By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Funny 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.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
60 thoughts on “Casting A Big Net: Pope Says Atheists Can Get Into Heaven Too”
Jesus was a Jew. One of the best people on this blog is Malisha. She said she’s a Russian Jew. I don’t believe in religion. I think all of it is a cult.
He seems to be ignorant of most of the subjects on which he pontificates. Pure hubris.
Hubris is the operative condition. That is why I’m being so patient with him, since we both know where hubris leads.
As I said on the France thread my 37 year career was dpent working with the people you are talking about. Your comments show you have no understanding at all with the population that you write about. I do since I am an expert in all areas of the social services field. A massive tragedy would happen without government aid.
Also Martin Luther started out loving Jews because he thought his new take on Christianity would convert them. When almost no Jews converted he became angry with Jews for not seeing his wisdom. As the years went on he became more rabid in his hatred.
Also it probably is Revolution in Judea, it’s been 15 years since I last read it.
LK & AY,
Yup. I had been trying to come up with a response to David that would remain in the general vicinity of civility. I am drawing a blank. So I will just go with what you guys said.
I just wrote a long comment and erased it before posting. I am gobsmacked by David and his…..whatever it is.
I agree with AY, that was the harshest comment I’ve ever seen you make.
Perhsps David is trying some sort of Socratic method, or Porkchop has it right and Jonathan Swift has been reincarnated. I guess there are other explanations tjough. 🙂
Now if the Republicans in the US could get the message.
Amen. You forgot to mention the Democrats. I’ve already been prayed into heaven. I was baptized a protestant at an early age.
If you don’t have a bible, what do you do?
In my years here I do not recall you ever saying anything like what you said to David…… He must have really ruffled you…. I resisted the temptation…. I would not have been as polite as you…. Thank you for saying what needed saying….
Plus you were nicer than I would have been….
Haven’t you been paying attention David? The poor are already slaves to the machine, they’re big business:
Man, I muse privately, in my head, about all kinds of things but under no circumstances would I ever say them out loud because they are simply mad. And calling someone on their mad musings may in fact be an attack, both personal and on their First Amendment in some quarters but, srsly, ARE YOU INSANE DAVID? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR F*****G MIND? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Let’s bring slavery back to address our social failing to tend humanely to the least among us? I’m old fashioned, there’s some s**t you just don’t say in normal society, not even polite society- just “normal” society. You just said one of those things.
Porkchop, RWL- yea, right.
Put Coptic Christian in your vocabulary …. Then you summed up what you said in Two Words…
In the alternative, Jonathan Swift is alive and well and commenting on this blog.
Yes, I certainly agree that enslaving the homeless would be good for them — and for me. I have a lot of things that need to be done around the house and little time to do them. A slave or two would come in handy. I suppose I would need to feed them, though. Do you think that there is a minimum nutrition standard, or could we just give them the table scraps? Usually we feed those to the dog, but she doesn’t really do any cleaning or home maintenance, so I would be willing to divert her food to the slaves. Or the slaves and the dog could just fight each other for it, I suppose. I have a shed in the backyard where they could sleep. Would I have to give them clothes? Or would this be like in the Harry Potter books, where if the master gives a house-elf clothing, the house-elf is free? Maybe I could give them clothes every seven years?
But to get back on topic, what do you think the Pope would say about this? I’m not Catholic, but I will hazard a guess that he would not approve.
Seriously, are you sure you are from the US? Earth, even? Oh, wait — Cleveland! There was a guy in Cleveland who had a similar idea . . .
Are you trying to spoil everyone’s Memorial Day Weekend?
WTH??? Slavery + Homelessness + SS Benefits = Type of Lifestyle one lives + ‘thinking outside of the box’????
I won’t comment any further. I am willing to listen, read, and learn from others about your remarks.
Debtor prisons were abolished for some reason David…. Can you think of any reason why?
