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. Snowdog

    Amen. Way to go. Another person going into the Kingdom. God is real and changes lives. The proof that God exists is overwhelming.

    June 23, 2012 at 5:36 am |
    • Krug Lamner

      God changed me from being a Christian to being an atheist. I'm glad God finally help me realize he doesn't exist.

      June 23, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Bob Loblaw

      Funny how the Christians who talk about overwelming proof never supply even the slightest shred of it.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    June 23, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  3. luke

    Well long-time ago I was Catholic and now I'm atheist so the balance in the universe stay stable.

    June 23, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • truth be told

      You never knew God and He has never known you, nothing changed except your faulty way of describing yourself and bottom line no one cares

      June 23, 2012 at 5:33 am |
  4. Wow

    Sounds a lot like a situation where she loved her boyfriend more than her common sense. Let's just all be happy he's not in Scientology.

    June 23, 2012 at 5:08 am |
  5. Joel

    I am a catholic about to become an atheist, if ever. I need to wait a year more to see for myself if it is not worth continuing to be a believer. After having read by accident three months ago the essay "Why I am not a Christian" by Bertrand Russell, I have begun to have doubts about the christian faith. Now I am reading this great philosopher with so much intense. To Leah Libresco, if you want to prove to us you are sincere with you new found faith, then stay away from the limelight. Real humility is between God and the soul. Do good and disappear.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • Frank

      Thats exactly why I became a Muslim.My name is Muhammad now.I am American from Columbus Georgia.
      SONG OF SONGS chapter number 5 verse number 16 , look it up in the ORIGINAL LANGUAGE not in some translation and you will see why. "..... his language is sweet and his name is Mohammad " .....

      June 23, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • luke m-t

      you can't decide to be a believer or not. if you're considering becoming atheist then you already are.

      July 16, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  6. guest

    “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.”

    So, she picked Catholicism because one needs a moral compass. Hmmm... so that means she didn't pick Catholicism because she believes Jesus is the son of God, because she believes Mary is the virgin mother of Jesus, because she believes in the Holy Trinity, etc.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • Valorie

      This isn't passing the "smell" test, is it? I am sure there is a brilliant analogy I can't think of, but you can't go from Atheist to Catholic in 1000 words or less. I call bull shift.

      June 23, 2012 at 5:17 am |
  7. GenericMan

    "Catholic boyfriend"

    June 23, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Jamie

      There's your explanation.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:48 am |
  8. Humanist11

    I guess she will have to relearn why she chose atheism in the first place. We all need reminders from time to time. She'll be back.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Linda Lacelove

      Yeah. Bisexual gay rights activist in Catholicism. She set herself up for a doozy of a bad trip.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  9. Simple

    I am not surprised if she's a catholic undercover going public for propaganda.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • Brandon

      Either that or for "love". The morality bit doesn't make any sense, most atheists are horrified that religious people's morality comes from the fear of Hell instead of just genuinely wanting to be a good person.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:43 am |

    She jumps from not believing in God to believing in only one specific God.

    how did she make than deduction.

    usually most people curious about religion would check out Buddhism and cult religions first.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • mnsundevil

      Mister Fox, the primary monotheist religions Judaism, Christianity (which Catholicism is a part of) and Islam worship the same God. They just tend to disagree on some of the fine print.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Pedigool

      The fine print including that each thinks the other two are wrong and doomed to hell. Trivial details like that.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  11. cacalips

    WOW does that mean I should change? What is the message? That athiests are wrong? I dont know her, and ,y dad quit smoking, which is X100 more hard than her dumb brain confusion. But My dad doesnt get on the news... That must mean this is 100 Propoganda bull or the media has lost touch with news worthy material.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:21 am |
    • Pedigool

      It means that confused chickypoos straight out of college are not the best source of intellectual depth.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:33 am |
  12. Brian

    I'm not too concerned. Her boyfriend must be really good in bed. I mean, if i were a chick, and I looked like that, and someone were to still give it to me good, I'd change faiths. Let's be real. We're all individuals, and even atheists, like Leah, would change their belief for a good man. But then again, it goes to show you how much she cares about the world as opposed to herself.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  13. Rolph Eczema

    Being a bisexual gay rights activist who is staunchly for contraceptives and religious freedom, and then choosing to become Catholic thinking she is still going to be a bisexual gay rights activist who is staunchly for contraceptives and religious freedom . . . Having gay rights and birth control as part of her morality system, then deciding that "There was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth" of morality . . . which is Catholicism . . .

