Pope Francis: Atheists Can Be Saved if They ‘Obey Their Conscience’

No matter how much criticism he gets from his faithful, or how often his cardinals scramble to walk his statements back, Pope Francis just won’t stop offering atheists a chance at salvation.

In recent months, newspaper editor and stalwart atheist Eugenio Scalfari has written two open letters to the pontiff, both of which were published in Scalfari’s Italian daily La Repubblica. Scalfari’s letters appear to have addressed some of the Pope’s reflections in his first encyclical, Lumen fidei.

Any earlier pope would have likely ignored the communiqués, but that’s not Francis’ style. Instead he responded in a three-page-long letter that made the newspaper’s front page:

In one of his earlier letters, Scalfari asked whether Pope Francis believes “God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.” In a move that’s sure to infuriate Catholic purists, Francis affirmed that God’s forgiveness and mercy is open even to the godless… and the key task for unbelievers is to “obey their conscience”:

Given that – and this is fundamental — God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

Considering the number of people who have abandoned the Church rather than disregard their consciences on issues like contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights, these words from Pope Francis appear both shrewd and surprising. Without requiring skeptics to abandon their doubts or make professions of faith, Francis offers to “walk a bit of the way together” with religious non-believers. In particular, the pontiff seemed to address those most alienated by Catholicism, adding:

Believe me, in spite of [the Church's] slowness, the unfaithful, the mistakes and the sins that the Church might have committed and can still commit among those who compose it, [the Church] has no other sense and aim if not to live and witness Jesus.

Granted, it’s not exactly an apology for decades of sex abuse or the bishops’ various assaults on freedom of conscience. But when you consider the fact that it took Catholicism four centuries to apologize to Galileo for that whole geocentrism snafu, this sort of admission of Vatican imperfection seems unusually humble and shockingly up-to-date.

All that remains to be seen is how quickly Francis’ handlers will scramble to tone down this latest batch of inclusive statements and how long they can rein in the renegade pontiff before he reaches out to the unfaithful again.

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.

  • randomfactor

    And if I “obey my conscience” and save as many from Catholicism as I can manage…?

    • Keyra


      • 3lemenope

        Well, from out here, they don’t seem like a good club to join. Not something I would recommend to a friend, that’s for sure.

        And I’m not saying this to be flippant. I’ve helped Christians I know who were looking for a new (generally less shitty, more thoughtful) congregation find churches they would be a good fit for. It’s what a friend does. It’s just, when a church fails so spectacularly on basic moral stuff like “don’t rape children”, “don’t force women to be pregnant”, and “try very hard not to act as though you have dominion over Heaven and Earth”, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend them to anyone.

      • wabney


        See how easy it is to do what you do? :)

    • DougI

      If you’re a good person and save people from the church then the gods will reward you.

  • C Peterson

    Just what part of “we neither want nor need to be ‘saved’” does that pathetic moron not understand?

    • Thalfon

      > In one of his earlier letters, Scalfari asked whether Pope Francis believes “God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.”

      Sounds like he was just answering a posed question. Someone brought it up, he answered in about the best way you can really expect him to. I’m no fan of the Catholic church, but of all things this is not something to harangue the guy for.

    • Michael Bowes

      clearly you are choosing to follow evil, therefore the olive branch that the Pope extended to you has been rejected by your hate and ignorance. So much for that forgiveness….

      • C Peterson

        An olive branch? His Assholiness just handed all rational people a massive insult… yet again. If that’s his idea of an olive branch, I know just where he can put it.

        • 3lemenope

          Jesus: Doesn’t like Mediterranean fruit trees

          C Peterson: Doesn’t like Mediterranean fruit trees

          Coincidence? I think not!

          • revyloution

            Way to bring the Outer Limits, The Bible, and this thread all into one concise post.

            Well done sir, well done.

          • C Peterson

            And my first name is Chris…

      • Randy Meyer

        Not believing in Santa Claus is not ‘following evil’ nor is it out of ‘hate and ignorance.’ It is merely wanting to be held accountable for our own actions as a human being and wanting to aspire to something better simply on our own merits and doing what is right simply for the sake of doing it because it is right and not because a book of stories says it should be so.

      • indorri

        a) turning a rude, hostile response into “following evil”

        b) trying to pin pedophilia on the “gay community” according to your comment history

        Francis extended an olive branch. I’m watching it cautiously to see how that works, because having been bitten before, it only makes sense to be cautious.

        Having been bitten before by blood libelers like you.

        Fuck off.

        • 3lemenope

          Francis extended an olive branch. I’m watching it cautiously to see how that works, because having been bitten before, it only makes sense to be cautious.


          I’m waiting for a significant sign (LOL, a sign) that Francis has some control over the Roman Curia and bureaucracy. Before that happens, he’s just a guy with a refreshing style. After, it might be worth taking his detours from orthodoxy at closer to face value.

      • DougI

        So is the Pope going to return all that money he’s stolen from Atheists? Or is he going to continue to rob us?

        • Emmet

          What money?

          • DougI

            The money stolen from taxpayers to subsidize their tax-exempt business.

      • Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Michael Bowes • 5 months ago
        You can thank the gay community for their interest in little boys.

        Michael Bowes • 5 months ago
        You hit the nail on the head Paul… I’m sick and tired of people trying to call the Church abuse pedophilia when clearly it was homosexuals.

