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.
Who is god and where is he hiding? I tried to talk to him the first 30 years of my life and never heard a peep.
Come to Portland Oregon / Vancouver Washington... And you will see the face of God.
In fact after all my research showing I think Portland Oregon / Vancouver Washington is actually, Jerusalem Israel.
Jesus died 260,00 years ago and horned evil men have kept us all slaves for this long and Obama don't even care for the few extra bucks anymore... this is Holy War.
The people have the right to possess an ar-15 because it's the primary weapon used by military forces. You may not be ready to step up to the plate and protect this country, you might prefer crying and praying to defense and action but you do not have the right to dictate what rights I have to protect my family. Especially with doomsday prophets running around preaching social collapse and building everyones tensions during a time where we are likely safer than ever before. I don't give two cents to the religious aspect, as an atheist I find all of it egotistical and inappropriate. What I want to see is more stories about the number of people guns save the lives of, which by the last numbers I saw it was roughly 3x more than the number of people killed by guns, accidental or otherwise. People are sick of being told to disarm every time some mad man runs amuck. Education, poverty, corporate and political greed... These things drive crime and you will never prevent pathological behaviour. Hell in China just a day prior to our own little massacre, a mad man went into a primary school and stabbed 22 children and 1 adult with a knife, its not the first time either. You are a sheep, we are sheep dogs. Don't confuse us for the coyotes.
As an Atheist as well, I find your comment irrational and illogical. So we should be allowed to possess the same weapons the military does? Why? Who are you protecting your family from, the military? If so, you'll still lose even if you have a couple of these particular weapons.
I refuse to continue letting paranoid people hold our country hostage by citing some incomprehensible hypothetical situation that will never occur.
We can do things to stop another massacre like Newtown....we don't need to do anything to prevent something that will never happen in the first place!
How many of those kids in China died? None. Was the perp able to fend off three adults simultaneously with his knife?
From across a room or down a hallway, would you rather try to subdue a madman armed with a knife or one armed with an assault rifle and two semi-auto pistols?
what about parents doing what they are supposed to do and raise good children who are productive members of society? Now I realize that he killed his own mother but you can't tell me that he was not showing some sort of depression, withdrawl something before he commited this horrendous crime. Parents need to teach their children right and wrong and they need to be involved in every step of the way. If you can't be a good parent then please don't have children as you are really causing us trouble for those of us who taking parenting as an important responsibility.
"God wills it."
"God you are under arrest for every crime committed on Earth you will be held without bond and will not be released or punished until you decide your own fate."
Boy is it easy to jump to a rash conclusion, isn't it? Just go ahead and play God lady...did you walk in that mother's shoes? If not, shut your mouth.
wrong, dumdum-he went to catholic school until he was 16-idiot!
This was not God's will- God's will is that we all live according to his commandments, one of which is "Thou shalt not kill". However, humans have free will- to accept Him & His commandments and to live according to it or to reject this and live as we see fit. Due to free will, many have chosen differently, allowed evil to seep into their lives (even unknowingly) and have turned their back on God. While some people have social morality despite this, others do not, especially those who believe there is nothing other than this life-to live it up while you can and your actions will have no eternal consequences (because when you die, that's it, so that will end their pain). Sadly, they will discover too late that there is an eternity, where "every knee will bow" before God, everyone will come face to face with Him and will be accountable for their actions. To some, He will say, "welcome into my kingdom" but to others,they will be banished to Hell forever. Our choices count here on earth-every choice has a consequence. When this gunman chose to kill innocent children and loving adults- he made his choice where to spend eternal life. Those young children were welcomed into heaven- but far too soon. God's heart breaks when He sees anyone who chooses evil or turns from Him. But, because he set up some unchangeable laws- such as free will- he can not jump in and interfere with how things unfold or we'd all be robots, without free choice. God cried that day too and God is hearing the cries of parents who ask "why, why?" but there are no answers. The only reason is because someone chose evil, someone without a conscience decided to be selfish, cruel and follow what the devil wanted rather than what God wanted. Embrace this free choice to turn to confess what sins are in your life (as we are all sinners) and ask Him to guide your heart and your life. In doing so, you've chosen a different life path on earth, eternity in heaven and a relationship wtih God you never knew could exist. But, the choice is yours....
even with free will in tact, God still could have made his gun jam. Seems like a simple miracle for an all powerful being.
