Vatican leader Pope Francis has suggested that when it comes to how people live their lives, it's better to be an atheist than someone who claims to be a Christian but leads an unChristian life of greed and selfishness.
"Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: 'I am very Catholic, I always go to mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don't pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money.' A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others," Francis said at the morning mass at the Casa Santa Marta, as reported by Vatican Radio 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. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it's enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers," the Roman Catholic Church leader asserted.
"In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction."
As Reuters notes, Francis frequently encourages Catholics to practice what they preach, especially when it comes to helping the poor and protecting the environment.
Francis has also engaged on topics concerning atheists on a number of occasions, and in a September 2013 interview with La Repubblica newspaper suggested that God's mercy extends to atheists as well.
"You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don't believe and who don't seek the faith," Francis said at the time.
"I start by saying — and this is the fundamental thing — that God's mercy has no limits if you go to Him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience," he added.
In his latest remarks, the Vatican leader warned that the source of scandal and people living double lives is "following the passions of the heart, the capital sins that are the wounds of original sin."
The pontiff argued that there is a "double life" within all people, and within those who say they are good believers and good Catholics, but underneath are "doing something else."
Francis said that people like to think to themselves "But, sure, the Lord will eventually forgive everything, but I'll keep going as I have been."
He warned: "If there is something saying, 'Sure, this is not going well, I will convert, but not today: tomorrow.' Let's think about that. And let us profit from the Word of the Lord and consider the fact that on this point, the Lord is very strict. Scandal destroys."