A few months ago I conducted a totally legit scientific poll* of my Facebook friends. I asked a simple question to my friends of faith: “Let’s assume that god exists, but he exists in a different form from what you believe. What do you think this means for your afterlife if you are wrong about which religion is true?”
*I might stretch the truth a little here.
I left the question open for interpretation, hoping to get answers from people of all faiths. I don’t have many Hindu friends, so I received no answers from them. All of the answers came from Christians and Muslims. I won’t post all of the answers, but here’s one that sums up the general consensus amongst all of those who responded to my question:
This answer is interesting because of what it omits: punishment. Christianity and Islam both promise eternal hellfire for not believing. Yet when I asked my question, both Christians and Muslims alike threw punishment out the window and focused instead on god’s compassion toward people, their works, and their hearts.
In other words, the people who responded to my question saw their alternate vision of god as a being who is nothing like their religions’ descriptions. They saw a god of truly unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness–a god not plagued by petty human emotions such as greed, jealousy, and anger. They saw a god who would welcome them to the afterlife with opened arms, even if they rejected his teachings. Everyone agreed that if they are wrong god will forgive them.
So that leaves the question: Why can’t they give up their religions and worship that god instead?