Pope Francis to little boy — pray to your atheist dad

John 3:3

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”

What do these verses mean to you? How do we become born again? Can we become born again after death? What does Jesus mean by ‘believe?’ Is God just saying this is a negotiable thing depending on your level of knowledge of Him? Is there maybe a ‘no fault of your own’ backup plan (invincible ignorance)? Can a person who declares they don’t even believe in God, die an unbeliever, & inherit the kingdom of heaven by some good work or deed?

Pope Francis recently spoke with a young boy who asked about his atheist dad that had passed away. (video at end of article).

Note: For my non-believing or atheist friends the context of this article is can an unbeliever do good deeds that please God enough to make him/her righteous before God. Can an atheist inherit the kingdom of heaven if they don’t believe and totally reject Jesus Christ as Lord and savior? The Pope says yes.

If you wish to skip my commentary and don’t have time to read this I have prepared a PDF document with Pope Francis’ words and scripture here.

The little boy asked Pope Francis the following:

“A short time ago, my dad died. He was an atheist, but he had all four of his children baptized. He was a good man. Is Dad in heaven?”

Pope Francis responded :

it is a “beautiful” thing for a son to call his father “good.” “That man gave a beautiful testimony to his children, for his children to be able to say, He was a good man.’ It’s a beautiful testimony on the part of the son that he has inherited his dad’s strength, and also, that he has had the courage to cry before all of us. If that man was capable of raising children like this, it’s true, he was a good man.

What the boy said is beautiful and courageous no question. But I humbly ask you to switch your focus to the Popes response. Pope Francis goes on:

“That man didn’t have the gift of faith, he wasn’t a believer, but he had his children baptized. He had a good heart.

Pope Francis is declaring that the man did not believe in Jesus Christ, had no faith, died an atheist, but if you baptize your children the conclusion is that you must have had a good heart. A good enough heart to earn your salvation (see below). Let’s look at scriptures say about being good, saving faith, and the condition of the heart.

Pope Francis:

God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.”

Can an unbeliever be saved without the gift of faith?

If a non-believer with no faith baptizes his children will that be pleasing enough for God to grant him eternal life?

John 15:5Matthew 19:23-26, Romans 8:7-8

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

How do we earnestly seek Him? Jesus tell us in John 6:44

44“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day

Faith without works is dead. For my Roman Catholic friends you know these verses very well because it is frequently used to argue that you must do good works in order to maintain salvation and increase your justification (canon 24 – Council of Trent).

James 2:14-16, James 2:22-24

22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[d] And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Can a man be saved by works without faith? (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Romans 3:28

28 [a]For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works [b]of the Law.

Can our good deeds make us righteous?

According to God’s Word no one does good including atheists. Romans 3:10-12,Psalm 14:1-3,Psalm 53:1-3 (notice: the fool says in his heart there is no God)

Romans 3:10-12

as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”

Luke 6:33

33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that

John 6:28-29, John 15:5, Galatians 5:2-3

Pope Francis continues:

“God is the one who says who goes to heaven,” the pope explained.

“What do you think? A father’s heart. God has a dad’s heart. And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptized his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?

Does God abandon his children?” the pope asked. “Does God abandon his children when they are good?” The children shouted, “No. “There, Emanuele, that is the answer,” Francis told the boy.”
“Earlier, a young girl named Carlotta also asked the pope a delicate question: “When we are baptized, we become children of God. People who aren’t baptized, are they not children of God?” “What does your heart tell you?” the pope asked Carlotta. She said, they are, too. “Right, and I’ll explain,” the pope told her. “We are all children of God. Everyone. Everyone.

Pope Francis confirms the guy died an unbeliever, did not have the gift of faith, but because God has a fathers heart He would not leave a man who does good far from himself. According to Pope Francis he could not possibly be in hell.

Are we all God’s children?

John 1:12; 11:52; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-10

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

You must believe in His name to have the right to become a child of God. We are all God’s creators but scripture is clear that we are not all God’s children.

