I became a Christian just over a year ago now and although I had believe for most of my life before that (bar a few years as a "radical atheist"), I was never in the Christian community then and so I lacked knowledge of how to become a Christian and more specific knowledge about the faith.
One of those things that was explained to me then was the concept of forgiveness and salvation - now although I knew of this before, it was more the specifics that I didn't know - before you are "saved" there are sins (some of which probably have a hold of you) and there are also unforgivable sin. Everything will be forgiven if you are saved - thus, as long as you follow Jesus... you are allowed your human mistakes.
I realise we could argue all day about whether or not it's just that a good person who is an unbeliever gets thrown into hell and a bad person who is a Christian goes to heaven, to be honest using my personal morals you will find it hard to pick a debate with me on that one, my moral compass says that any really bad people should be in hell... well perhaps not hell, tortured for eternity seems quite extreme, but perhaps a better way is to say that I wouldn't expect bad persons to be treated the same as the good ones... at least for a time anyway - and of course we could then argue the meaning of the second coming in revelations and what all that means, but that's not really what I want to discuss here.
I want to discuss the go to heaven if you're saved and go to hell if you're not saved.
Now I do admit that I have rather atheistic tendencies, after all I was an atheist and well... I'm here on T|A aren't I? So in a sense, my faith isn't the strongest but I am saved. I did say that whole "I'm sorry, I accept you, please come into my life" prayer. I was baptised. I am saved.
So in theory - yay me, heaven here I come (with a bit of work I'm sure) and all my Christian friends will be there, who are quite wonderful friends.
- What about my dog that passed away 2 years ago. I know you can't tell by reading this but I'm trying to type this bit as fast as I can because it still upsets me. I threw up as soon as I got home from the vets and... wow, I miss my little dude.
But although I can see people's view that they want their pets to be in heaven and they will be there because they make us happy... do they really go to heaven? They don't have souls after all, and as much comfort it maybe to me to think I might see my dog again, I'm remain unconvinced of the sugar-coated theory.
- What about my family, who granted we aren't extremely close but for the most part - most say they believe in God, but aren't actually Christians and a few agnostic/atheists (not particularly "active" ones if that makes sense). But however much we aren't the closest of families, my immediate family at least are my familiar place to be. I'm guessing I would be parted from 98% of my family.
On the note of family, one of my family members abused me, he is now dead - I know that he believed in God and went to church - but I'm unsure of his status on actually becoming a Christian or not, is he forgiven? Is he in heaven? For myself I'm not convinced I want to see him again as you would imagine, although I've been told since I will be like Jesus then, I'll be able to handle it.
- What about my other atheist, agnostic and non-believing friends? They're awesome too. They've been there for me just as much - maybe more than my Christian friends. Heck, my distinctly atheist friend saved my life because he refused to pray for me and actually did things instead. I'm parted from them too?
So here are two thoughts on this subject:
1.) What is your heaven like?
If heaven is a place that makes you happy, then your pets will be there. But your friends won't, but that friend of a friend you find obnoxious? They're saved, so they'll be there... despite this place being a place of happiness for you.
Perhaps there is some great enlightenment that happens when you enter heaven about being happy that everyone there shares, a general sort of generic clone happiness, I don't know. But I'm pretty sure you're idea of heaven will be someone else's hell... love motorcycles? well that old lady hates the noise of those contraptions.
Heaven probably isn't tailored to one's personal needs for happiness, but rather more rigid. And with saying the words "Heaven is rigid and not tailored to your happiness"... it makes me understand how people can say that we have no idea what heaven will look like, feel like or be like.
2.) Where do you want to be?
Could I really be happy in heaven knowing that some of my friends are going to hell? Could I look back on my life and not regret anything - not saving them, introducing them to Jesus - I'd love them to be in heaven with me; heck most admit they wouldn't want to be in hell! But I also love them the way they are. And where is my dog going to be anyway, if it's possible I'd want to be with him too... if animals have souls are they capable of sin? If they're not are they auto heaven, or auto somewhere frickin' else? And of the family member that abused me, where will he be at? I don't want him near me... nor near my friends.
For me right now, the fact of the matter is that heaven is kind of a mystery to me. Heaven = Good and Hell = Bad is pretty much as descriptive as it gets right now, and we all generally know the difference between feeling good and feeling bad, but when you take away the personal part of those... what is that?
I have some very strong bonds with my non-believer friends and after thinking about this parting at the time of judgement that may happen, as much as before I die I might fear for myself and cry out to God as many do (and who can blame them, death is quite terrifying!)... I'm starting to spare a thought for that separation, I'm not sure I could bare it. I would be considering at that point also - the possibility of becoming an atheist.