An Ivy League Stoic’s Search for the Good & True – Leah Libresco’s Story

Jul 8, 2022

Side B Stories
Side B Stories
An Ivy League Stoic's Search for the Good & True - Leah Libresco's Story

Former atheist Leah Libresco rejected religious belief until she encountered intelligent Christians at Yale University. Her search to find the grounding of objective morality led her to God.

Resources written by Leah:

Resources/authors mentioned by Leah:

  • CS Lewis
  • GK Chesterton
  • Allister McIntyre, After Virtue

Episode Transcript

Hello, and thanks for joining in. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to Side B Stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast, we listen to someone who has once been an atheist who became a Christian against all odds. You can also hear today’s story, along with other short video testimonies from former atheists, on our Side B Stories website. 

Oftentimes, we think that atheists have nothing in common with those who believe in God, but that’s not necessarily true. Both points of view can equally acknowledge the existence of certain parts of reality, but they have different explanations about what something is and how it came to be. One of those hot topics of debates between atheists and Christians is something we all have a very deep intuition about, that there are certain things or actions in our world that are really right or really wrong, not merely for ourselves but for everyone.

As C.S. Lewis says, if someone cuts in line, we automatically think that’s unfair according to some commonly understood rule or standard of fairness, and that’s certainly the case for much more serious points of injustice.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to consider whether or not certain things are more like vices or virtues.  In our own minds, we are constantly making judgments about whether or not something or another should or should not be the case, whether or not someone ought or ought not to do something. We simply can’t help ourselves in the way that we are constantly judging.  The problem is not that we can’t or don’t know what’s right or wrong. The problem isn’t even that we aren’t capable of living good lives with or without God. The problem is, rather, where we ground those moral duties and obligations as true and real, not merely opinion or preference. 

From an atheist household, Leah Libresco learned to critically analyze ideas from a very early age, fostered into her Ivy League education and beyond. Her intellect drove her to deeply consider the seeming difficulties that lie with the problem of objective morality. It led her to reconsider God. Let’s listen to her story: 

Welcome to the Side B Stories Podcast, Leah. It’s so great to have you with me today. 

Thank you so much for having me.

Leah, so the audience knows who you are, a little bit about you, your education, why don’t you give us an idea of where you live. Are you married? Do you have children? Any of that. 

Yeah. I grew up in New York. I went to Yale University, where I studied political science, and now I live in northern Virginia with my husband and our two daughters.

Oh, wonderful! Wonderful. So let’s start back… You said that you were born or grew up in Long Island? Is that right? 

That’s right.

All right! So you’re from the big city. So why don’t you walk us back to the early part of your life and growing up. Tell me about your family, about your culture. Was God any part of that picture at all? 

I’m from about 40 minutes by train outside the big city. So growing up, that was definitely a big part of my life. I’d go to the Museum of Natural History for my birthday almost every year. But my family wasn’t religious, and I grew up in a community that was mostly nonreligious. I think there probably were some people of faith in the surrounding community, but not in a way I noticed. I didn’t know anyone who believed in God personally that I knew of.

So it just wasn’t part of your world at all.

It was part of my world, in that I knew there were people who were Christians in the world, but not knowing any personally, that meant Christianity was mostly relevant to my life when it made the news, and that was usually in a bad way.

Ah, ah. Yes. That seems to happen a lot, where Christianity gets a very uniquely distorted picture from the news and from the arts many times, and it sounds like you grew up in a very culturally enriched environment, but also heard, obviously, things from the news and that sort of thing about faith or Christians or Christianity. Did you say that you were raised a secular Jew? 

My family is Jewish in our background, but it’s long enough since anyone practiced that we don’t remember the last person to practice. So my family was Jewish by heritage but not particularly in practice in any way.

Okay, so it was more of a cultural, like affiliation, but you didn’t practice the high holy days or any of that. 

No. The closest we got is that we watched the Shari Lewis Chanukah on TV, which I assumed everyone watched growing up, but I have the impression that may not be true.

