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. DB

    I'm sorry but I'm having a very hard time believing this. I believe in God, I practice a religion...and I don't believe her. I cannot see how it's possible that someone who believes in gay rights and birth control and the separation of church and state could choose a religion whose leaders strongly oppose those beliefs. I share the belief that this is all about pleasing her boyfriend, or may have been some kind of ruse from the very beginning...she was ALWAYS Catholic and planned this from the very beginning to try to embarrass atheists.

    I have to keep myself open to the possibility that she really means it. But I really don't believe it.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Adam

      It seems plain to me that most people don't ACTUALLY believe what they SAY they believe. We would all be better off if we could honestly acknowledge this fact.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • RD

      Praise God for His power to call people to repentance.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  2. GMD

    Welcome and we love you. We love you now and we loved you when you were an atheist. Ignore the haters, and enjoy what will become a life changing journey.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Smurfette

      "Welcome and we love you" – Who are you? The new priest meeting the alter boys?

      Famous catholic wrestling moves:
      Half nelson
      Full nelson
      Father Nelson

      June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • pdough

      @Smurfette – I'm a Catholic and I have to admit your post was hysterical. Look...I think I may speak for most when I say I'm a Catholic by faith that is rooted in maintaining a strong personal relationship with God. The man-made doctrine and traditions of the Church are so important to.

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

    This story does not make sense, but maybe the Catholic boyfriend can explain it all. After all, I have had friends that have become Muslims (used to Baptists), Catholics (used to be Protestants), and some Agnostics that have become Christian again. In the majority of these someone was converting to the faith of the partner they wished to spend the rest of their lives with. I myself, used to be an Agnostic, and, I still have a very hard time reconciling logic and faith. In fact, the two are irreconcilable; I accept that there are some things that we must suspend logic and reason to accept, and, though I still get hung up, from time to time, I try to lead a life like Jesus Christ would have lived (but I am not even 50% there :-(). Nonetheless, the most confusing thing in this article, is towards the end where the author states that "proof is provided", and the "facts are on your side." As someone who still thinks very analytically, it makes no sense for someone to ever assume that the facts are on their side. If the facts were out there and just laid out plain and easy for all to see, there would be no debate. We would wake up one morning, and the undisputed truth would be displayed in the newspaper as certain fact, "Read all about it! God is Real!".....Real faith requires that you believe what you cannot see, even when your eyes tell you there is nothing there. Real faith requires you to live for a life that you may not have adequate knowledge of in this life (afterlife). Real faith may even require you to die for your belief (as did early Christians). Again, I mentioned that I am not even 50% of the Christian that I should be, so I will avoid the judgment. Real faith DOES NOT NEED PROOF OR RATIONALE (bye bye creation theory folks, but that's a different conversation), OR FACTS. The facts are not on our sides as believers. I can understand the atheists and agnostics for their doubts, and welcome them with open arms in the challenge to become more like the only perfect one (JC) who ever walked the face of this earth (he would not insult you all or throw stones at you). Moreover, I hope that this sudden (or maybe gradual) switch for this young lady is not one of convenience, but that her faith grew irrespective of anything else around her.

    Also, morality is not external (if byexternal that you mean something that you can know is right or wrong has to be determined by a larger body or set of policies created by someone else many years ago to be official), and morality does not necessarily flow from religion (plenty of Catholic priests, Islamic Imams, Protestant preachers wave their hands high in the air in the afternoon, at praise time, and when the lights go down they crawl on their bellies, and hands and knees like snakes and dogs). That line bugged me, as well.

