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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. Daniel

    Christianity is a plague. Islam is a plague. Judaism is a plague. Waiting for the historical day when western religions that believe we are the only thing this "God" fellow cares about is absolutely 100% obliterated. We can all sit back have a refreshing drink and laugh it off....

    May 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • faith

      zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

      May 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  2. Cpt. Obvious

    LOL!! Bill Deacon keeps trying to pick a fight and everyone's ignoring his comments. Ha ha.

    May 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not looking for a fight Cpt. Just astounded that people can't understand a simple three or four sentence statement and careen off on a tangent. I actually find it kind of funny.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • mary

      LOL. Deacon is a loser, for sure.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Derek

      Cpt. Obvious, I salute you obviously.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      what an odd juxtapostion, to be a loser and the focus of your comments at the same time.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • faith

      mary
      LOL. Deacon is a loser, for sure.

      mary is a winner

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      I'm just surprised Chad or HS or Austin have not shown up yet to support their friend.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Austin

      Topher, is that me?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Rachel

      Don't make it so hard on Chad. We can't stay in that state for very long 🙂

      May 24, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I've seen enough comments, from believers as well as non-believers, who seem to understand what the pope is saying that I am comfortable. It just seems obvious to me that some people base their agnosticism on an inability to understand theology which I find hilarious.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • hee hee

      @Bill Deacon – if we promise not to careen, will you promise not to focus your daunting intellect on us? It's like a bright searchlight, ruthlessly exposing our shortcomings. So threatening...

      May 24, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm not convinced careening is a conscious choice, but give it a shot.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Tom

      @Rachel "we can't stay in that state very long"

      => you are way too close to Chad.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  3. Drew Miller

    If I don't believe in god, it's his fault; not mine.
    Why should I be punished for this?

    May 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Chad

      @Drew Miller "If I don't believe in god, it's his fault; not mine "

      =>how do you figure that?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Doug

      Drew, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is available to anyone who will hear it/study it/accept it, etc. There are thousands of churches, radio programs, etc. getting the Word out. It is completely up to you whether or not you have faith in it and believe it to be true. I will pray for you. The consequences could not be greater for those that die having rejected Jesus.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Agreed, Drew. Why should anyone be blamed for not believing in invisible and undetectable beings. It'd be hilarious if when we die we meet some weird god-creature who is like, "You didn't believe in me, so I'm going to throw you in this pit of brain-eating worms for all eternity." Then, EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER LIVED REGARDLESS OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF would be all, "Hey, I had no idea I was supposed to believe in you!!! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh, the worms!!!! The worms!!!!"

      May 24, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • not my chair

      @ doug how is it up to the individual if you have faith or not? its not a switch you can flip on and off. faith is a feeling its believing in something with out proof.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Madtown

      the Gospel of Jesus Christ is available to anyone who will hear it/study it/accept it, etc
      -----–
      "It's not available to me. God placed me in an area of the world where christianity doesn't exist, I have no access to it. Alternatively, my culture has developed notions of spirituality and God throughout our history. We believe our ways are divine and blessed by God. If you want passage into God's eternal kingdom, you should follow our ways. You've never heard of them? I guess you're out of luck."

      – signed,
      your human equal living in an area of the world devoid of christianity, placed there by God

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Doug

      And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And 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. … Luke 16:23

      May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • M

      I have to wonder, how was it these stories were all written down so many hundreds of years ago? Did they get a few people in a room who were "experts." And then I wonder how often they were re-written in the early stages. My guess is that if it could be done all over, the Old Testament would never have been included because it creates too many unexplainable contradictions.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Doug

      Madtown, you obviously have internet access. There are plenty of Christian websites that share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Try intouch.org for example. It will provide you with all that you need. I will pray for you and that you come to a saving faith in Jesus.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Doug, your god is the most evil being ever conceived. What kind of azzhole has the power to destroy a place of neverening torment and lets it continue to exist? Your terrorist god, that's who.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Doug

      Capt. Obvious, I will pray for you.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Drew Miller

      Doug, please read the following:

      adflkajdflkajfd adslfkjadlkfjalkfdja adfiefaslksdjf oijlkjdfijoiwjef jaosidjflasjdf jiajfjlkkj jijojj jijslkdfjo jiajdlfjalsdkfjoi;

      Could you make sense of that?
      No.
      Why?
      Because I did not present it in a manner you would understand. As the presenter, it is MY responsibility to ensure I present the material, whatever it may be, in a way the viewer can understand. If I fail to do this, it is MY fault.

