Seeking “objective morality,” an atheist blogger became a Catholic

July 18, 2014 • 12:31 pm

This story is a couple of years old, but I  just heard about it, and find it fascinating. Leah Libresco, who writes at the Patheos website Unequally Yoked (on the Catholic Channel), was an atheist blogger but became a Catholic in 2012. The American Conservative names her as one of its employees:

Leah Libresco is an editorial assistant at TAC. She is a graduate of Yale University and lives in Washington D.C.

In this video interview of CNN, Libresco explains her decision (see also her written explanation below):

The reason she came back to Catholicism? “I’m really sure that morality is objective.” Libresco affirms that Christianity, in the Catholic form, offered her explanation that she found compelling. (I guess she doesn’t find evolutionary or secular explanations compelling. The rejection of those alternatives, especially given the evidence for them, baffles me.

So what “objective” morality does Libresco choose? Catholicism! What’s the objective morality there? That gays are “disordered” and doomed to  hell if they don’t confess their “immoral” acts. That a fertilized egg is a fully human creature? That birth control is wrong? That sex outside of marriage is a sin, as is having sex with someone if you’re civilly divorced but haven’t had an annulment?

If I were the CNN reporter, I’d immediately ask Libresco exactly what aspects of morality—what moral dicta—she considers objective. I’d ask her if she buys into the espoused “morality” of the Catholic church. And I’d ask her how she knows that Catholic morality is the real objective morality rather than, say, the “objective” morality of Islam, Jainism, or Judaism.

There’s nothing more cringe-making that a naturalist who becomes a supernaturalist, especially if they go over to something like Catholicism. Their reasons always seem wonky.

Libresco explains more at her website:

And, ultimately, I decided the bit of my model of the world that didn’t fit was my atheism.  Theism seemed like the most plausible bridge across the is-ought problem.  Christianity seemed like the theism that best matched the moral laws I was most sure of. And Catholicism seemed like the most trustworthy form of Christianity.  So I bit the bullet, signed up for RCIA (again), and am to be received into the Catholic Church on November 18th.

I got to where I am by thinking about how morality works (working through a lot of thought experiments and case studies) and then trying to figure out what that system implied. So the best way to understand my conversion might be to page through some of the posts in the Morality in Practice category (or, more specifically, the “whence moral law?” “sin-eaters/dirty hands” “radical forgiveness” “pride” and “high mask theory” tags).  If you agree with me about what’s right, then we can fight about how that system has to work.  If not, then we should probably start arguing at the first point where we diverge.

I wonder if CNN would give equal time to a religious blogger who became an atheist. I doubt it, for that wouldn’t sit well with religious America.

Adam Lee questions her at the Big Think.

h/t: Barry

103 thoughts on “Seeking “objective morality,” an atheist blogger became a Catholic

  1. Yep, the organization that conspired to repeatedly, and over decades, obstruct justice and shelter child rapists: That’s where you want to go for your objective morality. And they are still lying about it.

    Not to mention all the other bad stuff.

  2. The is-ought problem, eh? This is why John Loftus nailed it by observing that “faith is a parasite on the mysterious” (Outsider Test for Faith, p. 219). Personally, I get the sinking suspicion that the is-ought problem is a philosophical curio and hardly a real problem at all.

  3. It seems that from the point of view of a philosophy student, she subscribes to the “coherence theory of truth”

    which “regards truth as coherence within some specified set of sentences, propositions or beliefs”

    which is often contrasted with the “correspondence theory of truth” (pretty much assumed by Western science) according to which “the truth or falsity of a statement is determined only by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately describes (i.e., corresponds with) that world”.

    Herman Mehta has also wondered why this person is getting so much attention, since she commands no movement.

  4. Of all the arguments for God, I’ve always least understood the Argument from Objective Morality. On one hand, it amounts to obvious question begging, on the other, no one ever explains why an objective system can’t be made by humans if the criteria is that actions aren’t based on subjective criteria.

    1. I think it is one of the most seductive arguments out there because many of the aspects of what we call morality are instincts.

      It is relatively easy to jump to the conclusion that we’re unique and that uniqueness is something “extra” compared to other animals and thus we’ve been bestowed a gift from someone or something.

      And then there’s those somewhat cynical folks of all stripes who are convinced that we’d act like chimps if there weren’t any imposed objective moral principles and we might as well go with Christianity because that’s what’s already here.

