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Question 76.

I have a number of friends who do not believe in any sort of religion at all but all are good people so what happens to their souls ? Do they go to Heaven?

 

Answer to Question 76.

 

Many say that everyone outside of the Church will be condemned to spend eternity in Hell and that there is no salvation outside of the Church. Can we really believe that God as the loving Father we continually portray and praise will allow the great majority of his children to suffer the fires of hell for all eternity. This is a very western image of God who is often portrayed as a punishing God. It is true that salvation can only be found in the Orthodox Church, but when we talk of salvation we always mean perfect salvation which is deification. Only Baptism in the Orthodox Church gives us the ability to become deified. Using the example of eyesight mentioned earlier we can use this to help us to understand how other people can participate in the divine light although not as fully as an Orthodox person. Every man is born with an illuminated nous (mind and soul) which as the child grows becomes darkened through the passions and sin. If someone lives a sinless spiritual life fighting the passions then it follows that the darkness of his eyes will slowly fade and allow him sight of the divine light. He may not be able to see as bright as someone Orthodox following a similar life, but he can still see the light even if this is dimly. Thus salvation relies on the health of one’s spiritual eyes. If they are darkened through many sins he will not be able to see the divine light and so will not be able to participate in God, but if he has struggled to cleanse himself from the passions and his spiritual eyes allow him to see even a little glow of the divine light then that means he participates in God to the level that his eyes allow him. Of course non-Orthodox always have the opportunity while still in this life to search for the ultimate truth and if they are sincere in their search, God will lead them to the Orthodox Church. Many have done this and embraced the Church while others having searched and found that the Orthodox church was indeed the only true church, but chose to remain in the church they were born into out of loyalty or some other reason.