Okay. So growing up in this environment, you had religion, I guess, as part of the cultural background, and you had bits and pieces of religion in your culture, I guess, with regard to just what happened in the city or in your environment. What did you think religion was growing up? Obviously, it wasn’t for you or for your family. What was it in your mind? 

I thought it was a mistake. I thought it was a mistake people held onto for a long time, in the same way you can have a theory of disease or a theory of physics that’s outmoded, but it takes a while for people to be comfortable with the truth that we understand better. You know, even in what you’d think of as a hard science, like astrophysics, there will be a long transition where people who are very invested in an old model of the world don’t find a new model satisfying. And that’s kind of what I thought Christians were, people who had a false model of the world and who were having trouble adjusting to a true, newer model.

So it was an outmoded way of thinking about reality, about the world. Is that something that was informed, not only by your family, but by your education as well? Were you interested in the world of ideas? What shaped your thinking about all of that? 

Absolutely! Well, I was a teenager during kind of the heyday of the New Atheists, of people like Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc., and I think a lot of the way they wrote was really focused on the threat of religion, the sense that religion wasn’t just wrong in a passive, ignorable way, but it changed people’s lives for the worse. It kind of focused on flash points of conflict, teaching evolution in public schools in some parts of the country, and that made it feel more urgent as an error to correct than just a different mistake people might make.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it, because certainly the New Atheists were very strong in their rhetoric against religion, that it was a poisonous thing that needed to be extricated from society, that it was not good for, I guess, mankind or for the world. Did you affiliate basically with their ideas? Did you believe in the way that they believed in this anti-theist kind of way? 

I definitely did. And I will say they pay religion a kind of compliment that people who don’t believe but are willing just to tolerate it don’t, which is that they think religion makes serious claims that matter, that change your life, and if the under-girding logic for those claims isn’t true, then those ways you’d change your life don’t work. And in some ways I find that, now as a Christian, still more respectful than just saying, as someone did to me after I converted, “Well, whatever makes you happy.” And I said, “I don’t care what makes me happy. I care what’s true, and I would hope that, as my friend, you’d care about that for me also.”

Right. So truth was important for you, even as someone who especially as someone who was intellectually minded, who pursued not only your education in a serious way, but truth was very important to your life and the way you thought about things. Why don’t you talk with me a little bit about that, especially as you’re moving in towards higher education and how you made sense of reality in a sense? we all want to make sense of reality, intellectually, existentially, we want to embrace a worldview that makes sense of our worldview and of our world in a comprehensive way that matches with what we know and experience. And you are a very thoughtful kind of brilliant mind, I think, who was pursuing those kinds of things. So tell us a little bit about that. Walk us through who you were more intellectually. 

Well, it’s funny because in some ways, looking back, I see the movement of the Holy Spirit in things like my math classes. Because math was a place where I was really getting to dig deeply into hard questions about what’s real. What’s at the bedrock of what’s real. That’s not always how math is taught, which is a shame, because math is a philosophical proposition, as well as a set of formulas. Its claims about how do we know what’s true? How can we best explore it? And I loved that! It felt urgent and exciting and beautiful and difficult. And it had that sense that it does take work. These questions aren’t easy to answer, but you can be part of a tradition that’s exploring them. You can have a shared set of tools, a shared way of deciding, “These are our axioms. Here’s how we can extend from them to figure out the next true thing we can uncover.” I think the core thing I got from mathematics, which then I brought to philosophy also, was that when we look for the truth, we’re like archaeologists. We’re uncovering something that’s already been laid out before us and trying to make sure we don’t damage it or misinterpret it as we pick it up. We’re not architects who get to build things to suit ourselves. Everything we receive is a gift.

