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How I Almost Made It into Heaven.

As everybody knows, when you die all of the angels get together and vote whether your soul goes to heaven or hell. Less well known, even to devout Christians, are the voting mechanisms that have been in place for thousands of years. If you think the voting machines in Florida are outdated, wait until you see those employed in the afterlife.

Many primitive machines are coated with layers of rust, and some of the butterfly ballots are written in obscure languages such as Aramaic, Sanskrit, and Southern English. God has promised to update the machinery, but he/she/it has been so busy with wars, sudden outbreaks of religious hatred, political shenanigans, and revisions in the recent jazz liturgy that she/he/it just hasn't gotten around to it. It is too late to change my pitiful status but perhaps conditions will improve for the lucky few who will die under the burdens of the next administration. I fervently hope so.

What happened to me was this. I won the popular vote (1,476,000,897 to 1,476,000,883, with 42,000 abstentions and 302,094,654 ballots not counted because of irregularities), but I lost the electoral vote. Yes, heaven does have the same outmoded system used in the United States (as Greek mythology teaches us: what happens on Earth happens in heaven; what happens in heaven is recapitulated upon Earth), but instead of employing an electoral college based upon obscure states few can locate on a map, the heavenly college casts votes based upon hierarchy.

Seraphim control the greatest number of electoral votes (1,902), followed in order by Cherubim (765 electoral votes), Virtues (453), Powers (325), Principalities (300), Archangels (296), and Angels (3).

I hate to bring the entire afterlife voting system under scrutiny because of what happened to my tattered soul, but perhaps my experience will shed karmic light on certain questionable procedures. I can say categorically that Dante got it completely wrong, and so when I died my soul was taken by surprise. All the heavenly host (no hostesses; sex goes the way of all flesh--alas!) gathered on the beachheads of Florida to determine my eternal destination. I carried the popular vote by fourteen votes and thought I would assuredly be admitted to heaven. Unfortunately, I lost the electoral vote and so was consigned to the other place.

But wait, I thought (having learned from my brief sojourn on Earth), perhaps there was a mistake. The voting was so close, I asked God for a recount. I even pointed out to the heavenly father that thousands of votes cast by the Principalities had been discarded because the wine-stained ballots had been double-punched (those 300 electoral votes were all I needed to be ushered into eternal bliss). A number of Principalities claimed their halos slipped while in the voting booth and so they couldn't see clearly what side of the ballot to mark. In addition some of the marks didn't go all the way through the parchment. God graciously granted a recount and I picked up eleven votes. Since I was so close, I asked if the ballots could be given a wing count.

"This dawdling has gone on too long," Satan said impatiently, stamping his cloven foot.

"Well, there is no need to be snippy about it," I replied. "Besides, what are days in eternity? You certainly don't want my tear-stained soul if you aren't entitled to it, do you?"

"Why don't you be like Nixon and graciously come with me?" Satan said.

"No," God thundered. "Phillips has been one of my favorites--a perfect and nearly upright man who has every so often eschewen evil. He deserves every vote that was cast for him. He may have his wing count, and we won't neglect the absentee ballots." (When my destination was voted on, many of the Seraphim and Cherubim and Principalities were on theatrical tour in the Vatican, acting out scenes from Dr. Faustus.)

But the wing count couldn't deliver me the Principalities. Part of the problem was that Satan had all the good lawyers and, with subtle paralegal maneuvers, they were able to enforce a time limit on the counting. I lost the Principalities by two meager votes and was forced to become one of the devil's party.

Thus, it is from an overheated cubicle set aside for writers whose work never appears in national magazines that I send the world above my sad, sad tale. I very nearly made it into heaven, but as all the living know: close only counts in horseshoes and sex.

Louis Phillips is the author of some thirty books for children and adults. His essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, the Smithsonian, and the New York Times.
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Title Annotation:Humor; voting system
Author:Phillips, Louis
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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