I am told that those who follow their religion as they understand it will go to heaven. Does that mean suicide bombers will be rewarded for their actions by eternal happiness?
[quote=mary tim]I am told that those who follow their religion as they understand it will go to heaven.
Let’s first re-phrase this. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
This affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”] is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation” (CCC 847).
This does not say that non-Christians who “follow their religion as they understand it” will go to heaven, only that they may go to heaven (i.e., it’s a possibility). All things being equal, a Catholic has a greater chance of going to heaven than a non-Catholic because he has access to the fullness of God’s revelation and to the sacraments, important aids to the Christian journey.
Can Outsiders Be Insiders?** by Fr. Peter Stravinskas
[quote=mary tim]Does that mean suicide bombers will be rewarded for their actions by eternal happiness?
Even though a person may not have access to the fullness of Christian revelation, every human being has awareness of what Catholics call natural law:
The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties: “For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense… To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely” (CCC 1956).
An injunction against murder, both of oneself and of others, is part of the natural law (cf. CCC 2070). However imperfectly individuals understand the requirements of natural law (cf. CCC 1960), each human being has an intuitive understanding that murder is a great evil. Those who choose to commit murder anyway, even if they attribute their actions to what they believe their religion to require, will be held accountable to natural law.
Does this mean that suicide bombers will go to hell? Well, suicide bombing certainly constitutes grave matter. Only God can determine if those who commit such heinous actions have the requisite full knowledge and full and free consent required for a sin to be mortal (cf. CCC 1859, 1857, 2282). We are called to hope and pray for the repose of the souls even of suicide bombers, because it is possible that, if the grave action was mortal sin, it was repented before final death (CCC 2283).