So you were not necessarily of the postmodern ilk of creating your own truth or believing in relative truth as it were, but rather you were discovering truth, like in mathematics. That it was something to be found and not something to be created. That is a very, I would say, intellectually honest pursuit towards truth, and really, in a sense, almost counter-cultural to what was happening in the postmodern world, but you speak of things like math, which was a little bit more, I guess, objective in its nature. But I’m curious, too, as you’re moving along, and I presume that you identified as an atheist. Is that right? 


In your atheism, as someone who pursues truth, a pursuer of truth, did you look at the existential or even intellectual implications of your own worldview? As you were pursuing these kind of grander and almost abstract concepts in philosophy and in math, what about the existential implications of atheism and naturalism or materialism or whatever you worldview you embraced? 

Well, this is where I found parts of the New Atheist movement a little dissatisfying. Because I’d say that a lot of the people participating in it in good faith were focused primarily on shoring up defenses against religion, or on arguing people out of religion. I think that came from a feeling of being very embattled in America, that people felt so under threat as atheists that there was no room for what you might think of as the luxury of expanding their own philosophy, articulating their own view. It was just about clearing space. But I felt we had some space, and that, if you were going to try to argue people out of religion, you had to argue them into something else. Being an atheist wasn’t my philosophical identity because you can’t simply not believe in something as your creed. What I was initially was someone who was a deontologist stoic. I was interested in an articulation of moral law that was really rules based, rather than outcome based. What’s the right thing to do, no matter what happens, and I cared a lot about what’s in my control? How do I not become attached to things that aren’t in my control and focus all my efforts on where I can make a difference?

And so what was frustrating at the broader atheist movement is it didn’t seem interested enough in what I thought was the really fascinating question. I thought religion was a boring question, so I wanted more space to argue about how should we live our lives? Where do we acquire our sense of the good? How do we fight each other about where those senses differ, so that we can uncover the truth collaboratively, if pugilistically.

Did you ever see any religious people engaging in a deep way in those kinds of discussions? If you got bits and pieces of religion based upon political or perhaps provocative statements or caricaturing in the wider culture, what did you think of Christians? And again, were they engaging in these kinds of deep discussions?

Well, this is where I really lucked out. Because when I went to Yale I joined a political debating group that wasn’t what you might think of as a debate team, where you’re assigned sides at random and you’re kind of seeing how well you can argue for any given idea. This was a philosophical debating circle, where people were arguing only for what they actually believed, because the goal was to change people’s minds, and it was be terrible to argue so well for something you thought was false you changed someone’s mind to that!


And so that was where I was meeting really interesting, smart Christians, who obviously didn’t believe their faith just out of an obligation to their parents or unaware of questions people might ask about it. Some of them were also converts who had considered it and then cleaved to it, and I was given such a gift in spending every Thursday night and every Tuesday night—we met twice a week—arguing until late in the night about any kind of philosophical or ethical question and seeing how people thought about it. And what under-girded their philosophy.

So were you surprised that there were serious-minded Christians who actually thought deeply about these things? Because I know, again, there’s oftentimes a negative stereotyping or caricaturing of who Christians are, and I wonder if any of those negative stereotypes were broken down by actually meeting someone who was so other than what you expected. 

I was surprised. And I also had the benefit of learning the gap between what my Christian friends actually believed and some of the lowest common denominator rebuttals to Christianity that were prevalent among New Atheists. There were ways in which, as I talked to friends, especially Catholic friends, about, “Well, how do you sort out, if everyone has different interpretations of the Bible, how do you have any trust that you’re right?” What they articulated about the magisterium and tradition sounded more like what I was used to in mathematics. You know, we have a long history of how we interpret this. We have processes for adjudicating what’s right. Figuring out something new if someone poses a new question takes a while because we’re cautious about what we articulate as true because we have this deposit of faith it’s our duty to safeguard, not just kind of spout off about.

So obviously, you were able to appreciate, I guess, with this meaningful debate, that the history of Christianity or belief in God has some substance and some longevity and some, I guess, long intentionality, that these concepts and ideas have been discussed and thought about for a long time now. Of course, that in and of itself doesn’t make it true, and you are a truth seeker. So I’m curious. As you were going through these debates on Thursday nights, was it making you question your own view of reality or truth? Or was it opening you towards some potential other explanations of reality? 

