"The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves." - Terry Tempest Williams
I was raised as a Catholic, went to parochial schools until I was sixteen, learned that only Catholics could get into heaven, and even wanted to be a nun at one point. In spite of all this, I abandoned the idea of hell in my early teens when, for about three years, I spent most of my waking hours outside. Confronted daily with the incredible beauty of cloud formations, sunsets, flowers, trees, coral reefs, and star-filled night skies, I could no longer believe that the Creator of these wonders would ever banish its creations to hell for all eternity. I rejected what I had been taught about eternal damnation without any reservations and without ever feeling a need to seek reassurance from anyone - it was my secret heresy and I enjoyed thinking about it secretly. When I was about seventeen, my Mom started talking to me about reincarnation and karma as possible explanations for the meaning of life and we had many discussions that ultimately had the effect of opening my mind to the possibility that the Catholic Church did not hold a monopoly on the truth. These discussions with her marked the beginning for me of a long and still-ongoing search for whatever truths there may be to be found in this world.
In the early days of this journey, I encountered for the first time some born-again Christians who seemed very similar to the Catholics I had grown up with. They were sure that they had found the absolute truth and that only other people who believed exactly as they believed could be "saved". Annoyingly, their approach to any new person was to ask "Are you saved?" Not being so distant from the Catholic Church at that point in my life, my reaction was "Well, of course I'm saved - I've been baptized as a Catholic!" Even now, though, after so many years, whenever I am asked this spiritually arrogant question, I find it really hard to react in a polite way.
In my opinion, being "saved" (if such a thing exists at all) is not something that would happen to me at some fixed point in time - as in some moment's grand revelation - but is rather an ongoing process of the choices I make - choosing to be kind or not, helpful or not, understanding or not, to do my best or not, day after day. Of course I am not perfect and do not always succeed, and sometimes I am even an opportunity for someone else to practice patience or not, but I will keep trying - I will to keep trying. I think intention and effort matter more than consistent outcome, and that even one totally failed effort to be loving is worth more than a lifetime's worth of revelations not followed up by action.