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. templeofathena

    >>said that at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass.<<
    So she finds her "moral compass" in an organization that protects child rapists, drives gay teenagers to suicide, and wants women to die in childbirth? Good job, lady. You suck as a human being if you think those things are "moral".

    June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  2. Confused

    I don't understand this concept of a "specific God" from the article. The God that Catholics believe in is the same God that Jews, Protestants, Muslims and Hindus believe in too (and other religions as well).

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

      There are as many gods as there are religions...actually, no. Since there are a number of religions that are polytheist there are actually more gods than there are religions.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Joedog

    To Dan Merica: "Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on". Switching to the side...I'd venture to say. Learning how to use prepositions (i.e. ending a sentence with on) must be the class you skipped in J school. Maybe if you'd thought this out instead of being a smart as% you'd might've ended with a better quip.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Former Marine

      To Joedog:

      If you were a capable journalist, you would be one. You wouldn't be trolling articles criticizing everything you think incorrect.

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

      ...I thought there was no such thing as a 'former' Marine.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  4. halleh20

    another form of Stockholm syndrome

    June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  5. godlessfreethinker

    She's young...This is just being a little bit of a rebel. She'll be back.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  6. Duh

    This "aetheist" never did become a true aethesit, as is proven by her continued exposure to the mental illness that is religion and worrying about CONVERTING her fellow mentally bereft sick religionists. She got twisted into their sickness that is religion, and they afflicted her. You will suffer the mental stagnation and emotional deforestation that is religion. Bye, bye honey.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • n222s

      Duh, I'm glad to see you display your happiness and kindness. As you posted earlier, religion doesn't supply 1/1000 the happiness atheism does to you. And your happiness is in full view of everyone!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • n222s

      Duh, I misquoted you:

      "Totally accepting aetheism for one hour, will give you more happiness than a 1000 people blindly believing in a man in the sky for 1000 years."

      Let me know when you've reached an hour because I don't know what you're feeling but I'm not exactly sure it is happiness.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  7. RichardSRussell

    Free country. Free choice. Freedom of religion. Yay!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  8. GenXcynic

    Wow – of all the options available to just go Catholic? And to justify it by saying this is where morals come from?! The Catholic Church is more of a moral vacuum than Washington DC! I think maybe she quit her meds cold-turkey.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  9. pbernasc

    man, from stupid to brain dead

    June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  10. A Poll For Atheists Regarding This Story

    In regards to her conversion, what is your true response?

    A. Outraged and really angry!

    B. Somewhat angered.

    C. Slightly puzzled, but really don't care. No real emotional response at all.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Definitely C. Don't really care.

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

      I vote "C" doesn't really change my life one way or the other. however i still can't understand how she figures religion has morals........how did she come to that conclusion. any true atheist would know their argueing points on that very topic; i think she was agnostic more than atheist.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • sip

      C. The story is somewhat interesting, but in the end, I don't really care.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Ting

      D. She is lying or naive.

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

      I pick C.... if people want to believe, then that's cool as long as it govern their life and not mine. Best wishes to her.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • snowboarder

      definitely C

      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • SoCrates


      June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • doubtingt

      None of the above. Her belief in absurd notion of objective morality shows extreme lack of intellect and thoughtfulness. So, its rather unsurprising she would fall for the even more absurd notion of God.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  11. That Guy

    I'm glad she found something. I was an atheist/agnostic before, but after consistently asking myself "why" on so many daily issues, I realized that I don't have all the answers, but there is Someone who does. That's why I converted to Islam.

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

      So..... Who is it? Can I call him up and talk to him too?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  12. n222s

    To those of you who reject Christianity because you resent imposition upon you, I agree that when it is/was done at the point of a gun it is wrong. I have the right to speak of the existence of God. You have the right not to listen. You have the right to speak of the lack of existence of a deity. I can shut you off. I have been preached to by many of differing faiths. Somehow, someway I managed to live! Get a grip you weak atheists and stop being offended? Have you no spine?

