Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Religion and Faith

A friend asked a group of us today if we believed that a good person, living his life as a good, honorable man, would still go to Heaven if he didn't believe in God. This was my response to him.

I remember years ago, kicking around the great questions of life. I thought of the most extreme example possible. I imagined Mother Teresa, at the end of her long life, surrounded by those who had followed her for so long. Before she passes, she smiles and says, "you know, I should tell you that I have never really believed in God. I just wanted to do so much to help so many, and I knew that would be the best way to get others involved. I'm sorry, but I am comfortable and at peace knowing we have done so much for others in this world." Then she dies. Turns out, though, she was wrong. There is a God, and he has more than a disapproving glance for her at the Pearly Gates.

Now, at this point, my question. Would God turn her away? She did everything in her life as God and Jesus would have her do, but she didn't believe in God. Some say that it is only in the belief in Jesus that man shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. Others believe that service should be our prayer, and our actions speak far louder than our words.

It was usually about this time that my head exploded from all of the contemplation. Now, as an older and (hopefully) wiser person, I find myself much more at peace with not knowing. I try to live my life as a good person, giving more than I take, helping when I can, and trying to leave things a bit better for my having been involved with them. Lofty goals, true, but at least I always have something to strive for.

But am I assured of an eternity in Heaven? No. None of us are. None of us even know for certain that such a place exists. If we could know without a doubt, we wouldn't need faith. Is it really possible for any of us to know the one and only salvation? Buddhists and Christians and Muslims all feel confident that they are on the right path spiritually. Who is one man to say that another is wrong?

So I am completely and totally without judgment on this one. I say, good luck to any of us who are trying to be more each day than we were the day before. And for now, that is enough for me.

You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them.
Pat Robertson (Fundamentalist Christian minister)

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