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Do Catholics & Protestants believe that God lets morally good people from other religions go to heaven? Do good people practicing Islam and Hinduism go to heaven?

If they don't, then what's the point in worshipping someone who sends North Koreans (who are forced to practice another religion) and the inhabitants of the North Sentinel islands (who don't know about Christianity) to hell/purgatory for something they were not in control of?

If they do, then what's the point in being a Christian on Earth when you can join any other religion and live a good life helping others?

This question has been rattling around in my head for quite some time now, and it almost feels paradoxical to me. I've asked a good number of Christians about it but I'm yet to find a satisfactory answer. It has bothered me so much that I'm thinking of leaving Christianity.

Edit - I appreciate everyone for contributing answers, but I still feel like none directly answered my question. Does God punish good non-Christians after death? If yes, is he not cruel? If not, why remain a Christian?

PS - Don't answer saying God can do whatever he wants because he created us and is the supreme power. I get it. I understand that. But even if he's the supreme power, there can only be three choices he can make, and I want you to give your direct opinion on it. I'm not looking for explanations on why he would do XYZ. He'll punish them? Alright fine, but please don't quote the verses which imply so or take examples from lengthy books because quite honestly, it doesn't matter to my question.

Whatever your answer is, it will boil down to these three choices- He punishes them, he doesn't punish them, he punishes them and then grants them access to paradise. If there is another choice that you think I left out, kindly mention it too. Else that's all I need, your opinion on what his choice will be.

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Short answer for your updated question from the Inclusivism view

  1. What's the inclusivism view? From the book mentioned below:

    The wideness of God's love and mercy toward sinners is utterly amazing—truly his ways are not our ways. ... how exactly does God show redemptive grace to those who die never hearing the good news of Jesus the Savior? ... is there a way for them to be saved?

    According to the inclusivist view, the Father reaches out to the unevangelized through both the Son and the Spirit via general revelation, conscience and human culture. God does not leave himself without witness to any people. Salvation for the unevangelized is made possible only by the redemptive work of Jesus, but God applies that work even to those who are ignorant of the atonement. God does this if people respond in trusting faith to the revelation they have. In other words, unevangelized persons may be saved on the basis of Christ's work if they respond in faith to the God who created them.

  2. If there is another choice that you think I left out, kindly mention it too. What you left out is that you limit God's choices. Inclusivism is an option where everyone will receive a fair opportunity to make a decision to trust God using whatever revelation they have received, whether from Christianity, from another religion, or from God speaking directly to their hearts.

  3. Does God punish good non-Christians after death?

    • According to this view, the criteria whether they are punished in hell is not whether they are good or not, but whether they trust God as their Lord or not. If they genuinely trust God, they then try to be as good as they can be. There are only two kinds of people: those who reject God (create their own standard of good & evil, or conduct their lives as if God doesn't exist) and those who trust God (in however way they conceive Him).
    • Regardless of the view, according to Catholicism, everyone who trust God, except the Saints, need purification before entering heaven. That is what purgatory is for: a place for souls destined for heaven that still need to be purified because the sins they committed create a stain in their soul. Souls in purgatory are also punished for the harm they cause others (as a matter of justice) although they have been forgiven for their offense against God. But souls undergoing purification and "punishment" in purgatory are filled with hope of entering heaven. Christians who have good spiritual life have a head start.
  4. If yes, is he not cruel? In this view, people only go to hell when they want to, by rejecting God. Free will has terrible consequences. God cannot save those who don't want to be saved.

  5. If non-Christians can go to heaven, why remain a Christian? Understood properly, Christianity offers the best way to fulfill our lives because it's based on the full undiluted truths about God's love and spiritual life. Other religions are necessarily a distortion of true love, potentially imposing on you cruel / unnecessary obligations (just think Taliban in Afghanistan). That is why once we fully understand the gospel there is no good reason to reject it.

  6. What about punishment for apostasy? The warning of later punishment for apostasy (because they reject God after accepting the gospel) should be seen not as cruelty but as a good father prodding you to regain your proper sense, repent, and go back to the right path of life.

  7. But I don't agree with Inclusivism Then choose another view. Holding "the right" view is not how you are saved. Trusting Jesus is.

Five views

First let me refer you to a 1995 book What About Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized written from the mainstream Protestants and Catholic perspective.

