Pope Francis says atheists can be good

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Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis has said in his latest urging that people of all religions, and none, work together.


The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics made his comments in the homily of his morning mass at his residence, a daily event at which he speaks without prepared comments.

He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus.

"Even them, everyone," the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. "We all have the duty to do good," he said.
 

Written By: Reuters
continue to source article at guardian.co.uk

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  1. “Even them..,” said the Pope.

    Eeeeven? Eeeeeeven?

    What condescending balderdash.

    This, coming from a grown man in a silly dress and dunce’s cap who claims to have magical powers from his invisible friend! I will not be talked down to by you, Sir! You can take your redemption and shove it up your Sunday best!

    • In reply to #1 by RDfan:

      “Even them..,” said the Pope.

      Eeeeven? Eeeeeeven?

      What condescending balderdash.

      This, coming from a grown man in a silly dress and dunce’s cap who claims to have magical powers from his invisible friend! I will not be talked down to by you, Sir! You can take your redemption and shove it up your…

      I wonder how many commenters on this thread have read the text of the Pope’s homily, as many of the comments seem to be a knee-jerk response to the Guardian headline rather than the substance of his message which was that “Doing good is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the culture of encounter that is the foundation of peace.” I find nothing to object to in that statement, but perhaps others do.

      So Pope Francis was indicating that the common ground for all humanity is to be found in “doing good” and perhaps even inviting those from diverse “ideologies and religions” to a greater dialogue about what that means. Sadly, but not surprisingly, any goodwill or openness to dialogue is all but absent among most of the comments here.

      We should also bear in mind that Francis was addressing a group largely composed of senior clergy and others involved in running the Vatican – so maybe his intention was for them to follow this particular lead.

      Finally, on the theological point that some have raised; the Catholic church holds that the whole of humanity has been redeemed by Christ, but individuals have to make a free choice to share in that. Some would say that faith alone achieves that – Francis seems to be stressing the point that doing good is perhaps more important.

      • In reply to #48 by Trent:

        No, I think you’re missing the point. The point is this: the Pope, for obvious historical and contemporaneous reasons, holds a powerful position, but it doesn’t follow that he has anything interesting to say. As it is, what he said about atheists being redeemable was interesting, perhaps — for the many deluded people who actually listen to him — but devoid of meaning (as redemption is a fiction).

        His plea for people to meet on the ground of do-gooding is laudable but blindingly obvious, trite even, to secularists — it is the core of secularism. But I agree with you to this extent: perhaps doing good for the sake of it, rather than due to an injunction from the imaginary Great Dictator, is news to the religiously deluded. If the Pope’s comments shed some light in the dim and dark corners of their minds, good.

        But as far as whether the Pope has anything to say that is of relevance to atheists, I will say this — he’s opinions, for that is what they are, hold as much water as any other random person’s opinions. Being a leader of a deluded cult, actually, however, rather undermines whatever he has to say as a non-expert on life, the universe and everything (except, perhaps, regarding chemistry — in which he apparently has qualifications. But he isn’t speaking here as a chemist).

  2. I can imagine the evangelical church I grew up in (who were greatly invested in the idea of people going to hell and saw Catholics as some of the lowest on the low) being pretty unhappy with this article. I imagine many pulpits will be addressing the horrors of the pope’s statement come Sunday. I almost wish I could visit the church just to see if I’m right. ;)

  3. Some Catholics on a site I follow have been quick to point out — and take some consolation in — the fact that it’s entirely possible to be redeemed by Jeebus without being saved from Hell. In other words, everyone was redeemed purely by Jeebus’s act whereas salvation requires effort on the part of we miserable sinners.

  4. Hmmm – the humility and wisdom of the pious. This man is a dangerous clown. Only a fool blessed with gargantuan conceit and an intellect somewhat lower than that of the average primate (monkeys included) could utter such puerile rubbish.

  5. Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good

    Just atheists? Do Catholics get seen that way automatically? Maybe that’s why priests cover up sex scandals without guilt.

    He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus. “Even them, everyone,” the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. “We all have the duty to do good,” he said.

