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. Tom

    Great news. She made the right choice.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Did she? Sweet, can you provide any proof?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Statistically a 1 in 25 possibility

      Priests will molest her children

      June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Tom

      St. Teresa of Avila. St. John of the Cross. St. Francis of Assisi. St. Theresa of Lisieux. St. Augustine. St. Thomas Aquinas. Blessed John Paul II. Blessed Mother Theresa. St. Thomas More. St. Theresa Benedicta. You want proof? Read their lives.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      What in their lives provides evidence of the existence of a god? Surely if it's there you can point to it.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Tom

      Their direct experience of God, which manifests in their lives holiness, humility, charity, the miraculous. Read the life of Edith Stein, now a canonized saint. She was a phenomenologist, an assistant to Edmund Husserl. Absolutely brilliant woman, who read in one night the autobiography of Teresa of Avila, declared "This is the truth," and converted from Judaism. It's this way with saint after saint. Conversion story into radical commitment to God–through the Church.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  2. Female Christian

    I'm glad the church regards women as second class, because we are.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • nottolate

      You're not a Christian you're a troll. Authentic Christian women know they are not second class as you claim.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Ting

      The ones that "know" that they are not second class citizens should take off he blinders.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  3. The Bottom Line

    She is converting to be his wife. The rest is smoke and mirrors.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Wrytr

      I've seen this happen before... super passionate atheist I know converted to Catholicism – why, to marry this girl he was hot for.

      Down the line they broke up, and he couldn't become an atheist fast enough again. Sometimes the belief in God works in not so mysterious ways.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  4. us_1776

    Let's see.

    30 million people leave the Catholic church.

    And one girl joins.


    June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Andy

      Thousands and thousands of people join the Catholic Church every year.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tom

      The Catholic church is growing.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Ting

      'The Catholic church is growing"

      That's because they don't believe in birth control.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Wrytr

      Tom – totally fine that you are believer, but I'm not sure you have your facts straight. Do you have a source for your statement "The Catholic church is growing"?

      Here's the kinda data I'm seeing, with bylines link "the Roman Catholic Church is losing members in droves. Can it stem the decline?" http://theweek.com/article/index/202388/catholics-in-crisis

      June 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • us_1776

      Oh, please. The Catholic Church is shrinking fast.

      Why do you think so many Catholic schools and churches are closing?

      Doesn't sound like growth to me.


      June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Laura

    Huh. I'm an academic and very active online in this debate and I never heard of her. "Prominent"? Please.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Butterfly

    Atheists need to become Evangelical Protestants first before becoming Catholics. Log a few years in the emergent church before moving on to the heavy lifting.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  7. felix el gato

    Why should we care what this ditz thinks?

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

    Let's all ignore that whole "greed is a sin" part of the bible and focus on hating gays for no reason.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  9. DaveInCanada

    I reject that being an atheist means we have no moral compass. I have always felt dismayed by people only assuming the bible is this moral law we must follow. I take my morality from an instinctive desire to thrive in a society where I feel safe and equal. I don't feel religion is an embassador for equality and has no right to preach itself as the moral law.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  10. emintey

    I read this article with a bit of puzzlement. While I think it's wonderful for her that she is on a path in life that pleases and is of value to her I'm not sure why anyone else would be especially interested. I never read her blog and if I had known it existed I wouldnt be interested nor does it interest me now that she has given up her athiesm.
    I do hope that as a catholic she would find it withen her to support those wonderful Catholic nuns who are being given such a hard time by the Vatican.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  11. jared

    I can't make up my mind between Thor and Apollo.

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

      Stick with Thor.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Alexander The Great


      June 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • tez07

      I would would have to go with Apollo on this one.........I never liked Thor, if he stumbled on a rock and dropped his hammer, he would just be other schmuck walking down the street like the rest of us

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  12. nottolate

    Can someone please tell me in an age of information such as 2012 most people don't know that Catholicism is not even Christianity??? The author of this article don't even know.

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

      Judging by your grammar it's not surprising you dont know.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • nottolate


      Muiti-tasking and erred during typing.

      Should read: Can someone please tell me in an age of information such as 2012 how come most people don't know that Catholicism is not even Christianity??? The author of this article don't even know.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • emintey

      LOL Not quite, where are you from anyway? I'm guessing south. (hint: try the word doesnt).

