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Marian Culley wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a youth group leader and one of the children asked a question that I want to answer according to the Catholic Church's current teachings. I hope you can help.

The question is:

  • Do those who do not believe in God go to Hell?
  • I know the Church says those who deny Him or sin against Him in His Name are sent to Hell, but does the Church hold the same belief for those who do not believe in Him and therefore are not consciously going against the Lord?

Any help you can give me would greatly be appreciated.

Due to the holiday, we do not have group until Tuesday, December 4th.

Thank you,

Marian Culley

  { Do people go to Hell who consciously don't believe in God? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Marian —

Thanks for the question.

This is a common question; it's even in our searchable knowledge base.

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try.

Though we have answered questions like this extensively under our "No Salvation Outside the Church" topic, I think these postings directly answer your question. Although the first posting doesn't mention Atheists, the same answer would apply to them.

You said:

  • I know the Church says those who deny Him or sin against Him in His Name are sent to Hell, but does the Church hold the same belief for those who do not believe in Him and therefore are not consciously going against the Lord?

Not quite. We all have human frailties and faults, and at times in our lives, we might have even denied the Lord or sinned against His Name. The key to a truly Catholic response to any sin, is a repentance from the sinner with a resolution not to commit that sin again.

Catholics do this primarily through the Sacrament of Confession. A priest is usually available every Saturday and it's so easy. The key to remember here is, though it appears like we are confessing to a priest, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Jesus is using the body of the priest to absolve us of our many sins. It's good to go to Confession often especially in this culture. Blessed Pope John Paul II when to Confession weekly.

I want to personally thank-you for your work with our youth. It's important they truly understand the teachings of the Catholic Christian faith founded by Jesus on St. Peter and his successors.

Personally, I would like to see many, at the younger levels of CCD, at least be introduced to the term Catholic Apologetics and understand that, as Catholics, we are not apologizing for being Catholic, but giving good reasons why everyone should become a Catholic!

If you want more on this check out this posting:

What I have personally discovered in my life is the more I study Catholic apologetic books and read about the various ways to defend the Church's teaching, the stronger I am in acknowledging something as a sin or heresy.

This study and discussion among fellow faithful Catholics creates an immunity to heretic thinking.

Living a life of prayer, which includes living a sacramental life, also allows me to develop holier habits which over time, gives me a second immunity that helps me to resist temptation, especially of the flesh.

The end result is:

  1. what I say, and
  2. what I do

is more Catholic!

I hope this helps,

Mike

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