Last week a post by Mark Shea received many comments as if he had guaranteed Nat a ticket to heaven.
I hope Atheist Nat Henthoff has the Grand Surprise of Waking up in Heaven on the Day He Dies
Then the atheist will say to the King, “Lord, when did I see you being murdered by thirst or in the womb and speak out to save you?”
And the King will say to him, “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”
I also have great hope for all those in conscience who seek the truth. My invincible ignorance detector is broken and in the shop for repair so I mainly rely on prayer and hope for those currently outside the visible membership of Christ’s mystical body. Coming into the Church from atheism one of my favorite parables is the following.
For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” –Matt 20
I don’t know if I was called in the 6th or 9th hour of my life, but I do know that I am unbelievably thankful. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. I am still working on my end of the deal. I read things from self-identified atheists and it doesn’t anger me, but only saddens me and makes me turn to intercessory prayer. It is too easy for most of us to want to condemn someone and I think about a pre-conversion atheist like Edith Stein and just look at the wonders of God’s grace on those seeking the truth. My own son is an avowed atheist and it is annoying to hear the same things that come out of his mouth as came out of my own. To hear my own previous arguments repeated back to me is bothersome, but my conversion gives me great hope. I know God loves my son infinitely and will give him the grace required. He is fervently seeking the truth and since Christ is the way, the truth and the light, I know that one day he will find him. St. Monica spent many years in intercessory prayer for her son St. Augustine conversion which is the model for all of us.