        You type shit like that and have the nerve to tell others they are following evil, are rejecting things because of hate and they are showing ignorance.

        Holy fuck you are one twisted person.

        • RowanVT

          My what interesting… and horrific… opinions you have have found from Mr. Bowes there.

          The cognitive dissonance must be strong in him to declare *us* hateful and ignorant for not immediately accepting a “Maybe you’re not *entirely* evil” from a religious figure of authority.

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          And here is the proof.

          • Tainda

            Ugh! I wish there were a hell so mother fuckers like that would go to it.

        • islandbrewer

          Ah, yes. All you need is to reject your atheisticalish hate and accept the love of the mother church:


          (Ok, so that’s supposed to be the CoE, but it’s kinda the same.)

      • RobMcCune

        clearly you are choosing to follow evil

        I think you misread it, C Peterson won’t follow the pope.

        therefore the olive branch that the Pope extended

        KNEEL BEFORE GOD!!! isn’t extending an olive branch, it’s demanding submission.


        So much for that forgiveness….

        I know, christians drop it at the first sign of independent thought.

    • Devin White

      It’s like someone having a party you don’t want to go to. Even considering that, it’s nice to get an invite and have the person go, “Look, I like you and want the best for you.”

      It’s better than going, “We’re having a ton of fun without you and you can’t come unless you join our (not so) secret club!”

    • Keyra

      That’s overconfidence, hun. We all need to be saved…however if you do not want to be saved, then that’s your choice and Heaven is not for you. Just try not to be so full of contempt and ruin the chance for the sincere, rational, and moral among the nonbelievers. So by being wrong (I’ll throw in an “if” for you), it won’t turn out so good for you (however, it’s never to late. even if you and most other New Atheist hate us with every fiber of your being, we don’t hate you and neither does God)

      • indorri

        It’s annoying that you drop into persecution mode by assuming someone hostile to what has frankly been a morally destitute institution as “hatred”.

        What I do disagree with Peterson is that this is still good, not for nonbelievers, but for the church. It signals a shift in both tone and rectitude in the RCC by punting faith to at least a lower position on the “morality index” so as to move forward with actual reconciliation (not integration/domination as most ecumenical work with the RCC in the past) with non-Catholics.

      • C Peterson

        I’m not a “New Atheist” and I don’t hate anybody. But there are people I find contemptible, and the new Papist-in-Chief is one of them. In my opinion, he’s no better than the last few, he’s simply mastered looking grandfatherly. I’m not fooled by the act.

        • JSC_ltd

          At least he was never a Nazi. Progress!

          • Hat Stealer

            It’s amazing how, as time goes on, this qualification begins to mean less and less.

      • DougI

        You should realize the world doesn’t revolve around you.

        • Stev84

          That’s hard to comprehend for someone who believes that the creator of the universe had a special plan just for them.

      • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

        Try not to be so full of contempt? Did you read what you just wrote? Shove your hell up your ass, you aren’t scaring anyone here with that nonsense

      • Baby_Raptor

        I don’t need to be saved. Nobody *needs* to be saved. Sin is a made up concept, fabricated out of whole cloth to give people a reason to need religion.

        Further, why would I want to be saved by a god who created me so I would need to be saved? Who would trust that, other than non-thinking sheep?

        • corps_suk

          Haha…only sheep need a shepard.

      • Mario Strada

        Read your post again, and then read this quote from it:
        “Just try not to be so full of contempt”
        Isn’t it funny? That’s what we call “Irony”.

        • baal

          Part of the religious mindset is a blanking of the ability to detect or appreciate irony.

      • Glasofruix

        (however, it’s never to late. even if you and most other New Atheist
        hate us with every fiber of your being, we don’t hate you and neither
        does God)

        Yeah, skyfairy loves people so much he just randomly murders nearly all of them sometimes and then just hides himself forever leaving no evidence. Such a great guy.

      • wabney

        “That’s overconfidence, hun.” Condescending irony to start – way to go!

        “We all need to be saved” – citation needed, clarify what you mean by “saved” and what we all need to be “saved” from, provide reasons why anyone should believe you.

        “however if you do not want to be saved, then that’s your choice and Heaven is not for you” – again, define “saved” and why anyone should believe you. It also isn’t a “choice” not to be “saved” if someone don’t believe in whatever the basis for your concept is.

        “Just try not to be so full of contempt and ruin the chance for the sincere, rational, and moral among the nonbelievers.” – again, the irony of that statement coming from you is wonderful.

        “So by being wrong (I’ll throw in an “if” for you)” – wrong about what? Again – please define what it is you believe, provide evidence for it and explain why anyone should believe you from a rational standpoint.

        “it won’t turn out so good for you (however, it’s never to late. even if you and most other New Atheist hate us with every fiber of your being, we don’t hate you and neither does God)” – good grief, where to begin with this drivel. First, threats don’t accomplish what you seem to assume they will, especially when the implication is something the other person doesn’t believe exists anyway. Second, if it’s _never_ too late then you just removed the need to worry about it anyway – if it’s proven to be true once someone is dead, then by being never too late we can re-evaluate our position then. Third – stop using the term “New Atheist” unless you define what you mean by it, for the same reasons I’ve already said to you in another comment. Also, I don’t think most people “hate us with every fiber of your being” as your persecution complex seems to make you think – your nonsensical beliefs and condescending attitude? That I personally do not like though. “we don’t hate you” – well, that’s nice I suppose. “neither does God” – Which God? Why should we believe any of them exist? I don’t believe your claim any of them do, and if they don’t exist then they can’t hate anything in the first place.

