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My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared to blame the Newtown massacre at least partly on the secularization of schools.
December 18th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre

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.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • God • Mike Huckabee • United States • Violence

soundoff (5,447 Responses)
  1. Shirley

    The devil is busy and if people read their bible you should not be questioning God for what had happen to these children. gOd was always there sitting on his throne watching. This was the devil doing, sometime god allow sickness, death upon us so we can get closer to him. He knows our pain, and suffering. In the bible about jobs the devil was walking up and down the earth and he asked god if he can take his life and god say you can do anything to him but don't touch his life. The devil killed seven of jobs children and put sickness upon his and killed all of his animals. Jobs wife told jobs why does you curse god and he say no if even though through his pain and suffering he stayed faithful to god. God tested jobs faith and god restored everything back to him the animals etc. it in the bible.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Answer

      Oh yah that book of nonsense.. please everyone DO read it.

      Become an atheist today – bring about a better world tomorrow.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Damocles

      @shirley

      Huh, that's weird, I bet if your parents had tested your love for them by killing all your friends you would have an issue with that. I'm guessing that if your spouse put you through pain and suffering and said it was done out of love you might be looking for a way out of the marriage.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  2. And you call yourself an Educator?

    I'm sure the author does know lots about the world's religions, he just doesn't claim to ascribe to any and thereby provide a perspective to his opinion. I suggest he look inward, before looking outward. I don't claim to know much about the world's religions, but I know a fair amount about Christianity and am committed to demonstrating my appreciation to God for his love and grace by learning more about His Word every day.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  3. John Stockton

    The "Huckster" is just that. He's a huckster of that which is unprovable. He is a huckster of fear. They're all on their way out but it just can't happen soon enough for me. Want proof that your archaic party is dying out? Look who won the presidency twice, now! Ouch!!! That's gotta' hurt (and I hope it hurts really bad!!!)

    December 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  4. Backwater Steve

    This guy was telling me that if people want to kill other people they will find a way and it's not about the choice of weapons or even what kind of gun. So I asked him, "Say you had to protect a school and someone came to kill kids AND in this scenario you got to choose what weapon he used. Would it be the same to you if he used a sharpened stick or an assault rifle?" He changed the subject to one of the other pre-packaged dodges that we all get so tired of hearing.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  5. PS

    I really appreciate this article. I'm Catholic and I cringe when I hear the above statements uttered not even hours after something awful has happened, because I either don't agree with those statements, or I think they're inappropriate for the moment. I believe in God but I fully acknowledge we're human, we come equipped with emotions – I believe God gave us those and expects us to feel them. It is not bad or sinful for being honest, raw, and real when we howl, cry, yell, scream, etc., in the face of tragedy.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Anon

      I really wish I could say the same for my catholic father even though the lunatic acts like an evangelical.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  6. Fred

    If something bad happens – then it is Devil's doing!

    If something good happens then it is god's doing or your local politician's doing – or if it is really, really big then they can share the credit.

    So if you have a newborn healthy child – it is god.

    SIck newborn – the Devil

    Triplets that are healthy – god and your local politician.

    Simple!!

    December 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • sbp

      Yep, it would be hard to dream up a more foolproof scam. Religions are chock full of booby traps, poison pills and other defense mechanisms. You can't question the story – that's heresy, you just have to believe. If you don't believe, you face eternal unprovable punishment. If you do believe, you get rewarded, but the reward can't be verified. The Bible is 100% factual because it says so in the Bible. And on and on...

      December 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  7. Tim

    The arrogance of the author is as sickening as the oversimplified statements he quotes. Evidently, the author wants to dictate to all the human race what is a legitimate and illegimate means of greiving. The author provides no answer to the very real and challenging question that we all must answer in regards to the presence of such evil in our world and in our society, and yet he is ready to mock other's beliefs. This article reflects a bankruptcy of serious thought and an unwillingness to face difficult questions.

    I am sorry that too often Christian's with a public audience to those like the author, do not take the time to define their terms and carefully explain what they are saying and what they are not. For example, theologically there is a difference between the prescribed will of God and the decreed will of God. There are things that God utterly abhors (and certainly Newtown is one) that He nonetheless allows to happen for reasons that may be known only to Him - perhaps things that even result in the avoidance of future occurences of the same.

