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Vox Popular: Heaven and Hell
3 August 2006
For a variety of not very good reasons, nine hundred million people across the globe actually, genuinely believe in places called 'Heaven' and 'Hell'. Unsurprisingly, most of these believers fully expect to go to Heaven, where they will then spend eternity sitting atop a fluffy white cloud, shooting the breeze and laughing it up with Jesus, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and Princess Diana.
Sadly, the entry criteria for the Kingdom of Heaven are is quite strict. You can't do any killing, for example, or maiming, or coveting of your neighbour's wife. You can't even covet your neighbour's ox, for Christ's sake. All of which makes you wonder, just who will be allowed beyond the pearly gates, come the time, and who will be cast into a fiery pit of eternal suffering? In olden days we would have asked a priest for advice. But, letís face it, no one cares what *they* think any more. No, the only opinions that matter in todayís secular, showbiz-obsessed age are those of our beloved celebrities. So, curious about Heaven and Hell, we asked a bunch of names and assorted public eye-bogies if they believed in such nonsense in the first place and where they think they might end up when the curtain falls for the final time.
Kate Lawler, who you may remember from such televisual delights as 'Big Brother 3' and 'Celebrity Wrestling', was in no doubts as to her final destination:
'Heaven. I've done more good than bad in my life and I've never committed a horrible crime!'
This in itself is surely debatable, but more interestingly, a couple of days after this reply was received, Kate's picture was splashed across the front of The Daily Star with the headline 'COCAINE, ORGIES & ME'. Oops. Close your eyes and you can almost smell her pretty smile melting off her face. It smells like Bacon.
Speaking of which, roly-poly star-gazing charlatan Russell Grant, who has spent more time than most bent over a one-eyed pole and gazing up at the heavens, also thinks he's bound for paradise. But just to make absolutely sure, Russell fashioned his answer into something of a personal application:
'I think I will be going to heaven. (Don't we all?) The reason why I think I will be going to heaven is that I genuinely care about people, I try to help other people through various charities and by donating my time and money to causes both locally and nationally. I also have a strong and committed Christian faith which is a great help and guide to me in everyday life. So, fingers crossed - I hope I shall be going to heaven.'
Meanwhile, Lee & Herring of Lee & Herring fame came up with very different answers. Not that they're joined at the brain or anything, but still. Seasoned blasphemer Stewart Lee pulled no punches, responding, 'Sorry, I don't believe they exist. Rotting down into nothing is my idea of heaven.' Bad luck, Stew. Guess who won't be spending eternity in the company of Kate Lawler and Russell Grant. Lee's erstwhile partner and renowned cock-talker Richard Herring meanwhile, was in more contemplative mode and gave the question some serious thought:
'It depends on who is running the show. I think I am a good and moral person, who understands that human beings have instincts that aren't necessarily bad things whatever religions tell us. I have done nothing truly bad. It would seem a shame to burn me in Hell forever given that I have done my best, but according to some readings of religious texts this is my only possible fate.
'So if God is like he should be, and a bit of a laugh then I am in Heaven (with pretty much everyone, because God would accept that he made people the way they are and so it's not really their fault). If God is how everyone else thinks he is then Hell. But purgatory from some wishy-washy readings of the Bible.'
And who better to follow that but David Bellamy? Sadly, we couldn't get David Bellamy. But we did get Lenny Henry, which will have to suffice. Lenny kindly took a break from gurning aimlessly and was slightly more upbeat about his afterlife prospects, if slightly less realistic, than his comedy peer, Herring. 'I'm going to heaven cos my mom said so,' quipped Henry. 'But I might get a day pass for the other place because that's where all the good bands are gonna be playing.' No, you won't, Lenny. They won't want you anywhere near any good bands, with your big suit and your 'whoa-whoa-yeah' nonsense. Sorry.
Next up, dwarfing Lenny Henry for laughs - a feat most regularly accomplished in pantomime season - is Holly from 'Red Dwarf', still occasionally referred to as veteran dead-pan Norman Lovett. Norman responded: 'I think I will be going somewhere between those places, perhaps somewhere called "Helen". How the fuck should I know!' Bah. Holly would have known.