Dee I read your post & I;m gonna tell you,NO ONE coukld have said it better you hit & hit it on the head.I hung on every word,Thank you for the wisdom,truth,& opinion of alot of people I'm sure,including my opinion
'Dee' your response was beautifully and thoughtfully written.
I'm an Orthodox Jew...even though most of the victims were not Jewish I am deeply saddened and pained by this horrible tragedy...unreal...21st Century America...who would believe it?
There is a good chance strong government would have prevented this.
People-Americans have gotten swept up with the power of a gun...'the power of life & death' in one's hand.
Gun-owning Americans either should give up many of their unnecessary dangerous weapons or we could face another massacre...the same or worse. If the individual won't do it, then government must force them.
In the 'Ethics of the Father's 'Chananya' the assistant to 'The High Priest' said: (paraphrase) 'If not for the fear of governmental authorities people would swallow each other alive...the way a large fish swallows the small.'
Check out 'The 7 Noahide Laws' These laws are 'U.S. Public Law 102-14.'
Charlie, God could have done anything...the gun could have jammed, the killer could have gotten in an accident with a deer on the way...however, all these things would have been natural, earthly things that could have happened-natural consequences. It is possible, that God whispered into those heroic teacher's ears "hide the kids, lock the doors, stand in front of those little ones" at the same time the devil and the demonic spirits were raging and screaming at the killer to continue. There as a spiritual battle that day-and we'll never know the extent of it because we see with earthly eyes. It is possible this killer had planned to kill everyone but that ultimately the killer suddenly was hit by the gravity of what he had done and his soul could not bear the evilness of his heart and he killed himself before killing even more children. The spiritual side is not something that we, as humans, can figure out and we are not always meant to figure it out either or we'd be as Gods ourselves. God really can do everything, but if he stepped in every single time, we'd live in heaven on earth-no one would be evil, no one would be sick or hurting, no one would be unhappy. This was actually how the earth was supposed to be until sin came in (due to free will). This is how, though, it will be in heaven- no sorrow, no sickness, no aging, no evil- it is a perfect paradise. Even though it seems evil won that day, ultimately God will win as God always triumphs over evil. The spiritual battle for our souls, though, will continue on earth- behind the scenes. The killer chose his side and it broke God's heart because God wants EVERYONE to ultimately use their free will to chose him. But those children- they did not have a choice-their hearts as children were pure...they entered heaven in a place that knows no pain, remembers no evil of earth and only recalls the good. God was there when they died and I truly believe that those children were spared earthly pain and their souls departed from their bodies quickly as God whisked them to heaven. Also, time is different too in heaven. Their parents will suddenly appear as if time has not passed for them-they will never truly be "alone". In God's grace, he has done this so that the children who enter first, never experience sadness or abandonment. So when we wonder why God didn't DO anything, he actually did. He's doing it now- just in a difference realm as He holds those kids, as He comforts those parents who are aching in sorrow, as He is pouring His love into those siblings who have lost their brothers and sisters, as the town is coming together. Again, this was not God's will...as God's will is perfect, pure and loving
So much crap!! Adam Lanza was a mentally sick person. Guns kill, that's the purpose of all fire arms, to kill people and animals. American freedom is begining to go go sour, a country that is losing control in almost everything, unfortunately the rest of the world gets affected by what happens in the land of freedom.
Thank you for adding number six to the list. I am sick to death of hearing that ignorant remark. Whenver there is a shooting, the gun lovers pop off that comment thinking it sums up everything. If only it were that simple. I lose respect for anyone that comes back with number six.
Thank you...finally a religious person who has a brain and a conscience.
Here we go again...sensible, intelligent people with critical thinking skills are not only allowed but EXPECTED to challenge any unfounded idea or belief. Except when it comes to religion. Then, we're supposed to quiet down, in a supposed display of 'respect,' because "oh, those are their BELIEFS." "That's their RELIGION, we have to just let them say those things." Why does religious thought get a pass when it comes to intellectual analysis and logical plausibility?
challange all you want...in fact, asking questions is always good because it opens the opportunity to grow and learn.
Now, if you are challanging something with evil as intent, to try and mock a different thinking, then that is a different story. So, which one is it...?
Besides, faith has nothing to hide. We accept that we answer to a higher power... atheists on the other hand take the easy way out. No action/reaction to life, as science has proved with EVERYTHING. No one to answer to or repercussions for treating others badly or not following basic human laws.
I don't know why Christians always seem to get the bad rap as the ones who seem reckless and with crazy theories. Atheists are the ones who believe that this ONE time, we have no responsibly, we have no reaction for our action. LOL They contradict the science that they say proves they are correct.
