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. stories

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    July 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  2. Skunco

    She just changed so she could stay with her catholic boyfriend. People "believe" in whatever serves them best. My mother was a catholic, because her parents were. Then She was a luthern when she married my father. After the divorce she remarried and is now a non-denominational just like her new hubby. Do you think all these gods like us shopping around?

    Tell you what. If you really believed you would never change for fear of God burning you for all eternity. Which is why I dont believe at all. What kind of evil being would torture a nonbeliever for all eternity? Or a sweet baby whos parents never baptized her? Babies born with sin? whatever. PS if you see a killer baby with a forked tongue disregard this post.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Snowdog

      First, Baptism does not give you a ticket to Heaven. Giving your life to Jesus and believing in him does. Babies do not go to hell. God is just and fair and for someone to believe he send babies to hell is utterly ridiculous. God is love and he wants no-one to perish but he gives us the choice here on earth to choose to believe or not. Do you think he wants you to be eternally separated from him. Not at all. He loves you. He created you and it grieves God to hear you say he does not exist.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee, what would we do without YOU to tell us what God wants, believes, and will do?

      Gosh, I'm just ever so grateful.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  3. Randy

    In response to the discussion on facts, I humbly offer that Jesus' resurrection makes a compelling fact. In addition to the eye witness testimonies in the gospel, more than 500 people witnessed him as living after his death and burial (I Cor 15:3-8). There seems little motivation to lie, as nearly all the apostles lived persecuted paupers lives and eventually died for their belief. Jesus reasoned with the skeptics of his day in the book of John, asking them to consider men's testimony, the Father's testimony, what scriptures written hundreds of years earlier said about him and were fulfilled in him, and the very miracles he was doing in the presence of his skeptics. I hope some of this sparks a little curiosity, and if it does, I humbly invite you to read the short 30-page gospel of John to judge for yourself. It's been the pivotal decision of my life. Have a happy 4th.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Snowdog

      Amen Randy. Amen.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Then where are the actual statements of those 500 eye-witnesses? There is very sufficient reason to doubt the ressurection and miracles of Jesus. The only accounts that we have are translations of translations or copies of translations of scraps thrown together with unknown authors. That is by no means convincing at all.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Snowdog

      Hawaii Guest, Have you ever done the research yourself. Jesus was a real person. It is in the histroy books. There were witnesses to his death and resurrection. They also never found his body. The Romans would have tried their hardest to guard that body to disprove the Resurrection. They would have paraded the body of Jesus around to disprove what Jesus said. Why did they not do this? There was no body. Jesus rose from the dead. Amen.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • dee

      Hawaii Guest,

      No printing presses or recording devices back then, the only thing we can go by is translated scripture that has existed for a very long time. Sure there have been modifications in the thousands+ years but the main messages and story is the same. That in itself is a miracle. Pray for faith and God to be revealed to you and you will see.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Randy

      HawaiiGuest, thanks for commenting. It is hard to say how many of those 500 testimonies made it into writing and how many survived to today. We do know at least 5 eye witnesses were self-claimed authors in the New Testament, Matthew, John, Paul, James, and Peter. Luckily, at least according to Wikipedia, we still have 38 copies of their manuscripts dating back to the 3rd century, many in the original Greek. Few events from that time period have such substantial and diverse written accounts surviving. That's why I especially recommend John's gospel, as he was an eye-witness and spent years observing Jesus' ministry. Thanks again for writing.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Skunco

      You believe everything from that crusty ol book (no eyes btw) Couldnt find the body? Well he must have been resurected for sure then. Just because the romans lost a dead body doesnt prove anything. Sure Jesus was a person, a crazy carpenter to be sure. One things for certain people back in that day believed in all kinds of crazy things. Just because somebody of influence wrote it all down in a popular book doesnt give it one ounce of creditablility. With that line of thinking, or maybe a lack there of, a thousand years from now we'll be worshipping gozer, or the force even!

      July 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Randy, how much do you know about people that lived 300 years ago? Can you assume that anyone today can write about someone who lived in the 18th century with complete accuracy? And that is AFTER the printing press was invented!