I think one of the things that really changed for me is I didn’t think Christianity was self refuting, which is what I would have said, that the claims were incoherent. They didn’t hold together. That you had to ignore big gaps to remain a Christian if you looked at it. And instead, I didn’t think it was true, but gradually, especially through reading C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, who both made a big difference to me. I thought of it as something that held together from the inside that I thought still was false, but it’s the difference almost between a well-written fantasy or sci-fi book, where you could imagine that that whole world works. It isn’t true. It isn’t where we live. We’re not in this intergalactic civilization, but it feels real, versus the ones that kind of feel thin, that the author didn’t think it all the way through. You can’t imagine the story could continue outside the confines of the book because it isn’t well thought through. It isn’t a full, rich world. And Christianity shifted for me from being one of those kind of schlock y books to being something that could work if it were true. And there were even parts I found attractive about it, but I didn’t think it was true, and I could never believe in something, no matter how well constructed, if it wasn’t founded on truth.

And meanwhile, my own atheism, as I explored it, as I tussled with my friends, it had gaps. It had questions it didn’t answer well, but there was nothing in it I thought was false, so I kind of had the juxtaposition of what you almost might think of as a beautiful, filigreed clock, all put together very well, with centuries of labor, to see how you can get the pieces to inter-mesh, that wasn’t on, that wasn’t running, that wasn’t true, animated by something true, and that was Catholicism. And then on the other hand, I had this patchwork sail with big rents in it and ugly seams, and that was my atheism, but there was nothing in it I didn’t believe. And I figured I had a great deal of the rest of my life to try and make sure I kept working on it and filled in the gaps.

Now, this patchwork sail. You said that there were some rented areas, I guess you could say, of fabric that were a little bit more difficult to take, or really, I guess, understand. Or unanswered questions. Were there any that were so unsettling that it caused you to look beyond atheism? I mean, at the time, it sounds like you really believed that it was true. It just wasn’t perhaps as comprehensive of an explanation as you wanted. What were the tears in the fabric for you?

I think one of the unsettling things was when I moved beyond what I said. Deontology was where I started. A sense of what are the rules? How do you derive these rules? And a certain belief you can derive them logically. You can follow something like the categorical imperative. Whatever I do has to be something I could will for everyone to do. It can’t be a special rule just for me. But I found that that wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted, in part because I realized—and this is partly my own faults and my own sinfulness at the time—because I cared so much about doing the right thing, especially when it was hardest, I found that I was sort of rooting for other people to be bad, so that I could be best! Because it doesn’t feel like there’s as much virtue in being kind to someone who’s kind to you. It feels more satisfying to go, “I’m extremely kind to someone who is unpleasant to me.” And so I wanted to be able to distinguish my virtue in a way that I realized didn’t work. Didn’t work according to the very standards that I cared about, of universalizing things, of not treating myself as a special moral actor.

And I wound up more and more attracted to the claims of virtue ethics, which, instead of kind of starting from a rule book and just how well can I follow the rules, says, “How well can I become the person I am meant to be?” It’s a teleological view. It’s aimed at something. It doesn’t require that morality is something that’s so hard but we do it anyway. It says, in some senses, what I’m made for. And I read a book, After Virtue, by Alasdair Macintyre, that was making this case. It was very moving. I was so excited. I took it, at the time, to the Catholic friend I was most often talking about these questions with, and I said, “Well, this is what I believe. This is what I want to work on as an atheist,” and he said, “Well, you know Macintyre became Catholic, right? He didn’t find that this worked.” And I was so mad, at Macintyre specifically. For giving up. And I was like, “Well, I’m not going to wuss out like Macintyre did. I’m going to keep developing this theory of virtue ethics as an atheist.” Of course, you know where this ended up for me also.

