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. Mark Knaufler

    “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.”

    **And the facts are ....? Noah's ark huh?**

    June 23, 2012 at 2:27 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      Don't forget talking snakes and donkeys! And an undead lich on whose body we must feed!

      June 23, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • Johnny Blammo

      The facts are that Christian "personalities" make a LOT of money, far more than their atheist counterparts. For every John Stewart, there are 100 televangelists tagging down nice paychecks for babbling nonsense.

      The fact is, Christians LOVE the "converted atheist" schtick, and will fall all over the place to throw money at her. She apparently even has bisexuality they can cure her of, so the income possibilities are staggering.

      If she stays true to her values on homosexuality and contrception and the like, it will fall apart, but if she runs with the "Jesus saved me" angle, the income potential is awesome.

      Deep down, I hope she stays true to her values.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:35 am |
  2. wrong

    hmm a stupid american atheist becomes a stupid american 'christian'... sounds about the same thing to me?

    america does not exist.. so faith in geographical boundaries that take your money, put you in jail, and kill your kids..sounds about the same.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Get thee into rehab!

      June 23, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  3. Sarfraz Khan

    You have come back home, our Heavenly Father will bless you a lot, I hope others will follow your footsteps.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      I hope the heavenly father doesn't bless her like he blesses the 15,000,000 children who starve in Africa every year.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  4. EuphoriCrest

    Her reason for conversion is very curious. I've often wondered if the difference between atheists and deists is simply that atheists DO possess an innate moral compass while deists require an external source to guide their morality.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:24 am |
  5. Mad Cow

    Next month she'll convert to Pastafarianism.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  6. Dan

    Having read her blog post on why she converted it appears that she didn't know the answer to a question and instead of admitting she didn't know an answer she decided to believe someone else's answer.

    I am an atheist and I accept that I don't know everything but that doesn't mean I have to pretend something that has no supporting evidence is true just because I am not omnipotent.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:22 am |
  7. Atheists get out

    burn in hell atheists!

    June 23, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • Blast Hardcheese

      I think hell would be a neat place. All the cool people are there. I wish it existed!

      June 23, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • SlipNutz

      Burn In Hell? I love people who contradict themselves. I'm so tired of ignorant people who say they are devoted Christians but are full of hate like you. Try reading the Bible. If you don't understand your own religion than you should probably just give up on life.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  8. Mad Cow

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the One True God. All others are cheap imitations.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • wrong

      wait 'til your god meets the great parmigiana cheese chump..

      June 23, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • EuphoriCrest

      Hail marinara, full of garlic, the pasta is with thee.
      Blessed art thou among sauces and blessed are the parmesan cheeses!

      R'Amen brother

      June 23, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  9. Markus

    Begone, unperson.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:21 am |
  10. HolySee

    living in a fantasy can be quite pleasant.. you no longer have to search for the truth (or justice).
    The world is flat – science be damned!

    June 23, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  11. Scott

    Where does energy and mass come from? In order for mass and energy to exist, is there a specific environment for their creation? Are there certain parameters that need to be in place? I don't understand the concept of area or space, if nothing exists? Is there always more room? At some point, I believe there is no answer or explanation. When I look to stars, I know I am way over my head.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      doesn't mean you get to make up a story to explain it all just cuz today you haven't figgered it out yet.
      100 years ago a human seeing a jet fly over ... "oh a god"..

      June 23, 2012 at 2:27 am |
    • Scott

      I don't think that is what I said.Nor, was it my intention. I hope this is cathartic for you.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  12. trojan horse

    sounds like a trojan horse.. at least the catholic 'christians' accepted her... she wlill find herself in good company and not bad for her ratings... hmmm..

    June 23, 2012 at 2:16 am |
  13. Kat

    I hate being an atheist. Hopefully, in the future, everyone will be one so that no one is one.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  14. SPW

    She never really was an atheist then, more like a theist or agnostic.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Evangelical

      Aha! The no true scottsman fallacy that is always being waived in my face!