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

      Do you mean to suggest that Catholics are not Christians. I'm an atheist, but even I know that they are a sect of Christianity...like the baptists, mormons, pentacostals, etc. What about them makes them not Christian?– since the litmus test is beliving that Jesus was the son of god and divine. Help me out please?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • emintey

      Actually mormons are not christians, not according to ANY other Christian sect. There are fundamental differrence between mormonism and christinaity, google it. Catholics are certainly Christians.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Chris

      Em- I am looking at it now. As someone just looking in on it (without a "dog in this hunt" as they down south), I don't understand why Mormons are left out. Simply stating that they accept Jesus, follow his teachings, and that he is the son of god... kinda makes them Christian to me. More than Muslim- also a tribe of Abraham- who only acknowldge the historical and prophetic Jesus- and no divinity. With ALL SERIOUS respect, each sect of any faith has nuance and they are all really similiar. Doesn't seem right, but then again–its only clasification to me. Would you suggest Mormonism stand as an equal of Christianity, Judiasm, and Islam? As a 4th?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • emintey

      Yes. I dont have a dog in this fight either chris but yes they are more like a 4th. The fundamental commonality of Chrisitannity is the divinity and unity of the trinity which does not exist in mormonism. Muslims also revere Christ, but not in the same way as Christians do. I'm not trying to ostracise mormons, just noting the fundamental distinction.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Ken S.

      Catholicism is the one true Christian church. It's Protestants who are the hell bound heretics.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  13. Question

    Out of curiousity, how many of you atheists actually bother with things like "prominent bloggers' and people Like Dawkins or the rest of it? I never even heard of this chick, I don't have to read anybody's opinions to affirm my own, and just don't see any reason to.

    Do the rest of you go for this "prominent atheist" schtick?

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

      I'm more like an agnostic than an athiest but I think there are a group of people who identify themselves as athiests and who are active in 'athiesm'. It's just my opinion but I think most athiests couldnt care less and dont spernd a whole lot of time thinking about their athiesm and contrasting it with religion. I think that when religious people think of athiests they think of people who are against religion, which this chick may have been.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  14. The Humanist

    I went thru the same journey, but in reverse. Although I'm not an atheist, I did find that my upbringing as a Catholic did give me the moral compass that I subscribe to today, but no longer inspired by religious commandments. Instead, I'm guided more about the consequences of our actions, centered primarily around how we treat each others as humans. The church has provided that moral framework for me that I'm quite comfortable with. Tell me that I'm going to hell for eating that 16oz Porterhouse on Good Friday and I'll laugh at you. Tell me that I'll get fat for eating that 16oz Porterhouse on Good Friday and I'll ask you if you want half of it.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  15. JamesW

    Any time I hear someone say that they look to religion as a basis for morality, I shudder. If the only thing keeping that person from immorality is religion, perhaps we should keep a very close eye on that individual. The basis of my choices in terms of how I behave or misbehave is entirely unrelated to the existence of a god.
    Yes, I am rife with flaws and have made plenty of mistakes in my life, but I would argue that my atheist life is on par with the most pious among us in terms of good and bad. Putting any god in charge of your morality, the results good or bad, by default leads to laziness. Rarely does someone come out publicly and say, “god failed to make me a good person” but that is what many believe when they falter morally. Failing to set a high standard for yourself regardless of the existence of a god leads all too frequently to disaster.

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

      yadda yadda yadda

      June 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  16. puckles

    Is she sleeping with her boyfriend? If so, then they are both hypocrites and will not enter in to the kingdom of God.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  17. Tim Tebow

    Can't wait to shower with my new teammates!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  18. Danno

    Those looking for morality should run in the opposite direction of the Catholic Church.

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

      wait wait, so a church that elects a man to sit on a golden throne and promote himself as a man of the poor who also helps conceal child molesting preists is considered immoral?

      I'd take Richard Dawkins over the Pope anyday

      June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  19. Neil G

    If an Atheist is going to convert, it should only be to being an Agnostic.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  20. Daniel

    Never heard of her. Next!

    June 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • The True Scotsman

      I'm sorry..who are you that we should give a crap what you think?

      June 22, 2012 at 2:56 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.