Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

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American atheists welcomed Pope Francis’ comments that God redeems nonbelievers, saying that the new pontiff's historic outreach is helping to topple longstanding barriers.


“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”

Francis continued, “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said that although he has been skeptical of Francis' outreach to the nonreligious, he welcomed Wednesday’s comments.

“I gather from this statement that his view of the world's religious and philosophical diversity is expanding,” Speckhardt said. “While humanists have been saying for years that one can be good without a god, hearing this from the leader of the Catholic Church is quite heartening."

He continued, “If other religious leaders join him, it could do much to reduce the automatic distrust and discrimination that atheists, humanists, and other nontheists so regularly face. “

Francis’ comments received a great deal of attention on social media, with a number of people asking whether the Catholic leader believes that atheists and agnostics go to heaven, too.

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

Written By: Dan Merica
continue to source article at religion.blogs.cnn.com

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  1. What an evil thought!
    To think, that all believers in heaven are just waiting for the first atheist to join them so they can say “Told you so!” Is discomforting.

    What do I have to do to finally go to hell? It’s getting harder all the time thanks to that wa..er 2000 years ago.
    But maybe heaven is atheists hell.
    Thank’s pope jerk off the IIV! Now I’m afraid to die!

    • In reply to #1 by nongorilla1:

      What an evil thought!
      To think, that all believers in heaven are just waiting for the first atheist to join them so they can say “Told you so!” Is discomforting.

      What do I have to do to finally go to hell? It’s getting harder all the time thanks to that wa..er 2000 years ago.
      But maybe heaven is at…

      Well maybe if it was all real it would be a worry! Die with impunity,knowing that you’ll never meet any of them anywhere! They’ll be worm food, the same as everyone else!

  2. So if doing good is all that’s required then what’s with all the fancy buildings, silly clothes and singing bland songs in a high pitched voice?

    And what exactly is this ‘doing good’ of which you speak? Is that lying to people in Africa about AIDS? Running over abortion doctors? I don’t want to do those things.

    Oh, wait, I see. An explanatory note has been issued by the Vatican which baldly contradicts the pope’s statement. The pope says we’ll meet up over there (presumably heaven) if I do good but don’t believe, the Vatican states that I can’t be saved if I’m aware of the Catholic church but don’t join it.

    So I can get to heaven if I don’t believe… but only if I believe.

    Man, that’s….. sophisticated.

  3. Dant’e wrote of this concept in his poem “The Divine Comedy” I won’t say more for I found someone has penned it already..

    “In Plato’s Apology, Socrates speaks movingly about the prospects of his imminent death. He finds no reason for alarm over his upcoming demise, as he sees two possibilities beyond the grave: the first is blissful unawareness and the utter destruction of consciousness, the second is an afterlife in which all souls of the dead would be able to socialize, converse, and generally pal around together.. Socrates says:

    What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? … What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leader of the great Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and women too?

    According to The Divine Comedy, it is the second scenario that is the fate for Socrates, for there he is, in the First Circle of Hell, with other great minds and heroes from the classical world – the likes of Homer, Ovid, Aristotle, Democritus, Aeneas and Hector. And just as he anticipated, it isn’t a bad life (or afterlife), but it isn’t heaven, either. The residents here are in Limbo: they are not tortured, burned, maimed, or harassed by demons. They are left to share each other’s company and certainly must have a number of stimulating discourses. (It always seemed that, given how the treatment in the Vestibule is so much worse than that in Limbo, that they should be reversed.) But these souls are yet denied the pleasures of Paradise, and this is something that these ancient worthies are aware of, and which they no doubt commiserate over.’

    The reason they find themselves “in limbo” is two fold, a matter of timing (being pre Jesus) ,, it seems ignorance is bliss for they knew no better…. I’m sure Socrates would be amused at the irony of the greatest minds and thinkers being rewarded for being ignorant and spending eternity in the company of such illustrious thinkers, sounds like paradise to me and second that they had a moral life, this is amusing for anyone that has read Plato’s accounts of the times, for homosexuality was open and was acceptable behaviour, hardly a christian view of morality.
    I’m not a scholar nor a historian, please feel free to correct or comment.

  4. “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”

    Don’t need or want redemption.

    Francis continued, “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

    Seriously doubt it, we mean very different things by the term “good”.

