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


Quite an evolution in your thinking, JC. Or was that gnawing doubt always there, as in my case, and, I’m sure, that of many others, who won’t even admit it to themselves? Maybe too much time on CAF is the cause! No doubt you and I will continue to evolve.


CAF is a microcosm of views certainly. I tend to take some of what is said here with a grain of salt though as quite a bit of posturing goes on and we lack any of the norms of communication such as tone, body language etc to even out things here. I can think of many people in my life I’ve known with politically or religiously opposed views I’ve liked. Let’s just say for personal reasons outside of here I’m feeling rather glum right now.


Which is to say the Church teaches that a sin that is (a) serious enough and (b) sufficiently understood with respect to its gravity and (c ) chosen without undue pressure which would mitigate even calling the driving decision behind the action a moral “choice” will lead to eternal death if it is not repented of, which is why it is called “mortal.” The Church also allows that humans cannot place a limit on the Almighty with regards to what opportunities there will be for salutary repentance at the time of death.

This is why the Church does not pronounce any particular person to be among the damned: that is, there are real factors concerning what makes a violation of the commandments into a total and final break from the boundaries required for sharing of the divine life that we cannot know who died in a state of unrepented mortal sin.

The Church instead teaches what violations of divine law are severe enough to be mortal sins and what means are available for repentance and amendment of life. The Church is given the office of teaching and dispensing the sacraments, since following the commandments requires the gift of grace. The office of making final judgments, however, is reserved to God alone.

In other words, OP, the father cannot say with certainty that he himself will go to heaven or hell, let alone whether anyone else will. If he is teaching that it is not a serious sin to reject God when one has the grace to accept God, he is teaching incorrectly. Do not believe it. It is possible, however, that he trying to teach the concept of invincible ignorance, but doing it poorly.

Yes, it is possible that someone who in spite of physically having heard the Gospel but never professing belief in God while on their sojourn on earth (or even someone who never came to believe there even is a sojourn, save the one taken on earth!) could come to this awareness at the time of death and have a good-faith willingness to believe and conform to whatever is true converted into saving faith at death.

OP: Resolve to pursue the truth, to believe what is true and to conform your life to what you have found to be true. There isn’t anything else you can do.


All true.


when Jesus was asked is it true that only a few are saved, why did Jesus not reject that and instead He validated that only a few are saved ?

AND the WHY?

Jesus further explained

And knowing that, in advance, it didn’t change His answer.

All true.

That said ,

getting past the mental gymnastic games people try and play to avoid guilt for what they’ve done, by ignorance or what have you, the Church writes clearly about that HERE

Sounds like some questions need asking and answered from that exchange


I’d say that it is true the difficulty seems to be “we can’t say they go to hell, so they probably go to heaven” or “we can’t say they go to heaven, so they probably go to hell.”

No. We don’t know what makes a person culpable for failing to do what is right, but we do know what is right and we do know that doing the right is meant for our ultimate happiness–for beatitude. We can’t know every single extraordinary length God will go to in order to save a soul, but we do know the example of extraordinary lengths meant to provide the ordinary means of salvation, which is the Incarnation and Pascal Mystery, which leads us to believe in Jesus Christ, to be baptized into his Body, and to make use of the sacraments in this life as the source of grace for a life filled with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, meant both for our eternal happiness and the glory of God. We know at the very least that none of us who reach eternal life will ever look back and wish we had loved the Lord later than we did or less than we did. If we fail to encourage someone to believe and embrace the joy of following the Lord right now, we fail in charity even if the Almighty does not allow our failure to lead to the damnation of the particular souls whom we fail.


While we are on this side of eternity, we know that we must have faith hope and charity. On the other side of this life, faith and hope are gone. We see things as they really are. As the apostle taught, for those who achieve blessedness, all that is left is Charity… LOVE

Those in hell there is no faith hope or charity.


I hope for your sake that in your case your father is right.


Nah, just the important ones, the ones where your life is at stake. I personally believe I have perfect hair. My students are encouraged to agree, independent of any adverse evidence.


You only believe in anecdotal evidence if your life is at stake, but not when it comes to your hair.

Okay then…

How about in the following examples:

Even though science hasn’t yet proven essential oils are effective, they are very effective at reducing migraines in some people.


People who have experienced healing but there is no scientific explanation or it isn’t something “science” would investigate.

Would you ever believe in anything that a person claims to have experienced even though science hasn’t confirmed it?


You may be interested to discover that anecdotes are not considered data in science, hence the snipping of your first quote to remove the incoherence. Replacing it after its removal for cause and extrapolating off the incoherence is unlikely to advance this conversation.


Well, it’s probably for the best. You’re just too smart for lil’ ol’ me.

You might be new ‘round these parts. People don’t usually jump into others conversations unless they want to advance the conversation.


Nobody can answer this question, there’s not enough information. First of all, your father knows you (and you him). You can’t convey that here. What you are doing is trying to make everything black and white, stating only the question and answer from your father. You leave out his knowledge and history of knowing you and you him. You cannot convey your relationship on here, and because I don’t have that info of you two, I cannot say it doesn’t exist and doesn’t have any weight on an answer. So there’s not enough info here for me. What I mean is, if you were my son or if my son told me he was atheist and asked me if I believed he would go to heaven. I would tell him I believe he “could” and “would” with a big IF. If you have been raised in Truth, you know Truth. If you truly reject it, I pray your soul continues to tug to go back to Truth because then I would fear for your soul. I know what the Truth says about those who are true atheists, I’m not about to help you disprove your father’s credibility.
Did you openly reject Christ to your father? Do you truly reject Him in your heart? We are evolving, many people in different stages of their lives believe very different things. My guess is that you are still exploring since you are on here.
If you have your doubts, by all means continue to research. But don’t be biased in your search. Have you looked up Catholic scientists and bothered to hear why they are both scientists and Catholic?
No true scientist would throw out the possibility of God. You cannot prove that God does not exist either.
Here’s a video with some scientific into that may be helpful, you can research journal articles on too.




Can you explain what you mean? I don’t want to misunderstand you.

Everyone who goes to Purgatory is saved. They simply need cleansing before going to Heaven.
Nobody in Purgatory goes to Hell.


Everyone who goes to purgatory is already saved by definition, or they wouldn’t be going to purgatory for final purification


Apologies for my poorly considered response.

To the last, of course.

Every day, I’m told somebody took a cab, or went shopping, or any of a myriad other quotidian activities I have no reason to doubt, and so I believe them, despite the adage made famous by the “fixture in American journalism that trained Mike Royko, Kurt Vonnegut, Seymour M. Hersh and legions of other gritty reporters.”

Arnold Dornfeld, a legendary editor who reporters said was as much a terror as a teacher, established the City News Bureau standards: double check everything. ‘‘If your mother says she loves you,’’ he liked to say, ‘‘check it out.’’

More aptly, perhaps, I receive excuses from my students I have reason to doubt, but believe them anyway as a matter of policy unless I have evidence they are not telling the truth. Pro tip for students: If you can find that picture of your car with a flat tire on the web, so can I.

To the first, I see no reason why the health effects of essential oils couldn’t be investigated scientifically. Purported miraculous healings are a more difficult case, as the field is swamped with outright frauds and con men, making it similar to chasing through stacks of blurred pictures for an authentic glimpse of aliens, or yetis.

The real issue, for me, anyway, is that these miraculous claims never measure up to evidence of the universe’s creator. An ant’s ability to shift a pebble is not evidence of its ability to carve out a beach. Regrowing a human’s amputated leg is not evidence that an entity can whomp up galaxy clusters.

Then there are those things that others believe that I have good reason to doubt, from the existence of an afterlife to the beauty and brains of a doting father’s daughter whose quiz scores, at least, indicate otherwise. Unless these beliefs are causing damage, I see no reason to challenge them, and to the extent they provide comfort and support, I can even encourage them.

There’s asymmetry in these arguments for another’s god and heaven. There is no Great Commission in atheism. I have no reason to ask you to abandon your beliefs until those beliefs adversely impact your life or the lives of others.

If it works for you, more power to you.


Does the OP believe that his father will go to heaven? Would it please him to think that his father could go to heaven?

And if someone found himself, at the end of his life, presented with the opportunity to go to heaven, would he decline to enter because it went against his worldview?


Surely you realize atheists don’t believe in such ideas. Right?


It’s interesting/disheartening to see so few comments (of the 240 or so) address my original question. Why does someone who doesn’t hold similar beliefs elicit such responses? It’s interestingly very similar to my “in real life” atheist experience…ie just being an atheist (or trying to be genuine about my lack of belief) is an affront/offensive to so many religious folks. I don’t agree with your beliefs, and you don’t agree with mine…great. Anyway, I was hoping to actually get some answers here to my (sincere) question.

If you’re interested, I now suspect Richard Rohr (and his beliefs on hell) are where some of this is coming from (my father). Was hoping to find other Catholics who might be putting similar views out there.


Richard Rohr seems to teach a sort of universalism. He’s not reliable as a Catholic theologian. Still, if Rohr is correct, even atheists go to heaven.

But do they have to go to heaven if the really don’t want to?


Hmm, parroting this site’s faq. His resume as a Catholic is presumably more impressive than yours, yes? Regardless, looking to understand “Catholics” with similar views to his, if you have any.

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