Heaven and Hell

I grew up with a Catholic grandmother. The idea of Heaven & Hell was polished into the furniture, sprayed into the air, and shovelled down my throat with every mouthful. Was my grandmother devout? Nah. But keeping up appearances was vital, including the passegiatta to Saturday evening Mass when we stayed with her over weekends or school holidays.

In my child’s eye, Heaven was very similar to the Philadelphia Cream Cheese advert, all white, fluffy and clean. My grandfather would be hanging out by the smörgåsbord, handing me titbits of delicacies. Hell was obviously very hot, with no delicious nibbles, only the lumpy custard I had refused to consume (which the starving African children had rejected as well). 

I stopped going to church when I was about ten. I knew by then things were a lot more complex than the simplistic explanations which were foisted on me (blame it on the reading). I devoured all kinds of mythology. Norse mythology probably hit closest home; all the incredible characters, every single one of them flawed & human-like. Men & women as equals, in balance. I could relate to them, and I developed my own world view pretty early on. It’s still my world view today, interspersed with other learning.

Heaven and Hell are what we make here, today. How we deal with anger, pain and shame are as telling as how we accept grace, love and kindness. How we treat the random stranger when no one is looking. Raise our voices when others cannot. Take ownership for our actions. I’d like to believe reincarnation is a possibility; to see my daughter and husband again in another life would be magical. But what I do with my life now, is what keeps me going every day.

Have you followed, rejected or adapted the teachings of your childhood? How do you explain Heaven & Hell to your children?


  1. We’ve been shocked by the religious (Christian) teachings at our local state primary school. I think religion is starting to dominate more than it used to in our childhoods. I get cross that the children are taught that God created the world which in my opinion is a lie. Religion should be something kept at home. We teach them that no one really knows what happens when you die and there’s lots of theories. I like the circle of life best of all. The Lion King it is then 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, I noticed our state school in London seems to be bringing in a (Christian) to preach to the children every Tuesday. He’s anti-divorce and pro-“mums should stay at home”. Makes my hair stand on end for many reasons! Husband thinks I’m overreacting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re not. I am convinvced it’s some sort of counter measure to what seems to have been going on in some Muslim schools. We have Christians coming in regularly and lighting candles, praying etc. You can ask for your child/ren to be kept out of religious education but it permeates throughout so would be very hard from a practical view. Things might change with a change of government but I doubt it….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think everyone should believe in something bigger than themselves. I was raised Lutheran, or as I like to tell my Catholic friends, Catholic-lite. Sometimes I’ll say I’m just one heretic away from being Catholic. That said, I think in general, religion is good. However, when people get involved, it always seems to muck things up a bit. Just like a gun, religion is tool. It can be used to feed you and help you grow or it can be used to maim and kill. It all depends upon the one wielding it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I just completed a 10 day vipassana meditation course (so good! so hard!) but that was the exact message. We create heaven and hell right here, right now, with our thoughts and actions. So empowering for a recovering roman catholic:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, how I agree with this! I think if we expend our energies on what we are doing here and now then the rest will take care of itself. As a firm believer in the power of karma I’d like to think we have a good shot at reincarnation…

    Liked by 1 person

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