Why do we care who is allowed in Heaven?

Why do we need to think of other people as bad, to see ourselves as good? Photo: Stairway to Heaven

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2013 – People were up in arms about Pope Francis’ May 22 statement that all who “do good” would be able to go to heaven, even atheists.  For some reason, this rather surprisingly inclusive statement had Catholics and others up in arms. 

So much so that the Vatican sent an “explanatory note” to clarify that actually, yes, atheists will be left out of eternal bliss.  Great, glad we cleared that up.  Except that is insane.

SEE RELATED: Religion, morality and bad behavior

It seems that quite a lot of people want to think that certain people will go to hell, or at the very least be left out of heaven. Which begs the question, why?

Being upset at the thought that people who do good on this earth might all get to go to heaven in the Pope’s eyes is an example of blood lust. Can we only feel good about ourselves as Catholics if non-Catholics, even those who are “doing good” on this earth, are going to hell? 

Obviously, I disagree, but I’m curious where this sentiment is coming from.  Our goodness is not measured by others’ badness, and yet, we often judge and compare ourselves by others’ behavior/religion/politics/etc.

I find Pope Francis’ inclusive statement a positive sign for the future of the Catholic base, though it’s obviously upset quite a few people. I’ve written a lot about the Golden Rule and while life can be a bit more complicated than that, I think it is a very dangerous game to attempt to dictate who will and will not be getting into heaven. 

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Personally, I have no problem with anyone of any faith being there and I don’t understand what about that bothers people. If you spent your life trying your best not to hurt others and to leave the world a bit better than you found it, who cares if you’re an atheist, Catholic, Jew, or Pagan? 

If there is an afterlife, you should enjoy a pleasant one if you were a “good person.” The more the merrier I say, and anyone who doesn’t is probably a jerk. Religion should not discount you from an afterlife of bliss, should such a place exist, just because you didn’t believe in that particular faith. 

But the larger question here is what makes us feel good about labeling certain people as bad?

Perhaps it is human nature to want to feel somehow better than others, even if it is when our soul and eternal damnation is in question. But, I think this is a good moment to really ask ourselves why we can’t be more inclusive. Maybe everyone doesn’t need to be just like us to be good people.  I hope that we can use this as a moment of self-reflection and think about how we can perhaps include each other not just as brothers and sisters on this earth, but as souls in the afterlife. 

SEE RELATED: Pope Francis: Hope resurrected for progressive Catholics?

If we stick together doing good on this earth then like Pope Francis, I see no reason why good people can’t be together in heaven.

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Nicole Pandolfo

Nicole Pandolfo is writer and actress who lives and works in New York City. 

This Bad Catholic has had publications of several of her works and has had plays produced throughout New York City and the United States as well as in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Singapore, and Toronto.

 She is from New Jersey and does not understand anti-Jersey sentiments.  She thinks meeting Cher would be the tops.  


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