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. Anomic Office Drone

    Not that I seek out atheist bloggers, but I've never heard of this supposedly prominent blogger.

    I hate to say this, but it sounds like someone is looking for a ring from her Catholic boyfriend.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  2. Butterfly

    Note to Atheists thinking about converting to Catholicism: Join some cute skateboard rocker Protestant church for a couple of years before becoming a Catholic. The RCC isn't not Da Vinci Code 24/7 and is a very boring organization/life. Disappointment of converts causes them to form the extreme elements that give the Church a bad name.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  3. jared

    Next week: Buddhism.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  4. unclemevin

    As an atheist I don't have a problem with people finding God. Good for them, if that's what they really want and it brings them peace. My problem is when people of religious faiths try to legislate morality, by using ballot initiatives and other political activities to create laws that restrict behavior, and/or curtail civil liberties, in the name of their belief system.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • C.R. Darwin

      What ever happened to the separation between church and state?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  5. Carl

    As it's been pointed out in earlier comments, the gal wasn't so much an atheist as a deist who simply hadn't picked a specific god yet.

    And I'm curious how exactly she is a "prominent" blogger. I have the feeling this article was put up by religious folk who wanted to paint an image of a resurging of religion in America.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • OOO

      More likely CNN finally got tired of hearing the "stop targeting Catholics" rants and threw them a bone.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  6. C.R. Darwin

    Society – Religion = Better humanity

    June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  7. Rainer Braendlein

    The number of the pope: 666

    Historical evidence:

    Primary note:

    In order to understand the issue, we must first get to know the difference between the Roman Empire (27 B. C. to 476 a. D.) and the Holy Roman Empire (800 a. D. to 1806 a. D.). Although the names of the two Empires sound very similar, they are two totally different things. The Roman Empire knew no mixture of state and Church. Merely, beginning with emperor Constantine, the Church got gradually protected by the (Eastern) Roman Empire. The Roman Empire declined in 476 a. D.. Papacy was established 607 a. D.. In the course of time the power of the popes increased and thus 800 a. D. the Frankish king Charles the Great was crowned emperor by the pope. By this coronation the Roman Empire resurrected and was now called Holy Roman Empire. The Center of the Holy Roman Empire was not Italy, but Germany. Hence, the Roman Empire or Holy Roman Empire is the Beast (including it’s head, the Wicked or Arch-Blasphemer) of Revelation, Chapter 17.

    Why do we call the Middle Ages dark age sometimes?

    What made life so unpleasant during the dark age?

    There are two reasons: The impact of the pope and the impact of the Muslims (the Muslim Arabs (Saracens) and the Muslim Turks).

    Here, I will focus on the influence of wicked papacy:

    After Gregory the Great (the last good pope, lifetime 540-604 a. D.) the wicked papacy was established by the criminal emperor Phocas (emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, reign 602-610 a. D.). Phocas made the Roman See the highest on earth, which was a crime, because God refuses a visible head of the whole Church. Jesus Christ shall be the head of the whole Church.

    After wicked (papacy is wicked, because God doesn’t want any See to be the highest one on earth) papacy was established, the papal office corrupted more and more in the course of time. After a while the popes not only presumed to be the bishops of all bishops, but they even claimed to be higher than the emperor or any king. This development peaked in the papal docu-ment Dictatus Papae (by Pope Gregory VII, lifetime 1020-1085), which declared that the pope was higher than the emperor. According to the demands of the docu-ment Dictatus Papae, Gregory VII indeed deposed emperor Henry IV (emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) at a Lenten synod on February 14, 1076 a. D..

    From 1076 onward the Roman-German emperors (emperors of the Holy Roman Empire) were subordinated to the pope.

    Now hang on to your hat: For 666 years the Pope was the Super-Emperor of the whole world up to 1742 a. D., when the Holy Roman Empire (center: Germany) got an secular emperor again (Emperor Karl VII, who got crowned emperor on February 12, 1742 a. D.) One of the darkest periods of history lasted 666 years. Seemingly this number 666 is identic to the Number of the Beast 666, which is mentioned in the Revelation.

    Free Churches should stop to mind about the meaning of 666.

    From 1076 to 1742 a beast ruled the world. 666 years long the world was tortured by a beast.

    God prevent us from a further papal rule. It is yet enough that he rules his club of predators (child abuse).

    June 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Butterfly

      666 was Nero...again, read a HISTORY book.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Rainer, go to Vegas,

      stay there for 40 days and 40 nights if you have to. If God wills it 'lucky' sevens will come up on the slot machine for you.

      I'm sorry, but I don't accept that history is bound by mystical numbers.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • olkvgn

      Let's say (hypothetically) i need to find some"answers". Why would I listen to some guy posting response to stories on cnn.com? Especially one that goes on and on and on.....

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein



      June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  8. Scott

    Whatever our opinions on this matter, can we debate it without anger? I have engaged in this debate for years, and what seems to have been lost long ago is any true search for truth. There are legitimate inconsistenceies and factual problems with Biblical teachings that deserve discussing. At the same time, the acedemic standards of evidence we use to judge other historical events support reliability and trustworthiness when applied to Christianity. Also, even most athiests live as if they believe there is something more to morality than just personal feelings or practical co-existence. I suspect the truth is a little out of everyone's comfort zone. Let's try to stay on the same team.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • darren

      Very very well put. I usually don't get very far into the comments because the negativity and outright hatefulness is often overwhelming. A reasonable discussion of opposing viewpoints need not be a zero-sum game.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  9. Jason

    The truth has set her free. All of you "intellectuals" should check out Anthony Flew's story; he's smarter than any one of you posting on this board, including myself.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Care to reinterate his argument for god?

