Most Americans agree that yes, everybody goes to heaven after they die. Not buying it? The part about most Americans agreeing that everybody goes to heaven? Here’s the empirical evidence. A few months ago, a study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (mentioned by Charles Blow in a New York Times editorial) showed that 70 percent of Americans believe religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.
So it’s true, 70% of Americans agree–everybody goes to heaven.
Still not buying the poll data? Evangelicals didn’t buy it, because they argued that the respondents had obviously not understood the question. After all, Jesus clearly states in the gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” In other words, there’s a segregationist sign posted over the only gate into heaven. It says: Christians only. To believe otherwise is a heresy called universalism.
So Pew decided to ask the question again. The results, released in December 2008, confirmed their initial findings. Sixty-five percent said that yes, other religions could lead to eternal life. Just to make sure no one was confused, Pew also asked its respondents to specify which religion(s) could lead to eternal life. The sixty-five percent yes-sayers threw open heaven’s gate to pretty much every religion. Fifty percent even said atheists would pass muster, and people with no religious faith, too. How’s that for generous? So tear down that sign, Mr. Evangelical.
Okay, so the majority of 21st century Americans agree that almost everyone goes heaven after they die.
But if God doesn’t hold us accountable in the afterlife, is it okay to set aside meaningful discussions about moral requirements in this life?
That’s not a rhetorical question, since polls show that religious Americans, whether affiliated with a specific faith tradition or not, whether liberal or conservative, are shearing moral requirements from their theologies (see Post #23 for more on this topic).
The mystic and universalist, Julian of Norwich, offers an intriguing answer to balancing a belief in an all-loving God with the impulse to make people accountable in the afterlife for the harm they’ve caused in this life. Julian, a woman who sought God actively, was rewarded in 1373, when she was a little over thirty years old, by several mystical experiences that she called showings.
Try as she might to find the Church’s ‘fatherly,’ angry, and punishing God, she found only a God who “is the goodness that cannot be angry, for he is nothing but goodness.” The fact that any of us exists, Julian reasoned, is proof that God isn’t an a punishing God. Since everyone commits sins of commission or omission, if God could become angry, we’d all be gonners. According to Julian, human beings, not God, are the ones who judge whether a deed is well done or is evil. As far as God is concerned, even our “lowest deed is done as well as the best”. And since God is nothing but goodness, Julian concluded that we’re all heaven-bound.
How does she balance a loving God with moral requirements? Julian handles this difficult theological quandary by finding a sneaky way to introduce a system of reward. Based on her showings, she identifies a sliding scale of heavenly bliss. The first and lowest degree of bliss in heaven is God’s gratitude for our service, a gratitude that is “so exalted and so glorious that it would seem to fill the soul.” The second degree of bliss in heaven indulges our pride because God makes a public announcement to all the souls in heaven, praising our good deeds. The third degree of bliss is a pleasure that remains forever “as new and delightful” as it did when we first felt it.
To assign the appropriate degree of bliss, God uses a formula mostly based on time and length of service. The formula favors those who “willingly and freely offered their youth”, as well as those who, even for one day, served “with the wish to serve forever.”
According to Julian then, everybody goes to heaven, everybody gets bliss, but depending on our deeds, we are eligible for one of three degrees of bliss. Her God is perched on the narrow edge of that judge’s bench in the sky but hasn’t been shoved off altogether. This all-about-love-God, to whom Julian prayed, sits in minimal judgment of us.
Like her, many religious Americans are quite sure that any God worthy of the name loves us and is too good to condemn us. The mercy-justice issue may continue to trouble us in spite of a creative solution like Julian’s. Is a three-bliss kind of God really the kind of God we want?
Because if we all end up blissed-out in heaven, is God just?
If God grants first-degree (or second or third-degree) bliss to the daughter who routinely calms her work-rage by pummeling her frail, elderly father, is that God just? Is that God fair?
If God grants bliss to the single mother who turns a blind eye while her boyfriend sexually assaults her ten-year old daughter, is that God just? Is that God fair?
But why dwell on this issue at all? Must we insist that God be fair when it comes to putting out the welcome mat at heaven’s door? No. We need not insist that God be fair.
Maybe Julian’s right and we get assigned one of three degrees of bliss. Right or not, we can agree with her conviction that “the more the loving soul sees…generosity in God, the gladder” we will be to serve God all of our days. Simply put: belief in a loving God leads us to be more loving ourselves. And if belief in a loving God leads us to be more loving ourselves–what’s not to love about that?