    That’s not the same thing as being redeemed. Redemption doesn’t give you a duty; it gives you forgiveness. The duty to do good is not religious in origin.

    Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point

    Do we have to?

    Francis’s reaching out to atheists and people who belong to no religion is in marked contrast to the attitude of his predecessor, Benedict

    Doesn’t that prove they’re not both infallible?

    who sometimes prompted complaints from non-Catholics that he seemed to see them as second-class believers

    By definition, if two groups of people believe different things, they each have to think they are right and the other is wrong, and therefore have to see the other as second-class in their capacity as believers.

  6. I suspect he might be getting some anxious glances from others in the Catholic machinery, the ones who actually grasp the implications of such a declaration. To state that you do not need belief in god to be redeemed undermines the entire doctrine. Like pointing out that a prescribed medicine is not really necessary to be cured. However, it undermines the doctrine the way in which evolution does: that is, only if you actually pause and think about it. Most believers do not and will not.

    For the huge mass of believers who are invested for reasons other than clarity of doctrine (need for a father figure, family indoctrination, fear of death, love of ceremony and pretty costumes, and just plain ignorance) the remark will not resonate.

    • In reply to #8 by justinesaracen:

      I suspect he might be getting some anxious glances from others in the Catholic machinery, the ones who actually grasp the implications of such a declaration. To state that you do not need belief in god to be redeemed undermines the entire doctrine.

      Yes! Yes! You get it. This is some Nicean S#!t right here. Of course, the big deal is saying virtuous pagans can enter Heaven, but right now “good people” go to Hell all the time (officially). That was the problem with Calvinism and 144,000/Predestination. If believing/faith has no rewards, why bother?

  7. Nice.

    John 3:16 is an effective pair of fangs. My own observation is wavering on the Faith vs. Works kills the flock. It happened to Billy Graham and even Oprah (well, Oprah’s ministry only grows stronger but she did officially become a heretic).

  8. It’s a bit patronising, but it’s a step forward from Ratzinger’s confrontational view of “aggressive secularism” or whatever he called it. Indeed, for a Pope to appear to hold the view that atheists can be good and are not automatically guaranteed a place in hell is possibly verging on heretical, from his church’s point of view.

    Credit where due.

    • In reply to #13 by Fouad Boussetta:

      It’s still an improvement.

      Anyway, what the new Pope said is totally consistent with the New Testament’s parable of the Good Samaritan.

      The New Testament definitely beats the Old Testament.

      So the Pope is just another Sammy lover….

      • In reply to #50 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #13 by Fouad Boussetta:

        It’s still an improvement.

        Anyway, what the new Pope said is totally consistent with the New Testament’s parable of the Good Samaritan.

        The New Testament definitely beats the Old Testament.

        So the Pope is just another Sammy lover….

        best chuckle I’ve had in a while

  9. Yeah, but what does he say when he is asked about how atheists can be good? How do atheists decide how to behave well?

    He’ll probably go with the “God has given all of us have the sense of right and wrong, even atheists” rationalization.

  10. Doesn’t really bother me that somebody has said the made up person might send me to the made up good place instead of the made up bad place if I’m good rather than sending me to the made up good place for worshiping the made up person and giving a tenth of my income to the people who tells me what the made up person thinks or sending me to the made up bad place if I don’t (forever)

    I’d rather do good for goods sake thanks.

  11. All kinds of people can be good. The question is, what is the person’s motivation? Does the person do good for its own sake, or does he or she do it with the expectation of reward or fear of punishment?

  12. As an atheist, I’ve never quite made it a priority to be accepted by the Vatican. If Pope Francis wants to be progressive, then please lets get a move on with exposing child molesters, punishing them according to the full extent of the law, and taking steps to once an for all prevent these occurences. Among many other issues, lets also address the human rights issues such as views on homosexuality, birth control, and condom use.

  13. The chuzpah is gaspifying. Here is the guy who runs the biggest pedophile ring in the world. Who runs the institution that practically invented torture, who works ceaselessly to spread AIDS in Africa and the USA, that to this day conducts exorcisms, that formally calls for murder of homosexualsl…

    How dare he presume he is vastly morally superior to atheists.

