If there is a Heaven, and I believe 100% that there is - will believers have an advantage over atheists in getting into Heaven?
I am inclined to think not!
One of the most meaningful parts of the New Testament for me is where Jesus describes the exact questions people will be asked on arrival at the Pearly Gates:
1. Did you feed the hungry?
2. Did you give the thirsty a drink?
3. Did you clothe the naked?
4. Did you c are for the sick?
5. Did you visit the sick?
6. Did you welcome strangers?
He goes on to say that those who answer yes will go to Heaven and the others to eternal loss.
And of course, you don't have to have a religious faith to do all above.
In fact, some of the best people I've ever met were atheists and some of the most unkind were religious.
What is the point then in having a faith and a relationship with God?
The point of believing in God and having a relationship with him is Heaven begins for you in this world rather than having to wait until after you die. Excuse the technicalities but the theologians call it "realised eschatology" as opposed to "futuristic eschatology". You're Heaven begins here.
Heaven is not about marble palaces or big reunions. It's about enjoying and experience intimacy with God. That can begin here - as many believers, saints and especially mystics have experienced.
What then about Hell- punishment for wrong and evil?
We Christians believe in Hell because Jesus taught it.
Traditionally Hell was thought of as eternal burning forever.
But of course, Heaven and Hell exist in the spiritual realm and experiences there will be of a super spiritual nature that includes, exceeds and magnifies infinitely both our physical and spiritual experiences in the human realm.
That's why the Bible says "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, of the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love him.
While Heaven is and will be the inexplicable experience of Divine intimacy Hell will be the inexplicable experience of being deprived of Divine Intimacy.
That may not sound like much of a deal now as on earth our capabilities of experience and deprivation are quite limited.
It will be different in the eternal realm when our capabilities have been raised to a now unimaginable level.
Of course, God may never allow ANYONE to perish?
We speak of him as having infinite forgiveness and compassion.
We cannot hardly imagine infinite anything.
In 1994 I wrote a personal creed:
A PERSONAL CREED
Bishop Pat Buckley
I believe that in this world it is impossible to understand God.
I believe that God made this wonderful universe and all that exists.
I can find God in nature, in animals, in birds and the environment.
I believe that God made all men and women,
That He made them all equal,
And that He loves and cherishes them all equally.
I believe that the whole human race is the family of God.
I believe that there may be intelligent life on other planets
And if so, they too are part of God’s family.
I hold that religion and faith are two different things,
That religion can be both good and bad
And that it is spirituality that counts.
For me your religion is an accident of your birth
Or a gift of God’s great providential diversity.
There is no one true church.
All churches and all religions contain aspects of the truth.
But only God is truth.
No man is infallible.
A Buddhist or a good atheist is as acceptable to God as a good Catholic.
I believe that sex is good and so is the body.
The only sexual act that is sinful is the one that uses or abuses.
I believe in people, especially suffering people.
I believe in the power of weakness.
I believe that all men and women will be saved.
I believe in a packed Heaven and an empty Hell.
And even Satan might get another chance.
I believe in the freedom of God’s sons and daughters.
I believe that dogma is often evil.
I believe that life is a journey towards God
And that no one has the right to insist that you go a certain road.
I believe that God and reality are too big for my poor words.
I believe therefore that I am only at a beginning.
Only knocking at a door.
And I believe that the best is yet to come.
In the meantime, both atheists and believers, for different reasons, and with different motivations, need to make the here and now as much like the here after as possible.
In that way, there are no losers - from the philosophical and spiritual perspectives.