Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The futures market for souls

Great news Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jainists, Zoroastrians, practicers of voodoo, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans, worshippers of Greek/Roman Gods and even atheists like me—Americans seem to be coming around on the notion that ethics (actions) are more important than morals (beliefs).

As Charles Blow wrote in the NYTimes recently ... In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.

Blow summarizes the main point of the survey as people saying that as long as people act ethically, they will be rewarded in the afterlife. Naturally, there was some resistance to the findings.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

As a longtime atheist (since college, and was questioning loooooooong before that, ironically since my counselor at Evangelical Christian summer camp after fifth grade told me that all non-Born Again Christians burn in Hell), I took this as good news. Not that I want some eternal salvation or paradise that I don't believe exists. But rather that my lifestyle won't necessarily be rejected out of hand as one that is lacking something fundamental in the composition of a good human.

I hope someday to see a President who doesn't say God Bless America. But I have a feeling that a mixed race lesbian who allies herself with Islam and whose parents were born in Russia and the Iran has a better chance of being elected president of the United States than an avowed atheist.


Another good read, is this story by a writer in Los Angeles who writes about the time he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.


And no matter what you believe in, please extend your best and most hopeful thoughts to the Gaza Strip, Israel, Palestine, and to everyone who makes decisions affecting the people who live there. Those who side with violence will never be right, but all who side with Peace shall never be wrong.

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