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Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate
Pope Francis greets the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of his weekly audience April 10 at the Vatican.
May 23rd, 2013
03:59 PM ET

Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) -– 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.'"

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.

Although the pope's comments about salvation surprised some, bishops and experts in Catholicism say Francis was expressing a core tenet of the faith.

"Francis was clear that whatever graces are offered to atheists (such that they may be saved) are from Christ," the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a conservative Catholic priest, wrote on his blog.

"He was clear that salvation is only through Christ’s Sacrifice.  In other words, he is not suggesting – and I think some are taking it this way – that you can be saved, get to heaven, without Christ."

Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, agreed with Zuhlsdorf, pointing out that the pope’s comments came on the Feast of Saint Rita, the Catholic patron saint of impossible things.

“The remarks about atheists show that there is even a saint for atheists,” Pecknold said. “Including all of humanity, on this day especially, remarks like that are almost called for.”

“To stress that the gospel redeems all people, including atheists, is the teaching of the church,” he added. “This is an objective fact that the church believes.”

Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, said Francis' comments reflect “the interfaith and inter-community work many of us nontheists are dedicated to.”

That said, Epstein hopes that lay Catholics are listening.

“I hope Catholics, and all people hearing the pope's statement, will recognize that his words about atheists need to symbolize much more than just a curiosity or an exception to the rule,” Epstein said. “If someone thinks there are only a few atheists out there doing good just like Catholics do, that's a major misunderstanding that can lead to prejudice and discrimination.”

The pope’s comments come a few months after he told worshipers that Catholics should be close to all men and women, including those who don’t belong to any religious tradition.

"In this we feel the closeness also of those men and women who, while not belonging to any religious tradition, feel, however the need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation,” Francis said shortly after his election as pope in March.

Even atheists like David Silverman, president of American Atheists, who has had an antagonistic relationship with the Catholic church, welcomed the pope’s remarks.

“While the concept of Jesus dying for atheists is wrong on many levels (especially given that Jesus himself promised hell for blasphemers), I can appreciate the pope's `good faith' effort to include atheists in the moral discussion,” Silverman said.

“Atheists on the whole want no part in Catholicism, of course, but we are all interested in basic human rights.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (3,731 Responses)
  1. JR

    Respond to Atheist

    I understand where are you coming from and what you stand for.
    Speaking of faith, it is something you believe in things you can not see i.e love, feelings, spirit, etc..
    Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.. JOhn 14:6.
    Humans are filthy rags our good works are filthy rags in God sight .. Isaiah 64:6
    that no one should boast for .. ephesians 2:8
    We all going to die, and our hope is Jesus..
    Jesus promise us as he was resurrected we believers also rise from the dead..
    our life here on earth is short and it's a pilgrim..
    the true life is life after death and this is eternal.. endless .. imagine..
    if you have ear hear this ..
    don't let yourself regret finding yourself in hell as the rich man did Luke 16:19-31
    trust in the lord cause you are filthy rags.. don't be proud of yourselves of what you attain
    or what riches you have, all things here on earth our corruptible.
    bow yourself and humble yourself to God and ask for mercy
    repent and accept Jesus and you, your sons, daughters, family will be saved. Acts 16:31

    May 24, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • R Christopher

      Says your book, written mostly over 2000 years ago, by people who knew nothing of the Big Bang, gravity, or that the Earth was ONE of billions of planets. This is total BS, and how anyone can believe in that hints at mental illness.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Athy

      Wow, what a line. You'd have been a hit in Salem back in about 1650.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • mickey1313

      Oh jr, your ignorance is almost cute, but not really. Anyone who thinks that one single fact is in the bible is a fool, and the reason that the nation, and the western world is falling apart. It is the waste of energy thinking and debating about the ficticous concepts of god and religon. They are the concepts that have damaged the psyche of humanity for 2000 years. I think now, non theists should do to theists what the theists did to nonbelievers for 2000 years, BURN THEM AT THE STAKE.

      May 24, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Grovel grovel grovel....."Please don't damn me God! I'll be good!" What sort of god would actually demand worship? No wonder there are so many narcissistic xtians, they follow the Narcissist In Chief".