  5. Err… Get real people, there is no Heaven, there is no hell… your destiny is for your being to end and your molecules will be reprocessed into something else. We don’t need the patronage of a man that did nothing for his people while his government disappeared them. He’s just another conman in strange apparel exercising ruthless control over 1 billion plus credulous, ignorant and weak-willed people. Live a happy life, enjoy the privilege that chance has given you, get recycled.

  6. The postures adopted for praying speak volumes, especially in Islam; Origin from the Arabic “Islam” ”submission’, from “Islama” submit (to god).

    And of course in the case of thousands upon thousands of catholic priests the word should be spelt “preying”.

    “Give us a child until it’s seven and it’s ours for life.” HORRIBLE!

    I saw a priest down on his haunches talking to a couple of youngsters the other day in the supermarket, and I was sorely tempted to exclaim the above in ringing tones that he could have heard but, shame on me, I lacked the bottle.

    Actually, it would have been discourteous.

  7. I suggest researching Hell, it not one place but many…. that is what Dante’s poem is about and non believers of good character, obviously you and I, would go to Hell, but not fire and brimstone…. we go to “limbo”. It matters because we need to understand the issues and beliefs true or not, better than the believers, not diffucult.

    • In reply to #12 by Grahum Bin Larfin:

      I suggest researching Hell, it not one place but many…. that is what Dante’s poem is about and non believers of good character, obviously you and I, would go to Hell, but not fire and brimstone…. we go to “limbo”. It matters because we need to understand the issues and beliefs true or not, bette…

      A strong argument can be made that in the Bible, there is no Hell at all, and the Catholics are preaching heresy. I suggest reading this XIX century research paper that lays it down in great detail.

      • In reply to #20 by Mitranim:

        In reply to #12 by Grahum Bin Larfin:

        I suggest researching Hell, it not one place but many…. that is what Dante’s poem is about and non believers of good character, obviously you and I, would go to Hell, but not fire and brimstone…. we go to “limbo”. It matters because we need to understand th..
        Nice to know someone is paying attention and thanks for the referral I’ll check it out. : )

      • In reply to #20 by Mitranim:

        In reply to #12 by Grahum Bin Larfin:

        I suggest researching Hell, it not one place but many…. that is what Dante’s poem is about and non believers of good character, obviously you and I, would go to Hell, but not fire and brimstone…. we go to “limbo”. It matters because we need to understand th…

        Exactly. I agree. Elain Pagels (scholar who writes about Gnostic Christians) also has an excellent book on the subject called The Origin of Satan. Like all her books its very readable and quite interesting if you are into the history of Christianity.

    • In reply to #12 by Grahum Bin Larfin:

      I suggest researching Hell, it not one place but many…. that is what Dante’s poem is about and non believers of good character, obviously you and I, would go to Hell, but not fire and brimstone…. we go to “limbo”. It matters because we need to understand the issues and beliefs true or not, bette…

      A comedian I like (John Fugelsang) calls things like the rapture “Bible Fan fiction” because like fan fiction it was written after the actual book. You could say the same though about the concept of hell. There is almost no mention of hell or the devil in the bible. In the old testament the devil is mentioned in the book of Job and perhaps one or two other times. And even in the new testament the devil only pops up a very small number of times. All the stuff about limbo, purgatory, the various levels of hell that started out as “fan fiction” stories Christians started telling themselves then from fiction into church dogma. I’m not sure if Milton and Dante were utilizing existing dogma or if they wrote their stories and they became so popular and accepted as truth that their ideas migrated back to official church dogma. My guess its a bit of both.

  8. Has the pope been conversing with the dalai lama in order to create a xtian/buddhist hybrid? (positive karma (ie: good actions) results in a positive outcome regardless of one’s beliefs)

    giggity

    • In reply to #16 by A3Kr0n:

      The Pope saying atheists who do good will go to heaven is irrefutable evidence that the Catholic church is running scared.

      The pope isn’t saying that non-Catholics that do good will get to heaven. It’s against the catechism for him to do so. He is saying, in a wishy washy manner, that they won’t go to Hell…or damnation for eternity if one wants to be PC. Which I guess is good enough for many a Catholic who is tormented over the issue.

      The only way to salvation is through Christ via the Catholic faith. The only caveat being ignorance. If one has no knowledge of Catholicism, ya gets break. Of course a last minute recant of ones heresy works too.

      Makes me wonder why a lot more don’t piss it up and recant at the last minute to gain entry to paradise. Perhaps it’s the fear of a sudden or accidental death that keeps believers on their toes. I would’ve thought a supreme being would’ve covered that eventuality, but what ta feck do I do I know about cosmos creating and very big plans containing free will…apart from it being a lot of bollocks that is?

