That Atheist Girl with her Catholic Boyfriend UPDATED

Patheos has picked up another new blog, and in keeping with this age of hybridism I think we could call it a kind of hybrid, too.

Leah Libresco is a smart young cookie and a lifelong atheist, who has managed to find herself a devout Catholic boyfriend, and she runs the whole topic of religion through her wringer at Unequally Yoked, where she writes:

I grew up with atheist patents in a pretty secular neighborhood (when we learned about the Reformation in AP Euro, one student asked if Lutherans still existed today). I didn’t know any particularly religious Christians until college, when I joined a debating group that had knockdown, drag-out fights that often pitted Libertarians against Catholics. Not falling into either of these categories, I tended to pick fights with everyone and came in for my share of questioning in return.

And then I started dating a nice Catholic boy. (I traded my Mass attendance for his presence at ballroom dance lessons, and it’s worked out pretty well so far). So between one thing and another, I was spending a lot of time arguing with smart Christians and I needed to step up my game.

Since we don’t exactly have an “atheist portal”
where Leah may relax and put up her feet, I am, in manner of speaking, acting as her Cyber Angel; through the ether my wispy hand is grabbing hers and I’m showing her where the bathrooms are, where the dogs that bite are kept and giving her an introduction to the Catholic side with whom she will no doubt find herself engaging, sometimes.

Bl. Pope John Paul II famously remarked that we have to live with “the world as it is”, full of different people, opinions and thoughts, while always remembering that our purpose is to remain true to Christ and His Word within this increasingly differentiated world. A true weakness of the internet is the propensity for everyone to end up in their little echo chambers, all nodding their heads and validating their opinions by leaving them unchallenged. I spoke about it in Rome, and just recently the echo chamber came up again over a “thems” and “theys”/straights and gays dust up during which I wrote:

It’s easy to simmer in the ghetto, easy to get comfortable with assumptions, stereotypes, paranoias and fears, because there is nothing to challenge them. Actually meeting the people we think we know all about (gay people; “illegal” immigrants who have been here for twenty years, the progressive blogger everyone told you was a meanie, but is just worried; the conservative who seems so terse but is just shy) getting to know them, working with them, agreeing on some things, disagreeing on others — when you do that, suddenly the “other” is a person struggling along, just like you, being battered in some ways, soaring in others. That’s when caricatures crumble.

And others, of course, culled from the same groups, are just miserable bastards you can’t do much about but kiss ‘em up to God, and move on.

Leah, thankfully, does not fall into that latter category; she’s game to engage, and as evidenced, I think, by these pieces, means to engage in good faith.

I have always said I have the best readers in the world, so I anticipate that y’all will make Leah feel welcome (though some of you with a bit of reserve, which is fine — I’m all for reserved-yet-mannerly) as she continues her adventure here, at Patheos.

And now, I do believe I will go introduce her to Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic, because these young’uns have way too much energy and bite for this old lady to keep up with. I believe Leah has already made the acquaintance of Mark Shea and The Crescat.

UPDATE: All-unaware that Leah was coming aboard, it turns out he’d written affable words about her, just today, wondering: Why can’t there be more cheerful, open-minded, intellectually curious, non-dogmatic, happy and likeable Leah Librescos and a lot fewer jerks like Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, and Jerry Coyne?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Billiamo

    Leah’s a lovely young woman and a smart cookie. Good on you for being so welcoming.

  • The Crescat

    Oh, she will come Home. She will.

  • Owen

    Brilliant – and I mean that as an affirmation.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I’ll pass. Arguments with evangelical atheists tend to go in circles.

    I’m her boyfriend finds someone less argumentative, who likes him for himself, and isn’t out to change him.

  • Manny

    I’ve seen Marc engage brilliantly with atheist arguments on his blog. He would do well.

    I get tired of the same thing going round and round. It comes down to this: Can we discern God in an orderly universe? I say yes, atheists say it’s all coincidence.

  • Annie

    Leah might appreciate the words of Pope Benedict during his recent trip to Germany:

    “Agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of our sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is ‘routine’ and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting their hearts be touched by faith.”

  • Kurt

    This reminds me more than a bit of a former colleague of mine. My former colleague was more or less an atheist who had grown up in a completely non-religious household. She was a gifted writer and though she could have gone in many directions academically, her passion at the time I knew her was for continental philosophy, particularly Nietzsche, and to a lesser extent Heidegger. I moved on from that job around the same time that she moved to England for a years. We kept in touch by e-mail for a few months, but that was the extent of it. Out of curiosity a few years later, I typed her name into Google and was stunned to find an article about a convent in the northeast which mentioned her name and said that she was considering joining the monastery. Often, it seems, those who rebel the most against faith when young, take it up forcefully later in life.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    By the way, this is completely off topic, and I apoogize, but is there any further news about Pastory Youself Nardakhani, the Iranian Chrisian who was sentenced to be hanged today?