      Also I’m reminded of a clip from the unbelievers where Krauss asks a muslim audience whether any of them would kill their neighbour tomorrow if they stopped believing in god. 5 of them apparently raised their hands.

      That’s a pretty strong endorsement of the practical use of the argument from morality if you believe them.

      1. I don’t argue the seduction of it. There is even that cliché every parent seems to use: “stop acting like animals!” But looking around the world objectively, humans hardly have an advantage over animals. We kill each other en mass for one, no other animal does that.

        But, the whole argument just seems more suited towards the claim that having objective morals is better. There’s no explanation as to why God has to be the rule maker. We have plenty of other objective things and people don’t claim God was necessary for them to exist.

        1. There’s also the problem of evil.

          My point is though that if your belief is pragmatic then god might as well be the christian one you’re familiar with regardless of the competition.

          And if your non-belief is pragmatic then the rules ( for other people ) might as well come from the christian god. It’s a bit like saying if you really believe god exists, then for all practical purposes god really exists and for all we know that “knowledge” is what keeps you from going bonkers if you claim it to be so.

          We know better and it’s a “little people” argument, but the fear that society will crumble in absence of religion is ripe within all sorts of people.

          Religion is still widely regarded as the scaffold society is build upon and as long as that view is predominant, belief in belief will remain one of the driving forces of mainstream religion and its role in society.

          Whether a god is true or not doesn’t really matter in this regard. You just have to like the rules.

    2. “Of all the arguments for God, I’ve always least understood the Argument from Objective Morality.”

      What bothers me about the “Objective Morality” claim is that the Bible is SUBJECTIVELY interpreted, so by definition whatever rules you’re going to derive from the book they will be subjective in nature as well.

      1. Not only that, but the person making the claim has chosen for himself or herself which of the many systems of objective morality that they are going to follow! After all, Ms. Libresco could just as easily have chosen Islam, which also claims to proffer objective morality. Ad infinitum.

      2. Remember, we’re talking Catholicism here, so the bible is a minor element. The RC regards itself as at least as authoritative in pronouncing dogma as the bible.

        1. This is important – Catholic ethics is a tradition of cruft and accretion, like any other. Tradition, the usual: and *that’s* the ethics. Not the biblical stuff, whatever exactly that would involve.

          Both odd, to say the least, to have someone spontaneously join, but then again head injuries, publicity stunts, lies, etc. are all conceivable here.

  5. “So what “objective” morality does Libresco choose? Catholicism! What’s the objective morality there? That gays are “disordered” and doomed to hell if they don’t confess their “immoral” acts. That a fertilized egg is a fully human creature? That birth control is wrong? That sex outside of marriage is a sin, as is having sex with someone if you’re civilly divorced but haven’t had an annulment?”

    Let’s not forget: condoning pedophilia and defending pedophile priests from prosecution.

  6. From the interview:
    “It was the same thing with any scientific theory almost, that it had more explanatory power to explain something that I was really sure of…”

    Excellent bit of thinking there, come to a conclusion and find something to fit that conclusion. And she did the thing that all religious converts do, convert to the religion they are most familiar with. She mentions in the blog link that she spent a few years reading about Catholicism, she only mentions studying that particular religion. The biggest reason I’m an atheist is because I take all religions to be equally. I get confused how some people can just skip that step.

    1. Someone asked here this question three years ago and she answered. “Prior belief and expectations =/= bias.” That wasn’t helpful.

    2. The biggest reason I’m an atheist is because I take all religions to be equally.

      I’ll get the bonfire started. Are you sure that you want to be cooked in those clothes?

  7. You know, if I were to choose a Christian sect to join, I would at first, consider Catholicism while I’m thinking of the masses from Mozart and Beethoven etc, all the gorgeous European Churches and art which I love to visit…

    But then… I’d also think of the enormous abuse, the coverups, the incredible harm and poverty their stance on birth-control causes… all the global harm that is directly caused by those men in robes luxuriating in Rome… and I seethe…

    On the plus side, I can still listen to the wonderful music without becoming Catholic.

    1. I love visiting cathedrals. It is always nice not to burn up when I enter. Allegri’s Miserere is one of the most beautiful songs I know. It is music like this that makes me want to never learn Latin. But I can’t listen to that song without thinking and the Castrati.

      1. While visiting Italy ten years ago or so, I was surprised that every major cathedral made you pay before entering. Hmmm. I found that very ironic. I wondered if that was a recent development or whether they had been charging money for years. Perhaps a reader knows.

