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.
To all of you who believe that our Creator has, as one preacher/minister said, "taken these children to heaven" DON'T believe it!!!!! He would never do that, he does not work that way. How hurtful that would be to the parents, families, and friends. If God "takes" people to be with him in heaven, would he take them so violently? And if so, with that line
of reasoning, then why does anyone want to know more about the shooter? That would mean that the killler was just doing
God's will. It makes me so sad to hear a minister saying that to these parents, haven't they had enough pain and horror? These terrible crimes are a result of the evil influence of Satan and his pervasive methods of deceit. Many want to
blame God, and therefore excuse the killers. I pray that the family members receive the proper help they so desparetly need.
Lass: Apparently, you are not familiar with your bible. God sent angels to kill children. THAT IS how god works.
All things happen for a reason. The Almighty is the Best of Planners. Know this... Not a leaf falls from a tree without the Almighty's first knowledge of it...
The devil (shaitan) has been planning ever since he was cast out for disobeying a command.
First you have to believe in the seen as well as the unseen in things. It is like a scene in a movie playing out on our television sets or violent video game It may seem real but it isn't.
The 20 Children (Angels) and their 6 Adult (Earthly Protectors) did not die nor was this act in vain, they were not lost. They are simply in another dimension. My deepest prayers go out to the Families, First Responders, Newtown and our Nation. May GOD bring you and PEACE and the Strength to go on...
P.S. US gov Do the Right Thing!!!
A more extensive questionaire for potential gun owners needed. Particularly in the area of mental health and family history of mental health for starters. For weapons such as what was used in this act. Ban that weapon!!! Much higher mandatory jail sentence for anyone caught with unlicensed firearms.
How about if some random guy doesn't ell us what we can and can't say? What a complete fascist to try to dictate to everyone what we're allowed to do. I don't believe in God, but after reading this, I certainly have the urge to declare all of this God's will.
this is a better/more thorough explanation of what mike huckabee probably meant by his comments.
isaiah 47:5 "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things."
you can "choose" to believe this Scripture or not. you can "choose" to believe there is even a God at all, but, any choices anyone makes was known by the Creator God.
isaiah 46:10 "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure:"
-Here is the best part of Stephen's article -
~~~ Jesus should call you other nut-bags "home". Today.
cjw said, "you can "choose" to believe this Scripture or not. you can "choose" to believe there is even a God at all, but, any choices anyone makes was known by the Creator God."
You are correct. That is why there is no such thing as free will. That is, if there is a christian god... God knew what you would do when he made you. You have no choice but to do exactly that. Otherwise, whatever it is you are worshiping fails your own definition of "god". If god knows all, then you have no free will. If you have free will, then there is no god.
Is that supposed to clear something up? Sounds like a lot of wind with nowhere to go.
cjw et al,
The sower does sow all like manner in seeds of mankind and of sowing these seeds sown being of mankind does the sower await to reap the sown harvest of mankind's laments. As the sower does reap the laments harvests of mankind's seeded covetousness, the sower makes well the goodly many of the seeds yet to be sown. The sower can only plant the seeds of mankind and in the sower's planting of mankind's seed will the sowers ever be reaping that which the harvests declare from the seeds once and ever to be so sown.
Who else can the sowers be but of the family of God who all do live deeply inside our bodies which are but godly buildings sown and grown by all of God's families? We who do know are the harbingers of the seeds yet to be sown and in one's knowing of things to be coming does the sown seeds make ready the harbingers soon to be harvested seeds of tried laments. God being the first sower of all sowers does ever await all tested harbingers coming from many sown harvests.
And the one other question I will add to that is:
"Will you go willingly?"
If YES then p-i-s-s off already and die.
You probably wouldn't even buy a used car from this Isaiah guy if you ran across him today...
@Gwen. This is the funniest thing on these comment boards. And that is saying something given the laughs I'm getting from this page...
Still waiting for Stevie P's declaration:
My Take: One thing I want to hear from S. Prothero. After Newtown, "I am now an atheist."
If there not a god who made the earth, sun, moon , ocean, cloud and mankind ?
What is your basis for thinking there is? You can't use the Bible – you have no proof it's not fiction.
The laws of physics and lots of time. And I mean aeons of time long before humans came in with their myths.
Simple. OORSKn created IIPRXo, then IIPRXo created NNEORYY (you call him God today). Your god is actually third-in-command.
