The fundamental belief of Christianity is that all who accept and believe in Jesus will go to Heaven. (Acts 16:30-1) But what about babies who die before they are baptised? They are clearly not capable of understanding Christianity or Jesus and can’t make any decisions in that regard. So the question is, do they go to Heaven? On the one had they clearly don’t meet the requirements, but on the other hand it would have to be an especially cruel God that sends innocent little babies to Hell.
This is not a small point. Infant mortality was an enormous killer until the 1950s in Ireland and still is today in the Third World. This argument could also be used for people with disabilities that prevent them from understanding religion. The Catholic Church tried to solve this by creating Limbo, a place that is neither Heaven nor Hell. However they have since declared that no such place exists.
One of Christianity’s main (and worst) beliefs is that of Original Sin. This is the belief that all humans are born sinful and terrible. It is only true Jesus that this can be washed away and they can become pure and good. Those that do not accept Jesus remain dirty and go to Hell. I personally find it atrocious that anyone could look at a newborn baby and see a degenerate creature. The reason for this is particularly absurd, being based on a ridiculous fictional story (Adam and Eve). The idea that all humanity is punished for the eating of an apple is so daft it’s hard to believe anyone can believe it with a straight face. Apparently the Church doesn’t see why collective punishment is wrong.
Let’s say babies go to Heaven. Why? The main reason is because God is described as full of love. It would be a truly heartless bastard that would send innocent babies to eternal torture in Hell. If god loves us all then he will surely forgive babies (especially as they have done no wrong). The problem with this argument is that it is based neither on the Bible nor on Church teaching. The Bible and the Church repeatedly say that it is only through baptism that you can go to Heaven. Apologists regularly ignore Original Sin, which essentially says we are guilty until proven innocent, a chance babies don’t have. God never said there were any buts or exceptions, only those who believe in Jesus go to Heaven. It is bizarre that the Bible never addresses this point, especially as infant mortality was extremely high when it was written. Apologists say there is little to suggest babies don’t go to Heaven, but there is equally little to suggest they do.
If they do get to go to Heaven, this raises another problem. If babies can go to Heaven without belief, can everyone else also get in? Can Atheists like myself? If they can go to Heaven then there seems little need for faith at all. There is no need to pray or read the Bible or be a Christian. The whole foundations of the Churches would be gone. Most Protestant churches have the Lutheran principle of “Faith by Salvation Alone”. This clearly rules out babies going to Heaven and if it didn’t it would render the Church meaningless.
One defence I have heard is based on free will. It is argued that non believers don’t go to Heaven because they rejected Jesus, whereas babies have not. This views Heaven as a place where you opt out of rather than somewhere you have to earn a place in. This argument flies in the face of everything the Bible, Jesus and Church says and has many problems, but let’s run with it. Let’s say babies can go to Heaven because they never heard of Jesus, so therefore could not reject him. Then why does the Church have missionaries? Surely these people were (like babies) destined for Heaven for the same reason (they never heard of Jesus, therefore could not reject him).
If you could get to Heaven through ignorance, then surely we should burn every Bible, close down all the churches and fire every priest. If no one knows about Jesus, then no one can reject him, then all of us, adults and children, can go to Heaven.
However, that’s not possible (if it was the Church would have no power and wouldn’t that be awful?). The Church says you must know about Jesus, be baptised, undergo various ceremonies and obey the Church’s rules. Otherwise you can’t go to Heaven. So basically, we are back at square one. Essentially, if you follow any argument that would allow babies to go to Heaven, it eventually becomes self-contradictory.
There is also a somewhat disturbing conclusion that can be drawn from God sending babies to Heaven. If this is so, then we should rejoice every time a baby dies. They are now in a state of eternal bliss without having the delay of life on Earth. Many of them would not have even got to Heaven had they lived life. There is a similar argument made in response to the claim that aborted foetuses go to Heaven. If this is true then surely abortions are a good thing. Likewise if babies go to Heaven, then infant mortality is a good not a bad thing. Christians should aim to have it as high as possible, as every baby saved is a baby denied a place in Heaven. I think the death of children is a tragedy because they haven’t seen or experienced life. If they’re guaranteed a place in Heaven then it isn’t a tragedy at all.
It seems revolting that God could send babies to Hell and most Christians refuse to believe he could do such a thing. However, God has no trouble sending non-believers to Hell. Roughly two thirds of the population of the world are not Christian. This is not out of choice, it is a simple fact that 99% of people are the religion they were born with. It seems incredibly heartless that billions of people will suffer for ever because of the luck of birth. This figure is even higher if only certain branches of Christianity go to Heaven. Then there are the people who lived and died for hundreds of thousands of years before the time of Jesus. If God can easily send them to Hell, he can send innocent babies.
This issue seems to be tangled in a knot. It would be a gross injustice for God to send babies to Hell, yet it doesn’t make sense to allow them into Heaven. I await any comments that might square this circle from a religious viewpoint.