I am a religious Catholic, who has never been swayed by any sort of religious persecution or negative commentary, whatsoever. I believe that we should not judge other people because that is not our job to do. We are taught to live as good people on this Earth, no matter how ill many people can be. There are, however, three things that puzzle me still.
I have met several Catholics and Christians who do not believe in going to church or practicing religion at all, simply because the church is studded with hypocrites. Now, I understand where some of these people come from -- for instance, their own relatives are religious, albeit, they do not live according to the Word (by cheating on their spouse or having had multiple wives!). Growing-up, they saw what kind of people their relatives were and were disgusted by how their relatives would go to church but kept repeating their sins and, perhaps, never even attempt to make amends for their bad behavior. This is what caused several people of whom I met, to turn away from the church -- be it Catholic or Christian, i.e. hypocrisy. How do I make them understand that the church is run by people -- imperfect human beings and that not everyone is a hypocrite. Everyone has their own share of sins in various forms. The fact is, nobody is perfect.
Secondly, I used to believe that all religious people were good people. I cannot believe how my view has since changed because my eyes were opened by the same people who are angry at the hypocrites who go to church and pray. Is my altered perspective (that religious people does not always equate to good people) right? I feel sad for having this renewed view, but I can't lie to myself too. In reality there are murders and criminals who are religious, and they will attend mass, without any remorse for their actions.
Thirdly, what does God think of people who are good but do not pray? I know a family who are very good people, but they are atheists. I like to think that God will bless them because of the way they lived their lives, but it makes me sad to see them raise their daughter without a spiritual life. I'm confused. I was taught to believe that people who do not believe in God will go to Hell. But isn't that too extreme? Here I am, acquainted with a mother and a father -- both of whose parents were atheists themselves -- who are kind people and good parents, but they just don't believe in God. That family is one of several people of whom I am friends with. They are good people but do not pray. Surely, these people should not be put in the same place where the murders and evil-doers are destined for in the afterlife just because they did not believe in God? Wouldn't that make God selfish? In the case of this family, I feel as though, they are different because they did not reject religion; for, in order to reject religion, one has to be introduced to it first -- something that their own parents did not do. So certainly, it was not their fault that the parents are atheists?
Thank you for taking this time to answer my inquiries.
I hope you realize that I am not Catholic. I follow and teach the Bible only. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11).
Your idea of never drawing conclusions about other people (judging) contradicts what Jesus said. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). When sin was present in the church at Corinth, Paul scold them for not handling their problems. "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?" (I Corinthians 6:3-5).
Yes, there are sinners who pretend to be faithful or who think they can appease God by offering worship while remaining in their sins. This actually is the topic of the book of Hosea. People in Israel knew that God was mad at them, so they thought they could offer more sacrifices and calm God down. God's response was: "O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away" (Hosea 6:4). They would be destroyed for their sins and all their acts of worship would not make a bit of difference.
The goal of the church is to get people out of sin, not accept the continuation of sin. Sin in the church is not to be tolerated. Yes, it exists, but when people become aware of it, action has to take place. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Corinthians 5:1-5). It is when church tolerate the presence of sin that it spreads and people right come to the conclusion that the church is not following God.
Everyone does sin at times, but that does not translate to an acceptance of sin in your life. See: Well, Nobody's Perfect.
The problem is that you define "good" by a very weak criteria. Only God defines what is good. "So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments"" (Matthew 19:17). When a person does not keep God's laws, which are for our good, then that person cannot be truly good.
Just as no one is perfectly good -- we all sin -- no one is perfectly evil either. Even the worse person does manage to do some good. "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:6-8). The difference between the follower of God and the follower of Satan is that the follower of God refuses to stay in sin, while the follower of Satan doesn't care.
Yes, I know some really nice atheists. I also know some really nice people who call themselves Christians but who do not follow God's teachings. The result remains the same. "And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thessalonians 1:7-8). Sin remains sinful. All unrepented sin carries the same result: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
In essence you want an earned salvation: five prayers to make up for one lie, etc. It doesn't work that way. God has always looked at who a person is and not what they have done in the past. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. "Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?" But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20-24).
God isn't selfish. Quite the opposite actually. He has gone far out of His way to rescue a bunch of ignorant people from their sins because those sins destroy them. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:8-10). A refusal to accept rescue and to declare that the rescuer doesn't even exist will not save a person from drowning in his sins. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Thank you very much for your extensive reply.
Yes, I am aware, sir, that you are not a Catholic. I consulted your help because I like the way you answer people's inquiries. Likewise, I will re-read and take note of your message. I hope I can finally understand God's message, regarding those particular quandaries.
God bless and have a good weekend!