Earth: Tectonic movement causes earthquakes and volcanoes.
Sun: It's gonna burn out at some point don't you know.
Moon: He could have made the Helium-3 easier to get you know, that'd solve a lot of energy problems.
Ocean: I can drown in that stuff!
Clouds: Clouds are pretty ace, I'll hand you that.
Mankind: Mass murderers. Suffering. The ability to bite the inside of my own mouth.
That is 5 fails out of 6. That is pretty shoddy workmanship if we're being honest.
On number one you are absolutely literally wrong. God does kill children in the bible. Passover is a celbration of god's murder of the first born children of the Egyptians. This is a class terrorist act that god perpetrates on children. God murders lots of people lots of times in the bible. If you are going to be a Christian you will have to get used to the fact that god kills – men women and children routinely. That is the nature of god per the bible.
God as Jesus or Jesus (whichever) is planning a mass torture of men women and children. Jesus is the greatest torturer ever envisioned by mankind. No other character either real or imaginary comes close to Jesus for pure evil. He is planning, according to the bible to torture about 99% of all the people who have ever been.
Number 2. That is not the way god works. God takes vengeance. Jesus tortures because people don't worship him. That is psychopathy and narcissism. When you understand that god/Jesus is the worst of the worst you don't have to do much interpretation of the bible – it makes sense. When you take god as good you have to go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to have it make sense. When you realize that god is a horrific murder and torturer then everything falls into place easily.
Number 3. I will just pass on.
Number 4. Look at god's judgements in the bible. They are capricious, vicious and hateful. God is one evil guy. The devil does not even come close to the evil done by God. Kill all the men, kill all the women who have known a man and keep the virgins for yourselves. What an incredibly evil god by any measure.
Number 5 and 6 I will pass on.
You need to get to know the god you are dealing with. God is not some nice kindly grandfather type, he is a serial mass murderer on a vast scale. Jesus eclipses him with his plans of hell for vast swaths of the population. God does murder children in many places in the bible, in the Noah story, Sodom and Gomorrah, Saul is instructed to kill every living thing and then falls out of favor with god when he doesn't do it. God is fickle and evil. What happened at Newtown is just a drop in the bucket for god.
I think you would be a lot better off finding a better god to worship or if you are up to it swear off gods and try reality for a while.
Rusty Yates: Where is the thumbs up when you really need it. Perspective. Nice.
GOD DOES NOT EXIST. Those stroies you continue to read are what you people use to justify everything that happens in this world. The fact is, the millions of followers of this novel, only do so because they do not have the answers to the simple question "WHY"? These stories were meant to comfort you in your time of need. These stories have been changed so many times and primarily to comfort or "prove" what the people of privlege are saying. And this novel is used to get you to become part of the various cults. ALL religions are CULTS.
Beautifully said, Rusty.
Religion is an insult to human dignity.
With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.
But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
...or an order from Pol Pot, Stalin or Chairman Mao. The religious no longer have a monopoly on senseless killing.
Why is it you don't want a deity to take responsibility for this only? What about child cancer? Or the Black Death or other plagues? What about hurricanes and tidal waves? What about pedophiles? What about other murders of children like drone attacks and terrorists? Are those okay, just this one isn't? Either a deity is all powerful and is responsible or it's not and then who wants to have faith in a less powerful deity?
If god exists, he is a jerk. I resent the implication that such a childish and mentally unstable being would have the ability to "judge" me.
The polar bears and kangaroos did not make it across continents. Think about the New Orleans flood. If you did not know anything existed outside of New Orleans, you would think the world had a great flood, when in actuality it was your space or region. If he did gather ALL the animals, it was probably only the animals in that region.
God flooded the earth to KILL every person (but 8). Try again.
and the bezan shall be huge and black, and the eyes thereof red with the blood of living creatures, and the bleep of Babylon shall ride forth on a three-headed serpent, and throughout the lands, there will be a great rubbing of parts. Yeeah...
for the demon shall bear a nine-bladed sword. NINE-bladed! Not two or five or seven, but NINE, which he will wield on all wretched sinners, sinners just like you, sir, there, and the horns shall be on the head, with which he will...
Angry Prophet, Life of Brian
The bible stated that people will die for lack of knowledge .
The bible stated that people will die for eating shellfish.