      god works the same way. If he cannot present himself or his ways in a manner that is understandable and believable to ME than that is his fault, not mine.

      god is all powerful, correct? he has a divine plan, correct? So, if in his plan he does not enable me to believe in him than that is on him. That's how he must want it.

      he is god, after all. Who am I to judge his ways?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • HamsterDancer

      Doug,

      I think what some here are saying is that even if you read the gospels and bible thoroughly, discuss sincerely with people to further understand it but after that you find contradictions and faults that don't make sense to you and you decide not to believe in it you still are going to hell? You will still be punished in the most horrendous manner possible just because you exercised your free will and found it didn't work for you?
      This sounds like the work of a dictator worse than Hitler not some all-loving God. At least with the Pope's statement he sees the obvious flaw in that argument and offers non-beleivers an outlet.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Madtown

      Doug
      Madtown, you obviously have internet access
      ----
      LOL!! Wow Doug, I guess you really didn't get it. My post was obviously meant as a simple example, to remind you that there are many humans on this earth right now with no knowledge of Jesus, and they don't even know christianity exists. You seriously think God will judge them negatively for not following Jesus, when God placed them into an area of the world where they'll never even know of Jesus?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  4. Doug

    Heaven is what God promises to those that accept/believe in his son Jesus Christ and that his sacrifical death on the cross takes away our sins. Those that reject Jesus are lost and will never see Heaven. Jesus and the apostles spoke very clearly about hell and the judgment. Do not be fooled by those that would mislead you. Only those people that accept Jesus as their savior and ask him to forgive their sins will see Heaven. "What must I do to be saved?" "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!" Acts 16:30

    May 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Jeff

      Prove it.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • seth

      What proof do you need? a 2000 year old book written by a bunch of random people and then edited by an even bigger group of people who decided what stayed and what would be taken out who were all a bunch of self serving buffoons just like everyone who was born 2000 years ago. What more proof do you need?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • M

      I would have to say that Thomas Paine, a great American founder with Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, etc., explained all of this about 200 years ago in "The Age of Reason."

      May 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Joe

      So a man has no belief in a higher power, but spends his life helping the poor and the sick. He does good deeds his whole life. He dies. Does he come before Jesus or is he sent to hell? Just curious what you believe?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Jeff

      @seth, I was looking for an autographed note from one of the gods

      "Hey Jeff,
      Listen to the Pope.

      Sincerely,
      Christian God."

      May 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      He comes before Jesus who decides

      May 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • hee hee

      How exactly do I believe on him? Is it legal in Missouri?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • TheThinker

      "Whatever you hold bound will be held bound." No offense, but I'll go with the Pope's and the Bible.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Doug: Jesus' death was nothing good...he was apparently nailed to a cross and left to suffer great pain while he bled to death. If any other parent allowed that to happen they'd be in jail. Your god is a petty, vindictive thing created by man to fool the gullible.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Doug, if he reaaly sacrificed his life on the cross, and died a human death, why didn't he die when he was in the desert doing battle with the devil, and FASTED for 40 days? Any human in the desert for 40 days with no food WILL DIE. Evan Tanner was a UFC fighter that got lost in the Southern Californina desert, with water, and was dead in 2 DAYS.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • OwMySkull

      Hey Doug, sounds like your brainwashing is about complete.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Gabriel

      How dare you speak for God. You are a mere human, full of hate and ignorance. How dare you say who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. I am tired of the "pious" sinners full of hate for their fellow neighbors use hell as a way to raise themselves up. YOU don't know your fate. Belief is but a doorway to the path to heaven. Everytime you pass judgment and condemn your fellow man to hell, you put a heavy mark on your soul. EVERYONE can go to heaven....Hell is for the wicked. Your interpretation of the bible is a product of the greed and betrayal of the church of man. Christ didn't walk around codemning people to hell...he loved his fellow man REGARDLESS of his faith. If you can't even do the one thing Jesus's whole message was about, you can never claim to be a follower of Christ. When was the last time you fed the poor? Reached out to someone who wasn't a Christian and offered love instead of codemnation. The word of God was meant for you and you alone, in the quiet of your own home. Not a tool to divide yourself from those who you deem unworthy of your love.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • TM

      The Bible states the following:
      John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

      Acts4:12 [speaking of Jesus] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Mark

      Truth-P. You're getting bitter again. Be nice!

