Erstwhile atheist blogger Leah Lebresco is a profound and engaging thinker whose writing I had been following for a short while. She and my daughter were college classmates, graduating last May, and I used to enjoy her opinion pieces in the Yale Daily News. In recent months she has been holding forth in "Unequally Yoked," her blog devoted mostly to discussions of atheism and morality--until this past Monday, that is, when she announced she had converted to Catholicism. Of all things.
In reaction to this inexplicable turn, a humanist blogger at "Temple of the Future" has written, " . . . religions offer a vast range of resources to assist people who are grappling with just the sort of ethical, philosophical and existential questions which Libresco is struggling with. It is surely significant that at the moment of her conversion she immediately began to pray, using the liturgical resources of the Catholic Church to support her transition in belief.
"To an extent, then, I think Humanists need to consider whether we are in part responsible for losing people like Leah Libresco. If we want to keep intellectually honest, morally engaged people committed to Humanist principles, we need to engage more energetically and more publicly with moral and ethical questions. and provide resources for those who are profoundly committed to seeking moral truth. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing more to the Catholics."
I don't know about that. Leah has been searching for a logic of morality. She can't accept, it seems, that there may not be one. On Facebook, when I wrote her in January to say, " . . . with respect to your attachment to the notion of objective morality, you'll be interested in checking in now and then with Jerry Coyne, whose Web site has a considerable--and articulate--following. (Russell Blackford and Ophelia Benson are strong in this area as well), she replied, "I'm always confused by the idea that morality is the result of an evolutionary process. Evolution tends to preserve stable local optima, but it doesn't have an orientation toward ethics. To wit: the courtship-by-infanticide model is stable for gorillas, even though it is horrific. But by evolutionary metrics, that's all that's required." Over at Blag Hag, Jen has written, addressing Leah, "I’m seriously disappointed. Of all religions to join, you choose Catholicism? One of the most despicable, nonsensical, homophobic, misogynistic religions on the planet? Because of its system of morality? I could understand saying you’re converting to deism or unitarianism or maybe even buddhism, but Catholicism?" That's my feeling, too, but this one comes as a shock, and as you can imagine the Catholics are delighted, applauding her for "coming home," even though her New York cultural tradition is secular (Jewish). Ah well. This is altogether bewildering to me. And the reaction to this perverse turn among other like-minded bloggers has been strong. Even MSNBC has felt moved to weigh in with a news piece, "Atheist blogger Leah Libresco converts to Christianity," where this quote appears: "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."
Over at Big Think, Adam Lee has posted some excellent "Questions for Leah Libresco." I have the same questions.
Be sure to see Jerry Coyne this morning on "sophisticated theology": "the world's worst advice."
He has a very true ending paragraph, I probably should stop copying Andrew Sullivan posts on Sunday
To study theology might not require faith, but I doubt it requires empathy, either. The main requirement is an infinite tolerance for reading stuff that’s simply made up by people with fancy degrees. Oh, and you have to be able to wade through the worst prose, and the worst logic, in the world
That is a very nice read and the comments equally great
Yes, Jerry Coyne is worth following.
I follow his blog website and I saw comments that I can only guess must be by you since you have a similar gravatar but I can't be sure since I have seen quite a number of WP sites with a gravatar similar to the one I use