Below is a summary table from the book, which discusses 3 of them (Restrictivism, Inclusivism, and Postmortem Evangelism): enter image description here

Proper perspective

Proper perspective is key to appreciate the Christian answer to your question, so I will dedicate the rest of my answer to describe how to think about your question from Christian perspective.

To start, here are a few critical questions:

  1. Each religion offers their own way for salvation and for relating to God, are they ultimately the same or different?
  2. How do we know what is good? Should God be the one who define "good", or should we? Does God know something about the Good that we don't?
  3. Is it right for "getting to heaven" to be characterized as "getting a passing mark" by being good enough? Is that what God expects humans to do: to pass the test?

If you answer "the same" to #1, "we know as much as God knows" to #2, and "yes" to #3, then it makes sense you are bothered.

But Protestants and Catholics answer differently:

  1. Christianity is ultimately a "different" religion, although some elements of goodness are taught by other religions. Christianity offers a way of salvation based on God's action in reaching down to us characterized by "knocking on our heart's door" instead of our trying to reach God on our own. Rev 3:20 says:

    “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

    This reaching down is unique, and is based on God's love for us (John 3:16). God sends himself (in Jesus) as ambassador from the heavenly realm to our broken world. Our job is to respond to the call with a "yes, I want it." Furthermore, Christian salvation is based on being born again into a spiritual life, which only God can give. John 3:5-6 says:

    5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

    This spiritual life (not simply goodness) is the key to entering heaven. Our job is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to nurture the seed of the new life given to us so it grows. No other religions conceive salvation this way. Christianity is unique this way.

  2. Christianity teaches that perfect goodness is perfect love, who is God himself (God is love). If we want to be good like God we need to participate in God's Trinitarian love, which will yield a different kind of love (see my other answer on what's unique about a Christian's relationship to God). But where is this knowledge about Trinitarian love come from? This is where God's revelation through Jesus Christ came in. Jesus's sermon on the mount (Matt 5 to 7) has been shown to offer unique perspective on goodness / love, missing from other religions. Other religions can teach humans to be good, but the righteousness which result from it is not enough without the accompanying spiritual life (see my other answer about righteousness).

  3. As explained in #1, the new spiritual life is the key to heaven. Goodness results from it, not the other way around. You may hear other religions (especially Islam) which teach how human efforts is primary, hence your notion of being able to enter heaven through another religion. Since God is the one giving us this spiritual life, it's up to God to decide to whom He gives this life:

    • He may give it to those who through fault of their own has never heard about Jesus.
    • He may forgive those who reject the gospel because the gospel has been distorted and not understood correctly.

    But in mainstream Protestant and Catholicism it's clear that we have the free will to reject the offer. For those who have once accepted but later reject, it's called apostasy. Apostasy can be damning depending on the person's level of knowledge (in Catholicism there is a notion of vincible vs. invincible ignorance which determine whether one is morally culpable). Hence in Christianity "getting to heaven" is a matter of responding rather than passing a test; and this responding is inseparable from receiving God's gift of spiritual life which is only through faith in Jesus.

Conclusion

The point of being a Christian is that through Jesus we have new spiritual life. God may give spiritual life to those who externally adhere to other religions; we just don't know for sure, since it's ultimately God's decision (see the five views above). But if we want satisfying life with God's assistance and knowledge of goodness that can come only from the true God (understood through Christianity), having spiritual life given by Jesus (not merely being good) is the answer.

Q & A

According to Catholics & Protestants, do good people from other religions go to heaven as well?

It depends whether they accept God's offer of spiritual life through Jesus. Depending on the view, God may offer them a choice beyond normal evangelism. Other people's fate is not our business. You and I have heard the gospel (we can read it in the Bible) and it's up to you and I to respond. We don't live in a place where evangelism is prohibited; if you know good people you care about, you can share the gospel with them and let them decide for themselves. Beyond that, this decision is truly between them and God.

If they do, what's the point in being a Christian?

As I demonstrated above, the Christian religion is the only one to offer spiritual life coming from God, enabling one to live a more fulfilling life. It's your choice.

However, what we do know for absolutely sure is that there are literally only 3 choices he has. He can either punish them, which makes him cruel, or he can offer them a chance in the afterlife, which can be divided into two choices. He can punish them a little and offer them paradise, or he can not punish them and offer them paradise. If it's the 1st choice, then he must be unjust. If the 2nd, then there's no reason to remain a Christian. There's no reason to remain a Christian because the person who spent his life on Earth praying and worshipping to Jesus and the person who spent all that time doing something else, can both enter heaven without punishment (or the same punishment).

