If Even Atheists Can Be Saved, Why Be Catholic?

This is a common question in response to my position on salvation theology, that non-Christian believers and unbelievers can be saved by love of neighbor and invincible ignorance. Several points are key in understanding why it is better to be a Catholic than a non-Catholic Christian, a non-Christian believer, or an unbeliever.

1. The path to Heaven is easiest for believing and practicing Catholics.

We have all seven Sacraments. We have Confession to return us to the state of grace, even if we have only imperfect contrition. We have many more graces through the devotions and prayers of the Church. By greater grace, our path to Heaven is made easier.

2. We more easily avoid actual mortal sin, and more easily repent.

We have the teachings of the Church on faith, morals, and salvation. It may seem, from a worldly point of view, that having the fullness of the eternal moral law taught to us is more restrictive, making our path harder. But that is not the truth. Rather, by conforming our lives to the fullness of the moral law, we more easily avoid grave sin and more easily repent if we fall. By comparison, other believers and non-believers, who might fall into mortal sin with a sincere but mistaken conscience, have less grace and so they have a more difficult time avoiding the sins that are not beyond their poorly informed conscience, and a more difficult time finding the path of repentance.

3. We have greater glory in Heaven.

Having cooperated with grace more often and more thoroughly, believing and practicing Catholic have much greater glory and happiness in Heaven forever. A sinner who commits many objective mortal sin, even without the full culpability of actual mortal sin, has less glory in Heaven.

4. We have greater happiness on earth.

For we are consoled by grace and providence and truth. For we know that our true home awaits us in Heaven.

5. We are able to help very many souls to also reach Heaven.

By comparison, an atheist or a believer in a non-monotheistic religion offers much less help, and perhaps offers much harm, to the path of salvation of other souls.

So it is better to be a believing and practicing Catholic than to be a member of any other religion, or to be an unbeliever.

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

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4 Responses to If Even Atheists Can Be Saved, Why Be Catholic?

  1. Marco says:

    “We have all seven Sacraments. We have Confession to return us to the state of grace, even if we have only imperfect contrition. We have many more graces through the devotions and prayers of the Church. By greater grace, our path to Heaven is made easier”.

    This is the key point: what “greater grace” means? I agree that “We have many more graces through the devotions and prayers of the Church”, of course, but the thing is that we have different ideas about Grace.

    For example, in what way the devotions and prayers of the Church make easier for us to cooperate with subsequent Grace?

    Because that is the point: prevenient Grace never fails to reach us, but if we chose to not cooperate we subsequent Grace, we will be damned. So it’s cooperation with subsequent grace which makes the difference between salvation and perdition. And that comes my question: in what way the Sacraments and devotions of our Church make easier for us to freely cooperate with subsequent Grace?

    “We have the teachings of the Church on faith, morals, and salvation. It may seem, from a worldly point of view, that having the fullness of the eternal moral law taught to us is more restrictive, making our path harder. But that is not the truth. Rather, by conforming our lives to the fullness of the moral law, we more easily avoid grave sin and more easily repent if we fall.”

    That’s true, but only if we are willing to live a very virtuous life in the first place. If we are not willing to do that, i think that having the fullness of the moral law makes way easier for us to repent.

    In other words, Catholicism doesn’t allow mediocrity. Once you know the truth, you have both the surest path to Heaven if you are willing to conform your life to it, and the surest path to hell if you are not willing to throw away worldly pleasures.

    And here comes my question: doesn’t this make salvation way harder, for everybody except very few people?

    “By comparison, other believers and non-believers, who might fall into mortal sin with a sincere but mistaken conscience, have less grace and so they have a more difficult time avoiding the sins that are not beyond their poorly informed conscience, and a more difficult time finding the path of repentance”.

    Ok but what does it mean “less Grace”? We know that God always reaches even the worst sinner with his prevenient Grace, which makes possibile for him to repent, if he wishes to cooperate with subsequent Grace.

    So here comes my question: why this persone have and harder time to cooperate with subsequent Grace, in your view?

    ” Having cooperated with grace more often and more thoroughly, believing and practicing Catholic have much greater glory and happiness in Heaven forever. A sinner who commits many objective mortal sin, even without the full culpability of actual mortal sin, has less glory in Heaven”.

    Nothing to argue about here.

    “4. We have greater happiness on earth.
    For we are consoled by grace and providence and truth. For we know that our true home awaits us in Heaven”

    Nothing to argue about here either.

    “5. We are able to help very many souls to also reach Heaven.

    By comparison, an atheist or a believer in a non-monotheistic religion offers much less help, and perhaps offers much harm, to the path of salvation of other souls.

    So it is better to be a believing and practicing Catholic than to be a member of any other religion, or to be an unbeliever.”

    I agree with this, that is, a catholic can help others much more to the path to salvation.

    • Marco says:

      “If we are not willing to do that, i think that having the fullness of the moral law makes way easier for us to repent”.

      I wanted to write “the fullness of the moral law makes way easier for us to be damned”.

  2. Jack Gallagher says:

    Respectfully,

    Where is it taught that grace and glory are quantities?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Trent CANON XXXII — If anyone says that the good works of a justified person are the gifts of God such that they are not also the good merits of him who is justified; or that the justified one, by the good works which he does through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and his own attainment of eternal life (if only he departs in grace), and even an increase of glory: let him be anathema.

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