Why Pope Francis has highlighted the growth of non-believers as a solid voting block.
Can an atheist go to heaven? Well, this issue was raised recently by the new Pope, Francis I while giving a public address in Vatican City. Francis was making a point about good deeds and how believers (Catholics) should not impede those good deeds done by non-believers.
The Pope also threw in a secondary, but in my opinion, the most important aspect of his speech. The Pope raised the question of whether or not non-Christians can be accepted into heaven, including atheists. Whether or not I personally believe in heaven, there is an importance to this statement.
The Catholic Church and Christianity in general often tend to avoid (for them) an important theological topic. Are people who are not Christian or do not believe in god worthy enough to make it into Christ’s heaven? Let us delve into my agnostic view of this issue.
To start things off, yes I am an atheist leaning agnostic. I do not believe in a theist god, nor do I believe in the Christian religion (among many others). Therefore, I do not believe in the concept of heaven or hell. From my agnostic perspective, I do not take interest in the Pope saying non-believers can get into heaven. Yet, for many of us on the non-believer side of the isle there is an importance to the Pope mentioning atheists going to heaven.
For many generations, the NONES (Non-believers) have often been the most despised and underwritten group of voters in America and around the world. Yet slowly but surely, the NONES have been growing steadily stronger in public life. It is to the point that those who associate themselves as a non-believers now comprise roughly 15% of the American electorate. That number may not sound impressive, but non-believers are among the fastest growing voting blocks in the country. Non-believers now have a higher number of voters than Jews in America.
It is incredibly hard to be a non-believer and run for office in America. There are little to no politicians in national office that openly proclaim themselves as non-believers and for good reason. However, it seems that slowly but surely the non-religious are getting more traction as a solid voting block. Just recently, a decision was made to raise an atheist monument at a Florida Courthouse to supplement a Christian monument that was also placed there. This is historic, as it is the first public atheist monument dedicated to non-believers.
Pope Francis and his conciliatory remark could perhaps be a sign of a larger trend. Atheists and agnostics are gaining more and more public influence every year, and it seems this trend is not reversing anytime soon. Pope Francis has highlighted that non-believers are a force that cannot simply be ignored or brushed away anymore. People of religion are coming to grips with this new reality.
I should probably note that as soon as Pope Francis made his remarks, the Vatican retracted his statement about atheists going to heaven and clarified that only those who accept Christ can pass through the pearly gates. I and other non-believers are not bothered by this, to be honest we were not very moved by the Pope’s statement to begin with. Yet, as I mentioned, there is still a significance with the statement.
Atheists and agnostics are no longer a force to be ignored or dismissed in public life. Pope Francis’ conciliatory statement is but one positive sign among the growing block of non-believers in America, and around the world for that matter. It is a matter of the growing influence of people who do not believe in or belong to organized religions. This trend is not shrinking, and perhaps Pope Francis’ remark helped amplify this trend, perhaps in ways not intended. Doesn’t really matter in the long run. Non-believers aren’t going anywhere