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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. Gordon Zaft

    "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."

    The word you're looking for is "tenet". Good grief don't you people proofread?!

    May 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  2. It's funny, you know...

    Reading all your comments, I can only say that the degenerate always come back for more, regardless of their wasted time and ridiculous posts. Shame on all of you trying to be snobs/jerks. Go do something productive. CNN, just get rid of the comments section.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, those degenerate catholics! What are we going to do about it??

      May 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      And you are here because you can't pass up any opportunity to ooze snobbery from every pore AND so you can command CNN to get rid of their comments section?

      I bow to your superior wisdom!

      May 25, 2013 at 12:42 am |
  3. lionlylamb

    The "Celled-in Time Continuums" are vortices of inner toward outer spatial relationships whose relativities coagulate and congeal in spasms of physiological longevity. Our bodies are a singular cosmic universe of atomized cosmologies within cellular relationships of passionate bimolecular magnetisms!

    Any whose Christian religion cannot lay claims that the kingdom domains of God reside upon our bodies' insides isn't really of any worthiness to be followed! Likewise, any science that cares not to fathoming the very insides of atomized relativities being the very first cosmos of spatial relationships isn't worthy of scientific concernments. Even our sciences' astronomies can say that the outer dimensions of spatial relations are very similar to the inner dimensioned but Science stands aloof and afar off from such Truth! Go Figure!

    Gods of the Inner Worlds in Atomic Proportions,
    Reaching ever Outwards wanting solutions,
    Atomized Beings We All Are In Celled Manifestations,
    Creations of God’s Kingdom Domains are All of Celestial-Life Propagations,
    Eternally Inward,- Life Marches On In Mortal Congregations.
    Panic drives the emotionally driven and stress hinders those spiritually blinded on both sides of the fences. Let go and let God's unknowable wisdom be one's spirited guide: provided one can see the clarities of dumbfounded vainness tripping ever upon one’s own mindedness shadow of doubtfulness. A sober man might not ever have imbibed of the drunkenness but a drunken man knows well the 12 drinks' drank in drunken revelries of their long owned 10 fallacies of dirtied emotionalisms.

    Envisioning outwardly past the great beyond boundaries of yet unfathomed celestial perceptivities lays God's Domain. Inside all issuances of Life's Celestially Governed and upon the Atomized Chasms of Bimolecular Physics lays all of God's Children being but inwardly dwelt sons and daughters of all inner-cosmologic atomic dwelling spaces. We are all but atomized buildings of celestially woven inter-cellular cosmologies within triangulated miniaturizations of inner-spatial relationships of which all celestial cosmologies are attempting to replicate.

    Therefore, try to treat one and another with kindness filled ‘indignities’ and pleasing vetted distinguishably solvent aromas of seasonal perceptivities along with nurtured emblematic voiced and/or written abundances. Suffer toward others not, lest you are among the suffering also, for nothing but tempered goodness is availed unto humanisms' suffrages of cooperative understanding issuances. For God hears not the lowly mumblings of human suffrages and is not moved nor swayed by the conditional e c u m e n I c a l swerves as being nothing but filtrated background noises. God is as a tempest teapot and we are as the waters inside the teapot waiting ever to be vented!

    May 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  4. ScienceNeedsNoFaith

    Telling an Atheist he isn't going to heaven is like telling the Pope that Thor, the thunder God, doesn't like Catholicism. Atheists don't believe a heaven exists, so they don't really care if the Pope gives them a hall pass to heaven.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Menos

      Science absolutely requires faith. It requires a faith in, for example, abstract thought and concepts that don't exist outside of the scientist's mind out in the "real world".. A perfect circle or line doesn't exist in nature,t yet the human mind conjures up such things and low and behold incredible advancements are made in the realm of science and technology. Science requires an incredible faith in reason itself. Often the greatest scientific breakthroughs come to people well before there is enough science (appropriate experiments and tools) to prove the insights that scientests have so much faith in due to a hunch or intuition. Perhaps the greatest scientific faiith of all is that the universe itself is intelligible. We all tend to take that for granted and never stop to think how profound that concept really is. "ScienceNeedsNoFaith" is utterly false and demonstrates a deep ignorance of science itself - historically and otherwise.

