In my experience (and it’s been weird), heaven and hell are real. I have experienced them. But as earthly concepts they’ve been corrupted by the Judeo-Christian theocracy into polarities that coincide with morality, which is a falsehood created to control the actions of its subjects.

Truthfully, whether you experience heaven or hell has little to do with how many sins you’ve racked up and everything to do with how much love and peace you allow yourself. Sure, there’s correlation there – how happy can you be if you’re going out in the world hurting people? But “getting to heaven” has never been about being good enough, being deemed worthy, or behaving well for the sake of anyone else’s judgments, not even God’s. And going to hell doesn’t happen because you fucked up; it happens when you don’t forgive yourself or allow yourself happiness. Each is simply about either choosing pain or choosing love. 

Suffering from depression all my adult life, I always retained suicide as a backup plan in case things ever got too bad. In this way the possibility of it actually provided me some relief as a last resort. When I saw hell, I realized that suicide wasn’t a solution, because all the pain I had failed to resolve on the earthly plane would just increase exponentially in depth and duration on the other side – and it was the most excruciating grief I have ever experienced. It was Furiosa having to turn around and take the capitol because there was no other way out. It was losing my last hope.

But you can choose heaven at any point. This is why Jesus told parables about the prodigal son being welcomed by his father and the workers in the vineyards who were paid as much for a few hours’ work as the workers who had been working all day. As a child growing up in Catholic school, the unfairness of these stories bothered me: why should my good behavior be indistinguishable before the eyes of God from that the bad kids who cost the whole class recess by mouthing off, just as long as they said “sorry” before they died? But in conveying that all were just as welcome in heaven regardless of how long it had been since they’d sinned, Jesus was illustrating how you can choose joy at any moment regardless of how much pain you’ve suffered in the past.

Don’t ask me to explain how I came to believe or understand this; I don’t quite understand it myself except to say that I saw it and felt it. I won’t be so arrogant as to insist that my vision is the sole truth. All I know is that I came to an understanding, and maybe my sharing it here will help some others.

But it definitely puts a spin on that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” adage. Because it isn’t that rich people are automatically evil, it’s (again) that you can’t experience true love and the choosing of peace when you’re setting the bar for your self-worth by the external validation you receive from succeeding at materialism.