      May 24, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Gabriel

      TM- Your interpretation of these two verses are a product of the Church. He is saying " Live by my example and you will be welcomed to the kingdom of heaven" Be good to your neighbor, love thy neighbor and you will be welcomed. YOUR interpretation is a product of the church. A way for them to grow attendance numbers and steal your money. Money which should be given to god, by giving it to the poor and needy.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Drew Miller

      That's not what I heard.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Does the bible glow with a golden light? Do the little wafers levitate and say, "I'm Jesus! Eat me!" No? Nothing miraculous? Just a book? Just bread?
      How terribly disappointing.

      May 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  5. seth

    never commented on CNN before but I think it is incredible how many people are upset that the pope said this. Its like you are really hoping that certain people go through eternal suffering because they don't believe the same thing you so. You are MAD that someone who doesn't believe what you believe might actually get into heaven? Even if they are a really good person who helps other people? It looks like YOU are the one who should be worried about getting into heaven if more people experiencing ETERNAL BLISS actually upsets you.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Ken

      Yup, it's like a bunch of rich snobs getting upset that someone would suggest opening the doors of their exclusive club to the public.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • not my chair

      i think they get upset cause it doesn't make them as special or superior as they believe they are compared to everyone else. people show rage at other when they are unhappy with themselves and this was the one thing that they where sure they were right on and the pope just blew that out of the water.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • M

      I wouldn't judge responses here as an indication of what most folks feel.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • TheThinker

      I've been going to Mass for decades and I have something to say to you people: you're right. Of course it depends on the congregation, many are welcoming and non-judgemental. But even in the best group their are one or two sour-apples who think Catholicism is supposed to be about suffering, and "looking down on those who aren't as Holy as they are"... a couple weeks ago our pastor was almost livid as he preached the same message as Pope Francis: we are supposed to be about joy, and we aren't the only ones with whom God finds favor.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  6. M

    A note to the fellow atheists here – remember to keep your conversation above the the belt, otherwise you come off as unenlightened and unreasoned, feeding the stereotype of the "angry atheist" – your conduct reflects upon all of us.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • hee hee

      What about gentle mockery? Is that ok?

      May 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • not my chair

      i know its bad but its really hard not to laugh at them sometimes

      May 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Tim

      M
      Agreed! If you want to be taken more seriously than a foul-mouthed teenager then stop talking like one. Many of religious opponents take crassness as excuse enough to simply ignore what we have to say. I say don't give them that satisfaction, and don't be goaded by them either.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • hee hee

      @Tim: what crassness? I see very little of it here.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • M

      You have to keep in mind that some folks, such as myself, were religious at one point, and that it can take years to have the courage to finally admit and say, "enough, there's a better explanation." Ridiculing people only says one's ability to debate or position on the matter is weak.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      M: It goes both ways though. Christians are just as harsh, if not harsher.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Aaron

      Thank you M, it's a needed comment considering I see so much of that on here. It is hypocritical to accuse religious people of being judgemental, self-righteous, proud, and/or condescending while exhibiting the same characteristics yourself. i don't know how many times I look at these comments and see believers being constantly derided for stupidity or blindness.

      The truth, is that the vast majority of believers know that their beliefs are unbelievable. It's called faith. We know we can't prove what we believe. Do we need to? Not really.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Yeah, we atheists should change our tactic. Instead of using any logic or sound arguments, we should just use the same tool as the believers.

      Why am I an atheist, and why should you be one, too? Why FAITH!! Just use faith. Our way is right and yours is wrong. Use faith and you'll know. Be an atheist today!

      Maybe we can have a never ending pit of eternal lectures on quantum mechanics and world philosophies as our "hell." Hey, at least we aren't saying that the most perfect and righteous end for those who disagree with us is neverending torture?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • TheThinker

      Now that we Catholics and you Atheists are in accord... let's start making fun of those dopey agnostics! (joke)

      May 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Tim

      hee hee
      Calling Jesus a Jewish Zombie is crass, IMHO. If Jesus really was a historical person he probably wasn't responsible for the ridiculous claims his later followers made of him. If he was just a good rabbi then I actually feel sorry for him. I can only imagine the anguish that man would feel if he ever knew how much his name was used to torture his people.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  7. ed

    I am not sure the Pope is correct. Does the pope considering "ABSOLUTELY NOTHING" Heaven ???