      May 23, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  5. matt

    Yea, whatever this months flavor of interpretation from whatever version of the bible this nonsense is coming from.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  6. Josh

    Do we need anymore proofs of the evil of Catholicism and the papacy? God redeeming people who reject and curse Him? What an absolute ridiculous thought!

    May 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      Josh, as an Atheist I don't hate the Pope. But I don't value his opinion on many topics. The Catholic policy of prevention of birth control in overpopulated, under nourished, unsanitary, uneducated Africa is just about as inhumane as you can get. They are forced into having children who have suffered and died by the MILLIONS of disease, starvation and other maladies. At the same time, one reason that AIDS runs so rampant in Africa is the same policy of preventing birth control, causing countless other MILLIONS of deaths from that epidemic. But, heah, he's the boss with the funny hat, chosen by the red hat God alliance, so IT MUST BE GODS WILL!

      May 23, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  7. Confused

    But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”"

    The "there" he is talking about is not 'there' as in Heaven, but the act of doing good. Let us meet at least in the middle in doing good things together. That can be a common ground we can work from.

    I've never seen such an effort to twist what the pope is saying, and I'm a protestant!

    May 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • sam

      Are you...absolutely sure that's what he meant?

      May 23, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  8. ChuckTheCanuck

    When I die, I'm going to Sugar Plum Land, to live with the pixies.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  9. Chester

    Really??? Who cares???? Religion is silly!!!!

    May 23, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Menos

      Such a deep thought from a 2-D character trapped in Flatland. There is little difference between a shallow minded religious follower and a shallow and closed minded atheist. Two peas in a pod. It's fascinating to see how condescending and intolerant some atheists can be and how profoundly ignorant many of them are to the deeper aspects of religious and philosophical contemplation. Or even about the massive amount of charity work that manifests from orgnanized religious traditions. Feeding countless hungry all over the world and day after day is far from "silly" - nor is it silly for someone who has lost a loved one to seek comfort through faith. What is silly is the new-atheist penchant for being so damn grouchy and condescending to all who don't believe and think as they do. Perhaps the silliest part of your comment is that it exposes a deep ignorance of the subject of religion itself. While there are certainly silly aspects to various religious practices and beliefs, the same can most certainly be said about a group of people who have convinced themselves that they have all the answers to life's deepest questions like "why is there something rather than nothing" - it's silly to simply say, given enough deep time, something is bound to pop into existence fron non-existence. Or that it's inenvitable that order would manifest from chaos. Or that given enough time, a room full of monkeys with typewriters would randomly produce a literary masterpiece. That's nonsense, yet that is what atheists believe without a secound thought. Yes, religion can be silly, but to take such a rich and deep subject and label it "silly" is intellectually vapid and dishonest.

      May 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      But continuing a policy of preventing birth control in Africa isn't silly? Millions of children and adults have died in horrible ways due to this antiquated policy. A policy that pushes overpopulated, malnutritioned, unsanitary, and uneducated deeper into despair. That is undeniably silly as well as unusual, cruel and unthinkable to every non-Catholic based NGO and most governments on the planet. There good deeds of feeding peole – often in Africa – are negated by this one "mystical" belief. Way to go making God proud!

      May 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  10. Robin Bray

    Eternity and everyday is a monday. Ha! Cults come up with some weird crap.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Susan Wicks

      Silly............ Perhaps you are being close minded.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      The Vatican dress code is hilarious. Sticking to Bronze Age stories (mostly stolen from previous cultures) as a guiding principle doesn't seem too open minded.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  11. Robin Bray

    No thanks. I can't imagine a more boring thing than heaven, going on forever and ever. What a mindless dull idea. But I would love to see all the fools meeting up with their divorced spouses and being forced to be with them till the end of time. And then spending everyday with your parents and co-workers. Yikes.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • John

      Can you imagine if there was a Jesus? Heaven would be a Hell for him because he'd be surrounded by an infinite number of drooling sycophants and fan boys to end all fan boys.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Webpreacher

      So then, you must not love life Robin Bray, giving a big thumbs down on God's offer of eternal life ? The problem with your thinking is ignorance, you just DONT know what your talking about, because truth is, Satan has blinded you to the Truth of God's revelation to mankind, His Word, The Bible. Its not man's , its God's Word, and Satan has got you right were "he" wants you, in total ignorance of God's Truth. Receive God's Christ, LORD Jesus, receive eternal life in God's Kingdom, reject God's Christ, receive eternal life in Hell's Flames, yes, IN Hell's Flames, where the fire Burns, but does NOT consume. Well, its too bad Robin Bray doesn't bother to look into what God has provided, that being, the way He has made that we may know Him, and His Christ, and the gift of eternal life in Heaven ! As for it being boring, as you say? Well God created the Earth and all the Universe and everything that therein is, is that all boring to you as well, must really be awful for you, being bored in this world God created ??

