In a surprising move, Pope Francis has come out in defense of atheists.
"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
The new Pope's comments are a stark contrast to a lot of religious leaders that equate atheism with a lack of morals. In this case, the pope is stating that morality is not mutually exclusive to Christianity, or religion, at large. He argues that everybody has the potential for good and that people of all beliefs should come together under the common goal of doing good.
Pope Francis may elaborate on his comments in the coming days via his official Twitter account. It will be interesting to see if he responds to the criticism from some evangelicals who say he went too far.