      May 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  2. Believer

    I have a hard time believing a God who has been described as made up of pure Love would banish any of his children to a hell. I am a Christian believer, yet I have a very hard time prescribing to any notion that God would send someone to eternal torment for ignorance or disbelief. Its a quagmire for me personally, because I envision God as pure Love, and I envision him as desiring all of his creation returning to him in the afterlife. Could those with sound mind who've committed evil atrocities be punished? I could see that, but being punished by burning for eternity? It is hard to fathom this to be true even for the worst of the lot, let alone for an atheist who simply does not believe. I guess we will all find out at our own time.

    May 24, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Luposian

      You claim to be a Christian. That means you are (supposed to be) a follower of Christ. Yet you contest the things he clearly spoke of... including an eternal hell and lake of fire... where their worm dieth not.

      Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

      Luke 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

      and

      Mark 9:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

      Mark 9:46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

      Mark 9:48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

      and

      Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

      Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

      2 Thessalonians 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

      Now, um... what were you saying? Something about you can't believe God would do this? Well, guess what, dearheart... what you want to believe (or choose NOT to believe), has little relevance to what God has said. And, no God doesn't send ANYONE to hell.. He simply allows them to end up with the god they chose to follow... and it's for all eternity. So, if you want to avoid hell, stay away from Satan. Choose Jesus.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • JustObserving

      I would, as a fellow believer, encourage you to look again at how our eternal dwelling is decided. We were given free will to either accept or reject Christ. The consequences for rejection or plainly lain out in the Bible. Salvation is a simple thing. God doesnt send anyone to Hell. Those who meet that terrible fate will have earned it themselves. We were all doomed to suffer the consequences of our sin nature before Christ came to provide a way out through Salvation. That's the showcasing of His love for all, believer and monbeliever alike. Our works or perceived goodness mean nothing. Ultimately, we have all been given the opportunity and knowledge of what is required for eternity with God. The choice, and outcomes, are ours alone.

      May 24, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • LinCA

      @Believer

      You said, "I have a hard time believing a God who has been described as made up of pure Love would banish any of his children to a hell."
      If you allow yourself to envision a universe without any meddling gods in it, it all makes far more sense.

      You said, "I am a Christian believer, yet I have a very hard time prescribing to any notion that God would send someone to eternal torment for ignorance or disbelief. Its a quagmire for me personally, because I envision God as pure Love, and I envision him as desiring all of his creation returning to him in the afterlife."
      The quagmire disappears entirely if you no longer believe there are any gods. The clarity is amazing.

      You said, "Could those with sound mind who've committed evil atrocities be punished? I could see that, but being punished by burning for eternity? It is hard to fathom this to be true even for the worst of the lot, let alone for an atheist who simply does not believe."
      It gets worse. According to some, you can murder, rape, steal and be a miserable piece of shit all your life, and all you need to do to get into heaven is acknowledge christ. Yet you can be the nicest person in the world with a healthy skepticism and be sent to burn for eternity.

      You said, "I guess we will all find out at our own time."
      I'll bet my bottom dollar, we won't.

      May 24, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Believer

      For my fellow Believers: I have but a few questions that I debate from time to time with my wife, who is also a Believer. What of those who were raised under another religion and are never exposed to Christ? What of those who live in other countries who've never been exposed to Christ or any religion and are non-Believers? Is ignorance a sin? Would these same people be denied passage to heaven and God's grace?

      May 24, 2013 at 1:15 am |
  3. Roy

    The ending ... A wise man would wager in a belief in God for even if God does not exist in the end, he loses nothing, while if God does exist he gains everything... a Foolish man would choose to believe God does not exist reasoning he will benefit nothing from such belief. If God does not exists he still loses nothing, whereas if God did exist and you wager he does not, you face eternal damnation...

    Question is, what is your wager smart guy?

    May 24, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • leon

      CGR!!!

      May 24, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • LinCA

      @Roy

      You said, "Question is, what is your wager smart guy?"

      That would be Pascal's Wager:
      In effect, Pascal's wager states that while we can't know with absolute certainty whether the christian god exists, a rational evaluation should lead to a belief. If having to choose between believing (in the christian god), or not believing, the reward for being correct, and the price for being wrong, tips the balance in favor of believing.