      May 26, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • Webpreacher

      JOHN ? What do you men "if there was a Jesus", ? The historical record (secular), clearly teaches that Jesus was a historical figure and that he lived in the timeline according to the Biblical teachings ! So that begs the question John, what do you mean "if there was a Jesus" ? Lastly, apart from knowing, and believe on Jesus Christ, there is NO hope for mankind, for eternal life, NONE, no hope for the deliverance from "Hell's Flames" !!

      May 26, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  12. Luiz Penalva

    Dear Pope Francis,
    Do pedophile priests go to heaven? What about the ones who protected them like Pope Benedict?

    May 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Tamy

      This is a stupid question... of course NOTif they did not ask for forgiveness.. Pope is talking about GOOD people... try to use your brain

      May 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      But wait, doesn't the "good" book say non believers can't go to heaven? Is the Pope suggesting the book is wrong? Or is it his new hat that makes him see things in the Bible the church has claimed to be their for centuries?

      May 23, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  13. Irreligious

    While this is somewhat heartening to hear form the Pontiff, on behalf of irreligious people everywhere, we don't really care. To Atheists, etc., it's like asking if Stan Lee thinks Spider-Man would like us or not.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Andrew

      ... Personally I'd be pretty stoked if Stan Lee would say Spiderman would like me.

      I may not believe in Spiderman, but I can still take a compliment, especially from Stan Lee, who is a lot cooler than the pope.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Irreligious

      You know what, Andrew, I couldn't agree more!

      May 23, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  14. lie like a catholic

    the pope is a jackazz

    May 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  15. Yacine

    Being atheist makes you belong to the category of "Camel and the needle"

    Matthew 19
    23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
    25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
    26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    Coran 7-40 Indeed, those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them – the gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle. And thus do We recompense the criminals.
    The pardon of God's forgiveness beyond humain logic.
    Bible

    May 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • sam

      Thanks for the pronouncement. Oh, and the bible quotes, because no one ever does that around here.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • John

      If "the pardon of God's forgiveness is beyond human logic" – there's no point in trying to use logic to argue that you know who he would or wouldn't forgive, is there? That right there basically says it all – what God will do is beyond logic. There is no simple logical rule, no "accept Christ and be saved" formula to salvation.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • John

      If "the pardon of God's forgiveness is beyond human logic" – there's no point in trying to use logic to argue that you know who he would or wouldn't forgive, is there? That right there basically says it all – what God will do is beyond logic. There is no simple logical rule, no "accept Christ and be saved" formula to salvation. What beyond logic means implies is – some atheists could be saved, some Christians might not be saved. It's all up to God.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      And one reason many Atheists are Atheists is the total lack of logic, reason or continuity of message in the Bible. If God made the universe, the laws of nature, the incredibly organized periodic chart of the elements, the complex but readable genetic code, and other "highly organized and "intelligently designed" things, why was he so daft at righting his rules in the Bible. For any one verse in the Bible, you can find an exact, polar opposite verse.
      I'll stick with science and humanist values which predate the New and Old Testaments "moral code" believers mostly say only religion can offer.

      May 23, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      And Yacine, what does your Mathew quote have anything to do with Atheists. It talks about selfish rich people who do no good deeds not getting the E ticket pass to heaven. A penniless Atheist who gives and does "good" deeds would pass through the magic needle just fine.l

      May 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Roadrunner 10:13 Meep meep!

