I have noticed recently (there’s been an unfortunate amount of deaths of people related to friends lately) that a lot of western people think thus: If a person tries to be good for their whole lives when they die they will go to heaven.
This particular thought isn’t something I know is often challenged. In fact it seems to be a widely held norm for a lot of people just going about their daily lives in the UK and US (probably most of western society too) I want to challenge this thought because it’s actually not all logical.
Yes it is the one thought all major religions hold in common. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus all think that being good and kind as a part of their way of life, however, none of them say that this alone will get you to heaven.
From a Christian point of view you need to be following Jesus, getting to know him and doing as he asks, which can often mean being good but there’s more to the relationship side of things than just loving people.
Jews believe that we are all sinners as well and to be given God’s blessing and the chance to go to heaven we need to repent of our sins and offer sacrifices. We also need to seek God in prayer etc. So loving people and being nice alone isn’t enough here either. Muslims are similar I believe.
Both Buddhists and Hindus believe something slightly different to the other three in that their version of ‘good’ isn’t quite the same but they try to achieve a greater purpose in life than themselves. To devote their lives to something else or they don’t get to go to their versions of heaven either.
So where has it come from that people think being a generally ‘good’ person is enough to merit heaven for eternity? I think personally it’s out of a sense of being rather selfish. Most people don’t want to follow a particular belief system. They think they are too restrictive, boring, meaningless in todays world etc. (Excluding athiests who obviously don’t think heaven even exists) but they want to think there is some purpose to their lives. Like they want the prize of living right but don’t actually want the restrictions that might come with it.
Another possibility is hope. It’s sad at a funeral and naturally people are missed when they die. There is the desire to see people again and the idea that they’ll be waiting for us in heaven and we’ll get to see them again someday when we too get our brownie points for being good, is a comforting thought in the grips of grief.
Is it right though? Can people really expect the Christian/Jewish version of heaven when they’ve not actually done everything the Christian/Jewish faith asks them to do in order to go to heaven? There are some people I know who would say yes, it’s down to personal belief etc. I guess I wonder at the reasoning behind only believing in the easy/good parts of something and not the whole thing. It kinda says I reject your version of reality and have decided to substitute it with a lighter fluffier version of my own. And since when is life always light and fluffy?
According to every major religion on the planet though everyone who is just ‘good’ and doesn’t add to that is actually going to hell.