Can Unbelievers Enter Heaven? Atheists Should ‘Obey Their Conscience’ to Avoid Sin, Says Pope

Pope_FrancisROME — Controversy is again stirring over recent comments made by Pope Francis, this time surrounding a letter penned to the Italian publication La Repubblica in response to a question regarding whether God forgives atheists and those who do not wish to seek Him.

The founder of La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist, had written a series of open letters to the pope, inquiring on matters pertaining to faith and eternity. Among his questions to Francis included whether “God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.”

“Given that—and this is the key point—God’s mercy has no limits, if you go to him with a sincere and repentant heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience,” the Pope replied in his letter, part of which was printed on the front page of the publication. “Sin, even for those who have no faith, is when one goes against their conscience. To listen and to obey [one’s conscience] means to decide oneself in relation to what’s perceived as good and evil. And this decision is fundamental to determining the good or evil of our actions.”

Scalfari also asked whether it is sinful to believe that truth is subjective and not absolute.

“I would not speak, not even for a believer, of ‘absolute’ truth, in the sense of absolute as disconnected, lacking any relationship,” the pope stated. “Truth, according to Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore truth is a relationship.”

“This does not mean that truth is variable and subjective–on the contrary,” he continued. “But it means that truth is given to us always and only as a path and a life. … In other words, truth being after all one in the same as love, it requires humility and openness in order to be sought, welcomed and expressed.”

Francis’ words have since stirred controversy over their meaning, as some state with concern that the pontiff was inferring that atheists may enter Heaven. Writer Tim Stanley, a Roman Catholic, opined that the pope’s words are being misconstrued.

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“If you arrive at the pearly gates and still refuse to accept that God exists then the odds are that St Peter won’t let you in,” he wrote in a recent article in The Telegraph. “Everyone has to confront that reality at some point in their lives–so only the mad and the stubborn are likely to spend an eternity as unbelievers.”

Stanley said that Francis’ advice was proper in advising atheists to follow their conscience “because that is the path to enlightenment.”

“We Catholics believe that nobody should be compelled to share our faith, hence atheists are at liberty to ‘follow their own conscience,'” he wrote. “But we also believe that ‘conscience’ is not a relativist thing that varies from individual to individual.”

“The conscience is the seed of truth implanted in us by God when we are born, and anyone who listens to it opens themselves up to the possibility of  ‘doing good’ and–eventually–to finding God,” Stanley stated. “When we see someone in pain, our conscience tells us to help them. That is the ‘good’ in us. If we feel nothing and do nothing for them, that is the ‘evil’ in us.”

However, Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries, a former Roman Catholic, told Christian News Network that Pope Francis’ “is not abiding in the word of Christ” and is “suppressing the truth of God’s word” by advising men to simply follow their conscience.

“Clearly, the pope does not know that the common practice of men is to create their own standards,” he stated. “However, God has established His standard of perfection for entry into Heaven, and all men have ‘missed the mark.’ Scripture says that anything that is not done in faith is sin.”

“[A]ccording to God’s Word, those who renounce God are wicked and they say in their heart that God will not call their sins into account,” Gendron continued, citing Psalms 10:13. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? The conscience and heart are synonymous. Jesus said, ‘What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.'”

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  • mary

    No to both sides, and yes to both, all of you are missing an important concept which deals with the standard of God before, and after salvation. The standard is different based not on our flesh alone, but on what we do with whatever knowledge we do possess.

    I shall attempt a stab at each side of the connundrum:

    the interpretation of Romans 2 is also what is at work here.
    Please read it and then continue:

    Did you read it? It’s at the bottom if you care to,

    OK, having read it, proceed,

    An ignorant Gentile, St. Paul references as doing a better job of pleasing God than a “law abiding Jew or Christian” in some cases.

    Paul asks, Do you believe adultery is wrong? Well do you DO it??
    The issue to St. Paul, as he addressed believers, was to say that HEARING is insufficient in and of itself, that we must be not only hearers but DOERS of the WORD, to be pleasing in His sight. Otherwise we bring disgrace upon ourselves and our LORD. Otherwise our actions speak louder than our words, and those actions reflect whom our real Lord is, and it may not be Jesus, we may have deceived ourselves.

