

      Yeahalright, God never said we would go to h3ll, he never threatened, and any christian to say that isn't following God's teaching of love and grace.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  20. Rainer Braendlein

    The RCC is not only a distorted church by papacy, but also preaches a false doctrine.

    They preach that you get saved by works, but the truth is that you get saved by Grace alone.

    It is only that nobody should abuse grace and increase sinning; this would increase his damnation.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      No one gets "saved". You zealots are all mine.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sorry Rainer, I know you are sincere but your understanding of Catholic doctrine is mistaken

      June 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Well.....

      Being a person who converted to RCC…In the New Testament, it says we are also to do works and that we are not saved by faith alone. But you are correct God’s grace saves us. But God decides who he will give his grace to; he is the final decision when you stand before him. The problem with many people (especially atheists) is that they do not respect peoples choices, faith is a personal choice your either choose a religion or you don’t and there is nothing wrong with either, there are worse things we should focus our attention on. It is sad how many people who are atheists have not read the bible but like to quote pieces they heard and know little to nothing about. For the ones that actually do read it they do not really understand the meaning behind half of what they read. The bible teaches us lessons through stories it also gives direction to help us live as better people, that really is the point of Christianity to be and grow as better people. The whole bible is not meant to be taken literally, the bible is meant to be taken literally in some aspects that are obvious (maybe not obvious to all) and meant to provide a meaning or moral of a story in other aspects. Go to a bible study and learn how to read the bible correctly, and if I were you I would attend a catholic bible study – all are welcomed, don’t have to be catholic to attend.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • truthandfreedom

      Actually the RCC teaches that works justify our faith that we have in Christ. That the two work together through our continual process of justifcation. And these aren't the works of the law the Jews had to perform in the Old Convenant. These are the good works that come from the love God fills us with through Christ. To quote the famous Augustine "For what is more surely heard in your ear than a confessing heart and a faithful life?"

      June 22, 2012 at 2:13 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.