        1. I don’t know about the situation in Italy, but the reason why English cathedrals charge entrance fees is that they’re very old and in constant need of repair. Heating and lighting bills are also enormous.

        2. I was surprised that every major cathedral made you pay before entering.

          Why were you surprised? If they’re going to take your soul (not that it exists), why would you expect them to leave your wallet alone?

  8. I’ve always found the ‘morality’ of Catholicism decidedly immoral. Everyone knows about the protection of paedophile priests, but there’s so much more than that. Even as a child I was horrified by the way women were viewed as less important, their voices seldom even sought on subjects that closely affected them.

    Priests who became murderers when they participated in terrorist activities in Northern Ireland were also protected “for the sake of the reputation of the Church” with the collusion of civil authorities.

    The recent discovery of a mass grave of hundreds of babies at the site of a former so-called ‘home’ for un-wed mothers run by Catholic nuns in Ireland is another example of the horror that is the Church’s morality.

    The Intelligence squared debate where Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens argued against religion being a force for good (and won) also provided many examples of horrors perpetrated by the Catholic Church.

    Pope Francis has gone some way towards restoring the Church’s reputation, but he is opposed to same-sex marriage, contraception, adoption by same-sex couples, female Priests and many other things that show the Catholic Church remains a bastion of immortality.

    How any intelligent person can look at Catholicism and see morality is simply beyond me.

  9. I wonder how much of an atheist she really was to begin with. Has she noticed there are a plethora of secular ethical alternatives to theism developed going back to Plato and Aristotle. Is this another example of the dumb CS Lewis moral argument embraced by the likes of Francis Collins? I’m constantly surprised how many otherwise intelligent people fall for the moral argument, actually it is one of the weakest arguments of all.

    Even if you take the position that there needs to be some sort of “objective” morality, I don’t, there are secular alternatives to that as well. God’s can’t appear out of nowhere to remedy perceived existential angst about morality, it just doesn’t work that way.

    1. It also baffles me that these people think “god’s opinion” automatically makes something “objective.”

      Why, exactly? He’s more powerful or more knowledgable? So just obey the most powerful person in the room and do whatever he asks, and that’s “objective morality”?

      1. And ultimately, you’re just reading what humans millennia ago interpreted as “god’s opinion” or morality. Just humans telling humans what to think/believe based within the power-structure to control said humans. Pathetic.

      2. So just obey the most powerful person in the room and do whatever he asks, and that’s “objective morality”?

        Ah, you got it. Good little boy! Now shut up, lift your hassock, and bend over that altar for your first communion with the power of the church!
        [Choirboy]”Yes, Monsignoir!”

    2. Yeah, I don’t like going to far on the No True Scotsman scale, but I do have to wonder what she was basing her reasoning for being an atheist on that she would switch over to Catholicism with such apparent ease.

      1. I rather suspect that she’s got a terminology failure, thinking (I use the word loosely) that “atheist” means something like “someone who doesn’t believe the same as most of their society”.
        I’d like to say “only in America”, but I can envisage the same error of thinking in any highly religious parts of (for example) Scottish society. I’ve had some quite bizarre conversations with people from the Western Isles where similarly … parochial … ways of thinking.
        That is, of course, why sending your children away to college is a dangerous thing to do – you’ll no longer be able to control what experiences they have and what people nad ideas they’ll meet, and therefore you’ll no longer be able to control how they think.
        Education and experience : dangerous things.

    3. I wonder how much of an atheist she really was to begin with.

      That question passed through my mind too.

  10. It is beyond me how anyone could see the Catholic Church as a bastion of ANY KIND of morality, but I feel it bears asking, to what degree was this woman really an atheist to begin with? Me thinks this a case of butter turned believer. I don’t see any intellectually honest way one can derive a sense of morality without filtering it through the prism of their own subjective experience. Thus making morality, at least on some level, subjective. But any way you slice it, there is no path from the rejection of belief on the basis of irrationality, to the acceptance of Catholicism on the basis of objective morality without plowing through expansive thickets of cognitive dissonance. So, I’d wager, she was probably a fellow atheist flagellating apologist to begin with, a la Loretta Graziano.