  14. It seems the Roman Catholic person who asked if atheists have been redeemed by Jesus, takes for granted that being a Roman Catholic is synonymous of being good. I’ve met many people of this religion who were good, others that didn’t realized the harm they were doing, and many others that were real sons of a bitch. A large number of the latter group were clerics. I’d advice the RC chap so much concerned with the redemption of atheists, to worry about the moral state of the rest of the RC flock. I’m sure the welfare and mental health of thousands of people sexually abused by RC clerics is far more important than the redemption of atheists who, by the way, don’t give much of a damn for this silly thing (redemption). We atheists can take care of ourselves.

    It is extremely disturbing to note that many RC people are not aware of the seriousness of the horror that many children have passed and affected their lives as adults, not counting other horrors in the history of Catholicism. No, for them the only serious problem is if atheists have been redeemed.

  15. One thing we should try to keep in mind… while we are personally offended that the Pope believes he can redeem us… if we ignore that arrogance and think about how his words will affect the religious communities around the world – it becomes much more positive.

    Maybe what we should do is extend our olive branch with the admonishment: We non-believers realize that there are many good Catholics who are moral. We would like you to rise to the occasion and release all the records from the Church concerning pedophilia, corruption, alliance with the Nazis – and ask the rest of the world for your forgiveness.

    • In reply to #33 by Elisabeth Cornwell:

      One thing we should try to keep in mind… while we are personally offended that the Pope believes he can redeem us… if we ignore that arrogance and think about how his words will affect the religious communities around the world – it becomes much more positive.

      Yes, Elisabeth. I would also like to point out that it could give our friends and families who may be Catholic, some comfort to think that we are not necessarily going to Hell. It is only a bit of wiggle room, but if my elderly mother is not going to see her way clear of religion, I am at least happy to see this form of mental cruelty reduced. Through the ages the RCC has done great harm to people by insisting that, even if they make it to Heaven, they will be looking down on their non-Catholic loved ones burning in eternal torment.

  16. Isn’t the pope being unfair to all good Catholics out there who go to church every Sunday and every church holiday, confess their sins, say their prayers, and give themselves a hard time for doubting their faith even for a minute?

  17. Do good? Well at least, unlike Holy Jo, I have contributed half of my genes to the next generation. Biologically, I have served my function of helping the human race to keep going.

    Is there any higher “good” than that?

    Nice to know that Holy Jo appreciates my efforts !

  18. I really hate the leading question “Can you be good without god?”, this is a question we atheists should sneer at.

    It automatically presupposes that ONLY god worshipping people are by default pre-disposed to being good. This is a patronising and insulting when you take into account the character of Yahweh/Allah and his pronouncements as ‘revealed’ in these ‘holy’ scriptures.

    The counter question should be “Can you worship and revere a twisted genocidal maniacal god and still be good?”

    Of course the answer is a resounding “Yes”, but it is largely DESPITE the book, not because of it.

  19. Well, before we all rush over ourselves and start shaking His Holiness’ extended hand, let’s consider this article that appeared on CNN.

    It seems that there is considerable doubt as to exactly what the Pope meant when he said that even atheists could be redeemed. As always with theology, there seems to be more smoke and mirrors than actual fire here.

  20. September 2010: Pope Benedict XVI makes a speech wherein he draws a link between atheism and Nazism.

    May 2013: Pope Francis admits “even” atheists can be good.

    Huh. Apparently, God changed his mind again. Capricious fellow, isn’t he?

  21. The pope is not really conceding anything here as he still believes that we are the progeny of a god and that we are good even if we are atheists because god coded us to be good. Therefore he believes that even atheists must have god somewhere in their hearts and he just likes to believe that we simply deny that we do have god in our souls. The truth of course is that there is no god and that we have evolved social interactions and behaviours that have been beneficial to our survival as a species which includes generally being good people (there are exceptions of course), but it is seeming ‘natural’ law of treating others how we would like to be treated ourselves that has given us ‘goodness’ and not some sky fairy.