God is just because He offers us love by coming to the dump where we go astray from Him (the place of sinners where the Pharisees didn't want to go). Don't you see? We go astray, God comes to fetch us. He already did above and beyond what we deserve. How can you say God is not just? Please, please, read Isa 53, especially verse 6: "All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him [Jesus] the sins of us all." Then read Romans 3:21-26 especially verse 26: "he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

You make it sound as if praying and worshipping Jesus is a burden! In Christianity, praying and worshipping is a response to the love God has given us. If you feel it's a burden to the point that you want to go to another religion, maybe you understand worshipping wrongly, which is an option you didn't mention.

No mainstream denomination requires you to believe one of the 5 views. How God will punish the unevangelized is NOT revealed. We are free to choose a view we are comfortable with. I myself go with Inclusivism. However, God's love IS revealed adequately, and on this basis we have a moral choice to make. Do you accept God's love right now for our benefit? That's the real choice.

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  • I haven't read your entire answer, but straight off the bat, I don't believe that all religions offer the same way of salvation, nor do I believe that I know as much as an all-knowing God does. I do not have an opinion on the third question, but it must not be a grading system like the one that you mentioned because in a way it incentivizes people to not be as good as they can. However, I do believe that ultimately, there are only two choices. Punishment, or no punishment.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:37
  • Good answer and yes, we don't know for sure what God will do. We don't know if he will punish good people who were non-believers on Earth, or if he won't. However, what we do know for absolutely sure is that there are literally only 3 choices he has. He can either punish them, which makes him cruel, or he can offer them a chance in the afterlife, which can be divided into two choices. He can punish them a little and offer them paradise, or he can not punish them and offer them paradise. If it's the 1st choice, then he must be unjust. If the 2nd, then there's no reason to remain a Christian.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:46
  • [CONT] There's no reason to remain a Christian because the person who spent his life on Earth praying and worshipping to Jesus and the person who spent all that time doing something else, can both enter heaven without punishment (or the same punishment).
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:48
  • @Lona I respond to your comments in the Q&A section of my answer. You keep mentioning punishment. The gospel is not about punishment, but God's offer of love. I recommend trying to see things from a different perspective. Otherwise you are stuck with the limited number of choices that you yourself create! Oct 19 at 11:30
  • 1
    @Lona it may also be worth diving into the idea of invincible ignorance here, since this is very relevant to the Catholic part of your question. I see that GratefulDisciple added a short note mentioning it, but more information can be found here. This is a good article by Jimmy Akin, a popular Catholic apologist, getting into the finer details on invincible ignorance, what it is and isn't, who qualifies for it, etc.
    – jaredad7
    Oct 19 at 17:15
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Many denominations do teach that those that don't follow Jesus will be punished, even though it is through no fault of their own.

On the other hand, some denominations teach that everyone will be given a chance at salvation, even those that died without ever hearing the name Jesus.
For a perspective of that view, you might want to read booklets such as: Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? | United Church of God.

In particular, the chapter "Will a Loving God Punish People Forever in Hell?":


God is a God of love who does not want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (verse 45). Yet the traditional view of hell would have us believe that God vengefully torments evil people for all eternity—not a few decades or even centuries, but for an infinite length of time.

The idea that God sentences people to eternal punishment is so repulsive that it has turned some away from belief in God and Christianity.

Other aspects of the traditional teaching of hell simply offend the senses. One such belief is that righteous people, who are saved, will be able to witness the torments of the wicked. As one author explains the view some hold, "part of the happiness of the blessed consists in contemplating the torments of the damned. This sight gives them joy because it is a manifestation of God's justice and hatred of sin, but chiefly because it provides a contrast which heightens their awareness of their own bliss" (Walker, p. 29).

This scenario is especially revolting for several reasons. According to such twisted reasoning, parents would inevitably witness the suffering of their own children and vice versa, relishing in it. Husbands and wives would feel joy in seeing unbelieving spouses tortured forever. Worst of all, the doctrine paints God as sadistic, cruel and merciless.

Those who insist that the Bible teaches eternal torment by fire should ask whether such a belief is consistent with what the Bible teaches us about God. For example, how could God justly deal with those who have lived and died without having ever received an opportunity to be saved? This would include the millions who died as babies as well as the billions of unbelievers or idolaters who lived and died never knowing God or His Son. Regrettably, the vast majority of all those who have ever lived fall into this category.

