When I think about what Christianity entails, I often find that it very much strains my credulity. If Christianity (at least the version popular with most Catholics and Protestants) is true then it seems rather befuddling to me that faith, particularly the belief that a particular god-man named Jesus died for your sins, would be the fundamental criteria by which we are judged worthy of heaven (yes, I know, Catholics also believe you also must not have any unconfessed mortal sins.) Allow me elaborate.
Regardless of what you personally believe about Christianity, there is a problem in that the vast majority of people will never convert to another major religion during their lifetime. Sure, people may switch from Catholic to Protestant, and vice versa, but a switch from Christianity to Hinduism, or Islam to Christianity, would seem much more rare than simply changing denominations within a religion. The differences aren’t that big. Basically, once you hit adulthood your religious views become much less malleable then when you were a child. Virtually all of the growth of Christianity, Islam, and every other religion, happens not because of converts, but because children adopt the religion of their parents. While there are definitely exceptions to this, very few people convert to away from the religion in which they were raised.
In light of that fact, it would seem that having the criteria of “believed Jesus died for your sins” when you died as the only way to be enter heaven would seem to be extraordinarily unfair. It essentially gives a massive head-start advantage to those who were born to Christian parents, and puts a huge systemic barrier on those who are born to parents who are not Christian. If Christianity is true then it would seem to be that those born into other faith traditions are born setup to fail. If the vast majority of Muslims and Hindus (which account for almost 3 billion people) have made the wrong “choice” and will stick with that religion until they die, and God creates all of us, then God has created them to fail. Why would God make it so much easier for some people to fail, and so much harder for others? If Christianity is true then how many people have been condemned simply because they learned the wrong things from their parents? This isn’t simply a matter of “the path is narrow”, it’s that the path is obscured by human nature and that we learn our religious beliefs from our parents. Sins of the father indeed.
I see one possible way out of this, but it also has its own problems: God could simply save whoever it wants, by giving incorrect believers what they need to convincing them about Jesus as they die, but why take the extra step? The main problem here is that God could simply declare “I choose you to come into heaven“, and drop the whole nonsense of requiring some specific belief. If God is supposed to be sovereign, all knowing, and perfectly good, then God should be able to know who exactly is wanted in heaven without needing humans to have a belief in the first place. Alternatively, God is only putting the ones that it wants to succeed into a place where they will succeed, but then why the elaborate dog and pony show?
Ultimately, it would seem that God thinks that having faith is good, but one can ultimately hold any position by faith. One could believe that the Statue of Liberty is going to come to life one day, smite all of the evil around us, and resurrect those who believed in the values of liberty and justice. It’s really no more preposterous than what Christianity entails.