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

      You're in error. People can be presented with all the facts in the world but it's the interpretation that people get hung up on. Or people can reject something outright based on a feeling they have. The facts are there, but people aren't willing to listen.
      Also, it is possible to have faith in God and yet have proof. Abraham believed God had the ability to make him into a great nation, but the proof wasn't in his ability or with what he saw in nature, but in his belief that God had the power to do what He had promised. Science does not provide proof, it provides evidence, for but faith is that which bridges the gap between evidence and proof.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • cc

      The story makes perfect sense. She was a Seeker and she opened her heart to the possibility of God. He showed her the way.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • cc

      The moral compass she referrs to is based on inherent laws of nature that should be self evident, like the law of gravity. What nature (God) has intended. This is the moral compass the Catholic Church believes in. It doesn't make things up and then tell people to do it. It takes its cue from laws of nature and believes these laws shouldn't be tampered with.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  4. Evian Bidet

    Needing religion to define your morality is pitiful. I understand needing religion if you are scared of death and the unknown after death. I understand needing it for a place in the comminity.. but for morality? come on.. everything you need to know about morality you learned in kindergaten... except for not screwing your neighbor's wife.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Elle T

      I agree. I find this article sad not because she became Catholic, but because she felt she needed to conform to a specific religion to find peace. One can still be spiritual, moral and happy without needing to be a part of a religion.

      Also, her views while as an Athiest doesn't reflect how most Athiests think. My dad is one, and he's both moral and law-abiding, but he just doesn't care about what the church thinks and he's happy that way.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • ed the Oregonite

      Evian and Elle...I would assert all 'morality' has a source. Christians would maintain that the source is God. Others would claim the morality comes from the individual and is subjective, which is postmodernism. The problem comes when two individuals interact with conflicting 'moralities'. One says 'stealing and lying are immoral', and the other says they are completely moral and consistant with 'survival of the fittest'. In the atheist realm, who decides what is moral and acceptable? There is no ultimate authority if everyone gets to decide what is right and what is wrong. It seems to me that we are all better off if we agree to some authority, which is why we have laws, and courts and jails. Society functions better that way. People can enoy more freedom with a common morality, instead of existing in some state of confusion and anarchy.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  5. Tom

    Fake. The person was always religious and pretended to be an atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yup. Probably posed really crummy arguments against God as well just to make athiests look stupid.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • J.C.


      June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  6. Jonny Rider

    She was never a real atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • J.C.

      A sheep in wolves' clothing, if you will. Go back to the flock, you little bleeter.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  7. Gretchen (from NC)

    I myself am an atheist (having been raised Southern Baptist) and I couldn't be happier for Leah. It's a good thing when someone finds the best path for themselves.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Well.....

      I completely agree

      June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Thats garbage. She only did this to get a ring from her boyfriend.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  8. Smurfette

    Ahh – she just wanted to thit on her boyfriend's faith. Thorry about the lithp, btw

    June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    The Beast and the Roman Catholic Church

    Protests against the Pope in Spain are splashy.


    Spain actually is an traditional arch-Catholic country (it was the center of the Counter-Reformation against the Protestants).

    So, obviously Spain experiences a big change. Maybe some years ago nobody could consider it possible that the Spanish youth would protest against the Holy Father. Surveys show that Spain is about to become a arch-secular state. Regarding the separation of state and church the Western Countries are secular for decades, but that even whole populations like the Spanish become secular, is a new occurence.

    Dr. Martin Luther said that, according to the Book of Revelation, papacy will perish. Finally the secular powers will no longer protect the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), as they did for centuries. That is epochal.

    Read Revelation, Chapter 17:

    1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great wh-ore that sitteth upon many waters:

    2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

    3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

    4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

    5 And upon her forehead [was] a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HAR-LOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

    7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

    8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

    9 And here [is] the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

    10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, [and] the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

    11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

    12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

    13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

    14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him [are] called, and chosen, and faithful.

    15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the wh-ore sitteth, are peoples, and multi-tudes, and nations, and tongues.

    16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the wh-ore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.

    17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

    18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

    Maybe in 30 years the RCC will have degenerated to an insignificant sect.

    Should we rejoice at the decline of the RCC? It depends. Surely, it is good when an organization, which has murdered many true Christians, will decline, but what will come after the RCC? After the RCC comes The Beast. Being aware of an awful future, we should escape under Jesus’ screen. Jesus is Lord of all lords and King of all kings.

