[Through brief answers accompanied by related links to detailed articles, the below explains the key differences between the Buddhist goal of reaching Pure Land and the god-centric goal of reaching heaven.]
Question: How does Buddhism view the belief that lack of faith in a god will not lead to heaven?
Answer: The primary lack of logic in this is that no matter how much good is done, which creates strong positive karma, heaven cannot be reached if there is lack of faith in someone, while no matter how much evil is done, heaven can be reached if there is mere faith. This does not accord with the fair karmic law of moral cause and effect. In the Buddha’s teachings, the last thought before rebirth does matter a lot though, in creating the last set of karma that determines the nature of the next life, as can be seen in this article: ‘Why Your Last Thought Matters So Much’: http://purelanders.com/2013/10/28/why-your-last-thought-matters-so-much
Also, in the Buddha’s teachings, there is not one but many heavenly planes, which makes more sense as there are many different levels of heavens corresponding with the different quality and quantity of positive karma created and/or state of mind cultivated. All heavens can be reached by anyone without faith in any god; but through the natural law of karma, of begetting good by doing much good and/or refining the mind.
The secondary lack of logic is that an ‘eternal’ heaven can be reached merely by having faith in someone, while the rest go to ‘eternal’ hell. This is severely disproportionate, and again does not accord fairly with karma created and experienced. The Buddhist explanation on how this does not make sense can be seen in these two articles: ‘Is There Eternal Heaven Or Hell?’ at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2011/08/is-there-eternal-heaven-or-hell and ‘The Middle Path Between Nihilism & Eternalism’ at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2011/09/the-middle-path-between-nihilism-eternalism. However, life in Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land is as long as required, as can be seen in this article: ‘Is Life In Pure Land Eternal?’: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/18/is-life-in-pure-land-eternal
Q: How does the belief that faith in a god will lead to a heaven differ from that of faith in Amituofo leading to his Pure Land?
A: The first point to note is that according to the Buddha’s teachings, a god who governs an ‘eternal’ heaven does not exist in the first place, as you can see in this article: ‘Are Buddhas Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent & Omniscient?’: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2013/11/are-buddhas-omnipotent-omnibenevolent-omniscient. The second point to note is that beyond mere faith, all Three Provisions of right Faith, Aspiration and Practice are needed for reaching Amituofo’s Pure Land. For clear contrasting between heavens and Pure Land, on how Pure Lands transcend all heavens in form and function, do see this article: ‘The Differences Between Heaven(s) & Pure Land(s)’: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/15/the-differences-between-heavens-pure-lands
Q: How is Amituofo different from the godly father idea? Can Amituofo be asked for forgiveness? And can those who confuse faith in a god with faith in Amituofo reach his Pure Land?
A: The answer to the first question can be seen in this article: ‘How Is Amituofo Our Loving ‘Father’?’: http://purelanders.com/2014/06/03/how-is-amituofo-our-loving-father. For the second, the answer is in this article: ‘Is Pure Land Repentance Practice Similar To Asking God For Forgiveness?’: http://purelanders.com/2014/04/29/is-pure-land-repentance-practice-similar-to-asking-god-for-forgiveness. For the last, please see this article: ‘Can God-Believers Reach Pure Land?’: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/16/god-believers-reach-pure-land
Understanding Amituofo Via The Amitabha Sutra (18th Run)