        • Glasofruix

          You can’t use reason and logic on Keyra, that troll doesn’t understand the concept nor does it want to…

          • wabney

            Yeah… I really get that, I just was sick of seeing (her) blatant assertions of fact and wanted to write out the response, if for no other reason than to say it. Who knows, maybe someone more rational than her will read the response and actually have to think about it in a way that leads to real intellectual honesty and growth.

          • baal

            I think Keyra has been programmed with unnatural (and sinful) definitions. I find moral fault in Keyra’s leaders for pulling that stunt.

      • cary_w

        I don’t hate you, Keyra, I feel sorry for you. Someday I hope you can be saved from your own ignorance and learn to question what you have been taught. Someday I hope you will learn how to use logic and evidence to back up your beliefs, rather than blind faith. As if that day every comes, I hope that I speak for many here that we will forgive you for your past ignorance and hateful speech.

      • guest

        God doesn’t hate us because God is imaginary and imaginary chracters cannot hate. Heaven and Hell are imaginary too.

      • baal

        Keyra – your usage of the word “rational” is wrongful. Please stop relying on whatever definiton your religious leaders are providing and spend some time looking at regular definitions. Further, it’s immoral for your leaders to hurt your ability to think by redefining words away.

      • Tainda

        I don’t hate you at all. I just think you’re delusional.

    • M.S.

      An atheist asked the question. He answered it.

  • Mitch

    Alright, so I need to use my conscience (listen to and obey it, to use his words) so I can decide what is perceived to be good and evil. I can handle that…

    “Good” would seem to include (though it certainly isn’t limited to) kindness and compassion, both to myself and those around me, as well as an honest attempt at leaving the world a better place than when I was born.

    “Evil” may encompass such things as the repression, discrimination, and outright hatred of people who don’t see the world as I do. Such hatred can be manifested in (holy) wars, refusal of marital equality, and the threat of eternal damnation.

    Odd how religious faith can be taken completely out of the first description and be used as an example for the second.

  • Justin

    Amusing. So much for the infallibility of the Pope. His Bible clearly states that if you don’t get down on your knees, kiss Jesus’ omnipresent feet, and admit that you were a dirty, filthy sinner the moment you came out of your momma’s womb, your going to hell.

    • revyloution

      actually, you’d be hard pressed to find a phrase in the bible the refers to ‘original sin’. That was a concept that was derived after hundreds of years of Christian theology.

      Interestingly enough, the Gnostics were tortured and killed during the Spanish Inquisition, and one of their sins was not accepting the belief of original sin, even though they were followers of Christ.

      No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

  • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

    Who cares, there is no heaven anyway and I don’t want the Pope round my house either.

    • Keyra

      Try proving there’s no Heaven

      • OkieAtheist

        The onus is not on non-believers to disprove the existence of heaven, hell, god, or anything in the Bible.

        It is your religion. It is your belief system. If you want people to believe in something with obvious historical issues and Biblical inconsistencies, it is up to you to provide proof of said things.

      • indorri

        I don’t understand the statement. The semantics aren’t valid.

      • DougI

        I flew in an airplane in the clouds and didn’t hit any angels.

      • Highlander

        Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I say there Is a yi ching ware teapot floating about the Oort Cloud. You can’t prove to me there is no yi ching ware teapot floating about the Oort Cloud. By your logic the teapot must exist. Heaven is the extraordinary claim, since no one has been there, there are no pictures and there is no evidence it exists. Therefore it is on those who claim it exists to prove it, just as it is on me to prove my teapot exists.

      • RowanVT

        I will prove to you there is no heaven, right after you prove to me that it exists.

      • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

        First I need you to clarify. Which heaven? Then once you have chosen your heaven please tell me which God made this heaven and what proof you have for the existence of your God.

      • Darrah Densmore

        Try learning how to think and study evidence.

      • wabney

        Try proving there is one. And defining what you mean with the word “Heaven” while you’re at it so the claim can actually be rationally looked at.

        Also, try proving I don’t have an identical clone in a parallel universe. :)

      • gueSt

        2nd law of thermodynamics. Neurobiology.

      • baal

        Try proving I’m not a magic using dragon / tree hybrid who is only pretending to be human.

        • islandbrewer

          Fuck! Baal is a dragon/tree hybrid! I tried proving he wasn’t and failed!

          So, can you breathe fire and then sequester your own carbon dioxide with photosynthesis?

          • baal

            Well, to get a little personal, it’s really of a one or other situation. Sometimes I get to be the tree and it’s photosynthesis all the way. Other times it’s the dragon and flappy flappy burn pillage pillage.

  • LesterBallard

    I do obey my conscience. And almost all of the time my conscience is in direct conflict with the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Devin White

    Look, this is a nice move by the Pope. It’s a step away from an “Us vs Them” mentality, and it shows that the Pope believes that atheists can be good people, too. It’s a step toward conversation and a step toward seeing atheists as people and not enemies.

    And no doubt the Pope is going to get a lot of crap thrown his way because of this. Let’s just try to keep the crap thrown from the people he’s reaching out to at a minimum.

    • indorri

      Ding ding ding.

      This is, honestly, the most hopeful thing coming out of the Catholic Church in, like, ever. I could never take any previous outreach by it as sincere because it was always couched in their own terms. This is, at least, an actual attempt at universalism.

      Granted, I disagree with him on the entire “follow your conscience” thing because not a few people follow their conscience and lead them to atrocities.

      • Mary

        Actually following your conscience should always lead to caring about others. What happens with many people is that dogma replaces the natural knowledge we have about good and evil in our hearts. So many people commit atrocitities, believing that they are doing the moral and right thing because they invest in what others tell them to do.

      • gUest

        Some people, such as sociopaths, don’t appear to have a conscience at all, either.

    • Tom

      Well, it’s intention is nice, but some of the implications aren’t. It’s still rooted in the assumption that we all actually need divine salvation and forgiveness. Of course, he can’t abandon that tenet, or he might just as well announce that the entire church is redundant and step down.

      • Elb

        Right. If you can be good and follow your conscience without God, then it stands to reason…why, exactly, do we need to believe in one?

    • M.S.

      I agree Devin, and thank you for being one of the only optimistic and supportive atheist voices on this page. The Pope can’t win. If he says atheists are damned, he will get criticized by the atheists. If he says atheists can be saved, he will get criticized by the atheists. Seems to me like its the Pope who is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t…

      • Art_Vandelay

        Here’s my deal with the Pimp. If you’re so narcissistic as to think not only that a God that created a 950 trillion light-year sized universe has a special place in his heart for 1 in billions of species in 1 of a number of worlds that our brains couldn’t even possibly comprehend…and you also feel that you…specifically you…1 of 7 billion of these primates currently occupying this speck of dust we call a planet…has the authority to speak for it…

        I can’t with that. I just can’t. Nothing he can ever say has any credibility whatsoever in my world. Our realities are way too far apart for me to ever give a shit about how he thinks I can go about being saved from a premise that I reject to begin with. You have to be either a charlatan or a madman.

        • M.S.

          And you’re obviously entitled to your opinion. I just think a lot of the criticisms I read in the comments here are very discouraging because they are the following: a) Irrelevant because they speak to one’s personal issues with the Pope or the RCC (as you yourself did). In his letter, the Pope addressed a very specific set of questions posed to him by an atheist. That was his sole purpose. b) Closed-minded which is very discouraging because atheists (at least the ones I know) often pride themselves on being fair-minded and free-thinking, but with these comments they come across looking as ignorant, hateful, and closed-minded as those Christians with which they so adamantly disagree. Makes me fear that if religion truly did go away and we were left with all atheists, we wouldn’t be any better off, hate and bigotry would just take on a new identity. c) Disrespectful. Arguing with or disagreeing with the Pope or the RCC is absolutely acceptable. Doing it by name calling (i.e. calling the Pope the Pimp) or making catty snide comments doesn’t do anything to further the dialogue between believers and non-believers.

          • Art_Vandelay

            My comment is specifically regarding atheists who wonder how the pope feels about them. I’m shocked that any atheist would care about such a thing for a second. I’m on a blog read by probably 99% atheists. If I was trying to further dialogue with believers…and I’m not averse to doing that at all…I’d be anywhere but the comment section of The Friendly Atheist. But since you’re here…why don’t you tell me why the Pope thinks he has the right to speak for something that his mind couldn’t possibly even comprehend? Why, as an atheist, should I have any respect for this person whatsoever? I’m completely open to hearing something that would make me change my mind.

            • M.S.

              I too am shocked any atheist would care about what the Pope thinks, and yet here we are… on a blog read by 99% atheists, as you said, and the topic of discussion is… da da dum…the Pope! So… I guess that leads me to assume some atheists do care what the Pope says….
              I highly doubt I can change your mind and I have no desire to do so. As long as your beliefs don’t cause anyone harm then you can believe (or not believe) whatever you want. I assume you feel the same way about my beliefs.
              Re telling you why the Pope “thinks he has the right” to speak on such matters, I suppose the obvious answer is that he has been elected as the Pope. I don’t expect you to think that answer is sufficient, and that’s fine. I do, however, find it somewhat ironic that you call him out as narcissistic and wonder how he “has the right” to say these things but then in your own narcissism you assume you have the right to criticize him for saying such things. As the Pope, he has the right to speak about what He believes regarding God and the RCC and as a human, you have the right to criticize him for it.
              I think you should respect “this person” and every person. I believe every person is worthy of basic respect and human dignity… I would suspect you believe that too, but maybe not. I wouldn’t call someone I don’t even know a derogatory name (as you did), and I would never say “Fuck off” to a group that holds beliefs different as mine (as a couple commenters here have done). My point was those kind of comments don’t do atheists any favors, and they don’t make them look all that great either.

              • Art_Vandelay

                We talk about the Pope on here a lot because he is the head of the biggest denomination of Christianity in the world and we consider religious faith to be divisive and harmful to society. We think that it needs to be held to a much higher level of scrutiny and that the protection offered to it by even the most moderate religious people is the reason that it gets away with as much oppression as it does. As atheists, we have a moral responsibility to not only criticize but mock it when necessary. I certainly won’t argue with you that the Pope has every right to speak about God and I’m certainly not depriving him of it. The RCC has a list of crimes against humanity accredited to it that would make even the greatest of sociopaths envious. Nobody that would proudly call themselves the leader of such an organization is worthy of respect.

                • M.S.

                  I won’t argue with you that the RCC has a list of crimes against humanity; you’re right, it does. I will argue, however, that the RCC has also done an enormous amount of good in our world via charitable organizations, education, etc…. I could list out examples but would I just be wasting my time? Have you already decided the RCC and all those associated with it are “sociopaths”? If so then we have reached an impasse. But thank you for the polite banter.

                • baal

                  Doing good doesn’t really offset doing bad. The only offset that might sort of work is to stop doing bad. We don’t see the bad stopping. The stories about various RCC bad keep coming.

                  Giving your wife gifts does not offset the harm of spousal abuse. Stopping spousal abuse is a pre-req for getting back in the ‘good’ column (but isn’t enough). Piling on good won’t solve the problem.

                • M.S.

                  I agree completely; it doesn’t. I was not trying to justify any wrongs the RCC has committed, so forgive me if that is how I came across.
                  That said, show me any organization, or any group of people that has done *only* good and *never* bad. They don’t exist. All groups are made of humans, therefore are subject to human error and corruption. That’s the sad truth.
                  Why am I, the believer, being the realist here? ;-)

                • Anna

                  From my perspective as an atheist, it’s not only that the Catholic church has done bad things in the past, but the leaders continue to promote and do bad things in the present. For example, their homophobia adversely affects the lives of many people around the world, and I don’t see them apologizing for that. On the contrary, they believe their anti-gay views are right. They continue to attempt to use the government to force those views on the rest of society, trying to make the rest of us live by their religious rules.

                • Art_Vandelay

                  Have you already decided the RCC and all those associated with it are “sociopaths”?

                  Absolutely not. Hell…my mom is a Catholic. Oh wait. :-) I think most Catholics are good people but I also think they should skeptically interrogate their beliefs a lot harder because as long as they stick by their church citing “faith”, they are lending those that do harm in the name of faith power in numbers.

                  I do however think most Catholics don’t use their brains properly. If someone tells me that they think their corn flakes turn into the body of Elvis every morning, I would consider them mentally deficient. So with that being said, I simply don’t make a distinction between that person and the one that thinks a cracker turns into the body of a 2000 year old dead Palestinian carpenter. Except of course, the belief that cornflakes turn into Elvis isn’t nearly as pervasive as the latter.

                • M.S.

                  I appreciate the thoughtful response. I, too, believe that Catholics (and all believers, and all non-believers) should skeptically interrogate their beliefs. An unexamined life is not worth living, right? I have, so far, been able to question my beliefs without rejecting them.
                  I am not blind to the sins of the Catholic church, just like I am not blind to those of America. I am still a proud member of the RCC and a proud citizen of the U.S., but will continue to fight for change and against corruption in both groups. Belonging to a group doesn’t mean blindly agreeing with all things done by said group, IMO.
                  Re the Eucharist comment, that is probably a topic for another day…. but I don’t expect you to believe what I believe. We have both analyzed the same thing and came to different conclusions.

                • Art_Vandelay

                  Fair enough.

            • TheG

              This is the first time I’ve cared what the pope said. But, it is for a specific reason:

              It might (might!) get my very catholic father off my ass to take my son to Mass sometime to save at least his soul. It turns out being a good person is good for something.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Why should I support someone who thinks I’m nothing more than a baby making machine?

    • guest

      Why? We’re winning, his church is one the way out. He’s scrambling desperately for some relevance. He’s trying to act like he has influence and it extends to us. But after the pedophila scandals, the Catholic Church’s moral authority is a joke. I won’t be part of his empire of the conscience. Fuck the Pope.

      • M.S.

        He is responding to a letter written to him by an atheist. With this comment you are the one who looks desperate.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Maybe to someone with an interest in defending the Pope. To the rest of us, you’re the desperate one.

  • Keyra

    Clearly there’s still many New Atheists who are just plain irrational. But God judges the heart of the individual

    • Edmond

      Then marriage equality is finally accepted by the Church? I can easily follow my conscience while in a legally protected committed relationship with the man I love. If this is how the new, improved, laid-back God looks at things, then there’s no reason to oppose us any longer.

    • DougI

      God is a cardiologist?

      • 3lemenope

        No, silly. “Heart” is a metaphor in the Bible for “seat of touchy-feelyness”, unlike all those things in the Bible that are totally not metaphors unless they are.

        O, my head hurts now. Must be my heart acting up again.

        • DougI

          it’s a metaphor now but it used to be believed the heart is where the soul (and therefore mind) originated. Thank people like Aristotle and Galen for that one. A lot of Christians still believe in the debunked notion of dualism so who knows, maybe Keyra thinks the heart is where our mind is.

          • Glasofruix

            What about people with hearts from other (dead) people?

            • DougI

              Good question, will god judge the same heart twice? Will the discarded heart from the transplant patient be sent to heaven or hell without the body? What about people with artificial hearts, will they be sent to robot heaven or robot hell?

      • Kevin_Of_Bangor

        I snorted.

    • Baby_Raptor

      lol at the implication that disagreeing with you means we’re irrational.

    • Mario Strada

      You are too funny. There you go using big words again. “Irrational”. It’s truly a strange word coming from you.

