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. MPK

    She was never an atheist... Morality and Religion have nothing in common...

    June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mylky

      I can not attest to know anything about this lady or whether she was ever an atheist.
      However, i can wholeheartedly agree with the latter part of your statement.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  2. From bad to worse

    Atheist to Catholic? Out of the frying pan and into the fire. The idiot light in her brain must have burned out.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      To be replaced by the Light of the World

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  3. Uh...OK

    Atheists: "Confusing, but so what"
    Catholics: "Heaven is roaring with joy today"

    Atheists win.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Atheist – I'm confused but so what

      Christian – welcome home

      June 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Steve

      But in the end of times...Christians win because we go home. Atheists, yeah not so much.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  4. Lisa Ray

    To me it seems like Leah is giving up not because of a true awakening but because she's tired of fighting with her boyfriend. I would've been okay if she had become a theist from an atheist, but to suddenly turn to a religion – that to me is a cop out! I am not an atheist, but being spiritual is enough. I do not like the way people are brainwashed into becoming braindead by the so called religions.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Seven Devils

      I sense a future Catholic mother-in-law had something to do with this.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Think for yourself

      Seven Devils – your hunch makes much more sense. Going from atheist to Catholic specifically does not.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  5. Yeah Baby!


    June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  6. Think for yourself

    Hmmm...she's a young woman with a Catholic boyfriend. Is it possible she's trying to please her boyfriend? Not uncommon.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • sam

      And she's openly concerned about some tried and true Catholic basics. How is this a good fit?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Seven Devils

      Please her boyfriend's mother, I'm guessing.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Did sam just say "tried and true Catholic basics"?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • sam

      To a catholic, sure! If you're catholic, there are certain things taken as truth, right? So why would she very definitely decide on this faith...and then have problems with parts of it? It just seems like she's aiming for something more on the protestant side of things. She can do whatever she wants, I don't care. It just doesn't seem to make sense in this case.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Al

    I am disgusted at her lack of faith in Atheism.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  8. Kajal

    I am an atheist but am supportive that people should follow whatever belief makes sense to them. I do feel that everybody should examine and question, and THEN follow what makes sense to them. The only thing I feel is reprehensible is belief without questioning and understanding.
    Leah Libresco's decision to follow a religious set of beliefs doesn't change my thinking and my understanding of the world. I am happy for her continuing to work on finding a path and finding understanding. That active engagement with life is worth celebrating

    June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • blinky

      Kajal, That's just about the best post I've seen here. And I'm a believer but not interested in organized religion.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Guest

      Kajai great post! One of the best that I have read on here!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  9. bxgrrl

    Was it the religion or love?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The only true religion is love

      June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  10. wangfeihong

    romney is a pagan

    June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  11. Eric

    Why are we saying she has converted to Catholicism but has become a Christian? Here's my question for her. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? It's that simple. Is your pursuit to form an unstoppable, endless, opposite way of the world passion for Jesus? Jesus didn't say come and be a Christian or Catholic and follow me. He wants us to just relentlessly pursue Him.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Converted indicates someone who is not culturally Catholic but enters the faith through an education and conversion experience lasting usually from Advent through Easter. During these Rites of Christian Initiation she will learn, among other things, the traditions and sacraments that are available to her to deepen her life in Jesus.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  12. georgea g

    God doesnt want us to convert to a religion , He wants to have a relationship. He wants you to know HIM and trust HIm...NO religion, only believe HIM.

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

      Then he should probably do something to establish that he exists.

      People printing bibles based off the editing of a church, which was based off the translations of translations of papers that were rewritten based on authors who wrote about somebody after they died isn't very impressive.

      In fact, as far as here-say goes. That takes the cake.

      As far as I can tell, analyzing all evidence, the bible is the greatest example of the telephone game of all time. Not only are the actual events perverted beyond all description (with a significant amount of archeological evidence supporting that claim), but people *actually* believe it.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Sounds like stalker mentality

      June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Steve

      "(with a significant amount of archeological evidence supporting that claim)" – Please provide SPECIFIC citations to support your claim.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I agree georgea. Religion is not the key, Jesus is the key. Religion is a vehicle wherein one may express their faith, practice their commitment and serve in community.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  13. Afghanistan Bananastan

    Ah, the superior moral compass of a woman who abandons her values to catch a man!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Vote GOP Save the Rich


      June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I didn't know we were that hard to catch

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  14. Adam

    She converted to Catholicism because she doesn't know how atheists find their moral compass?? And she's a "prominent" atheist blogger?? I think I'm insulted...