There is a new dog in the dogpac. He is a puppy named HerbieDog. He went through the reincarnation routine the same week that the last Pope died. Herbie got bumped off the interview calendar by the Pope of all people. But he was in the wating room and got to overhear all the questions. Did you know that the last Pope was a Hitler Youth member? Yeah. He also had some sex with women prior to being in the monastery. It was a Hitler Youth initiation rite. So, the reincarnated the dead Pope and let him come back as a human. He was not good enough to come back as a dog. In fact HerbieDog saw him in the Come Back As A Dog Seminar up there. So, he tried. Maybe next time. This time around he ought to stay out of the GOP. Or worse the Young Republicans. That is the next worse thing to Hitler Youth.
Don’t forget the eclipse as well….. If I read David correctly he is dancing around and stereotyping as he says he’s not…. But your truth is yours….
You can tell it is a full moon when AY makes these comments: “You’re either a fool or tool, I can’t figure out which.”
There is much debate about whether or not Catholicism is a denomination (form) of Christianity:
In other words, the pope (with a small ‘p’) doesn’t speak for christians?
” I think the old Jewish system in the Torah with a cyclical tax of 10% for the poor taken every 3 years and releasing debts and slaves every 7 years would be great.”
I’m confused. Does that mean that you release your slaves every 7 years? That you would release your slaves if the system was in place? That you think other people should release their slaves? So, are you going to keep your slaves?
Is the system to release slaves not in place? Where do you live, anyway? I thought that we already did that in the US. To be fair, we did just have a slave release here locally in Northern Virginia — reportedly, a woman from Kenya escaped from the apartment of a Saudi diplomat. Slavery is not the norm, here, though, except apparently for Saudi diplomats (this was not the first such case).
I’m in the U.S., and a lot of people do not realize it, but the US Constitution still allows for slavery, but only if the person is convicted of a crime. I have a personal viewpoint that it would be better for the poor if we still allowed slavery for non-criminals with some kind of release period mentioned in the Torah. I think the Torah is wiser than our current Constitution on this subject, despite all the propaganda our current society puts out about how evil slavery is. And even though the Constitution still allows slavery for criminals, it really isn’t followed because the idea of prison and locking people up is more ingrained in our culture than the idea of forced restitution by the offender toward the victims of his crimes.
What we have now without slavery is growing numbers of homeless individuals in the downtown areas of cities who are aimless and without purpose in their lives. Part of the problem is the minimum wage making it impossible to hire them for the level of work they can do. Another part of the problem is the complete abolition of slavery for non-criminals.
Some of the homeless and impoverished actually get into a form of slavery anyways, but it isn’t called slavery. What happens is a scenario like the following. Suppose a mentally ill person gets a Social Security check every month, but he does not have the ability to manage things for himself. So here he is getting government assistance, but no direction or way to manage his affairs, so he sleeps on the street trying to figure out what to do. His meals come from various charities that feed the homeless, and in line for a meal one day, a person from another charity finds out he gets a social security check. So what he does is tell him he has a program to help him. The homeless man joins the program, but the catch is that he has to sign over his entire SS check to the charity and he has to do volunteer community service work in their thrift store or whatever else they have going. Before long, this poor man is trapped in a system he cannot easily get out of. He gets no check anymore, so he can’t save his money for a deposit on an apartment, and he has to work for them without pay. There is no hope for him.
In the model of social justice outlined in the Torah, people become slaves through a variety of ways, but one common way is indebtedness. Can’t pay your debts, so instead of throwing them in prison and society paying to maintain the prisoner through tax collection, he becomes a slave to the person to whom he is indebted. Through this he is expected to pay off his debt in exchange for his service. However, the catch is that every 7 years is a year of release. The person might become a slave just one year before that 7th year or 6 years before it. It doesn’t matter. When that year of release comes along, all debts are forgiven and the slaves are released and set free. I perceive such a system as resulting in better social welfare for the poor than the system we currently have which outlaws slavery for non-criminals. The poor guy I mentioned who gets in that slavery situation anyway, even though it is not called slavery anymore, would fair better in a system where slave owners are expected to treat their slaves properly. The responsibility of a slave owner would be to train the person to become self sufficient and able to support himself, so that when he is released in that year of release, he can create a good life for himself.
I realize this is “thinking outside the box” or “thinking outside our cultural norms” but I hope you give it some consideration. Our culture is not necessarily best.
To compress David’s comment: You can’t legislate morality.
You’re either a fool or tool, I can’t figure out which…..
Dang Mike S.,
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