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.
Wow, the author has a lot of pent up animosity against christianity
Fantastic article, obviously from a sane realist. It is a lot more honest and humble to question the existence of a past or present 'superior being' (i.e. god), than not to. Whether you all realize this or not, ALL OF YOU are agnostics, because we simply cannot prove nor disprove god's existence. Furthermore, ethics and morality are NOT solely predicated upon, or reliant on a belief in a 'god'. Huckabee is a self-righteous, dictatorial lunatic!
OK, if I can't say "it's God's will, can I say that God is mysterious in his wonders to perform?
After they take away your right to bear arms they will commence working on your right to speak and worship.
As a Christian I can tell you that most of us (Christians) have much, much more sophisticated and nuanced feelings than these simple slogans. Yes, poor saps do utter these words, but for the vast majority of us, evil on this earth is a complicated and sad thing, and though we hate its presence, we (sort of) understand it. Don't be fooled by some media wonk who cherry picks to lowest hanging fruit. If you are really interested in what Christians think of tragedy and evil, get out there and talk to us. We'll be glad to share.
God didn't have anything to do with it. Free will killed those kids and having a semi-automatic assault rifle allowed an otherwise hapless clown to do it in a mass way. If he would have been going kid-to-kid with a rope trying to strangle them, the little karate guy would have kicked the weasle's butt. By the way, we're all accessories to this crime unless we personally press those money grubbers in Washington to pass the kinds of laws that will prevent it from happening again.
Stephen, thank you so much for this outstanding article!!!
I usually don't say anything when i see a grieving any one, but i too get critized for that, so demaned if you do and deamned if you don't you can't please them all the eathist will say don't say nothing and the others will expect you to show some type of support for their time of grievince...one thing is for sure you can expect critizism from both the right or the left even if it for different reason...
I am still blown away by how many trolls there are in RELIGIOUS forums....
Religion is nothing special. Imagine how much better the world would be if there were no religions.
Any reasonable discussion of a belief should include non-belief.
Oh yes, if there were no religions then the madness would come from the evil inherit in man himself. Get real! I hate what happened to these kids and to their teachers. It shouldn't evr happen to anyone but the author when he says that it has nothing to do with the fact that we have taken the teaching of right and wrong out of our schools is not thinking clearly. Let your kids rasie themselves and you will get trouoble. I don't necessarly believe that was the case here, mental illness can be a hard thinbg to detect and do something abvout but don't tell me that we are teaching our children the right things these days cause that is "Crap".
You must realize, of course, being the intelligent atheist you are that the contributions of religion to human kind can be veritably shown to counteract the atrocities committed at their behest, to say nothing of overwhelmingly trumping the efforts of any other combination of social or political systems you can muster.
Thanks for proving my point.... lol.
If you lack religion, I am still wondering why those whom do not believe come here trolling–like they're trying to find answers for something they will just argue against.
I respects anyones right to believe what ever they please, and are free to read what ever life... But don't read something if you already know you're going to be offended, or are disgusted by it– just so you can troll those who may have a different view on things.
Like*** not life....
For those that are open minded enough to look for answers and accept the idea that death is not the end...please read this scientific and medical study website and the results of thousands of hours of research:
Brother, you are wasting your time with this.
if one person actually takes the time to read and do research, they will be amazed.
Ignorance is bliss, at least when it comes to science and people trying to use lack of knowledge (or not knowing that their are actual research studies about a topic with factual info) to support opinion. I prefer research...
(Psalm 37:8-11) 8 Let anger alone and leave rage; Do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. 9 For evildoers themselves will be cut off, But those hoping in the LORD are the ones that will possess the earth. ו [Waw] 10 And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. 11 But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.
God did kill all of the first-born children of Egypt. Killing a few kids in Connecticut would not be a problem.
