Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – There are a lot of things I am sick of hearing after massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Here are six of them:
1. “It was God’s will.”
There may or may not be a God, but if there is, I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around raising up killers, plying them with semiautomatic weapons, goading them to target practice, encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming 6- and 7-year-old children. Much better to say there is no God or, as Abraham Lincoln did, “The Almighty has his own purposes,” than to flatter ourselves with knowing what those purposes are.
2. “Jesus called the children home.”
I don’t want to hear that Jesus needed 20 more kids in heaven on Friday – that Madeleine Hsu (age 6) or Daniel Barden (age 7) were slain because Jesus couldn't wait to see them join his heavenly choir. Even the most fervent Christians I know want to live out their lives on Earth before going “home” to “glory.” The Hebrew Bible patriarchs rightly wanted long lives. Moses lived to be 120. Abraham was 175 when he died. Madeleine and Daniel deserved more than 6 or 7 years.
3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”
In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death. Death is tragic, and deaths such as these are unspeakably so. So now is the time for grief, not for pat answers to piercing questions. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” says the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and now is not a time for laughing or dancing or talk of children raised from the dead.
4. “This was God’s judgment.”
After every hurricane or earthquake, someone steps up to a mic to say that “this was God’s judgment” on New Orleans for being too gay or the United States for being too secular. I’m not sure what judgment of God would provoke the killing of 27 innocent women and children, but I certainly don’t want to entertain any theorizing on the question right now. Let’s leave God’s judgment out of this one, OK? Especially if we want to continue to believe God's judgments are "true and righteous altogether" (Psalms 19:9).
5. “This happened because America is too secular.”
Unlike those of us who are shaking their heads trying to figure out what transpired in Newtown, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical icon, apparently has it all figured out. We don’t need fewer guns in the hands of killers, he said Friday on Fox News, we need more God in our public schools.
“Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability,” Huckabee said in an astonishing flight of theological and sociological fancy.
Just keep plying people like the killer with Glocks and Sig Sauers. As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away. The logic here is convoluted to the point of absent, leaving me wondering whether what passes for "leadership" in America can sink any lower.
6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. The logical fallacy here is imagining that people are killed either by people or by guns. Come again? Obviously, guns do not kill people on their own. But people do not shoot bullets into people without guns. At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people. This is a fact. To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting.
The question now is: Are those of us who have not yet been killed by guns going to allow these massacres to continue unimpeded? Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? I have read the Second Amendment, and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket? Do I really have the right to bear a nuclear weapon? Or a rocket-propelled grenade? Then why in God’s name would any U.S. civilian have the right (or the need) to bear a .223-caliber assault rifle made by Bushmaster?
If you believe in a God who is all powerful and all good, then covering up for the Almighty at a time like this is in my view deeply unfaithful. Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming. To do anything else is in my view to diminish the idea of God, and to cheapen faith in the process.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
Stephen, it is sad that you take this opportunity to secularize the issue – almost as if you know what God wishes or does not wish. I find your opinion pompous, whether true in parts, or not. It is too bad you have to use the deaths of children and reactions of people in a hurting nation to divide people over religious and personal beliefs.
You have poor reading comprehension.
Based on this article and the comments from readers, here are some things I'd like to stop hearing.
If God exists, why didn't He stop this? If you don't believe God exists, why would you ask why He didn't intervene?
Christians are: brainwashed, hypocritical, deluded, narrow-minded or idiots trying to force their opinion on others. By making such statements, aren't you doing exactly what you accuse them of doing– forcing your opinion on others and being hypocritical about it?
Tougher gun laws will prevent tragedies like this. Pure bovine scatology... a knee-jerk reaction to a heartwrenching event. More people die each day through driving while intoxicated, yet MADD can't get the time of day on the news media because alcohol is socially acceptable and its advertising dollars fuel the media.
Do you really want to prevent another tragedy like this? The answer is simple.
Honour these victims and stop practicing the most subtle form of prejudice this world has known:thinking you and your time are more important/valuable than those around you. Too important to get to know the people where you live/work/play. Too valuable to pay attention to that scream, rage or fight happening next door. Too limited to get involved personally; let someone else respond.
We are each somebody else's "somebody else." If these deaths have affected you, then let them change you. Remember just one child's name, and use it to begin a conversation with someone you don't know but see nearly every day. Get to know them– their past, their future, their needs and their gifts. Do that for each child killed in CT and they will have accomplished what we could not– change for the better.
