Would God condemn the soul of an atheist who died in grave sin but otherwise had an upright heart?


We live in a society where many people are duped into not believing in God and committing grave sin when in fact they have an otherwise upright heart perhaps greater than many devout Catholics who do not live in grave sin. This bothers me because I know of several such persons and I do not understand why a fair and just God would let a person with such great potential for loving and worshiping Him, if they knew for certain He existed, would condemn their soul. I can see where such a person may be placed in Purgatory, but not the eternal suffering of hell.

It sometimes feels like Catholicism has put together a “rule book” that denies the true mercy of God. The Jews of Chabad believe that everyone will be saved, but many will need to be purged of their sins in Purgatory. I honestly hope that these Jews are correct!


We are meant to trust in the mercy of God. We don’t know what happens to each soul; only God does, and so we always pray for those souls and trust in Him. I’ve seen this topic come up a lot, and really the only answer is “We don’t know.” God is merciful and just; have faith in that, always.


As Jesus shows in his parables, people are called into the vineyard at different times. Some are called in the beginning of the day and toil their whole lives while some are called at the very end. God’s reasoning for this is His own. Just because someone is an atheist now does not mean they are lost forever.

No one who dies an atheist can be saved, since faith is necessary for salvation (one cannot surrender himself to God if He doesn’t acknowledge God’s existence). That being said, God may bring them to that faith at some point down the road, even at the very end, either in the usual ways (and you might be one of those ways!) and even in ways known to Himself.

But other than that, atheists can commit mortal sins and be irrepentant just like a Catholic can. A person who perseveres in mortal sin does not have an “upright heart” by definition. An otherwise grave sin committed in good faith is of course not a mortal sin.


This is a powerful response, I think:

2Thess 2:9 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders,
2Th 2:10 and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
2Th 2:11 Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false,
2Th 2:12 so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Those who “refuse to love the truth” hardly “otherwise have an upright heart.”


The question “could” God can clearly be answered in the affirmative…the question “would” God is only for Him to answer.


I believe you are not right. God cannot lie. To lie would be to deny Himself, for He is truth. He cannot deny Himself; He cannot lie. Therefore He cannot declare a person “guilty” if in truth the person is “not guilty.”


But only God can determine who is actual guilty. The gravity of sin is objective truth, but the culpability of any individual is subjective and judged only by God.


You are right that God cannot declare a person guilty and not guilty at the same time. That’s why the Catholic Church never declares anyone to be guilty. It always calls for people pray for loved ones or anyone that dies, with the hope that God has knowledge we don’t know that could eliminate their guilt for the sin.


The exercise of mercy is never a lie. God will do what God will do, not what any of us think is right or just…He alone has the power, the right, and the ability to decide that.


That is not what I said. I said that God cannot declare a guilty person “not guilty”, nor can He declare a not guilty person “guilty.” God cannot lie.

God, in His perfect knowledge, can judge truly the culpability of a person for acts that are objectively sinful - a judgement that we on earth cannot make with absolute certitude. Thus the Church cannot declare any human soul to be in hell.


The exercise of divine mercy is never a lie, as the exercise of divine justice is never a lie. In God, mercy and justice are one thing, not opposed, as they are in so many human minds. All virtues are one in God - all are truth.


It only takes one second to say, or think, “I’m sorry God.” I think if you couldn’t do that, such as the people on 9/11 in the towers, I think God is merciful. If you’ve had a lifetime to figure things out, and still can’t say, “I’m sorry, God,” my guess is that He looks at all your mental faculties, and if they were lacking, is merciful. If they weren’t lacking, such as in the case of avid atheists who write books, posts, and blogs, I think He figures they did this to themselves. They condemned themselves to be apart from God.

I do not rely on God’s mercy; I try to follow Him and say I’m sorry. There’s nothing hard about the Catholic rule book, because all I have to do is submit to Him, and say sorry.

Jesus has already said there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. To think otherwise is to be like a child who is compelled to test his parents to see if the punishment is coming.

The friends you worry about are the ones who condemn their own souls. It’s not so much God condemning them to Hell. Perhaps tell them what is required so they have the parachute ready.


What do you think a priest in 1850 would have said if you told them all that is required for salvation is to say “I’m sorry God”?


He would have said you need a proper confession, asked you to do an act of penance, and given absolution. But even if the atheist friends of the OP wanted to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they couldn’t. Hence they could just say they’re sorry, and by also addressing God as God give Him His due.

What is your answer?


Does God condemn anyone, Robert, or does He forgive?


I agree! I do not believe that God would condemn such a person but was under the impression that Catholicism teaches otherwise.


I think it depends on one’s image of God. Does God go after the “lost sheep”? Absolutely. :slightly_smiling_face:

But what about this question: Does God condemn anyone, or does He forgive?


It will always be a persons choice. God is perfectly loving and merciful. He is also perfectly just.


I do not see how they can benefit of Purgatory in absence of them believing in it. God is fair. God’s mercy is not abstract devoid of His personna and will and thought. Or at least I think so.
But who I am to know? Maybe there is 3rd way but I can’t contemplate it without being tempted.


Saying you’re sorry in this instance implies a plethora of other things. Believing in God for one. This simply is not the case if, as the questioner puts it, one dies as an atheist.

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