Posted by: nimbu | May 4, 2007

Good people don’t go to heaven

Liz wrote on my blog: “You are correct. I believe that even Gandhi cannot get into heaven because he SINNED. That’s all there is to it. No sin in heaven. If you have ever sinned, you cannot get into heaven.”

This brought back a painful, but enlightening discussion I had with a former colleague. The discussion goes kind of like this:

I asked “I’m a good guy, but I’m not a Christian, I think I’ll get into heaven.” (At the time I was a semi-practicing Muslim)

My colleague replied “No. You have to believe in Jesus to get into heaven.”

To which I replied, “But I do believe in Jesus. Muslims just don’t think he’s a god.”

“Then you can’t go to heaven.” He said, shrugging his shoulders like he was saying “too bad”.

I began to think. I asked “But what if I’m super-nice! I do a ton of good: I start charities, save lives, etc. What if I’m a heart surgeon, and all I do, day-in day-out, is save lives! Certainly I would deserve heaven.”

“Nope. You have to believe that Jesus Christ is your lord and savior. You can’t simply do good and get into heaven.”

To which I replied “So you’re telling me that 80% of the world’s population that doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell?”


At this point I’m fired up. I couldn’t believe that people like this existed. Here’s a person who clearly is a church-going, god fearing individual who believes that today, at least 4+ billion people are worthy of eternal hell. Women and children too.

I continue, “What! You’re telling me that even children that aren’t old enough to even know about Jesus are going to hell?”

“Yes. Because they haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior.”

“But they’re not old enough to know! Ok, so how about this: When Jesus was alive, there were clearly millions of Native Americans all up and down both continents. They couldn’t possibly know about Jesus; the Americas weren’t even discovered. Surely, these guys are excluded from this “savior” requirement?”

“Nope. Not even the Native Americans.”

I said “That’s a hell of a lot of people. In fact, hundreds of millions of people spanning hundreds of generations before Jesus are all going to hell? They didn’t deny Jesus – they didn’t even know he existed!”

“Look it’s simple. You have to accept Jesus before you can get into heaven. That’s it.”

“So you’re telling me that every man, woman and child that ever existed before Jesus is all going to hell? What about Abraham and Moses? They lived before Jesus.”

“That’s different.” He said as if ending the conversation. He continued to eat throughout this discussion.

I sat dumbfounded unable to finish my lunch.

Here’s Liz’s comment in its entirety:

You are correct. I believe that even Gandhi cannot get into heaven because he SINNED. That’s all there is to it. No sin in heaven. If you have ever sinned, you cannot get into heaven.

Unless…you have a mediator. Jesus takes on our sins. We no longer have to carry the weight of our sins and we become perfect in Jesus Christ. That is how we get into heaven because it is as our sins never happened. They are completely washed away.

All we have to do is believe this as I said. But…if we come into a relationship with Jesus, we realize we would not have eternal life without Him. This is what makes us turn our lives around and choose to follow Him. He saved us from death, so the least we can do is serve Him. So yes, if you murder someone and then you come to know Jesus, you will be forgiven in the sense that the sin goes away.

Just a side note: All sins are equal to God. So murder is the same as lying or lusting in God’s eyes.

Lastly, I never said God is ok with any kind of sin. He hates sin. That’s why He cannot allow anyone with sin into heaven, no matter how “good” anyone thiks they are.

So yes, God can forgive anyone of even the worst possible sin. But no, He cannot allow anyone with the least of sins into heaven.



  1. This attitude shows how many who interpret their own Bibles come to certain conclusions which eschew reason, even though God is the God of Reason. To whom much is given, much is expected, and surely we cannot believe that someone with no opportunity to see the truth would be expected by God to follow it. God is a loving and merciful God, and even if his standards are high, they would never be impossible!

  2. You capture that conversation well. I remember all too well those same conversations with the Southern Baptists I used to go to Church with. It truly is frustrating to want to find true faith in something, but the longer the search, the more discouraged you become because you know you haven’t found the answer.