The Bible was written on paper, wasn't it? By people, right? Which means it is possible it was just made up, like any other novel. How do you know it is "the word of god" apart from it saying it is? If the Harry Potter books say "a true story", does that make them true?
The religious nut-bags love using their babble – and only the parts that they agree with- to highlight their great and kind religion.. but noooo, they don't cut and paste the parts that they hate.
According to the bible it's the complete opposite. Your god admires and embraces childlike ignorance.
You remind me of the Thermians, the alien race in Galaxy Quest, who received broadcasts way out in space of a Star Trek-like TV series and thought they were real. They built their whole society around the fictional fantasy capers on the show and glorified the heroes as divine.
If there is a god who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, why didn't he/she stop this atrocity and others like it? The simple answer : there is no god... believe there is a god, then there is... believe there is no god, then there isn't. Good and bad acts are done by people, not god, satan, angels, or demons. So teach children to love, respect authority, control emotions etc., things like Newtown will not happen. Continue parenting like we are and more of the same is bound to happen, and with greater frequency.
There shall in that time be rumors of things going astray, erm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things with the sort of raffia-work base, that has an attachment. At that time, a friend shall lose his friend's hammer, and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight o'clock.
Boring Prophet, Life of Brian
I love this article. I would have more respect for CNN if I saw more articles like this.
OK, I intended to make a snarky comment here, but this was actually a better than average CNN editorial. I am sorry to see that the gun nuts are already sticking their noses out of the sewer.
The man in China used a knife to kill many schoolchildren...
Should we outlaw KNIVES then?
Where's the logic there?
Knives don't kill people; sick and disturbed people do.
There should be a national conversation on mental illness, morality, and raising kids properly. Oh, that's right, we can't have that because we've been sued and taken morality out of schools.
We reap what we sow, and then we act surprised when evil rises from the pits of hell.
Oooooh. Pits of hell. Sounds ridiculous.
The other question you miserable failures in life fail to see is the time it takes.
You squeeze a trigger and can empty a full clip in under 5 seconds. With a knife – ya- you do the exercise.
You cretins are so common.
Get serious. The attack in China has cause ZERO DEATHS, I heard. So it was 20 to 0 for the guns.
And how many died in the China mass stabbing: ZERO.
Knife can be used for cutting things. It's benefit outweighs its danger.
An assault rifle is different. Like poison gas, its only use is for massing killing. Do you think poison gas should be banned or it should be allowed to be used by any person?
First of all, knives serve a daily, practical, benign purpose in society that guns do not. There is great utility in knives. Guns are only meant to kill or wound. Also, no one is looking to outlaw guns. Try not to be so reactionary. The national conversation triggered by the Newtown tragedy is of reasonable gun control, and responsible gun ownership. How could anybody oppose this... especially law abiding gun owners. I don't get it.
And to touch on your example of the knife wielding man in China, please get your facts straight if it is to be the anchor of your argument. Yes, he attacked 22 students and one adult with a knife, but there were NO, I repeat NO fatalities. Can you imagine the death toll would have been the same had he been armed with semi automatic weapons? Well, we can look to Newtown Connecticut for that answer.
I'm not sure what you mean by morality being taken out of schools, but I believe you are confusing morality with religion. Please familiarize yourself with the difference.
And can you please explain to me what the innocent children and devoted care givers of Newtown sowed to justify such a reaping?
As for the "pits of hell", well that's just silly, and not a valid argument of anything. It's just a sound bite people regurgitate when they have nothing intelligent to contribute to the conversation.
And to expect answers from a god that's never answered is ridiculous.
Whats hilarious: Non believers trolling those whom believe in a RELIGIOUS blog.
The Irony.... is repulsive...
The true irony is that there is no alignment between believers with all of the religions insisting theirs is the one true religion/god/way.
It's hilarious that you think you've got some special knowledge or credentials that the rest of don't have. We are just as qualified to comment in the belief blog as you are.
The true irony is that you find it ironic that some people have a problem with delusional fantasies.
I see you're still trying to grasp the meaning of irony.
"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."
Not a blog for only those who are Religious, but actually a place for discussion about the role of faith and religion in current events. That can include discussion on whether or not faith should come into play at all.
What kzmar said.
There are numerous Christian sites around the internet which delete and ban posts/posters that disagree with them. You might like them...
Christians can't eve decide amongst themselves what they believe. There are thousands of "christian" denominations, all preaching something different.
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.