So how far along did you go along that trail? Of really trying to kick against the goads as it were? It strikes me funny, too. You speak of, especially in your deontology, that it didn’t feel good to be kind to someone who was just kind to you, but you wanted to be able to love your enemies, or something to that effect. I wonder if Jesus’ ethics even came into that somewhere along the way. It’s like, “Wow! It sounds like your desires were something along the lines of the difficult ethics of Jesus.” 

I think you’re giving me too much credit, though, because of course when you love your enemy, you love your enemy for their sake, or even for God’s sake, for loving them the way God’s loves them. But I wanted to love them in the sense of, and then I will be so strong. It’s almost virtuous bench pressing, right? Like loving my enemies is bench pressing 500 pounds, and I want to do that. I don’t just want to love nice people, so it’s just the bar, empty.

Right, right. So, again, you were frustrated that Macintyre actually relented in some way, that he betrayed you in some way and became a Catholic, a believer in God. So then you wanted to become this stalwart defender of virtue ethics. So where did that take you? 

Well, so ultimately it took me to what felt like, not a dead end, but a wall I couldn’t see my way past. Something I had to build something new or uncover something new to get over. And that problem was that, if virtue ethics is teleological, if it’s aimed at something, the question is, “Where do I get the sense of who I’m meant to be?” This sense of the final end of man. That’s a different way of framing morality than just, “Let me think logically about what’s fair to everyone.” And that was where I got stuck. Because it felt like morality was a lot like math, which is how I’d felt the whole time in some way. It was real. It was separate from me. It was transcendent. And the question was: How do I come to have knowledge of it?

For math, I didn’t think it was that weird. You’ll find people who disagree, but I found the old kind of Plato explanation pretty satisfying. I can look around the world. I can see my two hands. I can see my two shoes, and go, “Well, my hands and my shoes are of different types, but there’s something that’s the same about them, and it’s that there’s two of each of them. There’s some separate thing that they participate in, and it’s bigger than them. It’s the concept of two itself.” And I found this satisfying for math. You can kind of sneak your way that way into getting the natural numbers, and then if you have the natural numbers, one, two, three, etc., you can get to basically anywhere else in math from there. It just takes a really long time. But it felt like there was a foundation. These things are different than the physical world. I can see them in the physical world, but they’re more than just that.

And when it came to morality, I didn’t have a good way to get there. I thought, “I can claim that I’m doing it the same way.” I can say, “Well, I see someone defrauding an old woman, and I see someone kicking a puppy, and I go, ‘How are these things alike? They both participate in the form of injustice.’” And I think they do, but I don’t think that’s how I work it out. And I couldn’t say with a straight face that was how. The numbers are a lot more obvious than injustice. It didn’t feel like I worked it out by comparing, “How are these things similar?” but like I already knew something about injustice and recognized it in each of them. And the problem was, “How do I know?” “How do I, someone who’s not transcendent, come to have knowledge of the transcendent?” 

So that was a conundrum for you. A turning point or a pivoting because, when you’re dealing with these transcendent concepts and realities, like you say, that’s one thing, and as you’re speaking, too, I’m also thinking the teleological nature even of virtue ethics, it’s going somewhere. And that also is a transcendently grounded kind of concept even, rather than things just are. 


There’s an ought-ness. There’s a way things ought to be. And that’s how we know how to go from A to B, or that we’re getting better, in a sense, or progressing. So I can see, from an atheistic perspective, your worldview breaking down. Somehow these tears and rents are getting larger and more difficult for you. So was this a turning point then, at which you said, “Okay, there has to be a transcendent source. There has to be something more, someone more.” 

