Atheists.

An atheist asked me that if somebody who does not believe in God but lives a good life, does a lot of charity work etc. will still go to Hell because they rejected God.

The atheist believes if this were true that there would be no point for them to be good at all as they would be doomed anyway.

How do you answer this tactfully?

The Church clearly teaches that “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation” See the Catechism, paragraphs 846-848.

I predict he’ll then ask “Well, if in can get into heaven without being a Catholic, why should I bother?”, to which I would reply “If you might be cured of cancer because it could go into spontaneous remission, why bother going to a doctor?”

They don’t believe in God but they worry about going to Hell? :shrug:

Second that!

I’m not exactly known for tact :smiley: but I would say something like this.

"When your friend rejected God, it is entirely possible that what he rejected was not God Himself. Many people think that God is distant, cruel, uncaring, capricious, punitive, wrathful, demanding, and rigid --and since none of those are ‘loving’ attributes, they will not love and serve ‘such a being.’
But is God HIMSELF any of those things? He is not.
Therefore the ‘god’ your friend rejected, who was all those things, is not God, the real God.
By doing good things your friend was, even if he didn’t realize it, serving the REAL God, through whom all good things are done.
Also, at the moment of death, your friend may have been granted the chance to see God ‘as He was’, and to joyfully accept Him.
Nobody goes to hell unknowingly or unwittingly. If your friend did not mean to reject the real God, but only rejected a man-made one who was evil and cruel. . . if your friend, by his actions and life, truly was trying to love and help people, then he was trying to love and serve God as well and in the end when He meets the true Master, he will run to Him with joy and say, “It is YOU whom I truly loved and longed for and served.” And he will be welcomed into heaven with rejoicing.

It seems that the sincerely seeking after God with a pure heart is the key, then.

Is your atheist friend doing that?

It seems to be a mutually exclusive category. To declare oneself an atheist is to state that one has concluded there is no god (thereby miraculously proving a negative). The search has ended.

Try and notch them back to agnostic (unsure) and a stance of Ask - Seek - Knock. Anyone who pursues the Truth will eventually find him. :thumbsup:

I don’t think so. From the outside looking in I can see how it may appear that way. But I think it is just engaging a hypothetical condition for the sake of the discussion. I’m not a Christian but I do that all the time when the topic of Yahweh and his laws comes up.

No point? My sister is an apatheist (atheist that has an apathetic response to the topic of religion) and a community focused person. She participates in community organizations like “Meals on Wheels” and has a longer term goal of working for the U.N. so that she can help a broader community. For her, the point is to help the people in the here and now. To contribute to the minimization of the pain, suffering, and struggles is her “point”, her goal, and her motivation. Talk of hell, eternity, and the ill defined “ultimate significance” is of no interest to her.

I think the person you are speaking to is also just engaging a hypothetical. If put in a position where he or she could help some one with minimal losses to the self I’m pretty sure that he or she would take action and demonstrate that there is some point/motivation for helping some one.

My experience as an atheist is that atheists can be do-gooders, but the motive is suspect. Atheists typically are anxious to show the world they can be as good as any Christian, but that is not a true motive for loving one’s neighbor.

While I was an atheist I came across this passage from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, which struck me as so logical that I could not see how anyone who read it could continue in atheism.

“In order to love our neighbor we must see that God is the cause of our love. How can we have a pure love for our neighbor if we do not love him in God? And you cannot love your neighbor unless you love God. God must be loved first in order that we may love our neighbor in God.”

This passage helped to explain to me why I could not love people generally, not even strangers who needed my love. More often I was indifferent to the welfare of others, and in some cases downright hostile because I did not see others as children of God, as my own brothers and sisters of a common Father who wants us all to love each other in and through Him.

Atheists don’t go to Heaven Or Hell because they don’t believe in God and to go to Hell one must believe in God and to go to Heaven one must believe in God. People wont like this answer because it sounds so simple but it is that simple. So whether they lead good lives or bad is irrelevent because they don’t believe in God so the concepts of Heaven and Hell don’t exist either for them… :smiley:

unless they are atheists because they have fallen out with church or God then their argument be different but for Atheists who fully do not believe in God then they wont go to Heaven and they wont go to Hell.

Where do you think Heaven and Hell are?

If they don’t go to heaven or hell, where do they go?

Can’t be purgatory. Purgatory will cease to exist on the last day when all have been purified.

Heaven and Hell are not simply concepts. They are real. Whether they are a place, a ‘state’, some combination thereof, or something beyond our ability to grasp, they ARE.

So yes, an atheist is going to go to one or the other, ultimately.

God doesn’t have one ‘set of rules’ for theists and another set for atheirsts.

Where did you get the idea that in order to go to hell one had to believe in God and that if you didn’t believe, you wouldn’t go there?

It is quite true that one will ‘have to’ believe in God at death. There won’t be a choice. One will ‘know’ all the truth at that time, and one will either believe and reject God, or believe and accept Him. But one will not ‘simply not believe’.

Let me explain.

In order to love our neighbor we must see that God is the cause of our love.

This question 1) begs the question that there is a God 2) is easy to refute from observation. There are many people who love their neighbours without seeing God as the cause of their love.

How can we have a pure love for our neighbor if we do not love him in God?

This question creates a category of undefined ‘pure love’ which is presumably to be distinguished from ordinary ‘love’, and implies that ‘pure’ love is in some way better tha the other sort. I see no reason to accept any of that.

And you cannot love your neighbor unless you love God

.

Repetition does not strengthen the argument.

God must be loved first in order that we may love our neighbor in God.

This bit sort of makes sense in itself, but begs the question 1) of God’s existence and 2) that there is such a thing as loving ‘in God’ as distinct, presumably from loving ‘not in God’ and 3) That such love ‘in God’ is superior to any other sort of love in some way.

Hokomai

**This bit sort of makes sense in itself, but begs the question 1) of God’s existence and 2) that there is such a thing as loving ‘in God’ as distinct, presumably from loving ‘not in God’ and 3) That such love ‘in God’ is superior to any other sort of love in some way. **

This I have come to believe because when I was an atheist I was not much of a lover. I grant that you can love people without loving God, but I think such love would be fragile and limited by the fact that without God our love for others and the love of others for us can be rather fickle. God’s love is not fickle, so when we love in God, we love more truly and more lastingly than when we love without God. He sustains our love for each other because we have loved each other in Him who sustains all things. Granted, this is repetition of the sort that no atheist can admit if he is determined to have absolute proof of the existence of God before he can even begin to imagine himself loving God or loving others through God.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.