Whatever expectations people entertain of life after death, such beliefs are generally categorized as part of their religion. Another word for religion is “faith,” and by that definition, there are many “faiths” in the world. “People of faith” (a term used for those who hold to some religious belief) are joining together in political and social action, supposedly to make a better world. President Bush originated what he calls the “Faith-Based and Community Initiative,” which recognize all “faiths” as apparently equally valid.
This cooperation to improve society for mutual benefit has brought a new tolerance for all religions, no matter how contradictory their opposing views. And here we face another anomaly: according to recent polls, a surprisingly high percentage (the majority among both Catholics and Protestants) of those who identify themselves with a particular religion nevertheless believe that many other religions, if not all, will also take their followers to whatever “heaven” they offer.
Religion is called faith because it is something most people imagine they are expected to believe, regardless of proof. Ask most religious people why they believe what they believe, and they would be at a loss to explain. More than likely, their response would be to say loyally (for some, stubbornly) something like, “I was born a Baptist, and I’ll die a Baptist”; or, “I was born a Catholic and I’ll die a Catholic,” or Methodist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist. Yet very few can give a valid reason why they believe (or don’t believe), and many are offended when asked for one.
Right here we find something very odd. As noted above, most people are less careful when it comes to eternity than they are about buying a car or checking the labels for exact ingredients of foodstuffs, or for almost anything else in this life. This is evident from the weak reasons that are usually offered by those who attempt to justify their religious faith: “I like the pastor”; or, “The choir is fantastic”; or, “The people are so friendly”; or, “It’s the closest church”; or, “They have a wonderful youth program”; or, “Some missionaries came to the door and invited us to attend and we weren’t going anywhere, so….” In view of the fact that one’s eternal destiny is at stake, it is incomprehensible that so few people really get serious about faith.