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. Angel

    Happy for her. Hope she chooses to focus on knowing God and learning His word (Bible). Not people and their logic. I was raised a Catholic and it is where I found my faith although now my beliefs line up more with a Pentecostal Christian–same God and same Bible if you open your heart to truly seek and hear God...agan, God not people.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care


      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • sam

      Logic should always be ignored. Logic is crazy!

      June 22, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  2. Not me

    Another one brain washed. Modern religion is nothing but a cult which is social accepted.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Judging by this board it isn't all that accepted

      June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Jeff

      how do you come to that conclusion?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Jess

    The noblest power of man is reason. The highest goal of reason is the knowledge of God.....one smart girl 😉

    June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  4. Dana

    Good for her.

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

    Wow.. what a sad day for logic and reason.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • lindaluttrell


      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Jess

      Hey Atheist,

      The noblest power of man is reason. The highest goal of reason is the knowledge of God.....don't be lazy, seek and you will find him too!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Amen Jess!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • HowsItGoin

      Why do you think "The highest goal of reason is the knowledge of God." ?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  6. respect

    Very good way to go if you want to increase your online presence and brand name as a blogger/writer. I agree with the others who think it's an excellent marketing strategy, regardless of what she really believes.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  7. blinky

    I'd say Libresco has the atheists running scared. Look at them diss her this way and that! Not a single defection from their conviction can be tolerated. How very cult-like.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • sally

      That is not the issue. Based upon the facts, and the method chosen AND the particular religion chosen, we are simply questioning her credibility and motives for this alleged switch.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sally voices skepticism. Most agnostic/atheist are skeptics and I presume have no difficulty with the label. The fly in the ointment is they then demand that we remove skepticism from them. I maintain it is their issue, not mine. I accept the young lady's conversion at face value. He motives may be suspect but God's are not. He is faithful to the work He has started.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • blinky

      No, Sally, that's plain blind. Look at any fair sampling of the posts here. Libresco is receiving a smear campaign from atheists (and to a lesser degree from Catholic-hating Protestants). What makes you think your facts and and your reasoning alone settles the matter, anyway? Do you have the answers over belief that are valid for everyone, or only yourself?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      *should be "Her motives may be..*"

      June 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  8. mary

    Anyone who thinks Only theists have a moral compass has critically flawed thinking .

    " she said that at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass "

    Clearly her original atheism was about creation or something and NOT well thought thru .
    The idea that a religion infested with violence , pedophiles and that views women as lesser beings ,
    The idea THAT religion can teach morality is hilarious .

    It will be interesting to see what morality this child learns in her new 'faith' ,

    June 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      She didn't say only theist have a moral compass and no one I know posits that either. It's a straw man. The contention is what is the source of such a moral compass? If it is you mary, you are simply saying that you are God which I can't accept. If every atheist coming down the road says he determines his own, I can't abide that either. There must be an arbiter of morality for society to determine truth. Democracy cannot determine truth. Political force cannot. So where do we turn?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Jeff

      I tend to agree with the notion of "moral compass" as her need for becoming a theist is a fairly weak reason to seek out God. Morality is the product of societal norms. My proof of this lies in the Old Testament, torah for you diehards. Heinous acts of cruelty were committed in the name of God by biblical heros, David comes to mind. Yet, morality itself advanced thru all cultures including Hebrew and the Christian west w/out much religious comment.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  9. matt

    big mistake... multiple reasons. CNN. She joined for political reasons. You cant change the church. Dont join to try to change the church like this gurl... Not news worthy

    June 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  10. dbrock

    I for one am very surprised that CNN ran with this story. Well, I guess it is their attempt to be a little more fair and a little more balanced. Anti-Catholic articles 1000: Pro-Catholic 1.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • HowsItGoin

      Sounds like a good ratio to me. Very fair.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • mary

      I don't really see this a pro Catholic but rather outing the absurd thought process of a child .
      Just goes to show that Anyone can blog regardless of their capacity for critical thinking .

      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • KM

      The CNN Belief Blog is filled with pro-religious posts, which, IMO have no place on a news website. They're all labeled "Opinion", but they often get highlighted on the front page of the website and are clearly meant to pander to a religious audience. As an atheist who finds this piece clearly slanted as a slam against atheism, it's a little offensive.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  11. stepk

    The fact that this is big news is because it does not happen often but the other way happens all the time so it is not really news. What we really have here is someone who was looking for someone to tell her how to live. Some people cannot deal with the reality of the complex, random world so they need to have some structure around them. That's okay because we are hard wired to find order in chaos, that's why we see patterns where there are none, that's why we fall for optical illusions, our brains want to find order. Her brain wanted order and limits and she chose Catholicism to give that to her. I wish her the best with her decision.

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

      But Stepk...............at least she's not going around telling athehiest they're going to Hell !

