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Kick Start Question: What Happens to Devout Followers of Other Faiths (e.g. Muslims or Hindus). I was lucky to grow up in a Christian culture, but what about those who grew up in different cultures?
I’m going to stick to the first question because while closely related, I do feel that they are two separate questions. Here’s a couple thoughts to think about on the latter—Christianity is exploding in other cultures around the world such as China, Korea, India, Brazil, while experiencing cultural decline in America. Also, Jesus was by far the hardest on the religious people in his culture who had no active faith, which could be a direct commentary on Christianity in America today.
In light of that, you have to ask who is actually lucky to be born where when it comes to faith.
But whether the question of “what happens to…” is applied to people of other religions or other cultures, the heart of the inquiry and the designation of ‘luck’ probably applies to afterlife and heaven or hell. I get that. We want to have comfort and surety about our loved ones primarily, but also just our fellow human beings, especially those good people of the world.
If you want a direct Biblical answer to your question, I would ask you to read and reflect on ROMANS 2:6-16. Really, you should read all of chapter 2 (or all of Romans!), but those ten verses will give you a starting point on reflection.
I’d like to take a different route though. Here’s a question to explore: What if God’s desire for us is more about quality of life starting this second rather than quantity of life started after we die?
Check out this definition of eternal life Jesus offers in the Gospel of John:
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
That “know” is in the present tense. I believe it is one of the greatest crimes committed against the Christian faith that followers of Jesus reduce the Gospel (Good News of Jesus) to a die and go to heaven religion.
Here is the common thread of all religions, whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Materialism et al…your identity is based on your performance.
We could list other examples. All of it comes down to the same basic truth: your identity is based on your performance. All of them have serious barriers to what Christianity calls the Way, or the Good News, of Jesus Christ.
And that good news is this: our identity is based on Jesus’ performance and is imputed to us. This is where freedom lies. So if the foundation of life is that we enter into existence, die to ourselves, and are raised in unified spirit with existence itself and therefore others, then as we live in that reality we should expect to see our quality of life rise.
What happens to devout followers of other religions is the same thing that happens to all peoples—they need to experience the God Who Saves to escape the crushing pressure of performance or power-based (didn’t have time to get into that) existence.
This does not get to the Heaven or Hell part of the question--because I do not think that is our place to judge--so here are some theological reflections that get closer to the point: