Some atheists go to Heaven, some Catholics go to Hell

Is it better to be a good atheist, who loves his neighbor, than a bad Catholic, who sins gravely and does not repent? In some sense, yes, it is.

Anyone, Catholic or otherwise, who commits an actual mortal sin and refuses to repent is on the path to Hell. And we can certainly say about all the souls in Hell, “But woe to that man by whom the Son of man will be betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Mk 14:21). For all actual mortal sin is a betrayal of Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross is the source of all grace. And all human persons who depart from this life in the state of grace will have eternal life in Heaven.

But an atheist can be in the state of grace. He enters the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire, through an act of selfless love of neighbor, in full cooperation with grace. Or perhaps he entered the state of grace when he was baptized as a child. Then, if the atheist’s rejection of religion is not an actual mortal sin, due to invincible ignorance, he might remain in the state of grace.

What if an atheist commits an actual mortal sin in any area of life? How can he be returned to the state of grace? Perfect contrition forgives all sins, and this contrition can be implicit, just as a baptism of desire can be implicit. Sorrow for one’s sins out of love of neighbor is perfect contrition. Alternately, any selfless act of love of neighbor, in full cooperation with grace, includes, at least implicitly, perfect contrition. So the atheist can enter the state of grace by an act of love, and can return to it in the same way.

Why be a Roman Catholic, if even unbelievers can be saved? They can be saved, but the easiest path to Heaven is to be a believing and practicing Catholic. And the further one goes away from the Roman Catholic faith, the more difficult it is to get to Heaven. Far more Roman Catholics are saved than atheists. For we have all the Sacraments and teachings of the Church to assist us. We enter the state of grace easily by formal baptism. We return to the state of grace easily by Confession, with either perfect or imperfect contrition. And the many devotions of the Church help to increase our justification as we live a life of grace.

But who suffers more in Hell, the atheist or the Catholic? Of those to whom more is given, more will be expected. A Catholic who has so many more benefits, is punished more if he sins gravely and does not repent, as compared to someone with far fewer helps on the path of salvation. Some atheists suffer more than some Catholics in Hell, but certainly some atheists also suffer less than the worst Catholic sinners.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees were very religious, yet many of them ended up in Hell. We are not automatically saved just by being Catholic. Love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself. But whosoever loves his neighbor, truly and selflessly, also loves God, at least implicitly. So some atheists love God implicitly, while some bad Catholics, who are not in a state of grace, love neither God nor neighbor.

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

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14 Responses to Some atheists go to Heaven, some Catholics go to Hell

  1. Francisco says:

    Some of the other advantages of being a good sincerely practicing Catholic is that can go straight to Heaven (with explicit devotion, the help of the Sacraments, communion of the Saints, etc.) and his/her reward be greater; whereas a good but sincerely mistaken about God atheist would necessarily have to go through Purgatory, at best, throughout the higher level of Purgatory where he/she will learn what they ignored about Jesus Christ. No one will reach the Beatific Vision except through Him (John 14:16), that is knowing Him explicitly as our King and Savior.

  2. Guest says:

    Well, I’m pretty certain you are right, and I do wish you were (my best friend is an atheist). But as far as I know the Church teaches that love of God is necessary for perfect contrition. So I don’t think it has taught what you’re teaching, though it seems like a logical corollary of what it does teach. Where are you getting this from? Or you predicting that the pope will someday teach this based on your eschatology?

  3. Theophanes the recluse says:

    Ron, i totally agree with what you wrote, but i would like to focus on this

    ” What if an atheist commits an actual mortal sin in any area of life? How can he be returned to the state of grace? Perfect contrition forgives all sins, and this contrition can be implicit, just as a baptism of desire can be implicit. Sorrow for one’s sins out of love of neighbor is perfect contrition. Alternately, any selfless act of love of neighbor, in full cooperation with grace, includes, at least implicitly, perfect contrition. So the atheist can enter the state of grace by an act of love, and can return to it in the same way.”