      July 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Randy

      TomTom, sorry for the confusion. Those five authors lived along side Jesus and wrote their accounts after his death and obviously during their lifetimes. Their original manuscripts were copied by hand through the years, and the oldest copies that we still have are from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which match very closely to handwritten copies from centuries later, suggesting good continuity to the original manuscript. I hope that helps clarify my confusing reference a little bit.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Snowdog, dee, and Randy

      Here's the thing. Manuscripts from a time where accuracy in copying and writing was in suspect, and the main form of news was word of mouth, lends credence to a thought that many things may have been exagerrated beyond what actually happened. Now, as to the actual existence of Jesus, while it is somewhat in dispute, let's just say that he existed. This says nothing on whether the claims of his divinity, miracles, or resurrection is actually true. All we have are manuscripts that claim to be from eye-witnesses, and that's it. Even the four gospel accounts are unable to come to an consensus on certain details in their story.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It doesn't clarify a thing.

      There's no direct evidence for anything written in the Bible. It's hearsay.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      There is nothing outside of the bible that speaks to these supposed miracles (of which, according to the bible, there were many such as exorcisms, walking on water, transmu.tation, and healings). For many people, me included, there needs to be more than some conflicting manuscripts to validate these claims.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Huh, who knew that transmu.tation would set off the auto filter.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Matt

      No one is making extraordinary claims about George Washington or anyone who existed 300 years ago. Also, there are many contemporary sources readily available on people from 300 years ago. The only contemporary source about Jesus is from the historian Josephus, who did not know Jesus himself but heard some "eyewitness reports." Biblical Scholars have found that it is likely the Gospel (3 of 4) were based on the same manuscript. Listen, there are religions based on miraculous claims that aren't even that old yet have gathered millions of followers. How is it ridiculous to think that given 2000 years and the aid of a Roman Emperor that the rise of Christianity was based upon a mythical person. The motivation to lie is hope. People exaggerate the truth all the time while telling stories and we have a massive communication network and information to aid skepticism. Why would they lie? Because they were spreading a message that the savior had come amidst a time of oppression by the Romans and the Jewish Elite (Pharisees). They had to latch on to whatever hopeful message they could. The only evidence of Jesus' existence is from writings claiming his divinity. There is no contemporary evidence. It is well founded to question his existence. If he did exist, the stories of his supernatural ability should be held with extreme skepticism.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Matt, that was very well written. Thank you. I agree.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Snowdog

      Faith is a gift and I pray that the skeptics someday find the truth that Jesus was real, he was God and he loves all his creation and wants no-one to perish. Unfortunately, most will perish and be eternally separated from the one they say does not exist. Nothing I can say or Randy can say that will change your mind and there is nothing you can say that will change mine. My life was changed by Jesus and I have seen many lives changed by Jesus. He is real. He is not a crutch. He died for me and died for you. I pray that you will one day know who he is and be a part of his kingdom. God bless.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      I always hate when this happens. Do you even realize how condescending your being? Do you even think about what you believe will happen to people who don't think like you when they die? I'm being completely serious here. Your comment, is a condescending, slef-righteous pile of crap. Really think about what your saying in your comment, and unless your willing to apologize for your complete lack of social grace, then I see no reason to be tactful (as I was trying to be) anymore.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Randy

      Matt, I'd like to offer that John, Peter, and Matthew having spent three years at Jesus' side prior to writing their accounts qualifies them as contemporaries. Most scholars attibute James account to Jesus' brother, James, who would have spent most of his life along side Jesus. Again, there are few other events from this time period which have such substantial and diverse written accounts. While the five accounts I've mentioned are all included in the modern Bible, they and others were considered independent accounts prior to their establishment centuries later in the Catholic canon. Forgive me for arguing over the particulars. It's much better to give John a read and decide for yourself. I'm off to see some Korean fireworks for an American holiday; odd, huh? Have a happy 4th.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Your god is a figment of your imagination, dear. I don't fear his "judgment" anymore than I fear the judgment of the Tooth Fairy. Get a clue. Your threats and promises are equally suspect.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Bob

      There are actually writings outside of Scripture that do talk about Jesus two are the wars of the Jews and the antiquities of the Jews both talk about Jesus. Randy I thank you for writing here but please remember tom Hawaii and yeah and a few others are not here to be converted and are the bottom feeders just here to see what they can scourge for the gay community. So just be aware.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      And you have yet to give the sources for your supposed extrabiblical evidence for the existence of Jesus. And once again, as I said above, it says absolutely nothing of the claims of supernatural stuff. Just because you can never actually back your claims doesn't mean they are above scrutiny. You seem to also be obsessed with the gay issue, and that makes one wonder if you protest too much.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Huh, who knew that transmu.tation would set off the auto filter."
      I guess "smut" is on the list. I'll add it to mine.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      "Huh, who knew that transmu.tation would set off the auto filter."