    Fortunately for me, I realized that their understanding of Christ was difficult to swallow because it wasn’t true, and I found a place and a faith that has answered all of my questions. I’m in a better place than I ever was. All I can do for people like you is to hope that you find the answer for which you are searching.

    Peace be with you.

  3. Unfortunately, a great deal of people are like this. They do not realize that their faith is accidental – a function of time, geography and circumstance. Had we been born only a few centuries ago in Hawaii, we would be Hawaiian – complete with the Hawaiian pantheon of gods and goddesses. We wouldn’t be Mormon, Baptist, Buddhist or Islamic because no one knew about these bizarre beliefs. Religion does not exist in some universal constant and cannot be reasoned into existence by looking at the stars and the trees. It must be taught to you by others who were taught in much the same ways.


    if you were born only 400 years ago in the wilderness of Lake Tahoe and into the tribes of

    T H E W A S H O I N D I A N S

    Would you be a Davidian? a Lutheran? a Roman Orthodox, or a monotheist? Would you be a Mithraist? an Asatruian? a Kemetic Saint? or an Ifa African?

    No. You would be a member of the Washoe Indians who practiced shamanism and complex life cycle rituals. You would be born into one of the only societies on Earth that never experienced war or battle.

    Would you be able to know the gods and beliefs of the above religions?

    No. You would not even be aware of the existence of another continent. You world consisted of various animal gods and spirits that could be controlled or communicated through a “Medicine Man”.

    Would your parents and ancestors know of the other beliefs listed above?

    No. Your parents and your ancestors were each taught a form of the Washoe beliefs that extended far down into your people’s past. Religion is not something that can be universally concluded by looking at the sights and sounds of your environment. It must be taught to you by others who were taught in much the same ways.

    Would you feel that your Washoe beliefs were the wrong ones?

    No. You wouldn’t have any idea of the other religions that existed half a world away. You would be unaware of the concept of another entire continent outside of your own. Your world would consist of one of the most beautiful and scenic rich lands on the face of the Earth. Your shamans would provide your people with a tremendous abundance of food and crystaline waters for the entirety of your people’s history. Your shamans would also keep your people from experiencing the ugliness of war and battle until the Americans began driving the neighboring Paiute into your territories. Your beliefs, like so many today, would be the RIGHT belief according to your own perspectives.

    Do you think the Washoe Indians were born
    in the WRONG PLACE at the WRONG TIME?

    pre-1800 A.D.

    The Washoe Indian tribe lived in the Great Basin region of North America throughout the lands of Lake Tahoe just east of the Sierra Nevadas. The Washoe were expert fishermen and hunters of small game and thrived on the yearly abundance of the Great Lake Tahoe, its surrounding forests, and fresh mineral water from the constant glacial thaws. The Washoe are especially noted worldwide for their superb basketry.

    Like all North American Indians, the Washoe practiced a form of shamanism which was a very important way of life. Shamanism by far, is the Earth’s oldest religion, dating back some 30,000 years – emerging around the same time as the spoken language.

    First contact occurred in 1844 by American explorers Kit Carson and John Fremont which is said to have started off the Westard expansion of the American dream.

  4. Shucks – you’ve just stolen my thunder. 🙂 I’ve a draft post of almost the exact same title and thoughts to a degree (although purely from a Christian perspective), which I may yet post but will shelve for a good bit later.

