There appears to be some controversy over whether or not the Pope said atheists can still go to Heaven after they die. My guess is that he made some merciful and constructive statement about atheists that got twisted into something entirely different… but regardless, it hits upon one of my biggest unsettled doubts about my faith: Heaven and Hell.
I can grasp that those who choose not to believe a certain creed will not reap the benefits and promises of that creed. For instance, an atheist can’t expect to get into the Heaven as described in the Bible. He can’t expect to achieve nirvana/Paradise/what have you without accepting what the creed has to say. That just wouldn’t make sense. What’s the point, if everyone can get in (especially without faith?)
What I cannot grasp, however, is that those who choose not to accept a certain creed (perhaps in favor of another) will go to Hell. In fact, it’s really, really hard for me to grasp Hell at all.
There are many ways Christianity has been interpreted over the years, but the biggest message I get from it is a loving, merciful God who views us as His (imperfect) children and wants us to succeed in achieving everlasting life. As for humanity, in many ways I am very cynical about it, but I also feel that very few people are truly evil. And those very few evil people are the ones who “deserve” Hell.
As for the rest of us in between…? I just can’t accept it!
I can’t accept that the majority of my friends, family, respected colleagues – who are not atheists, but are not “born again” Christians either – are going to Hell. I am blessed to know so many wonderful, overall good people (we are all flawed), but I can’t accept that my God would send them to Hell.
I know what the Bible says on the issue. I know the countless ways it has been interpreted. I know there is no one alive on Earth who can tell us what it all really means. I know that most people in the world have faith in something, just in different forms. We are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and reacting to what Life teaches us. In some ways all of our stories are the same, and in others, they are drastically different.
But it’s one of those confusing, complicated, and depressing subjects that I probably will never figure out. I like to think that perhaps “accepting Jesus” is living a Christ-like life. Many world views teach a very similar message to Christ’s, and I think most “Heaven-deserving” people are trying to lead that good life, at least as much as Christians are (if not more so, in quite a few cases.)
I don’t want to be one of those Christians who misses the entire point of my faith to mesh with my own wishful thinking, but I am also far too humanistic to believe it’s quite that cut and dry… Are so few of us really getting in? Or, are so many of us really getting in just because we “believe” in Jesus?
Is it okay to just say “I don’t know?”