      “I believe in an invisible guy in the sky, and not just any invisible guy in the sky, but the one that was originally the war god of this tribe in Babylonia but was then adopted by the gentile followers of this Jewish apocalyptic preacher from the 1st century that maybe was crucified by the Romans for being an insurrectionist, even though somehow the Romans, whom were second only to the nazi as far as keeping records, completely forgot to write it down anywhere, and because I believe that god I also believe that the zealot preacher was his son but also was the god himself because he impregnated the preacher virgin mother and then there is this other entity that’s actually a ghost, but it’s part of the father and the son anyway because we are monotheists and not dirty pagans like the guys the belief in multiple gods and idols, however we also believe that those that died in the service of this god are really a bit more important than your average believer so we pray to them too, but they are not gods, just superheroes of a sort.
      We also believe that this preacher is coming back very soon, even though he said he would come back a lot sooner and no one has seen him since. But we know he is coming soon”

      Irrational : not endowed with reason or understanding (2) : lacking usual or normal mental clarity or coherence

      • RowanVT

        That may be the best summary of christianity that isn’t outright offensive (to them) that I’ve ever seen. Brilliant!

      • wabney

        That response is just beautiful. Felt like weeping from the beauty of it, actually.


      • Pofarmer

        Wow, just wow. I am so shamelessly saving that.

    • Glasofruix

      What’s a “new atheist”? You seem to use that a lot and i don’t think it means what you think it means.

      • Savoy47

        I’m not a New Atheist I’m more of a Refurbished one.

    • wabney

      *sigh* Define what you mean by “New Atheists” or stop saying it. It’s annoying and either redundant (by “new” you mean Atheists born recently vs some undefined time further in the past) or just stupid.

      Also – what God? Rationally explain why you believe whatever it is you believe (“…just plain irrational”) since you apparently believe you have some understanding of what rationality means. Why should anyone else believe you/what it is you believe?

    • dorcheat

      Typical drive through christian troll.

    • Darrah Densmore

      So says the person who believes that humans require salvation because a couple of ancient nudists took dietary advice from a talking snake. You are a joke.

    • Bitter Lizard

      You mean he doesn’t judge the brain? How convenient for you guys.

      • GCBill

        That was the hardest I’ve laughed this whole thread. Thanks!

    • guesT

      God is an imaginary character from a story and doesn’t exist in real life.

  • A3Kr0n

    So the Pope just said you don’t need God.
    Everybody can go home now. Show’s over.

    • badgerchild

      He didn’t exactly say that. Remember, he believes all goodness and morality comes from God. Therefore, to the extent that atheists properly follow their conscience, they are following God. Unfortunately, when we do what Christianity apparently believes we should not do, we are confused and following the Devil. It boils down to “if atheists act like Christians and do godly things, then they can be saved because they’re following the working of God in them”. Still kind of out there, but you know.

      • midnight rambler

        But he did seem to thow out Pascal’s Wager. It sounds like he’s saying, as long as you follow your conscience, you’ll be able to defend yourself to the big guy when you meet him. Which means that believing on Earth is unnecessary.

    • Abbé Faria

      He says that god loves you even if you don’t believe in him.

  • DougI

    Still not sure what I’m supposed to be saved from of forgiven for.

    • Pofarmer

      Not being Catholic.

  • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

    They’ve already retracted it.

  • God’s Starship

    Look, at this point the pope’s opinion of me is just water off a duck’s back. I’d just like to see an end to the rampant homophobia and child raping, if that’s not too much to ask.

  • dcl3500

    Not real hot on the Catholic faith as a whole, but tell you what, this guy appears to be a class act. He can see where all this is headed and is finally the one to try and get out in front and slow it down, if not stop it. Don’t think it will work, but sure nice to see a pontiff that appears to care about everyone.

    • 3lemenope

      Yeah, but he went with an old ’84 Renault for a popemobile, which is unforgiveable when he could have gone with a Fiat, thus depriving us all of endless jokes because Latin.

      • Mario Strada

        The Renault 4 was my very first car. Mine was a 67 model, but it was identical throughout its life and all the newer parts were interchangeable across model years.
        It’s a great car. 850cc, smaller than many motorcycles yet surprisingly peppy and a lot of fun to drive. I’d love to have one here because it’s not only a stick shift, but the shifter is a umbrella-handle like contraption sticking straight out of the dashboard. Even italians, whom are used to strange french cars, were always confused by the weird shifter.

      • allein

        My friend had a Renault for a little while in college. Then one day the heat broke and they couldn’t shut it off. Her dad ended up driving it an hour and half home from our school with the windows wide open in the middle of winter (in Pennsylvania) because it was too hot in the car.

  • GabyYYZ

    S. E. Cupp his newest convert then?

  • ZenDruid

    “Follow your conscience,” he says.

    I expect we’ll be hearing soon from a lesser Vatican Boy that our consciences are flawed and shouldn’t be trusted.

    • baal

      or that the church is the only place that can tell you what your conscience is

  • Luca Di Bon

    Now that we are hurting “the establishment” they want to play nice & be friends.

    • Emmet

      Ha ha ha!

      Because, you know, the Communists in Mexico, Spain, Russia; the Nazis; Henry VIII; the French revolutionaries – none of those guys hurt the Church, so there was no need to play nice before.

  • Robster

    This pope person pops up now and then and mutters something a little less hateful than all the other popes and various other vatican red booties brigade members have said and then up pops another vatican spokesman in a funny hat that then disavows what Frank has said and then it’s all then filed away under “forgotten”. These people need to learn to sing from the same hymn book or perhaps the Frankster is making it up as he goes and fails to tell those down the line.

