Pope: It’s ‘Better to Be An Atheist’ Than a ‘Hypocritical” Christian

Pope Francis sparked debate when he took aim at hypocritical Christians on Thursday, saying it would be better to be atheist who does good than a Christian who does bad.

Christians who exploit people, lead double lives or engage in “dirty” business are better off not calling themselves believers, according to the Pope, CNN reported.

“So many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others,” Francis said during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. “How many times have we heard — all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere — ‘But to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that: scandal.”

Francis characterized scandal as “saying one thing and doing another” and gave examples of such sin, including money laundering to business owners taking beach vacations while not paying their employees an adequate wage.

According to the Catholic church, anyone who leads others to do wrong, directly or indirectly, is responsible for the evil that results from that misleading.

Francis also hinted that salvation is open to all people who do good on earth, not just believers.

The Pope told a story where he imagined a wealthy Christian knocking on the gates of heaven to say, “Here I am, Lord! … I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?”

According to Francis, Jesus’ reply would be, “Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.”

Yesterday wasn’t the first time Pope Francis targeted “fake” Christians. Last year, he called out the “fakeness” of Christians who speak piously but do little to help others.

“To be a Christian means to do: to do the will of God — and on the last day — because all of us we will have one — that day what shall the Lord ask us? Will He say: ‘What you have said about me?’ No. He shall ask us about the things we did.”

In 2013, the Pope also mentioned that heaven is open, potentially, to all people as long as they “do good”– including 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!”

Francis is active on Twitter and often draws analogies between the word of the Lord and modern-day life.