Did Pope Francis Really Say Atheists Will Go to Heaven?

The mainstream media have been spinning as story this week, saying that Pope Francis has taught that God will forgive atheists and they’re good as long as they simply obey their conscience….well not quite.

Here’s my article for Aleteia on the subject.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Romans 2.14

  • RelapsedCatholic

    I know it is not theologically sound, but I have a sincere wish that those who knew Jesus by their actions, if not by his name, have a seat at the table. To disbelieve in this age is not far fetched, nor unreasonable. Heaven would be a poorer place without some of the friends I have made.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    Why doesn’t he simply proclaim the Good News instead of this sort of mealy-mouthed dribble that requires Church apologists to explain what they think he’s saying, or what he should have said? No exactly Saint Paul’s speech to the Athenians found in Acts 17 is it? Why not? The secular press got this right. The point is that following the conscience and being judged according to it applies only to those who have never heard of Christ, not to those who reject him. Francis should proclaim the Gospel and stop telling everyone they are okay in their sins.

  • David Christy

    Atheists don’t believe in heaven.

  • Brad Jones

    Sigh. No one in his right mind who knows me would accuse me of being a liberal, progressive or what ever. With that caveat in place, I have found nothing our present pope has said to be outside the teaching of the one holy catholic and Apostolic church. The press has ALWAYS twisted what the holy father has said, whether it was Blessed John Paul II or the beloved Benedict the XVI. It is time for us to reclaim what is ours as far as caring for our brothers in Christ AND being faithful to the teachings of our church. The only reason the media and progressives are choosing to distort what the present pope say, I believe, is that they are tired of waiting for an anti-pope who will tickle their ears. By the way, for a better lens to understand some of his teaching, think Saint Theresa of Calcutta

  • whatatrip 47

    It appears to me that the Pope is saying that for believers,
    the forgiveness of God is needed by the sinful but not needed by one who does
    not believe if that person follows his/her conscience as long as they follow
    the law of righteousness. Implied in this is a God given “light” and
    knowledge of right and wrong outside of Christendom. This is obviously true
    because so many “Godless” humans are better practitioners of the law
    than are Christians. When it comes to heaven, God is only concerned about
    whether you are a good person or a bad person. Belief is not good enough to get
    into heaven nor is it a necessity.

    Before discussing forgiveness and Christians he says we have
    two hands (groups of righteous people). On one hand he says “Premise that – and it’s the fundamental
    thing” he then refers to believers. On the other hand the Pope says
    “the question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s
    conscience.” In other words, you
    can be righteous without being a believer, which only makes sense particularly
    if we are talking about God the creator of all mankind and the universe. The
    Pope is only following scripture.

    Rom 14:23 But
    anyone who believes that something he wants to do is wrong shouldn’t do it. He
    sins if he does, for he thinks it is wrong, and so for him it is wrong.
    Anything that is done apart from what he feels is right is sin. TLB

    Romans 2:12-16 12
    All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who
    sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear
    the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who
    will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law,
    do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even
    though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of
    the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness,
    and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take
    place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my
    gospel declares.


  • Will

    Why not? That is easier to believe than some, so-called, believers getting to heaven.

  • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

    “Simply obeying one’s conscience is not enough, and the Pope never said it was. Instead, the Pope is teaching that without the light of faith and belief in God, the only thing left for the agnostic or atheist to follow is the light of their conscience. This limited light can help a person decide between good and evil, but the light of the human conscience alone, without divine grace and the acceptance of divine revelation, is very limited. Not only is one’s conscience on its own a limited light, but that light is shaded by the influences of the secular world and distorted by individual sin and ignorance. The light of individual conscience is like a match flame in the darkened cave. It is better than nothing, but it does not compare to the full strength searchlight of God’s enlightening grace.”

    Sorry, but this “better than nothing” concept of conscience looks deeply wrong (and not very catholic) to me.

  • whatatrip 47

    Romans clearly states that “it is not those who hear
    the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who
    will be declared righteous.” There was no mention this only applies to
    those who do not hear the law. You can hear of the law and not “have the
    law”. All that matters to God is that live a righteous life. God is also
    saying It is not good enough to just hear the law, you have to live it whether
    you “hear” it or not.

    Man is a different animal. Man will twist and contort the
    law to best fit mans need for like minded souls and to fulfill the needs of
    control freaks. The many who are agnostic and atheist that live righteous lives
    are examples God is talking about. There is far more “light” in the
    souls of many non-believers than there is in most who are “believers”.
    What so many believers fail to understand is that one can have the equivalent
    of or better than “divine grace” without God. No matter what path you
    choose, the grace comes from you, and
    from within you. Belief only makes it possible for those who cannot do it on
    their own.

  • Kevin Colquitt

    Laughing out loud! As an atheist, I couldn’t care less what Francis says. There is no such place as heaven. No Christians nor atheists can go to a place that doesn’t exist.