A close relative (who shall remain anonymous) sent me the following letter, certainly with concern for my agnostic ways and the good intent of convincing me to see the light:
Subject: FW: what the BIBLE says about death
Death is certain but the Bible speaks about untimely death! Make a personal reflection about this. Very interesting, read until the end…>>
It is written in the Bible (Galatians 6:7): “Be not deceived; God is not> mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Here are some men and women who mocked God:
JOHN LENNON:> Some years before, during his interview with an American Magazine, he said:> “Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about> that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple, Today> we are more famous than Him” (1966). Lennon, after saying that the Beatles> were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.>>
TANCREDO NEVES (President of Brazil):> During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his> party, not even God would remove him from Presidency. Sure he got the votes,> but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died.>>
CAZUZA (Bi-sexual Brazilian composer, singer and poet):> During a show in CanecÃ¯o ( Rio de Janeiro ), whilst smoking his cigarette,> he puffed out some smoke into the air and said: “God, that’s for you.” He> died at the age of 32 of AIDS in a horrible manner.>>
THE MAN WHO BUILT TITANIC:> After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic> would be. With an ironic tone he said: “Not even God can sink it” The result:> I think you all know what happened to the Titanic.>>
MARILYN MONROE:> She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. He said the> Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her. After hearing what the> Preacher had to say, she said: “I don’t need your Jesus”. A week later, she> was found dead in her apartment.>>
BON SCOTT:> The ex-vocalist of the AC/DC. On one of his 1979 songs he sang: “Don’t stop> me, I’m going down all the way, down the highway to hell”. On the 19th of> February 1980, Bon Scott was found dead, he had been choked by his own vomit.>>
CAMPINAS/SP IN 2005> In Campinas, Brazil a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend. The> mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of> her friends and she said to the daughter - holding her hand, who was already> seated in the car: “MY DAUGHTER, GO WITH GOD AND MAY HE PROTECT YOU.” She responded: “ONLY IF HE (GOD) TRAVELS IN THE TRUNK, CAUSE INSIDE HERE IT’S ALREADY FULL”> Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident,> everyone had died, the car could not be recognized what type of car it had> been, but surprisingly, the trunk was intact. The police said there was no> way the trunk could have remained intact.> To their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none were broken.>>
Christine Hewitt: a Jamaican Journalist and entertainer,said the Bible (Word> of God) was the worst book ever written, in June 2006 she was found burnt> beyond recognition in her motor vehicle.>>>
Many more important people have forgotten that there is no other name that> was given so much authority as the name of Jesus. Many have died, but only> Jesus died and rose again, and he is still alive.>> JESUS!!!>> P.S: If it was a joke, you would have sent it to everyone. So are you going> to have courage to send this?. I have done my part, Jesus said “If you are> embarrassed about me, I will also be embarrassed about you before my> father.”>> What benefit does it have, if a man gains the whole world but loses his> soul? What can man give in exchange of his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
Unfortunately, this piece of contrived propaganda has been making the rounds for some time. As noted on the website Crazy Christian Emails, this letter is “…a nice little mix of urban legend, hearsay, threats, and ignorance”. And as with most Christian “knowledge” these days, what is NOT included says far more than few snippets cut out to support a personal conviction. Kurt Vonnegut reached 84 last year and John Lennon made his statement in 1966 but wasn’t murdered until 1980 – God’s Angel of Death needs some target practice! And by the way, Mark David Chapmen, Lennon’s murderer, was a born-again Christian and went to a Christian college – so much for Christians maintaining a higher moral standard than atheists). The last one is a Christian myth, with no data to substantiate the claims - much like Darwin's mythical recanting on his deathbed. If I were to take a rational, scientific approach to this (as a thinking person), I would have to ask the following:
-What are the data on the lives and deaths of “active” Christians (none die horribly? None die at a young age?)? Do they die at a lower rate and greater age than atheists?
-Eight examples hardly comprises a valid statistical sample in a world of several billion people; How does the rate and age of death among atheists worldwide compare? Since this requires specific “Christian” allegiance, how do those rates compare among Muslims? Jews? Hindus? Wiccans?
In answer to that last question, I found some data to see what was not being presented in that letter regarding the relationship between atheism and age at death. Here are some famous atheists and their quotes:
"All thinking men are atheists."
Ernest Hemingway, Died in 1961 at age 62
"I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religion than it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism."
Albert Einstein, died in 1955 at age 76
"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say that one is an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or agnostic. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."
Isaac Asimov, died in 1992 at age 72
"Religion is based . . . mainly on fear . . . fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. . . . My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race."
"Fear is the parent of cruelty, therefore it is no wonder if religion and cruelty have gone hand-in-hand."
Bertram Russell, died in 1970 at age 98
"All religions bear traces of the fact that they arose during the intellectual immaturity of the human race – before it had learned the obligations to speak the truth. Not one of them makes it the duty of its God to be truthful and understandable in his communications."
"The most serious parody I have ever heard was this: In the beginning was nonsense, and the nonsense was with God, and the nonsense was God."
"There is no devil and no hell. Thy soul will be dead even sooner than thy body: fear therefore nothing any more."
Freidrich Nietzsche, died in 1900 at age 56
"The wretchedness of religion is at once an expression and a protest against real wretchedness. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feeling of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people."
Karl Marx, died in 1883 at age 65
"I don't think we're here for anything, we're just products of evolution. You can say 'Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don't think there's a purpose' but I'm anticipating a good lunch."
James Watson, still living at the ripe age of 78
"Faith is believing something you know ain’t true."
"If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be -- a Christian."
"It (the Bible) is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies."
"A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows."
Mark Twain, died in 1910 at the age of 75
More where these came from. There are no data whatsoever to suggest that atheists and agnostics live less productive lives than bible-believers. Their deaths come from the same mixture of life events, overall health, genetics and statistical life expectancy as everyone else on the planet. If God is indeed loosing an Angel of Death on the population to kill all those who don’t follow him then the best that can be said is that the Angel acts much like evolution…randomly.