      Must have been sm.ut in transmu.tation.

      Thanks, I have added it to the goofy list.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @LinCa and Helpful Hints

      Glad to be of unintentional service LOL.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Helpful Hints


      ( I was typing as your post came in)
      (and now I posted in the wrong place - doh!)

      July 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Helpful Hints


      July 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I've always wondered why this all-powerful god who created the universe couldn't cross the ocean until humans built ships and took him. I've always wondered why this all-knowing god couldn't just appear to the millions of people in the Americas to let them know that his son "died for their sins", but waited instead until 1500 years after the fact.

      Maybe he didn't know THEY existed. Maybe he didn't know that the Americas themselves existed. Maybe he's afraid of water. Or maybe he simply doesn't exist.

      I also wonder why you need someone to be responsible for YOUR actions? Are you christians really such horrible people that a guy has to be tortured to death to atone for your behavior? Frankly, my behavior isn't that bad, or bad at all, really. Even if it was, I would rather be the one punished, because it's my responsibility. That's how an adult is expected to behave, at least that's how I was raised.

      July 4, 2012 at 2:46 am |
  4. dee

    What do you call a bunch of atheists who convert to Christianity at the same time?

    All of the atheists on a plane right before impact.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "What do you call a bunch of atheists who convert to Christianity at the same time?
      All of the atheists on a plane right before impact.
      You have to be a very special kind of stupid to believe that nonsense.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
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    July 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  7. People Paula

    You have chosen.... poorly.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  8. T.Reed

    At the end of the day, people will believe what they believe in. Even science can go so far until it is just assumption and wonder. I'll continue to believe in God and everything because that's what I believe in. Yes, I've explored it on my own and I chose that lifestyle. Obviously this lady just had a life change. If you chose to bash her for that, fine. But don't go pulling science into it and expect everyone with a religious belief to simmer or cower.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  9. Gern Blandston

    Of all of the "faiths" in the world, Catholicism is obviously the most man-made religion. How many idols (saints) can one religion have and still take itself seriously? I have my own moral compass to steer by; A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  10. nbdrews

    Wow, god must exist, this kid I've never heard of just decided he does.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  11. Kansas1946

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

    Hmmm. I would just like to know what those "facts" are.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  12. BOb the Prairie Dog

    The simple fact is that NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and that ANYONE claiming such knowledge (one way or the other) is a liar who probably wants your money.

    July 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  13. sickofit

    This Leah Libresco person was never truly atheist if she was so easily "converted". You can't have morals without religion? Total BS.

    July 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Chris

      People aren't allowed to change their minds? Or is everything we think automatically set in stone

      July 3, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      It helps to have good reasoning for a change in thought process, and the fact that she merely brought up the "no morality without religion" thing, which is not only bad reasoning, but just plain insulting to everyone who does not subscribe to her new religion. Being public about this reasoning fully opens her up to criticism, and each person has their own opinion and ways of expressing that.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • nadinesh

      I don't agree with her choice, but how can we know what went on her mind? It was probably quite a struggle. A little tolerance, please.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      I'm not trying to sound intolerant, I'm merely saying that the reasons as presented in he article are very weak reasons, and they do not seem to make logical sense.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  14. christ jones

    Moral Compass!?! All morals are instantaneous.

    July 3, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
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    July 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  17. PumpNDump

    We are a SECULAR nation founded by men who feared the ignorant, religious, unwashed masses.
    The earth is 4.5 BILLION years old, NOT 6000 years old.
    Dinosaurs existed, just not with man.
    Evolution, and Global Climate change, are scientific facts and our ancestors are over 6 million years old.
    No, the world won't end concurrent with the Mayan calendar.
    The whole "god" & "jesus" thing: myths invented by man and is no more relevant or accurate than the Greek/Roman gods, Hinduism, Mithrasian faiths, etc. 98% of all christianity is LIBERALLY lifted from preceding "pagan" faiths (oh, the irony!).
    There is NO peer reviewed, legitimate academically accepted proof that "jesus" ever existed and you'd think the most important "person" in christianity would have proof of life.
    The parting of the Red Sea, Noah's Ark, "jesus" rising from the dead, etc......all myths.
    Abortion? That issue was decided with Roe vs. Wade, get over it.

