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.
Here is a 7th – "I'm an atheist and there is no god" Don't believe? Go hang out is your atheist forums where you can all appreciate your similarities.
We will take the time to mock and play with the delusionals and watch them go full defensive. Best part of life is doing that!
So you thrive on discontent and harassing other people? I guess there are forums for that too and the people that discuss in them are referred to as pitiful losers who waste the joys of life.
Mocking you t-w-a-t.. oh definitely.
CGAW - "Do you have a personal relationship problem?.. let us both turn to Zeus. XD
CGAW, et al,
Who but the 'family of God' make all things to be made? Who but the vain families of man can curse God and God's family tree?
telling people the truth is harassment lol
being told the truth = assault
being an atheist is the easy way out.
No reprocutions to your actions. Get to think that no one is the boss of you. Sound familiar? Yep, children say this type of thing because they want to believe there is no responisbilty for your actions. Yet, we grow up and find that is not true, there ALWAYS is a reaction for our actions...and life is no different.
Take the easy way out..."I don't have to be good...I can do what I want whenever I want because I am the boss of me!" or realize that in all of life that is not true. Its not true on any level in human existence (as science has proven) and isn't on this topic either.
matt – cause and effect, while real... does not give the slightest bit of credence to religion.
you spittle on science while in the same breath you use it for support.
you're keen on false dichotomies and presuppositions.... but atheism isn't
I am a man of science. If you do scientific research, you will see:
even atheists understand, once their "faith" is given a glimpse to show them it IS reality:
@matt Easy way out?! You must be joking. I have to go through life knowing that I'm sitting on a ball of rock hurtling through space around a ball of nuclear flames and that at the end I face suffering and then oblivion. Yeah, that's pretty simple to come to terms with. On the other hand you (in your head at least) get to look forward to living forever in some place that is unimaginably amazing. In your head you don't have to come to terms with never existing and also coming to terms with there not being an overarching "meaning" to life. You, buddy, have it freaking easy!
How many of your christians have a planned out exit for today.. one that is in the design of your god?
I hope we don't have you here with us for the tomorrow. Bless ye god for that.
Believe as you must, just be ready to pay up on Judgement day.. God does allow us to go through trials to strengthen us.. And for those parents, this would be the trial of all trials.. For all of you atheists, God has a special place for you and when you get there, dont forget, we tried to tell you. I like to look at it this way, If im wrong, im no worse off than you, however, if youre wrong, you've really made an irreversible mistake, and you'll pay for it for all of time.. Man.... I'll take my odds.
Nice way of stating Pascals wager. It was dumb when he came up with it, and when you repeated it just now.
you make god sound so vindictive and cruel. think this is you. maybe you should worry. a true god would love me even if i did not accept or understand him/her/it
Oh yeah, I would rather go to "the special place" than to be forever in a place that excludes people simply because they chose the wrong religion out of the thousands that exist on this planet. Just think, people you love and care about are sentenced to an eternity of burning and torture for something that whichever god happens to be real (hint: it's none of them) could have easily cleared up by appearing to everyone, proving who he was and telling us what he wants. That in no way takes away "free will." We would still have the choice to follow or not. I seriously cannot believe you take the word of the backwards barbarians that wrote the bible.
@shane vanderhoff that is why he gave us free will. So that we can make the decision ourselves and it will come from our hearts.
Its ok if you don't believe and have developed such a hatred for religion that you set to attack it on any discussion where it is brought up. Christians should always welcome challenges and questions. It gives us an open forum to spread his love and word. If you continue to ignore and mock it, God will still forgive you, if you want his forgiveness. But if you don't, he has issued information about what that may mean.
I will never get upset with an opportunity to talk faith, even if it is a forum full of atheists who hate god or believe he doesn't exist. I will continue to share the message, and if you choose to turn from God, that is your choice. Again, we all have the power, resources and minds to research, pray and educate ourselves so we can make the best decision possible on such an important topic. I find that most (not all but most) atheists that preach on the internet have a very closed mind. They do not want to have a discussion, they want to argue.
The cycle will never end...because Christians will always try and help those that don't get it...and those that don't get it will always mock those that do.
I used to feel like, "well, tough crap for those that don't believe." But I have recently realized that is part of my job in growing myself spiritually; to see others struggling with this intelligent topic and see if I can offer them some understanding through the blessings I was given.
I can't make people change their opinions, that isn't my job. But it is my job on earth to try and talk with people who struggle with the topic and help them as much as I can through love, love for another person/human being.
Religion is a disease... and look what it's done to you.
Man, you better hope god doesn't prowl the pages of CNN... He's gonna know you're not being exactly truthful in your belief!