    It is important as well to remember that Christianity posits that evil in the world is the result of the rebellion of men and women against God. God is not the author of evil. Though there may be times when Christians may not be as precise as they ought in their statements leading to misunderstandings, it is also a reflection of an ignorance of the most fundamental tenets of Christianity to suppose that Christian's in any sense believe God to either approve of evil or to be a Being that is the source of evil.

    I would urge the author to inform himself of what he attacks first. He has regrettably discredited himself as much or more than any he had intended to target in his remarks.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Qman

      Beautifully written, Tim!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • John Stockton

      Oh, just shut up.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Observer

      Tim,

      – I Samuel 16:14 “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.”
      – I Samuel 16:15 “Saul's attendants said to him, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.”

      Read the Bible sometime.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Scott

      actually, I find his article to be a lot more sensical than your post.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • jv

      Religious zealots are so devoid of a sense of logic, and you, sir, are exhibit number 1

      December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • sbp

      Oh, please, god allowed it to happen "for reasons known only to him." Why does he get off the hook with that ridiculous "we can't understand his ways" routine? Maybe we CAN, and he's a jerk. Or maybe the whole thing is a fraud, and your tortured logic is the best you can do fitting the square peg into the round hole.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • chrislongmoon

      I can see your point Tim. But is it any less absurd for you to then go on and tell was god does and does abhor. You don't speak for god, nor do you possess any more insight into god's will than the rest of us. Nor, for that matter, do you or anyone else even know if there is a god or not. Why do so many people make up such stories and characters and try to pass them off as true? I don't get it. What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary is a human tragedy. Why cloud that tragedy with make believe masquerading as fact?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  8. JR

    Anybody notice all the hit pieces CNN has on FoxNews lately? Can't take the heat CNN?

    December 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Observer

      JR,

      When Obama was declared the winner, the bozoes at FOX immediately started the LIE that this was the smallest victory by a 2nd-term president. That's the kind of intelligence and honesty that Rupert's network supplies.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • JJ

      Someone has to balance with the frothing at the mouth Talibangelical Christian channel.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Diogenes

      FakesNews. FauxNews. FixedNews. FoxSnooze. Same thing. It's just the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • JR

      @ Observer,
      It's a lie that Obama is the first president reelected with a smaller total number of voters and smaller percentage of voters (when compared to their initial election) in the last 190 years? You just don't like the facts they report

      December 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  9. Kathy

    I questioned several times if there was a God after this tragedy, why didn't he stop this, why did he allow this to happen, on and on with zero answers. Maybe just maybe there are no anwers, I don't know but one thing is for certain, this maniac picked up a gun and ended so many promising futures these people will never ever fullfill and left a long trail of heartache and pain. I've lost a child myself, not in this way but all the same it hurts deeply and to the core, you never get over it, I miss him so much every single day of my life and always wondered what he would of become. My prayers to each and every person suffering, the nation mourns with you.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  10. Vern Cleftman

    Religious literature and it's accompanying hyperbole is masterful fiction – like the Bible. The "Free Will" statement is just an excuse that the original purveyors of religion came up with to not just to explain things like what happened in Newtown to protect their manufactured God from blame, but mostly to cover their actions when they themselves acted contrary to the perceived teachings of Jesus in order to control the masses for their own interests. What creator would really treat His creations like this?

    December 18, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  11. The Truth

    (Revelation 21:3, 4) 3 With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. 4 And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
    I hope these scriptures have brought someone comfort

    December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Sly

      "Wait, I hear another voice from the tent next door. It's one of those millions of gorgeous teenage virgin chicks here in Heaven, and she wants my Presence. (Wilt the Stilt 1994)"

      December 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • A

      I had the same thought and was going to include James 1:13 with evil things God can not be tried.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Rob Jackson

    What an arrogant bunch of humanistic tripe. It's one thing to grieve with righteous indignation for the killing of children, it's quite another to challenge God.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Answer

      LOL

      Spoken like the slave you are.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • rahul

      because if there is something we don't need, its having more humanists around.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • JJ

      What a delusional piece of shit you are.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      Hey, Rob, you sound pretty butthurt. When your god wants to come out of your imagination and do stuff in the real world, let us know, okay? Otherwise just STFU and GTFO.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • QS

      I find it nothing to challenge a non-existent being.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Which "God" did you have in mind? There have been so many...