Lets's look at the flip side. There is No God. Man evolved. If man evolved to be cold blooded killers, then so be it. That's evolution. We dont see animals crying or fighting legal battles to stop killing let alone to have gun control. So let things be. People kill people because they evolved that way. Deal with it! Not so sobering is it? The Bible actually has an answer, religion doesn't. Dont confuse the two..
Evolution hahaha. You may have come from monkeys or (primeates) but i know none of my ancestors did.
"Evolution hahaha. You may have come from monkeys or (primeates) but i know none of my ancestors did"
I love it when the christards fully display their abject stupidity.
Mike Huckabee is a proud member of the American Taliban. A theocrat who wants to impose his simplistic, judgmental beliefs on the entire country.
What a dick!
Guns don't kill people. Bullets do.
Maybe you shouldn't take words so seriously. Maybe people want to say SOMETHING, and the only nicest, most comforting thing they can think of (in their mind) is that the children are in heaven or were called by God, or something. What should they say to a grieving parent or just to someone who can't comprehend something so evil? There are no words, but as humans we want to let others know we acknowledge the pain, and the only ounce of comfort we can give is to say something hopeful. GOD FORBID someone tries to say something nice like "the kids are happy in heaven". What were they thinking?!?!.......
GREAT article. Thanks for having the jounalistic balls to say it!!!! I only hope that the mainstream media does not try to metophorically chop them off after you posted this. I totally agree with you on this one. If we are created in his image, then guess what, this tells me that there is an evil side of him or else it would not manifest as often as it does. Good luck to you. Sorry that there are not more voices out there that are willing to say things like this. I do not care if it is on our money, in our schools or anything else, our freedoms allow for anyone to belive in what ever they need to believe in to get them through a tragedy of this nature. Reguardless of religion, up-bringing, gun control, medical interventions, bad people will eventually do bad things. We cannot stop it, and never will we be able to. Thumbs up sir. Thumbs up.
Of course it was NOT God's will....it's all MAN's will. The same will that separated us from God to start with. It is sad to hear the same thing over and over, people questioning or blaming God every time a tragedy like this happens. As long as we don't go back to God and ask for his grace upon us it will happen over and over again. Our self sufficient, self reliant minds cannot bear accepting God's omnipotence, omnipresence and justice; and as a result we always blame someone or something else as culprit. This tragedy is so overwhelmingly sad and terrifying by itself, that is a shame that we keep looking for answers that ourselves are not open to accept. Maybe it's time to think about our personal relationship with God, and eventually to reflect in the meaning of Christ's sacrifice. May be at that point, we would understand and have some solace in our souls!
ONE thing i dont want to hear after the Sandy Hook Massacre...
an idiot like this author...and i use the term loosely...thinking what he wants is important...people are different get over yourself...pathetic...
I am also tired of hearing some of this too. Like hearing people say that it happened because we have taken God out of schools. No. This same thing has happened at churches too. Did we take God out of churches? No. It happens. As long as we have access to "assault rifles" there will be assaults, that is precisely what they are designed for. To say people kill people, not the guns, I agree, that's crap. If a crazed person went into that school with a knife or other object, he could not have killed 26 people with such accuracy that only one shooting victim survived. A semi-automatic gun is the reason for this. So yeah, a human could not have done this much damage with just his fists or even a knife. I don't have much of a belief in any gods, but I also think it's a cop out to use a god to reason this out, trying to make sense of something so senseless. If there was a god, how could a god be okay with someone brutally gunning down 20 children and leaving hundreds more with scars on their hearts that will probably last forever.... just because worship isn't allowed in school? Yet most of these families probably attended church. So people are trying to say that because we don't let people in schools worship the almighty, then he just won't help out in a crisis like this? I sure don't want any part of a religion like that.
The blame game works and the easiest thing to do id blame God. The NRA will say we need more guns: arm teachers, but that would be the same as saying NUCLEAR WEAPONS are a deterrent so let all nations have Nuclear Weapons for protection. Ridiculous! We live in a sick world and the biggest losers are our kids. They cry out for help, but we keep denying assistance because we don't want our tax dollars to go for their need. We let our youth grow up in darkness and when disaster strikes, we blame everyone but ourselves when in reality we REAP WHAT WE SOW.
You're funny. "Assault rifles cause assaults" "A knife would have been easier to stop than a gun". OK, then how do you prevent the OKC tragedy? How about 9/11? No guns were used in those attacks? There are laws against the use and sale of drugs, but do those work? No. There are laws against DUI but do people still drink and drive? Yes. Maybe if the shooter would have been aborted as a 12-week old, this could have been prevented. After all, you do think abortion is OK, right?