      May 25, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • Webpreacher

      Yacine, not understanding why you quote the "coran" (spelled Qu'ran), along with the Bible, since the Qu'ran has NOTHING to do with God's Word, The Bible?
      As for Christ being the redeemer of all men, including Atheists, as the "Pope", as said (though not Biblically proclaimed) well, to some extent that is true, Christ came to save that which was lost,(Matthew 18:11 / Luke 19:10) and to be, the redeemer of souls ( Galatians 3:12-14 / 1 Peter 1:17-19 / Revelation 5:8-10 ) ! However, the Pope did NOT represent God's Truth on the matter, for mankind MUST be, "Born Again", (gospel of John, chapter 3 / 1 Peter 1:13), and, to be "Born Again", one MUST, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of lost sinners, must believe in Jesus,( John 3:16-17 /Mark 1:14-16,; 9:23-25 / John 1:6-8 ; 6:28-30 ) which the Atheists, do NOT !! Salvation (redemption) is by "Faith" in Jesus Christ", there is NO other way (John 14:6, / Mark 16:16 / John 10:9 / Acts 2:21 / Romans 10:13 )
      Its all about Faith in God's Christ, LORD Jesus, whosoever shall look to Jesus, believe on Him, and Him alone, shall be saved / redeemed, YOU, MUST be "Born Again" , by Faith in LORD Jesus, the redeemer of souls !!!!

      May 26, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      webpreacher
      Not sure why you quote the bible since there are no gods, no evidence of any of the thousands of gods that men have made. All of them are from the imaginations of men in response to their own ignorance. The bible is flawed , covere to cover proving either your god is flawed or their are no gods, and it is just a flawed work of men.

      May 26, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Webpreacher

      Richard, apparently your "cranium" is empty ! The Bible, IS, the most accurate Historical record in the World, which has been proven time and time again by Historians around the world !! As for the many flaws you claim the Bible has, I would absolutely challenge you to present just ONE, such flaw, and be warned, thousands of others who have made such ridicules claims, have ALL FAILED, in their attempt to discredit even ONE word of Holy Scripture, So, go ahead "Richard", give us your evidence, that clearly proves, The Bible is not true, and is flawed,, we're all waiting ??

      May 26, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Adam and Eve. Disporoven by genetics that all of mankind was from one set of DNA, then woman created from the same DNA, and then the species propogated via incestuous relationship from there.

      Noah's ark. Disproven by physics, quantum physics, geology, oceanography, genetics, biology, meteorology

      Genesis...disproven by Quantum Physics, Cosmology, Physics, Genetics Astrophysics

      Jonah and the whale (fish or sea monster) disproven by Ichthyology, oceanology, biology.

      Common sense should be enough for you to figure out the rest is just the stories created by over active imaginations of men trying to answer their own ignorance.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      weboverreacher
      How do you explain the FACT that all humans have neanderthal DNA if the neanderthals never existed., at least not according to your bible.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Weboverreacher
      How about simple math. Not taking into account the amount that Mt. Everest has lost due to erosion over the last couple of millenia, lets start with its peak at 29,000 feet. The water from Naohs flood would have to go 29.000 feet during a rain storm of 40 days. Here's the math. 40 days times 24 hours.is 960 hours. (60 hours to cover even the highest mountain, so 29,000 x12 =348,000 inches. so 348,000 divided by 960 hours is 362.5 inches of rain an hour, world wide. Thats 6 inches of rain a minute for 960 hours, world wide. The total volume of water on the planet cannot meet the required amount...impossible.

      again, thats 6 inches of rain a MINUTE worldwide...seriously you believe that?
      Just because you do not accept the proof, does not mean that the required proof has not been given.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  16. Confused

    The other priests tried to clarify but still most are not understanding what was said. He is simply stating what Christians have always said, Catholic and Protestant, that Christ died for everyone. Though to get to heaven, you need grace since we all sin, and the only way to get that (not earn it), is through faith in Christ's sacrifice for your sin. A true faith leads to repentance and is evident through good works, not exclusively as everyone can do some good, but it is an evidence of it.

    Atheists are misunderstanding the meaning of what was said. Christ died for all, but you still have to believe in him in order to go to Heaven, surrounded by God and his glory. If you want nothing to do with God, being with him would not be "heaven". He gives us that free choice.

    May 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • sam

      Uhh...to be fair, no one is getting it. Are you reading the other comments? It's not just atheists arguing about what he meant.