    Jesus is Lord-God (Kyrios).

    Pray that Jesus gives you a revelation of himself.

    Interpretation of Revelation, Chapter 17:


    “scarlet coloured beast” means more or less “Europe”, which has it’s roots in the Empire of Charles the Great (Karl der Grosse). Charles the Great accepted that the imperial rule was shifted from Constantinopel to him by the pope (this was very presumptuous by the pope). When Charles accepted to be the new Roman Emperor, he accepted that the wh-ore climbed on the back of the Beast, which is Europe.

    For many centuries the worldly (secular) powers (Emperors, Kings, democratic governments) have “carried” the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). “Carried” means protected, and the European rulers even submitted to the pope for 666 years.

    Now, currently, the multi-tudes gradually become so corrupt that even the foul wh-ore is too holy for them and they show public refusal against the wh-ore.

    This corrupt mult-itudes can no longer get ruled by “normal” governments. They need a strict ruler, who knows how they work. The ruler of downright sinners must be a downright Beast, that is very clear.

    On the one hand I am glad that the wh-ore declines, which has slayed plenty of true Christians, but one the other hand I am aware that we are about to enter a very dark age, darker than the Middle Ages.

    Let us go under the screen of Kyrios Jesus, who will destroy the Beast at last.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Hey, rainman – you're hair's on wayyyyyyyyyyyy too tight!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Boisepoet

      Yes, but according to Gandolf the White, 'the battle for Rohan has ended, but the battle for Middle-Earth has just begun'.

      Ehh, you have mythological stories you like, I have mine. Both are just the musings of men and harmless until some idiot thinks they're real.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  10. Keith

    She wanted to get along with her boyfriend and his family, she got tired of feeling like the odd one out. So she concocts a world view that works for her to justify the flip. Its not that complicated folks.

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

      Kind of like what elite liberal socialists do all the time – trumpeting their atheism credentials to be accepted at their wine and cheese parties.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • kd

      Kool name, fella. Also, mine, but I think I think you are gonna have to pay a royalty for using it. Anyway, RIGHT ON, that is exactly what this is all about. You gotta have strong wings to fly upwind, and she just got tired. Maybe she won't, but I see this one swinging around in the wind. Once you have those questions, if you really had them about religion, they never 100% go away...you resolve them, but not all are reconciled. She just got tired...maybe she wants marriage and to be "normal".

      June 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  11. WDinDallas

    LMAO. God Bless Leah!

    This has a bunch of atheists steaming I see.

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

      It's not a big deal. We'll see a lot of vacillating by a lot of people over the coming decades. The fact that she went "all in" with her boyfriend's faith suggests that this might be a lot less than a deep commitment. Let's see what happens if they break up. But all in all, one persons spiritual meanderings are not terribly important.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  12. ART

    What the hell does morality has to do with religion, poor excuse, you don't need religion to know right from wrong

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

      I think the point is someone or something had to create what are considered morals. So where did it start?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Dennis

      "I think the point is someone or something had to create what are considered morals. So where did it start?"

      It started, and continues, with us.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  13. therentistoodamnhigh

    As an atheist I find it dubious that anyone could site "facts" as their reason for converting to Catholicism. Aside from a few "relics" that the Catholics claim – but can not prove – were pieces of the corpses of long dead saints, there is no physical evidence of any part of the Bible, Old or New.

    Also, we know its a historical fact that no part of the New Testament was actually written by anyone who ever met Jesus or witnessed the events first hand; much of the New Testament was written 200 years after the death of Jesus. No contemporary historian of Jesus ever wrote a single word about him, even as he was supposedly walking across the country side performing miracles. Surely if a person showed up in Ethopia today and fed everyone with a couple loafs and fishes, at least one person would write about it. But for Jesus of Nasarath, no contempary ever set pen to paper to record any of his miracles.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Smurfette

      Hey! Enough with the logic! What are ya trying to do?