    May 24, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • TheThinker

      The Pope is infallible on how to get into Heaven. It's in the Bible too. "The Samarian will be judged as a Samarian." I am frankly embarrassed that any Catholic would have a problem with Pope Francis' obviously correct statement.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  8. Ivan

    This is the most ridiculous news i have ever heard.First of all, how can somebody be rewarded by going to heaven when he doesnt believe in God.That's like saying that you dont act but get an Oscar.Number two, if a person is an atheist , why is he paying attention to religious leaders and what they say? I dont care if the Pope is God in the flesh, he is not right about atheits going to Heaven.Heaven is a reward for people specially chosen because of their inmense work and spirituality.Those comments are wrong and shows that the Catholic Church is just trying to pleas everybody and has no clear direction.What they are doing is telling everybody that they can behave any way they want and still be rewarded.What a bunch of mediocrity

    May 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah, that's what Catholics are known for, trying to please everybody. Try reading the article a little slower this time.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • bannister

      How do you go to heaven without believing in God? Well, how did we get here on Earth? Did I "believe in Earth" before I was born?

      Perhaps we are just throw into certain realities – whether we want them or not!

      May 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • seth

      So basically it sounds like you want more people to experience eternal suffering just because they weren't raised to believe what you were raised to believe. I'm pretty sure I know where you are going if you don't change that perspective.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Tim

      Ivan
      Depends on whether you consider Heaven your reward for believing, or a place where all good people go after they die.

      As an atheist, I much prefer the Pope saying things like we can be good than saying that we must be bad people simply because we don't believe.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • M

      I think it's saying the Catholic church is concerned about the number of Catholics who have become "nones" or "others," because that's a steady stream of money out of the Church. The number of churches that are on the edge of closing also indicates the financial state of the Church.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • or perhaps...

      You've been duped into believing a fairy tale is real.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Doug

      Exactly. It shows that many Catholics do not know their Bibles. How tragic to mislead those that do not believe with a false promise that they too will go to Heaven when they die. I would not want to be responsible for that. Please read your Bibles. It is very clear about what happens to believers and non-believers.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • not my chair

      we pay attention to your religious leaders because unfortunately they control a lot of people. also why would you follow a deity that will punish some for eternity for not following him, that sounds worse than hitler

      May 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • joe916

      Think of it this way. You have your father right. your dad. Regardless of you believe in him, or you hate him or do not want to be with him, he still loves you the most. Wants you to come back to his house. He will do anything for you to come back home. So for God it doesn't matter if you like Him or not. He loves unconditionally. Which means, he loves without any conditions. Ofcourse, committing sin with your free will keep you away. But again, we are not the judge to determine who commits sin and what situations led them to it. Because again he is merciful.
      Hope this helps. But then again, at the end of the day all of us want to be happy. That is what we crave for. Heaven is a place of perfect happiness. Now thats not something material or something we can imagine.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Gnostic

      The acts and words of Jesus embody a level of compassion that is often forgotton as we read he bible. We often let the stories and words of the authors cloud the person. Jesus spent most of his time with gentiles, the ill, the poor, and the suffering. And in the popes homily he clearly tells the story of how Jesus taught his disciples to honor all who do good to others. Jesus's only commandments he left to his disciples were essentially, love each other, and everyone, and take care of each oher.

      If we were to edit the bible just down to the words of Jesus ,we would see that the Pope's words are nothing controversial or surprising. It is a very good summary of Jesus's life. The man who challenged corruption in he synagogues, chastised his followers for passing judgement, and always made himself a servant. Honestly, a good example of a human being.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Tim

      Doug
      The catholic church decided which books would be included in the bible. It's amazing how many protestants don't understand that.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  9. Hopefully Heaven

    I believe the Bible to be the inherent, infallible, diviniely-inspired word of God. I don't think it is open for interpretation and John 3 clearly outlines the road to follow for eternal salvation and redemption. Once we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness and fill our hearts with the love of Jesus, we have received the grace He went to the cross for and are assured a place in His eternal Kingdom. It's a continual process; we are forever sinners and must continually atone ourselves to this lifestyle. You don't get to spend your life denying God and then wind up in heaven and this earth wouldn't be bound for destruction if it hadn't been for the first sinners in the garden of Eden.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • rabidatheist

      The question is, why do you believe it?

      May 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • tallulah13

      Of course this is what you would believe if you think that a 2000 year old book written by several people (many of them anonymous), edited by a council of biased men in the 300s, and filled with contradictions and unverified reports of supernatural events is "the inherent, infallible, diviniely-inspired word of God".