References: Charles Blow, “Heaven for the Godless?” The New York Times online edition, 26 December 2008; Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love LT, trans. Elizabeth Spearing (London: Penguin Books, 1998).
If we go out on a limb and contend that the idea or idealized structure of Heaven is the reflection of what one envisions as the prime form of the “good life” those poor souls who deny entry rights to those who do not share their exact systems, who say my way or the highway, are the problem. The problem being making this world a Hell for those who do not agree with them.
“…idealized structure of Heaven is the reflection of what one envisions as the prime form of the “good life” those poor souls who deny entry rights to those who do not share their exact systems, who say my way or the highway,…”
If we get the heaven we “want”, then those people who deny entry rights to those who do not share their exact systems are condemned to spend their days in heaven lonely and bored — after all, no one really shares one’s exact beliefs, and they would be really bored having no one to judge and criticize. Thus, the “heaven” they asked for becomes a hell of their own making.
I had a friend who said that after we die we get to experience all of the pain we caused others, then we go to “heaven”. It really does make more sense to let the punishment fit the crime rather than be “eternal”. But, I fear, sense has nothing to do with it….
Does anyone read the Bible? No, not everyone is going to heaven. The Bible clearly states that the people who are saved, that is they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (it is a free gift) will go to Heaven. What religion you are does not matter. The goal is to please and serve God NOT religions, which are often legalistic. That is not to say that sinners are not allowed, because we are all sinners. The worst sin is denying the existence of God our Heavenly Father. The only way to the Father is through the son.
hell ya, we is children of god, praise to the almighty
thought i was more alone on this idea
hey man, whos to say whats good n bad whats evil to one is good to another. whos to label anyone anything, its childish to mark others as good or bad but it is also in our nature to do so. ya know, the bases for religion is that everything that works to help us as a whole is hardwired into us as the right and concious thing to do. and so unto our children is taught these guidlines, just like murdering your family does you bad or just no good, so it is simple for us to figure that to be bad. is the wolf evil for killing rabbits/are we evil for killing cows, if so then all predators go to hell:) , the cosmic force of god is to our spirituality as a father and a fathers love is unconditional.
I am currently writing a series of essays on Justice, Mercy and their connection to perfect Love. These will be for my Children so that they have something to learn from besidee the internet and unbelievers that will continually try to shape their beliefs for thwir own gains.
I found this website because I am seeking out the different view points on the issue so I can combat against them.
In this article we find a perfect example of what a one sided God would be like. Granting everyone Mercy without any form of Faith In Works. Which, by the way makes God a liar and therefore imperfect.
A few thoughts to ponder.
Our thoughts are not his thoughts. Our ways are not his ways.
If everyone will go to Heaven or If its already determined who will go as some claim, why do we need the Word of God. Isn’t the word a Guide for us in the first place? Why not put everyone here, let them live-die and go to Heaven?
Everybody does NOT go to heaven. You have to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You have to ask him to forgive you for your sins. And afterward you have to stop doing bad habits and sinning. You have to follow him. God has a book, where he writes the names of everybody that will enter Heaven. And every time you move away from him and his word, you will be erased from that book. Read the bible… it’s all there.
No, everybody most definitively… does not go to Heaven.
Robert Cote said:
I do not believe that there is a hell. Therefore everyone will go to Heaven.
yerbua swuog said:
John 1:1 says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.”
The Word is the truth for God is truth, therefore we should listen to what the bible is saying and not listen to Christians? who has got a world view instead of a Believers Biblical worldview for without it you can say and believe anything! Jesus is Lord, the truth and the door to God and only HE!
Guardian Guardian said:
oh, U, U ~ this is all so terribly sad, painful to watch, these children scurrying around in the dark bumping into things, breaking nails and scuffing their hearts all about. God is fair, gentle and kind. We don’t always see the justice of a thing when our imagining is denied by what we are seeing, making small our capacity to experience infinite love. And so we pray, we pray for our hearts to be pure, for the sufferings of others to experience the salve of mercy, for God to forgive our shortsightedness.
I can’t think of one of my children that I would cast away eternally, no matter what their deeds. And I am a poor slob. Now, this other fellow, JC said that he is “our Heavenly Father”, and he’s not a poor slob. That’s gotta tell you something.