It goes on to explain that those that aren't saved during this age, the vast majority of mankind, will eventually be resurrected and given their opportunity for salvation. This is not a "second chance", and it's certainly not the "free pass" that you are asking about.

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  • The denoms that believe all good people who were non-believers on Earth will be punished, worship a cruel God. The denoms who believe God gives good non-believers a chance in the afterlife but with some punishment, worship an unjust God. The denoms who believe God gives good non-believers a chance in the afterlife without any punishment, have no reason to remain Christian. They can be Atheists, spend all their prayer time however they want, and still get a chance in the afterlife to enter paradise.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:29
  • That is my argument. I fail to see how there's any other choice. Even a perfectly just, all-good being is bound by those three choices. I don't want to believe that my all-good God punishes people who were born into other religions who choose to stick to their religion. Thus I believe that only the last choice is in line with a just God, but then I don't have a reason to remain a Christian on Earth.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:33
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    @Lona Having read many comments, and particularly your one, "Whatever your answer is, it will boil down to these three choices..." I have to express dismay at how arguments are resulting. This is not what this site is for. Many Protestants would quote Rev.14:6-12 for, no matter how any group interprets it, the everlasting gospel is proclaimed to all mankind before Jesus returns to pour out God's wrath, including eternal fire and brimstone on those who refuse to fear God but who bear Satan's mark of his name, not for being born into another religion.
    – Anne
    Oct 19 at 11:51
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    @Lona, why is punishment is necessary? Someone that died in South America three thousand years ago had no chance of salvation. When they are physically resurrected at the end of the Millennium, a loving God will teach them the truth, giving them their chance to understand and accept salvation. Why would they deserve any punishment during this process? Whether they were "good" or "bad" during their first life is irrelevant so long as they finally accept God's way of life. God is a god of forgiveness, not of vindictiveness. See parable Oct 19 at 12:10
  • @RayButterworth "Someone that died in South America three thousand years ago had no chance of salvation" Many Christians believe that someone who died three thousand years ago already got their chance at salvation when Jesus died, descended into the afterlife, and then rose again.
    – nick012000
    Oct 19 at 12:20
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I'm not sure why somebody gave Matthew a -1 because his perspective is generally what is taught in Lutheran or Episcopal churches. The only thing I would add, and it is something that would probably get some disagreement among clergy, is what Jesus was really saying when he said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." Given what I know about scripture, which is fairly significant, this could be interpreted as saying, "The ONLY way to get to heaven is by believing in me." (This begs the question as to what is meant by belief.) Or, it could be interpreted as Jesus saying, "The rivers that lead back to God ALL must flow through me." These are not the same thing.

In the former interpretation, Christianity is the only way. This is how most of the Christian world interprets this verse. I don't subscribe to this for what I believe are the intent of the OP's questions. Yes, it seems duplicitous for God to love everyone yet punish those who never had Christianity. And God is NEVER duplicitous. We might not understand, but He is perfectly consistent.

So I adopt the latter interpretation (there could be others) because it is in line with the rest of the New Testament that Jesus is the arbiter of salvation for our souls. If we put our faith is in things of this world, no matter how many times we claim to believe in Jesus or how "good" or "moral" our behavior might be, our faith is in something other than God. But if we put our trust in God, and follow His will whenever we can discern it, it doesn't matter if one is Christian, Jew, or Muslim because Jesus is still the arbiter of faith and God is our master. I guess I would say that when Jesus said He is the bread of life, he was saying that his word is nourishment for all, even if they don't really know how it works.

Imagine you are looking through a window and you can see the outside world. There are many different ways you can look through that window, but you still see the same outside. Jesus is like the pane of glass that stands between humans on one side, and God on the other. The light from our side is our faith and the light from God's side is God's will and understanding. God's light still comes through the window no matter who is looking through it or what color the window is. If one is aware of the window, it makes it easier to understand that our perception of God is controlled by the window. If one is not aware of it, the window still works, but it is more difficult to understand why we are separated from God or how to discern God's true will. The light from our side is entirely dependent upon our faith that there is a window, that the window is our salvation and our path to God, and that we can never open the window by our own effort. If our faith is weak, or if we think we can open it ourselves, we will never get through the window. This isn't a perfect analogy, but it might help.