      June 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  12. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Good a way as any to sell a book.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  13. Bible Clown©

    Give her five years and she will be blogging as an atheist again, except with no boyfriend. She sounds a bit suggestible to me.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jeremy

      I am an Atheist and I will never be anything else. I do not believe in a higher power. I live my life day to day. The only things I believe in are myself and science.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • DREAM15X

      That is a strong possibility, especially if she is doing this for the wrong reasons. Whatever reason I dearly hope and pray she continues her walk as a Christian.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Jeremy reminds me of Saul of Tarsus

      June 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  14. radicalmoderate

    If being a Catholic is progress then I must be on the wrong planet. For those who do chose to believe in a Bronze Age tribal fairytale to explain what they don't want to know about the Universe is fine with me but I see the internet itself as proof there's god. The void has been filled with a whole god awful lot of drivel and lots of wonderful things all at the same time. Blog on you sad beliievers. What would Jesus BLOG?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • bob

      radicalmoderate; Jesus would probably blog " Go on with your life...and do not SIN AGAIN!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jeff

      [radicalmoderat] It was a Catholic priest/astronomer who 1st developed the big bang theory for the creation of the Universe. based on red-spectrum shift measurements of the galaxies.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Chad

    Yeah Zeus, Ra and Santa were real too. The day humans put fake human created religions behind us is the day we progress.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  16. faithful

    Do atheist say God bless America?
    just curious!!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • robert

      no, why would they?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • HowsItGoin

      Do you say god bless Poland?

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

      maybe I should have said American atheist

      June 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • SLArbiter

      Of course not. What kind of silly question is that?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • HowsItGoin

      I don't say "god bless" to anything except when someone sneezes. That comes out of me without thinking because that is what I heard growing up in a catholic family.
      In fact, funny as it is, I'm still uncomfortable not saying it when someone sneezes.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Mike

      Do you say, "Allah Bless America"?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • stepk

      Of course not, but even if I still believed in god I wouldn't say that. As a believer do you actually believe that your supreme being is picking sides between countries?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Jake

    Catholicism is a bit perplexing to convert to since its many doctrines aren't even Biblically-based even as it asserts they are. Where in the Bible does it say, for example, the establishment of a Pope? or that you need to baptize babies? Nowhere. So it is a bit puzzling. You'd think her atheist mind would at the very least question as to why they don't even provide the very doctrine they say their teachings are based out of in their pews. You'd think an atheist goes agnostic then try out different ones before making a final decision....that would be a critical mind at work. Unless of course it has been in the works for years and the individual just wanted to "make sure" thus calling themselves "atheist" to challenge certain questions they have...but that means she was never really an atheist to begin with. It's either that...or there's a man.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • adam l

      @ Jake. exactly. there is only one way to God, it's called 'The Way' (by early christians) and today it is just Christian. there is no Catholic/baptist/prebetyrian/ etc way to God, they all can't be right. but the Christian who follows solely the Bible. Catholics are the worst offenders. so much so that they take salvation away from people by falesly fathering a priest. "Our father who art in heaven" not on earth. the Pope is false Idol worship. and the church is not humbled but in riches and drunk with the blood of the saints from the inquisition.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Krellman

      Jake hit the nail on the head. Very odd to convert to catholicism for this very reason. Catholics do not even read the bible. There isn't even remote support for their beliefs. The catholic church sadly controls millions and urges them not to even be open to other ideas, even those based on the Bible. Could very well be a love interest.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Michael Bauman

      Jake, it your narrow approach to interpreting the Bible and the behaviour of the sacredotal community it chronicles and guides that has led many into the folds of atheism. I'm not a Catholic, but the office of bishop is quite specifically spoken of in the Bible. The Pope is a bishop. The question is not about the office, but about the extent of the authority the office may exercise in the Christian community.

      There is absolutely no question that the Papal office has been the most visible, most consistent moral voice in the world throughout its history (despite the vioilations of those morals by many flawed people). Since Ms. Libresco's primary concern was for moral authority, her choice makes a lot of sense.

      I pray that God may deepen her faith and draw her closer to Him.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Jeff

      Jake, most non-Catholics, like you, do not understand the relationship with the bible and the faith. Catholic ritual and belief stems from Sacred Tradition. Think of it this way, the Church of Rome (started with Peter the Apostle) and the great Churches of the Orthodoxy(by other Apostles) pre-date the bible! Teachings, traditions, and ceremony lasted for some 400 years before a new testament was formalized. The actual bible of today (Catholic and Orthodox versions) weren't closed cannons for centuries after. So, there wasn't a bible-then-Church dynamic; but, rather it was the Church and it's [Sacred] Traditions that birthed the bible (new testament)!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Jeff

      Also, the Catholic mass (Our celebration of the Eucharist) is a Last Supper re-enactment taken from the synoptic Gospels (Mt. Mk., and Lk)–the wording comes right from the Gospels. At every mass there is (1) old testament, (1) Gospel, and (1) Gospel Letter readings and 2 psalms, plus the music based is based on psalms, not just some random musician who loves God–but straight from the Bible. Most of the rest of the formal parts of the mass are adaptations if not direct quotes from Paul's letters of the new testament. I've been to protestant Church services who do not have a 10th of the bible inclusion as that of the Catholic mass.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  18. ScamFinder

    Holy (pun intended) Scam Artist. Who ever the person is who thought of this, is a marketing genius. What a total scam from start to finish made for the mildly intelligent. I wonder how moral she thinks it is to have lied about it for so long, just to cash in on the fake conversion.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • sound smart

      Like a "marketing trick" for mentally retarded "believers" is going to change the essence. Duh. Are you a "believer"? Talk to me...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  19. RapidOne

    I don't say this often but: who gives a S@#%?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  20. Caitlin Pops

    Booooooo. You'll be back. Unless this is an undercover mission to bring down the Church once and for all....I pray that it is.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:21 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.