Death of an Athiest


How does a christian deal with a friend/mother/father/close relative who has recently died and was an athiest. The thought everyday of thinking that person may be in hell…


You pray for them. You do know prayers can work retroactively, right? As long as you don’t know where he or she is, you can pray for his soul.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and to the souls of all the faithful departed.


How do you know he would be in Hell? What if at the very last second of his life he decided to ask the Lord for forgiveness? What if the Lord decided to call out to him and ask him to repent and he repented just a moment before his death?

A Christian, I think, would pray for that person and ask God to have mercy on that relative. Beyond that, I do not think a Christian should worry every minute about that relative being in Hell…if that relative really did end up there, well, it’s tragic but nothing can be done.

Instead, it would be more productive to trust in God’s mercy, pray for that person, and move on to things that you can do something about, like your own salvation or the salvation of other (living) relatives who might be atheists/agnostics/nonbelievers.

Just my :twocents:


Not just atheist, but anyone who has turned from God. A very dear loved one died on 9/11. He was a fallen away Catholic who was vehemently anti-religion and jaded about God. I have agonized and prayed for him for years. God has generously given me a glimpse into what was probably his last moments and this information has given me great hope that he might someday be with his Lord. All I can do is continue to pray and offer sacrifice on his behalf.


I know we can pray for souls in purgatory - and I’ve heard of praying for something in the past if this is what you mean by retroactively, however I don’t think that we can rescue souls from hell simply by praying for them.



What I meant by that is since we don’t know, the prayers after their death may lead to graces before their death. Jimmy Akin had something about this on his blog a year ago or so, and as Official Staff Apologist, I’d think he’d know. :smiley:


Well that’s assuming we don’t know where they are. In indeed they are in hell, then no. However since we are ignorant about who’s where, we are called by our faith to pray for their souls on the chance that indeed there is a possibility that they are not in hell. In other words… be optimistic.


Since none of us can know what went on in their hearts at the moment they faced death, there is always some hope.


It’s hard for me to imagine a person rejecting God upon meeting Him face-to-face. Continue to pray for the person, for God always hears us!:juggle:


St. Faustina had a revelation from our Lord that may be comforting to anyone going through this:

Jesus to the Soul of the Recently Deceased: “O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God who is love and mercy.”

In the soul arises this reply: " ‘For me there is no mercy,’ and it falls into greater darkness, a despair which is a foretaste of hell and makes it unable to draw near to God. Jesus calls to the soul a third time, but the soul remains deaf and blind, hardened and despairing. Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and without any cooperation from the soul, God grants it final grace. If this too is spurned, God will leave the soul in this self-chosen disposition for eternity. The grace emerges from the merciful Heart of Jesus and gives the soul a special light by means of which the soul begins to understand God’s effort, but conversion depends on its own will. The soul knows that this, for her, is final grace and, should it show even a flicker of good will, the mercy of God will accomplish the rest" (Diary, 1486).


We don’t. God does. Like others said. Pray. Also, I am so much happier commending my spirit and all I know and don’t know to Him than having to “deal with it” or figure it out.


that seems to provide optimism…


From Genesis, I think Chapter 18: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” All of us will face a Judge who is not only righteous, but merciful. Just pray for them, and trust that the God of all the earth will do what is exactly right in every situation.


Pray for those who have rejected GOD in their heart, and do pennance for them. The pray of the righteous man avials much. If you would tell GOD how much you LOVE them then say a rosary everyday on their behalf. This of course will have the dual benefit of comfort for you, in your mourning, and petitioning the LORD for their salvation.


Pray for them, but also pray that God’s will be done.

It is a hard teaching that some of those we love may freely choose to refuse God. Remember the good things about them, pray for them, and reflect that God’s mercy, as well as God’s justice, are greater than we creatures may conceive.


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