    [I WISH I could keep up with every story, but my nose is to the grindstone...maybe you can tell ME if there is any coverage out there? Would appreciate the heads up if you find one! -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Sheesh, “apoogize?” I certainly apologize for that.

    Let this be a lesson to me to never post with only two cups of coffee under my belt.

    (I’m probably not going to engage with Leah, but I think it’s nice of the Anchoress to give her a spot.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    If I see anything, I will, Anchoress.

    I haven’t yet, and I know today was supposed to be the deadline. . .

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Checking out Google, it looks at this point as if the Iranian government, in the face of the protest against their actions, is desperately trying to pin something, anything on him. He’s been accused, among other things, of running a brothel and rape.

    This man needs our prayers.

    [Yes, that news broke a few days ago and it broke my heart. They really WANT to kill him and need to find a's evil. Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. A good day to say a rosary especially for his intentions, which I think I will do, right now. I need an excuse to take a break! - admin]

  • dry valleys

    I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up a Catholic, just as I’ve known left-wing people (usually academic Marxists rather than genuine members of the working class) who will obviously become conservatives. Some, though, aren’t showing any signs of moving however long they spend in particular company :)

    I don’t know about any atheist portal (I’m not actually online much recently) but I do appreciate Hemant Mehta, who is on Patheos. I was reading his blog before that, and I haven’t actually been around all the blogs here. I read a few atheist blogs (someone called Ophelia Benson is my favourite) and I’m quite familiar with that scene, as much as it seems to be riven with some particularly brainless feuds at the moment.

    As to Iran, it’s right that once they have someone in their sights they will be smeared in some way or another in order to get rid of them. That shows not only the problem with theocracy and bad/venal rulers, but also bad laws in general. Pakistan is another one of the worst offenders, as in the cases of Asia Bibi and this Faryal Bhatti, as well as the fact that a minister who opposed blasphemy “laws” was assassinated, and his death was celebrated by cheering crowds. Which is even worse as there are so many Pakistanis in Britain, many of whom have reactionary and backward attitudes of this type and mny others you an easily imagine living in a theocracy without complaint (though there are more liberal-minded elements, and it’s good to see they appreciate and enjoy what the west offers).

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Anchoress, what a coincidence you mention the Rosary!

    I got a new one the other day, and I prayed one decade so far, for Pastor Yoursef—without realizing it’s the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!

    (No such thing as coincidence?)

  • Regina

    My Rosary this evening will be for Youcsef.

  • Regina

    Oh, and welcome, Leah! Looking forward to reading your work.

  • ds

    Just read some of the whole straight/gay them they thing. How depressing. Its disgusting the way she was treated, but i found her anti gay comments pretty disgusting too.

    Im a catholic re-tread, or at least i was but i doubt i can ever get over the gay thing (not for me personally, im a stick and married.)

    I just cant believe its wrong for people to be gay. Yeah i know the arguments TOB etc but i just cant buy it.

    Should i just leave? I dont go to mass because i feel like im not welcome to take communion.

    I just feel.very sad about it all. I honestly felt i was called to come.back to the church. Now i just feel like i dont belong.

  • Beth


    You’d benefit from spiritual direction… and indeed may already be in such a relationship with someone… as the question of being worthy to receive communion is best explored in that context. That you are concerned at all shows your reverence for the sacrament.

    Your sincere expression of your struggle to discern whether or not you can assent to the church’s understanding of sexuality evokes compassion.

    For me, the habit of reminding myself that my life is not my own and my redemption comes through Christ (1 Corinthians 6, and others) is helpful as I struggle to bear the limitations life and grace send my way. Receiving communion and being attentive to a prayer life sustain me as the struggle can deplete and diminish me if I go without the help of God and the communion of saints.

    All the best…

  • http://patheos Patti

    My prayers are always for everyone to know how much God loves us all! As our Blessed Mother told the visionaries, in Medjugorje, if we only knew that we would cry. I prayed for that knowledge – boy, did I cry. I still do when I think about it & see His love for me on that Cross.
    We are all called to serve God in specal ways. I feel if one doesn’t have an attraction to the opposite sex, then that’s a call to serve God with your whole life. To be His Beacon to this World that He exists, to live a chaste life for Him, without entering a seminary or convent, to live in this World as we know it. Sorry for the length of this.

  • MissJean

    Leah seems like the type of atheist that doesn’t get the airplay or the book contracts aka Atheists Who Give People Hell. When I was an atheist/agnostic (it varied), I didn’t dislike religious people or treat them as if they had some sort of self-inflicted neurosis. I think atheists who like people are probably in the majority.

    Honestly, the atheist jerks I’ve met have been brought up as jerks. One of my college roommates told me how her atheist father encouraged her and her sister to mock their mother for displaying a family heirloom creche in the winter; after reducing her to tears and shaming her into putting it away, one of them snuck it into the trash. Her father was no better than a man who teaches his children to solve marital disputes with their fists. She was pushy and rude in general, though religion was her favorite excuse.