What does our heart tell us? Mark 7:21-23 Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

So when Pope Francis said:

“Pope Francis encouraged Emanuele to “talk to your dad; pray to your dad.

Does God abandon his children when they are good?” The children shouted, “No. “There, Emanuele, that is the answer,” Francis told the boy.”

Pope Francis encourages the boy to pray to atheist dad. Because he is a child of God and since he did a good deed he is in heaven (or catholic purgatory).

What does the scripture teach us about unbelievers?

2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 6:6, Ephesians 2:5, Romans 8:7-8, Ephesians 4:18

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts

Can an atheist who never believed in Jesus be saved? Not according to Jesus John 3:18

18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the [f]only begotten Son of God.

If you are in Christ you are not judged, if you aren’t you are judged (not saved) because you don’t believe.

Can a person die an atheist and be saved (invincible ignorance)? Romans 1:18-31

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [b]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse

Read on to verse 31 we all stand guilty before a Holy God and are without excuse. Jesus Christ is the only way.


John 14:6

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

As a Roman Catholic you hold to the tradition that Pope Francis is the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church on earth. With the understanding that not everything he says is ex cathedra when he does speak we should listen. Especially when it comes to matters of faith. Here without question he is clearly stating that an unbeliever can die and go to heaven by a good deed.

Pope Francis never mentions Jesus when talking to the little boy. He asked the girl what her heart tells her. Pope Francis did not mention anything about putting our faith and trust in Christ for salvation rather that an atheist can die an atheist and still inherit the kingdom of heaven. He declared that a good deed outside of a saving faith can impress God enough to deny the finished work of Jesus Christ. He declared we are all children of God.

If a person who rejects Jesus Christ as Lord, denies God’s very existence is able to a good deed that is impressive enough to get him into heaven wouldn’t this man have something to boast about (Romans 4:2)? I rejected you, and deny you but look at my works God!  Surely you will be pleased!?? My Catholic friends someone is correct about salvation here. Either Pope Francis or Jesus Christ. It simply cannot be both. You will have to decide. If you’re still with me please read on.

John 6:53-57

So Jesus said to them “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your fathers, who ate the manna and died, the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

As a Roman Catholic you believe that Jesus was speaking in literal terms here that you must literally eat his flesh and literally drink his blood to have life in you. An offer that is only available through His Church (Roman Catholic Church). In Jesus own words that whoever eats his flesh has(past tense) eternal life and he WILL raise him up at the last day.

What did Jesus mean unless you eat my flesh you have no life in you?

My Catholic friends if Jesus was speaking literally here should we not also take ‘you have no life in you’ literally? Is this part negotiable or open to some other interpretation?

What does Jesus mean ‘has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day?’

Is Jesus saying he who eats my flesh has eternal life and/or maybe does a really really good deed? Is Jesus saying ‘maybe I will raise him up on the last day depending on the circumstance.’? Where do you stand on this scripture?

By the Popes standards we can receive life without this and without Jesus. What the Pope said to this boy sounds nice but unfortunately it wasn’t the truth.

  • Without Christ we are dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1) None are righteous, no good deeds can merit us eternal life.
  • None of our works are pleasing to God Romans 8:7-8
  • God makes us alive in Christ and by grace we have been saved (Eph 2:5)
  • He who believes in Christ has crossed over from death to life John 5:24
  • There’s no other name upon which we can be saved Acts 4:12

If you’ve made it this far thanks for taking the time.  Maybe you’re feeling tension thinking there is another way into heaven other than Christ. Maybe you think I’m taking Jesus too literally or out of context. I urge you to read these scriptures for yourself. Ask yourself what is most important to you, how you personally feel God should judge, or how God actually judges (Isaiah 45:9)? If what I have said here is wrong and an atheist can be saved by his deeds please feel free to contact me..

It is my prayer that you allow God’s Word is speak to you.

Again, If I’m wrong about anything or have misrepresented or misinterpreted anything please contact me.  Video link and sources cited below:

Catholic resources used and quoted from: