Got it Wrong
Off the Wall, Apr 24
, 2014

We’ve all heard of sensationalism. That is when a writer or broadcaster blows a subject out of proportion to the extent that fictitious information is entered into the story or even made up, as far as that goes.

Recently while watching television, I happened upon a station whereby an evangelist was doing the one of many things I detest – putting down others rather than edifying them. His subject – Pope Francis. He was “bothered” by the fact that this leader of the Roman Catholic Church had proclaimed to the world that “Atheists Can Do Good and Go to Heaven.” This was a newspaper article he saw headlined and without any further research decided to share it with his viewing audience putting down the Catholic Church, as well.

I was disappointed in as much as I thought he should have read the story rather than skimming the fat off the water instead of digging into the meat of the subject.

From the website, org/news came this statement. “The Holy Father is full of surprises. He declared that all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists.”

Is that false? No. Christ did die upon the cross so that all who sin may be saved. That is the message of redemption.

The subject of “doing good” then followed.

Before I get on the subject on what the Pontiff detailed, I think it is safe to say we all know people who are atheists. Some of them are the most chartable, clean-living individuals who have set high standards for themselves. Not knowing, one may think they are God-fearing individuals. Names that come to mind include Woody Allen, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Edison.

But the key element that sets them apart from Christians is that they do not believe in God. They have concluded that they are here for a certain length of time and after they die, they are dead – sad, but true.

First of all, we as Catholics are taught that “faith plus works” will pave our way to the pearly gates. Taking it one more step, faith in God, His Son, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit plus the Word of God spelled out in James 2: 14-26 defines our obligations. Verse 26 states, “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

This is where the press and the evangelist, if he read the article at all, got it wrong. We know many atheists that live their lives to do good just as we Christians aspire to do the same. That becomes our common denominator. So when Pope Francis stated, “If we each doing our part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make the culture of encounter.”

Some listeners interpreted the word “there” as heaven, and not the common bond of doing good. That’s all Pope Francis was trying to insinuate.

Here’s the clincher. Atheists can’t go to heaven without faith in the Trinity any more than people who label themselves Christians. Just doing good isn’t going to cut it.

So, on that glorious day when Jesus was nailed to the cross, an innocent man, He shed His blood for all of us. In so doing, he redeemed us through His death and resurrection.

“How then must one get to heaven,” one may ask. The answer is through salvation. According to, “Salvation is the result of accepting Christ’s redemption and applying it to our lives. We must receive that free gift by trusting in Him, accepting His proposal of love, and following Him with our life.”

Merely labeling oneself as a Christian does not guarantee salvation. One has to strive to create a bond through a relationship with the Deity. Nothing’s guaranteed. Only God knows which of us will be joining Him in heaven.

So it comes down to this. It’s imperative that everyone do good, believers and non-believers, for goodness is of God, and ill acts are evil, brought on by Satan. We all have that responsibility.

Pope Francis concluded, “The most loving thing we can do for all men and women is help them find God who created them and then help them to find Him as He is fully and completely revealed in His Son Jesus Christ and the Church. That includes recognizing the good that they do and joining with them in the work (”.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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