    If a man in the deepest Amazonian jungle, who never heard the good news of scripture or the Saviors gift, knew enough from “the Word which God has written on our hearts” spoken of in Romans 2 so that we might not sin against Him”…if such a man were to avoid sin and be repulsed by it, knowing instinctively that it was wrong to kill, steal, molest his children etc. Would such a man fair better or worse than the man who claimed to know Christ, and yet sinned in these ways?
    Who would fair better, the man who knew the literature and disobeyed anyway, or the man who followed the grace given to every being, even before salvation, to at least know and avoid gross evil?

    That’s was Paul’s rational, to understand the seriousness of obedience to the spirit first and foremost….to admit, it’s not just WHAT you know, but WHOM you know, and not this alone, but whom you follow as well!

    These ideas were supported by Paul after meditating on many things Jesus said, such as speaking of Nathanteal…here is a man without guile (Hebrew there is craftiness, deceit,) how could this be? (how so, when the man had not been “saved” yet)…

    or speaking to the “knowledgable believers of the day” He said.Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
    in other words, the man without knowledge would get a pass that the person claiming to understand would no longer have available!!

    and again James said, “if a man knows to do right and does it not, to him it is sin,” (and we can extrapolate that NOT knowing and not therfore doing because you didn’t comprehend, would therefore not be the same level of accountability…Doubt it?

    and Jesus knew they would so He said,
    Jhn 15:22
    If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.

    You mean JESUS held people MORE accountable once things were revealed to them, but they were given mercy in their ignorance?
    Apparantly so.

    I could go one, but you get the point.

    Of course, what beleivers understand, and what they share with the unbelieving world should be two different things. Fransis was wrong to let folks off the hook, they need to come to Jesus, absolutely.

    We may know God mercy is great beyong our comprehension, but we must use prudence in how we speak of His grace to a dying and perishing world. If there is no need to believe, there is no need of a savior, then man falls into the folly of Satan…”I will sit in the sides of the North, I will be as God”. This is the folly of the athiest, and as believers we have no business encouraging them in that pursuit.

    Of course the athiest needs to repent, of course he or she needs God in their life, but lest we forget, we are all dead in sin and trespass until Lord lifts that burden from us.

    Rom 2:1

    Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
    Tools specific to Rom 2:2
    Rom 2:2
    But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
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    Rom 2:3
    And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
    Tools specific to Rom 2:4
    Rom 2:4
    Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
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    Rom 2:5
    But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
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    Rom 2:6
    Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
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    Rom 2:7
    To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
    Tools specific to Rom 2:8
    Rom 2:8
    But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
    Tools specific to Rom 2:9
    Rom 2:9
    Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
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    Rom 2:10
    But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
    Tools specific to Rom 2:11
    Rom 2:11
    For there is no respect of persons with God.
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    Rom 2:12
    For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
    Tools specific to Rom 2:13
    Rom 2:13
    (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
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    Rom 2:14
    For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
    Tools specific to Rom 2:15
    Rom 2:15
    Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
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    Rom 2:16
    In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
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    Rom 2:17

    Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
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    Rom 2:18
    And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
    Tools specific to Rom 2:19
    Rom 2:19
    And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
    Tools specific to Rom 2:20
    Rom 2:20
    An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
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    Rom 2:21
    Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
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    Rom 2:22
    Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
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    Rom 2:23
    Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
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    Rom 2:24
    For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
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    Rom 2:25

    For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
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    Rom 2:26
    Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
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    Rom 2:27
    And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
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    Rom 2:28
    For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
    Tools specific to Rom 2:29
    Rom 2:29
    But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

    that is all, hope it helps.

  • els

    wow, this guy does not have a clue what he believes!! he may as well worship satan. maybe he does!

  • Devil=Half lie+half truth

  • Charles Palmer

    One TRUTH I would like to make known is that, there are more unbelievers that are sincere believers,than what there are believers who are false believers. Christians love to throw stones at those outside the circle of Christianity, not realizing that a rock is about to crush them for their foolish demonic actions. It is not any Christian’s calling to walk around and to judge unbelievers and to condemn them, the true calling is to be a light for those who sit in darkness and to preach the Gospel of Peace, in deed and in truth. Let us for once be honest, this is no where to be seen and this does show demonic manifistations in many so called christians today. Stop attacking the world, and the world will stop attacking you. Christianity is all about perfect love, which means loving your neighbour as yourself, no matter the cost.