      It says, if you believe and are correct, you will gain heaven, while the price for being wrong is nothing. On the other hand, if you don't believe, it says you will gain nothing for being right, yet lose everything if you are wrong. So, belief results in a win/neutral, and non-belief in a neutral/lose position, tipping the balance clearly in favor of the "belief" position.

      Why Pascal's Wager is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.
      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.
      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.
      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the odds for the reward and the risk of punishment.
      e) Pascal's Wager assumes that someone can will him or herself to believe.

      Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god. Including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      Also, just going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. Sex life suffers, too.

      In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order.

      Risk is (simplistically) the chance that a negative event occurs, multiplied by the cost of that event. As an example, being hit by a meteorite carries a very high cost (probably death), but since the odds are extremely low, the risk associated with it is low. Similarly, the chance of getting rained on is pretty high, but the cost is very low, representing also a low risk. On the other hand the cost and chances of, and therefore the risk associated with, a traffic accident are high.

      The choice whether to mitigate a risk depends on, among other things, the severity of the risk, the cost of the mitigation and the tolerance of that risk. In the above examples, the cost to mitigate each risk are; exorbitant, low and high, respectively. Methods to reduce or eliminate the risk of meteorite impacts are cost prohibitive and far exceed the risk. An umbrella and a check of the weather forecast effectively mitigate the risk of getting rained on, and is easily worth the cost. Car crashes, and their after-effects are mitigated to various degrees by expensive technology (from street surface technology to driver training, airbags and traction control). People bear those costs to their financial ability and tolerance for the risk.

      A similar reasoning applies to reward. The choice whether to pursue a reward is guided by the perception value of the reward, the perception of the odds of gaining the reward and the cost to pursue it.

      In the belief versus non-belief question, believers tend to irrationally overestimate both the reward for belief, and the risk associated with non-belief.

      If someone doesn't already believe there is a god, a threat of this non-existing gods judgment is very unlikely to yield any results.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Pascal's wager *yawn*

      May 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  4. daviddasilvacornell

    "Although the pope's comments about salvation for atheists surprised some, bishops and experts in Catholicism say Francis was expressing a core tenant of his faith." Seriously, CNN? Do you no longer employ editors? A "tenant" is what a landlord has. A "tenet" is what a faith has. Sheesh.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  5. Joseph Chandler

    So theala, was what you just said, the message from day one? Is that what it says in the Bible. Did Jesus say that you will go heaven even if you don't believe in him? May be you can tell me why this is such a big news if all the Popes had been saying this all along.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  6. Richard PHX

    "Tenet of the faith," not "tenant"!
    Sheesh, so much for CNN's proofreading.
    On the other hand, I suppose the pope is the core "tenant" of the faith, what with his papal apartment and all! LOL

    May 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  7. PIERRE CUSSON

    Sometimes we hear only want we want to hear and we listen without listening, The Pope's message is not new. Jesus-Christ is God and humanity's Redeemer who suffered immensely throughout his Passion and who was finally crucified to redeem all human beings from the burden of the sins that we commit and to give us accessibility to Heaven after we die. If we reject this and even if we don't, Hell exists for those who commit grievous sins, when they do not regret and confess their sins. The ultimate goal is to be in God's heavenly presence one day, forever and ever. So the real question is: Do you want to and if you do you must reach out to Jesus with remorse in your heart. In other words if you don't want to be redeemed, you will never benefit from God's mercy even if he died and gave us access to Heaven. However, please consider that love erases many sins and that following the teaching of Jesus-Christ is a wonderful experience that start's by opening our hearts to his Love even if we are faced with hardship. Always consider that we were all created in his image to fulfill his will by loving Him and one another. Why stay an atheist when through God's grace you can become a believer..

    May 23, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Rick

      Where is Jesus?

      May 23, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      "Why stay an atheist when through God's grace you can become a believer.." According to Christian theology, it's because it's only by God's grace that an atheist can become a believer.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • fred

      Tom the Other One

      Given God will not refuse a broken and contrite heart it is possible the ball could be in your court someday. That could come about by the grace of God (lets you fall hard enough to wake you out of your slumber) or the mercy of God where he just gives you a little tap.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Lisa

      Your first sentence is somewhat offensive. Someone may elect with full eyes (or ears) open to believe differently than you or to not "believe" at all without it meaning they aren't listening or don't want to hear. Try respect, it's highly recommended.

