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.
SATAN, You need to read REvelations in the Bible... If you use the name you may get the same end result here on earth. This time here is short but, Eternity is a VERY long time.....
An eternity plus one is even longer. XD
the only forces of darkness and evil on this planet – are those who believe in bronze-aged delusional ideals.
our only illumination is science
Barry – Answer this logical question: If God is always in control, and things occur according to His will, then how does ANY action happen that is not in his control? How can man do anything that is not already part of the plan? Where is free will when God is always in control? Finally, isn't God the cause of everything? If so, then is He not the cause of this as well?
You'll get a fancy dodge in response. I'm sure of it.
13 When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.
I really do not care what you want or don't want to hear. You didn't lose your child or family member that day. It's important that these families are supported and loved and if there are beliefs or comments that bring them comfort and peace then that's what they need to hear. So if you don't like it, then don't listen.
In times of grief, citing god really, really does not help. Having been there, I can tell you that, in fact, it made me angry. People should not try to (and cannot) diminish the pain that someone grieving is feeling. At best, they should focus on themselves. For example, they can say something like, "I am really sad hearing the news."
The next time a friend or a relative has bad news (cancer, death in the family, etc.), if you have to comment to them, just focus on your own feelings and don't try to impose your thoughts on them. Your guidance at this time is not wanted.
that was Ps. 37:8-11 where the wicked will be cut off from the earth
Now it all makes sense, I just needed an leftist atheist professor of religion to explain how God works
Glad to hear you are so open minded.
thank you .. I have eight children . What happend was every parents nightmare , I would most certainly be very devastated from this persons actions .IF ..... it happend to me. I will say this ' my heart hurts because it was children murdered BY AN ADULT ..
" I will say this ' my heart hurts because it was children murdered BY AN ADULT .."
Me too, but please let's not forget the 6 brave teachers who were killed. I know that the little ones tear at our hearts, but these adults were wonderful, heroic, productive people. Our hearts should rend just as much for them. Many of them have their parents to mourn for them, as well as children and spouses and siblings.
"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."
Yeah...you do that...that is exactly why this nation is in the shape it is.
this is exactly why the country is in the shape it is??????? explain yourself on that one please. i want to hear your babble.
I am all-powerful. I just watched your innocent children get killed. I could have done something about it because I am all-powerful, but I stood by watching and doing nothing.
What do you think of me?
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 Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.
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.
that was a pretty nice piece of poetry long ago wasn't it? can't believe how many people today in the 21st century think that's for real.
Stephen Prothero....if this is the BELIEF area for CNN, then why do you sound like an ATHEIST...so what are you Stephen a believer or non-believer or are you another lefty that doesn't believe in what they can't see.....We my friend are a very CONFUSED SOCIETY right now, people are lost due to our ATHEISM agendas, so even if you are a non-believer take the time to read the BIBLE everything that is happening right now is in it....we left GOD.....HE did not leave us. We ignore HIS words and think of ourselves as the creators.....which is what SATAN did. Our current president is a reflection of our Society's beliefs, he signed bills that have KILLED more than 5 million...that is MILLION unborn this year alone........how PATIENT is our GOD not to want to destroy us for killing HIS children.....WAKE UP FOLKS
he is an atheist or at least a "practical atheist."
Oh the ranting of a delusional t-w-a-t who can't stand the opinions of others.. we call these people 'christians'.
Step one: Start with a horrific event that is so painful that it forces people to consider how their god can allow it.
Sep Two: Let thim think it over.
Step Three: Let the extremists of their faith howl about free will, how the atheists are responsible, how is god's wrath, about ho god isn't responsible, and all the other gibberish.
Step Four: Let the extremists of their faith attack them mercilessly for mentioning concerns or asking crucial questions about the nature of a god who would allow this.
Step Five: allow to sit and think. The person may go straight to atheosm, but more likely, will go through some alternatives such as personal mysticism and agnosticism. But if they continue to ponder, they will eventually realize that what they were told and what they believed just cannot possibly be true,l and that the world and the universe make perfect sense without a god.
The one-step recipe for creating an Atheist – read the bible.
GOD did not have anything to do with this tragedy. MY God is nothing but love and He can't do this. I have lost a son to a senseless murder and a husband due to a massive heart attack, I know that they are in heaven because of how they lived their lives and their love of God. and I am at times jealous that they are there and I am not yet.