    1. The religious make the same “not a true believer” claim about believers, like me, who abandon the faith. I know they are wrong in my case, so I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt going the other way too. I don’t see any need to invoke “no true atheist” here. Human psychology is a complex mash of rational and irrational, of cognitive biases and shortcuts that often work but fail in other situations. Being human is often quite a mess. Whatever her particular case is, I have no doubt that someone could embrace a fully reasoned atheism with no whiff of supernaturalism and, at some other point, some other aspect of their psychology wins and they embrace superstition. It wouldn’t be a choice based on careful reason, of course, but it might feel like it was to that person. We don’t need to posit that someone wasn’t a “true atheist” to understand how they could embrace religion later, any more than we need to invoke stealth properties to explain any other human change, from hairstyle to food preferences (He probably never was sincere when eating pizza. I bet he always was a closet vegan).

      The important thing, from the atheist perspective, is not her sincerity then or now but whether the reasons she gives are good arguments or not. I think we can all see here why the argument is poor.

      1. Point taken, but given the preponderance of would be public intellectuals who lay claim to atheism only to criticize it with the same straw men and canards to which the faithful would resort, I have no reservations about being skeptical of her atheism. I’m not challenging her atheism in a “no true Scotsman” sense. I think she’s chosen this bailiwick to get her self some recognition and maybe some work published. I worked in the press for many years and understand exactly how disingenuous people can be if they think it means some screen time and this revelation got her a cable news sit down. I realize that this is all speculation and would not fault you at all for dismissing it reflexively. But my personal experience leads me to believe that she is playing an angle here.

        1. That is common enough as well. I would not dismiss it out of hand at all. And I’ve definitely known religious people who have basically lied about having been an atheist before finding religion as well. There is no fact that isn’t malleable when truth is subordinate to religious Truth. I just don’t know in this particular case.

  11. I’ve put this question to her before and received no answer:

    “What makes your position different from presuppositional apologicists”?

    She simply substitutes logic for morality.

  12. BTW, someone needs to explore the media’s fascination with atheist on atheist bashing. It would appear that there are enough column inches being dedicated to this very phenomenon that being a back-peddling faithiest, philosophical Benedict Arnold is practically job title.

    1. This isn’t very deep , but I assume it is a defensive reaction to the fact that atheists are being more vocal and public about our atheism. Our mere existence is seen as a threat.

      1. Our mere existence is seen as a threat.

        Which would explain why, when filling out official forms in Abu Dhabi, if I put down my religion as “atheist” (and sept as “militant”), then I got refused the license I was looking for. Quoth the Boss, “You’d have been better off saying you’re a Jew.”

  13. Forgive me for the pure snark that is going to follow keeping in mind that this profound introvert was only able to stomach the vid’s first half: I predict that down the road she will change to another religious brand and then don the cap of deism before dressing up in Buddhism or some similar compulsive, mental chain reaction.

    Her searching for a snug ideological compartment within she can temporarily fit before she finds fault with it is strong in this one. 🙂

  14. Yeah, I started following her blog back when it was about atheism and I still skim her posts. I’m not too aware of the situation but apparently some commenters have tried asking her to further explain her choice and answer the hard questions about religion (that she herself used to ask!) but she has not been forthcoming. The thing is she seems like a really smart and thoughtful person, so I’ve been hoping maybe it’s all kind of a “try out Catholicism” thing – kind of like the “Year Without God” guy Ryan Bell (but with less transparency as to what she’s doing!) So maybe she’ll come back around at some point, but since it’s been a couple of years now I guess it’s unlikely.

  15. If there really is objective morality, I can’t think group on the planet as large as the Catholic Church that would have less of it.

  16. “And, remember, the first virtue is curiosity”

    That’s how she ended the post – linking to a site listing rational virtues.

    Currently, Pope Francis warns that curiosity causes confusion

    While in the past, we have both Augustine and Aquinas harping on aboot the vice of curiosity.

    The Raping Children Church still has books on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum and they tell the faithful:

    The reading of such books is not edifying spiritually or morally. They should not be read out of curiosity. Permission to read objectionable books is given to those whose task it is to refute them and defend the teaching of the Church.

    IOW – we’ll read them and tell you what to think.

    Cherry-pickers will cherry-pick for whatever reasons, In this case it may be for love.

    1. “IOW – we’ll read them and tell you what to think.”

      For a very long time, this was also the catholic standard policy regarding the bible. So, is it on the index?

    2. You know, I’ve often wondered what the actual contents of the “Index of Forbidden Books” are – as a reading list.
      Having a book recommended to you (such as WEIT) is one thing ; being banned from reading it is a real encouragement to get a copy.
      Ah, here’s a (partial) copy.

  17. (To be sung to the tune of “There is a Mountain” by Donovan.)