Why is no one commenting on the author quoting Lincoln "The Almighty has his own purposes"? What does this mean? Does this mean that it was meant for those children to die at 6 before they were born they were going to die at 6? One child killed gets to wear the outfit that she was begging to wear for weeks to school on that day. One child leaves a note in her diary that says mommy I love u. Are these just consequences are could there really be a plan for all of us? But we just Dnt want to accept that we have no control in our life
great ideas to ponder
Let this former math teacher assure you that there's plenty of prayer in school
i wonder, liz... how often those prayers work.
i do hope you attempt to instill the concept of studying hard – and not leaving a grade up to the grace of an imaginary man in the sky.
might be part of why we're so behind in math.
– just sayin
It does my heart good to read all the defamation of religion on this post. Organized religion is the bane of humanity. The religious base their lives on myth , fantasy and fiction. Those poor children died because of some nut who had an assault rifle which the NRA deems necessary for people to own.
"Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
I don't see what's so confusing about that. It's still remains true. Put a drunk in a car and watch him go kill innocent bystanders on the sidewalk as he careens out of control. Do you plan to attack the auto industry for not installing anti-drunk measures? How about attack alcohol distributors as well?
Exactly, since people kill people, there's really nothing we can do. We just need to get back to the Wild West. Those were some good times. Everyone strolling about with a heater on their hip. I know how much better I'd feel if all my fine fellow Americans were packing.
Holy crap, stop. This reasoning is so played out. He explains the part that is actually confusing *you* very clearly.
people kill not guns-this is the mantra of morons under the control of the nra and the gun lobby no different than jim jones. i feel sorry for such people unable to think in a logical intelligent manner.
Here here, Mr. Prothero! Great article. I have long been frustrated by the mental gymnastics that people play in order to find comfort; reason, logic, and our personal liberties often take a hit whenever they do. To suggest that god is omniscient, omnipotent, and always right with a "will" that is in control of EVERYTHING (past, present, future) means that ALL things MUST happen as god has foreseen them. Otherwise, he would sometimes be wrong, or, at the very least, unaware of what the future holds. Some explain the discrepency between this statement and gut-wrenching reality by claiming that god is in control of everything, but gave us free-will or that evil is not of god; this, however, implies that god is in control of everything BUT evil or our choices. And if not in control of something, then he's not in control of everything. Perhaps he is in control of evil but chooses not to act by his providence and righteousness? I find this possibility disturbing, disgusting and not at all supportive of an all loving being. "Well, you can't know god" or "god's love is vastly greater than simple human understanding" are all too often the answers given to quiet the mind and heart over this obvious logical inconsistency. Unfortunately, these common, simple answers rob Humanity the chance to focus on performing the really hard, complex, socially advancing work which lies ahead.
it,is a sad day in america when we denounce the one and true god who loves us so much,get all the blame when some evil minded person commit acts like this .then all of a sudden its god fault.god have mercy on your people.leo
Leo, put a space after every punctuation mark, please.
Wait, wait... Which one is the "one, true God?"
Fair enough. But then don't claim a nice sunset, or when people give to charity or when a doctor saves your life. Don't give those to god if you won't give him the terrible things. Sounds like a man who wants to have his divine cake and eat it.
What is CNN coming to, to allow an idiotic article like this? Who the hell cares what you don't want to hear??? People are comforted by different words, bible passages, etc. I bet the things you listed comforted millions of people. Instead of writing absolute crap like this why don't you think of something to comfort people instead of criticizing people who are actually trying to help and explain this tragedy. They could be wrong but they are not as wrong as you for writing this crap.
Jesus said, `A man went out to sow his seed. As he sowed it, some seed fell on the road. People stepped on the seed. Birds ate it.
6 Some seed fell on the stony ground. It grew but soon died because the place was too dry.
7 Some seed fell among the weeds. The weeds grew up and made the new plants die.
8 But some seed fell on good ground and it grew well. Those plants gave a hundred times as much grain as the man sowed.' When Jesus had said this, he called out, `Everyone who has ears to hear, listen!'
9 His disciples asked Jesus what this story meant.
10 He said to them, `You can learn the secret things about the kingdom of God. But other people must have stories. They will look, but they will not see. They will hear, but they will not understand.'
11 `Now here is what the story means. The seed is God's word.
12 Some seeds fell on the road. They are like the people who hear the word of God. Then the devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts. He does not want them to believe and be saved.
13 Some seeds fell on the stones. They are like people who are glad when they hear the word. But it does not go down deep into their hearts. They believe for a short time. But when they have trouble they stop believing.