This is incredible. There are hundreds of laws against drug usage/distribution, yet people take and sell drugs everyday. There are gun laws in place, but monsters like this guy still get them. The bottom line is this: YOU CANNOT LEGISLATE THE HEART. I don't own a gun, and have no desire to own one. I don't question people who do,as long as they are obtained legally. The problem I have is with people like this guy who don'twant to look at the root of the problem, which is a total lack of accountability due to a lack of God in people's lives. Whether there is a God or not is not the point...every law we have is based upon the premise of a judgement. Why is it against the law to murder someone? I guess it's because the Bible says "Thou shalt not kill". If that's not the basis for that law, I'd like to hear what is. Finally, if you are appalled by this horrific crime, do you feel the same way when hundreds of babys are aborted everyday? They are children who are slaughtered, although we live in a country where we allow that to happen because, I guess, they aren't cute kids with smiles yet. God bless all of the victims and people touched by this unspeakable horror.
Right! We shouldn't have any laws because sometimes they get broken. It all has to do with men's hearts. Or their spleens. Or something.
Ok then you better start trying to get rid of all cars in America, cause more people are killed by a car annually than guns. " guns don't kill people, people kill people", of course that is a GREAT answer to it. and you have to be kidding me when you say "shake your fist at Heaven and ask for answers". I want to remind you of Job in the Bible, he lost everything, I mean he had literally nothing but faith because of Satan!, and people who says it was God's Will has no idea what HIS will is. * GOD IS A MAN! " read the Bible it states it " Man was made in HIS image, " so lets not have confusion on HIS gender (Genesis 1:27). If any of you science loving and God hating (disbelief) people would love to argue with me on this issue, I would be more than happy to tell you what is the Truth according to the Bible. :)
Yeah, right. And when science presents you a cure for a loved one's disease, turn it down and pray.
Hmm.. interesting viewpoint. But unfortunately you make no sense. We dont ban something based on its potential to cause harm, but based on its contribution or the benefit it has to society. Cars offer far more benefit than its potential use as a weapon. Moreover, it is much tougher to buy a car than it is to buy a gun. Your license can be taken away for drinking and driving or example, but not for a gun. Guns offer no benefit to society at all, except more murders. When have you last heard of a normal citizen protecting a school or some gathering from a psycho with a gun. Very rarely or seldom. Protection by a gun is a myth propagated by gun sellers and lobbyists. It kills more often than it protects. Cars protect more often than they can kill. Thus the need for gun laws.
So your telling me I should believe in Science? I believe God helps science makes cures. I fully heartily believe he made medicines like penicillin and other such drugs. I love my family a lot but if it came down to it, I would choose God over them no doubt about it.
@Jakku, i see your point there, but you have to think of the benefits guns bring for us, protection from many things outside of just bad people too. Think of thing bears, deers, and / or other different known dangerous animals. Also the jobs it creates for us Americans ( Taxidermist, hunters, farming, and the white house security staff ). but you do make a good point.
"If any of you science loving and God hating (disbelief) people would love to argue with me on this issue"
Why would any of us science lovers want to debate you on your faith. I also dont want to debate bigfoot believers but that doesnt confirm anything you believe
@justright, Whenever I state my Faith, someone who loves science and does not particularly believe in God, I get a lot of them that challenge it, so instead of me being blind sided by it, by saying it back to myself makes it sound a lot worse than what I wanted it to sound.
Bravo, Mr. Prothero, on #6 (GDKPPKP). Those who still spew that one do neither their intelligence nor their knowledge any credit. First, every time a supposedly unloaded gun fires and someone dies, the statement is literally false. Guns CAN sometimes kill without any human intention. Second, there's some evidence from psychological experiments that people irritated or frustrated in a room with a gun present have more violent fantasies than people treated the same way in the presence of, say, a fishing rod. Not only does the finger pull the trigger, but the trigger can sometimes pull, or at least coax, the finger.
Right, and wasn't the nazi's fault all those people died in the holocast, it was the gas. If only there had a law against deadly gas, those 8,000,000 would have lived. You make a great point.
I agree with you on most of your points, save one. As a Christian, I can and will be respectful of your faith. However, the resurrection of the dead is integral of the Christian faith. It is not only appropriate, but essential to speak of the resurrection at a time like this.