    • guEst

      I’m imagining them as sockpuppets; it made your post funnier.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    In a move that’s sure to infuriate Catholic purists, Francis affirmed that God’s forgiveness and mercy is open even to the godless…

    Who are the “Catholic purists?” Those who follow the traditional written dogmas, or those who follow the spoken word of whoever is the Holy Father at the time? I can imagine both groups calling themselves “purists.” This will be an interesting game to watch. Hey! Hot dog over here!

    I think Francis has seen the writing on the wall, and it wasn’t written by the hand of God. It was written by statisticians. He knows the tide of history is turning. Has turned. Atheism is rising rapidly, and Catholicism is moving past its zenith. When the mighty RCC has faded and shrunk into only a quirky cult looked upon with bemusement the way we view Druids today who dress up in funny costumes and pretend their contrived ceremonies at Stonehenge on the solstices, Francis wants the atheists to remember that he, one of the last of the truly powerful Popes, was relatively nice to them.

    • Emmet

      It’ll take a long time for 1 billion people to fade and shrink. Don’t hold your breath.

  • Nox


  • LesterBallard

    I’d glad that I don’t care what he thinks about anything. I only feel sad and angry that so many do care what he thinks.

  • Mario Strada

    Wow, nice to see Scalfari is still around. To give you an idea of how old he is, and how long he has been in the front lines, I am in my mid 50′s and when I graduated high school I wrote an essay as part of the final tests that was a bit of an event in the city of Rome.

    My own teacher called me the day after I wrote it and told me that it was the worse piece of shit I had ever written. I used to be quite good in her class and her standards for me where higher than the rest of the class. She hated my essay and she thought it was far inferior to my previous output.

    I tended to agree too, because the topic of the essay (which I cannot remember anymore) was not something that really pulled my strings.

    However, the visiting teachers tasked with actually evaluating our essays, loved it.

    They loved it so much that they wrote something on the margins that read: “Wonderful piece. A style resembling the best Umberto Eco, with the sharpness and wit of Eugenio Scalfari“.

    Even back then, he was already the kind of journalist used as a paragon for the young generation.

    My essay was entered in the citywide contest and did pretty well, but it didn’t win or get any honorable mention. At which my teacher quipped “I told you it was a piece of shit”.

    • Artor

      What an amazingly shitty teacher!

  • Bitter Lizard

    What a masochist. Any human being who has a conscience and listens to it wants to watch the Catholic Church burn and piss on its ashes.

  • Rain

    In a move that’s sure to infuriate Catholic purists,

    Yep, the last time they got infuriated they went all hyper fundy radical. Expect more hyper fundy radical Catholic cable TV kook channels, lol.

  • James Stevenson

    Personally I wouldn’t be too excited. If anyone is more familiar with catholic teaching than I am (I’m sure theres are a few) please feel free to correct me. But my understanding is that ‘conscience’ is double-speak for ‘church teaching’. I recall some discussion a while back about a catholic thinker from a century or so ago that started the trope that consience is about responsibilities. And thats been incorporated to basically say ‘do what the church says’. Its nothing about being able to weigh up the positive and negative effects of decisions to decide the best course, its just another PR friendly spin on obedience.

    That might sound contradictory based on what many percieve as Francis outreach moments. While I too am currently of the belief that the current pope, unlike his predessecors, is sincere in his offers of dialogue. There remains a constant theme of it being coached in terms of ‘opening the unbelievers hearts’. So call me pessimistic (because its not exactly an untrue accusation) but I still have yet to see anything that makes me think its a two-way thing on offer here. Doesn’t help with all the cardinals ‘correcting’ people in the aftermath, and its harder for a big organisation with its share of skeletons that have fallen out of the closet to win trust, but being aware of traditional church double-speak still has me wary.

    • ZenDruid

      They are adept at guilt-tripping people very smoothly, and spreading shame in their benedictions. Supercilious gits.

      • James Stevenson

        This addition is probably much too late but I’ve been corrected to an extent by a Catholic friend. Apparently church teaching about conciences ACTUALLY refers to a super secret core part of ourselves that was placed there by god that kind of works like the whole ‘rescue the child’ shtick of anti-vaccine autism parents.

        Basically, no matter what we THINK we believe, deep down inside we all have gods seed that will teach us how to act morally (or is it control?). So thinking with the gay side, for instance, is that teaching them to suppress homosexual feelings will ‘free’ their concience, hitherto suppressed by their sin, and completely smother their previous sense of self.

        Kind of creepy actually. Kind of sounds like gods planted a mind control device in each of us and the churches role is to switch it on. Whereupon any sense of individuality that conflicts with our stated ‘natural’ purpose is erased as we become good little catholic drones.

        • ZenDruid

          ‘Creepy’ is right. They manage to hold as hostage something that should be implicit in our lives, namely a conscience, and overwhelm it with guilt for being alive, shame for whomever or whatever we happen to be, and the overriding fear of judgment. Of course, that’s just 1700+ years of adapted and refined bullshittery.

          All the while, they give their flocks something on a weekly [ ] basis to make them ‘feel good’. That is the really creepy part.

          • Anna

            I’m always curious about what makes parishioners feel good. Because I’ve been to plenty of Catholic masses and not once did I ever leave there feeling good!

