"More than nine in ten believe in God or a higher power, six in ten say they pray often, and more than half say religion is very important in their daily lives." Source
A 2007 Gallup poll indicates that:
"Roughly 9 in 10 Americans believe in God or a universal spirit, while fewer than 10% are firm in their belief that there is no God. Eighty-one percent of Americans believe in heaven. At the same time, 7 in 10 profess belief in the Devil and in hell." Source
I want to examine what these seemingly benign and hopeful statements truly mean.
First, is the belief in God and the belief in a 'universal spirit' the same thing? To a Christian, an alarm should go off when reading this statement. There is but one God and one can easily believe in a 'god' and not know 'God'. The variables within this question are too high in number to lead to a valid and scientific study. Did these statiticians take Stats 101?
Is believing in God enough? Will that get those 81% of Americans suggested to believe in Heaven through the 'Pearly Gates'? The resounding answer is an undeniable NO! Saving the more meaty topics of Justification, Sanctification, Once Saved Always Saved, Baptism, etc. for another time, all Christians should agree on one thing: ‘Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 7:21). Jesus Christ was clear. In John 4, we find what Jesus says to Thomas in reply to a question he poses to Him: Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
As the Bride of Christ Jesus, the Catholic Church is "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780). Simply put, incomplete Christianity is not enough to have eternal life. What does this mean for the non-Catholic Christians who believe in and love Jesus Christ? This means that even though they are indeed Christian, they continue to lack the fullness of the faith which Christ wants and indeed started for them. (For more on this topic, see Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth)
Second, is it possible to believe in heaven and not hell? How can that be? Ignorant hope perhaps, and more likely, a rationalization. People who say this are really saying: "I am rewarded for being good and punishment does not exist." Sounds like the wishful thinking of a child, yet even the youngest child understands the simple concept of consequences. Heaven is real, brothers and sisters. And so is hell!
Study and know what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about hell. (CCC1033-1041) "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs." Study and know what God taught about Hell. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2).
In summary, clearly believing simply in 'a higher power' is not enough to get to the 'heaven' so many claim to 'believe in'. Many among us are deceived; some by their own conscience as a mode of soothing. Dear reader, what say you?