      May 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • News Flash 2013

      There was no garden of eden.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • snowboarder

      @hopeful, there is no legitimate reason to believe that at all.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  10. mk

    This pope seems a lot less archaic in his thinking and this is nice and all, but if anyone can get into heaven, what is the point of having a religion or even believing in a god? How can he promote his agenda and recruit members if it's not necessary to belong to his religion to have a happy afterlife? Does the commandment sin of not going to church and the afterlife punishment for that still apply if you're an atheist? So many questions, so little concern...

    May 24, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      His thinking is actually as archaic as it gets in Catholic philosophy. You are just hearing it differently than you have before.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  11. marcohern

    mmmhhh... what's your angle here, pope???

    May 24, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  12. Cted

    Can Christians stop using Pascal's wager as a argument now?

    May 24, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • hee hee

      If it's true that the pope is infallible, then there's no need for Pascal's wager. If it's false, then the consequences are enormous. To play it safe, I'd better use Pascal's wager as an argument.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      No. They are being told that atheists can now get into heaven if they become believers. Not really anything new.
      Before, I guess we weren't even allowed in no matter what we did. Now that has changed. We can now be saved if we believe! What a joke. They are just jerking everyone's chains.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • LinCA

      @hee hee

      You said, "If it's true that the pope is infallible, then there's no need for Pascal's wager."
      Pascal's Wager is flawed regardless of the fact that the pope isn't infallible.

      You said, "If it's false, then the consequences are enormous. To play it safe, I'd better use Pascal's wager as an argument."

      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 9:44 am |
    • EDGY

      The fact that no one can force themselves to actually believe something pretty much puts Pascal's wager to bed. Can't possibly happen, no matter how hard you try. Either you believe, or you don't. It is not a conscience choice.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • hee hee

      Dear LinCA,

      I thought that what I said was so patently silly that everyone could detect my sarcasm...

      I suppose it`s not your fault for imaging that I was serious, reading some of the other posts here.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • LinCA

      @hee hee

      You said, "I thought that what I said was so patently silly that everyone could detect my sarcasm...
      I suppose it`s not your fault for imaging that I was serious, reading some of the other posts here.
      "
      It is sometimes hard to distinguish sarcasm from delusion. From some of your later posts, I gathered that I had stepped in this one. Oh, well, I'll live.

      If needed, I like to use the </sarcasm> tag.

      May 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  13. vinnie

    @ironman59+ ... good luck with your plan. I guess Christmas and Easter mean nothing according to your comments. No hope in any of that. Good luck.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • hee hee

      Oh no! Please don't be smug, you might wound him. Just wait until the end times and have your last laugh then. Since you're so secure, there's no need to be self-righteous about it. I mean, really now, that's not very neighborly of you.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  14. Jack_Rose

    I like this pope so far.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • hee hee

      Because he thinks nice things, right? Good thing the truth is nice, because if it weren't, you wouldn't like him any more.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  15. sanityrules

    Why would atheists really care what the Pope says about them going or not going into heaven anyway. If they are sincere about their faith, they shouldn't give two hoots because the Pope, God and heaven don't exist as far as they care.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Tim

      Maybe, the Pope wasn't speaking so much to atheists, but to Christians who would judge atheists automatically as bad people because we don't believe in Christ. I take it as a positive remark.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • freddo

      The Pope wants to include those who don't "believe" ... he misses the point.

      It's not a club we're interested in joining.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "If they are sincere about their faith"

      Atheists don't have faith. Atheists have reasonable expectations. Faith is belief without evidence and we happen to care that what we believe is true.
      We don't care about going there but we do care that hell is a constant threat from christians to us for not sharing their crazy belief....it makes one wonder what type of person would wish eternal torture upon another human.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • tallulah13

      A) Atheism is not a "faith", simply the lack of belief in god (but I think you know that and are just being obnoxious) and

      B) I think this Pope is sincerely trying to find a way to bridge the animosity between believers and non-believers. And while I don't put any credence in the existence of gods or heavens or hells, I can appreciate when someone is being kind.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Tim

      Truth Prevails 🙂
      Yes, but it's because they think we somehow deserve Hell that gives them license to treat us like bad people, and dismiss what we have to say without even listening. Thinking that we're going to Hell has been their excuse for ignoring what we have to say.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  16. Andrew

    Thanks for the offer but it is as meaningless to this atheist as being offered a free trip to Vulcan to meet Mr Spock. Mythology is mythology. Embrace reality people.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • hee hee

      You're being silly. Spock is just a television show character.