  22. In reply to #48 by Trent:

    Finally, on the theological point that some have raised; the Catholic church holds that the whole of humanity has been redeemed by Christ, but individuals have to make a free choice to share in that. Some would say that faith alone achieves that – Francis seems to be stressing the point that doing good is perhaps more important.

    Hmmm,you seem to imply that Pope Francis’ interpretation of Catholic dogma is different to that of the previous RC hierarchy. Is this another case of cherry picking, or is it a case of moving the goalposts, or is it a case of pandering to humankind’s non-religious morality whereby doing good is more important than faith? (which sort of negates the need for religion!)

    Maybe the Pope hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about and is just making it up as he goes along?

    I suspect (and hope) that these are the dying spasms of a mortally wounded church – wounded by the spread of information, the ability of humans to communicate like never before, and the discovery that the Catholic Church and other religions have just been making stuff up for thousands of years. Their only hope appears to be to appeal to the West’s humanist ethics while continuing to enslave its ill-educated followers in the 3rd world through its evil “teachings” on sex, contraception and the human body.

    Good riddance.

    Ps. Ill repeat it again for good measure: You’re saying that the Pope is stressing that doing good is more important than faith. If that is true, and I firmly believe it is, then what use is religion? I suggest you ping the Pope with details of the Clergy Project…

    Al

    • In reply to #49 by alonthemed:

      In reply to #48 by Trent:

      Finally, on the theological point that some have raised; the Catholic church holds that the whole of humanity has been redeemed by Christ, but individuals have to make a free choice to share in that. Some would say that faith alone achieves that – Francis seems to be stres…

      Trent is spot on

      Pope Francis’ interpretation is in line with that of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the redemption of the whole of mankind as published in Lumen Gentium in 1964. Hsrdly cherry picking or pandering to humankind’s non-religious morality.

  23. He implies that atheists can make it to heaven but he doesn’t say that atheists can stay.

    For all I know, theologians could be interpreting this as meaning atheists go to Heaven simply to pick up their tickets to Hell.

    Mike

    • In reply to #52 by Sample:

      He implies that atheists can make it to heaven but he doesn’t say that atheists can stay.

      For all I know, theologians could be interpreting this as meaning atheists go to Heaven simply to pick up their tickets to Hell

      I don’t think the Pope is saying that as he would know that both heaven and hell are fixed and eternal destinies and that transition from one to the other is not possible.

      • In reply to #54 by Trent:

        In reply to #52 by Sample:

        I don’t think the Pope is saying that as he would know that both heaven and hell are fixed and eternal destinies and that transition from one to the other is not possible.

        “The pope would know that both heaven and hell are fixed and eternal destinies”?

        Photographic proof or I don’t believe you. And no sneaky Photoshopping either!

        Al

      • In reply to #54 by Trent:

        In reply to #52 by Sample:

        He implies that atheists can make it to heaven but he doesn’t say that atheists can stay.

        For all I know, theologians could be interpreting this as meaning atheists go to Heaven simply to pick up their tickets to Hell

        I don’t think the Pope is saying that as he would kn…

        You’re taking Sample’s comment seriously?

  24. In reply to #49 by alonthemed:

    In reply to #48 by Trent:

    Hmmm,you seem to imply that Pope Francis’ interpretation of Catholic dogma is different to that of the previous RC hierarchy. Is this another case of cherry picking, or is it a case of moving the goalposts, or is it a case of pandering to humankind’s non-religious morality whereby doing good is more important than faith? (which sort of negates the need for religion!)

    Thank you for your response to my posting. The answer to this question is really “none of the above”. The Catholic Church has consistently held that both faith and good works are necessary for salvation – as the Catechism states “even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not persevere in charity is not saved “. My point about those who claim the sufficiency of faith alone was really a reference to Luther and the protestant reformers (sola scriptura, sola fide etc). Luther even wanted to expunge from the New Testament the Letter of St James (where the need for good works is particularly emphasised). Anyway, I’m running the risk of bringing up a theological debate which is perhaps inappropriate on this site. The point is this – The teaching of the Church is unchanging; the Pope’s role is to apply that teaching in changing human situations and my previous posting suggested that what we are seeing here is an example of that.

