I’m an atheist. My Catholic father thinks I’ll go to heaven

So my very Catholic father recently said he thinks I’ll go to heaven…since I’m an atheist and because I don’t believ in god, I can’t deny him (the cause of people ending up in hell). I don’t believe in a god, therefore I can’t push him away. This line of thinking is new to me so curious your thoughts. Is he blinded by his bias and love for his son (me)? Or is there some theology/history behind his rationale?

I’ll add that he attended seminary for nine years before pursuing a family (me!)

It would depend on which of the two bolded parts the atheist would fall under.

Catholic Answers question and answer:

Full Question

My question is this: can an atheist go to heaven? Thank you for your time.


If someone does not come to believe in God because of stubbornness or refusal to give up selfish desires, then such a person would be culpable for his lack of belief.

If, however, because of circumstances a sincere person is prevented from coming to belief in God, then his lack of faith is called invincible ignorance, and such a person would not be considered culpable.

As Pope Pius XI noted in Quanto conficiamur moerore:

It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in his supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.

Of course he wants the best for you, so he may be biased. But he may be right. As a matter of theology, your father’s love for you is not greater than your heavenly Father’s love for you.


Thank you. I had not crossed this “invincible ignorance” concept previously, regarding atheists going to heaven. I’m guessing that is what my father is referring to.

It is not that I think you, as an atheist, cannot go to heaven; however, as written, I have some difficulty with your father’s reasoning. Is he saying that because you are already an atheist, meaning you don’t believe in Gd, this means you are not/cannot be denying Gd? If this is literally what he is saying, I have to point out that there must have been some prior point before you became an atheist at which you did deny Gd’s existence. Is not this the case, especially since you come from a “very Catholic” home insofar as your father’s belief is concerned?

I guess I’m not quite following. I consider myself an atheist (not a theist) because I couldn’t justify my previously held beliefs, having been indoctrinated Catholic. My father’s comments reflected his belief that those in hell were there because they rejected God. Since I don’t believe in him, I can’t reject him, and therefore would not go to hell.

It’s just something I had not heard before and was curious if it was a common view or had any theological basis.

It is far from my intention to instill any kind of fear in you that you may go to hell. (BTW, I am not Catholic, but Jewish.) All I am saying is that since you could not justify your previously held beliefs, which I assume were beliefs in Gd, this means you denied or rejected Gd in becoming an atheist. However, in my view, based on my own religious beliefs, this does NOT mean you are going to hell. I leave it to the Catholics on the Forum to discuss the Church’s views on this, which I have some knowledge of but am not an expert.

Specifically many, but in general the existence of the supernatural. But this thread is not about that.

This is my view as well honestly (don’t worry, not afraid of going to hell). It was just new to me…this line of reasoning about not being able to reject God if I didn’t believe in one/him.

Well if someone denies that when the sun is shining it is therefore day and not night, he is logically deceiving himself.
One may not believe in GOD and yet the existence of GOD can be deduced by a variety of means.
Many times, the issue is that, we have not been properly formed as to who GOD is and what it is not.
Someone can also obstinately refuse to even consider the possibility that GOD is real.
At that stage Heaven becomes a moot point don’t you think. No GOD, therefore no Heaven.
In the end whether we go to Heaven or Hell is a Judgement that no human can make.
We believe that GOD wants everyone to join HIM in Heaven, but achieving it requires assent on our part, HE will not force anyone to join HIM.


Well I do believe in the sun. And I don’t deny the possibility of existence of God (or any gods).

Just curious about the rationale of attaining heaven through atheism.

When Jesus spent his time on Earth, he would have lived by the greatest commandments, he could do nothing more. But how did Jesus hold out his hands on the cross and love the man with the hammer and nails, as he loves himself?

We know Jesus prayed on the cross; forgive them Father for they know not what they do. What sins is Jesus willing to forgive? Who is he praying for? Who should be forgiven?

If Jesus was praying for the people who put him to death, there is hope for you and me too.


I share the same hope as your father @WillPhillips .

Better still , God wants you there .

They’re not mutually exclusive. I’m an agnostic atheist. I don’t know (gnosis) but also don’t see a reason to believe (ie not a theist).

But what do you think about the question I posted?

You’ll get all kinds of answers here, including universalism. Good luck!


The question is: do you believe your dad will go to heaven?

Either your dad is irrational or there is reasoning behind his beliefs. To believe that there is no God requires faith far superior to the greatest of Saints.


However, you should bear in mind that a person genuinely covered under invincible ignorance MAY be saved, not will be saved.

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