In 2013, an Italian newspaper reported, “Pope Francis assures atheists that they don't have to believe in God to go to heaven. Non-believers will be forgiven by God if they follow their consciences.”
I’m puzzled as to why atheists are interested in
heaven. If they don’t believe
in God, how could they believe in His heavenly kingdom? Are atheists wavering in their beliefs? Are they asking themselves, “If I’m wrong and
come before the judgement seat as an unbeliever, is there any hope for me in
Perhaps Pope Francis was reaching out to
atheists who are unconvinced about their beliefs. He was quoted in the Italian newspaper as
saying, “God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite
heart. The issue for those who do not
believe in God is to obey their conscience.
Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their
conscience.” Notably, all people have
disobeyed their conscience and sinned. Moreover,
a contrite heart is one that feels remorse for having sinned.
Christians are saved by grace and justified by
faith in Jesus Christ whom the prophet Isaiah identified as “Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
However, atheists don’t believe in God. Hence, they can’t acknowledge Jesus as the only
begotten Son of God. As unbelievers,
they will be judged according to their deeds.
Since all men are sinners and apart from Jesus Christ there is no
salvation from the consequences of sin, how will they escape eternal damnation if
they neglect so great a salvation?