  25. Its just another patronising attempt by religion to act as if they are above human society and declare their opinion on someone beneath them….Give it the response it deserves and ignore the corruptors – We dont need validation from anyone about our truths, let alone from the so called head honcho…Don’t take the bait fellow athiests – they are just trying to incite angst…we must focus on not reacting to stupid religious rhetoric we dont even care about it… let alone believe it…

  26. In reply to #53 by Trent:

    In reply to #49 by alonthemed:

    In reply to #48 by Trent:

    Thank you for your response to my posting. The answer to this question is really “none of the above”. The Catholic Church has consistently held that both faith and good works are necessary for salvation – as the Catechism states “even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not persevere in charity is not saved “. My point about those who claim the sufficiency of faith alone was really a reference to Luther and the protestant reformers (sola scriptura, sola fide etc). Luther even wanted to expunge from the New Testament the Letter of St James (where the need for good works is particularly emphasised). Anyway, I’m running the risk of bringing up a theological debate which is perhaps inappropriate on this site. The point is this – The teaching of the Church is unchanging; the Pope’s role is to apply that teaching in changing human situations and my previous posting suggested that what we are seeing here is an example of that.

    So, let me get this straight..you’re saying that the news item you have commented on as being a change in the current Pope’s position is actually not news and it has been Catholic doctrine forever?

    Does this mean that the last Pope got it totally wrong then?

    And how do you know this one has got it right? How do you know that faith alone isn’t enough to be saved? Luther believed that once you were saved then was no going back, no matter what one did….how do you know he wasn’t right?

    Do you not see the hypocrisy/irony/facepalm moment here? You can follow whichever sect/cult you like, but the chances of it being true are minuscule at best. Any kind of theological debate (especially the Sophisticated TM ones) is always pointless because the basic premise is so highly unlikely that any combination of highly unlikely multiplied by logarithmic levels of speculation are almost guaranteed to lead to a nonsensical answer.

    Regardless, I think we all agree that doing good things is good. It is unfortunate however that the Pope’s view of good things and mine would likely differ. I’ll give you an example:

    I believe that distributing condoms in Africa helps prevent aids and also prevents the enslavement of women in the 3rd world. I think this is a good thing. I’d be pretty sure the Pope would not agree with me on this. I have used evidence to come to this conclusion. The Pope has used scripture and pseudoscience to come to his. This proves to me that religion is not even capable of deciding what is a GOOD thing, let alone whether doing this GOOD thing is any help in the eyes of a god or gods and whether it will lead to salvation or even if salvation actually exists and even if salvation does exist is it better than the alternative bla bla bla.

    Any amount of Testament and Catechism quoting can not mask the complete irrelevance of the Catholic Church, and any religion for that matter.

    Al

    • In reply to #62 by Quine:

      In reply to #61 by Quine:

      P.S. I go into more detail about this on a corresponding thread at the Catholic site “Strange Notions” in case anyone has further interest.

      I went back to the thread and read many (309 is a bit of an ask) of the comments.Those by the RC supporters were unbelievable! Discussion about the moral status of Mary vs Eve! Are they kidding! I find it difficult to think that these notions are the result of reasoning by grown-ups. I’d be embarrassed to be associated with such nonsense. How deluded must they be, to consider that pondering such inane concepts is a worthy way to spend one’s time.

    • In reply to #63 by Nitya:

      62 Quine

      I read the article. Interesting! Were you the Quine asking the first question? I think the questions took a downturn after that, though I didn’t read them all.

      Last I looked there were 309 comments, and I am in and out in more than one part of that thread. The way DISQUS is set there makes it very hard to follow the order of comments, so I am not sure where, exactly.

  27. Apparently the Pope departed from the script

    On Thursday, the Vatican issued an “explanatory note on the meaning to ‘salvation.’”

    The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”

    At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”

    Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.

    He was complaining about bankers the other day. I wonder how long he will be allowed to stay in the job if he keeps doing this.

    Michael

  28. This is just backwards theist thinking!

    He is wishfully hoping that “god” will be redeemed in the minds of atheists!

    (Due to theist blinkers and tunnel vision, they never understand the wider view the “enlightenment” of scientific atheism)

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