A few days ago I came across a fascinating blog post by a prominent atheist blogger, Leah Libresco...except that it was a post announcing her conversion to Christianity and specifically Catholicism (HT: Stephen Bedard).
This conversion account is worth noting for several reasons. For one thing, it was motivated entirely by intellectual concerns, as is clear from Libresco's About page on her blog. She has been contemplating Christian and other truth claims for a long time, taking them with the seriousness they deserve and with a clear-sighted acknowledgment of their evidentiary force, which is such a refreshing alternative to the usual ignorance and laziness one encounters among atheists, who should look to Libresco as a model for the homework they have to do in order for their atheism to be even remotely rationally respectable. Her testimony shows conclusively that people do not convert to Christianity only for psychological reasons, atheist slanders to the contrary (and which sadly were all too quick to emerge in the comments section of her conversion post).
Secondly, her account is interesting because it demonstrates the force of the moral argument, which I and other CADRE members have been devoting quite a bit of attention to recently (see for example this and this). Specifically, even as an atheist Libresco was convinced that morality had to be objective somehow. As she notes in an early post:
With regard to morality, I am in the same situation I might have been in before the eye was better understood. I receive certain sense perceptions which, instead of being ordered with regard to color and hue, are organized according to right and wrong. I can no more explain how I perceive these than I can explain exactly how I parse electrical signals, but, in my day to day life, these questions are not critical. I do know that I am at least as certain that my moral perceptions are meaningful and correspond to truth as I am certain that my visual perceptions do as well. In fact, I would go farther and say that I am as certain that my moral sense is attuned to something as real and urgent as the existence of physical matter.
I could hypothesize how a Forms-material world link would work in the case of mathematics (a little long and off topic for this post, but pretty much the canonical idea of recognizing Two-ness as the quality that’s shared by two chairs and two houses, etc. Once you get the natural numbers, the rest of mathematics is in your grasp). But I didn’t have an analogue for how humans got bootstrap up to get even a partial understanding of objective moral law.
I guess Morality just loves me or something.And of course, it's all downhill (or rather, uphill) from there:
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. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth. I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since). Then I suggested hugs and playing Mumford and Sons really, really loudly.I must confess that this account has been very encouraging to me personally, and should be encouraging to all Christians who approach the faith intellectually rather than emotionally or existentially. I highly recommend reading through Libresco's blog, as she has a wonderfully keen and open mind and writes perceptively on all sorts of fascinating, 'big question' issues. See also this recent interview she gave:
Of course people from all perspectives will have all sorts of questions about this. Putting aside disagreements which would obviously arise much earlier in her chain of reasoning (i.e. whether morality is objective in the first place), probably the most interesting question is what led her specifically to Catholicism, above and beyond her 'mere Christianity'. Personally I see the appeal, and I have found Catholic thinkers and writers, such as Augustine and Chesterton, as well as Catholic prayers and liturgies to be stimulating and moving, but I know that some CADRE members (as well as other apologetics bloggers I could think of) will have reason to be dissatisfied with where she ended up within the broader umbrella of Christianity. But she herself acknowledges that her journey is just beginning, so I hope that for now we can all simply rejoice that God has shone the light of truth into her heart, redeeming her from the incoherence and nihilism of atheism.