      December 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Scott

      what an arrogant piece of tripe to believe you know anything about God and can speak on his behalf.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  13. H Dean

    Regardless of the comments regarding whether this was God's will, the fault of guns the querstion at hand is whether this opinion is actually valid. It amounts to "Don't blame God". The answer is simple if you are an atheist – God does not exist and cannot, therefor, be blamed. If, on the other hand you are theist, depending on what sort of theist you are, it is appropriate.

    According to most theists I know, God is omnipotent and omnicient. That means he can do anything and knows everything. In effect, God must have known about this horrifying act before it happened and failed or refused to stop it. Thus, it was God's will if you subscribe to the omnipotent, omniscient God. Since I am not aware of a Christian, Jew or Muslim who does not believe in the omniscient, omnipotent God then, by definition, you MUST believe the recent tragedy to be God's will. Thus the article is moot.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • JBK

      I really wish you would not put word in other peoples mouths! What I believe is God's will in none of your business, and you seem to be very uninformed.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Scott

      JBK, sounds like you don't understand the Christian concept of God. God is, by definition, omnipotent and omniscient. Therefore, he had to know what was going to happen and had to be able to stop it. But he didn't. So, either he isn't omnipotent and omniscient, or he wanted what happened to happen. You can't argue with logic. Well, you can, but that's like trying to argue with gravity.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  14. Mike, Albany

    The 2nd amendment does not define "arms", and certainly, nowhere in the language of the amendment is the word "gun" ever used. This means that nobody has the right to keep and bear guns. It is up to us as a nation to define where we wish to draw the line on what types of "arms" the people can keep and bear. As a nation, many of whom are parents, we need to take a deep look within and decide that some sacrifices of our personal liberties are necessary so that our children can be safe. Any parent knows this. Beyond the issue of arms, we also need to take a stand against the culture of violence. Boycott violent video games, violent movies, violent TV shows. If there are no consumers of these things, they will disappear. We can choose the type of nation we want to be. Right now, our priorities are a total mess, and we should be ashamed of ourselves and in the face of other civilized countries where such violent acts are much, much less frequent. Let us not be so arrogant as to believe that our present way of life is the best. We need to change, and the time is now.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • QS

      Well said, thanks. We have to erase the tragic history of the gun debate in this country that has traditionally been monopolized by paranoid pro-gun, anti-government people and start reframing the conversation within the confines of logic, reason and rationality....not just on some false sense of patriotism.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Being Honest

    Some of U Pro-gun ppl are just out there. Gun control is not a ban on guns. Two totally different things Ur just not smart enough to know the difference. The weapon that was used on friday should not be on the street and none police or army should not have access to it. I am all for protection i own three guns but assualt weapons are not needed. If a assualt weapons ban saves just one life per yr then i am for it and if Ur not please explain why U being able to own a weapon designed for war is more important that a human life.... Most pro gun ppl are also those really religious as well so i ask U. What would Jesus do?....

    December 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Bill

      II have one of those 'evil' weapons you talk about. It has only been used to shot at targets, and it's never shot at anything by itself. What gives you the right to tell me what I can and cannot do has long as it doesn't hurt anyone? In fact, what gives you the right to tell me what to do ever?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • JBK

      I agree that gun control is not a ban, however; all you need to do is look at the history of the liberal movement in this country and you would know that it would not be long until all guns were on the list. As we have seen over the last 70 years or so, the Government, fueled by the liberal thirst for more government services and supposed equality, has lead to more and more of our rights being eroded. Take schools for example, during the American Revolution, the British and Germans were amazed at how well educated the American Patriots were. They were much better educated that their European adversaries, and this was at a time when school were mostly funded by contributions. Today, the Government demands tribute at the risk of losing your home, and we have a much worse education system. My point is that iIt would only take a few incidents of someone using a "hunting" rifle to kill a few people, and they would be demanding all guns be collected. Any loss of life is unacceptable, you must consider the possible consequences of the American public not being able to defend itself from a tyrant. Once our freedom is gone, it's gone for good!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Mike, Albany

      If the purpose of the 2nd amendment is to provide the people with the means to protect themselves against the tyranny of government, then that cause is already lost. No individual will ever have access to the types of weapons the government can access (consider nuclear warheads or biotoxins), and frankly, I do not think anyone would want to live in a country in which individuals could access these weapons. Our system of government has enough checks and balances in built into it to keep it from becoming truly tyrannical. So let's stop kidding ourselves that the reason we need to arm ourselves to the teeth is to protect ourselves against the tyranny of our government. The 2nd amendment has outlived its usefulness and has created extreme danger within our society. Is this how we want to live? I, for one, wish we could become a nation in which I can let my children go to school, to a playground, to a movie theater, or to a shopping mall without wondering if they will come home or not. America is no longer that nation.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  16. Denise