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

      You forget St. John.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Piper

      Not true. There is ample evidence of the Bible's validity you just have to do some research. A website named CARM has much of the info you need on this subject.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Brad

      I urge you to do some further research on your historical view of the new testament my friend. Matthew (1st book of the NT) was written between 65-80 AD by Matthew himself, Mark was written by Mark betwwen 65-70 AD, Luke wrote Luke between 65-80 AD, John the Gospel of John before 90 AD, John also wrote Revelation in the AD 60s or AD 90s. I could keep going throughout the NT but you get my point. I do not post this to debate but to encourage you to do your own research and not just take the word of others.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Nikki2012

      The New Testament was compiled (not written) in about the year 200, from materials written by St Paul, St John and others.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Not a distortion

      citizenmn wrote:

      "If she was going to become a Christian, she should have chosen a better interpretation of Christianity. Catholicism is a distortion of Christianity."

      For 1000 years or more, Roman Catholicism WAS Christianity in most of Europe, and pretty much all of Protestantism has its roots in the Catholic faith tradition. So if Catholicism is a distortion of Christianity, then Protestantism is based on a distortion.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  14. Dave Harper

    Switching from atheism to Catholicism ranks right up there with switching from chemistry to alchemy.

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

      haha! #1 response so far!

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

      Nailed it!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • pdough

      More like from chemistry to astrophysics – there's a lot about the universe that can't be explained but but physicists put a lot of faith in theory until their definitevly proven wrong.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Red

      ...but there'd be no other way to enjoy FullMetal Alchemist...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  15. harley

    Organized religion are the bane of existence. I can't simply tolerate anything that will honestly tell me to not accept things that a book that have a strong evidence of plagiarism from the book of Gilgamesh and the Egyptian book of that dead said, that something is bad and must be hated and purge,or that because their ambiguous faith is better than mine. There's only one word that compasses my spirituality, and that is RESPECT.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You mean as long as you don't have to respect any one's religion right?

      June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • ed the Oregonite

      Harley...do you have any problem with an atheist that says "RESPECT might be fine for you, but don't try to make me respect anything or anyone...my spirituality says "NO RESPECT". Is that OK?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  16. BeNotDeceived

    Be NOT Deceived! There is no salvation but through the LIGHT! My defeat of Begel of the CORN has ensured prosperity for 700 years. Where that he of the SEED and of the CORN were slain and the empire of the moonless night would have reined for 1000 years. And then ended for a little while. OH HOLY IS THE DEATH OF CORN IN THE NIGHT!

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

      Something about corn bagles? You lost me there buddy

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  17. Phillip

    I am thankful that we live in a country where this conversion (or lack thereof) can take place peacefully.

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

      I agree. There are places where you get arrested for stuff like this.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  18. DE

    It's not often that you see someone's intelligence regress.

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

      I disagree. Most children start off with a very high capacity to learn and open minds; they are very intelligent. As they age, all of that begins to decline.

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

      As representated by your comment, it's far more common these days to see bigotry and intolerance towards people of faith,

      June 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Clark Nova

      Really? I've been watching an entire nation's intelligence regress for the last 30 years.

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

    There are never any ex-catholics, only recovering catholics. First it starts with a guilt here, then some guilt just to fit in, then suddenly you're binge guilting all over again. It's an ugly disease, no cure but it can be treated with chocolate.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  20. imigrantpunctro

    i cannot help to think that is some sort of a marketing move... sorry, i am a skeptic, very hard to believe that once you freed yourself from the fear of hell, you can go back even if you wanted to

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

      agreed... seems like it has a Catholic hidden agenda to me. like "Look! We converted someone!! YAY!"

      June 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I believe you when you say you are a skeptic. I think it is ingrained in your DNA. You can't accept someone's conversion as genuine and you will never believe something unless you can measure it yourself. Your error is that you challenge others to eliminate your skepticism but is it your cross to bear not ours.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • ElmerGantry


      Please, please pile on the guilt.! I need more guilt and fear.

      Yep, that's what everyone needs is to be burdened down with layer after layer of guilt. At least the companies selling antidepressants will benefit.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 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.