      Why "stay atheist"? Atheists don't wake up each day and question if they will "stay atheist" or not. They are simply individuals who will base their lives on facts and reason unless they see a reason to do otherwise. And they don't worry about heaven or hell because they believe death is final and there is no afterlife.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • fred

      Lisa
      Not necessarily offensive if in biblical context because God actually blinds (keeps them from seeing and hearing truth) some who He knows will reject the offer of salvation. This is a blessing because you are only held accountable for that which you had capacity or opportunity to understand. A good example would be the child of an atheist that was brainwashed by naturalism. That child is not necessarily subject to hell as would be a demonic soul.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • redzoa

      @fred – Remind us again of the morality of child and infant slaughter as depicted in your holy book . . .

      May 24, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • fred

      redzoa
      I am sure you have heard all the apologetics on the topic so I will be brief. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and worshiped him and obeyed him to the extent of building an ark for 120 years out of gopher wood in a desert that had never seen rain. The rest of the world around him was living it up and mocking God and Noah. They had become so wicked all were without hope. God spared the innocent children and infants from certain eternal separation by cleansing the earth of ever increasing wickedness and evil. We do not know what is meant by the word "blotted out". My take is their very existence was erased from ever having occurred. When Jesus referred to the days of Noah it was in the context of final judgment where again the world around the faithful will be living it up and mocking God when suddenly the faithful are taken up with Christ (their ark) while the rest is washed away to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth.
      In that new heaven and earth God will wipe away every tear.

      May 24, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • fred

      redzoa
      Oh, in case I failed to make it clear God has a special place in his heart for the innocent victims in this world. When God says I will wipe away every tear it is a very tender time.

      May 24, 2013 at 1:34 am |
    • HotAirAce

      fred, and all mentally ill delusionals, if you were the least bit honest, you would use the word "alleged" when referencing your god, and preface all your stories with something like "according to our cult's beliefs for which we have no evidence at all. . ."

      May 24, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • fred

      HotAirAce
      Actually, it is straight out of the Bible, Gods story of the redemption of His creation.
      Let us say you read the latest Harry Potter book. Would you demand I say Harry Potter was an alleged witch? Is Captain Kirk an alleged Star Fleet Captain as referred to by the trekie cults? Not hardly
      Oh, a better example it is alleged that Webster's defines atheism as:
      1archaic : ungodliness, wickedness
      2a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

      May 24, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Harry Potter and Star Trek are not presented as anything but fiction. The authors/writers are not trying to convince anybody that the stories are true, unlike The Babble, which allegedly wants everyone to believe that it is factual, despite there being no facts to support its supernatural claims.

      May 24, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Why stay a believer when by reason's grace you can become an atheist?

      May 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You mean you wouldn't rather be like fred and remain stupid?

      I wonder how fred feels about his god's actions in the Schaible case.

      May 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Christ Follower

    I suppose the Pope forget that Jesus himself said "32Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33) Good works and deeds will not get a person to Heaven. One must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and pray for forgiveness of one's sin and promise to live as Jesus. We all sin and come short of the glory of God, but the Blood of Jesus allows us to be forgiven and get to Heaven. There are other directions that Jesus gave us as well. There are many people trying to add or take away words from the Bible daily. Revelation 22:18-19 points out "God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” The Pope needs to be very careful.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  9. chip

    Duplicitous, disingenuous, and misleading comments from a Pope. Wow, huge surprise. He doesn't even remotely believe the most plain interpretation of his words, so I question his integrity in saying such a nonsensical thing.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  10. Reality

    Too little, too late as the RCC and Christianity in general crash to the ground in a thunderous tornado of flawed history and theology!!!!!!!!!! Added details are shown on p.1.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  11. Ben

    Of course Christ died for EVERYONE. Even murderers and athiests... IF they accept him as their personal lord and savior. YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN to be saved. Period.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Murderers and pedophiles who believe are preferred over absolutely anyone who does not.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Reality