    First there is a Yahweh, then there is no Yahweh, then there is
    First there is a Yahweh, then there is no Yahweh, then there is

  18. Is Libresco her original last name? If so, I suspect she may have encountered many Catholics in her formative years so naturally that worldview would seem the most reasonable to her.

        1. Oh! That clarifies things a lot. Here’s the ref:

          This is an exceedingly common route into religion, or into some specific brand of religion. Way more than half the adult baptisms (official conversion) into the conservative church I grew up in were the spouses or dating partners of other members. The more deeply religious partner usually wins in these things because it’s a deal breaker for them but kind of a “meh” proposition to the other person. My own father has been married three times and each time he was able to convince the woman he married to convert to his church from some other (never mind that his religion *strictly* forbids divorce and remarriage, but hey…). It was a simple question of will. He had it, they didn’t. In fact, I think almost everyone in my family who wan’t born into our fundamentalist sect converted when they married someone who was.

          I actually feel for her if that’s the case. What a number to play on your emotions: here’s a perfectly nice guy who really loves this religion, he’s more than nice, he’s great! And he loves everything about you except your lack of religion. And it’s fine and good to say that The Church is immoral in some way, but you know this particular individual and he’s very kind and thoughtful and loving. You might even wish you were as nice a person as he is. That’s tough.

  19. I’ve followed her story. Nominally she was an atheist, but she believed in stuff like souls and sin. The step to the RCC is small then. She seems to be wilfully ignorant on things like the history of the RCC/JC/Bible as well.

  20. Maybe everyone (of all worldviews) could get together with skeptic Martin Gardner’s basic view of objective morality. He took the view of a seeker, but was fairly convinced that ethics are objective (honesty, courage, compassion, human rights, etc.). However, he
    said the difficulty is in the application of ethics.

    And another problem is that humans seem to always demand good ethics from their enemies but justify torture, the intentional killing of civilians, lying, etc. if it helps them win.

    Lastly, I don’t see how Libresco thinks Roman Catholic morality is objective since the Church has justified the slaughter of millions in its history, including killing in the Spanish Civil War, etc.

  21. She must have grown up in a different Catholic church than the one I did. I always credit my Catholic education with my atheism since I saw from a very young age to be utterly devoid of objective morality.
    I remember as a six year old thinking ‘I’m going to burn in hell because someone else ate an apple. WTF?

  22. People mean different things when they say words like “morality.” Obviously. When a person thinks herself moral, makes judgments (of others, natch) that “sound” “moralistic” and “don’t seem to fit” with her stated “atheistic” worldview – this implies something about the meaning she imputes to “morality” and what she means when she says it. It implies a morality that is: dictated by an outside entity or third party; not supported or implied by natural processes such as natural selection or game theory; creates and supports an “in group” mentality … and so on.

    The kernel of truth in the observations of the blogger’s “Christian and atheist” friends is that these attributes don’t comport with a naturalistic worldview – and that is a critique of being judgmental and “moralistic,” not of being an atheist … !

  23. If we assume, arguendo, that Libresco’s reason for becoming a theist is sound, there is the issue of her specific choice of religion. One cannot rationally choose Catholicism. The outrageous irrationality of transubstantiation is one of many irrationalisms to be found in Catholicism. There are other religions whose doctrines, while still intellectually offensive, are less of an affront to the intellect than that of the Roman Catholic Church.

    I wonder what sort of atheist writings the irrational Libresco offered up during the time she fancied herself an atheist.

    1. Catholic theology in a nutshell:

      Fundamentalism is bad! Don’t interpret the Bible literally, religion is more sophisticated than that. Jesus said, “This is my body.” What else could is mean? It is his body!

  24. I wonder if CNN would give equal time to a religious blogger who became an atheist. I doubt it, for that wouldn’t sit well with religious America.

    I imagine that they wouldn’t for the same reason that they don’t cover “dog bites man” stories. Going from religious to atheism is common enough that it’s not news anymore. The only reason this got any attention at all is because the story is so rare. Very few people had heard of her blog before this even among people who regularly read atheist blogs. Now all of us know who she is.

  25. The CNN announcer started off by calling her, “…one of the most promising atheist bloggers on the internet.”

    First off, where did that supposed fact come from? Did she just yank it out of her hiney?

    Second off, where else could she have been a blogger? On the outernet?

