All Atheists Go To Heaven?
In May 2013, the new pope Francis “infallibly” declared, “[God] has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone!” I say infallible because official Catholic teaching says that when the pope “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.” Clearly, this statement refers to “faith or morals”; therefore, this is an “infallible” statement.
But is this really true? Have atheists been redeemed? As always, we want to look to Scripture for our answer.
First, however, let’s be clear about atheists. The word atheist is comprised of the prefix “a”, which means not, and “theist”, which means a person who believes in one God. Just as when we say something is “atypical” (meaning not typical), an atheist is a person who does not believe in God. Scripture calls such people fools: “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”” (Psalm 14:1)
We are not saying that God does not redeem even atheists who come to faith in Christ. Rather, by definition, an atheist is a person who does not believe in God. So, to be clear, the pope obviously meant that people who do not believe in God are saved. Of course, this view begs the questions: If atheists are saved, why preach the gospel to them?
Furthermore, the context of the pope’s statement had to do with all people doing good. He said, “It [doing good] is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.” Furthermore, the pope said, “If we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”
While it’s true everyone should do good, it’s quite obvious that no one does. But the implication of the pope’s statement is that all people are capable of doing good. This is in direct contradiction to Scripture. Romans 3 says, “10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”” Mark 10:18 says, “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Scripture makes clear that apart from faith in Christ, no one does good, for without faith, no one can please God (Hebrews 11:6). We are good only because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed, or credited, to us. The Catholic church firmly rejects this truth of Scripture, which is why they have a false gospel. Furthermore, even believers can only do good works by the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every Christian (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13).
Scripture makes clear, then, that atheists do not go to heaven. Of course, this means we need to preach the gospel to them and all unbelievers. Demonstrating once again the fallibility of papal infallibility, the pope contradicts the word of God and is, therefore, wrong. If the pope truly wants to be infallible, he should read the Bible and preach God’s word to the Catholic church.