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. junior

    Praise the Lord

    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  2. Lars Babaganoosh

    It's a trap.

    She was never an atheist. She was a catholic plant.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  3. Sir Pumpernickle

    Never heard of her until this article

    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  4. Jesus Christ Superstar

    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.

    Or that her boy friend wouldn't want to marry her if she wasn't his religion, so she converted just for him it seems like. It;s starting to look like she belongs in a religion where men tell women how to live their life since clearly she's not strong enough to make her own choices.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  5. ac

    I"m sure she had a well-reasoned argument for making that change.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  6. RationalThinker

    Its amazing that in this day and age we still believe in fairy tales and men in clouds with long beards..

    June 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  7. John

    Let's be clear no _religion_ on earth can use morality as selling point.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  8. Dr. Jay

    I once had gas, and it came very wet.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  9. AZ

    Catholics will continue to exist as long as there are people who continue to not use their brain.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • point45

      As will ignorant and intolerant people. so what's your point? pretty narrow person who thinks we all should think tike you.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Pat F

      What a sad little life you must lead, limited to just your feeble brain. Try feeling with your heart for a change.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  10. Chris

    Doesn't seem too surprising given her thought processes. The only surprising thing, really, is that she ever called herself an atheist. From the article it is clear that she has always had a deeply held belief, and it just took her some time to figure this out for herself. Her "atheism" was more like psychological therapy, where she analyzed her feelings. This is diametrically opposed to how real atheists think.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Midwest Mom

      I agree Chris, having traveled the "searching" for religion road myself for many years (and a variety of different religions) one does not wake up one day and profess to be an agnostic or atheist, it's a longer, thought filled process, or was for me. I'm surrounded by religious family and friends who I respect and respect their beliefs, to each his own. I would, however, be suspect of a professed non-believer who converted to the religion of her boyfriend where the religion requires conversion to be married into that church and the boyfriend is a firm believer (and would expect/require such conversion) I can't even count the number of my family and friends who have converted to Catholicism for the sole reason of getting married. Several are divorced and treat the religion now as if it were just a vaccine they had to have to start school "ok, that's over and done with, next) True Catholics would say they never really believed but I bet it happens a WHOLE lot with people falling in love with a Catholic. I simply do not know how you'd make the jump from Atheist to Catholic... that boggles the mind. Was she maybe just a "searching for something" type who really hadn't formed solid opinions on the subject but was still impressionable, I think that's more the case. I'm Agnostic myself, I simply do not know what is out there, there is room, however small, to change my mind. But an avowed Atheist, I find that really, really hard to believe.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Mr. Hand

    "Morality is something we have a duty to." Agreed. "It's external to us." Bull
    You do not need religion to have morality, period. It's this kind of stance that turns people off of religion.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Robert

      This article doesn't give many details. It especially doesn't give much of an explanation for what she means when she says that morality is something external to us. You can get a better idea if you look at her blog.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  12. Kevin


    June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Cunny Puncher

      Major fail. She was, apparently, never an atheist.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  13. Jonas

    Wait, so does she actually believe in God?? It seems like a big deal but she fails to mention it...

    June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  14. Joe

    You can't prove to me that God doesn't exist as much as I can't prove to you that God does exist. Either way it is faith.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Atheism is the natural state of all living things

      Technically, only one is faith. The other is the absence of faith.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      It really isnt you know. Its like saying you have faith that little purple pixies called nigel dont exist.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • adrifter

      I hear that all the time – atheism is faith. Nonsense. Atheism is the lack of faith. It's relying on the observable and provable. It's curious that believers try to insult atheism by calling it a faith, something that they hold as a virtue. You can keep faith all to yourself.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Ray

      Clearly you failed (or never had) basic logic. Your statement is nonsensical. Might I suggest you research the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) to understand how this inane attempt at logic can be taken to its extreme? FSM devotees demonstrate quite admirable the ridiculousness of religious zealot claims.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • roadrunner321

      You must have a lot of faith, considering all the faith required NOT to believe in all other gods who have ever been thought up, as well as the faith in the one you think is real.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • TJ

      Well, in reality the way things are done to prove the existence of something is not like what you said. It is always assumed the stuff you are trying to find doesn't exist until you find evidence of its existence. For example, when scientists tries to look for a new element, they have to assume that it is not there until they find something to prove it. That very same concept is also applied in the legal system: "Innocent until proven guilty". When you try to prove "guilt" of someone, you have to assume that "guilt" doesn't exist until you have enough evidence beyond reasonable doubt to prove it. That's why when somebody claims that God exists, they need to have evidence to prove it, not the other way around. That's the proper way to do it.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Rob

      Not quite. The burden of proof falls on those who those who make the claims of something extraordinary. Atheism isn't a belief in something, the way religion is so it's not based on faith. Atheists simply say that they choose not to believe in the extraordinary claims religious folks make. It's like if I say Santa Clause absolutely, positively exists the burden is on me to prove it, not for others to disprove it. There's no difference between saying you believe in something as incredulous as the idea of God, than something like dragons or minotaurs, or Zeus and Athena. 3,000 years ago someone would have used your argument to say that the latter two exist. Can you prove to me that Zeus doesn't exist? Your argument is a false one used by all religious folks against atheists.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      So you are Agnostic, and just don't know it.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Olsonic

      there is barely any daylight between atheism and agnosticism.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Pat F

      Correct. Faith is being convinced of what cannot be proven empirically. Being convinced that God does not exist, which cannot be proven empirically, is therefore faith. Get over it, atheists!

