A very public conversion

The conversion to Catholicism by a once prominent atheist writer is gaining some attention. From 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.”

A slow news day for CNN? Perhaps. But check out the interview here, and Libresco’s blog here.

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Tim O'Leary
6 years 8 months ago
David #15
In Jesus's statement that He is ''The Way, the Truth, and the Life'' (Jn 14:6), I see the three transcendentals of Good, True and Beauty. Each on their own can be taken in a distorted way (Moralism, Rationalism or Aestheticism) but one often begins the journey to God by being deeply attracted to one of the three.
Thomas Rooney OFS
6 years 9 months ago
I've never had the opportunity to read Ms. Librisco's blog. I did read the CNN piece; most self-proclaimed atheists who commented on the story claims never to have heard of her (knocking the 'high-profile' thing), that she converted for her boyfriend, and/or that she did it for publicity. 

Slow news day?  Maybe.  I will check out her blog, as I'm intrigued.  Atheist-to-Catholic seems an unlikely conversion step, as far as general mindsets go. 
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
6 years 9 months ago
Atheist = without god.
I've never understood withoutgods.  Other people do not identify themselves by what they are without.  Ever meet an acar?  Or an apet?  Or an achild?  Or an aspouse? 

If an acar suddenly converted and bought a big black Escalade, would anyone notice?

david power
6 years 9 months ago
This is a slap in the face to true Catholicism.People who convert based on moral questions are missing the whole point.
I converted a few people on this basis in the past and now I see how false it is.It is the same with other highflying converts such as Blair and Gingrich.They wax lyrical on the historical tradition etc but have nary a word to say on Jesus.Catholicism is second to Protestantism in unabashed love of the Lord.  
I have not read the article itself but if she is won over intellectually i would say that she is not much of an intellect.
Faith has to be more than just an intellectualism. 
Does she state that Jesus is the Son of God?Does she state more than the usual vague concept of faith which usually resembles a move towards mystery if nothing else?
Beware of "smart christians" , Nietzsche made mincemeat of them over 100 years ago.It is the ones that you cannot bracket that throw people off the most.Anyway, good luck to her. 
david power
6 years 9 months ago

God is contingent on belief.Your equation should read Atheist=without belief in God.
If a person did not believe in technology ,a luddite, was sudenly converted to such things it would be newsworthy ,at least to a select group.In this case she seems to have gone from one confusion to another.    
joseph o'leary
6 years 9 months ago
Shouldn't we be welcoming her into our Church instead of questioning her motivation?
Tim O'Leary
6 years 9 months ago
David #3 & 4
You are so judgmental and so wrong on this! You should welcome everyone who comes in, however the Spirit leads them. It is not as though coming into the Church is the end of the journey, and many (especially on this blog) struggle mightily with it. Think of the parable of the seeds in Matt 13. Leah has been attracted to the faith through her intellect, through her long contemplation on what Good is and how one can know Good at all. And only God is Good. And Leah has chosen to be with the Good. Many in the Church are being led out by their will (pride). So, praise the Lord that she has come in.
Thomas #1
Another grudging response (what is wrong with liberal Catholics! –  no joy in the conversion of others). Leah has quite a following in the blogosphere and her decision is a rejection of the nihilism inherent in atheism. She did have a Catholic boyfriend but they broke up and yet stayed friends. Many atheists have taken this path, like the writer Edward Feser or Jennifer Fulwiler of Texas, or the Jewish philosophers Edith Stein or Ronda Chervin or the abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson. See: http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php. Many more will come, once they bend their will to the Truth (the hardest thing to do). Jesus wants all to come to Him, into His Church. Like immigrants to America, converts are like a blood transfusion to the Church, replenishing what is lost.
Jeanne Linconnue
6 years 9 months ago
It will be interesting to see ''where'' she is in 10 years or so.  She has just converted but already shares many ''issues' with a lot of the cradle Catholics who are leaving - ''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.''

Leaving atheism behind is one thing - being Catholic in the current church is another. Remaining Catholic in the church of ten years from now if it continues on its current course may be impossible for many.

Anne Rice was a far better known atheist than this young woman. She reverted back to Catholicism (she grew up Catholic) and wrote a book about it.  But after a few years back in the church, the reality hit, and she left again. 

