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. mikey

    Science cannot prove that LOVE exists...We all know that it does, but if science can't prove it, does it make it any less real? Not at all. Love does exist, and in the bible, my God is Love.

    🙂 God bless all, whether you're a believer or not. I hope you all have a great day, won't be replying to anything or reposting for a while. Working unfortunately lol.

    June 30, 2012 at 10:33 am |
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    June 30, 2012 at 3:56 am |
  3. UK Dave

    I'm waiting for the right words from catholics!
    These will eventually come in confession!

    June 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Mafia Don

      You know your stuff Lord UK Dave!

      June 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  4. michael


    June 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  5. Voice of Reason

    Are people on here seriously verbaling abusing a World War II survior? Hasn't the old man suffered enough?

    June 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  6. SoldierOfConscience

    Ms Libresco: its not a buffet, its a 3 course meal. You cant be for gays, abortion, contraception etc. and still be catholic.

    June 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Says who? You're not in charge, last time I checked, dear.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • VoiceOf Truth


      June 30, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  7. jenn

    Where's the proof of Jesus' resurrection. There is none. 2000 years of hearsay. What a brilliant religion.

    June 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      The proof is in the love of God that has gone forth and healed many lost souls. Wanna be the next one?

      June 30, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  8. prophet

    did you know that statistically atheists make up the majority of converts and make the best believers

    June 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I doubt your data, and just how does one get the coveted "best believer of the week" ribbon, anyway? lol

      June 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • One one

      Source please ?

      June 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Aside from the last part of the comment, the statement is probably factually true as we are ALL born atheists. Then at some point in our childhood, while our minds are pliable and impressionable (usually) we are converted.

      June 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Brynn

      Are you talking about atheist converts in Nazi Germany or converts under Chairman Mao, Premier Stalin or under Pol Pot?

      June 29, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      The Nazis of Germany during WW 2 were heavily religious and overwhelmingly Catholic. Besides, should we follow your line of argument and bring up all the horrible things religion has done over its reign?

      June 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Berni

      The Nazis were not religious they took religion away almost immediately. how dare you make this accusation. I am completely offend and disgusted by this. I grew up in the hell known as Nazi Germany. I lived in Bremen Hafen where were were bombed daily, my family lost everything. I've walked 200 miles in the middle of a war zone to get to my nearest relative because I had no home anymore. I was a young boy and I attended mass the day Church handed out Mit brunnen sorge in secret. I had neighbors who I played and went to school with every day who were also Catholics I saw them get picked up SS officers and I have never seen them again , I was there when the SS officers came to their house. Don't you dare spread this is lie just so you can selfishly think you are right on a stupid blog. Think about what you just wrote and how vile it is and you did stated it just for your self satisfaction. You might want to Check the New York Times Opinion section for December 25, 1941 and December 25, 1942.

      June 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian, I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice." – Adolph Hitler Munich 12 April 1922

      June 29, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Does "Gott mit uns" ring a bell? This was on the Wehrmacht belt buckles, as well as on the hats of the germans in the first world war and used as a rallying cry. Hitler himself may or may not have been religious, but he used the teachings as a way to rally the common man and mobilize the country quite effectively.

      June 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @godfreenow: Quoting Hitler in an attempt to prove he was a Christian again i see.
      Is 'poisoning the well' a type of fallacy or simply an old trick used by governments and others to cast aspersion on an opponent thereby robbing his side's message of its validity?

      I heard that the CIA has used this tactic successfully in the past to make changes in foreign countries.
      Know anthing about this practice godfreenow?

      June 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      See also 'false flag operation'.

      June 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      I'd say that former atheists probably do make the best believers, the more adamant they were as atheists, the more intense they should be as believers.
      Makes sense, seeing as how they had to do a lot of investigating and soul-searching – like Anthony Flew for example.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @b4bigbang, Again, the subtlety is lost on you. It doesn't matter if he was christian or not. He used religion as a rallying cry for his soldiers. Why do you think he would say this if it were not to reach that audience? I do find it ironic though that you see a quote by Hitler to be MY attempt at subversion. Let's not let a thing like historical record get in the way of religious fantasizing. Let's just all pretend religion is great and god is love. Kumbaya.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Actually, if there was subtilty on these boards I might spot it (assuming i wasnt so accustomed to the usual non-subtilty here that i was desensitized).
      Truth is that i see the statement "Hitler was a Christian" quite often on these boards. That is a not-so-subtil attempt at false-flagging or well-poisoning.
      Now as to your statement regarding the ease by which politicians sway the masses with religious rhetoric, you have a valid point there.
      However may i point out that politicians have been swaying the masses with well-delivered messages since before Christ.
      I REALLY like the Shakespeare classic speech "I come not to praise Caesar but to bury him.".