      June 23, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • SPW

      An atheist denies completely the chance of a god or god(s), she obviously didn't deny that because now she's a Catholic.

      So yeah, she was likely agnostic thinking she's atheist because she isn't actually part of a faith group and thus she doesn't believe in god, but in the back of her head she must have thought god existed in some shame or form, because you don't go from a vocal militant atheist to a catholic over night.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • theolo149

      Not necessarily, atheists can believe that it is merely improbable that God exists, and theists can believe that it is merely probable that God exists. Plus one could change their mind given the influx of new information. You would be amazed at how much material there is on arguments for and against God's existence. Literally thousands of books and scholarly articles are out there, ripe for analysis by anyone and everyone, all you have to do is start reading. And she didn't change her mind over night she changed her mind over a number of years.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  15. NorCalMojo

    I'm not that surprised. The most militant atheists are usually skirting the borders faith. Religion still has a central role in their lives. I doubt blogging about atheism occurs to people who are secure in their disbelief.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Evangelical

      I think that the militant atheists are really trying to convince themselves along with the rest of us that they are right. They are not secure in their disbelief. Deep down inside they know God exists, but they want to rebel against Him because then they would have to take responsibility for their sins.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • tallulah13

      Funny. I think that the more outspoken a christian is about how correct they are, the more they doubt what they claim to believe. I guess everybody has their own perception about actions of others.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • Bet

      If you read her explanation of how and why she started her blog, it's pretty evident that she was skirting around the edges of religeousity even at the outset. Or, she could have started it with the idea of a "conversion" in mind. Christians eat that stuff up and she's probably already getting money thrown at her from all sides.

      The catholic church is dying for some positive publicity. Who knows? Maybe a book deal, certainly the talk show circuit is probably in the works already.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:02 am |
  16. Johnny

    Atheists don't have the social network that religious people do. Most of the world is religious; atheists stand no chance, ESPECIALLY in public.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Yes indeedy Johhny boy. Those flat earthers did so well.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Lenny

      That is OK we have science so it evens out.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  17. Blane

    I suppose I was wrong and there is hope for the damned after all. This woman now takes her place as a child of God.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Yup, but a little earlly. Me, I'm a gonna wait until 5 minutes before I die, and say, "Oh I'm sorry I murdered 50 people, let me in, let me in". Jeebus' love and blood will save me.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • dimensio0

      How have you established that the God in which she now holds belief is the correct God, and not actually a false God?

      June 23, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  18. The great Atheismo


    June 23, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  19. gdp

    I was never an atheist but a decade ago I turned by back on by christian convictions for a life of compulsive sin. After some gruesome consequences from my life choices I returned, like The Prodigal Son, to the Catholic Church and found, like never before, a beautiful new life. I am so sorry I lost those prime years of my life after falling for the seduction of lust. Never again!

    June 23, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      replacing one set of compulsive behaviors with another set, ain't necessarily a good thing.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hmm. My conversion to atheism consisted of nothing more radical than realizing my belief in a supernatural power was a fanciful habit I developed growing up in an area that was predominantly christian. I didn't become a bad person - I was raised to consider the consequences of my actions on myself and others. I simply realized that there was no real reason to believe in something for which there is no proof.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:41 am |
  20. WF Caple

    Anyone, atheist or religious, who says they know what happens after we die, and how creation started, is a liar or crazy.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Evangelical

      All these questions are answered in the Bible.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      All these questions are answered in Nancy Drew's "The Mystery in the Old Clock".

      June 23, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Pass_the_Jam

      In response to Evangelical, you are right. The bible answers all questions. Like who to stone and why to stone them. She ate shell fish.. stone her. Pretty simple life you live.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:27 am |
    • Bet

      Eva, why don't you save us the trouble of reading it and tell us the answers. Oh, right, because you don't know what the bible actually says most of the time. LOL!

      June 23, 2012 at 3:03 am |
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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.