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. Reality

    Let us raise our heads and study:

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

    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 3:55 pm |
    • Kae

      This guy above, absolutely follows the Devil.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Reality

      (Only for the eyes of Leah)


      Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

      "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  2. jasoncdanforth

    This smacks of either a guerrilla ad campaign by Catholics, or she's just so damned emotional or impulsive that anyone can sway her. Next week, she'll probably convert to Islam.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • matt

      Haha! If that's true, then every day is a war against faith on CNN!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  3. M.E.

    It's definitely got something to do with the boyfriend, of that I'm sure. Spend loads of time with someone who is stringently religious or non-religious and eventually you'll find yourself moving in that direction. Being with my husband for all these years has definitely made me shift over closer to his side than before, but my beliefs are best defined as nebulous so he's never been able to get enough grasp of them to pull them from me, lol. The joys of being raised "mostly sort of philosophically Buddhist."

    June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  4. austinjag

    As an atheist, I see this as a non-story. If religion makes her happy, more power to her. To question her motives does a disservice not only to her, but to you as the questioner. As an atheist, I only ask for the same thing everyone asks, freedom to chose one's own religious beliefs, in my cases a lack of belief. I ask that your view points should not be forced upon me either through your actions or the government's actions. I couldn't care less what religion you adhere too, so long as you extend the same courtesy to me.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Totally agree.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • sam

      I completely agree with most of that – as long as she's happy and not bugging anyone else, no problem. There's nothing wrong with questioning her motives, though. If she was dropping her faith and suddenly decided to be atheist, there's nothing wrong with asking the questions. It's natural to wonder what caused someone to make such a wide shift.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bobs

      Who long before she starts marching against abortion rights and gay marriage?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  5. Smurfette

    If there is a God, why did he make me only 2 apples tall??? Pr!ck!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      What kind of apples?
      There's a big difference between a crap apple and a golden delicious....

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      CRAB apple.
      I think the warranty has expired on my typing fingers.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Smurfette

      MacIntosh – at least, the other smurfs said that's what I tasted like – especially Poppa Smurf

      June 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Primewonk

      If I was you, I'd be less worried about your height, than the abnormal skin color. I'd also be very, very worried about being the only female for a whole species. Unless, of course, you are really really hôrny.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  6. Frank

    Welcome to the TRUE "Religion of Peace" Love they neighbor, not BEHEAD thy neighbor.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Smurfette

      what about give head to your neighbor?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Bobs

      How about bully your gay neighbor until he kills himself?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • M.E.

      * Unless he's gay or the neighbors use birth control, then condemn away!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Riddles

      Christianity has been far from a "religion of peace" for a long time, ever since it's inception to today.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Kae

      Yes, it's because God's been fighting your father the Devil all these years. It's your father, the Devil that starts all the wars, pitting blood against blood.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • The Devil

      Leave me out of this, I want nothing to do with it.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  7. Reality

    Let us bow our heads and pray as the prayer chain continues:

    (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 3:53 pm |
  8. Roy

    So she actually isn't going to be a Catholic at all. Maybe she's just lying and posing to make her boyfriend's family happy? Coincidentally she's dating a Catholic and of all the religious beliefs in the world to choose form she chooses one of the most exclusionary. She disagrees with the moral positions of a church that dictates absolute authority. The Pope is your leader now. To disagree with the edicts of the church means... you're really not a Catholic. Catholicism is not an ala carte religion. Doh!! Where is the thinking and reasons here? I guess she never heard of Buddhism or Episcopal–both of which would probably agree with more of her personal morals than Catholicism.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      She could choose a religion that agrees with her already defined compass but where would be the growth in that. Perhaps she seeks a path to something larger than she can define for herself.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  9. Todd

    This is why Atheist like me are embarrassed. People claiming to be atheist chastise and berate an individual. Why? Not because they found religion, but because they are petty individuals with no moral compass, who are only atheist because it is avant-garde to say they are. They are no so much atheist as they are anti-establishment/anti-religion. Atheism and the aforementioned two are not synonyms. Just childish prater from feeble minds that know nothing but hate, because they lack the cognitive skills to perceive anything else.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Thurston Howell IV

      If she does not hear it, she is not chastized. No damage. We are just discussing it in an online forum, which by its very nature tends to be rowdy.

