Casting A Big Net: Pope Says Atheists Can Get Into Heaven Too

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

130412182419-pope-francis-one-month-story-topFunny thing. You can learn a lot about politics listening to religious leaders — especially the one’s who’ve suffered a precipitous decline in prestige and influence by marching out of step with the mainstream. In words as surprising as his election to the Throne of St. Peter, Pope Benedict has issued a game changer. Atheists can get into Heaven, too. Pope Francis is in the habit of saying daily Mass for the people at St. Martha’s House with invited guests, and when he does so he gives an off-the-cuff homily. Here’s his dialog with an imaginary questioner:

“‘But, Father, this [person] is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. . . .

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!

“‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good.”

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

Wow! No club membership! No dues! The key to Heaven found in good works alone regardless of belief.  This Pope is rubbing the Curia against its collective grain and positioning a church with declining  influence into an outreach dynamo.  The move ruffled feathers at the Vatican, of course.  The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who are aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.” But Rosica had to offer due deference to the words of the  leader of 1.2 billion souls, adding, “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.”

Bummer. Thanks for adding  fallibility to that infallibility thingie. Then, of course, the National Catholic Register chimed in to parse every word to prove that, “Nope, the Pope wasn’t talking about Heaven. Just Peace.”

These naysayers notwithstanding, the cat was out of the bag.  In short order, this Pope from South America is proving to be something special. First, a defense of Liberation Theology we discussed a couple of weeks ago (here). Then, a blue ribbon panel to implement church reform and a first ever call to root out and punish child abusing priests. Now, he’s plowing new ecumenical ground despite what those Hogwarts in Rome think.  Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said that he welcomed the Pontiff’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.  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. ” Amen to that.

In an age of fundamentalism, the successor to St. Peter is reaching out to the world — even to non believers.  And running roughshod over those power brokers in the Vatican to do it. Talking about shaking the pillars of the church. Long overdue in a church more known for scandal than saving souls. It seems this Pope understands demographics and people. That’s an irresistible combination. Might even get me back into the aisles.

Now if the Republicans in the US could get the message.

Source: CNN

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

60 thoughts on “Casting A Big Net: Pope Says Atheists Can Get Into Heaven Too”

  1. If many priests (4-5% of them worldwide can get in after molesting children and raping women, who not atheists who don’t do those things nor commit any other crime?

    Actually, that’s not what he said. A “retraction” or “clarification” came later sticking with the usual insulting lie.

  2. After all is said and done I think that folks will like this new Pope a lot better than any in the past hundred years.

  3. AY, You know, it only looks like I spend 8 hours at a time on the list. I open the blawg and go off and do chores, come back and read a bit then go off and do something else…. I don’t post too often on the weekends and that is NOT because I don’t think the blawg offerings are comment worthy. They are! Our guest blawgers have been doing an extraordinary job. And I’ve noticed that the weekend offerings are, many times, more akin to primers on a subject than an easy, quick read on a fleeting event. They are outstanding by any measure.

    By the time I get back to the blawg- supper is more or less out of the way now though the dishes await- I’m tired and can’t muster a response that the posting deserves. Unless something gobsmacks me to the point of a spontaneous response uncensored by the pre-conscious mind….

  4. The problem with people like David is they have a good talk with very little substance. The scary part is people like this get elected to congress or state legislatures. The horrible part is they vote on and pass law that they have no clue what they entail until they or someone they know gets trapped under them and then they start to understand that the universe is bigger than what they knew…..

  5. David,

    I would argue that the truth of James the Just and Saul was cast in a revisionist light and that they died as Jews. I would say that Jesus felt that he was leading a revolt against Roman rule and they killed him for it. I would say also that what is called the Christian religion today came from Paul who wasn’t a disciple and never knew Jesus. Paul preached a form of Mithraism to the gentiles, but substituted Jesus for Mithra. That is what Hyam Maccoby’s The Mythmaker is about. My take is that Jesus was a Pharisee Rabbi.

    In all honesty though as a Deist, I don’t believe in the mythology of any religion. I think that the idea that humanity could understand the purposes of the Creative force infoming the Universe is blasphemous, that is if I believed in blasphemy, which I don’t.

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