Will this atheist go to hell?


#1

Here is a scenario for you, about a fictional character named Jane. According to Catholic theology, will this person go to hell? Why or why not?

Jane, born into a Catholic family, has explored religion thoroughly. She has taken the notions of God and Church very seriously, and has had a long and arduous intellectual/spiritual journey. After exploring Mormanism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and, of course, her own Catholic Church, she has decided to stop believing in a divine being of any kind. You could say she is an atheist; she does not have a god-belief, though she would not say she can disprove the existence of God.

Her non-belief in God is mostly on account of intellectual questioning - and not getting sufficient answers. Otherwise, she is a decent human being. She is no Mother Teresa, but she is generally kind and curteous, and guilty of no great crime. She has a young daughter, whom she loves dearly and takes good care of. She is unmarried. One day, she is killed in a car accident, and through the powers of the omniscient narrator (me), we know she persisted in her non-belief in a diety to her death. (In other words, there was no last-second repentance.)

According to current Catholic theology, where would she end up? If there is not enough information to say, what more information is needed? Please cite sources when constructing your response.


#2

Anyone? I’m very curious and am having trouble finding a definative Catholic theological response.


#3

Did she repented before she died? God could have given her time to repent… If she repented she could be saved. If she didn’t, she would go to hell. This is just common sense.


#4

Exalt, you are never rude. I thank you for that. But you have a very mistaken concept of Catholic theology.

I realize that many fundamentalists will declare who is in heaven or hell. Catholic don’t do that because we don’t put our selves in the place of God. Only He can make such judgements.

None of us can answer your question. That is up to God to decide.


#5

There is no salvation outside the church.


#6

from what we know, the best i can give you is probably. but no one says who is in hell. not even the pope. given the circumstances though, i would say more than likely.


#7

Exalt, you are never rude. I thank you for that.

Wow. Thanks. I know we’ve had our fair share of interesting discussions and debates, and I’ve always thought I was a very rude person on this forums. It’s nice to know that people don’t see me that way… I hope. :stuck_out_tongue:

But you have a very mistaken concept of Catholic theology.

I realize that many fundamentalists will declare who is in heaven or hell. Catholic don’t do that because we don’t put our selves in the place of God. Only He can make such judgements.

None of us can answer your question. That is up to God to decide.

You are correct; that much I remembered from Catholicism classes in high school. I should have said “How likely is it that this …” Rather than “Will this …”


#8

First let me quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then I will continue:

**1734 **Freedom makes man *responsible *for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts. **

1735 ***Imputability *and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.

We are free to chose God or to reject God. However, our responsibility for such decisions depend on the circumstances. From your initial post, it appears that Jane was not ignorant because she “explored religion throughly”. Your example does not give sufficient information as to whether her rejection was inadvertent, due to duress, due to fear, out of habit, inordinate attachment, or other psychological or social factors.

In a nutshell, the information given is too general and even a detailed description of a specific case could not be answered sufficiently because as Catholic believers, we leave those judgments as to someone’s salvation to God and God alone.

Let me now quote from the Catechism as to how someone goes to hell according to Catholic theology:

**1037 **God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:619

A mortal sin is committed as follows:

**1857 **For a *sin *to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

Being an atheist qualifies as grave matter. Even deliberately consenting to be an atheist without being ignorant might not be a mortal sin because full knowledge might be lacking due to other factors indicated in paragraph 1735 of the catechism (duress, fear, etc.).


#9

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Sallus . . . there isn’t really much we can add to that other than that her works have no influence on her salvation.


#10

to my experience you described an agnostic, not an atheist. The search for God is a classic example in those who suffer. The problem here is individuals wanting a god that fits their particular lifestyle, their morality. It does not work like that. We are given rules. Having said that, where will she end up? Where everybody ends up. In the presence of the Nazarene, he decides.

There purpose in the Nazarene asking, " He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.’ In truth, it is telling of our unworthiness to judge each other.


#11

Only Answer completelly in keeping with Catholic theology: “We don’t know.” We are to leave those judgments to God.

Answer to the better question than “Will she go to hell?” of “Can she go to heaven?”: “Hopefully.” Just because you’d fail an ontology test doesn’t mean you’re willfully asserting your superiority to God and refusing to alter yourself to him.


#12

I think I would disagree. If you want a more precise answer than it would be: “There really isn’t much hope he’ll go to Heaven”

Saying that we don’t know is true, because we actually don’t know. But we know that outside of the Church there is not salvation and we know that he was a Catholic and he rejected the Church. I’m sorry, but that is already a very good case for hell. To that we have to add the fact that the person would need to live without any mortal sin in order to die in the state of grace. We Catholics know how hard that is and now imagine a person who isn’t straightened by the sacraments and who rejects God. Of course rejecting God and his Church are already two grave matters we can list.


#13

Given what is written in the OP, there is not enough information to know one way or the other.


