In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.
This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.
The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?
So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.
And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.
My childhood faith in God began to erode when I was told by someone I had great respect for, quite bluntly, that non-Christians cannot get into heaven. That in fact, no matter how decent and good they were, they would be condemned to hell for the accident of having been born in of a different faith. Even as a child that struck me as being so grossly unfair that it could not possibly be true, and if it wasn't true, then what else about Christianity wasn't true? As I grew up, I eventually rejected the idea of God in general, and Christianity in particular.
In recent years though, I've acquired a more nuanced view towards religion and Christianity. I am glad to hear that much of the country has done the same, if from a different direction.