            • ZenDruid


  • Rain

    [the Church] has no other sense and aim if not to live and witness Jesus.

    Absolutely 100% correct–in a glorified unrealistic denial of reality hypothetical idealistic conceptual only on paper churchy kind of a way. Other than that it’s baloney. (Although I’m a bit thrown off by the double negative so I’m not precisely sure exactly what the hell he is saying. It’s way too early for double negatives, lol. No coffee yet.)

  • Rain

    Man, google just keeps getting better and better don’t they? Now if you type in a word plus thesaurus, you get a screen full of google thesaurus, lol.

  • Glint

    Morality based purely on disobeying conscience? So if I have no conscience I
    can’t disobey it and therefore can’t sin. So lots of psychopaths in
    heaven then.

  • John Eastman

    Oh goody. Now we atheists can ask for mercy on our deathbed and still go to heaven? He can stick that where the sun don’t shine. We don’t need no steenking religion.

  • guest

    None of us are going to be saved. We’re all going to die, whether we follow our consciences or not. I don’t believe the pope has anything to offer me. He and his church are not a source of moral authority. He’s as human as I am and has made as many mistakes as I do, and many of his clergy are worse people than I am. He can say what he likes about atheists. It’s only his opinion.

  • tatoo

    I found his speech very condescending.

    • Miss_Beara

      What else is new? It seems like most of them are incredibly condescending. I went to a funeral last month and the pastor was so uncomfortably condescending. He actually said that we were there, at the funeral, for 3 reasons and the first one, above all else, is to love and to honor god. He talked to us like we were little children and took the attention away from the deceased relative to the glory to god and he (paraphrasing) took someone young from this world because god loves us and is everywhere. Of course nobody else cared or noticed this. What year are we living in?!


      • ZenDruid

        That’s one reason I don’t attend funerals. Someone who starts mouthing off like that might just be thrown into the nearest available casket.

        • Miss_Beara

          My grandma’s funeral was a lot more respectful than my cousin’s. I don’t even remember the pastor mentioning god, at least at any extent, at the wake, and at the church there were the readings and the gospel and whatnot but nothing like the rudeness and god bothering of my cousin’s funeral. The pastor at my grandma’s were actually not condescending at all. Maybe because I live in a big city and my cousin’s funeral was in a tiny town in Michigan? Perhaps. I just could not believe it at all. Luckily I was sitting near the front so nobody could see my massive display of eyerolling.

  • Tainda

    Did his popeiness just admit that the church makes mistakes?!

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Didn’t he just publish an encyclical saying atheists have no moral compass and can’t love? [edit: He wants us to use the conscience he doesn't think we have????] Another commenter suggested he’s saying different things to different audiences.


  • SJH

    The tone of your piece and the responses communicate to me that your familiarity with the teachings of the church is rather incomplete. This pope has said nothing new and will continue to say nothing new. The church’s teachings have not changed. It is your misinformation or incomplete understanding of the church’s teachings and history that cause you to be surprised.

    If bishops come out and try to clarify the Pope’s comments it is not because they are trying to back track but it is because these issues are very complex and they are offering points of clarity depending their audience. The bishops agree with the Pope and will not contradict him.

    • ZenDruid

      They don’t have a choice, do they?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Vatican explaining how this in no way is any sort of reconciliation with atheists in 10… 9… 8… 7…

  • Matt D

    Well, I can’t say I’m displeased that this pope is making some efforts to shake the hands of people they use to simply chop off, but his organization has a lot to lose, so I’m not suprised their loss of influence and authority over the last several years has spurred them to do a frenemy version of damage control.

  • advancedatheist

    But if atheists can’t go to hell when we die, then how can our lives have any meaning or purpose? Dante in Inferno has Virgil say something to the effect that the souls of the damned willingly go to their doom because god’s justice makes them desire what they fear, or words to that effect. I don’t know if that reflects current Catholic doctrine, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Diverting conscientious atheists into heaven would seem to frustrate that process.

  • GCBill

    The Catholic Church has always held that you cannot judge the final status of a person’s soul. You’ll rarely find definitive salvation statements from devout Catholics (though they will occasionally indulge in … probabilistic reasoning).

    Also, this is probably connected to Natural Law Theory in some way. Since God wrote His Law on human hearts (supposedly…), following one’s conscience is in effect following God (though perhaps not completely, or in a distorted fashion).

    Of course, if your conscience tells you to do a lot of stuff the Church says is fucked up, they’d probably look down on you anyway. “Conscience” turns out not to be the kind of objective judge you’d predict if NLT were actually correct. But I digress…

  • Abbé Faria

    I haven’t had an invisible friend since I was in kindergarten and I don’t need the popes invisible sky daddy to forgive me for anything. He might mean good, but this is pointless, if he gives up all pedophile priests we can have a discussion about him being nice, but until then I don’t care.

  • Anna

    Let me know when the Catholic church repudiates the notion of hell, and I might be impressed.

    Given that – and this is fundamental — God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

    This seems particularly weaselly. If we don’t agree with the Pope’s idea of morality, then I have a feeling he thinks we’re not really listening to and obeying our conscience.

  • Itarion

    These cardinals… The ones trying to “rein him in” and reduce and modify the magnanimity of his statements… Right, these cardinals and bishops and archbishops and such… Didn’t they vote this guy in?