“There wasn’t really a time when I wasn’t an atheist. My parents are both atheists, so that’s how I was raised.”
Her conversion to Christianity caused a backlash from the atheist community and garnered public attention when she told her story to news channel CNN.
Libresco, a popular former atheist blogger for Patheos, and an analyst fellow for Education Pioneers, recounts a remarkable worldview transition from atheism to Christianity, and specifically Catholicism.
As the motto of Pathos goes the site intends to host “the conversation on faith,” however a large chunk of it is dominated by atheists and their arguments against religion. It was with this crowd that Libresco had a popular following and readership.
Libresco, having been brought up in an atheist household, was exposed to a particular non-religious setting from a young age, “I grew up on Long Island, where most of the people I knew were non-religious Jews. So, religion was so far from most of our minds…”. And as she explains, “There wasn’t really a time when I wasn’t an atheist. My parents are both atheists, so that’s how I was raised.”
In 2012, mathematician and self-described “geeky atheist” Leah Libresco appeared on the radio show Unbelievable? to discuss her conversion to Christianity. Up until that year Leah had been a blogger of some repute on the atheist channel of the Patheos network, writing on mathematics and scepticism and interacting in a friendly way with many Christians.
But something called ‘the moral argument’ had niggled away at Leah for years.
She couldn’t shake the belief that some things are really right and wrong, not just a product of her feelings and cultural preferences. Just as she recognised the reality of a mathematical realm that existed independently of us humans, so she had to admit the reality of a moral realm of good and evil. The moral truth that abusing children is wrong is true in the same way that two plus two equals four. But such beliefs about right and wrong made no sense in her atheistic worldview where morality, if it existed, was purely subjective – something that humans had evolved for social advantage. Her growing belief that morality is a fixed and objective reality only made sense if there was a God.
One thing however, which she could not reconcile with her atheism was her internal moral compass, and after some years of reflection she found that she
“was ready to admit that there were parts of Christianity that seemed like a pretty good match for the bits of my moral system that i was most sure of, while meanwhile my own philosophy was pretty kludged together and not particularly satisfactory”.
She knew she had certain moral duties, and that those duties lay outside of herself. But these duties could only be grounded in something transcendent and personal: God. Libresco thus came to the conclusion that Christianity was the system which best explained this.
Her conversion to Christianity caused a backlash from the atheist community and garnered public attention when she told her story to news channel CNN. In her interview Leah explained that while plenty of questions remained, Christianity explained the things she was sure of better than her atheism could. As she put it: “Morality is something we discover like archaeologists, not something we build like architects. Christianity offered an explanation for it that was compelling.”
“I had one thing that I was most certain of, which is that morality is something we have a duty to, and it is external from us. And when push came to shove, that is the belief I wouldn’t let go of”…
“I’m really sure that morality is objective, human independent, and something we uncover like archaeologists, not something we build like architects. And I was having trouble explaining that in my own philosophy, and Christianity offered an explanation which I came to find compelling”.
Concerning her conversion from atheism, Leah wrote on her official website;
I grew up as an atheist on Long Island. When I went to college, I picked fights with the most interesting wrong people I could find — which turned out to be the campus Catholics.
After reading an awful lot of books, years of late-night debates (the kinds that tended to include sentences like “Ok, imagine for the moment that God is a cylinder…”), and a fair amount of blogging, I was surprised but pleased to find out that I’d been wrong about religion, generally, and Catholicism in particular, and I was received into the Catholic Church in the winter of 2012.