Helen however, otherwise known as Purgatory, was a common response for celebs looking not to commit themselves either way - this list includes such A-listers as BBC Correspondent Guto Harri, Labour MP Michael Gapes and Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride - fence-sitting bet-hedgers the lot of them, probably just as likely to convert to Hinduism at the last minute, if they think it will serve them well.
Sitting astride a more eloquent fence was Her Excellency, The Austrian Ambassador to London, Dr Gabriele Matzner-Holzer. A key player in Austria-UK relations, the good doctor does her level best to use our facile quiz as her springboard to eternal paradise.
'If I were to say I don't believe in these things I would probably end up in hell for not believing. If I said I believe in them I would end up in the same place for lying. If I believe in these destinations and would say that I deserve heaven I would go to hell for hubris. But having tried to answer your question might earn me a space in heaven.'
Then there was serious Old Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, who we seem to have quite upset with our impertinence. 'How about that they are both injurious to health and have done nothing for children's health or well being? And we should not be promoting them, even in jest.' Blimey. We had actually mentioned in our approach that our questions were just 'a bit of fun'. Surprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn was not alone in taking exception to this. Former TV livewire and positive thinker extraordinaire Johnny Ball was also non-plussed: 'You're calling death just a bit of fun? I don't know the answer - but if I can get back to you on it, I will. Meanwhile, let's think about living.' Absolutely, Johnny. We couldn't agree more. But first just a little more death.
Christine Hamilton, face of British Sausage Week and shameless media hussy, claimed 'I'm very definitely going to heaven - I've been a good girl all my life!' Reasons to be hellbound are mounting like oiled jockeys on pep pills.
Last in line, although not necessarily least, is former Gamesmaster and would-be messiah Dominik Diamond. Always one to take advantage of a golden opportunity, Dominik couldn't help slipping in a mention of his upcoming light entertainment show:
'I'm just putting the finishing touches to a documentary for Channel 5 in which I travelled halfway across the world on a journey to reignite my lapsed Catholic faith. The journey was successful and involved me making what's called a general confession in a Jesuit retreat. As a result I had to list and confess all the sins I'd ever committed. I was absolved of all of these by one of the world's top Jesuits. So - technically speaking - I'd be mightily pissed off if I felt the prick of Satan's fork if I was hit by a bus tomorrow. Mind you I've been an asshole for much of my life so things could change...'
Plus, Dominik, let's be fair, it's been quite a few months since your last absolution. We hope you're not suggesting you haven't sinned in all that time. Come, come. We've read your columns in The Daily Star.
Sadly, John 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' Prescott, Tony 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' Blair and Michael 'Thou Shalt Not Threaten To Overrule Him' Howard didn't take the time to respond. We only hope they were out there doing good, perhaps putting down-payments on their future homes at Christ's side, and not, for example, schmoozing movie stars, bullying their way into women's pants or drinking the blood of freshly-slaughtered children.
AND THE OTHERS...
Madeleine Moon, Labour MP - Heaven
John Thurso, LibDem - Heaven
Rudi Vis, Labour MP - Heaven
Greg Mulholland, LibDem - Heaven
Ken Bruce, a surly Terry Wogan minus the fame - 'I have no doubt that I am going to heaven - because of my infinite patience and kindliness as proved by my replies to questions via e-mail!'.
Andy Crane, Broom Cupboard - Atheist
Jason Bradbury, 'The Gadget Show' - Atheist. Rather than heaven and hell, we will become a 'reconstituted form of carbon - probably something humiliating like a loo brush'.
Marcia Wallace, aka Mrs Krabappel in 'The Simpsons' - 'I'm a Buddhist, so I'll be back.'
Maggie Philbin, radio presenter and former Mrs Chegwin - 'Oh my God, I'm far too superstitious to answer this one...but obviously, one of the choices does seem more attractive than the other.'
Gisela Stuart, Labour MP, nihilist - 'Neither, I prefer it to just be over!'
Paul Burrell, former Royal footman, Princess Diana's rock, media slut - 'I really can't answer that Question... It's down to someone else, not me...'
Uri Geller also said he didn't know, but he closed his correspondence by saying 'much energy'. Which can only be a good thing. Or of course, an evil one.
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