PS – Science = http://near-death.com/experiences/research08.html and http://near-death.com/evidence.html
science/research/fact = more than just bias hatred driven opinion.
God is not to blame James 1:13
Morality cannot be enforced...You can legislate the hell out of it, ban EVERYTHING, but people will go on observing the ones that they choose and ignore the ones that don't (speed limits, for instance). Remember Prohibition? Obviously, that didn't work.
Go around shouting "Thou Shalt Not Kill" in a warzone and see how many obey. It's not about the laws that we make, it's about the laws that we keep....Now, figure out how individuals accept rules and discipline themselves (not how they are forced into it) and you may start to understand how to make laws that work.
idiot-its the availability of guns
I prefer the term imbecile, but it's your choice
Well said. A rational approach is rational. Fundies cannot process reality without irrational bias, so they should be kept out of the decision-making process at all levels.
Number 5 "We told God to keep out and he's a gentleman" is the most revolting and puerile comment I've heard in a looong time.
So we have an omnipotent God who allows this to happen because we kicked him out of schools? That's not a caring God, that's a sociopathic God. "Well that should learn them, maybe now they'll invite me back."
Yup, I'll belive in that "loving" God now. No thanks.
Most Christians I know feel the same way as C.S. Lewis: (W)e should like to know the reason for the enormous permission to torture their fellows which God gives to the worst of men.
Dear God, I'm sorry you can not cross the boundaries of our public schools because of US legislation. The Bible describes you as much stronger than that, but now that your right hand, Mike Huckabee, has bestowed the truth of his personal wisdom upon us, I understand that you can be stopped by man's word alone. I had taught my children that they pray anytime they desire it, and they have been using the moment of silence and any other time they choose to call on you. However, I will discuss with them the futility of their efforts now that the US government has banished you from our schools. Thank you, Mike Huckabee, for showing us the light and revealing to us the true nature of our simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity who also has to yield to the forces of the laws of the US government.
Looks like this guy grew up in a school that had taken God out of the picture. Only a fool would shake his fist at his creator. How very arrogant.
Kate ... you are insulting sperm, the true creator of humans. And it looks like Adam Lanza, a religious boy, didn't exactly treat his 'creator' very well – he shot her 4 times.
"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."
I do believe in a God who is all powerful and all good, but I also believe in a God that allows us to make our own choices, however wrong they may be. I don't shake my fists in anger toward heaven, I shake my head in disappointment and sadness because of a sick man's actions. Please don't tell me my faith is cheap, you do not have faith to begin with.
Thank you for this article. It is the BEST that I have read so far.
Why? the eathist blame God for everything When they asure every one God don't exist, but they are sure to adknowledge his existence to blame him for the bad things nonbelievers=sinner do???go figure/// it make no sense yet that's what they are all about making no sense...
WRONG, LIAR-THE "EARTHISTS (what the hell?)" do no such thing
If you believe in God you will turn to his word, not scientific research. John 5:29, Acts 24:15, John 11:25= hope for the dead
This is tipical, God is bad cause he let this trajedy happen ! you people kicked God out of schools, out of your lives, you changed the definition of marriage, you use to preach God now you preach bullets, God is bad, gun control is bad, but gay is good, guns are good, come on ! God is just letting you go the way you choose to go, the outcome of it, will be what you choose it to be, God did not want this to happen you did, when you demanded to bear assault rifles, when you work so much you dont even know what your kids are thinking, and you let kids be bullied around by famous and popular at school, when you reject God to fllow your own desire you will fail, God wants all of us to be saved, but we want to go own way God wants as to leave in peace but we choose to have guns, now its sad and horrible but its us not him nor his plan
JON-youre an idiot-didnt you read the article? we dont want to hear your religious crapp anymore-now please die off-thank you
Jon, how dare you bring gay marriage into this debate. Comparing gay marriage and innocent people getting killed by guns is sick and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Jon ... I am an athiest, but when my time comes, I am no fool, and I will find God. There are over 1 million gorgeous virgin teenage chicks in Heaven, and NO LAWS. And the Big Guy likes a little hanky/panky (see: Adam/Eve).
So, all athiests, do as I suggest – embrace God and help me eclipse Wilt the Stilts '10,000' record, still one of the most impressive records in all of sports. With all those virgins up there, and no NFL, and no marriage laws or under-age laws, we should all start a 'fantasy pool' (no pun intended) – first one to 10,001 gets eternal life.
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.