      I've heard just about all of them, and haven't heard anything convincing to date.

      You're more than welcome to try, I'll give you my honest reply, and you can tell me if you think my logic is wrong!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      So she's saying that of ALL the world's religions, Catholics have it right?!? (sigh) ...... I'm too cynical to think this is genuine, unfortunately. Sounds like a scam.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  10. Tr1Xen

    Whatever makes her feel better...

    June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  11. joe

    Very difficult to believe than any educated atheist all of a sudden converts. Based on what? A desire for a moral compass? Please. Any educated atheist worth her salt knows the atrocities committed and how emotional and vengeful the bible God is.

    Nothing about this story makes any sense. Right after converting if she were at all rational she'd immediately go back to all doubt and lack of logic, reason, science and evidence that she had to know of as an atheist.

    So basically, it has to be a bogus story. The only converts I've ever known are uneducated, ignorant, addict types.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "Nothing about this story makes any sense."

      Perhaps you are not as smart as you think you are.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • SheilaKA

      I understand what it looks like from the outside. I was there. Then I really prayed...not with words, but with a stillness and expectation over several years. I am a Roman Catholic Christian...and very happy.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Jayne

      Maybe she got knocked off a horse by a lightning bolt.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  12. Jose Angel Lopez

    She's not prominent. I've never heard of her. Neither my Atheist friends.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • OOO

      I know.
      She's a "top" atheist blogger... bigger than, say Sam Harris.

      Like her "conversion"... gets more hits for CNN.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  13. ? ? ? ? ?

    It's her choice. Not smart if she was led on moral grounds, that has nothing to do with a god being real, let alone that one.
    If it makes her happy..................... ignorance is bliss.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  14. John N

    now she is definately heading for hell

    June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  15. Jeff

    As someone who follows the atheist 'scene' and reads a lot of atheist sites and blogs. I've never heard of this person. She is/was not a "top" atheist blogger. That's just hot air to make the story look more sensational.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      And even if she were a "top" atheist blogger, that would be completely irrelevant.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @HawaiiGuest- what?? You didn't just say that is irrelevant did you?

      I guess the next time that a major Pastor in the US does something wrong...you will say that the Pastor being a major figurhead in Christianity is irrelevant.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      The persons popularity, or lack thereof, is irrelevant to the reasons (good or bad) for the action being reported. Was that really so hard to get from my post?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "The persons popularity, or lack thereof, is irrelevant to the reasons (good or bad) for the action being reported. Was that really so hard to get from my post?"

      So again I say...that you will join with us all the next time some popular Pastor does something stupid that this person's popularity in the faith is irrelevant to the actions they did.

      I'm sorry...it's just that many atheists on here just seem to love it when a prominent person in Christianity does something wrong. They blame the whole faith for it. If I understand you position on this....their popularity within the faith would be irrelevant.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Yes, their popularity is completely irrelevant. The main point is the reason, the amount of personal responsibility taken (if it is an action that hurts others, or shows the person to be a hypocrite), and the effect that an action might have. In this case, the reason is suspect, it's not something that would hurt others, and it won't have any real effect.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

    I believe because it makes me feel wonderful, it gives me peace and comfort. If you do not believe then that is your choice but don't tell me it is a bunch of baloney. Everyone has to find their own way. I'll respect your beliefs and you should respect mine.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jay Dee

      Preys the Lord! Lettuce prey!

      June 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • snowboarder

      eventually it will be determined that religious "spirituality" is another triat that makes up an individual. some part nature, some part nurture, that gives a person that 'spiritual" feeling. probably not significantly different than the trait which instills in a person an attraction to a member of their own gender.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Sotzume

    Even if one believes that you need some form of organized religion to focus your morality...why would anyone, especially a woman, choose Catholicism. The most morally corrupt, woman hating religion that exists! You do not need some ridiculous "pie in the sky when you die" mythology to be a moral person. Her reasoning is faulty and there is more here than meets the eye. I bet she was a fraud from the very beginning.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  18. bk

    A true atheist has internalized morals and values. We don't need a patriarchal church to tell us the difference between right and wrong and do not need the threat of hell and damnation to keep us from stealing and killing each other. Obviously this gal was never an atheist. Besides, contrary to Christian belief, atheists do not spend their time struggling with moral questions as this story suggests. We leave that up to you Christians. I call a big BS.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  19. NutGrinder

    What an idiot. Traitor to Intelligence.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Case4Christ

      With a name like that, we should all listen to your words of wisdom eh?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  20. Butterfly

    What is with all the atheists converting to Catholicism nowadays? They need to log a few years in Protestant Churches before becoming Catholic. These people show up and think it is the Jedi Order or something like that and when it isn't these are the types that start groups like Opus Dei to make up for their disappointment.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jayne

      They convert to catholocism because they see it for what it is, a way to gain power over the sheep for fun and profit and want to get some for themselves. No one ever gets rich by being an atheist (except maybe for Dawkins).

      All religions are scams. Catholics have just been at it longer and have their methods perfected.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:42 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.