As a child my family was very harsh on other faiths or religious philosophies, but we scoffed hardest at the universalists for teaching that “all religions lead to heaven.” Even after friending Buddhists, I still believed that universalists taught that all religious lead to heaven. Recently that changed for me when I began to see that there are many reasons someone might be attracted to universalism. Please note that I am a Christian, and I have fundamental disagreements with other religions. This post is on why I now understand that universalism is not necessarily about “all roads leading to heaven.”
First of all, heaven may not be the ultimate goal of religion. I don’t think we came to earth, so that we can go to heaven. That does not make sense. If the goal of our existence is to reach heaven, we could have just been born directly in heaven. Many religions, including a few Christians, teach that our souls had a pre-existence (see Galatians 2:20), so if that’s the case, we are actually from heaven and are just passing through earth like one big vacation (or is it one long holiday in hell?). Put simply, whether or not we had a pre-existence, we may have come to earth to learn lessons that can only be learned in the physical realm.
Secondly, for some universalists, religion may be more of a mystical guide in our lives that can be true in many religions. Universalism – at least the universalism in my mind – is not saying that all religions teach the same means to heaven or even have the same goals (clearly, western religion has much more of an obsession with heaven than the east does), but that all religions are a guide in our lives. This is true whether or not we even agree with the religion where we were born. For example, I was born in a fundamental Christian household. Today I have rejected this, but my childhood, pains and all, have served as part of my religious journey. As I said, universalism simply teaches that we are passing through this earth, and acknowledges that this world, and the energy and fruits of it, is shaping and forming all of us on that journey.
Thirdly, for some universalists, religion helps people deal with the battle within. We all came to earth for some reason, or perhaps there was no reason. Either way, we were seemingly thrown into space and time. Religion simply helps people deal with this. It helps people deal with their ego, and helps gives their souls and spirits a sense that we are just passing through earth. Different religions have different answers. Some of our ideas are wrong, and some of them are right (even atheists can agree that loving your neighbor is important). Some of our stories are literally true, and some are only metaphorically true. A univeralist would argue that some of us were born Buddhists, and Buddhism will guide us on our journey. Some of us were born Christian, and Christianity will guide us in our journey. Some people have changed faiths, or even concluded that it’s all a fake. For atheists their own spirits will fight through for the good of humanity.
Christian universalists believe that ultimately it’s the Christian God who will fight through, heal, and draw all people to himself. They believe that other religions have some ideas right, but not all, and that other religions have left out the most important part: the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what I believe; nevertheless, despite my firm stance that Jesus is greater than other gods, I deeply appreciate the lessons that universalism provides because it helps me understand that my enemy is not religion.
At the end of the day all roads do not lead to heaven. All roads lead us deeper into the depth of what it means to be a spiritual person hanging in space and time.