    Well, that is true. But i think that, for atheists, is far more difficult to commit an actual mortal sin, because their morality is far less demanding than ours.

    I’m gonna try to explain myself in a clearer way (with the limitations of my imperfect english, due to the fact that i’m italian and i live in Italy, not in an anglosaxon country, so any corrections wil be welcomed): what are objectively bad/sinful actions that an atheist can realize as such?

    Masturbation? Nope. Premarital sex? Neither. Contraception? Are you kidding? Remarriying after a failed marriage? Impossibile (besides, we have to take into account that a marriage between two atheists, or between a catholic and an atheist, is VERY unlikely to be valid, because the “bonum sacramenti” is not going to be there, in most cases).

    So, speaking about sexual ethics, what would be the objectively sinful actions that may constitute, for an atheist, an actual mortal sin?

    Well, i think:

    1) rape (because everybody knows that a rape is a very bad behaviour);

    2) Pedophilia (for the same reason, unless someone is mentally ill);

    3) incest (there is no need to explain why, is impossible to committ an incest with good conscience, unless you don’t know who is the person);

    4) adultery in marriage (i think that most atheists realize that betraying one’s spouse is a very immoral act).

    The only case that is likely (more or less) to happen in an atheist’s life is the fourth, and for the vast majority of them it will be followed by sincere repentance.

    So the possibility for an atheist to commit an actual mortal sexual sin is very restricted. They will commit a shitload of objective mortal sexual sins but in most cases they are NOT going to be actual sexual sins.

    And this is very important, because sexual sins are the most common sins and, i think, the most difficult to avoid (considering that EVERY sexual act is an objective mortal sin, unless one is not married and i sexual intercourse is totally open to life, being contraception an intrinsic evil act, inherently evil), so i think that, paradoxically, for atheists is more difficult to commit an actual mortal sin and, when committed, is easier (for them) to repent, considering the severity of those sins.

    If we talk about killing, stealing, calumniation ecc, i think that the atheists have the same possibility of catholics to committ an actual mortal sins, but these sins are less likely to be committed, and if committed are very easy to repent for every person with a shred of morality.

    I think that far more Roman Catholics are saved than atheists only for a reason: we have powerful devotions that have the promise of final repentance from Christ (i’m speaking about the mine fridays devotion, the fifteen prayers of Saint Bridget and the chaplet of divine mercy, and let’s not forget the Rosary, even if it is less powerful than those devotions), i seriously think that devotions are the key to salvationv for catholics, for we have the strictest law and, as Saint Paul said, ” the strenght of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15,56).

    Sure, sacraments are very important, but let’s be onest: they DON’T have the promise of final repentance, i can confesse every week, but if, in a given moment, i commit an actual mortal sin, i can die before having the chance to repent, thus being condemned to hell, but Jesus has given to us those devotions precisely to avoid that.

    The Lord will give, to anyone that has done those devotions, the grace of final repentance (it’s his promise, not mine) even if he/she dies of sudden death, before the soul leaves the body entering into eternity (where repentance is no longer possible, that’s why the repentance HAS to happen before real death).

    If the Lord didn’t give us those gifts i seriously think that most catholics would risk eternal death for, as i said before, we have the STRICTEST law, and the law is the power of sin.

    Sure, we have to take into account the mitigating factors that can reduce culpability for certain sins even for a catholic (let’s think about divorced and remarried, thay can be in situations with mitigated freedom, when they have kids that would suffer for a divorce, if they were to impose absolute chastity to a reluctant partner, or, as is explained in Amoris Laetitia, ” A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values” thus having an unculpable erroneous coscience ), but i think it’s safe to say that for a catholics is easier to commit a mortal sin, having the fullness of the law imposed upon them.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t agree that atheists are unlikely to commit actual mortal sins because they lack Catholic teaching. They have consciences and the natural law. So while atheists can get to Heaven, it is harder for them, not easier.