    As for those of you who have no belief in anything metaphysical or spiritual good luck with that. When you go home to your parents, spouse, loved one, kids, explain to them that the bond between you all is, well, out of loyalty and/or chemistry, nothing more. As you kids tell you they love you explain to them that there is no bond between you that can't be explained via science and that love, as a spiritual concept, doesn't exist.

    Because if there is nothing metaphysical or spiritual to love explain it to me or your loved one in a way that doesn't make you sound cold and unfeeling to them. And then, go home with the thought that because this love is a chemical construct of some sort (as thoughts involve chemistry) that this bond between you and your loved ones is as meaningless and hollow in the whole scheme of things as is the statement of a chemical equation.

    Live by your atheist rules and start explaining to your loved ones the lack of metaphysical or spiritual definition to your love. See how far that gets you with them. I suspect they'll buy into your logical response.

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

      Whereas everyone has a right to speak freely and truthfully, no one has a right to lie. Furthermore, whereas everyone has the right to worship in any way the choose, no one has the right to impose their beliefs upon others or to induce others to believe as they do.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • godlessfreethinker

      Disbelief in God does not leave a person as an empty shell. There's still a lot of love and happiness as we celebrate life and all that it has to offer, to learn and to grow. With no religious dogma to restrict us, we can easily question everything with out fear of thought police and Hell.

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

      I've told both my family and the girl I like that love is a chemical reaction in the brain.

      They all seemed to understand that, where ever love comes from, that origin doesn't diminish the importance of the feeling.

      I agreed, and then pointed out that the fact that it doesn't take a magical man in the sky to make me love them means it's EVEN MORE SPECIAL.

      By the way, if you think there is no scientific evidence for the origin of love (as apposed to similar emotions, like lust), you're wrong. MRI's have revealed how the brain operates while experiencing "love" and it is significantly different from similar emotions such as lust. In fact, it's so different, that giving base line MRI's of an individual (all individuals are different), trained doctors can actually tell you which the patient is feeling during the MRI scan.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Duh

      Love has nothing to do with religion moron. EVERYTHING that religion is is but a miniscule fraction of what aetheism is and what venues of thought it opens up for HUMANS. You cannot possibly fathom the aetheist mindset, as you are stuck in your claptrap of religiosity. That shields you and provides for compartmentalized thinking, you know earth is flat, sun revolves around the earth, man is most important. The stupid sh|t that is religion.
      Totally accepting aetheism for one hour, will give you more happiness than a 1000 people blindly believing in a man in the sky for 1000 years.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Goat hearder

      n222s, don't get so defensive, makes you sound bitter that everyone doesn't agree with you.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • n222s

      Wow, nothing offends the disbelievers so much as does challenging their faith. And Duh, I'll bet you're a whole lotta fun at parties, take a pill and calm down. I still believe there is something metaphysical/spiritual to love.

      And can you also be so sure that its existence is what spurs the chemical reaction in the brain and not the other way around? That is hardly proof but I'm content with that thought.

      And if I believe differently than you do, what is so terribly wrong with that? You know what I find so illuminating? The atheists only come out in a discussion of Christianity. You never see hate filled atheists when Islam or Judaism is discussed? Oh...you have anti-semites and Islam haters but not atheists. I wonder why not?

      And you know what else I observe? You atheists detest me for being a Christian. But, for some reason, I don't detest you. I wish I had the eloquence to convince you but I don't call you a moron or mock you. Why do you all feel compelled to throw that at me?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • n222s

      Not bitter friends. Asking people to think through their beliefs is not an expression of bitterness. And yes, I have thought through my belief in the divinity of Christ. If I can't convince you of the validity of my beliefs I don't resent you for it or feel bitterness toward you or anyone else.

      The only atheists I don't like are those that are offended by my very existence. Judge me as an individual. If you judge people solely upon their beliefs or based upon the group(s) to which they belong isn't that the very essence of bigotry?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Jaloop

      I have no problem telling my loved ones that the intense positive feelings and devotion I have for them is probably a result of underlying biological factors. It doesn't change how I feel or how I treat them.