    I would have to absolutely agree with what Liz said – however, I would clarify some of your ‘conversation’ points. I firmly believe children under the age of accountability (about 10 or so) will absolutely have immediate access to heaven – Jesus stated that fact Himself. As to the rest of us, ultimately God alone will judge each person and determine their fate, BUT all viewpoints eventually have to come down to Jesus – He was the One who stated that nobody could go to the Father but through Him, and that in order to be granted access to heaven and eternal life you HAVE to be “born again” (His words not ours!) John 3:3-7. For those who keep insisting that goodness alone in any shape or form will grant them the same access, then Jesus obviously died in vain and His sacrifice was pointless. For those who prefer not to accept His teaching on the topic, then He (to them) must have been either a liar or a lunatic and not the Son of God as He stated – you can’t have it both ways. God has ALWAYs demanded a payment for sin – death entered mankind through it, and provided Satan the role of Prince of this world – he does a superb job on deceiving many people into belief in all sorts of dangerous concepts, because his sole ethos is to destroy God’s creation – he’s going down himself and is determined to take as many of us with him as he can. Trying to use Indian tribes as part of any argument in this respect is pointless, as there are very, very few now who’ve not been touched by the gospel message at some time. As to those who die/d never having heard it, it’s solely up to God to determine their fate.

    While Christians do differ in their doctrine and manner of evangelism etc, their primary aim is to warn people of the very real danger of ignoring God in this life – once you die, it’s too late to tell Him you’re sorry and plead with Him not to send you to hell – you’ve made your choice here and that’s all He will be giving you – eternity without Him and while some think that will be bliss, it is only that to those who still have a choice. Once choice is removed, and the decision set in stone, hell will be exactly what most fear it to be – eternal torment.

    I trust many will come to better appreciate they cannot achieve anything before God in their own right, and plead for His forgiveness before their time runs out. Blessings, TKR 🙂

  5. Just chiming in to agree with Ha Tikva above, and to clarify (hopefully) the statement that “its soley up to God to determine their fate.” I agree with this… Scripture agrees with this, telling us that *all* people are w/o excuse.
    Romans 1:18-20 New Living Version

    But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the wor wascreated, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

  6. First of all, it’s important to read history books – the Bible, like all other books was written by man. Quoting scripture gets you nowhere – it is well documented that god did not author any holy book. Even the Bible, which was written decades after Jesus’ death (that is, if he actually existed).

    Second of all, and most importantly, if there was a god as angry and vindictive as you two have outlined, then I’ll take my place with Gandhi in hell.

    Thirdly, why is god fixated on us worshiping him? I read on another blog that the god of Abraham is like some alien ruler that demands sacrifices and wants us to fight each other for his pleasure. And if we don’t bow down to our alien ruler, then we’ll be punished. Your god sounds like this alien warlord that’s demanding that we kneel in front of him, otherwise we’re going to burn forever. I’d be ashamed of pushing this type of religion. It’s no better than Scientology.

    At the risk of offending: These monotheistic religions are utter nonsense. Christians and Muslims and Jews wallow in this self righteous claim to know some truth that will save only them! Ridiculous. When will we grow up and stop this nonsense!

    Long live our alien warlords (just in case)!

  7. Oh and another thing: If you like quoting scripture, may I suggest you take a close look at what’s actually in the bible:

    It says that I’m allowed to kill my son for disobeying me!
    (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

  8. Hey, Nimbu ~

    True, proof-texting using a text not universally agreed upon is going to usually going to often cause more diagreement. I was mostly responding to the idea of “well, what about the people who never heard of Christ?” The short story is that the natural speaks of the invisible.

    But, truly, upon reflection, it would have been wiser and more compassionate for me to supply gentler comments to those who are searching, yourself included.

    Please forgive my error.


  9. And please forgive my typos. 😉

  10. onlysometimesclever,

    No problem.

  11. Christians and Muslims and Jews wallow in this self righteous claim to know some truth that will save only them!

    Christianity, by definition, is not self righteous (though of course Christians may sin and act that way at times). Christianity teaches that we can never be righteous enough on our own and that we need Jesus’ perfect righteousness imputed to our account to be right with God.

    All other religions are works-based and do rely on self-righteousness.

    Here’s a person who clearly is a church-going, god fearing individual who believes that today, at least 4+ billion people are worthy of eternal hell.

    Actually, Christianity teaches that all 6.5b people are worthy of Hell but that some have accepted the pardon through faith in Christ.

    A just judge is under no obligation to pardon a guilty person.

  12. I just love the way people speak on behalf of God (if there is one) as if they met god themselves.

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