How is sin by the unbeliever treated?

Hello, I wil give an easy example.

I do not go to mass. It is clearly a sin.
An atheist does not. Is it a sin? Or because he didn’t recieve the grace of faith, he could not know it is a sin?

I believe, since he has no grace, it is a sin, and a mortal one, because of the lack of the faith.

Thank you :slight_smile:

I can answer from an Atheist’s or other religions’ point of view. In their books, it is not a sin at all. But I assume you want to know this answer from a Catholic point of view?


Let’s say it is clear that if you don’t believe a thing, you logically don’t believe in the consequences of that thing.

But from a Catholic point of view?

If a person honestly doesn’t know, God won’t judge them in the way God does those who do know.
God is in all good and loving actions because God is the source of all goodness and love.
Good and kind things unbelievers do are God’s grace, even if they don’t know it.

The Church teaches that God puts a moral conscience in us, even unbelievers.
If a person has moral conscience which is a gift from God to believers and non believers as part of being human, unbelievers who live good kind lives according to moral conscience do have God’s grace in them. They just don’t know it.

1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."47


1777 Moral conscience,48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50 "

God is merciful and just.

It is those who believe yet betray their faith who are most under judgement, and those who willfully and knowingly turn their backs on God

This page of the Catechism of the Catholic Church can also help understanding:
Extract from the catechism page:

The Church and non-Christians

839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

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.337

With the lack of faith, it is a sin.


Their not going to mass I don’t think would be a sin because they have no obligation to receive Christ in the Eucharist, or to worship him.

But it does not mean they have no culpability. Presuming they have heard of Christ and rejected him, or the opportunity to learn about him, they would be in a sad state on judgement day.

If they have not heard of Christ at all, then other answers above would apply.

I’m sure their good deeds in life wouldn’t be forgotten by God. :slight_smile:

Is it a sin to be an atheist? I believe so, because he/she does not believe in God. Can that person go to heaven? I believe not. He/she will reap the rewards of denying God.

I don’t believe if one chooses to believe that God does not exist, then he/she will be free from sin. That IS the choice they made to reject God’s existence. That is the sin in which they are ultimately culpable.

Choosing to live as if God does not exist does not change the fact of God’s existence nor does it change the truth that to be happy with God in Heaven “we must know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world” (Baltimore Catechism).



Not so sure about that…why do many people say ‘the road to hell is paved with good deeds’?

I think what truly matters is what is in your heart…God knows this, a person can act and fake all that want with other people, but God knows the true inner self, he knows if you are a good person, or a bad person, trying to act like a good person, or doing good deeds for the wrong reason.

Yes I think so too. Good deeds may be unforgotten, but that doesn’t mean they will be rewarded; on which basis should they be, since they do it not because of the Redeemer but for themselves and their likes?
And it is the same for us, when we act like unbilievers and act either egoistically or with interest. Moreover, even the most desinterested act has no value without Christ. It may be good, it is not enough. We are not called to be good, we are called to be saints. Sounds hard, well…it is. But again, with Christ, deeds, sufferings, trust will be rewarded because of him.

I think it is a sin. If they commit murder is it a sin?

Yes for sure, but this is natural law, even the atheists know it is objectively wrong.

I believe we are all equally under judgment. The unbeliever is under more perilous judgment than the believer. The believer can repent. The unbeliever will not repent. The unbeliever does not get a free pass into heaven any more than the believer. We all have to work for that pass.

Yes, God is merciful and just … to those who ask for his mercy and his justice. :thumbsup:

Going to mass on sunday is a church law and not a natural law. Since they have not yet come to believe in the church, how could they be blamed for not keeping a church law?

But the general question “how is sin by the unbeliever treated?”, if in good conscience, they do not sin. Good conscience refers to keeping the natural laws. And since the natural laws can be obscure and not easy to understand at times, then only God can know if the unbeliever is keeping them.

The unbeliever is one who has not been introduced to Christ, or one who has, but for adequate reasons does not believe, like scandal. It would not mean someone who became an unbeliever after having been a believer except for unusual cases.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

Well, the atheist is suppose to know that. I think the unbeliever as someone right now in the United States is culpable since he has every opportunity to know God.

I dont know about anyone else, but I dont do good deeds and expect to be rewarded for them, thats not the idea of a good deed, it is doing something just to be doing something helpful or good for another person/ group.

Problem is today, people may do good deeds, but they want to be acknowledged for it and sometimes rewarded for it, same thing goes for the afterlife, a person should not expect to receive any special treatment just because they did good deeds.

Yes we should not do good things with the reward in our heads: it becomes work…

It should be done because it is right. And as Jesus said, paraphrasing: when you did something good, say you did your duty.
With faith and not any presumption, I do not do good deeds because of the reward in Heaven, BUT I know that I will recieve it, if I am judged worthy. As Jesus also said, our reward will be great in Heaven.

Surely, there are nevertheless people who act because of fear or a reward. It might be a first step, but their faith needs deepening.

[FONT=“Franklin Gothic Medium”][FONT=“Times New Roman”][size=]It is important to find out at what point a person becomes an Atheist.Sometimes he or she is born a Catholic receives a Catholic education but when he is exposed later perhaps when he emigrates to a Secular country he becomes secular himself and rejects the word of God and calls himself an Atheist.He has shunned the word of God and in my view under these circumstances commits Sin.If however he is born to another Religion perhaps a Hindu or a Buddhist,he has not received the word of God but does good and shuns evil but is an Atheist, from the Catholic point of view he is unaware of God and has not sinned but I believe according to Vatican 11 he has to acknowledge the presence of a God before his death if he is to be saved.[/size]

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