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

      Im not insulted, just baffled.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Adam

      that too...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Really...

      She just converted because she's following her boyfriend... thats what chicks do

      June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  15. Reality

    Let us bow our heads and pray:

    (Only for the new members of this blog and for Leah Libresco.)

    The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (References used are available upon request.)

    June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Oy more inaccurate blabber from the king of copy/pasting.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Eric

      I remember when I lived without hope. If that's your outlook on life then I'm assuming the only thing left for you to do is jot down a list of the top ten bridges you would like to jump off. Because lets face it without a living hope your decision becomes pretty simple, The Golden Gate or The Brooklyn Bridge? I suggest those two because its your last opportunity to be noticed by people that don't care. Quit copying and pasting.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Ron

      Reality...spoken like a true fool

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Steve

      Ummm, there are no references only your work of pure fiction. Jesus did rise. He walked the earth for a time and ascended. His physical death was to that I could have a spiritual enternal life. You don't have to believe this. I am not asking you too. However, you show your true ignorance and lack of compassion for the world by choosing to ridicule the beliefs of others. That is what makes atheists vile. They believe that they have to knock everyone else to give their own worthless lives value.

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

      What if you're wrong though?
      Think that through...

      June 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      And yet you generalize all atheists as vile, congratulations you are now shown to be intolerant to non-belief. Why should I respect a belief I find to be ridiculous? I'll respect the person, but that does not mean that I need to respect irrationality. You show your immorality by labeling all atheists vile, and say our lives are worthless. Just because you can't find worth without your magic man, doesn't mean other people can't find meaning in their lives.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Chance

      For every historian who diminishes the Christian Jesus there is a historian who validates his biblical life. Sources to help sway ones stance doesn't mean the source is absolute.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Guest

      f he is dead, then where is the body? Why did the Romans not produce the body to squelch a movement which was thought to create a revolt and weaken their authority? Why did the Jews not produce the body for a religion that they deemed blasphemous to their religion and weakened the Pharisees power over the Jewish people?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Reality


      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  16. bob

    Ugh. Way to throw away your credibility and intelligence, lady.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Tammy Wynette

      Stand by your man . . .

      June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  17. What a fraud...

    LOL... Does anyone really believe this?? She was an *atheist blogger* for a Christian website??? Ummm, there is no such thing. Christians don't hire atheists to blog on their websites. It's pretty clear that she was always a Christian and is just doing this to try to convert more weak-minded people and to bring traffic to her website... The irony is that the only people delusional enough to believe this are the ones who have such a disconnect with reality that they have already managed to convince themselves that the bible is the word of god.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • steven

      Regardless its a non-issue and should remain so.

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

      ahhhhh.. now I get it. What a poser.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • chuck

      totally agree

      June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Ron

      Catholics are not Christians they are mary worshippers wake up fools

      June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Steve

      Hey Einstein, she was an atheist blogger for a RELIGIOUS website, NOT a christian website. A RELIGIOUS website, want to present the view of ALL religions and people also gave a voice to the godless, like your self. Reading is fundamental. Go back to school.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Guest

      she was not a blogger for a "Christian" website. It was a religious website call "Patheos" which hosted debates on multiple religions, not specifically Christianity. Perhaps it is best to get your facts straight.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Kind of like some of the bloggers that write for CNN's belief blog

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  18. steven

    For every atheist who points a finger and is critical of this womans choice, you should be ashamed. I myself am not catholic but I respect her position and choice and you guys should be most open minded of any group about peoples freedom to choose. Otherwise your just another form of religion. Narrowminded and Hypocritical.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      I agree with you – minus the part about being another religion, narrow mindedness is not synonymous with religion, and people being narrow minded doesn't make their lack of beliefs a religion.

      That being said, I think she was probably an atheist for very poor reasons to begin with. I know, because I've "been an atheist" who went back to theism.

      I am now an atheist again, and for entirely different reasons. I can reflect on why calling myself an atheist before was incorrect, what is different about me now, and I have been an atheist for many years, having refuted many arguments in favor of god (most importantly, to myself, helping to solidfy the foundation for my lack of beliefs).

      June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • sam

      Questioning should never be accompanied by shame, dude.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  19. Bob the Cat

    Ack. Thpt. Staged. Completely staged. What a weak joke.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  20. Rainer Braendlein

    I guess that Libreso is just a Jew or a Muslim, which wants to mock the Christian West.

    This is just a Hypothesis.

    Does anybody know the belief of her parents?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • sam

      That made zero sense.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
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About this blog

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.