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


Atreju, an interesting line of thought thanks. I guess this would fall under the ignorance rationale (ie not having a full understanding)?



Well, on the flip side, none of us has perfect knowledge, so partial ignorance can’t be an excuse. So the proper Christian action is to speak the gospel plainly and try to be a good example, and pray God to take action. God could save anyone, but its probably not a good idea to get too comfortable.



It’s a common idea, but usually directed toward people who had literally never encountered God in the first place. Presuming that you father made even the most basic attempt to tell you about the Lord growing up, you wouldn’t really fit in the same category as say, a child in China who only has the vaguest idea of what Christianity actually teaches, an indigenous culture in sub-saharan African with little to no contact with the western world, or even a child of Atheists that had been indoctrinated with the idea that there was no God from birth.



I do not agree with your father’s line of reasoning.

I know a large number of atheists. I live in Western Europe and I am a scientist; therefore, I encounter many atheists. Many are colleagues and/or friends. They are atheists because they argue they do not believe in any god because they claim there is no evidence that any gods exist. I think that has to come under “culpability from lack of belief”. They are not able to claim they do not believe in the Christian God and the teachings of the Church because they are a remote tribe that has never been evangelised.

I would be interested to know what your concern is. If you are an atheist you do not believe hell exists. If your belief is sincerely held you will have no concern you may end-up in a place you believe does not exist.

If I were your father I would be deeply troubled and have grave concern for your soul. I would do all I could to persuade you to return to the Church.



Let’s take a look at this question by reflecting on the words of Jesus on those who go to hell.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” - Matthew 7:13

Jesus is very clear here, many people go to hell, it is the wide and broad gate, this could mean millions upon millions, we do not know. What we do know is, you can’t just float into Heaven, you have to make an effort in your own life based on the gifts you have been given.

”the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” - Luke 12:48

Those who have been given much (the faith and knowledge of Jesus), much will be expected. Those who haven’t been given much (perhaps atheists not exposed to Jesus, non-Christian religions not exposed to Jesus), much less will be asked of them. BUT God is merciful and just, key word just. Jesus says ”the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment (hell) will be beaten with few blows.”.

Jesus doesn’t say no blows, no punishment. Being atheist isn’t a free card into Heaven especially since, as Matthew 7:13 notes, many many people go to hell, or at least not directly to Heaven.

So your comment sounds like you think you can’t go to hell because you don’t believe and can’t reject God. This is wrong, it isn’t just about rejection or acceptance. Many people accept Jesus but still don’t go directly to Heaven (Matthew 7:13) as evident by Christianity being claimed as the biggest religion in the world. If you commit murder you will still be judged based on this murder, not just your lack of faith. We are judged on faith AND good works so no, you aren’t “exempt” from hell as your father suggests. If your father’s claim was true, then Jesus’ own words in John 20:29 are a lie:

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blessed are those who didn’t see (no evidence or miracles presented to them) but they still believed (had faith). If atheists can’t go to hell because they “can’t reject God” (which by definition they do to some level) then why are those who don’t see but believe blessed? Who needs to be blessed if you are exempt from hell as your father thinks?



I don’t think the OP is concerned about Hell, he seems to want to know more about this idea his father has.



Again, I was really hoping to get some insight into my original question. But just as atheists can’t prove there is no god, neither can believers disprove other gods. We believe what we have evidence for (there’s not much choice in the matter). If you found evidence for Vishnu, you would believe. But you lack evidence, so you don’t. You do have evidence (ie sufficient justification) for Yahweh, so you believe.



But you lack evidence, so you don’t. You do have evidence (ie sufficient justification) for Yahweh, so you believe

This statement completely contradicts John 20:29

Faith isn’t built on evidence, or at least not entirely. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘faith’ as:

strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.



Yes thank you.

Many comments here are supporting “my” argument/understanding of church teaching. I’m looking for more history or teaching to better understanding my father’s. I initially thought his position was mostly due to bias, but curious what, if any, theology may be behind it.



"Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."

That is a big claim. I have found it to be true.

First thing was I had to separate my ego and my emotions from my search. Those were the big problems for me.

I hope that you can take a look at philosophy, maybe find someone who can discuss at a non-emotional level. Your dad is, as are all parents, giving you an answer that is filled with his love for you.

Two resources before I bow out, maybe it would at least give you some interesting conversations.


The podcaster known as “Max Kolbe”


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So, this is a very attractive idea, that humans are a fairly sensible lot who react rationally to evidence. But unfortunately we need to come to grips with the fact that we are an emotional, biased, shortsighted and stubborn people. To illustrate this I’ll suggest the wonderful movie 12 Angry Men, which you can watch for free if you have Amazon prime or on Youtube for $3.00. It’s old (1957) but only an hour and a half long and is a great character study and look at how bias can color belief - how what can seem obvious may not be quite so, and how we can dig in our heels against evidence we are predisposed to dismiss.

Religion is an extremely emotionally charged subject, with significant ramifications for psychologically intense issues such as death, love, guilt, hope, etc. I’m not saying you’re in an emotional denial because I don’t really know what the bases of your beliefs are, but you should definitely consider the emotional angle.



Whew, that’s an unfortunate website name. “Red Pilled” is internet slang that a lot of alt-right, neo-nazis and other conspiracy theorists use to describe themselves.

…aaaand browsing the website I can see the name isn’t quite accidental. I’d avoid.

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Interesting comment. I very much agree. Also I like 12 angry men :). Not to get too far off topic, but I think we (humans) should strive to be much less like lawyers (building rationale to support arguments) and more like scientists (building arguments that fit the evidence).



Church teaching, as I understand it, confirms your understanding. It’s puzzling your father could go through 9 years of seminary & believe what he has told you.

What the Church teaches about those who do not know Christ does not apply to you.

As confusing as the Christian landscape is, if you continue to search for the truth for the sake of the truth, God will lead you to the truth.



Sounds like universalism to me. If so, dad’s not alone; it seems to be a spreading heresy within the Church.

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Good grief! Definitely in the avoid column!



I’m not so sure. I know he doesn’t believe in a fire-and-brimstone hell, but does believe there is a hell…that people choose to go to, by rejecting God (or at least something close to that)

Do you know any prominent Catholics who are sympathetic to, and write about, universalism?



There is some theory behind this to give him this hope. The mere fact that you are able to articulate your question and know where to look for an answer to it however, to me, says that you have the intellect and resources to come to know God. Short of some catastrophic damage to you during childhood I would think this hope of his to be very unfounded.

God loves you very much and has a plan to bring you into union with perfect love and happiness.
Sin (rejection of Him and truth) destroys this plan.
God sent His Son Jesus to reconcile sinners to God, to show us how to live and to show us His love.

Please use your obviously strong intellect and investigate the “proofs” for God. We can come to know He exists by reason alone. Once you come to the conclusion he exists, repent of the disbelief and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. The next step is yours. Your father and God so much want you to take it.



I hope you visited the link I provided to the Catechism paragraphs mentioned, as the section title, “Outside the Church there is no salvation,” is in quotation marks because it is an often misunderstood teaching. The proper understanding of the teaching is explained in the mentioned paragraphs, including the seemingly applicable invincible-ignorance exception for those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Catholic Church.



It doesn’t matter what you believe. God will judge you by rejecting Him. If you’ve heard the word, know about Jesus Christ and His Holy Church yet still reject him, you are putting your soul in serious jeopardy.

Sure, there are many Atheists who lead good charitable lives, but in the end they are damning themselves for rejecting Christ.

Please do some soul searching.


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