Despite the Vatican walking back Pope Francis’ message to non-believers everywhere that good deeds will ensure their paths to heaven, it seems like a vast majority American Catholics, and a smaller majority of American protestants, agreed with him:
YouGov also found that as a whole, Americans stand at 63 percent believing that heaven is open for all regardless of what religion they belong to – or don’t belong to. Still, piggybacking off the chart above, their findings were a little troubling when protestants got into the mix:
Interestingly, among Christians, Catholics are much more likely than Protestants to say that other people can go to heaven. Only 9% of Catholics say that non-Catholics cannot go to heaven, compared to 33% of Protestants who think that non-Protestants cannot go to heaven. Among Christians who describe themselves as born again, 37% say that heaven is shut to people who disagree with them.
I think Hertzberg perfectly encapsulates the core issue behind this debate:
Something that has always puzzled me is the stated belief of some Christians in a God who is simultaneously (a) good, kind, forgiving, etc., and (b) capable of condemning people who lead virtuous lives to eternal torment (or even some lesser punishment) solely because they do not happen to believe He exists; or because they do believe He exists but decline to accord Jesus the status of supernatural savior, personal or otherwise; or because they regard the Bible as an admirable collection of folktales but no more divinely authored than any other purportedly sacred text or, for that matter, than the works of Shakespeare or the music of Mozart; or because they do not agree with this or that tenet of a particular religion.