#14

I am going to side with those who say there is no way to know. I agree with the statement that outside the Church there is no salvation, but I also know that the Church teaches that there might be individuals who are invisibly united to the church because if they really knew the truth, they would visibly join the church.

Ultimately one who was born as a Catholic definitely has a strike against them when it comes to rejecting faith, but even then, we can’t really know their reasons for rejecting their faith (it might have been poor formation in the faith such that they only think they know what the Church teaches). Further, who knows what grace grants at the moment of death that will allow those outside the church to join the Church at the moment of death.

Thus, the case for Jane making it to heaven is not good, but then again, the case for any of us making it to heaven is not good without God’s saving grace.


Bill


#15

I have a couple follow up questions, if you’re willing:

#1: Considering the vast number of educated people who aren’t Catholic or convert away from Catholicism or are atheists like Jane - why isn’t the Church encouraging massive evangelization campaigns? I mean, it would be like seeing someone in a burning building and not sending in the fire fighters to rescue him/her. In other words, I see a bit of a disconnect there - the Church’s, as well as induvidual Catholics, don’t really seem all that concerned about the potential billions who are a few decades away from eternal suffering.

#2: I’m confused about how we could reconcile a good God with sending Jane to hell. She’s clearly a nice person, who has done no great crime. She’s taken Church/God very seriously, which is much more than we can say for many of the lazy religious people out there who don’t give the faith they were born into much thought. I mean, it just doesn’t seem right to throw someone into a firey dungeon for the rest of eternity when they’ve lived a kind and honest life like Jane has.

Thanks.


#16

But in this case it would be her fault that she is ignorant. It would certainly not be invincible ignorance.

CCC 847:
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.


#17

This thread is really not going to be much of a help to the original poster. All I can say is that we really have no idea the state of Jane’s soul, and therefore, we will simply trust in the perfect justice, and perfect mercy, that is our Lord. Furthermore, we will of course pray for Jane. I know I certainly pray for all of my atheists friends who are quite lovely people. I pray for their conversion, and I pray that through God’s love and mercy, they will enter into eternal life one day.

And on the side note, the Church could always do a better job of evangelizing.


#18

The Church does encourage us all to evangelize the faith. Keep in mind though, that there is more than one way to preach the faith. I believe St. Francis said something like “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary, use words.” In other words, every act we do on a daily basis can be used to evangelize. Certainly we are called to support missions, and should be willing to defend the faith or talk about it with those who are curious.

#2: I’m confused about how we could reconcile a good God with sending Jane to hell. She’s clearly a nice person, who has done no great crime. She’s taken Church/God very seriously, which is much more than we can say for many of the lazy religious people out there who don’t give the faith they were born into much thought. I mean, it just doesn’t seem right to throw someone into a firey dungeon for the rest of eternity when they’ve lived a kind and honest life like Jane has.

Thanks.

Remember, we don’t know what Hell is like other than it is the complete separation from God. Ultimately by choosing to not accept God, we are choosing separation from him. He is not condemning them, they condemn themselves. Blaming God for that is like blaming someone for not putting relatives up in their house when the relatives have chosen to stay in a hotel.


Bill


#19

You hit the nail right on the head. The Church has called for evangelization of Europe but many people are just indifferent. I know some priests and people who try to do answer it, but it’s difficult with so little support. You see we live in a very secular world where all religions are the same snf where all “good” people get saved etc. and many catholics have fallen into this trap.

I mean, it would be like seeing someone in a burning building and not sending in the fire fighters to rescue him/her. In other words, I see a bit of a disconnect there - the Church’s, as well as induvidual Catholics, don’t really seem all that concerned about the potential billions who are a few decades away from eternal suffering.

Yep

#2: I’m confused about how we could reconcile a good God with sending Jane to hell. She’s clearly a nice person, who has done no great crime.

You see, we are not saved by works alone. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. You need to understand that we humans have gotten to such a stage where we only deserve eternal death. This is why Jesus came to save us and purify us from sins. But salvation is not imposed on us and it remains a free gift.

Luke 11:10-11:13
And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?

You see, being good in your eyes is not enough. God requires perfection.

She’s taken Church/God very seriously, which is much more than we can say for many of the lazy religious people out there who don’t give the faith they were born into much thought.

Well, she obviously did not take God seriously. If she would she wouldn’t leave the Church he established and even completely turn her face away from God.

I mean, it just doesn’t seem right to throw someone into a firey dungeon for the rest of eternity when they’ve lived a kind and honest life like Jane has.

Or maybe a wicket life full of sin. Look at it through eyes of God and that’s what you will see.


#20

#1 We should be eveangelizing more, each and every one of us.

#2 Nice has nothing to do with it. Great crimes have nothing to do with it. We are ALL fallen creatures (via original sin) that deserve hell. It is only through the intervention of Christ that we can be saved. If we do not accept His intervention, and not believing in him is not accepting, we can not be saved.

God Bless


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