      Really now.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • ed dugan

      The guy is totally irrelevant to the world so let him spout off if he wants. My hope is that one day soon the catholic church will also be irrelevant. If they would drop their theology BS and focus on their hospitals and universities they would actually do a lot of good.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • JS

      No just keep embracing yours while I embrace mine.. it's called freedom.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Andrew

      @ heehee who said, "You're being silly. Spock is just a television show character."

      And gods are... what? Not fictional creatures?

      May 24, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • hee hee

      @JS: yes, the nerve of him. Disagreeing like that! It encroaches on your freedom. Good for you, putting your foot down like that.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Hopefully Heaven

      I, as most Christians, do face our reality. I'd rather make the choice to believe and live eternally with Jesus than make the choice not to follow HIm and wind up with the worst fate imagineable.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • hee hee

      Hi Andrew,

      read my other posts...you`ll probably re-evaluate the spirit of that post...

      May 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • mk

      @Hopefully, then basically you're giving in to the scare tactic that they use to keep you coming back to their church and living your entire life in fear of what another human being has told you to believe.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  17. Sheila

    God sees a person's soul, which we cannot. The Bible says salvation is a gift offered by God, and for all we know, God could offer that gift to the spirit as it leaves the body. It is not for man to judge to whom salvation shall be given.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • rabidatheist

      "god sees a persons soul, but we cannot", stop and think about that. Let it marinate, take all the time you like.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Yasemin

      🙂 Ditto!

      May 24, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Andrew

      I count six baseless claims in your comment. Six things you claim are true but for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • hee hee

      Once again, I am astounded by the depth of knowledge exhibited on this board. Let me write that down... "God sees our souls...". How about our spleen? Does he see our spleen? He must, because why see our souls but not our organs? How do you guys get it all straight?

      May 24, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Bob

      Sheila, your god doesn't exist, and that is a good thing given the horrid stuff he is said to demand in that awful bible book that you reference. Fine stuff like this:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      May 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Science

      Hello Bob

      Agree about the nasty bible you know.........Bob question on your message on bottom of post......sort of leading........do

      you know of a shovel an amputee can use ?

      Peace

      May 24, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • A Question

      It is not for man to judge to whom salvation shall be given.

      Then why are so many Christians frothing at the mouth about same-sex marriage?

      May 24, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  18. ricardo1968

    Most of what Christ told us is good solid advice. I'm sure that a just God would forgive me if my only crime is listening to what reason tells me. I can't call myself an atheist, because even though I am one intellectually, when life gets out of control I secretly ask God to fix it. Don't tell my atheist friends!

    May 24, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Awesome!!! Your secret is safe with us.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Andrew

      Ricardo,
      The ability of the human brain to hold contradictory beliefs is an interesting human trait. We probably all act deluded and hypocritical in some way at one time or another. That doesn't mean it isn't a character flaw though and we shouldn't strive to be consistent and real at all times. You could probably do better intellectually and I challenge you to do so. I really hope my surgeon and pilot have their hypocrisy and delusions under control at the important times – you know what I mean?

      May 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • ricardo1968

      @Andrew,

      I would say that it is not a character flaw to recognize ones fragility and fallibility. Arrogance is probably a more serious character flaw.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      ricardo1968

      Most of what Christ told us ...............
      ..................................................................
      False, there is no book written by khrist.

      May 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

    Hey, CNN – what are comments closed for the story about the dumb t-wat who's yipping and yapping about gays being allowed in the Boy Scouts and how it will "destroy" the organization. He better watch out – I hear there's a movement afoot to allow coloureds into the Scouts! Gadzooks, man!

    May 24, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • mk

      You mean the man who claims that now that gay scouts are allowed, the 8-year-old scouts will do nothing now but sit around the campfire and talk about s-ex? What a joke.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • tallulah13

      I agree that publishing such an openly bigoted "opinion" piece without allowing for rebuttal is offensive. Rather cowardly of them.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      My money is the coward author made the request no comments

      May 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Honey Badger Don't Care

    So the pope can directly contradict the bible? Must be nice to have a doctrine that is written in jello like that.

    May 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      HB are you simply going with your default "attack religion" response or do you actually believe the pope said atheists are going to heaven? One illustrates your bias and the other the inability to understand language. I suppose the best we can hope for is that you are purposefully obtuse on order to advance your own agendas. Otherwise, you're just lost.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • you're a deek

      shut up bill

      May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
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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.