    Okay, I have to swear . . . HOW FUCKING CLUELESS CAN YOU GET?!?!?!

    June 23, 2012 at 4:18 am |
  14. matt

    I have this strange feeling that this was orchestrated (by corrupt and unscrupulous people, not by some divine design).

    But whatever – one less person to compete against for Sunday brunch. I'm going to get the waffles.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:08 am |
  15. LiarsForJesus

    Tyrant propaganda..

    June 23, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • LiarsForJesus

      I have reasonable arguments that Mitt Romney is a prophet from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • Rolph Eczema

      I thought Romney was a muppet with incompetent puppeteers.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  16. LOL

    It is probably more like twelve words that caused her to convert to Catholicism:

    "I am not going to marry you unless you convert to Catholicism."

    June 23, 2012 at 3:52 am |
    • Roger

      Actually, it was "My mommy says I can't marry you until you become Catholic."

      June 23, 2012 at 3:55 am |
  17. LiarsForJesus

    Why should anyone listen to deepities (Arguments that have no substance yet seem profound) in favor of Christianity when the highest form of virtue in this cult is lying to yourself?

    June 23, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • Roger

      You were just dying to use the word "deepity" in a sentence, weren't you? I personally just fester for the chance to say truthy.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • hey

      there's something hinky about you two

      June 23, 2012 at 3:56 am |
    • Rolph Eczema

      My favorite is "defenestration", which is very hard to work into a sentence these days. It means to throw somebody out of a window. People get touchy about that for some reason . . .

      Actually, it comes from religion, where Christian factions in Prague twice threw each other out of high windows.

      Makes you nostalgic for the good ond days, doesn't it?

      June 23, 2012 at 4:03 am |
    • I wonder

      Reminds me of our resident Jabberwocky and stream-of-consciousness neologist, @Serpent something something and other outre, psychedelic monikers. I wonder where he's been lately?

      June 23, 2012 at 4:38 am |
  18. hey

    On the front page their calling her the TOP ATHEIST BLOGGER!



    June 23, 2012 at 3:44 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Same thing we Christians say when CNN editors post articles and say that some pastor from some small town with a small congregation is a major Christian Pastor in American society.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      It would be really nice if CNN could simply be honest about these things on both sides of the equation.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:24 am |
    • Triskaidekaphobia


      I just wish you're not one of those who cheered HURRAY! when "CNN editors post articles and say that some pastor from some small town with a small congregation is a major Christian Pastor in American society"

      June 23, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • tallulah13

      Trisk, I don't stand up and cheer for any of that. It is my opinion that religion is a matter of personal choice. I only object to religion when people use it as an excuse to create laws that discriminate against others, or when people lie about the the substance of their belief, or the character of people who don't believe the same things they do.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  19. Pope Darth XVI

    Welcome to the dark, uh, Catholic side, Leah.

    June 23, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  20. anon

    Unfortunately for many Americans their religion is Government and they fall lock step in line with what they are told to believe. Any why not? The poor are pandered to and given handouts to keep them dependent. Those less inclined to search for answers have been taught to be that way through government schools. Why would anyone question what a teacher says? (a teacher that gained their education in a leftist led academic environment and a teacher in a lefties led union, a union with an agenda). Anyway, we are slowly being taught that the old God is dead... and that the new God and it's religion is here to help...Government is your new religion. Welcome to 2012, slaves.

    June 23, 2012 at 3:43 am |
    • Roger

      Oh, what sad times are these when passing libtards can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:48 am |
    • tallulah13

      Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni!!!!!!

      June 23, 2012 at 4:26 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.