      Implicit in your statement is that you consider your form of atheism superior. Very weird. Your way of not believing is better than someone else's way of not believing? Well pat yourself on the back. You berate beraters for berating? Got a mirror handy?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      No he does not imply any superiority of belief.

      "Rowdy" is OK. Abuse is not necessary.

      There is no need for the tone of dismissal that people (theists and atheists alike) use here for each other.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  10. lisarez

    wow – since when did morality have anything to do with Catholicism? She won't find it there...just shows she was never an actual Atheist to begin with.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust


      June 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  11. ptfreda

    religion was estabished to keep peopke in line,weak mined people need somebody to hold there hand in life

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  12. In Reason I Trust

    What's next? She'll start to believe in Santa Clause again?! Maybe Superman is real too? Please.

    Who, having understood that religions are nothing more than myths, would choose to fall back into that trap? Either a liar or a coward.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  13. Thurston Howell IV

    Title of her blog: “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend.”

    Choice of religion: Catholic.

    1 + 1 = ?

    The whole Moral Law thing is a smoke-and-mirrors self-delusion so that her conversion seems intellectual, instead of the subconscious emotional attempt to get her boyfriend to marry her that it actually is.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  14. Tyler

    So she went from a full on atheist, who debated other christians publicly to one herself... This article just kind of makes her looks dumb. If anything the time is coming for more catholics to become atheist. Plus who cares...Such big news that a blogger is changing religion...

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  15. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    This might be a good place to post something many here might find challenging, and sorry for the long post. I find the thoughts of Albert Einstein very interesting and quite challenging.


    The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.
    – Albert Einstein, published posthumously

    As atheists it is important to remember that no thinking person likes to endure proselytizing by others – either by theists, or indeed by atheists.

    Politics and religion are taboo subjects in the workplace and in socializing. No one likes a zealot. Atheists do not have churches to attend where we can all go to smugly congratulate ourselves on our wisdom – like the religionists do.

    The internet is our de-facto church. We are passionate about our faith and we share our faith there.
    Sometimes we get so passionate we forget that such expression is no less bigotry than that of the religionists.


    All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.
    – Albert Einstein (1937 and 1950)

    We all want answers to the eternal questions
    – Where did we come from? (cosmology)
    – Why are we here? (purpose)
    – Where are we going? (death)

    Religion of course has ready answers for those who are willing to believe. Science, or "natural" philosophy (remember that we still handout advanced degrees in the sciences as a PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy) provides material answers to the cosmological questions, but does not answer questions regarding purpose or death, which many (including apparently Ms. Libresco) find difficult.

    We place our faith (and yes, that is what it is) in measurable, repeatable and predictable approaches (the scientific method) to explain the universe around us. These are not absolute truths. When we get it wrong, we fix the model – to a new order of approximation.


    – Any religionist who says absolute truth is knowable is kidding themselves. They say God is truth, but they cannot explain God. He is too “mysterious” for mortal comprehension.

    – Any atheist who says absolute truth is knowable is kidding themselves. If you can satisfactorily explain strong nuclear forces and weak gravitational forces and dark matter without creating an even more complicated model to try to get all the pieces to fit, please write a paper and let the Nobel committee know. (They'll want to hear from you, trust me.)

    SO WHAT?

    Be thoughtful. Be generous. Don't be rude to others. Help others. Leave a legacy. Be remembered well. Live a good live, it's all we've got.

    If you're interested, Einstein was a Spinozan; a belief that is difficult to label and full of nuance and subtlety. I can see why it would appeal to him.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Texas Atheist

      Atheism is not a faith. I place no faith in the extremely low chance there is no god and even lower chance there is one. Some human being telling who and how to worship something also doesn't really help in matters of conversion to your own "faith". Our "soul" may go somewhere else after our worldly body is deceased, but that in itself does not even prove or disprove a god. I also haven't heard many dead spirits on Ghost Hunters telling us about a god or a hell.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Texas Atheist.

      Sure it is. I place faith in our model of an atom being a good one. I've never seen inside an atom but I believe it has a dense nucleus and is surrounded by electrons in multiple energy levels.

