OMG your Holiness, aren't you the bold boy for updating the "firm." Whatever possessed you to give nice atheists a one-way ticket to Heaven? According to Vatican Radio you said: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics."
Whatever will Benedict say, lounging on a chaise in that dreary convent, with an espresso, his cats and his assistant, "Gorgeous Georg"? Surely, Benedict's knickers are in a twist at your cheekiness in changing doctrine. He better rush right over to the Vatican to stem the tide of nice atheists (among them Christopher Hitchens) relieved that they'll finally enjoy vodka in Heaven with Stalin, who had a deathbed conversion. At least that's what the nuns said.
Yet Frank (let's be on first names here), surely you don't think nice atheists want to be in Heaven at all -- and for Eternity! Eternity is a very long time to be in the same place, wearing the same set of clothes you were buried in. I bet a perk of Eternity is an eternal wardrobe, where one can change clothes several times a day at whim, like '50s starlets tearing through 20th Century Fox's wardrobe collection.
"Ah Heaven! I'm in Heaven and my heart so that I can hardly speak." Appealing, were I dancing with Fred Astaire, but boring. Yet, awhile back at a dinner party, several glasses of wine into the evening, I admitted to wishing I still believed in Heaven like I did a long time ago when I believed that Jesus' Mother wore blue, and all the Virgin martyrs about to be ravaged by lions wore pink.
Heaven is one of my topics. I love cranking up fading dinner conversations by asking who believes in it. Pretty much everyone does. And when I ask what they imagine it to be, everyone says the same thing: Pretty angels, fluffy clouds, golden harps, blue skies, marble palaces and eternal happiness.
Eternal happiness! Surely they can't believe that. But they do. Eternal happiness would have to be boring. Though when someone says they know they'll be reunited with their dog, my heart melts. A whisky or two later, a brave soul asks me if I would not like to be reunited with my Mother, who died when I was 20. Good question coming from the person who believes he'll be reunited with his dog. However, having pondered it myself, my answer is NO!
Frank, you have no idea how hard it is for this nice atheist to defend herself philosophically on Heaven. Were it true, and I did meet my Mother there, it would be difficult. Keeping the status quo, she'd be younger than I am today.
My answer sparks the table. Someone wonders would I want to revert to being 20? Someone else wonders would my Mother have aged in Heaven and be now 106? I have neither speculation nor answer, for I am not a believer. So the conversation halts. And the group looks down at their drinks.
Anyway, back to nice atheists, preferably without deceased mothers. Kind, truthful, law abiding atheists who'd never take the axe to a neighbor because she's a resentful old biddy. And why? Not because killing the old biddy would deny them Heaven. Because nice atheists have a carefully hewed personal sense of morality, that has nothing to do with God and redemption.
Yet Frank, I get your point. Putting a literary spin on it, you remind me of Captain Andy in Edna Ferber's novel, "Showboat." As the Captain wants everyone to be one big happy family, you want everybody to be one big happy for all Eternity in Heaven.
But that's not for me. Sitting here looking out into the green of early summer, cup of tea in hand, cat nearby is as near to Heaven as I'll ever be, or want to be.