7 Ways an Atheist can go to Heaven

1. Some persons are baptized as infants, children, or even as adults, and later they fall away from the Christian faith and become atheists. These persons enter the state of grace when baptized. If they never commit an actual mortal sin, subsequent to baptism, then they go to Heaven.

A baptized Christian might fall into the grave error of atheism, with a sincere but mistaken conscience, due to the influence of sinful secular society and the sinfulness of Christians (who thereby obscure the face of Christ). So it is possible for an atheist to have never committed an actual mortal sin subsequent to baptism. Atheism is a objective mortal sin, but not always an actual mortal sin.

2. Same case as #1 above, except that the atheist, who is sincerely mistaken in choosing atheism, commits an actual mortal sin in some other area of life. If he subsequently repents with perfect contrition, he returns to the state of grace, and then dies in the state of grace. His choice of atheism is an objective mortal sin, but not also an actual mortal sin.

3. Same case as #1 above, except that the atheist is guilty of actual mortal sin in choosing atheism. He later repents, with perfect contrition, of this sinful choice.

Does this imply that he chooses to believe in God after repentance? Not necessarily. He might choose atheism out of unjust anger at religion or out of selfishness, since religion condemns his sins. His repentance from his sinful motives in choosing atheism might leave him still sincerely uncertain whether God exists. And he might then decide, with a sincere but mistaken conscience, that God does not exist. Since he is repentant from his actual mortal sin in choosing atheism, — and if he either does not commit, or at least repents from, any other actual mortal sins — he dies in the state of grace.

Repentance from actual mortal sin, in a person who does not believe in God and does not receive forgiveness through Sacraments, takes the form of true selfless love of neighbor. If an atheist is sorry for his sins out of true love of neighbor, he has perfect contrition and is forgiven all sins. If an atheist commits an act of true love of neighbor, in full cooperation with grace, he has implicit perfect contrition and is forgiven all sins.

4. Some atheists were never baptized. Such a person must enter the state of grace by some form of baptism — water, desire, blood — in order to be saved by dying in the state of grace. An atheist can convert to Christianity, and then be baptized. If he subsequently does not commit an actual mortal sin, and dies in the state of grace, then he goes to Heaven. If he subsequently commits an actual mortal sin, and then repents with perfect contrition, or imperfect contrition and the Sacrament of Forgiveness, and he dies in the state of grace, then he goes to Heaven.

5. Same case as #4, except that the atheist enters the state of grace by a baptism of desire. If he subsequently does not commit an actual mortal sin, then he goes to Heaven when he dies, even if he dies an atheist — if and only if his choice of atheism is not an unrepented actual mortal sin. If an atheist, who was never before in the state of grace, commits an act of true love of neighbor, in full cooperation with grace, he has implicit perfect contrition and receives a baptism of desire, which also forgives all sins.

6. Same case as #5, except that the atheist receives the state of grace by perfect contrition. If an atheist, who was never before in the state of grace, is sorry for his sins out of true love of neighbor, he has perfect contrition and receives a baptism of desire, which also forgives all sins.

Forgiveness of all sins by perfect contrition is not available solely to those who believe in God. Everyone who loves his neighbor also loves God, at least implicitly.

7. If an atheist gives up his life, in order to save his neighbor, out of true love of neighbor, in full cooperation with grace, he receives a baptism of blood and, dying in a state of grace, he goes to Heaven.

The main point is that an atheist can be saved, even if he does not convert to belief in God. He must enter the state of grace by some form of baptism, and he must either avoid all actual mortal sins, or at least repent with perfect contrition, so that he dies in the state of grace. His choice of atheism is an objective mortal sin, but might not be also an actual mortal sin.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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2 Responses to 7 Ways an Atheist can go to Heaven

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    Matthew Chapter 7

    13
    * “Enter through the narrow gate;* for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.j
    14
    How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

    This seems to imply that very few Christians (much less atheists) go to Heaven. Is this true?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The way to Heaven is narrow. In other words, it is difficult to live a holy life in a sinful world. Few persons go directly to Heaven when they die, for we all commit many sins. The number of souls lost to Hell is not small; many souls are condemned to Hell forever. But there is also Purgatory to consider. Those persons who die in a state of grace, but with venial sins and temporal punishment unforgiven, are sent to Purgatory prior to entering eternal life in Heaven. The Blessed Virgin Mary summed up this situation well in her words at Medjugorje:

      “The majority of people go to Purgatory. Many go to hell. A small number go directly to Heaven.” (message of January 10, 1983)

      The majority of souls go to Purgatory, then to Heaven. A small additional number go directly to Heaven. So the vast majority go to Heaven, at least by way of Purgatory. This answer is not surprising. For the grace of God is all powerful. Many persons still end up in Hell. For the all-powerful grace of God respects us as persons with free will. The love of God forces no one into Heaven.

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