14 Some seeds fell among the weeds. They are like people who hear the word. But they think about the things of this world. They want to get money and things to be happy in this life. As they go on in life, these things push the message out of their hearts and no good comes from them.
15 Some seeds fell on good ground. They are like people who hear the word and remember it. Their hearts are honest and good. These people keep on believing, and much good comes from them.'
Here are some more of the brain washing lines...
"Are you lost or having a personal relationship problem?"
"Are you searching for something else that you can't seem to find?"
"Wouldn't it be great if you knew that someone is waiting for you and loves you?"
- Get you with either fear or needle out your insecurity. That is the core of the deceptive practices of the brainwashing religions.
No wonder so many religious people seem to act mentally like children in adult bodies – the lessons they are taught rely on child-like thinking and questionable philosophy.
Of course it was god's will! Let's get serious here. God knows what he is doing. He created us all to be just like him, and god has killed millions of people with his earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, diseases, famines and holy wars.
In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth, and he created mankind starting with Adam and Eve, and Cain killed Abel, but he did not use a gun! For as long as mankind has existed he has killed other humans and animals. It is in our nature. In fact, it is only due to the recent (and as yet not fully implemented) civilization of mankind that we have taken steps to stop indiscriminate killing.
If anybody truly wants to do something to make our world a safer, more humane place to live, then just look into a mirror and ask yourself what YOU did today to reduce hatred, aggression, lack of compassion and disrespect for your fellow man. As for me, with only three days remaining before the end of the world, I am looking to love as many women as possible so that we all go out a little happier and a lot more satisfied than we are right now!
"...just look into a mirror and ask yourself what YOU did today to reduce hatred, aggression, lack of compassion and disrespect for your fellow man."
I do this every day by telling that guy in the mirror that today I once again stood up to religious zealots trying to create the world in the image of their preferred cult.
Good point regarding Huckabee. More on that here:
See also Rachel Held Evans' post on this:
There is truly a God... just the heavens itself shows Gods handiwork.. The reason this horrific event took place, and many more horrific events similar to this ihappens is because God equipped humans with "self will".. God will not interfere with our lives like we are his "board game"..he gave us "self will" ... some people choose to do evil things,some do not..for in this world you will have trouble..
Too stupid. Way too stupid.
I do hope that your god's plan wipes your whole lot of religious nuts out sometime later today. It would be fabulous.
Thanks for letting us know how God goes about his business.
I love my child, raise him or her as best as I can and hope for the best for them. If I knew that my child was going to commit mass murder, I'd do everything in my power to stop them. Guess I like people more than your deity seems to.
LOL! Thanks for the humor in this dark times.
if god cant protect or help us then he/she/it is irrelevant. wake up
These are the people who keep any truly meaningful discussion on the topic from happening because they demonstrate the same mental instability that those who do the shootings exhibit.
God won't interfere?! So what happens when you get cured of a disease? Who do you rush to thank? You specifically now... I'll give you a clue, it probably won't be the doctor.
I like Mike Huckabee as a person. My problem with him is that he opens his mouth without putting any thought into how the words he is about to utter might be perceived. What he was trying to say, sanitized for a multi-religious and in some cases areligious nation, is this:
We no longer teach our children morality and responsibility, and we haven't for quite some time now. We weren't teaching it when I was in school, and I'm 34 years old. When pressed on the matter, we (as society) respond that that's the parents' jobs, and that we don't want the schools parenting our children. When asked "What about those parents who don't want the job, or those who are so unskilled at the job that their children are underserved?", we get the pithy response that they "should have thought about that before they had children", as if that should somehow undo the fact that those children are now a part of our society and are lacking the training in morality and responsibility that they require. In short, we, as a society, are failing in OUR responsibility to fill in the cracks... to find the most troubled members of our society and help them... to foster a society in which people obey the laws because it's the right thing to do, rather than out of fear of punishment or reprisal. At some point in our quest for freedom, we decided that we needed to be free of morality and free of responsibility, purposefully ignorant that morality and responsibility are prerequisites for a functional free society. Now we are seeing the consequences of these actions, on all our parts (myself included), and we're still looking for someone, anyone, to blame other than ourselves. But we must find that blame in ourselves, and resolve ourselves to fix it on an individual basis. Only when our society takes personal responsibility for what is wrong with the society as a whole, and fixes those problems on a personal basis, will we begin to fix society... one person at a time.
A lot of mouthy atheists here.. I'd like to run into one of you on the street and see how gabby you are after.
Oooo a believer threatening to use a car as an instrument of his deity's will. That's really original.
