An ex-atheist talks about her conversion

Leah Libresco Sargeant, once a prominent atheist blogger, converted in 2012 to Catholicism after engaging and challenging her readership to present an intellectually rigorous, spiritually rewarding response to her questions on life. Sargeant continues to blog, only now from a Catholic perspective, and also is a contributing editor at America magazine.

She is the author of Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer. Sargeant recently spoke with the Register about what motivated her conversion and the surprising changes she experienced in her life afterward, including how she learned to pray through the Rosary. The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell us a little about your background as an atheist.

My family wasn’t religious. And I didn’t know anyone who was religious and took it seriously. I grew up in a part of Long Island that was mostly ethnic-secular Jewish. So most people in my high school had bar mitzvahs but didn’t really pray or do anything besides the cultural parts of Judaism. So most of my exposure to religion would be things like The700 Club — the kind of religion that makes the news. And it wasn’t until I went to college that I knew practicing Christians who were smart, who were comfortable talking about their faith, and who honestly weren’t kind of rounded up to the nearest stereotype, i.e., evangelical Americans.

Was there ever a point when you chose to be an atheist or were you always atheist by default?

It was always just more of a default position. I thought religion was false. A lot of the examples of religion I found weren’t compelling. And, as I still believe, I don’t think that it ever helps people who believe things that aren’t really true. I don’t think there’s any such a thing ultimately as a noble lie that actually helps people in the long term. So when I was interested in other people’s religious beliefs, if they weren’t true, I wanted to argue them out of it. I have people who are atheists who respond to me that way now. I think that’s a compliment to religion to think that way. Because for religion to be something that is completely innocuous — whether you believe it or not, that if you are wrong about it, that’s fine — implies that religion has no consequences. That’s certainly not how I feel about my faith now that I have one. Continue reading

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