      • To Amos:

        I seem to recall that Augustine once wrestled with the concept of whether baptisms should be a one time event or allowed frequently, particularly right near death since that bit of magic wipes the soul perfectly clean. Of course, the one-time baptism was chosen. Not hard to discern why!

        And while making up their own rules, the Church had the temerity to take issue with the so-called spells and potions of witches and sorcerers?

        We have to be the weirdest species in the galaxy.

        Mike

        • In reply to #29 by Sample:

          I seem to recall that Augustine once wrestled with the concept of whether baptisms should be a one time event or allowed frequently, particularly right near death since that bit of magic wipes the soul perfectly clean.

          Ah! – But for near death Baptisms/blessings/absolutions, the dying need to pour wealth over the priest giving confession and into his church, if a place in “heaven” is to be bought!

          Think of all the robber barons, kings, rogue millionaires, gangsters, and rich but befuddled widows, who have been persuaded to use this ploy!

      • In reply to #28 by Ignorant Amos:

        In reply to #16 by A3Kr0n:
        The pope isn’t saying that non-Catholics that do good will get to heaven. It’s against the catechism for him to do so. He is saying, in a wishy washy manner, that they won’t go to Hell…or damnation for eternity if one wants to be PC. Which I guess is good enough for many a Catholic who is tormented over the issue.

        I read the article to the end finally and I agree and I take back some of what I said earlier about how for once the pope seemed to be doing more than just good PR. The “explanatory note” released after by the Vatican seems to take back everything he said. And I’m back to thinking the new guy is just a much better salesman than the last one. In fact fairly shrewd he seems to have picked up the tactic used by Mitt Romney in the last election. Say one thing for the press, the view you want the public at large to have. Then when your hard core nut job followers react to it you issue a clarification that mostly only they pay attention to that says you never really meant the more rational thing you said earlier.

        • In reply to #33 by Red Dog:

          Say one thing for the press, the view you want the public at large to have. Then when your hard core nut job followers react to it you issue a clarification that mostly only they pay attention to that says you never really meant the more rational thing you said earlier.

          Compartmentalised thinking and self contradiction, do not seem to have historically been a problem for theist thought processes!

  9. Gotta say, I think people are being rather negative about this. And to be fair, it’s hard to be positive about anything the Catholic Church does, but even a child raping clock can do the ‘right’ thing on occasion.

    The simple fact of the matter is that Hell is the most problematic doctrine for Christians, or at least Christians who have a conscience and a concern for their fellow man. It’s difficult to have a reasonable conversation with someone who must accept that, if I were to die right now, I’d be tortured for all eternity, and that would be just. Most Christians will try to avoid giving an answer on this notion, but that’s because they know how atrocious the concept is.

    As a result, more liberal Christians have dropped the doctrine of salvation by faith. This has two benefits. First off, the believe is no longer worried to think or test their beliefs, since there is no penalty for them if they stop believing. Second, they’ll feel less need to bother other people about their religion. Imagine being a Christian, and thinking about that nice Atheist or Hindu friend of yours. If you really believed in salvation by faith, wouldn’t you be worried about them? The christian would feel compelled to preach to them, just to try to save them. Remove the eternal damnation threat, and while they still may want to share their religion for you, they have no reason to do so after you tell them “Sorry man, not interested.”

    Salvation for all is a dismantling of one of the things that causes the most harm from Christianity. We’ll never rid the world of religion, but if the beliefs recede to a point where the Christian is basically a humanist who believes there is a reward for being a humanist, then I’m not too picky about the silly beliefs.

    The Catholic Church professing this will probably give that far more palatable doctrine some more awareness and legitimacy among Christians in general. And I think that’s only a good thing.

    The Church itself is still evil. Francis can do a lot of things, but until they stop the anti-condoms nonsense in Africa, and do a full and honest assessment of the sexual abuse problems, then I still hope the whole Vatican burns to the ground with all those sociopaths inside it.

    But if this idea catches on more, and gets our Christian friends to stop looking at us like we’re about to be hit by a bus, then I’d be happier.

    • In reply to #19 by Sines:

      Gotta say, I think people are being rather negative about this. And to be fair, it’s hard to be positive about anything the Catholic Church does, but even a child raping clock can do the ‘right’ thing on occasion.

