Conversion Stories: From Atheist to Papist

by | Jul 19, 2012 | Uncategorized

Recently, noted atheist and blogger Leah Libresco announced her conversion to Catholicism. My first reaction was a Homer Simpson-esque, “Woohoo!,” because the Church always needs fresh life and fresh ideas. My second reaction was, “Wait…who?” Google to the rescue!

Between her CNN interview and her blog, Unequally Yoked, one gets a sense that Libresco has grappled mightily with the interplay of faith and reason, feeling both the tension between them and their complementarity. Each are gifts we receive gratis from God. Christians have long believed that the two work together, and Libresco has an interesting take on the synthesis of faith and reason. Check out her interview on CNN, describing her journey:

Libresco is a mathematician by training and temperament. Like many philosophers before her, she uses reason as a lamp to guide her. In the past, this helped her discern the need for a human-independent morality. She is a woman who sees the danger of a morality constructed merely from custom, habit, or personal taste (sorry, David Hume).

Unlike her philosophical predecessors, though, Libresco has come to see that instead of being opposed to one another, faith buttresses reason. Faith brings her outside herself and into community with others. In that community, and especially in the liturgy, she encounters Christ. At Mass, she is consoled because what she receives is “actually the Eucharist.” When praying the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, she feels the support and help of the community, both living in this world and the next, and is “grateful for prayer traditions because I’d pretty much suck at having to make all this up on my own.” You and me both, sister!

So for Libresco, reason is our guide, and faith unites us with others. We form something greater than the sum of our parts, in other words. And in so doing (to paraphrase St. Augustine) we behold the Body the Christ–that which we are, and that which we receive at the liturgy.

Editor’s Note:

TJP has covered other conversion stories (see here), and continues to engage in a dialogue between belief and un-belief. For more on the latter, you can access Ryan Duns’ “Letters to a Young Atheist” series here. Sam Sawyer scooped this piece (kinda) with this story about Libresco’s ideological Turing Test.


Vinny Marchionni, SJ   /   All posts by Vinny