“Ask a Priest: Does My Atheist Girlfriend Have a Chance at Salvation?”

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Q: I’m worried about my girlfriend, who’s an atheist. The rest of her family is religious and believes in God. I told her I accepted her beliefs. But yesterday I forgot those who believe go to heaven and those who don’t go to hell. I don’t want her to spend eternity with Satan. She is a truly kind soul. Yes, she has sinned—everybody has sinned. Will the Lord give her a chance to get into heaven? Thank you. – A.E.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your friend who calls herself an atheist.

Atheism isn’t the kind of thing that naturally attracts people. It involves a choice. Perhaps your friend has visited the wrong kinds of websites or seen one too many bad videos on YouTube.

As to your question: Yes, God will give her a chance at salvation. He “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

God sees your friend as his beloved daughter, and he would love to have her with him someday in heaven. However, the Almighty respects our freedom. He won’t force his love on anyone.

Without knowing more details, I’d recommend this:

First, start praying and offering up sacrifices for your friend. Your intercession for her might merit the grace she needs to say yes to God.

Second, always be patient and kind and respectful to her. This will show her some of the fruits of your own faith.

Third, you might want to become familiar with the arguments for God’s existence (see Peter Kreeft’s site). This might prepare you for dialogue with your friend.

And be sure to guard your own faith! You don’t want to fall into the trap that your friend has fallen into. Be careful about “accepting her beliefs”; you know that she’s in the dark and needs to come to the light of Christ.

Lastly, you might want to step back occasionally and see if there is progress in your friend. If she digs in her heels and clings tighter to atheism, that is a warning sign.

We can hope, of course, that she doesn’t go in that direction. You mention that she is a kind soul and that her family is religious. That might be the fertile ground (along with your prayers and sacrifices) on which the Holy Spirit will work.

And who knows? You might be a chosen instrument for helping to bring your friend to faith.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers for you and your girlfriend.


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One Comment
  1. I went to Catholic schools. When I was 16, I went to confession and told the priest I was losing my faith. He told me to pray. I asked, “To whom?” Then when I was in college, I was sitting in a dark, quiet church. Not praying, just sitting. I said to myself, “God, if I believe in you, I’m just making you up. Is there any way you can let me know that you are real?” That was many years ago. God responded with overwhelming love… literally. No one else was there. I wasn’t in a relationship. Not close to family. I just got overwhelmed with love. So ever since, I’ve never wondered if God is real. I don’t know everything about God, but the real God is real. I can’t imagine God ever refusing to make ‘Himself’ known to someone who wants to know.

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