  26. The reason that she started the original atheist version of “Unequally Yoked” was because she was an atheist dating a Catholic. Considering that all of her musings were in reference to the challenges of her Catholic boyfriend (as in, she wasn’t deeply engrossed in any other religion besides Catholicism) if she was going to convert, then it would be pretty easy to predict that she would convert to Catholicism; in the same way that someone knee-deep in Arabic and Islamic culture will convert to Islam instead of say, Pentacostalism.

  27. The title of her blog refers to the fact that she’s married to a catholic and she was an atheist. It ought to be renamed now to “Equally Yoked.” I used to read that blog before she converted since I was also married to a catholic.

    I wonder if the real reason she converted was that she wanted to be more happily married, and if a rigorous commitment to responsible epistemology got in the way, it had to go.

    It kind of seemed like that. Anyway, I have no interest whatsoever in the thoughts of a writer embracing faith as a reliable epistemology, so I stopped reading her once she converted.

    1. so I stopped reading her once she converted.

      Did you also unsubscribe from the bl*g, stop “following”, remove yourself from the mailing list, etc? Dropping readership numbers – and therefore dropping advertising revenue – is likely to get her attention in a way that discussing her stuff here isn’t.
      (I’d never heard of her before this and have no reason to waste my time reading guff like she’s spouting here.)

  28. Why would she think that Christianity represents objective morality? Christianity is founded on the principle of relative morality. Christianity throws away the morality of the Jews, the “Old” covenant, in favor of a new set of morality.

  29. I’m with you mein host on this one, the morality of catholism? what the hell! To actually use trust and morality as reasons, history says otherwise, I need to kick something..

    1. Amen. Catholicism and morality? Might as well join an infantry of zombies who want to canonize the next door neighbors potted plant for converting carbon dioxide to life…its a miracle!

    2. I need to kick something..

      The traditional target is the cat, but that wouldn’t be very popular in this company. May I recommend a large rock – preferably quite hard. It’s unlikely to be damaged, and you won’t hurt it’s feelings.

  30. The terribleness of the idea of “objective morality” supposedly provided by a God has been known since freaking ancient times. It is the Euthyphro dilemma.

    Even assuming you go with the resolution that says God by his very nature is the standard of morality, I don’t see how you can get how mortal humans are supposed to act from what an omnipresent and omnipotent deity.

    If you do go with that resolution and don’t worship a deistic God or some other non-mainstream God, morality becomes an abomination that is better off dead. Genocide suddenly becomes moral because God did it in the Bible.

    1. The link did not work right. This is the title:
      Michael Nugent talks to Leah Libresco about becoming a Catholic Part 1

  31. I used to argue at length with a friend over the existence of ‘objective morality’ (he pro, I contra). I can’t remember most of the details, but these days I would say that applying objective morality would first require objective knowledge (whether of causes, effects, intentions, or the moral code itself), none of which seem to be possible.

  32. She finds Jesus curing disease by casting out demons and then jumping up in the sky on a cloud “compelling”? Me thinks something else is going on there.

  33. I would think that despite being an atheist in name, she still had a corner of her belief system that allowed for magical thinking.
    Souls and sin, as mentioned above.
    All her arguments and pleading come to nothing if the impossibility of the non material is realised.
    A materialist based explanation of reality is sufficient to explain what we know.
    There is no evidence that any immaterial forces are or could be, at play.
    It doesn’t matter how great your moral theory is if you need a magic wand to make it true.
    Why does she believe in magic wands?

  34. Once again we have someone who has convinced themselves, without evidence, that Catholicism is true. Note the use of words/phrases like “I’m really sure”, “seemed”, and “I decided”.

  35. A few years ago, I was confronted with making a public declaration of religion.

    I was being brought into hospital (I was fine, walked in) to have hernia surgery. The staffer at the receiving desk asked me what my religion was.

    This put me on my back foot. I did not expect the question (the hospital has a “saint” name; but it is run my a corporation. It is an excellent hospital).

    I replied, “none”. The staffer asked at least once more, something like, “are you sure? Not Buddhist or anything?” it felt like pressure, though I’m sure she was trying make it easier for me (it it had been the case) to say something other than Xianity. It did make me wonder (a tiny, tiny bit) about my treatment. All went well of course.

    It says something about the ubiquity of religion in the US. People are generally quite uncomfortable with a lack of religion. (Which is probably one of the reasons I feel so comfortable in Europe!)

  36. Ah morality is it now? I seem to remember that at the time of her conversion Ms Libresco had fallen in love with a catholic guy and became a catholic because of that. Maybe my memory is faulty – or Ms Libresco’s is?

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