Saturday, September 18, 2010

Q&A: Will My Agnostic Husband Go to Heaven?

Question: I’m so glad I found you on your You Tube channel. Your program has been inspirational to me.
I have been a Christian my whole life and I do believe in Heaven. My husband doesn't really believe in God. He believes that there may be a God but he isn't sure. It honestly worries me that he doesn't have full faith in God, and that he may not make it into Heaven. I'm not really sure how that works, or what it will take to show him that God really does exist. Do you have any advice on this?
- W.M.

Answer: My first response to people of faith who want to convert their loved ones to a life of faith is: Would you appreciate your agnostic or atheist friends trying to take your faith away from you? People who don’t share our religious vocabulary still have values, and they cherish their values. They probably don’t appreciate having their values insulted anymore than we religious types do. So, in the spirit of the Golden Rule, if we wouldn’t want people to take our religion from us, then we might not want to take their contentment with a lack of religion from them.

Now, that being said, we certainly want to make our religious communities as relevant, as empowering, as optimistic, as loving, and as welcoming as possible. As we do that, people from all kinds of religious and philosophical backgrounds will find themselves attracted to us. And then if and when they embrace our kind of faith, it is a personal decision that was in no way coerced, and one that they can feel good about having made for themselves.

Finally, I have to admit my bias in all of this. I am a humanist and a universalist. By that I mean I have a high anthropology (I do not believe that people are innately depraved and can only be “saved” from their depravity by religious means) and I believe that the divine Spirit (“in which we live and move and have our being”) rejects no one for any reason. I can’t believe that anyone is eternally damned, especially for what their opinions in life happened to be!

My faith is in the universal power of divine Love which seeks to heal our loneliness, despair, and degradation (in this life) and which excludes none of us (in this life or beyond) for any reason. I’m sure your husband believes in beauty, in love, in hope, in compassion, in kindness, in justice, in joy…in all the Goodness that I believe God is. He may not call that Goodness God, but “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet” (Shakespeare). Whether or not your husband believes in God, I am certain that the infinite Love that I call God believes in your husband. And isn’t that enough?

--Rev. Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv, DMin
Sunshine Cathedral