by Fr Dwight Longenecker
Atheists sometimes blame Christians for believing in a Heavenly Father who is a great big sugar
daddy in the sky who will take us to heaven when we die. Our God, they say, is like Colonel Sanders — always beaming down from above with a benevolent smile and perhaps a bucket of
fried chicken if we are good boys and girls. This Father in heaven is a comforting thought when life is hard.
They continue by saying that all our talk of self sacrifice and helping others and doing good — is self interest.
We pay in the good works, faith, love andworship and in return we get happiness and heaven
and forgiveness and The ticket to heaven is not easily attained a chance to see Grandma and Grandpa and all our loved ones again.
However, when you stop to analyse the Catholic faith you will realise that the atheist’s accusation of a sweet belief in a cuddly grandaddy in the sky doesn’t stick.
Here’s why: Catholicism teaches that you may go to heaven if you have faith in Jesus Christ and are transformed by his grace into the saint you are destined to be. However, it’s not a
guarantee. You might get into heavenbut there’s a high mountain called purgatory before you, and before you get there you have to navigate this life, and there’s many a chance to slip and fall into the pit in the meantime.
This means that while heaven is a sure hope, it’s not a sure bet. It’s comforting but not comfortable. The Catholic message is one of hope, but not one which should make us feel cotton
candy happy.
There’s work to be done, and we only get into heaven if we move beyond the self interested form
of religion to something which really is self sacrifice. “Unless you take up your cross and follow me you cannot enter the kingdom.”
Furthermore, the idea that God in heaven is an avuncular figure who chuckles indulgently and
forgets our sins and welcomes us into bliss with a bucket of fried chicken if we just sign on the dotted line and weep for a moment and repent and “get saved” is not the idea of God for Catholics.
He is indeed the forgiving father — but the road back to the Father is long and hard.
The loving Father is also the stern judge, and he is there to judge us for what we’ve done and left undone.
Fr Dwight Longenecker writes regularly for Zenit


  1. I love this writing. I always find there isn’t enough of this ‘reality’ talk. It is good to think about the Loving Father, but it seems that is our favourite thing to focus on these days. Hardly anybody is talking about the work that needs to be done as mentioned in this article. Along with sin and satan these things that make us a bit uncomfortable seem to be avoided lately.
    Well written, I love it !