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

      Calling atheism a faith is like calling NOT collecting stamps a hobby. As adults we both do not have faith in tooth fairies. Similarly I do not have faith in god-like assertions.

      June 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  15. adkerj

    Well vegans are weird so that makes atheist weird, a very smart woman

    June 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  16. adrifter

    If she keeps thinking, she'll be back. If she stops thinking, best of luck to her as a new Roman Catholic. This is not a game of chess where we count the number of pieces we win or lose. I don't care what one person believes or doesn't believe. All I care about is there is an inevitable but slow move of people towards rationality and a rejection of religious foolishness. It's slower in the United States. But it's faster in places like my country of Canada, where – according to the national census – 16 per cent of people have no religious beliefs and that percentage is growing with each census. Atheism is winning, folks.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • dzasdf

      u mad bro?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Brandon

      Too much thinking makes a man crazy. Sometimes its letting go from the entanglement of your mind that makes the most sense.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Robert

      Tell me, adrfifter, what is love?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • adrifter

      Robert.... well, it's definitely not god.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • jcguy

      I always find it funny that atheist claim all believers are stupid, like all of our presidents and according to statistics 75% of all college professors, 50 % of all scientist, every single astronaut that has ventured into space and the list goes on and on and on. We are either stupid or have some sort of agenda. 80% of this country and 90% of the global community are stupid??? WOW!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "80% of this country and 90% of the global community"

      interesting statistic you are throwing out there considering that figure includes hundreds of religions.
      so are you saying all religions are right then? someone that believes in ganesha is the same as someone that believes in yahweh? or is one of them wrong and the other correct? or are they both wrong?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • jcguy

      I guess cedar rapids I am saying that belief is part of the human experience, yes I believe that I am correct in my beliefs which means that I believe others are incorrect,but the discussion I am addressing here is that non-believers in any religion condemning believers and calling them ignorant...seems arrogant and narrow minded. Which is what Christians are ususally accused of.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Steve

      JC, I agree with your point and I am an atheist. Is Francis Collins and Micheal Behe idiots? Was Isaac Newton a moron? Of course not and Atheists who claim all religious people are idiots are being foolish and undermining themselves. BUT as human beings we all have blind spots and I believe some brains are wired for religious irrationality and you can see this in the compartmentality of their "reason". A person will go to work, be rational and logical in their approach and in conversation, dealing with probabilities etc, and then that same person will believe they see the image of the virgin mary on a piece of toast thinking it is a miracle from a perfect spiritual individual who sent the holy spirit down on that piece of toast to prove their existence. Atheists, by and large, tend to be more consistent in their belief system. Attributing the same rules to the world as opposed to picking and choosing (without any evidence) where and when this unsubstantiated supernatural intervention is taking place. They also realize religion has a tendency to undermine science and can lead to its destruction. I mean maybe supernatural intervention took place in that test tube, maybe it was Demons! Angels? Maybe all data is being manipulated by Thor or Odin? Maybe the spirit of Hitler is alive and well and influencing politics in Malawi at this moment? Once you introduce the supernatural you go backwards to the middle ages, and that is where some in the US seemingly want to take their country.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  17. Nathaniel

    "Top" blogger is a bit of hyperbole. I've been an atheist for nearly a decade, active at that, and I've never heard of this person.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Joseph

      I've never heard of her either. I wonder if any other "top bloggers" in the atheist community have.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      i must admit i havent heard of her either.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Ray

      A mediocre blogger on a mediocre site. Good advertising for the mediocre site, though.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  18. TexDoc

    Amazing how many here want to mock, condemn, or even belittle a thoughtful process and an exercise in freedom.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Kevin

      it's amazing how many believe biting criticism is NOT an exercise in freedom

      June 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  19. vulpecula

    flying spaghetti monster

    June 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  20. Jesus Christ Superstar

    She's not a very good atheist if she converted so quickly. It's like I'm a vegetarian, unless someone puts a giant steak in front of me, then I'll eat it, and become a carnivore. She obviously isn't very strong.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Nathaniel

      Nor a very good Catholic if she picked the religion principally because it was the best match for her pre-existing biases.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Superstar

      Nor a very good person. To be an atheist, I imagine she probably believed something before, so she basically just went through the "Goth" phase of her religious movement.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Jillicentix

      I was a vegetarian for a bit, but then I got better.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:53 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.