Stephen Prothero is no brother. There are heritics by the tens of thousands with religeous degrees but not an ounce of understanding or truth. I took one undergraduate class as an undergraduate at a very old and renowned university and in the first week the professor tried to discount all the miracles of the Old Testament, and his explanations were ludicris. The guy was not only a false teacher, but also an idiot. He definately had his own purposes, and they weren't "to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ." Rather, he was hostile and had the agenda of destroying faith. In fact, I couldn't imagine a more wretched existance than devoting your whole life and career to destroying a faith. That guy has probably passed by now and, according to the Bible, has been condemned.
As for Stephen Prothero, he was hired by CNN, which is also committed to destroying biblical faith. It's no different than when the Nazis state put their own bishop in charge of the "German church." That bishop had no real faith but was a political puppet to be used to deceive the church into supporting Hitler. And CNN is using Prothero to deceive Christians, if possible, into believing their own world view. In other words, CNN and Prothero are wicked.
If you're crazy and you know it clap your hands.
If you're crazy and you know it clap your hands.
"... and beware thee of those bearing sin and weight in their hearts ... they are but Prothero's bringing misery and gadflyness (John 16:13).
There is no further proof in His glory. God is great Allah Ackbar
Now let's all pray ...
If people like Mike Huckabee, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham are going to Heaven, I'll happily go to Hell instead. Thank you.
The thought of spending eternity with these evil bigots is just too unbearable.
If you do not want to hear any of these things, you are an ignorant person. It is people like you who knowingly or unknowingly contributed to these sad situations.
I'll comment even though that email was not meant for me. Boy is that a huge, irresponsible, utterly foolish and ludicris accusation. You must think that it's impossible that anyone might already have way more knowledge and scholarship in theology than Stephen Prothero and that we all must sit at his feet. Perhaps you would have us start the CNN church of Our Savior, Stephen Prothero. If you detected some sarcasm, you're right. The fact is, some of us have are well trained in theology and we can smell a false prophet a mile away.
Sooo, taking the guns away will solve everything ??? RIGHT ! just like taking the drugs away from drug dealers and pushers
You are right. All drugs should be totally legalized.
It would end the gangs and drug trafficking and violence and overflowing prisons, and it would turn an expensive drug war into a lucrative tax income. And as the end of the prohibition proved, no long-term increases of abuse would result.
Who said it would solve eveything? It would certainly mitigate the level of carbnage.
BTW – We ban drugs for the very same reason we SHOULD ban firearms. Because while many illicit drugs have demonstrable positive effects on the user, the potential collateral damage outweighs this. We ban drugs for the greater good. We should do the same with guns.
What are you talking about?! The Clergy are the ones that originally told us all these things... well, except #6: That's the NRA, but the point is these things are (were) ok to say before the shooting but not after? What... are you going to re-write the Bible AGAIN?
"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?"
Epicurus was obviously a Democrat. I doubt he was even a Christian.
And his riddle has been refuted but it is embedded in the minds of some people and can't be dislodged.
Epicurus was a Greek philosopher living between 341 BCE – 270 BCE. This statement called the "the Epicurean paradox" is a logical paradox regarding the existence of evil.
Well he was a philosopher before Jesus was born, so probably not a christian. I believe he was a republican though.
*sigh*...Epicurus died almost 300 years before Christ lived.
6 is correct no matter how much the anti gun lobby say otherwise.
Certainly not God's will. This is not why the innocent suffer. Here is a good reflection on why the innocent suffer and how we are to blame for it.
More nonsense like always.
Acts of violence and evil are not God's will.
But didn't he create the whole thing, knowing exactly what would happen? He made the universe to be a certain way, he knows what will result from it, and yet he is not responsible?
I call cop-out.
Acts of violence is not Gods will but all forms of death are to humble us and remind us that life is to precious to take for granted !
@Harry Sometimes you must look past the actual event to see how those on earth can grow spiritually and in love from events like this.
I swear that Unitology is almost a mirror version of Christianity.
WHAT? Wow, Matt, you are saying god slaughteres children and makes parents endure the unendurable because of the good that comes of it? That is totally nuts.
WHat good came out of the Holocaust. What was worth those 10 million lives? I definitely don't see it.
I see the Jesus ChrisTaliban is screaming for a pound of Prothero's flesh.
Where did you get that from ???
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.