To be a good person, you don’t have to believe in God. Pope Francis supposedly said this. Is this statement true or false?
The statement on the above image has been circulating around the internet. Did Pope Francis say this:
It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional. Notion of God is outdated. One can be spiritual, but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money — for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history do not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in His name.
Did Pope Francis make this statement?
Frankly, nowadays statements and writings we find on internet need to be looked at twice. According to snopes.com this statement does NOT match any verifiable comments made by Pope Francis.
In fact, according to Snopes, Thomas Rosica (a Vatican spokesperson who specializes in translating the Pope’s remarks for English-speaking Catholics and the media) issued the following clarification:
… those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.
Please read the entire statement here. I have removed the first part concerning Catholics simply for brevity’s sake.
These statements and stances whether exact as purportedly stated raise some extremely interesting and vital theological issues. Questions that it is impossible to broach and answer in the context on one blog post.
That said, at this time of the year, Xmas season, The Explanation will tackle one aspect of this dilemna. But first… what is the real dilemna that M. Rosica has addressed?
What is the fate of all those human beings who are not aware of the Catholic Church?
For the Catholic Church, to my knowledge, there are only three alternatives: Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. (I must add a parenthesis here: are there any OTHER ALTERNATIVES after death? This is an important question that must be considered because it would change the outcome. Can we even know the answer to such questions? The answer is yes as The Explanation will show you.) M. Rosica has stated, if the above statement is faithful to what he said and if I understand it correctly… that, ‘it is NOT necessary to either be a part of the Catholic Church OR believe in God to attain eternal salvation‘. That is a very important concept.
Now, allow me to ask a question…
Does being a ‘good person’ or a ‘bad person’ automatically have to do with God, religion and eternal salvation?
Can someone who is a total non-believer be a good person? Look around yourself, think and tell me. You can even comment on it below. In actual fact, M. Rosica gives the answer: ‘as it is known through the dictates of conscience’. In other words, a person’s conscience, his or her morals and values tell them what they think their conduct should be.
You and I know dozens of good people who have more or less or no belief in ‘God’, who are not able to define this ‘Higher Power’, who do not attend any Church or try to follow any religion. In fact they might even be fleeing in the opposite direction of organized religion. But, they are ‘good people’, trying to be law abiding citizens and loving family and community members.
I am going to quote a short section of the New Testament Bible here. This section necessitates further explanation which I will do in a follow up post. It is a fundamental principle that few are aware of.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.
These couple of verses reveal what takes place in the mind of human beings. Man has a ‘conscience’ (a mind) that can ‘evaluate’ his thoughts, (accusing / excusing) judging whether an idea, an action, is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This personal judgment is based on what’s written in one’s heart, their morals and values which can, by nature, follow that which is ‘good’.
Thankfully, there are a lot of ‘good folk’ around. Thankfully, there are a lot of people, associations, organizations, charities, goodwill groups and communities that are trying to improve the way they live. I’m not talking about their financial and physical way, I’m referring to their ‘interior’ what they’d even call their spiritual life… and it has nothing to do with ‘God’. They’re just trying to lead decent, helpful, outgoing, serving lives.
Of and by themselves, they’ve taken a deeper look into their own hearts and minds and decided to set out on a track of being honest, upright, looking out for the well being of others.
This kind of an ‘uplifting life’ does impact them positively and it is a pleasure and joy to be around such individuals. This runs across the board, around the globe, regardless of age, sex, religion or nationality. Of those who believe in God this kind of behavior is expected. But, and this is the point of this blog post, this can have nothing to do with God, it is purely a personal, maybe family or community, oriented choice of life.
Let’s be very thankful for all these ‘good people’. So, whether Pope Francis made the entire above statement or not, this part of that statement is fully correct: ‘It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person’.
I’m going to step ahead of the game in my next post next week (I’ll be skipping the 2nd one later this week) and explain to you WHY there are so many GOOD FOLK all around the world. Hope your end of the year activities go well for you and your family.
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A gentle correction: it’s “regardless” not “irregardless”..good post.
Thanks, I stand corrected and have made the change
Sir, I believe someone who is driven by her/his conscience and guided by her/his conviction, has a greater chance of not believing in God. Because she/he is so sure of her/his righteousness, that she/he does not seek guidance from divinity. Believing in God is for those who do not believe in themselves. Nonetheless, if believing in God makes someone a better human being then why not.
I see your point. There are, without a doubt, many reasons why people believe or don’t believe in God. Without going into details here, I’d ask the question regarding ‘convictions’ and ‘righteousness’: Is one’s own conscience, convictions and definition of righteousness a solid basis for belief in oneself or God? Is what each person believes the ‘norm for belief or non-belief’? These are excellent and, at the same time, very fundamental questions. Thanks for expressing them. The Explanation will be developing them and giving its point of view in ‘Audit of the Universe’.
I am a very kind, giving person. I always think of the needs of others as well as myself.
While being raised in the church until 17.
I am not a faith based person as a adult but respect everyone’s right to choose what works for them.
I do believe you can be a great, honest and caring person without organized religion.
With said, I like the Pope and find him to be a great example of who we all should strive to be.
John 3 : 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Then later in the gospel of John chapter 3 Jesus says:
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
You can definitely be a good person and not believe in God. But there is no eternal life in heaven for good people without being saved.
Like Boris Johnson and Trump, Pope Francis …
We don’t publish comments that criticize people. We welcome comments that ‘respectfully address’ issues they consider other people have. Focus comments on ‘ideas, subjects, concepts’ and say why you feel such a pathway is or is not the way to go.
So informative. I’d love to learn more about the bible, through your materials. Thanks.
Geofry, appreciate your comment. To learn more about the Bible, I suggest you start reading Origin of the Universe
You’ll begin to understand why there’s a need for knowledge in a ‘sacred book,’ and why to zoom in on the Bible in comparison to other sacred works. Then there’s a very helpful study method and you’ll get into the Genesis story … which is the explanation of why humanity is here on Earth.
It’s a big subject but a long journey starts off with one small step and then, a step at a time.