    I don't care what you believe provided you keep ALL religion out of public schools, science & academia, foreign and domestic policy, laws & jurisprudence. KEEP IT OUT OF OUR LIVES. FOAD.

    Oh, and this "blogger" is an imbecile who was dumped by her catholic boyfriend. She needs to get over it.

    July 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Try not to be so insistent. Even the most ardent atheist acknowledge the contributions to Western civilization from religion. You might want religious people to have no say in the country they live in but you probably don't really want to abandon the benefits they have contributed over the centuries.

      July 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Lux

      @Deacon Bill. Beyond art which was typically funded by the wealthy and powerful and would have been funded by whoever was wealthy and powerful regardless of religion, what are examples?

      July 3, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Tony

      @Lux: among other things, the theory that the universe started with the Big Bang was first advanced by Georges Lemaître, a scientist and - get ready for this - also a Roman Catholic priest.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Izoto

      You need to chill out.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Germcicle

      Having one inteligent person that contributed does not make the religion useful or legitimize it. This is the same religion that took 500 years to admit that Galileo was right about the VAtican not being the center of the universe. Religion stifles scientific discovery and then argues about it for the next 150 years.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Bob

      The US is a Christian nation founded on Christian laws by Christians and It will be taught in the schools.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Say it as much as you want Bob, but that doesn't make it true and only insinuates that you are indeed desperate for it to be.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Bob

      The US is a Christian nation founded on Christian laws and it will soon be taught in schools

      July 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What, exactly, will "soon be taught in schools", you moron?

      July 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, that's what I expected: crickets chirping. Boob, you haven't a clue what IS taught in schools, and you certainly don't have a clue as to what WILL be taught in the future, given that you never paid any attention to what schools attempted to teach you in the past.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Flying_Spaghetti_Monster>gods

      Here here PumpNDump! Best comment i've seen so far. Spit the truth to these brainwashed religitards.

      And in regard to Libresco, my guess is she was never really an Atheist, more like a closeted Catholic seeking to infiltrate the non-believers!

      July 3, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • billdeacons

      From wiki:

      The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Church scholars, virtually alone, preserved literacy in Western Europe following the Fall of Rome. During the Middle Ages, the Church rose to replace the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. The cathedrals of that age remain among the most iconic feats of architecture produced by Western civilization. Many of Europe's universities were also founded by the church at that time. The Reformation brought an end to religious unity in the West, but the Renaissance masterpieces produced by Catholic artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael at that time remain among the most celebrated works of art ever produced. Similarly, Catholic sacred music by composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi, Vivaldi and Shubert is among the most admired classical music in the Western canon.

      Now don't make me do your homework anymore

      July 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  18. Bill Deacon

    Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle
    Lectionary: 593
    Reading 1 Eph 2:19-22
    Brothers and sisters:
    You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
    but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
    and members of the household of God,
    built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
    with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
    Through him the whole structure is held together
    and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
    in him you also are being built together
    into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    July 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  19. Would she be a Muslim if her boyfriend was an Islamist?

    So her conversion was just convenience. Not a true conversion.


    July 3, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  20. keiyuuki

    FACT : Catholic Church = Pedophilia. Proven time and time and time and time again, around the world

    July 3, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      FACT: Most peoples facts come straight out of their azz

      July 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Lux

      @Deacon Bill. Although the "nuns on the bus" are a positive, there is much negative about the catholic church including rampant pedophilia and the centuries of cover up.

      July 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • billdeacons

      It's fashionable to hate the Church. Always has been. Are you aware though that the statistical incidents of child abuse are three to five times higher in the Public School System? But no one would ever type Public Schools = pedophilia. So if you want to be taken seriously, be factual.

      The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Church scholars, virtually alone, preserved literacy in Western Europe following the Fall of Rome. During the Middle Ages, the Church rose to replace the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. The cathedrals of that age remain among the most iconic feats of architecture produced by Western civilization. Many of Europe's universities were also founded by the church at that time. The Reformation brought an end to religious unity in the West, but the Renaissance masterpieces produced by Catholic artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael at that time remain among the most celebrated works of art ever produced. Similarly, Catholic sacred music by composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi, Vivaldi and Shubert is among the most admired classical music in the Western canon.

      July 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
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About this blog

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.