      The simple fact of the matter is that Hell is the most problematic doctrine for Chris…

      I can see why people are luke warm about the announcement. Even in trying to reach out there is such a tone of condescension and “we are willing to tolerate you evil people” its hard to get too worked up about it. But I agree with you, this is the first thing from the new pope that is more than just a good PR move (although it is that as well).

      I remember very well the training I got as a Catholic (it was what made me realize how hypocritical and wrong it had to be) that everyone who was not a Catholic was going to hell. This is a substantive change — its a positive step to tell billions of kids who are going to be raised Catholic that non-Catholics aren’t all damned and for once we should try not mocking too much but acknowledge it as a good step.

  10. As an atheist I couldn’t give a rat’s shit what the pope or any other deluded clown says about anything.
    Now that they have the power to burn people at the stake removed from their hands, of course.

  11. In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #20 by Mitranim:

    In reply to #12 by Grahum Bin Larfin:

    I suggest researching Hell, it not one place but many…. that is what Dante’s poem is about and non believers of good character, obviously you and I, would go to Hell, but not fire and brimstone…. we go to “limbo”. It matters be…

    Thanks for your input, it’s a large learning curve, as an aside, have you read Montaigne’s “An Apology For Raymond Sebond” or his essays, I really enjoyed them. In some passages he sounds like he is describing the coming of evolution and the environmental movement and his views on religion would be refreshing even today. ‘Stubborn and ardent clinging to one’s opinion is the best proof of stupidity.’ and ‘Ignorance is the softest pillow on which a man can rest his head.’
    “If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don’t bother your head about it.

    Michel de Montaigne born 1533

  12. As Heaven allegedly contains fictions greatest psychotic mass-murderer – God/Jehovah/Allah – and going there requires you to be in his company for eternity it doesn’t seem likely to be a very nice or desirable place.

  13. Who are these “American Atheists” who say they welcome comments from the pope saying that EVEN naughty non-believers like them can be redeemed by a god they aren’t supposed to believe in?… What possible meaning can it have for a true atheist to be told that “god forgives them and is tolerant of their atheism” ?

    This reminds me of a joke I heard in a Chis Rock monologue. Something about a guy who’s starved to death for weeks will invariably feel grateful if you give him a cracker. Francois is just throwing atheists a dry old bone and AA is taking the bait hook line and sinker. Shameful!

    Once again, this is just smoke and mirrors to make the public forget about the REAL issues like child abuse, reproductive rights, gay marriage, etc… This isn’t about tolerance and reconciliation, it’s about politics and PR. Please excuse me while I vomit…

  14. actually I’m interested to see how this gets picked up by catholics. in particular the relatives who are incapable uttering the A word and plump for euphemisms such as “pagan”

    (as in “they don’t celebrate christmas, they’re sort of “pagans”)…. yeah i know…

    • In reply to #38 by SaganTheCat:

      actually I’m interested to see how this gets picked up by catholics. in particular the relatives who are incapable uttering the A word and plump for euphemisms such as “pagan”

      (as in “they don’t celebrate christmas, they’re sort of “pagans”)…. yeah i know…

      That reminds me of a situation quite a few years ago, where some English Catholics (during moves for “church unity”), gently admonished a priest (freshly imported from the west of Ireland), for referring to members of the C of E and Methodists as “Pagans”!

      I think the term indicates the extent of their “understanding” of non-Catholic religions or view-points.

      In Catholic “faith” schools, Catholicism is commonly referred to as “religion” – indicative of its claims to “universality”!

  15. If Francis is correct, there is no great need to pick the “correct” church or to pay any attention to church at all.

    You do good hoping for an after death reward. That is almost like an atheist who hopes for an earthly reward in the form of some results from his work.

    So what’s the motive for Catholics to kill protestants again?

  16. blah blah blah blah blah pretending to know things that I do not know blah blah blah blah blah pretending to know things that I cannot possibly know blah blah blah blah pretending to know what god thinks blah blah blah blah blah pretending to know what god has done blah blah blah blah blah pretending to know what god is going to do blah blah blah blah blah

  17. As others have hinted to this point – in how the Pope’s recent statements can decrease a prevailing “Us vs. Them” attitude, which is definitely of benefit regardless if you care to hear his words or not – I still find it incredibly troublesome as far as stability is concerned.

    With some white smoke and a new administration, something of which was taboo a few months previously is now to be acceptable (i.e. Atheists). These statements, while at face value can be well-received (and rightfully so in diminishing “Us and Them” attitudes), I think at second glance they only furthermore illustrate the non-divine anthropocentric ethical system that is the supposed Word of God.

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