Pope Francis said in his first General Audience of 2019 that it is better to be an atheist than a churchgoing Christian who hates other people.
"How many times do we see the scandal of those people who go to church, and are there all day or go every day, and then they live hating others or talking badly about people. This is a scandal,” Francis declared from the Paul VI Audience Hall, Rome Reports said.
"It is better not to go to church if you live like that, like an atheist. But if you go to church, live like a child, like a sibling, and give a true testimony, not a false testimony,” he added.
The Roman Catholic Church leader preached on Jesus, the “Our Father” prayer, and the Beatitudes, which he said represent an authentic revolution for believers.
"This is the revolution of the Gospel. Where the Gospel is, there is revolution. It is as if Jesus said, continue on, you who carry in your heart the mystery of a God, who has revealed His omnipotence in love and in forgiveness!" Francis said.
He also warned that some people in church may be praying to God “like parrots” rather than as if they were genuinely talking to a father.
"The pagans think that by speaking, speaking, speaking and speaking they are praying. I also think of many Christians who pray, forgive me, speaking to God as if they were a parrot. No, praying is done from the heart, from within,” he positioned.
Francis has made similar comments throughout his papacy, sometimes criticizing his own Catholic Church members. In 2017, he suggested it was better for one to be an atheist than a Catholic who leads a hypocritical double life.
“It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life," the pontiff said during Mass in February 2017.
“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association.'”
He suggested that some people should admit "my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, [I lead] a double life.'”
“There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” the pope said.
Protestant pastors have also made calls on their churches to shed the hypocrisy. Life.Church pastor Craig Groeschel wrote a book in 2010 titled The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist, in which he argued that though many Christians look the part, they actually do not reflect God in their lives and live however they want.
Christian atheism, he explained, plays out like this: "I want enough of God to keep me out of Hell and enough of God to get me into Heaven but I don't want so much of God that it makes me change my lifestyle because at its root I believe in God but I do not fear Him."