      I trust the people that told me that. This is faith, pure and simple.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  16. Texas Atheist

    I find my moral compass in common sense. I don't need a book from centuries ago to tell me how to act right.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • senoy

      I think her argument though is that she feels axiomatically that morality is external and we have an obligation to follow it. 'Common sense' (whatever that may be) is neither external, nor is there any particular imperative to follow it. Common sense is completely subjective and there is actually no reason to rate a moral decision reached due to 'common sense' over a moral decision reached due to say pragmatic or utilitarian concerns.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  17. The Key to Salvation

    We have now heard of how a former atheist got saved. But the question in many an atheist mind must be HOW did she become saved? What did she say or do? If you too are wishing to finally obtain Salvation and your eyes have been opened to the great possibility then simply say the following prayer and know that that is ALL it takes, according to God, for you to become Saved. The moment you say these words and truly mean them, Jesus will accept your soul into Heaven when you pass on. No more, no less. Be sure to say this Out Loud.

    "Father, I come with contrite heart as a sinner and repent for my sins and ask for your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus came to save me and that He was crucified, died, and was buried and then resurrected on the third day. I believe that Jesus is your only begotten Son and promise to follow Him all the days of my life."

    If you have just said that prayer, you no longer have to fear the possibility of making the personal decision of going to a place where God is not at. You will most surely be in a place of great Light and great Love and Acceptance! This prayer is so easy to say that even a child can say it therefore, in your personal decision to become a Born Again Christian and accept Jesus Christ as your LORD and Savior, you have just held the key that will open the door to Heaven and will be given gainful entrance at your appointed time! New Born Again Christian, May God be with you always and bless you eternally!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Smurfette

      there is no salvation; your god is a myth; Jesus Christ did not exist, let alone was/is he divine.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Texas Atheist

      I take issue with the LORD part too. Why do we need a LORD? I find most people who are subservient to be not of sound mind and body. It's easy to jusy say and do what your LORD tells you, rather than think for yourself. So I guess I can see why so many who are willing to give up on life can take that stance. It's just not for me.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Kyle

      That prayer and a dollar will get you a Coke.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • The Spirit of anti-Christ Misguides You!

      For it is written that either you are with Jesus Christ or you are not, in which case you are with anti-Christ because you have not believed in the only begotten Son of God and even all of you atheists and non-Believers cannot ever deny that, if you feel strongly about this matter. If you are anti-Christian, that is against Jesus Christ, you are therefore an anti-Christ. You can either be FOR Christ or anti-Christ. Which are you?

      The prayer to Jesus Christ as given in The Key to Salvation is meant for every non-Believer and atheist to decide for themselves to say. And you will also be hearing much from the anti-Christs who will try to sway you into not saying the prayer of salvation but you must bear in mind that they will not be with you to defend you when you pass on and are before God. Only You will be there in solitude before God to answer to Him. Therefore, you have to be ready to answer truthfully because He knows ALL and you will have no help from those who would want you to condemn yourself to darkness.

      In the Prayer of Salvation, to be said Out Loud to JESUS CHRIST: "Father, I come with contrite heart as a sinner and repent for my sins and ask for your forgiveness. I believe that JESUS CHRIST came to save me and that He was crucified, died, and was buried and then resurrected on the third day. I believe that JESUS CHRIST is your only begotten Son and promise to follow Him all the days of my life." know that this is a very Personal Decision for your own Salvation not that of anyone else. That is why no other non-Believer or atheist will care about you to urge you to say it. Know and understand that. The spirit of anti-Christ is alive today and seeks to continue ill-advising non-Believers and atheists into a continuing spiral downward instead of upward towards the Light of God's Salvation through Jesus Christ.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  18. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    I don't normally repost – it is poor 'netiquette'.

    But I do want to make a point and it is more relevant in this thread than others.

    It will follow.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Curiously, you can't stage two consecutive posts in this forum.

      I learned something today.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The post rate on this topic is so fast that it doesn't look like anyone has the time to read and respond cogently.

      There's plenty of potential for discussion, but by the time a cogent response is composed (and then edited to get through the rude word filter) the top of thread has moved two pages on.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Wow. In 15 minutes we've moved on two pages.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  19. Buddy

    It reminds me of when WC Fields, an avowed Athiest, was seen reading The Bible. He remarked "I'm looking for loopholes"

    June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  20. WAR JR


    June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Smurfette


      lowercase, svp

      June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • truthbeborn

      Weak minded? what does that mean?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 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.