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. Adam

    Leah Libresco is a professional troll-keeper. "Morality is external from us". Does the same apply to brain functions?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  2. Ahahaha

    "Today heaven is roaring with joy."

    Boy, is that guy going to be disappointed when he dies and his consciousness simply stops. You're alive. And then you're dead. There's no heaven. There's no anything.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Keith

      And you know this because....??? You believe that there is nothing after death well I like her believe that there is. If you want to prove me wrong that is fine.. Kill yourself and then come back to life and tell me what happend.


      June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • FaithIsNotAVirtue

      But surely, Keith, it should be you killing yourself to prove the point since you believe that you will continue to live in some 'fairytale' land. Ahahaha believes that he will be dead for ever so why would he kill himself, how would that prove anything? Totally, totally illogical!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  3. GAW

    I can only guess that many atheists are going to shame her for her conversion. And if she was a Catholic converting to Atheism she would be shamed too. You just cant win either way.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      She would have a better chance of "winning" if she didn't have a stupid reason. "I need God to give me morals," is a crap reason. Her blogs probably stunk for years. No loss.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Ghost

      If you have good reasons, it will stand up to criticism.
      No good reasons here.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • GAW

      Thanks for confirming my worst fears about much of atheism. Disappointing, very disappointing.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • intoped

      @GAW, realizing there is not magic man up there looking after you might be disappointing at the beginning. But with time you will prove yourself that you do not need an ancient scripture to be a good person.

      June 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  4. Heh

    Heh, I think this is a gonzo thing. Why would you choose Catholicism if you have so many problems with it? Look forward to the eventual book.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  5. reese

    weak minded. Shame she receives publicity. Makes the people who "know who they are" look weak like her in the eyes of zealots.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Just because someone finds something that resonates with them in a particular faith does not sound wacky or crazy. We change and grow throughout our lives and what speaks to one person does not always speak to others. Growth always goes hand in hand with change, and that is why there are so many paths to God. Each one of us has multiple lives behind us and before us, each incarnation giving us different needs and desires. Our search to find purpose and thet "certain something" drives us to figure out where we belong and to who. I wish her luck and happiness. I personally have found my way with the Gnostics and feel that is where I belong "this time around".

      June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  6. JustSayNnn

    Like how she went through the thought process. Yes, religion does offer much on the phylosphy of morals and good and evil. This is where athiest have no guide. Athiest just "do what feels right" well, "doing what feels right" is what those Wall Street crooks did and look what happened.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • MK

      I'm betting if you do your research, you will find that most of those Wall Street crooks ascribe to some religion.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Keith

      Just because you believe in a god doesn't mean you are free from sin.. We inperfect and flawed and we sin all the time. One would hope that ones faith would help them choose right from wrong but sometimes our own selfisness and sin gets in the way.

      Just to let you know most of the evilest men in recent history were athiests. Hitler and Stalin were the "Progressives" of their time. Chew on that for a while.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Athiest just "do what feels right" well, "doing what feels right" is what those Wall Street crooks did and look what happened."

      that happens to be your opinion and not a fact. your argument is based on a false premise.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Just to let you know most of the evilest men in recent history were athiests. Hitler and Stalin were the "Progressives" of their time. Chew on that for a while."

      Actually hitler claimed to be a catholic. He said he was doing god's work in standing up to the jews.
      and please, if you want to be taken seriously dont try to use 'progressives' as if that somehow means the liberals of today are the same as hitler or stalin, ok?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • intoped

      I do not need a guide not to kill or steal.

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

      @Keith Hitler was not an atheist and the basis or pretext for what Stalin did was never atheism. On the other hand religion has been the basis or pretext of many horrible events in history.

      June 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  7. Deez

    Catholicism, 'eh? So, she decided to go full-on crazy, huh? Reminds me of the guy who was fit, got fat on purpose, then got fit again just to experience it. Logic and love is waiting for you, Leah, when you return.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  8. The Jackdaw

    Maybe now that she is Christian, she will stop blogging and get back to the kitchen!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  9. El Flaco

    Religion is an inheritance from our evolutionary past. It is hard coded into our brain. Like every human quality, some people have a strong need for it and some have a very weak need for it. For many people, the experience of religious faith is profoundly satisfying – meaning that it causes the brain to generate dopamine.

