Can Atheists Be Saved?

Question: Did Pope Francis really say that those who do not believe in God can be saved, and that Atheists can also be saved?

Yes. Pope Francis said that not long ago:

“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.”

What the Pope is saying here is that Atheists begin to see God in good works but do not realize that this is God. Karl Rahner, the great theologian, called this the “anonymous Christian.” Good works reveal that God is working through you, but you have no awareness of that.

So, while Christians believe that belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation, it does not mean that God, who wills that all will be saved, demands to be recognized in the good works that are done by non-believers.