Leah Libresco is a popular atheist blogger at Unequally Yoked. When she began blogging, her tagline was “a geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend.” Unfortunately with their opposite religious views, they did not see their relationship going anywhere and eventually split-up. Leah is no amateur debater, she is a 2011 Yale graduate, smart, modern woman. She is in many ways, a prototypical spokesperson for classic atheism (not the dumb, combative “new atheism“).
Or at least, she was. Last week Leah announced her decision to begin RCIA to enter the Catholic Church! This is just the start of her journey and only time will tell the ultimate result. She is ready and excited.
This turn of events is confusing to atheists and to the secular anti-Catholic media (which I suppose is redundant). Consequently, Leah’s announcement was noticed not only by Catholic bloggers but also by the likes of CNN and MSNBC (the prime examples of the aforementioned secular media).
Elizabeth Scalia has the best coverage of this story on her blog:
Why so much coverage on Leah? Perhaps the answer is this: Leah’s conversion goes against all of the prevailing narratives that dominate secularist thinking. Religion – or at least religion that goes beyond affirming oneself and actually costs something of one – is the “opiate of the masses” suited only to “bitter clingers” and intellectually-dim peasants (except it isn’t and never was); Leah is a brainy, sophisticated Yalie who is neither bitter, clingy nor dim. Catholicism “hates women” (except it doesn’t and never did) and Leah is a strongly self-possessed, forward-thinking woman. Catholicism “hates homosexual persons” (except it doesn’t and never has although a new apostolic letter might help make that clear) and Leah identifies as bi-sexual.
Wait a second… hold on, I think I’ve got it! Really smart…female…bi-sexual-identifying. Holy smokes! Leah Libresco has pulled off a narrative-busting Trifecta! She’s a secularist thoroughbred who has nevertheless won the Triple Crown of Cultural Incongruity!
No wonder the press is so interested in Leah Libresco. What a thoroughly odd puzzle she must be, to them. And if she had to become a Christian, why not at least an Episcopalian, which is and always has been, the acceptable church of the elite? Why must she mess with narratives and perceptions like some kind of Plato-mystic canoodler?
On a serious note, though: Someone asked me a few days ago whether it bothered me that Leah is determined to ask questions of the church and its teachings, and I said, “no; she’s not the first to ask, and she won’t be the last.” We have a long history of brilliant people – atheists and non – who have trained their big brains on Catholicism, intending to either disprove it or simply to splash about in its currents, only to find themselves drawn further in. Catholic teaching has been thoroughly reasoned and laboriously fleshed-out; there is actual thinking, full of nuance and complexity, at its core – where Faith and Reason share a kinship, within which the natural and supernatural wave back and forth, like wind-stirred wheat in a field; it’s a dance of organic wholeness.
There is that famous, and lately perhaps overused, quote by Fulton Sheen: “There are not 100 people who hate the Catholic Church; But there are millions who hate what they believe the Catholic Church to be.” There is a great deal of truth in that, which is perhaps why the quote is overused. I’ve never known anyone to pursue an exploration of the church with an open mind, and continue to hate her, and Leah’s mind appears to be wide-open and hate-free, to begin with.
I’m not bothered that she may bring questions with her, because I take my cue from the Holy Father, who has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to entertain any-and-all topics. Benedict believes – and I have discovered it in my own faith journey – that submitting any question to reason, and tackling it with patient but rigorous intellectual honesty leads one (sometimes with great reluctance and gritted teeth) to the side of Catholic orthodoxy.
That “bi-sexual identifying” part will need some work, which Leah acknowledges.
Read the whole piece at The Anchoress: Leah Libresco, Media’s Favorite Puzzle.
Jennifer Fulwiler, another smart atheist-to-Catholic convert, gives her take for the National Catholic Register: Conversion: The Scariest Happy Ending in the World.
In answer to the question: “What message do you have for other atheists who may be struggling and questioning their nonbelief?” Leah says that she would refer them to the Litany of Gendlin:
What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.
While not exactly a joy-filled expression of Christian truth, it is good advice for atheists where they are at.