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  • So following God's will is doing good, helping others, loving your neighbour, etc, and you can do all those while being an Atheist too, so the religion on Earth really doesn't matter, does it?
    – Lona
    Oct 20 at 6:46
  • @lona What you are saying is that relativism should be the norm. Relativism is the sin of our age!
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 20 at 14:51
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As a protestant, I must emphatically say that no, almost no protestant (or Catholic I would think) would say that anyone from a different religion can be saved, as Jesus said in John 14:6 - "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.". The possible exception is those who are completely unreached, but I do not believe they can be saved either and will answer assuming such.

Having said that, why worship God if He punishes those people? Because He is God and is worthy of worship. We may not understand why He does things exactly the way He does, but nor should we expect to understand the thoughts of an omniscient, omnibenevolent, infinite, omnipotent being. These things we might not understand do not change the things we do understand and know to be true. A peasant who says to a king "I don't understand why you're making me pay taxes, so I'm not going to acknowledge you as king" will only find himself in a lot of trouble - the king is still the king regardless of what one of his subjects thinks.

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  • The king is still king and God is still God. But in this case, the king is cruel and unjust. He didn't bother to explain to the peasant why he has to pay taxes. That's my point. God can decide to punish or not punish non-believers who lived a good life helping and loving others, but if he does punish them, it makes him cruel.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:50
  • Also, how do you live peacefully knowing that your omniscient, omnibenevolent, infinite, omnipotent God is going to punish every single person you talk to who isn't a Protestant, whether it is because they were born and raised into a family of another religion, or whether it is because they read about something bad that had to do with protestants, or whether it is because they thought spending prayer time to actually go out and help others was better than praying? And isn't your God also pretty much punishing the billions of people who was born before Martin Luther
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 7:55
  • 1
    @Lona the king doesn't owe the peasant an explanation of what the taxes are for, nor does God owe us an explanation of why He chose to create a world where so many would reject him and yes, be punished. To say this makes him cruel or unjust requires a significant burden of proof, I and many others would say that His punishment of sinners is in fact just. No-one is forced to sin, even if they haven't heard the Gospel. This is why evangelism is such an important focus of the church, to reach those who have not been reached. Oct 19 at 8:52
  • The king not owing the peasant an explanation doesn't make the king just. Can the king order something without explaining why he chose to do so? Yes. Is he kind and just in doing so? No.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 9:07
  • No-one is forced to sin - I literally talked about good people who don't believe in Christ while they are on Earth mate. You can't sin if you don't know what you're doing is wrong. Anyway, none of this gives any answer to my question.
    – Lona
    Oct 19 at 9:09
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According to Catholics & Protestants, do good people from other religions go to heaven as well? If they do, what's the point in being a Christian?

According to Catholicism, people of others religions may go to heaven, if they follow the commands of their consciences, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church.

Some Protestants believe it is possible for non-christians to be saved, while other do not.

Being baptized makes us members of the Community of Saints and opens more doors to sanctifying grace, which itself helps purify our souls and raises the amount of individual glory our souls will receive when we enter heaven.

The Sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give us grace. These graces help us to remain faithful to the Gospel and aid us to become greater saint in this world and the next. This is something that non-Christian do not have. Thus it remains naturally harder for the unbaptized to save themselves. Nevertheless, it remain possible, if they live a just life and obey the natural law that is inscribed on the hearts of all mankind.

Catholics who loose their friendship with God through their own fault (sin) may go to confession to restore themselves to God’s grace. This is something that some non-Catholics and all non-Christians may not benefit from. The Orthodox think similarly on this issue of sacramental confession.

Can non-Christians be saved? What about those who have never heard of Jesus, or the Gospel?

Various Christian denominations and individuals have diverse views about the fate of persons who are not saved by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior during their lifetime. These include those:

Very Conservative Protestant Theologians: Most Fundamentalists and many other Evangelicals continue the Restrictivist beliefs taught by traditional Christianity. They believe that each verse in the Bible is without error (as originally written). They are compelled to follow the writings of Paul and the author of the Gospel of John. Those authors appear to have written consistently that only believers reach Heaven. Non-believers will go to Hell. One result of this belief is the list that the Southern Baptist Convention occasionally prepares. It estimates the percentages of people in various states of the US who will eventually go to heaven. Their data are based on the number of Southern Baptist members, and the numbers of members of other denominations in each state. From these data, they are able to estimate the percentage in each state who are "saved."

