Saturday, December 14, 2013
So Wait....Pope Francis Was "Misquoted" and Atheists Can't Get To Heaven After All?
Incredibly, certain enclaves of Catholicism are asserting that the media got it all wrong about what Pope Francis said some months ago, that even atheists can get to heaven. According to the nabobs at CatholicVote.org ('What Pope Francis Really Said About Atheists'), citing a padre, "Father Longernecker"::
"The Pope is simply affirming certain truths that any somewhat knowledgable Catholic will uphold.
First, that Christ died to redeem the whole world. We can distinguish his redemptive work from the acceptance of salvation. He redeemed the whole world. However, many will reject that saving work. In affirming the universality of Christ’s redemptive work we are not universalists. To say that he redeemed the whole world is not to conclude that all will be saved.
Secondly, the Pope is also affirming that all humans are created in God’s image and are therefore created good. Yes, created good, but that goodness is wounded by original sin.
Thirdly, he is affirming that all men and women are obliged to pursue what is beautiful, good and true. Natural virtue is possible–even obligatory, but natural virtue on its own is not sufficient for salvation. Grace is necessary to advance beyond natural virtue to bring the soul to salvation. The Pope does not say atheists being good on their own will be saved. He says they, like all men, are redeemed by Christ’s death and their good works are the starting place where we can meet with them–the implication being “meet with them in an encounter that leads eventually to faith in Christ."
They then went on to cite a link from Catholicism.org’s Brian Kelly:
"Pope Francis did not say that an atheist who does naturally good things can be saved if he dies an atheist. Yet that is the impression given by Catholic Online’s half truth headline…
The Pope… simply reminded the faithful that there can be, and is, goodness, or natural virtue, outside the Church. And that Christ’s death on the Cross redeemed all men. He paid the price so that every man could come to God and be saved.
If Catholic Online is insinuating that Pope Francis has “reformed” the irreformable dogma, outside the Church there is no salvation, then that is shameful and disingenuous."
Now let's look at the actual words of Francis delivering a homily at the Chapel of the Domus Santa Marta :
"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: We will meet one another there."
Hmmmmm.......now I'm looking really hard at these words, parsing them closely and NO where do I see anything remotely along the lines of atheists having to "convert to faith" to reach the pearly gates and especially - particularly that they have to embrace the Catholic version.
Now, in the interest of honest and full disclosure, let me say again: I do not believe there is any "heaven" or "hell". We each create our own heavens and hells on this Earth, in the here and now. Basically "salvation" is accomplished on one's own terms to redeem his life here on Earth to become the best human he can be...with the resources allotted him over a finite time. In other words, there is no hereafter of the kind the orthodox religious types - including Catholics - believe. I have, however, allowed for the possibility of an impersonal "life after death" in the form of Stuart Hameroff's model, see e.g.
But as I noted therein:
"This isn't really any kind of recognizable "after life". Indeed, it is impossible to even remotely describe what a nonlocal consciousness might perceive, if it perceives at all. It also leaves a decided negative slant on the question of preserving any sense of self. How can one, if the "self" is no longer separable? "
What the Catholic apologists for standard Vatican hogwash have asserted, however, hearkens back to the ancient Baltimore Catechism trope that "salvation can only come through the One, True Apostolic and Holy Church".. Which is every bit as regressive as the fundamentalist asserting that one can only be saved by "believing on the Lord Jesus Christ" - when we know from actual textual analysis (hermeneutics) that Jesus was NOT a God-man. He was a charismatic Rabbi and Jewish peasant Cynic who sought to expand human consciousness and the love for one another via appeal to a transcendent reality.
Amy person really serious about investigating this - beyond the realm of cartoon theology- is invited to read:
The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant - by John Dominic Crossan
The Authentic Gospel of Jesus: Geza Vermes
The serious investigator, not prepared to simply imbibe and regurgitate theological canards, i.e. that the New Testament represents actual history, is also invited to access one of the best available courses, entitled: Introduction to New Testament History and Literature, by Prof. Dale B. Martin of Yale University. It is roughly on a par with my 'Introduction to the New Testament' course taken at Loyola in 1964-65. (The Loyola course was somewhat more difficult)
The compilation of course sessions, all on video, can be accessed via this link:
And the one I recommend most for those short on time is No.13, dealing with the "Historical Jesus" (link below):
The point of all the above is that if Jesus is merely a good man, not a God-man, then the entire Christian notion of expiation of sins and "salvation" collapses, as well as both the Catholic and fundie concepts of special salvation (i.e. it can only come via those specific belief vehicles). Note, this does not "deny God" only that Jesus was a God man. If people take the time to investigate they will see this falsehood came by way of Paul of Tarsus - otherwise known as "St. Paul" - because he feared the nonlocal Christhood concept of the Gnostics (i.e. we are all "Christs" unto ourselves, see Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels.)
The "salvation" trope can also be shown to be nonsense by application of logic, and strictly adhering to religionists' own definitions of God. Thus, IF God as infinite is taken literally, this can only mean there is no place where he isn't. Either he is infinite or not infinite. If he is infinite, then any Hell must be excluded as part of the same divine Being. But if it is still proposed to exist (independently) then we have a condition where Hell is apart from God's Being. But if this be so, then there exists a domain ("Hell") where God isn't, so he can't be infinite! In other words, God is actually a limited being and not infinite after all.
The bottom line in the logical case is that rigorous orthodox Christians (such as quoted by CatholicVote,org) are not allowed to "have their cake and eat it". If they demand "Hell" as a component of their salvation doctrine, they must forego an infinite God. If they accept an Infinite God, they must forego Hell, and in so doing, the whole concept of salvation. (Unless, of course, it is one of Universal Salvation)
In either case, Pope Francis' words are then seen to be accurate as they have been stated - no re-interpretations needed. Then ALL persons, atheists included, are equal in terms of aspiring to the good and no spiritual "apartheid" need be invoked in a presumed afterlife,
More important than opening an avenue to "heaven" for atheists, Francis' words are about humans ceasing their endless hatred and divisions: theological, cultural, economic, political and other. By their attempted revision of Francis' meaning, however, the Catholic salvation dogma defenders have sought to renew those divisions by appeal to Catholic spiritual supremacy: i.e. that Church being the "one and only path" to salvation.
Make no mistake that nothing good can come of this, nothing at all, not the least is reviving atheist animus toward the Catholic Church. Beyond the atheist domain, it subverts humanity to artificial dogma and that way true hell on Earth resides. From this the perceptive reader will see that my interest in Francis' words to do with atheists and "heaven" isn't literal, but rather in the broader schema of humans not seeking another fictitious belief to fight over. We have quite enough to divide us, over just about everything including politics and economics, we don't need artificial theological nonsense added to the mix to enhance internecine hatreds.....and more reasons to kill each other.