I guess I'll throw in the Mormon
perspective on this issue, since some people consider us Christian
. The LDS
are very devoted to the "faith without works is dead
" mantra. They also adhere strictly to Mormonism being the only true Church, and the necessity of Baptism
into that Church.
This is a bit of a problem. We don't want to go around sending Hindus, "savages", people born after the apostles but before Joseph Smith, babies, the mentally handicapped or people who have an uncontrollable fear of being dunked under water to Hell, now do we? So, to reconcile this problem the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead was used. You still need to be baptised into the Church, but it's ok for someone to do it in proxy for you after you die. So, if you're one of those unlucky ones to never join the Church you will be judged by God based on your own knowledge of right and wrong. Well, as far as judgement goes, I really don't know what God will do. I'll do a separate write-up on Baptism for the Dead sometime. For now, it suffices to say that Mormons don't condemn everyone else in the world to hell.
Some clarification on the "works" stuff. We believe that Jesus Christ saved everyone from physical death. He basically gave you immortallity. This can be a good or bad thing though. Christ will also make up for all the mistakes we make in our lives. This doesn't mean we get a free ticket for believing in him though. In the end He will make a judgement of how well you did in your life given how much you understood of the Gospel. So, you can be a lunatic and commit horrible atrocities but still do ok, or you can live a perfect life 99% of the time and screw up big time and not fare so well.
So, worry not all you Catholics, anti-theists and Pagans, there is still a chance!