Other Conservative Protestant Theologians, including some Evangelicals:

Many hold contrary views because of the obvious ambiguity of the Bible on this topic:

  • Agnostic: We have conflicting and/or inadequate information in the Bible and cannot reach a definitive belief about salvation. bullet

  • Inclusivism: Non-Christian believers will avoid Hell if they worship a deity of some sort, because God works through all of the world's religious faiths. Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, etc. who do not believe in a God will go to Hell.

  • Middle Knowledge: God, having infinite wisdom, knows who would have rejected the gospel if it had been presented to them. As a result, they never have had the opportunity to accept the Gospel. Those people will be transported to Hell when they die.

  • Post Mortem Evangelism: those who have never heard the gospel will be exposed to it after death and thus given the opportunity to get to Heaven. This is sometimes called Divine Perseverance.

  • Unitive Pluralism: All of the world's great religions offer salvation to their members in different ways. A knowledge and acceptance of Jesus, and the sacrifice of Jesus are not needed for a person to be saved.

  • Universal Opportunity: All those who were not saved during their lifetimes will be given a vision of the Gospel at the time of death, and will be able to accept salvation at that time.

  • Universalism: All will eventually be accepted into Heaven by some process after death. This view was historically held by the Universalist Church, one of the faith groups that formed the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Roman Catholics: One of many documents to come out of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (often referred to as "Vatican II") during the early to mid 1960s was the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church - Lumen Gentium." Chapter 1, sections 14 to 16 discuss salvation of Catholics and others. 5 An "Assessment of this Council" reads:

"5. The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church." 6

In the year 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, -- now Pope Benedict XVI -- issued a document: " 'Dominus Iesus' on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." It stated that salvation is possible to those who are not Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox. The prayers and rituals of other religions may help or hinder their believers. Some practices may prepare their membership to absorb the Gospel. However, those rituals which "depend on superstitions or other errors... constitute an obstacle to salvation." Members of other religions are "gravely deficient" relative to members of the Church of Christ who already have "the fullness of the means of salvation." More details on: salvation of non-Catholics, and on "Dominus Iesus."

Liberal Christians: The most liberal Christian faith groups generally reject the necessity of salvation. They also reject the entire concept of eternal punishment in Hell for anyone - saved or unsaved.

Placing people in Hell because they have not heard the Gospel (and thus have not accepted it) is viewed as profoundly immoral. It is reminiscent of some of the Spanish Conquistadors who would enter a Native town in the New World during the 16th century, give a speech in Latin demanding that the people become Christians and lay down their weapons. The townspeople would be given an hour to make up their minds, the Conquistadors would then exterminate the townspeople (men, women, and children) for not acting on the demands. Not knowing Latin, the Natives hadn't the foggiest idea what the soldiers were asking of them. If we view this type of act by humans as completely immoral, how could we expect it of an all-loving God whose ethical standard is conceived as being so much higher than ours?

Many, perhaps most, people belong to a particular faith group because they were brought up in the faith group of their parents. So, Evangelical children will almost all be "saved" whereas children of very liberal Christian families or children of Muslim families will remain "unsaved". Most liberals would consider it unreasonable to expect an all-loving God to send the latter to Hell for the simple reason that their parents were from the wrong denomination.

In the end, being a professed and baptized Christian increases God’s glory and our own for eternity. Some exceptions may exist and I do not doubt some may exist, only God knows. A likely one would be dying to save another’s life or hiding https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RelativismChristians in times of persecution by non-believers.

We must not as Christians fall into relativism.

In April 2005, in his homily during Mass prior to the conclave which would elect him as Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger talked about the world "moving towards a dictatorship of relativism":

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Ephesians 4, 14). Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching", looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.

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  • So.. If you're not a professed and baptized Christian, you won't be able to increase God's and your glory for eternity? Is that not a bit unfair don't you think?
    – Lona
    Oct 20 at 6:42
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    @Lona We do not make the rules. About being unfair, we can ask God about that later! Being in Christian and belonging to his Church is more pleasing to him than being a Pagan or Muslim. It stands to reason; the truth shall set you free. Christian must not fall into relativism.
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 20 at 14:31
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(Disclaimer: This answer is from a Protestant perspective and may not fully address the Catholic perspective.)

Huh. It seems like most of the answers are missing an important facet of the questions being asked.

Do Catholics & Protestants believe that God lets morally good people from other religions go to heaven? Do good people practicing Islam and Hinduism go to heaven?

