Last night in Concord, Gene Robinson, the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, was asked why in the face of death threats and rejection by his peers, he persisted in his effort to move the church toward accepting homosexuality, bi-sexuality and transgendered people. Among other reasons, Robinson made the point that one of the benefits of faith is you don’t need to worry about death.
I don’t recall his exact words but the gist was that if you no longer must focus on making sure you enjoy eternal life, then you are free to focus on making life on this earth as good as possible for everyone.
A couple of key principles lie behind this. One is the conviction that God loves everyone. I’m not sure where Robinson stands on the idea of eternal damnation but I would guess he doesn’t buy it. (I’m happy to be enlightened on that.) The second is that hate is the antithesis of good, and fear lies at the root of hate — specifically, hate aimed at a class of people in contrast to hating certain people for having done terrible things.
At any rate, regardless of one’s faith or lack of faith, for purely pragmatic reasons, one would have to say that anything that promotes more caring acts on this planet is a plus.