This is the continuation of an answer I gave to a friend’s email question about Christianity:
Now the question of what happens to people who are of other religions. What about the devout Muslim or Hindu? What about a villager in rural China who never heard about Jesus? Are they condemned because they haven’t received Christ as their Lord and Savior?
A strict reading of the verses I quoted above would say yes. However, we also know that God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love. Would God condemn a person who never even had the chance to make a decision for Christ? I don’t think so.
As a Christian, I believe that following Christ is the sure way to heaven. Everybody else is judged based on how they lived and honored God given what they knew. If somebody consciously rejects Jesus, that’s a different story. But for the villager in rural China and the devout Buddhist, I suspect God judges him or her on what light (revelation) he or she has been given, such as our God-given conscience, religious instruction, etc. See Romans 1:20, Romans 2:14-16, Romans 4:15, Acts 17:26-28. This is my opinion, and I know there are some who do not agree with me on this.