    • Theophanes the recluse says:

      @Ron

      “I don’t agree that atheists are unlikely to commit actual mortal sins because they lack Catholic teaching”

      I said that they are less unlikely to commit the most common actual mortal sins, meaning the actual mortal sins of fornication, contraception, masturbation and adulterous remarriages. These sins, that in my opinion constitute the vast majority of objective mortal sins committed in the world, are less likely, for them, to be actual mortal sins.

      ” They have consciences and the natural law.”

      Of course, but without Church teaching is highly unlikely that someone is going ti realize the gravity of contraception or second marriages.

      Sure, these are matters of natural law, but some principles of natural law are easier to recognize (as i said, murder, calumniation, stealing, incest, pedophilia ecc are always recognizes as immoral even by atheists), others are much more difficult.

      For example, do you think that an atheist is going to realize the immorality of coabitazione or second marriage? I don’t think so.

      Heck, sometimes is difficult even for christians (considering ortodox Churches pratictices) and for catholics!

      “So while atheists can get to Heaven, it is harder for them, not easier”.

      Well, that’s true, but only because we have sacraments and devotions, because if we hadn’t them i think that for us catholics the path to salvation would be the hardest.

      I mean, Saint Paul wrote that “the strenght of sin is the law”, in 1 Cor 15,56, for a reason.

      The same reason that made him write, in Rm 7,8 “For apart from the law, sin was dead”.

      So yes, i believe that for us is easier to be saved, for we have the gifts of Jesus, but without them we would be in serious trouble, because we have the fullness of the law, we are held to a higher standard.

  4. Theophanes the recluse says:

    “i’m speaking about the mine fridays devotion”

    Obviously the NINE fridays devotion, not “mine”.

  5. Leo D. LION says:

    Jesus commanded St. Faustina to write in a diary what He instructed her to write.
    This occurred little less than 100 years ago.

    Jesus communicating with modern mankind.

    • Theophanes the recluse says:

      Yes, and i think that’s extraordinary.

      Her diary revealed God’s mercy in a way that was unthinkable before.

      In past centuries God’s mercy was never highilited in the proper way, and that’s why the fathers of the Church and even more recent theologians and confessors like Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori thought (and thaught ) that the overwhelming majority of mankind, EVEN AMONG CATHOLICS, was doomed to eternal death, to eternal suffering in hell.

      After the revelation to Saint Faustina and CVII this terrifying view, that makes a mockery of the mercy of God and his love, is no longer tenable, in my opinion.

      And that was REALLY a terrifying view http://saintsquotes.net/selection%20-%20fewness.html

      I mean, how can someone believe something like this

      ‘What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!’
      St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church

      Without falling into utter desperation?

      Besides, Saint Alphonsus believed that all the scismatica and heretics and infidels (non christians) were doomed to hell

      ‘We owe God a deep regret of gratitude for the purely gratuitous gift of the true faith with which he has favored us. How many are the infidels, heretics and schismatic who do not enjoy comparable happiness? The earth is full of them and they are all lost!’
      St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

      And this view is totally untenable after Vatican II and expecially Gaudium et spes 22.

  6. Max says:

    I just watched a movie, the story the of Book of Ruth (1960). Its IMHO a good analogy of what Ron is saying

  7. Emanuel Costa says:

    Hi Ron,
    I hope that you are having a good day.

    I have some questions about Lent and I would like to ask your help on that.

    1- Every act of penitence a person is committed to do on week days, must he give up on Sundays because no penitence is allowed on Sundays (someone told me that)

    2-Are we supposed to pray only sorrowful mysteries during Lent?

    Thanks in advance

    Sincerely,

    Emanuel

    • Ron Conte says:

      1 – You do not need to do the lenten penances on Sundays of lent, but you may do so.
      2 – No, you can pray any of the mysteries during lent.

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