So, for Catholics, belief in God is optional, huh? (Not just, as Stephen Colbert notes, ridiculous.) Well, the Pope is supposed to be infallible, right?
Seriously, this is progress. Faith-based thinking is still a terrible way to distinguish reality from delusion and wishful thinking. And the Catholic Church is still very, very wrong in its teachings about birth control, abortion, and other issues, not to mention still entirely patriarchal and very medieval.
But this might encourage 'cultural Catholics' - similar to 'cultural Jews' - people who take part in the traditional trappings of Catholicism without actually believing in magic. (As it is, American Catholics overwhelmingly ignore their church whenever they disagree - by readily using birth control, for example.)
And this should make it a lot easier for atheists who were raised Catholic - easier when it comes to family issues, I mean. Their families shouldn't think they're doomed to Hell now, right? This should make a big difference for many people, don't you think?
So I really have to applaud Pope Francis for this. But Protestants won't be happy, I suspect. From PuffHo:
Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists. ...
Of course, not all Christians believe that those who don't believe will be redeemed, and the Pope's words may spark memories of the deep divisions from the Protestant reformation over the belief in redemption through grace versus redemption through works.
The Catholic Church has been very conservative, politically. And in recent years, fundamentalist Protestants have found common cause with the Catholic hierarchy, especially when it comes to social issues, despite their views about "the whore of Babylon."
But this pronouncement will probably not go over very well with right-wing Protestants, and that's another reason to praise it.
After all, Catholics and Protestants may have found common cause in political issues, particularly when it comes to attacking the separation of church and state in America, but you know they'd turn on each other as soon as they got rid of us atheists and liberals.
So I'm anxious to see how right-wing Protestants will react to this. I hope it will be entertaining. :)