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


The big problem is the assumption that the first cause must be unchanging and eternal. To prove that you would need to prove that it could not have changed at the inception of the universe. Usually this is done by some hand waving about how the first cause would exist outside of our time. But by affecting causality initially, it becomes subject to the possibility of change. It is just too easy to suppose a state that exists at t=0 that causes the causal chain to begin, and then stops existing in that way.


Your post just brought something to mind for me. I don’t at all underestimate the power of a faith experience in converting someone. I think many people operate that way. But what philosophy has done for me is help me truly grasp in a concrete way that we do not believe in a “sky wizard” and why objections based on comparisons to invisible unicorns and magical elves are completely missing the point. I have a much fuller apprecation for who I have faith in knowing what God is not.


None of this objection makes sense in response to Aquinas’ Prime Mover argument, for example, as it completely misses the line of argument, which has nothing to do with the start of the universe or a t=0.


Aquinas was operating on an obsolete metaphysics, that required continuous acting on an object to cause it to move, like gears in a clock. Modern metaphysics postulates that an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by some force. Ergo, whatever initiated motion need not continuously do so.


(1) Aquinas wasn’t concerned with just physical motion in his Prime Mover argument, that’s a misunderstanding due to changing terminology. He was concerned with change in general.

(2) Consider that you just said an inertial reference frame will not change unless acted upon by something else, and that continuing changes to the inertial reference frame require continued acting. The basic principle used by Aquinas continues to apply here. In fact, very explicitly so.

(3) You’re mistaking metaphysics for physics. His physics is certainly dated. I’d disagree on the metaphysics.


Yeah I was unsure of whether to use physics or metaphysics here.

Still not really seeing how it is impossible for a first cause to cease existing after it causes something to happen. I dont understand the point about inertial reference frames.


You’re thinking in terms of accidental efficient causation. Aquinas’ acknowledges that such a chain of causes could proceed to infinity. His Prime Mover argument, and indeed all of his cosmological arguments, are therefore not based on an accidental series, but essential (or hierarchical) series. And they don’t argue about a Prime Mover (or First Cause or Necessary Being or… etc…) being necessary at the beginning, but as being necessary for any given existing thing at any given moment in a more immediate sense, not tracing backwards into the past, but only in the here and now.


Yeah I dont see how any non Christian is going to buy that as it is laden with metaphysical assumptions that are no longer common.


Most people don’t have a consistent framework of metaphysical assumptions to begin with, just a bunch of popular ideas they’ve received from society and taken for granted.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t those educated in philosophy who have different positions, I’m just talking about the average person. And I’d say a Thomist framework can hang in the ring with those other philosophical positions, and is in fact the better position to take, and most of those who were familiar with Descartes or Leibniz and focused on refuting them then went on to misunderstand Aquinas, and so largely spoke to a bunch of strawmen.

Anyway, at the very least, I think it’s helpful to dismiss ideas such as “sky wizards” and explain why its not a “flying spaghetti monster” situation, or at least to demonstrate that the popular objections to Aquinas’ cosmological arguments are largely straw men. Maybe at least they can engage at a deeper level and challenge their common assumptions. Maybe it’ll foster an interest in philosophy in general, if not Thomism.


Why don’t you straight up just ask your father why he thinks this.


Perhaps that would be a good thread to start, metaphysical assumptions.


Your dad is probably praying like heck that you will go to Heaven and he has trust and faith that God in his mercy will save you.

You’re blessed to have such a father.


No one can really say if another person will go to Heaven–only God knows that. We cannot even say that of ourselves. I’m sure your father is hoping and praying for the best as we all should.

As for the salvation of atheists, they cannot be saved if they persevere to the end in atheism. The Church teaches that faith is absolutely necessary for salvation.

From the Catechism:

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’"43

And we must of course first believe God exists before we can put our faith in Him:


Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

However, for someone seeking to follow the truth with an upright conscience, God will lead them to that necessary faith (even in ways known only to Himself or if only at the 11th hour, as we see in Christ’s parable of the workers in the vinyard.)

Here’s how Pope Francis put it in his first encyclical letter:

Lumen Fidei 35:

Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith…Any-one who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.

I’m sure your father sees those attributes in you and therefore trusts God will draw you to Himself. As I mentioned before, as the Lord’s parable shows, He does this at different times for different people. We can’t pass a final judgment on someone based on where they are right now.

  1. The first thing out of the holster as a 1st shot response to this issue you address, is usually the “invincible ignorance” argument as if this is the be all to end all answers to your question. It’s Not.
    Invincible ignorance vs vincible ignorance Invincible ignorance requires much work on a person’s part.

  2. Regarding errors in thinking we see in people today, that is so prevalent,
    From Pius IX 80 errors, in particular I’m showing errors 15-18
    III. INDIFFERENTISM, LATITUDINARIANISM (in extension also relativism)

15 Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
16 Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.
17 Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.—Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.
18 Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church.—Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849.

Point being, these are just 4 of 80 errors mentioned. There are consequences to these errors in thinking. Free isn’t really free as in license to do whatever one wants to do, without consequence to their choice

I add error 18 just in case one is wondering


I can’t tell you much about Catholic theology, but I have a question if you don’t mind me asking. Were you born an atheist?


Absolutely untrue. I would recommend you get to know more real life atheists.


Thanks. I’m catching up on this thread now but appreciate the response.

Is there something specific in his interpretation of this book that might apply to my Father’s position? I googled quickly and don’t see much about him.


No, the Red Pill cult on the internet is racist, anti-semitic, and misogynistic. Period. Just like the term “globalist” is a dog-whistle term that anti-semitics use for Jewish people. You may be unaware of these terms, but that’s how they are being used. Another thing to watch out for, white nationalists have co-opted Norse mythology and use the term Odinist.


I appreciate your responses here. Even though we disagree about our belief in god, it’s nice to be able to relate to some of your comments …

I will say that my conversion (breaking free, as I would describe it) was based mostly on my analysis of the “traditional” god proofs. I simply found them lacking. And there’s not many “new” arguments either, except the fine tuning argument. I was eventually forced to admit my lack of a justified belief…ie my atheism.


I don’t think your fathers view is widely accepted within Catholicism. Maybe he is just sure you will find your way back to the Church some day and will become Catholic again, and thus go to heaven? Knowing who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell is way above anyone on this boards pay grade. Also, it’s a matter of faith that either even exist. We don’t know for sure, and anyone who claims otherwise is lying or delusional.

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