Well, it’s kind of funny because it was a… This was the thing that made a turning point possible, but that was kind of a simmering problem. I thought, “I’ll just keep reading. I’ll keep discussing. I’ll see what I can do with this,” and then the bigger moment that this was laying the groundwork for kind of came when I was back at college, after I’d graduated, for an alumni debate. And I just had such a strange feeling while I was there. We weren’t debating a topic related specifically to religion. But I could tell that I sounded like the Catholics, even though they were on different sides of the resolution. It wasn’t that they all believed the same thing. It was a topic like “resolve nationalize the curriculum.” It was something that’s prudential. People can be on different sides. But what they were appealing to and the way they reasoned all sounded similar. They were part of one conversation, and so was I! Which was weird! And I could tell, kind of, if you came into the room and didn’t know anything about religion, and you were just trying to group people in the room based on, “Who sounds like they agree on the fundamentals here?” that I was with them, and this bothered me.

I bet! 

So after the debate, it kept bothering me, and we were having a toasting session, where we make toasts, we pass around a big cup, and I just had the impulse that I should toast the Nicene creed and become Catholic. And that didn’t really make any sense to me, and I thought out, “Well, that’s crazy. Because first of all, I don’t think I know the whole Nicene creed by heart. Second of all, I think toasting the Nicene creed at a debating event is actually not how you become Catholic. Of course, you go through a process of RCIA, and if I were going to become Catholic, I should do it in a Catholic way, not in a weird debate culture way. And third, I don’t believe in God.” And come to think of it, three should have really been one. I don’t know what that was doing as last on my list. And that night, I gave some other cop-out toast. I was just troubled by this. And what was worst is, three months later, I came back for another alumni debate. We have them a lot because we’re all weirdos. And the same thing was happening to me during the debate, that same feeling of which side I was on. So I skipped toasting. I didn’t want to go to toasting. Because I thought, “I don’t want the same stupid problem again.” And so I kind of laid out for him what I’ve been talking to you about, this problem of, “I’m more certain that morality is transcendent. I’m not willing to let go of that, but I can’t articulate how I come to have knowledge of it, and that’s where I’m stuck.”

And so did he, through your conversation, help you resolve this? Or come to a place of awareness or decision? 

Well, what was great is that, I’d been talking through what I talked through with you, that sense of, “Well, I have this feeling about how this can work for math and not about how it works for ethics,” and Ben said, finally, “Well, you’ve kind of gone over with me what doesn’t work for you, but there doesn’t feel like there’s any point in wallowing in that, or continuing to explore it. No matter what, you need to think of something new. So if it’s not that kind of platonic ladder building up, what do you want to think about next?” And I’d spent so much time kind of working the problem over and over in the same place, that that space of freedom to just think of something else… I said, without really thinking about it, “I guess morality just loves me or something.”

That’s an unusual statement. 

It is! And Ben looked pretty pleased when I said it, but I really needed a second then, to sit with it. I’d said it, but did I believe it? And the more I sat with it, the more I did, that if there’s something I have that I can’t reach myself, then I can’t give up the truth that I hold. The question is, “How do I have it?” If I can’t build something up, then it must’ve com e down to me. And once I’m talking about morality that way, I can’t be talking about some kind of inert rule book, because a rule book doesn’t move, right? I’m talking about the form of the good no longer just as a static form, but as an agent, something that acts. And so once I’m talking about goodness itself in some sense as a being that acts, that not just acts or moves but loves, that does this for me. I could recognize who was talking about. Goodness itself lowering Himself to take the form of the slave for my sake personally, for yours personally. I knew I was talking about God and not in some broad encyclopedia entry of God, but I was talking about the incarnation.

Well, that’s a tremendous shift. I mean, that realization that morality loves. I would say that that was a major shift in your understanding and even acceptance of that new way of really looking at the source of morality itself. So I presume that was a turning point for you. 

