Hello, this is my first post on this forum. I am highly interested in the Orthodox Church, and I have some questions I was hoping some may be able assist me with.
To provide the briefest of backgrounds, I was raised by a non-Church going Catholic mother and largely atheistic father. I myself was atheistic until around the age of 18 when I was blessed with a transcendent mystical experience which forever changed my life. Since that time I've been searching for Truth, with the ultimate goal of what is variously known as "enlightenment" or "gnosis" or "moksha" in religious/philosophical traditions around the world; I'd imagine the process and goal of theosis would be the Orthodox equivalent. My problem is I have thus far been unable to find my faith or which tradition I should belong to, and over the past few years I've been studying Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Neoplatonism, Christianity, Islam, and a variety of other religious/philosophical/esoteric traditions from around the world. After a process of discovery and elimination, I've begun to consider the Orthodox Church as a primary contender for my eventual home.
In any case, here are some questions I have that I hope those more learned than me might be able to provide some insight on:
1) What is the ultimate goal attainable in this life according to Orthodoxy? I know Christianity deals largely with the life to come, but what is Christian perfection in this life?
2) What does Orthodoxy say about salvation for non-Orthodox or non-Christians? If through human error of judgement or through some other reason (cultural, ethnic, etc.) one failed to make the right choice of either Christianity or the Orthodox Church, is one damned for that mistake? If a non-Orthodox or non-Christian lives piously, strives toward God, and bears no ill will toward Christ or the Church, will they still be damned?
3) Does Orthodox have a tradition of non-cloistered monasticism? Something along the lines of a mendicant monks or ascetics? Are there any people living such a lifestyle in this day and age?
4) Where in the world is Orthodoxy taken most seriously on a collective level? By this I mean which modern day societies are the most Orthodox and least secular?
Those are my initial questions. If anyone can provide any information or insight regarding any of these questions, I'd be greatly obliged.