I hope that's because you would engage them in a kind and well-meaning debate that would encourage them to re-examine their beliefs, rather than because you would visit violence upon them... because, you know, that's not a very Christian thing to do.
Damocles, I didnt say run "over" that person .. with a car.. but thanks for the laugh, that was a good one :)
Yay. Another internet tough-guy. A real stand-up Christian too.
Mike, nice of you to criticize how "Christian" a person is after attacking them about them being Christian in the first place .... am I losing my mind here or are you people not making any sense??
How charmingly christian of you.
I'd imagine you run away like the little girl that you are. I like to take bibles and urinate on them when in hotel rooms ;-)
Yes, Andrew, I know what you said. I was making a subtle point and I am sorry if you didn't pick up on it.
So Christ-like. Such a good example of Christians of today. I'm sure other Christians are so proud of you.
Based on your post, you presumably believe in God. Seems you also don't listen to "his" teachings to closely because your post certainly suggests physical harm unto atheists. Not that I am surprised.
Oh I doubt you'd do anything but whisper quietly your pious little platitudes merely to make yourself feel good.
Shove a bible up your ass.
The bitter, bitter irony in your extraordinarily stupid remark! You do sound like your childish bully of a sky-man, though. I bet your crazy a$$ has a shrine to that kid. You people worship at the altar of bloodshed and idiocy.
:) Gab Gab Gab ... Im done with this juvenile back and forth. I only took the bait initially cause of all the continuous trash talk but that was my mistake to fall for it. You guys are a bunch of losers sitting behind computer monitors. Grow up, get a life. And Stephen, you're self-righteous article was posted under the guise of feeling sorry for the poor children who died at Sandy Hook. You should be ashamed of yourself. -last post.
Well, you have done the easy part, so come on! Show us all how you are an example of your god's love, and why we should believe the way you do. Your threat is actually the primary reason so many intelligent people shun the very idea of sky fairies.
always funny when abusive frustrated violent people lash out on forums – then run away.
unless you have IQ points to spare, i suggest not reading further.
"But people do not shoot bullets into people without guns."
That is correct – they use arrows, knives, gasoline, baseball bats, rope, or any number of other things. Guns are not the problem because it is the PEOPLE who kill other people, regardless of the weapons.
Obviously we need to ban people then.
Wrong. Guns make it MUCH EASIER for MASS-KILLING.
Observer: Tell that to Timothy McVeigh, or the 9/11 terrorists.
Thank you dude, was going to mention fertilizer and planes make it easier to kill mass amounts of people. Cell phones make their contributions as well. Hell, rumors kill tons of people.
If you were in that room, you would have been THRILLED that the guy ONLY had a knife.
Get serious. How many McVeighs and 9/11's have there been? How many MASS-KILLINGS by guns?Get real.
This argument makes my blood boil... Yes 9/11 happened with planes and Oklahoma city with bombs but that doesn't mean that banning bombs and not allowing random religious fanatics from flying Boeing 747s hasn't stopped atrocities! If bombs were legal for "self-defence" then we'd have many more Oklahoma-style massacres. Look at Europe. They have gun rampages, like in Norway recently, but they are few and far between, because they have less guns. If they had more guns they would have more gun rampages, like in the US. Afghanistan has lots of deaths by landmines. Can you possibly guess why?! Because they have more freaking landmines!!! Do you know why landmines deaths are rare in the US?! Because you can't buy 'em at your local K-mart!
God plan everything. God decides who he will show mercy to and who he will not. God works everything for the good of those on whom he has decided to show his mercy
Jeremiah 29.11 roman 8. 29-30
Shirley: God knew what everyone would do when he made them. He made some people to be "good" and some to be "bad". It was his INTENT to punish people when he made them, because he knew exactly what they would do when he made them.
I hope your planned exit is soon.
That's the good thing about America...you get to believe one way, and I can believe another.
God's will, if you believe, is above any of our comprehension. All I know is that He loves each of those children even more than we can imagine.
and thats why he allowed them to be chopped to pieces by an assault rifle. you are a moron or out of reality
Then I hope he doesn't "love" me. I'd prefer to go on living in this actual life and am not sufficiently egotistical to think that anything powerful enough to create the universe would waste time caring one bit about me.
I don't know about 1-5, but # 6 about "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People" is accurate. However, I don't go around quoting it or mentioning or ramming such a glib statement down someone's throat when they are in mourning. A gun is a powerful tool and like any tool it requires someone to pick it up and use it. This person happened to misuse it for whatever reason.
Nuclear bombs don't kill anyone either. Same for handgrenades. Everyone should be able to have them, right?
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.