    If you feel a need to be religious, it doesn't really matter which religion or denomination you select. Just pick one that supports the lifestyle that you prefer and don't worry about whether it is "TRUE." You're just joining a club. It doesn't matter if you join the Rotary Club or the Chess Club as long as you're in a club.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  10. Jamie

    I've never heard of this woman, so I don't know if she's really a "Top" Atheist bloger, but I guess they're just trying to make it sound like Richard Dawkins converted or something, HA! I can almost guarantee we won't be seeing a front page news story about some random Catholic blogger becoming an Atheist, that's not news and this isn't news either. It's more like an attempt to try and make Atheism seem "faulty", like saying – oh any second now more and more Atheists will "wake up" and convert to Catholicism. That's another thing, I would bet money that if an Atheist converted to any other religion that is not as popular in the US, we also would not be reading a story about it.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Johauna Rei

    How is the belief in a god any different than belief in Santa Clause? Please think about your answer and your logic before you attack.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • *


      June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Margaret

    It's interesting. Every time an atheist converts it's nationwide news. Whenever a religious person converts nobody hears a peep about it because it's so commonplace.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  13. RickMaine

    Sounds to me that Leah, like lots of people, needs structure to order her life – she needs ideology, guidebooks and rules, traditions and beliefs – to adopt and "believe". This week's flavor for her is Catholicism. Another route, followed by lots of folks, is to think, read, listen, learn, and experience the world, try to act well, and figure it all out...without adopting any rules-based belief systems. People are wired differently I guess.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  14. james

    I have a name for this, it's called "playing the hokey pokey, with Jesus" Keep one foot in, just in case.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Mike

      My Jesus likes the hokey-pokey. It's fun with friends.

      My Jesus also likes roller skates and Choe Kardashian.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  15. truethbeithtoldish

    IMO there is no such thing as atheists converting to theism. When someone says "I use to be atheist" I respect their belief, but IMO they were agnostic and just don't understand true atheism. Many fake atheists have deep theistic temptation, their God chose them to challenge their true faith to the core. I have a problem with ex-atheism thinking they can relate to True Atheism. They are two different things. Once you achieve True Atheism, you will die an atheist. It is very important to allow atheist to theist converts to feel totally free in their faith though and True Atheism should respect the sometimes condescending tone that comes from ex-atheists trying to relate, by being the bigger person and biting your tongue, they will achieve a stronger faith in their God, which is kinda cool!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Atheism is not a doctrine or a philosophy. I know people who are atheists but they never call themselves atheist. They were raised in a family that had no religious beliefs and there were no religious books in the house. They never went to church anywhere. They just never picked up the religion habit.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  16. LeoTheGreater

    Religion is more than just a belief, religion wants to impose a universal morality which is why it has always attracted the kind of person who thinks other people’s private lives are their business. And giving respect to this mentality is exactly what’s got us into the mess that we’re in. All people are born atheists, with no idea about supernatural gods of men and then religion comes along, grabs the children after birth and turns their minds into a filthy swamp of supernatural stupidity.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      morality is universal. That's the only way it can be defined.

      Religion chooses a set of rules that are coherent with a set of moral values, but may not reflect contemporary morality. This is the case with most religions. Because they try to define orthodoxy and maintain the status quo, they are slow to respond to more fluid changes in the consensus of what is right and wrong (in other words) a universal morality.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Steve

      In addition I would say that what most theists accuse atheists of (moral relativism) is just as prevalent in their religions since their morality is not based on a "universal standard" but on "command morality". In other words, if God says it is ok then it is moral. Therefore killing children is moral if authorized. Now when we take God's lack of consistency into account it makes it even worse, Sabbath = death penalty. Now it doesn't. Hyporcisy = eye for an eye or turn the other cheek? Well which is it? Additionally, the rules do not apply to god so whether an act is moral or not depends on who is doing it. So god can be genocidal, misoginistic, advocating slavery, collective judgement etc and yet he is a loving and moral god? Wow.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  17. David

    Someone get her 'The Moral Landscape' by Sam Harris. Proves you don't need religion to have morality.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • PaddingtonPoohBear

      I don't need any books to tell me that's possible. I know it is.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  18. Matt

    "If you're not now, you never were."

    June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  19. JMaxx70

    God Bless you Leah!

    Have fun walking the walk ... God is with you all the way, and so are we!

    June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  20. David

    I pray she has a good RCIA instructor. I did part of mine in Picayune MS and the instructor there was a theologian. It was a GREAT class. The other half was in California and was lacking.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:58 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.