      From Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts:

      "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

      "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

      "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

      May 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • sybaris

      Actually your Jesus man sacrificed nothing. If the story is at all true he was nothing more than a spirit in a rented suit of flesh and returned from whence it came. Nothing spectacular about that.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • ericpone

      You are misreading the passage. The passage refers to being reborn not just through ritual of water and ceremony and tradition but through spirit as well. Salvation transmitted by God by that which is being itself is not bound by our 'rules' it is. Being is. Salvation is. Its a now thing a continuing new thing. No one has a franchise on God's transmission of grace. To think that a man stands between myself and Christ is laughable at best, sacrilege at worst. God is not a formula. This isn't a transaction. It is being itself.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • brewster

      Tom, Tom, the Other One

      "Murderers and pedophiles who believe are preferred over absolutely anyone who does not."

      they prefer him over satan, sin and hell

      May 24, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  12. Truth

    Allahu Akbar

    May 23, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      ...God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  13. Benedictberg

    Finally a religious leader that is trying to unify than divide. I salute you. Hope his muslim, jewish and hindu counterpart could learn something from him.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Joseph Chandler

      So theala, was what you just said, the message from day one? Is that what it says in the Bible. Did Jesus say that you will go heaven even if you don't believe in him? May be you can tell me why this is such a big news if all the Popes had been saying this all along.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Sankar

      Dear Friend, instead of "hoping" perhaps you should get out enough and listen to what people from other faiths say. There are plenty of good ambassadors from every other religion, CNN chooses to publish what the pope says. But does not mean that people from other faiths are not saying anything similar.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:09 am |
  14. noillusion

    Once again, the religious leaders attempt to poison the innocent.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  15. Gorsh

    Francis Rocks. I really wasn't a fan of Ben; glad he retired. Even the most dogmatic evangelical atheist should have trouble hating Francis... Well judging by the posts here maybe not.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Athy

      What's an "evangelical atheist"?

      May 23, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • JWoody907

      Actually, as a rather vocal atheist, I am totally supportive of the Pope's comment today. While I still disagree fundamentally with the whole god concept, his comments were a HUGE step in the direction of both sides coming to a middle, mutually accepting ground.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Gorsh

      An evangelical atheist is one who feels the need to talk constantly about their beliefs in an effort to convince others. They tend to be very similar to evangelical Christians in their dogmatic recitations quoting Dawkins and Hitchens rather than John or Luke.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Athy

      Thanks. I guess that's me.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Okay. Just know that to the vast bulk of humanity you are both really annoying.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Athy

      Thanks again. That's the intent.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  16. Joseph Chandler

    Well Casey, then I guess there is no need for anyone to become Catholic or believe in Christ. We can all be Muslim or Buddhist
    or an atheist and still go to heaven. So why did the Christians spent so much effort in converting others. The fact of the matter is Christianity like all other religions were made by humans based on what they knew at the time. That's why they all keep changing their tune to fit in it with current times. Can you imagine any Catholic, let alone the Pope accepting 500 years ago that any one will go to heaven if they did not believe in Christ.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • theala

      The Pope isn't saying that Christianity doesn't matter. He's saying it does; that Christ's sacrifice redeemed the whole world regardless of what individual people believe. Begin a Christian means celebrating and honoring that sacrifice through the continuation of both good works and the worship of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. And because of what Jesus did for us, our friends and loved ones who are good people but do not believe will join us in Heaven. Great news!

      May 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • Casey

      I don't know the answers to all your questions... I'm not a Biblical scholar... I'm actually a scientist and engineer. But Christians want others to become Christians because it is so awesome... and they want others to have an amazing life, with a great personal relationship with God. If you really want to know the answers to your other questions though... I suggest you go to Church, and attend classes like from the Catholic RCIA program. One other thing of note... one thing I learned is that the Church is not a stagnant thing. Nor is the word of God. He is still speaking to us... we just need to listen. The Bible, for instance, is the living word of God. Your understanding of it grows, in the time and way you are ready. See... human beings are just like children. When we were very young, our ability to understand, as a culture, was limited. As we grow, our understanding increases. The way I figure it,,, we are now in the early teenager years. We are self centered, and think we know everything, and we stop listening to our parents because we just want to go out and party. And... our parents (God) are just so last millennium and lame... that I was all... I'm gonna do WHAT I CAN'T STOP ME!!! WAAAAAAAA.. lol... We are exactly like 14 year olds that thin we know better.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • everettreb

      In other words atheists can be saved and go to heaven if they become Christian. LOL
      I think many of us already knew that.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • Joseph Chandler

      Casey, the only thing you said that was true and made sense was, "I don't know the answers to all your questions..."

