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. sp2011

    Look, it is safer to believe in God than not to believe. Just in case. People believe out of fear and the uncertainty of fate. Even god said to fear him, or else !

    June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • George

      Believe in him or else He will send you to Hell for eternal damnation! .... But He loves you!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • vulpecula

      If your in a life and death situation, do you want someone with you that falls to their knees to ask for a gods help, or someone who is ready to do what needs to be done like their life really depends on it.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Leaping Larry

      Do you actually think that a genuine god would resort to threats and torture like that?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Cue Fallacy Spotter...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mike Cooper

      Do you actually believe that a God would fall for or accept such opportunistic devotion? If you knew for a fact that your husband/wife only loved you for your money, would you be okay with that?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • sp2011

      If GOD is genuine and loves you more than you can ever imagine, then there is no need to be scared. We will all be saved regardless if we believe or not believe. So let's just get on with our lives. Hooray !

      June 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Guest

      wow lots of twisted logic on here:

      1. Hell is not a "punishment". Heaven or hell is simply getting what you wanted all of your life. To either be with God and peruse him or nothing to do with him and to be separated from him for eternity.
      2. Because of God's righteousness and holiness there needs to be atonement for sin/unholiness, etc. Without that atonement God's holiness/righteousness demand a separation between him and other. Without the atonement of Jesus or beliefs in him, people cannot "just go to heaven" regardless of their beliefs.

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

      nice explanation Guest

      June 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  2. vulpecula

    The good news is that if they marry and have children, they will still be born atheists.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  3. OOO

    Being a blogger, Leah must be reading these posts now.

    LEAH, GOOD JOKE. Waiting for your report on how catholic congragations treat atheist convert(s?) (is there more than one out there?).

    June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Lance

    I'm so glad for you Leah. You chose the right side!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  5. J

    Seeing comments from some of the athiests on this board prove not only Christians hate.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • We know the truth...

      The only thing atheists hate is the intolerance spewed by Christians...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • J

      I saw some comments about people calling her names just because she turned the opposite way, so there's proof it happens.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  6. Mike Cooper

    I can't help noticing, she does not say in this (admittedly short) article the words "I now believe in God". I know of many "technical Catholics" when asked if they believe in an actual God, will respond as if you asked them "Do you believe in Santa Claus?". They will wax eloquent of the spirit of love and Goodness that is in our hearts, yadda, yadda.

    I want to hear Leah say, "yes, I now believe in a supermagical being who personally created everything, and who has a plan for me, which no matter what I will now obey because he does will it, and because he will give me heaven if I do and hell if I don't." Because that is the God of the church she has joined. And until she says this, in my mind, she is just another weak-bellied atheist without the courage to believe what she believes.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  7. Lord2FLI

    I opened this article so I could post this comment: So what?

    June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  8. Chad

    Libresco is just switching the side she thinks the facts are on.


    You'll find that arguing is much easier when you have the facts on your side 😉

    June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not based on what others have observed watching you, Chard.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Chad

      and, you'll also observe that you get called a LOT more names.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee, is that the standard?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Rachel

      Indeed Chad. It is easier to be on the side of truth for most of us in that Leah has made a wise choice.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is "Rachel" one of the names you 'get called', Chard?

      I didn't know sock-puppets counted.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Nah

      Tom, Tom,

      "Rachel" is more likely Chad's wife/mother/sister, cow-towing to him with not much to say on her own.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Possibly, Nah. Poor thing, if so.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Nah

      *kowtowing (oops!)

      June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "You'll find that arguing is much easier when you have the facts on your side "
      yeah but she switched to catholicism so there goes that argument.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  9. caw

    Yep...the only way to obtain a moral compass is with religion. Guess we don't care about the blood on the hands of the Catholic church. The Crusades (which still exists to this day), the Inquisition, Priests raping young boys, the list is quite long.

    As for as i can tell the Catholic church moral compass is stuck...leading down a path toward (if you believe in it) H3ll.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Lance

      What about the atheistic/evolutionist governments of Russia and Germany during WWII? They killed millions and millions...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • FaithIsNotAVirtue

      Strange, I can't remember an aetheistic government being elected in either country! I can, however, remember that Germany was christian, as was Hitler and I'm sure you know what the words on their belts meant!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Lance

      You're exactly right, they weren't elected; they took control. How could Hitler be a Christian if he oversaw the concentration camps killing millions of people? That does not sound like something a true Christian would do...

      June 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  10. CNNuthin

    Why is everyone assuming that the only people posting here are either Catholic or Atheist.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  11. mdell27

    She was never truly a atheist then. She would have known that in no way, shape, or form do morals come from religion. Morals come from within, if morals came from an outside source they are false.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • snowboarder

      morals are learned and shaped by society.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  12. Got faith?