      June 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      b4bhind: Your little argument would be far more compelling if you actually knew how to spell "subtle" and "subtlety", ya dolt.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Hawaii and GuestFreeNow what heck is wrong with you two????
      Leave the old man alone. What on earth is possesing you to hurt this man? Are you that self absorbed that you HAVE TO PROVE YOU are right on a stupid CNN Blog at the expense of another human being? My goodness have some respect and get over yourseleves.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How do you know this man is who he claims to be? It could just as easily be you, lying.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @Tum Tum the Pimpled Bum: I thot i did purty goot considering thet i wuz dewun bidniss on d phone whilst i wuz tiping.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You were wrong. You sucked dead priests.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      You don't know that he isn't so why would you risk hurting someone so badly who has suffered so much? It isn't normal to be this agressive with people? At some point you have to say ok I just got to let it go I'll go do something else.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Since when are YOU so concerned about others' feelings, VoR? Most of the time, you're on top of the dog-pile.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Listen to the voice of reason Tum Tum.
      It couldn't hurt – might even do ya some good.....

      June 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I've never gone wrong ignoring the advice of an idiot like you, b4Igrewabrainstem. Why would I start now?

      June 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Voice of Reason, My enemy is ignorance, not b4bigbang. I feel morally compelled to confront it whenever possible. Likewise, I am grateful when people expose my ignorance. This is the only possible path to social growth and the betterment of mankind.

      June 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Berni, wo sind Sie geboren? Und wann? Diese Leute die verhaftet wurden, waren sie Kinder oder Erwachsene?

      June 30, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  9. Jack

    Hello everyone. Each of you is welcome to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Don't we get enough ads in our lives without you spamming us too?

      June 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  10. Julia Smucker

    Reblogged this on Vox Nova and commented:
    It appears that the Church has gained another good mind. I echo the welcomes, and I'm especially tickled by this comment from another Catholic blogger: "Don't worry if the Catholics make it as difficult for you as the atheists. We only do it to people we love."

    June 29, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Bite me! That lame argument again?

      June 30, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  11. jc

    If 5000 páge views on a blog makes a person a "top" "prominant" atheist then i'll eat my hat. CNN you lose credibility when you exagerate. Quit it.

    June 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  12. JW

    Of course, if God is a Muslim, then she's screwed.

    June 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. JW

    I can't imagine any woman embracing the Catholic Church. They do NOT respect their women. I suspect she always was a Catholic and switched after getting a following to discredit us non-believers. Then again, some people do get the jitters at the prospect of burning in hell and embrace religion out of fear of punishment. Either is possible.

    June 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I can't believe you know so little about the Catholic Church

      June 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • WWJD

      @Deacon Bill. So women are allowed to be priests now? Allowed to plan families? Let's not get into how the catholic church treat children.

      June 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  14. jonathan

    I was under the impression that people join the church because they believe in the dogma it preaches. This woman joined because of the morality angle? That's a load of ____; morality exists outside of the church and is already defined by our culture. If I were a betting man I would lay money down that she converted because of an ultimatum from her boyfriend.

    June 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  15. martin

    Facts? It's apparent Leah has no idea that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence not seen. No facts, no evidence, that's faith. Or as Mark Twain said, "faith is believing what you know ain't true. It's not nice to call people names, but she really is an air head.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Also by Mark Twain:

      A religion that comes of thought, and study, and deliberate conviction, sticks best.

      June 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Lots of philosophies and religions "stick," but that doesn't mean that they aren't stupid as all fvck just like christianity or RCC.

      June 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  16. martin

    "Top?" I'm so glad this air head made the move. I thank her boyfriend for threatening to end it if she didn't bow down to the zombie. I'm an Atheist activist and never heard of her. I know names like Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, Christina, Dennett, Barker, etc. Read some of her "stuff" after this article and I'm relieved she's in the right camp for her now. I think she always was a "supernatural" believer. Come on CNN, top?

    June 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  17. RickyT

    What an IDIOT. Just like the rest "there were holes in my theory that I didn't know how to explain, so I filled it in with magic & fairytales because thats the easiest explanation"

    June 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • martin

      yep RickyT, the holes are in her gaseous cranium...she sounds like a mole, or maybe she's just a manipulative who will announce, after she breaks up with her Catholic boyfriend, that she's an Atheist again..what a wack job

      June 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  18. JAB62

    debating many “smart Christians,” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH right. Maybe she should look up the definition of the word "fact". She's not objective, doesn't use logic, and uses flawed reasoning just like every other religious person. I call that a christian waiting to happen. That's all she was.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @JAB62 and yet your whole post was nothing but a collection of ad hominem fallacies.
      Well done spunky!

      June 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  19. tony

    Unknown idiots spewing nonsense get publicity in this part of the world. Sensible, honest, good people don't.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  20. Max Powers

    Sounds like a straw man. Pretend to be atheist to get a following, then use it to promote your faith.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:09 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.