      May 24, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Casey

      Joe: Really? The only thing that made sense? That's hilarious... you have no credibility... you seem to be incapable of intelligent discussion, .. or.. you are so closed minded that any concepts that don't align to your viewpoint must be attacked. How very intellectually dishonest.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  17. john

    antipope Frank I is a heretic and apostate and will surely burn in hell for this grave offense against God and the magisterium of the Catholic church should he fail to repent.

    There is no salvation outside the Catholic church. This means that jews, muslims, protestants, pagans and atheists will all burn in hell unless they become Catholic before their death.

    The vatican is not Catholic, but freemasonic. And the heretical apostate Bergoglio is a freemason too.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • KanneM

      “Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

      Jesus himself saw no need for the Ecclesiastical Class, how can you possibly argue against his wisdom?

      May 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Tinfoil hat a little tight today?

      May 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  18. miguel

    Pope Francis is right. God loves all of us. Accept it and be free- truly free.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • theala

      Amen

      May 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Reality

      What God?

      Deadliest epidemics

      Death counts are historical totals unless indicated otherwise.

      Rank Death toll (estimate)
      1. 300,000,000 approx.
      Smallpox

      2. 200,000,000 ?
      Measles

      3. 100,000,000 approx.
      Black Death

      4. 80,000,000–250,000,000
      Malaria

      5. 50,000,000–100,000,000
      Spanish Flu

      6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
      Plague of Justinian

      7. 40,000,000–100,000,000
      Tuberculosis

      8. 30,000,000[13]
      AIDS pandemic

      9. 12,000,000 ?
      Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague

      10. 5,000,000
      Antonine Plague

      11. 4,000,000
      Asian Flu

      12. 250,000 or more annually
      Seasonal influenza

      May 23, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  19. Thomas J Dawson

    Well very considerate of the Catholics; We all Communicate in One Language; THE CRY AT BIRTH TO SURVIVE. Since Silence is Widely Misunderstood.

    May 23, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  20. Spencer Brown

    Why are atheists pleased that they might go to Heaven? Shouldn't they be indifferent - patronized even?

    May 23, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • EvinAR

      The answer is that they're not. If they're atheists like me, they don't really give a !@#$ what happens to them, as long as they make the best of whatever experience they're currently having and being empathetic to other people, thinking about what they would want out of their own only chance for existence.

      May 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Spencer Brown

      You said, "Why are atheists pleased that they might go to Heaven? Shouldn't they be indifferent – patronized even?"
      I, for one, wouldn't want to get caught dead in heaven. If the christian god, heaven and hell exist, I'll gladly take an eternity in hell over a day in heaven with that god and his followers. Any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

      It really is a good thing none of that nonsense exists.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • fred

      LinCA
      You have major issues if you would rather take eternity separated from infinite goodness rather than accept a gift of eternal life with infinite goodness. I don't care if you believe such stuff or not the problem is your choice between two alternatives.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • LinCA

      @fred

      You said, "You have major issues if you would rather take eternity separated from infinite goodness rather than accept a gift of eternal life with infinite goodness."
      There is very little good about your imaginary friend. That murderous monster you call you god is worse than the worst dictator ever to have lived. The people that it picks to hang out with him are also not the kind that I enjoy spending time with.

      You said, "I don't care if you believe such stuff or not the problem is your choice between two alternatives."
      The choice is easy. It's all about who's company I'd be in. I'd rather not be around despicable beings.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • fred

      LinCA
      I saw the movie Despicable Me but not despicable beings. Despicable Me turned out to be a nice guy.

      Just curious, which friends of Jesus or God of Abraham bug you enough to make you snuggle up to Satan?

      May 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.