    Good for her! A good atheist respects others and expects the same in return. Some ppl "needs" to “believe” in something to properly function in/with society or to justify some of their actions… Those are the weird ones. One example you say??? The poisonous snake handler (Reverend @ The Church of God) that was bit by a rattler snake and thought he was immune to the poison due to his “faith” – NOW that’s weird and STUPID lol

    June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  13. Thomas

    As an agnostic, I'm also scratching my head. Her logic of "external morality" is confusing which is why I wonder if her Catholic boyfriend somehow warped an argument about Catholicism and removing the "God" aspect to convert her.

    To me, it really makes no difference and feel no different even if I knew who she was beforehand. Its her own choice to believe what she wants, so we must respect that. I do applaud that she notes the religions aspects of Gay and Birth Control.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  14. Flavius Claudius Julianus Augustus

    She was probably a Catholic the entire time but pretended to be an atheist, playing along for a few years, before she "saw the light". The fact that her "blog" calls atheism a faith (which is a common tactic of theists) is a huge red flag. I've never met a Christian who hasn't lied to get what they want; they are desperate to convince themselves and their flock that atheism is "just a phase." As such, concocting something like this would be 'just another day at the office' for them.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  15. Journeyman

    Happens ALL the time. Most, if not all, atheists and agnostics read the Bible and pray when nobody is looking. They hide is under their bed at night and hope their atheists friends don't find it. Sort of like that guy that hates gay men...but secretly.

    Don't listen to people who disagree with religion. They are called lost for a reason. This girl obviously got tired of being lost.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How would you know what anyone else does at night or in bed?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Journeyman

      Metaphorically speaking...most if not all of the atheists on here secretly resent her for her brave decision.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Again, how do you come to such a conclusion? Based on what?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • snowboarder

      there isn't even the tiniest bit of truth to your entire statement.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Don't listen to people who disagree with religion."

      Why not? If your faith is strong, shouldn't it withstand questions from others?

      Where do you get the notion that "most atheists resent" her conversion, simply because many of them question her reasoning and motivation?

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Russell

      Typical reply by a believer. You are unable to accept that people truly do not believe in a god.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Hogwash! There is no Bible or any other fantasy book hidden under my bed or anywhere else.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  16. Common Sense

    I believe the only reason she is giving this a try is because of her boyfriend...romantic...but heartwrenching to know that she is sacrificing her personal beliefs rather than holding on to that one fabric of philosophical fiber...truth. Truth is undeniable, revealing, and unrelenting whereas faith will let you fight wars, disown family members, punish the innocent, and blindly follow leaders off the mountains of a cliff...and doing all of this in God's name. I wish her well on her journey and I hope she eventually walks away with the truth in her corner.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  17. Peter S.

    Of all the religions, she went with Catholicism. She must have never been a real atheist, it's like going black – you never go back.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  18. Peteyroo

    I guess she decided that men should dominate her in the catholic church. Magic Dad and Wayward Son? Really? I'm so sorry for her loss.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  19. Keith

    I have no dog (or god) in this fight as I don't care what people believe for themselves, but, the idea that an atheist can't know or understand or have a moral compass is ridiculous. Morality is no more a religious invention than religion is a human one.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  20. gaucho420

    Funny, I did the exact oppossite...baptised, confirmed and then realized it was all a bunch of hogwash. I feel sorry for her...if you need a religion to guide you on being a good & morale citizen, then you should be a Christian. Some of us can be good without the fear of hell or without the promise of heaven. JUST BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKES!

    June 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Zargoth

      Well put... Not really a rational person after all, it would seem...

      June 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Jason

      But why be good if there is no heaven or hell? For that matter what is good? Who/What determines what is good? Your post is shortsighted and simple minded.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Crownnoble

      True goodness implies perfection. We humans can do nothing with perfection, for we are imperfect. Only true good can do true good. Only a god of true good therefore can do good. If we die to ourselves and let that god do good through us then good is truly done and only for goodness' sake and not owers.

      June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • FaithIsNotAVirtue

      @Jason – "But why be good if there is no heaven or hell?"

      Because if you're 'good', the likelyhood is that your neighbor will be 'good'. You should be 'good' because it is in our common interest to get along with others, to do unto others as you would have done unto you. It really worries me that people are only 'good' because of some heavenly reward. You need to be 'good' for 'earthly rewards', you only have this one life, here on earth.

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

      "Jason – But why be good if there is no heaven or hell? For that matter what is good? Who/What determines what is good? Your post is shortsighted and simple minded."

      sorry but your post is the shortsighted and simple minded one, it really is. Why do you need a heaven of hell to be 'good'? and society usually determines good, and it is a constantly evolving process.

      June 22, 2012 at 2:14 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.