The Good News: Pope Francis Is Cool With Atheists The godless may not care, but Mary Elizabeth Williams applauds His Holiness' tolerance By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted May 23, 2013 12:19 PM CDT 30 comments Comments Pope Francis leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) (Newser) – Pope Francis had a refreshing message when asked about atheists yesterday on Vatican radio, assuring his flock that yes, the godless could be good people, too. "'But father, he is not Catholic! He cannot do good,'" Francis imagined a follower protesting. "Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must." Atheists, he said, could be "precious allies," telling them, "Do good: we will meet one another there." He even called out the disciples as "a little intolerant," saying Jesus would embrace even non-believers. Of course, atheists don't have much use for popes, so they probably don't care. But Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon thinks this is a big improvement on "Catholicism's traditional 'We're number one!' dogma," and a "hugely important message for Christians to hear. It's not about being right. It's about being loving." It's especially important given all the Christians who use their faith to justify homophobia and intolerance. "Belonging to a church isn't what saves us," Williams writes, "It's belonging to each other." Click for her full column.