Well, a lot of Christians, and to be more specific, a whole lot of Catholics, are outraged by recent words from the newly appointed Pope Francis I. He has made some statements that undermine what a lot of Christians believe. We won’t waste your time with the exact quotes because you can certainly find it on the Internet easily enough; if you wound up on this article, you were looking for some analysis of what the Pope said, and not just another account of it. So, it’s true. The Pope has basically said that when Jesus Christ died, he redeemed everyone.
That may not seem like an Earth-shattering statement at first glance. Isn’t that pretty much what Christians have believed since day one? But Pope Francis has changed the game a bit. For most Christians the statement above is true enough. Jesus Christ’s blood redeemed everyone. But most Christians do have one big, glaring pink-elephant-in-the-room qualifier that they put on this situation: to be redeemed by Jesus, the person must at the very least believe in him. It’s one of those little fine print things that kind of is the real deal-breaker. Jesus redeemed everyone, but the concept, according to most Christian denominations, is that you have to acknowledge that redemption in order for it to be a done deal. Meaning, essentially, that the only one who can condemn you to not being redeemed, is, well, you.
Not so, says Pope Francis. He asserted in a detailed fashion that Jesus’ redemption applies to each and every person, regardless of whether they believe in him or not. According to the current Pope, the qualifier is not belief, but the way that one conducts themselves on the Earth that will determine whether they are accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven or rejected to the fires of Hell. So, the Pope even specifically referred to atheists, saying that if an atheist lives a good life and does good deeds on the Earth, he would most certainly expect to see that person in heaven.
Whoa! Wait a minute! That’s what a lot of Christians are saying in light of this message. Is it a game changer? Does this discount the faithfulness of Christians everywhere?
Well, before you get outraged or indignant about it, let’s turn it around the other way? Do you think that a person that commits terrible deeds on this Earth but faithfully believes in Jesus Christ will be going to heaven? Sure. Because that’s the rules, right? So, why can’t it work in reverse?
Common Sense Conspiracy is not a religious or Christian website, so we’re not trying to preach here or take one side or the other. We’re just simply trying to make sense of the controversy and make sure that everyone is thinking it all the way through.
So, who is right? Most Christians believe what they believe based on the New Testament where Jesus Christ emphatically indicates that the only way to heaven is through belief in him. But the Pope is supposedly the Vicar of Christ, Christ’s representative here on the Earth. So, does that mean that Pope Francis’ take is the New New Testament? Does this new approach mean that the game has forever been changed? And do Catholics only believe in this? Will they alter their own concepts of Heaven and Hell now that their Pope says that it isn’t as difficult to get in as they thought?
If you believe in these things, does it bother you that an atheist might be able to cop a “free ride” to heaven by not believing but leading a good life? And who would you rather be in heaven with you? An atheist who lived a good life and helps others? Or a believer that took advantage of Jesus’ redemption by doing whatever he wanted when he wanted to? Remember, if you are right and your religion is true, then if the atheist was allowed into heaven based on his good works, then he would obviously have realized upon arrival there that he was wrong all along and the doctrine he had rejected was in fact true. However, he would have lacked the good-natured faith that other Christians believe punches their tickets.
It’s complicated. But we want to hear what you think about the Pope’s comments. Can atheists go to heaven? Is there more to Judgment Day than simply whether you are a believer or not? Does it turn out that Heaven has more exemptions than our tax code? We want to hear the debate from our readers.