    Thank you very much for putting my thoughts into words.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  17. freddy

    god lets everything and anything happen at any given time. It is the way. We can not STOP evil, but we can make it harder for people to do these types of crimes. We need to be more serious and develop ways to protect our buildings with mass children and people. WE are in control of our own destiny. God is there to take us home to be with him if we believe in him. He does not pick and chose people who die and dont die. WE do that. our society does that. Life does that.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Which "God" did you have in mind? There have been so many...

      December 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  18. The Christians are bullwhipping Prothero into atheism

    It's like watching sharks bite each other in a feeding frenzy

    December 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  19. And you call yourself an Educator?

    What kind of "Religious Scholar" says "There may or may not be a God, but if there is..."? You, sir, are an agnostic and have zero credibility when speaking of religion because you are clearly on the outside looking in. I recommend that you stop studying others' faith and work on your own. Research yourself. Form an opinion. Then you might be fit to speak on a subject. Fat chance I would ever send my child to Boston University to be subjected to the kind of nonsense that you're "preaching". This nation was founded by Christian men, who, while not perfect, loved God, their families and their country. They prayed when they gathered to write the laws that you are referring to. If you cant respect the beliefs of the people you claim to study, nor ourforebears that toiled and died so that you can freely express your opinion, then neither the founders of this nation nor I have any more time for you.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Observer

      "Research yourself. Form an opinion."

      It's highly likely that this religious scholar and author knows FAR more about religions than you do.

      GUESS again.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • the AnViL

      "on the outside looking in" lolz

      division from the delusional.

      ya know – in reality – it's a good thing that there are people "on the outside" scrutinizing religiosity.. you should be thankful that people are "looking in".

      you should also be ashamed to be so gullible.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Andi Anderson

      And I truly believe that people like you should get rid of your computer.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • diggerw

      Right! and scientists should stop talking about electrons. Those scientists are clearly not electrons!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • SATCH

      you are an id**t. believing hat god or jesus or Mohammed, or one of the thousands of religions WHO PROFESS THERE'S IS THE ONLY TRUE GOD that cares what we do in this planet is no different than drinking the Jim Jones kool-aid and believing in fairytales. Keep believing that YOUR "God" is the one true "god" and only looking out for you and your ilk, and the other billions of people all have it wrong. Grow up. have some common sense and realism! Not to mention the trillions of other stars, but, "no" Earth is the center of the universe!" Yeah, look around at the atrocities of our disgusting, yest incredibly amazing species (i.e. going to Mars, the Moon, the outer solar system), and believe "God works in mysterious ways that your preacher taught you to brainwash you for your fear of the unknown. I feel like I live on a planet full of imbiciles!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • yo gabagaba what

      ^this guy lol

      December 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • yo gabagaba what

      whoops, just disagreeing with the original comment haha

      December 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Ed

      Most agnostics and atheists know more about religion (not just christian religions either) and the Bible than devout christians proclaim to know. The reason why he states that he doesn't know if there is a god or not is because NO ONE does.

      If you have any valid, tangible evidence, then please provide it. I'm sure that you cannot, however, because if you did have evidence or proof, then you wouldn't need faith.

      There's absolutely no way to prove that a god exists, because there's no evidence for a god, or gods. There are over 3,000 religions and gods today, and the similarity between all religions is that there is no evidence for anything which is preached from those bibles or for all of those gods. With that said, how are you so certain that YOUR god, bible, and religion is not false?

      That's specifically why the author stated that he doesn't know if a god exists, because he cannot be proven with any evidence. By the way, your own personal experiences are not evidence either, so don't even go there.

      I'll bet money that you're a self-righteous christian charlatan who proclaims to know so much about the Bible, religion, and christianity, but actually knows very little. You exemplify the sterotypical arrogant, narcissistic, pompous christian, and you're the reason why atheism is on the rise.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  20. Reality

    12:58 PM ET

    My Take: One thing I want to hear from S. Prothero. After Newtown, "I am now an atheist."

    December 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
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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.