      May 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!".. 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.”

      not sure your claim is correct confused. And your claim of 'nothing to do with god' is incorrect, atheists dont believe in god, which is an entirely different thing.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Madame X

      I think what the Pope is saying, which is consistent with the Gospels, is that Christ died to redeem ALL of us – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Budhists... all of us, even non-believers. Who will go to Heaven is determined, not by our merits, but by God's grace, and it is He, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, who will determine who goes to Heaven and who doesn't.

      I think of Heaven as a huge get-together, hosted by God; His friends – those who follow Him – can expect to be invited, but it is the host, and not His invitees, who ultimately determines who is invited and who isn't. I choose to believe that all who do good, all who work to make the world a better place for all, whether they do it in the name of God or not, will be welcome. As to those who promote hate and discord, whether in the name of God or not... maybe they won't. But I would never presume to know God's will...

      May 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      Confused: Great tag for your posts by the way.
      What part of Atheists going to heaven don't you understand?
      1. Atheists don't accept any authority of the Pope over their lives. Whatever the Pope says is usually meaningless and worthless drivel for an Atheist. (That's not to say the Pope might just make some valid and meaningful statements.)
      2. Atheists don't believe in your "God" and in almost all cases believe that if Jesus existed, he was just a really cool guy with some good ideas. (And some maybe not so good, just like any guy.)
      3. Atheists do not believe in a heaven or hell. (Except for maybe the hell the man makes for himself on earth.)
      4. Adding items 1, 2 and 3 above means that telling an Atheist the he is or is not going to heaven or hell is the ultimate waste of breath. Atheists spend no time discussing these 4 items amongst ourselves. To see believers trip over themselves contemplating such concepts gives is incredible ironic humor. Thanks for the entertainment. We'll lob occasional tidbits to your arguments to see you squirm in a more frenzied pitch.

      May 23, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  17. notjack

    If there is a heaven, and if the classic (not necessarily Catholic) portrayal of Heaven - as a place where everyone spends eternity praising God - is accurate, wouldn't that be an atheist's idea of Hell?

    So maybe atheists do also wind up in Heaven, but that's their punishment for being nonbelievers?

    May 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • M.E.

      I wouldn't call myself a straight-up atheist, I'm apathetic when it comes to picking sides on that one, it would be rather annoying to be stuck in heaven worshiping some guy all day. I'm rather more fond of my own idea of the afterlife. That is, imagining all the wonderful adventures the molecules that currently make up me will go on once they cease to be part of me. I really hope I end up on the ocean floor where in millions of years I'll be subducted and perhaps shot out a volcano. That's my idea of heaven!

      May 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  18. Bryant Lister

    Silly pope, myths are for kids.
    Thankfully, I was excommunicated from the catholic cult. So, they can't count me as a member.

    May 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      Sorry that you were ever a card carrying member. It looks like you escaped with your faculties intact.

      May 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  19. goddog

    If religious folks would just speak plainly it would be a lot easier. I am an ex-Catholic Atheist. I think that what the Pope was saying was that Catholics should work with all others , including Atheists, on things that are "good" because even Atheists can one day convert (because they have been redeemed) and find salvation (if they truly believe). It is nothing new as far as doctrine goes. It's so much more efficient to just stop with all of the VooDoo of religion and just be a good person because it works best.

    May 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  20. Dave

    An athiest's funeral, all dressed up and no place to go.

    May 23, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Same as a believer only we're not deluded.

      May 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Bryant Lister

      Same as everyone else.

      May 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Chuckles

      I personally plan on donating my body to science, chances are I won't be dressed up at all. However I hope I can give an organ or two to a person in need and also help some doctors leaern their craft and help others.

      But sure, you can make sure you bury your body in the ground where it goes no where and gets eaten by worms. Have fun with that.

      May 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Chuckles: AtheistSteve and I have done the same, our corpses will go directly to a medical school and the ashes will be buried within their cemetery. No funeral, just a happy get together to celebrate our lives.

      May 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Susan Wicks

      That`s funny! Ha ha ha.......... someone once told me that I would be surprised, after my death, to see there is no afterlife. Kind of a ridiculous statement, eh........ If I am surprised after my death then that means I am alive after my death..........

      May 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • ScienceNeedsNoFaith

      Susan:
      Keep up the sense of humor. And a bit of advice. Make sure you have a good last laugh before you die. The scientific probabilities of you having any laugh after are astoundingly small.

      May 23, 2013 at 7:29 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.