Read More »

You may also be interested in...

- Opening Our Ears to Different Voices

- Thomas Merton


Do Christians believe followers of other religions are doomed?

Written By Brooks Ramsey

Do Christians believe that followers of other religions are doomed? Some do, but others don't. Christianity consists of people who disagree diametrically on many subjects. Some take the Bible so literally that they include in God's plan only a small minority of the world's population. Other Christians, however, view Christ in a larger perspective and emphasize inclusion rather than exclusion. God is a God of love, and those who live in love know God. That is the emphasis of the First Epistle of John, "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God" (I John 4:7). I believe that Christ came to reveal to us a God who cares for all people. He constantly broke boundaries and found faith in unexpected places. In a Roman Centurion, he discovered a faith greater than any among his own people (Luke 7:1-10). In John's Gospel Jesus said, " I have other sheep which are not of this fold…" (John 10:16).

My own feeling is that Christianity is unique but it is not exclusive. Let me illustrate: A magnifying glass focused on the bare shoulder of a person can burn and burn deeply. That glass makes more intense the heat of the sun. But that sun is shining all over the world--it just burns more intensely through the magnifying glass. My belief is that God is trying to make his love known through every source possible—this includes religions other than Christian. In their religion they find a magnifying glass.

To us who are Christians, Jesus of Nazareth brings God's love to us in a way that makes us aware that we are loved and accepted and transformed. Making Christ known to people who do not know God's love is our way of pointing them to an understanding of the true character of God. Perhaps it would be helpful if people of different religions could dialogue with each other on the meaning of God's universal love for all people.

—The Rev. Dr. Brooks Ramsey

Some people believe that their religion is the only true religion, and that all other religions are heresy and their followers doomed. This belief is convenient for them, but it isn’t the way God works. Over the years of humanity’s journey, God has revealed himself in many ways. The Old Testament alone uses at least four different names for God, and it has dozens of images of God. The New Testament conveys several different accounts of Jesus’ life and what followed from his ministry.

The reason for that has to do with us. We hear different things, we see different things. Even the same event, like the crucifixion, gets remembered in different ways. That testifies both to our limitations in understanding God and to the richness and mystery of God’s being. Those who proclaim their way as the only way generally are presenting a small and narrow God.
When you add to that the many ways people perceive God outside the Jewish and Christian traditions, you realize what a vast, complex and mysterious God we worship.

In my opinion, we need to appreciate that there are many pathways to God, and that when Jesus said, “I am way, I am truth, I am life,” he probably was adding himself as another way to God, not declaring all other ways invalid.

I encourage you to reach your own conclusion. For one thing, become familiar with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and other faiths, see what they truly proclaim, see how faithful adherents of those pathways actually live. I think you will find them very similar to the ways decent Christians live.

We make God too small when we declare that only people like us can know God.

—Tom Ehrich

No. At least this Christian does not. Jesus said that He has "other sheep, too, in another fold. I must bring them also" (John 10:16). I do not know to whom He was referring. It might have been people who follow other religions, or He might have been telling us that we are not alone in the universe. Maybe He was saying both things at once.

I believe that God is calling out to ALL of us to turn to Him, regardless of our religion, race or background. It seems to me that we were created for that purpose. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for us to reach Him — the distance between Him and us is simply too great. He is the Creator of all that is. He is perfectly holy. How can we even comprehend Him?

This is where Christ comes into the picture. God understands our dilemma. He reaches out to us in many ways. He even became a man Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ bridges the enormous gulf between God and man. I believe that God's plan is for us to discover Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus experienced all of the longings, temptations, pain, suffering, loneliness, and, ultimately, death that we do. By studying his actions and words, we begin to understand God. As we draw closer to Christ, we grow closer to God.

C.S. Lewis — author of the vastly popular book Mere Christianity, among many others — said there are people who call themselves Christians who are not Christian at all; there are other "Christians" who are moving further away from Christ all the time. On the other hand, there might be Buddhists or Hindus or Jews that are sincerely seeking God through their religions. Christ said, "ANYONE who seeks, finds." I believe that all who sincerely seek God will find Him — through Christ — even if they are not aware it is happening.


Some do. As an adult searching for a place in a Christian community, I am guided by principles I retain from my early religious instruction from the friars of the Franciscan Province of Santa Barbara. Jesus did not come to exclude. I believe that being a Christian is not about separation or discrimination. Being a Christian is not about deciding who is right and who is wrong. I do not expect to find Christians among adherents to a doctrine that prescribes who is not acceptable in the eyes of God.


Recently, I had an intense discussion with a friend who is a member of a very conservative church. That church professes that only members of its congregation are going to heaven. While my friend said he did not hold this belief, I still felt he must support it somehow, even subconsciously, since he chose to be a member of the church. I passionately defended my conviction that there are many roads that lead home to God. Yet, even so, I felt cut off and a little wary of this group of people who claimed to love the same God as I do, and I looked at my dear friend with skepticism and a little fear.

After we talked, I prayed that God would bless what I'd said and my intentions. I fell asleep feeling a little sad and lonely.

That night, I dreamed of a house with many rooms. Someone was gently leading me as we flew slowly around the outside of this house. Even though the house did not appear to be very large, I never ran out of windows to look in. Through one window, I saw a conservative, literal room, through another, a room with people in turbans. In one, there were people meditating, in another no one had cut their hair. I soon realized I was looking in the windows of God's house, and we were all there. There was enough room for everyone who believed in Him, regardless of their form of worship. I also realized that we are being called to "visit" one another's rooms. Not to stay, but to appreciate another way of living in God's home.

The house had no external light source. The only light came from within. And I understood that in order for the light to reach all the dark corners in the world, all the rooms needed to turn on their lights in unison, in community. Both to light our way Home and to illuminate a path we can show others.

The dream deeply comforted me. I believe God was reassuring me that we all have a place in his home, and we are being called to come out of our rooms to mingle, to create a greater community that will shine a more brilliant light into the darkness of the world. Some may choose to stay in their own rooms with the doors tightly closed. Unaware of other rooms, they may feel theirs is the only one. Yet their room is only one room in a great big house. There is room and rooms for everyone.