The Bible is very clear as to what will happen to unbelievers. I promised to write this entry today for someone who's mother is a Buddhist, and obviously, not a believer in Christianity. This person told me, sincerely, that he is worried about the future of his mother's soul; that she will be damned.
There are a list of things that the best theologians cannot make work- the problem of evil is the main one (this goes for all religions, not Christianity in specific.) However, a glaring problem with Christianity is the conflict of an all loving god and eternal damnation. This sums it up nicely:
I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, 'If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?' 'No,' said the priest, 'not if you did not know.' 'Then why,' asked the Eskimo earnestly, 'did you tell me?'Or, more formally;
- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974
1. An all-loving, all- wise, all- powerful, god exists.
2. Hell, an eternal damnation of incomprehensible pain and suffering exists.
3. This all-loving god sends unbelievers to this damnation.
As a child, I wrestled with this. How could people I know and be subjected to this because they weren't sincere enough? Who could possibly answer this question?
Well as it turns out, I wasn't satisfied with what were considered answers. Any thinking person can conclude that these answers are complete bullshit:
I came to the conclusion that an all- loving god and the existence of hell are mutually exclusive. A god that allows ethical people to burn in hell for the simple reason they do not believe is the most evil and unjust idea that has ever been spread. This god is worse than Hitler. This god causes eternal suffering for something so trivial as non-belief. If this being exists, it is a monster- a tyrant; unworthy of devotion. I came to the conclusion that the idea of a Christian god is self-defeating; I lost my belief partially due to this. But what if you still believe in that god? What if you are worried about your loved ones?
This is probably the best response I have ever read on the subject:
Spoiler alert: The answer is "I don't know." And he is honest. You simply do not know. You cannot know. Postulating what will happen to you when in front of the master of the universe is just absurd. In order to resolve any fear that you have for your mother, you will have to generate beliefs that are not part of the Christian teaching. You will have to develop your own ways of thinking- and chances are they will separate you from the majority of Christian thought.
So let's talk about what we, as humans know, and why I find comfort in death:
Knowing what we know about the brain and consciousness, I release myself from the fear that priests and preachers have levied upon mankind for centuries. Knowledge of the universe is liberating- it teaches us not to fear. Epicurus famously proclaimed:
"Death is nothing to us. When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death there is awareness."Our minds and consciousness are the result of the arrangement of our brains. It is an emergent property of the chemistry that makes us up. When we die, our awareness goes too. We had no recollection of 'pre-birth'. I am willing to bet that we will not survive this lifetime.
For the believer, this is hard to handle; that all we have is a few good decades. But, Dale, this is the truth. We live and we die. This means that emphasis must be taken from the afterlife and placed on this life we currently have- for that is all we have. Love your mother, show her compassion. The worst thing you can do to her is use what little time she may have left and try to convert her.
Mortality is something we all face, and religion eases us into thinking that we are immortal- that a part of us will carry on. It is discomforting to know that I will never see my grandparents, friends, or relatives again. But the best thing that has ever happened to me was realize that the beauty and importance that is our mortal life.
I am sorry if I couldn't provide any answers to you. I really just wanted to give you perspective on how these problems and dilemmas can be worked out from a non-Christian worldview. I hope all goes well with you and your mom.