May God's peace be with her on the journey, and may she be open to the Spirit. Perhaps this will be her permanent 'home'', perhaps she will learn more about her own spirituality and someday move on. Either way, she is now open to God working in her, she is listening and if she continues to do so, she will be fine, regardless of where she ''ends up'' someday, when she is no longer young.
david power
6 years 9 months ago
Tim and Joe,

Maybe I was too hard in my comments.I did wish her well though.
But I disagree withTim's comments of non-discernment.Not all that is of the Church is of God.Augustine said "The Church has many that God does not have ,and God has many that the Church does not have", now Leah could be a bona fide believer but her comments put her in the longing to belong category.
She will be more exotic fo now being a "catholic".Ohh  "how could you?".My hunch is that this is more related to identity than spirituality.
Jesus may enter yet of course ,as there are many great Christians even in the Catholic church.She may be drawn more and more to the origin and less and less to the periphery which it seems fascinates her more.But I know many who have been in the church for decades and all they want is to be "catholic".It is a tribal instinct.
Good luck to her again and may she fall amongst the good soil.
Thomas Rooney OFS
6 years 8 months ago
@David - sometimes that "tribal instinct" is all that keeps someone in the Church and exposed to the Sacraments, at least on the outskirts of their consciousness.  That's more than enough for the Spirit to work on a thirsty heart.

Someone who denounced the Church publicly is now embracing her just as publicly.  Glory be to God.
david power
6 years 8 months ago

I agree with you .
I am simply pointing out the phenomena of being in the Church without having Christ.
But you are right that it is better to have it on "the outskirts of the consciousness" as you so aptly phrased it than not at all. 
Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
The Holy Spirit invites people to have an encounter with Christ – and through Him, the Father – in a never-ending variety of ways (He is extremely creative, after all!); but in my opinion, the encounter is often linked to an encounter with a “beauty” that leads to “Beauty”.
For example, in my case, I found the intellectual wellspring of the Church to be so unbelievable beautiful and that fact impelled me to begin a journey of intellectual conversion (I think Fr. Lonergan, among others, talks about the importance of this in his work).  Had that not happened, I would not be a Catholic Christian today.
As the article/post points out, this is a step in a journey (recall the famous mistranslated line of Lao-Tzu: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.) so Jeanne and David are right that we should be both overjoyed for her, and cautious about thinking we can add other notch to our belt. 
So let’s follow what the One we love is doing in her life and support her with our prayers.
Peace - Juan
P.S. good points Tim and Thomas.
Brendan McGrath
6 years 8 months ago
David - I think you may be underestimating the extent to which Jesus is a part of Leah's conversion.  The following is an excerpt from the blog post where she discusses her initial conversion:

...But I didn’t have an analogue for how humans got bootstrap up to get even a partial understanding of objective moral law. ...[skipping here]  ...My friend pressed me to stop beating up on other people’s explanations and offer one of my own.
“I don’t know,” I said.  ”I’ve got bupkis.”
“Your best guess.”
“I haven’t got one.”
“You must have some idea.”
“I don’t know.  I’ve got nothing.  I guess Morality just loves me or something.”
“Ok, ok, yes, I heard what I just said.  Give me a second and let me decide if I believe it.”
It turns out I did.
I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant.  It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.  And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth.  I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since).

This reminds me vaguely of something from St. Augustine's Confessions about how he discovered that the Word or Platonic One whatever (I forget all the different terms that were thrown around, and the diferent variations in Neo-Platonism, etc.) was a Person, or perhaps rather that he discovered in Christianity that this Word had become flesh, etc.  Anyway, the point is, she's discovered that ''Morality'' is a Person, that ''Morality'' is God, specifically, though she might not realize it yet, that ''Morality'' is the Word/Logos, the Order of the universe, Wisdom, etc., and thus is personal, and yes, loves her, and as she might already guess, has become human and suffered and died and rose for her, etc.

Anyway, my point is, Jesus is there, and she's encountered Jesus, if not yet by name.
david power
6 years 8 months ago
Excellent point Brendan.
I only watched the video and did not read this before.
Can she sustain this view?.Can she remain catholic while itching for moral soundness?.
The Church depends a lot on the moralism of people to keep them within the tent so to speak and so maybe she can.
The constant moral posturing of bishops with regards healthcare and other things is them playing good cop and so you get many catholics falling into the false way of thinking "I don't agree with them on abortion but....".This kind of Church needs the poor more than the poor needs the Church.Alibi for lack of message.
But in the case of Leah it will be interesting to see if it goes beyond a simple moral reckoning.
It is beautiful both what you wrote and what she wrote about Jesus being morality incarnate.Don Giussani said that he "who loves is moral".He meant it in the most liberal way imagineable I think.But the translation of individual acts as the mind of Christ will be the sticking point.That is where morality ceases to be interesting for me and trust in Jesus without the need for a moral positivism becomes the definition of faith.Thanks for writing ,I will have to reflect more.
david power
6 years 8 months ago

I once tried to tie them together but failed.I don't think that Way,truth and Life translates very well to truth,beauty and goodness.That said, I think that it is true that people are drawn in different ways and the job of a prudent christian is not to fall into any of the isms mentioned by you.
I think we all need to be checked in this area.I have observed the three attractions in play but have rarely seen people move beyond any of the three onto a deeper notion of being.
But if it was too easy there would be no fun in that ,so maybe God is amused by it all.
Thanks for your thoughts.


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