Of course He does! All zero of them are in Heaven!

Your question starts with a flawed premise, which is that there are "good" people (Christian, or otherwise). There are none.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

There is none who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:3)

All, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin [...] None is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:9-10)

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8)

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3)

The purpose (well, one purpose, but I won't go into the whole curb/mirror/guide lesson) of the Law is to show that everyone is sinful. God is Just in condemning everyone to eternal punishment, even Christians. Even Abraham, Moses, and David.

For further reading, see also Wikipedia's article (and any other) on Original Sin.

In His mercy, however, God sent His Son to suffer the punishment for sin in our place, so that, by faith, we might be forgiven and spared the punishment we justly deserve. Christianity is about knowing and accepting this Grace, and it is the only way one can be saved.

For by grace you have been saved through faith [...] not a result of works (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We are saved not because we are "good" (we aren't!), but by faith, and this is seen even in the OT. Abraham was not righteous in and of himself; rather, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3). Those that trust in God are saved, by faith, not by being "good".

How, then, does a Bhuddist know or trust in God? How would they come to faith in God's promise through Christ?

[Jesus said] "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Everyone who believes in [Jesus Christ] receives forgiveness of sins through His name (Acts 10:43)

If there were truly a human without sin, that person would indeed have no need of Christ's atonement. (I'd point out that such a person would necessarily be Jewish anyway, because belief in any other religion would be a violation of the First Commandment and therefore sinful. And they'd have to perfectly keep the entire Jewish law.) Aside from Christ, however, no such person exists, has ever existed, or will ever exist.

We are not saved because we are "good". No one is "good". We are saved because we trust in God (and Christ). If your faith is in Hinduism, or in "Allah", or in whatever else, you are putting your trust in something besides Christ, which has no power to save, and God will (according to non-Universalists, anyway) justly judge you accordingly.

Naturally, most religions claim the power of salvation. Here's a fun experiment, however: how many teach that you, by your own power, are utterly helpless and that it is only by the intercession of someone else that you can be saved? If the answer is "one" (Christianity), might that uniqueness have some deeper meaning, perhaps attesting to the veracity of that unique religion over all others?

I would highly commend you to read through the NT, starting, perhaps, with Romans, and also to have a look around at some other articles on Sola Gratia. Understanding the underlying flaw in your question will hopefully help you to also understand its answer.

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  • I'm sorry, my previous comment was rude. This answer doesn't address the full scope of the question, which asks about Protestants & Catholics. This only gives one kind of Protestant view, and doesn't talk about the Catholic view of the question at all.
    – jaredad7
    Oct 19 at 17:20
  • @jaredad7, no worries about the prior comment, it was a fair observation. Feel free to suggest how it can be revised? When I read the question, especially the edits, there is a clear issue of the OP assuming that "good" people exist, and the rest of the question results from that (unbiblical) assumption. Thus, it seemed the best way to answer was to address that underlying flaw. (I'm not Catholic; do Catholics not believe in universal sin? Despite all the bible passages describing it?)
    – Matthew
    Oct 19 at 17:22
  • It depends what we mean by good. Everything that exists is good insofar as it exists (because God doesn't do evil things; He would not make something that is not good). Augustine expounds on this in the enchiridion, and probably elsewhere. Further, those who through baptism are renewed by God are really good, because they have a true infusion of grace, so long as they do not fall back into sin, and that same real sanctifying grace is restored to them through confession if they do fall. Those who are unevangelized may choose a baptism of desire (another Augustinian concept) and thus be saved.
    – jaredad7
    Oct 19 at 17:27
  • That's the Catholic view. And yes, we believe in original sin. We believe baptism removes original sin and confession removes subsequent mortal and venial sin, with the other sacraments and certain sacramentals removing venial sin. Since that sin is removed, those who are restored via the sacraments are made good by God.
    – jaredad7
    Oct 19 at 17:29
  • @jaredad7, fair enough. I added a disclaimer, though I think we're also to some extent quibbling semantics. Creation was Good before the fall. I don't imagine you're saying that e.g. cancer is "good". In any case, I think we agree that non-Christians are inherently not "good", which is the more important argument. Catholics, IIUC, might place more emphasis on the organs of the Church as necessary for salvation, but in any case, I think we agree that no one is saved outside of "Christianity", for whatever particular bits thereof we hold as essential.
    – Matthew
    Oct 19 at 17:38

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