"You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and who do not seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that 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.” 1
Huh? How can this be? This is not what I learned along the way. Still, right Pope or wrong Pope I like what he says. I wish he had become the Pope 60 years earlier. I spent so much time and so much money trying to be the right kind of a person I thought I should be
When I was a teenager, Dad gave me the choice of trailing him and Mom to church on Sundays or feeding the hogs. I stayed home and fed the hogs. I thought then the church thing was a bunch of hogwash. Then as I "matured" thanks to those religious people, I attended church beginning around my senior year in high school. I attended church off and on while serving in the military (1955-1959) and until the early 80s for no reason other than it was the thing to do. At around age 45, I really got into what I had been told all along was in my best interest.
I found myself participating in Sunday school studies, enthusiastically paying attention during Sunday sermons, often going back to Sunday evening services and sometimes attending Wednesday evening services. My wife and I agreed our daughter would benefit by attending the church nursery school. I eagerly contributed to both the weekly and special collections and I donated a respectable amount monthly to Jimmy Swaggart - you know the weeping perverted whore picker-upper.. In addition, I studied my Bible during out-of-town business trips.
Then, after reflecting seemingly thousands of hours, I concluded this whole believing thing is a joke, that preachers are merely salesmen of a product they likely do not believe in themselves, that church attendees are too showy for my liking and that I have better places for my money.
I also questioned things like:
If God exists and if he is a benevolent God, why does he favor some people but let others suffer extreme hardship?
Why can the nastiest person on Earth get to heaven by kissing up (some call it repenting) while he or she is dying?
Why would God turn a woman into a pillar of salt?
Those questions and many more caused me to conclude the God to whom everyone pays homage isn't for me.After about two years, I vowed to avoid entering a church building except for weddings and funerals. I haven’t yet and likely will not.
Now Pope Francis comes along and tells us that atheists can - key word, can but not guaranteed - have a place in heaven.
An atheist I am not but I am a skeptic who believes religions are superstitions and bibles are collections of myths.
Think about it. How can any of the seemingly millions of religions with differing dogma be the only right religion?
Still, I have to wonder if the Pope is correct. Undoubtedly, many people will criticize him for uttering such words. After all, religious scholars disagree among themselves on various issues.
Anyway, thanks to Pope Francis, I go to bed thinking that perhaps I can enter heaven after all if there is such a place, if I want to when the time comes and, if I have a choice.
Am I on firm ground? I don’t know and neither does anyone else no matter what they say. They can only believe. That is why we call them believers. Otherwise, let’s call them knowers.
Unless I have scientific proof the pope is correct, I'll be neither and die a skeptic.
1 Pope Francis assures atheists: You do not have to believe in God to go to heaven
The Independent Michael Day September 11, 2013