I’m speaking at Chicago Ideas Week today!

I’m speaking at Chicago Ideas Week today! October 11, 2012

I’m on the Religion panel, and I think my talk on the Ideological Turing Test and fostering productive fights will go up online.  I’ll keep you posted.  Oh, and in honor of the talk, I’ve finally overhauled my pre-conversion “About Me” tab above.  Want to take a look and give me any notes in the comments of this post?  I’ll have time for a few revisions after my plane touches down.  Older versions of the “About” description are archived here, for comparison purposes.

And while I’m aloft, check out the list of my co-panelists.  It should be a pretty diverse set of talks.


Lauren Drain – Lauren Drain was a former member of the much hated Westboro Baptist Church. For questioning the WBC’s belief system and methods, she was kicked out of membership and her father banished her from her home and family. Lauren is the author of the forthcoming memoir Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, to be published in 2013.

Joshua DuBois – Joshua DuBois is Special Assistant to President Obama and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In this capacity, Joshua helps direct the Obama Administration’s engagement of faith-based and other nonprofit organizations around the country.

Eboo Patel – Named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Eboo Patel is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based organization building the interfaith movement on college campuses. Author of the book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, which won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and the forthcoming Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, Eboo is also a regular contributor to the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, NPR, and CNN. He served on President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.

Theodore Ross – Theodore Ross is the author of Am I a Jew? and his essays, journalism, and short fiction have appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Atlantic, Saveur, Tin House, and elsewhere. He is the Articles Editor of Men’s Journal, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and children.

Julia Sweeney -Julia Sweeney is best known for her four seasons on “Saturday Night Live,” in which her most famous character was androgynous “Pat.” She is also known for her three critically acclaimed one-woman monologues, “God Said, Ha!” “In The Family Way” and “Letting Go of God.” Julia has worked as a writer on several TV shows including “Sex & the City” and “Desperate Housewives.” She has also appeared in several TV shows including “Fraiser” and “Sex & the City” and in many films, including “It’s Pat: The Movie” “Pulp Fiction” and “Stuart Little.” Currently Julia has a new book entitled, Hanging Out in the Mother Hood which will be published by Simon & Schuster in April 2013.

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  • I would like to see a link to the time you got kicked out of RCIA, if there is one. If not, it sounds like a great topic for a post. I think “my virtue ethics-y ways” doesn’t scan well. you might want to rephrase it.

  • I’m curious about your take on disagreement within Catholicism. If I haven’t missed any of the relevant posts, you don’t assent to Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality and possibly contraception as well. That’s probably more of a post than something you can deal with in your “About” page, but as a “whole package” cradle Catholic who left the church last year, I must say I’m curious.

    (And this isn’t really about your “About” page per se, but I’m also curious about your take on Chesterton. He was a brilliant writer and lots of fun, but he generalized so much that half of what he said can be falsified with five seconds of thought, and another quarter boils down to [really amazing] word play.)

  • Just curious: November 18 of this year? Why not the Vigil?

    • leahlibresco

      The church I attend does two RCIA cycles a year.

      • You’re getting all three sacraments the same night?

      • grok87

        Congratulations Leah- we’ll all be praying for you on November 18th.
        I thought you’re “About Me” was really good- I think it might be interesting if you fleshed out your RCIA experience a bit more, especially perhaps a contrast/compare between the first time you did it (and got kicked out) and the second time around.

  • The first virtue is curiosity? Really? (Imagine the stands for incredulity.) I know you’re quoting Yudkowsky thanks to the hyperlink, but in text the line doesn’t ring with even the slightest irony at all. So… is that a thing you really believe? Curiosity precedes, say, charity? Or love?

    • Well, my html skills clearly need work. Throw an italics html tag where the italics go; I hoped to deform it so it showed as text, not font, but that apparently failed.

  • Joe

    Leah, do you have any plans to write a book about your conversion? Im sorry if you get asked that a lot.

    • Ted Seeber

      Is anybody going to let her get through RCIA first? Seems to me, a book isn’t called for at this point- even Scott Hahn didn’t write Rome Sweet Home for several years after his.

  • Ted Seeber

    Curiosity isn’t one of Aquinas’s five intellectual virtues. But now you’ve got me curious on what the Knights of Columbus 32 “Virtues that may be possessed by man” are; and if Curiosity is one of them.

    Having said that, curiosity is one of my vices- when it takes me away from work I should be doing, to work that I want to do.

  • Desmond Gaynor

    Hi Leah,

    I’ve been meaning to make a comment for a while. Maybe this is the place.

    I remember in your conversion announcement you said this: “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.” That statement put me in mind of a book I read in about 1970 (- I’m older than most of your commenters!). The book was ‘The Basis of Belief’ (1961), by Illtyd Trethowan .

    Trethowan’s thesis is that an awareness of God is intrinsic to the human mind but is “mediated”. That is to say, we do not experience God directly but we have intellectual experiences that point to the existence of a God who is personal. One of these experiences is the sense of moral obligation. Trethowan was not just putting this forward as a “pious” thought but as a defensible philosophical position. He said it represents a thread in Christian philosophy that goes back at least as far as Augustine ( – I’m not a philosopher, so cannot comment on that). He puts it forward as an alternative to the Thomist approach (The Five Ways, etc), for which he was not an enthusiast.

    You won’t find much on the Internet about Trethowan (who died in 1993) but there is an essay of his online at the link below where he discusses ‘Awareness of God’. It’s a challenging read (9000 words) and I can see from your blog that your lifestyle is, shall we say, rather busy. If you do get time to go through it, it may throw some helpful light on your own thoughts regarding the matter.

    Trethowan’s essay, is at http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth05.html