It was. The next morning was the first time I ever went to church as someone who believed it was true. I’d gone with friends in college, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with it, but that night with Ben was the night before Palm Sunday, and so then I went to church the next day believing that it was God there on the altar, that we were talking about historical truths of what had happened in the entrance into Jerusalem and then what happened after that. That was kind of the conversion of heart of coming to believe that God was, but the preparation to enter the church and kind of the constant conversion that makes up anyone’s life is now not just believing that God is, but knowing Him, spending time with Him, developing a friendship with Him, in a way that even I, as a big math enthusiast, can’t say that I have a personal relationship with the Pythagorean theorem. That was really a big shift also. From, as an atheist, wrestling with the question of God as an intellectual proposition, versus, once that had been settled, coming to know Him.

So as a truth seeker you not only pursued truth as a proposition but truth as a person now, it sounds like. But now you’ve somehow embraced a story which some, I guess, atheists would say, “Well, it’s still not real, and it’s still not true,” but for you it sounds like it is. That it is the true story of reality. Is that what I’m hearing from you? 

Well, except that I would never say, “For me, it’s true.” What’s true is true for everyone. What changed wasn’t what was true for me but what I understood about the world, but everything that’s true was already true. It’s just a question of whether I know about it yet.

Oh, oh. That’s wonderful. Well, this has been a very insightful conversation. I think your conversion from atheism to Christianity is obviously very intellectual, but it’s also very, very personal. As we’re wrapping up, because it sounds like you’ve had a tremendous life change but that there are also very skeptical intellectual atheists who are listening to this podcast. If you had something to say to them in terms of their own pursuit of what is true, what words would you have to offer for them? 

I think the encouraging thing is it’s always worth pursuing what’s true and that you can turn to your friends as a way of exploring ideas, of really delving into tough questions in a way that will strengthen your friendship. I was friends with a great number of Catholics before I converted. I’m still friends with a number of people who aren’t. And in all those cases, as long as we were arguing with the sense of we both love the truth and we want to live in the truth together, exploring those questions made us closer friends. It didn’t pull us apart.

I think there’s a real maturity and grace that comes with that ability to discuss and to debate even ideas without it being a negative exercise, and you obviously have the grace and the intellect to be able to do that well, and I think we can all learn from you in that.

And for the Christians who are listening, obviously we can all take a cue from what you just said to the skeptic, but did you want to add anything with regard to how you would encourage Christians to engage with atheists or nonbelievers? In a sense, Ben did a beautiful job, I think, in leading you to think more deeply about your own ideas. What would you say to the Christian? 

I think it’s to be confident that God is working in everyone’s life and is calling them by name. And in my case, that calling didn’t look like a calling to church for me. It looked like an interest in mathematics, but looking for wherever your friend is ardently pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful, strengthening that desire, and then really not so much trying to divert them from that but to say, “I have something even more to offer you.” I wanted to know what was good and what was true. And I didn’t think there was a person behind it. I would have been satisfied with a rule book! And the surprise is that God is always responding to our desires for something bigger and better than what we think we’re pursing when we aren’t pursuing Him.

That’s really wonderful. Well, Leah, thank you again so much for giving of your time and telling us your story, and I know that there are some ways that, when people are listening, they’ll want to know more or hear more about you, and we will include some of those contact points in our episode notes. If you want to add something here, you’re more than welcome. 

Yeah, so after I converted, I had that conversion of the intellect, I did write a book, Arriving at Amen, that’s more about the conversion of heart that followed, of learning to pray, learning to think with God instead of just to think about God. And then, a little while after that, I’ve written a second book called, Building the Benedict Option, and that’s about building deeper Christian community wherever you are. Something you can do in the next 4-6 weeks, not something that has to wait for everything in your life to be settled.

Those sound like wonderful resources, and we will definitely include those in the episode notes, as well as any websites or connections with you. Thank you again, Leah, for coming on. It’s been a true blessing. 

Thank you so much for having me.

Oh, you’re welcome. Thanks for tuning in to Side B Stories to hear Leah’s story. You can find out more about Leah by visiting her website at We’ll include this website, along with her books, in our episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can reach me by email at I hope you enjoyed it, that you’ll rate, subscribe, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where another skeptic will flip the record of their life. 

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