The lack of fear of eternal damnation
by: John Tyrrell
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Last Sunday on the US television program, Fox & Friends, in a discussion about faith and the US presidency, Father Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest indicated he would have difficulty trusting a non-believer as president because they would not be afraid of what would happen in an afterlife.
"It’s a belief in God, it’s a belief that there are eternal consequences for your actions."
Clearly Father Morris has not been paying attention to his boss, Pope Francis, who did write (11 September, 2013) "that atheists could take moral decisions just like religious people."
But regardless of what the Pope said, Morris's comments were in line with traditional Catholic teachings in schools and seminaries - teachings that even trivial sins such as sloth and impure thoughts bring eternal damnation. See for example Meditation 588 and Discussion 3 to Reflection 76. But does that threat of eternal damnation save even the most devout Catholics from the occasional impure thought, or moments of sloth? Of course not. Even for the most devout of Catholics indoctrinated in such foolishness, eternal damnation is a relatively empty threat.
In any event, Catholics do have the ability to confess their sins and obtain absolution, thus giving them a clean slate for the afterlife.
Just as Morris cannot trust a non-believer president solely because eternal damnation does not provide an ever present threat, should we all refuse to trust a Catholic President who can evade eternal consequences by confessing to a priest?
Likewise, should we refuse to trust a Protestant president who after a momentary slip into wrongdoing, by accepting Jesus Christ into his heart, can also evade eternal consequences?
Looking at the professed religious affiliations of US presidents over the past 60 years or so (about the length of time I've been aware of the influence of American presidents on the world), I have to say I have seen no sign that the fear of eternal consequences actually influences their decisions or their actions.*
Perhaps it is time to try someone whose moral centre exists independently of a belief in a deity.
*As an aside, not only are they not thinking of their personal eternity, they are not even thinking 10 and 20 years down the road for the country.
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