      I would be much more worried about telling them that my love for them is based on the Biblical God's love for humanity. God's love is entirely self serving; it motivated him to create humans inherently sinful, which forces us to ask him for forgiveness for the very nature he gave us. How could my loved one's sleep at night when they know my definition of love would lead me to light the house on fire so I could pretend to save them?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  13. kamanakapu

    Morality?? What about Truth? No religious book I know of has ever explained what Truth is! Nor did the Bible define what Evil is either. So let me take a crack at it: Truth’s are constants that have never had a beginning, will never have an end, go on forever in every direction, cannot be distorted or destroyed, and can be infinitely repeated or reproduced. One plus one equals two (1 + 1 = 2) is just such a constant ... and Truth.

    Evil is the intent to use treachery, deceit, violence, cowardice and slaughter to gain an unfair, unjust, unequal and unnatural advantage over innocent persons, places or things to their detriment, damage or demise.

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

      Here is a twist. As a cathosick: Since the devil punishes evil men, does that make the devil a good guy?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  14. SBarton

    "Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on."

    I was on the fence on whether or not she was genuinely converting. This last sentenced proved it not to be. Religion has no evidence or fact – that's why it's called faith.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  15. halleh20

    what a shame

    June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  16. truthincycling

    What a crock!

    Atheists are no better than religious people – they all think they have the answer.

    Appears also that the 'blogger formerly known as an atheist" is copping out like so many – instead of meeting the issues of morality and how we define it head on, she is now appealing to a 'higher power' to tell her what morality is.

    Look at history – most organized religions have a pretty shameful moral records, particularly the catholic church.

    Sounds like BFKAAA never was one with the courage of her convictions. Bet she switches churches/religions within a few years.

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

      Yeah and now she will be turning to the NAZI papacy for answers to morality. HAHAHAHA. Zig Heil Pappa

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  17. david

    Bait and switch.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  18. Samuel Adams

    If you converted because there appear to be moral precepts which are external to you, get ready for a ride on the clue train.
    We evolved to be social creatures, because we needed one another to survive. For hundreds of thousands of years in a form like our modern one, individualism and isolation meant death. All our "objective morals" were evolutionarily selected for based on that notion. Those who didn't hold these ideas either hid it well, or did not live to reproduce. The fact that some faked their loyalties well back in the day is why we have a minority of psychopaths and sociopaths which survive in our population today. Some of these moral precepts (known back then as necessities for survival) were: desire to belong to a group, cooperation, self sacrifice for one's children, desire to be liked and respected, the desire to reproduce (not shared by everyyone but certainly a vast majority), etc. If you find me a widely held moral that goes against this pack-perpetuation idea, you may be onto something. But you won't.

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

      ethical nihilism?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Fractal Thoughts

      Well put Sam. There are even studies with pre-verbal children (haven't been socialized to religion yet) and other but non-human social animals that show that morality, if you accept that a sense of fairness and preferring "nice" over the opposite are proto-morals, then indeed it is evolution that makes it so.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  19. Michael V

    So she made a completely irrational leap that she couldn't even defend in her blog?


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

      I have a cross for her.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  20. Churchofidontknow

    I have a proposal for Atheists out there: Let's take back the word "believe." I don't want to be asked if I "believe in" God anymore. That question assumes God exists and then the real question is are you a d*ck or not, because if God exists of course you should believe in God, God's all-powerful! You can only "believe in" things that exist. You can "believe in" capitalism, you can "believe in" socialism, you can "believe in" the Miami Heat. To "believe in" something is to have faith in it, think it will work, think it will succeed, win games, etc. You can't "believe in" God because you don't know for sure whether God exist (by most religious people's own admission, I think, though I coud be wrong, but either way its a fact that the existence of God has not been proven).

    So when someone says "I believe in God," they are really saying "I think God exists" and "I believe in religion," but churches need to get people thinking and saying a phrase much strong than those in order to get them to do stuff like give the church money, so they snagged "believe in." Go ahead and ask me if I think God exists and/or do I "believe" in any religion, those are fair questions, and the answers are I have no idea and of course not I'm not delusional, respectively, but please don't ask me if I "believe in God," I'm sick of sounding like a d*ck.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:15 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.