Speaking of resurrection is all well and good - unless what you speak of isn't OK with people of other faiths. Mr. Prothero mentions Judaism as an example. It is not OK to speak of resurrection so close to death.
Catholics - sure, go ahead and talk about resurrection. But be aware of your audience, because it can be hurtful to others. Do no harm, right?
God's Zombie Son. Adorable that you spend your time on that.
Great points. Very thoughtful essay. Everyone should read this.
Agreed fully on the first five points but six was way off base. If accusing someone else of logical fallacy it would be a good idea to not be guilty of it in your criticism. Yeah, I think the slogan is stupid but I hate trendy slogans but the main point behind it isn't that guns aren't committing crimes on their own it is that they are just TOOLS being used by evil people who want to harm others. Completely passing aside the fact that outlawing guns wont keep them out of the hands of criminals as effectively as they'd so effectively disarm law-abiding people, guns... are just tools, and not the most deadly of tools either. What about the nutcases that drive their cars into crowds and occupied buildings? The people who set fire to occupied apartments with matches and gasoline? Or the person that beats and elderly person to death with a baseball bat? Whatever the tool used it doesn't make it any "less bad", it's still death, and killing an unarmed person isn't very hard to accomplish at all, let alone killing elementary school children. I believe in very restricted gun access, and I don't think making the statement that owning assault rifles is perfectly normal is a good image for our country but realistically saving our image is all changing the laws about guns would accomplish. Banning a particular gun type, or guns altogether will not make us safer. I also fear what kind of violence would break out in this country if they banned guns and ownership and tried to confiscate them... I don't want a civil war.
The 2nd amendment has been the most misunderstood amendment in the Bill of rights, mostly due to strong lobbying from the gun seller's NRA lobby. The 2nd amendment right only givs right to own a gun for the formationof miltia which in this age would be the army. Thus in its truest sense, it is only meant for people in the army or the defense not for ever tom dick and harry.
You are right about one thing, guns are tools. They are tools for killing. A gun serves no purpose other than to end the life of another creature, and in the case of handguns and as.sault style weapons, to end the life of another person. Guns are also very efficient tools, in that a man with a gun can kill more people in less time than a man with a baseball bat, thus allowing more time for the police to arrive and possibly saving lives. Additionally, if the over all supply of guns on the market is reduced there will be fewer guns available to criminals. How hard is that to understand?
You are a very angry person!!! Some of these things you don't to hear may give some people hope and solace. You are so judgemental!! You're worse than the fundamentalists.Relax! Jesus loves you!
So hope and solace are ok even when it is a lie?
OMG! no wait, OYG ( oh your God!)
They might give the speakers hope, but they almost certainly won't give the grieving families hope, or anything but pain and anger. If you think that it was God's will that somebody else's baby be murdered, keep that to yourself unless THEY say something like that in the first place.
And you have poor reading comprehension.
Yes, yes. 1000 times yes on each of your points.
The opinions expressed in this commentary may be solely those of Stephen Prothero but I agree with every single one.
One thing I don't want to here: someone telling us what we should or shouldn't say about God. If you know the complete truth–which you don't–then you can make proclamations, but in the meantime you are just another opinion.
The truth is that what the author wrote can be backed up from the Bible. If you believe otherwise, then you really dont know the teachings of the Bible.
These Born Again (make pretend) Christians are far removed from anything the Bible actually teaches. All that is wrong with the world is due to mans "Free Will",and not God's will. Basic Bible teaching 101. Stop blaming God for all that is wrong! Jesus was killed by the religious leaders of his day. It is no winder that todays so-called religious leaders have been making a mockery of God. You people celebrate Christmas, and Easter as if they are from the Bible. They most certainly are not. They are Pagan traditions. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus followers celebrate either of those holidays. Read Matthew 7:21 and Mark 7:8. Your preachers are lying to you.
Albert...who is claiming that the Bible says that Christmas and Easter are derived from the Bible? I'm not sure what kind of a church you have attended and what they taught. Don't lump every Evangelical together in this crowd.
I mention Christmas s and Easter because they are Pagan. The Bible makes it very clear that Christians are not to follow pagan teachings/traditions. The Christmas tree, and all the other sybolisms of the tradition are rooted in idol worship. Did you know that the rabbit (Easter) was worshiped as the God of fertility? Not to mention the fact that children are lied to from a early age. There is no Santa Clause, there is no Easter Bunny, all lies. So why should they believe in God? Satan is very crafty making people believe that pagan holidays are of God.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.