It is very comforting to me with this knowledge.
For my God sent His only son, for mine and your sins.
There is evil roaming the earth and we can do nothing but pray it never happens to us.
God is grieving also. He hates this. He has given us all free will.
We will never know exactly why this has happened until we are face to face with Him and can ask Him.
I have chosen to believe this about Him.
My God = My Imagination. The fact that you have a different version says everything.
My condolences on your losses – however, don't you think that less people would get so irritated at religious people if they'd simply lay off the "I know" perspective and simply stick to "I believe"?
You've basically said I'm happy to be delusional even if the evidence is completely contrary.
Only for the new members of this blog:
School shootings have been occurring since 1764 in the territory that was to become the USA:
Some recent statistics and history:
"According to the National School Safety Center, since the 1992-1993 U.S. school year there has been a significant decline in school-as-sociated violent deaths (deaths on private or p-ublic school property for kindergarten through grade 12 and resulting from schools functions or activities):"
1992–1993 (44 H-o-micides and 55 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.)
1993–1994 (42 H-omicides and 51 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.)
1994–1995 (17 H-omicides and 20 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.)
1995–1996 (29 H-omicides and 35 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.)
1996–1997 (23 H-omicides and 25 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.)
1997–1998 (35 H-omicides and 40 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.)
1998–1999 (25 H-omicides from school shootings in the U.S.)
1999–2000 (25 H-omicides from school shootings in the U.S.)
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the 1998-1999 School Year, 3,523 students (57% High School, 33% Junior High, 10% Elementary) were expelled for bringing a firearm to school.
The late 1990s started to see a major reduction in gun related school violence, but was still plagued with multiple victim shootings including;"
thank you for that bit of information .
Thank you, Mr. Prothero, for well written and thought out response to this tragedy. I am relieved that some people are not afraid to shake their fists at God.
People who still believe in religion are as delusional as Adam Lanza.
I like this article. It is a time for grieving.
How can God even be brought into any discussions about this tragedy??? We have taken him out of everything there is to take him out of! So he can't be blamed for not stopping this from happening. And he can't be blamed for making it happen!
Try to input just a tiny bit of logic this time.
What did these CHILDREN do to cause God to allow the massacre?
I would like all the folks like you who believe that man can keep God out of any place, mind, heart, etc to explain yourselves. How can a law or an opinion or a body of humans have any control at all over God's access to this world and the people in it? The Bible is full of God's promises to come where He is called, and I would never let anyone dictate to me or my family when we may call God. I am comfortable with the moment of silence in schools. I am happy to let others observe in the way they choose. My children know that in that moment, or any moment of their lives that they choose to do so, they may pray and call on God. I would never teach my children that anything or anyone can stop their access to God.
I think people like you are gross, assuming that God would punish adults' rejection of Him with the vicious slaughter of innocent babies. Go camping with Mike Huckabee and leave us alone.
God cares for you: 1 Peter 5:7. God does not act wickedly: Job 34:10. God does not cause oue trials: James 1:13. Satan is the ruler of the world: John 12:321, 14:30: 16:11, 1 John 5:19. God will soon undo all of Satan's wickedness: Ps. 37:9-11, 2 Peter 3:13 & Rev. 21:3,4
If god doesn't act wickedly, then why would he try to get a guy to sacrifice his own son? Why would he flood the earth? Why would he require his "son" to be tortured so the rest of us didn't burn in hell? Why, why, why.....
Governor Huckabee, with all due respect, sir, you sound like the nuts who used to burn witches. "Too secular"? You'd prefer a theocracy, like Iran? Dude, seriously, get a grip. In the name of religion, people were tortured and killed during the Inquisition. The murder sprees have nothing to do with America being "too secular." Do you honestly believe that "God" would murder innocent children because their country was "too secular"? Uh, sure. Dude, please try better meds. Screwball comments like your are probably one of many reasons why your Presidential bid failed. Guess God just didn't want you to be President? Maybe because you aren't secular enough?
YOU my friend are the result of the GARBAGE you INHALE through the TV and JUNK you intake because you don't know better....READ the BIBLE and WAKE UP before your time expires.....YES my friend you will DIE and what will you do then....welll....well....I just did not know...how stupid was I...WAKE UP !!
And remember: Replies that are in ALL CAPS mean you are reading the rantings of AN IDIOT.
@suzanne – you rock, too!
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.