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.
It blows my mind how people see such horrific and terrible things such as this happen in our world and still think there is a "god". The people that do see "god" when things like this occur are those who need god 1) because this has directly effected them and they have no other way to cope, 2) they cannot explain it themselves or cannot think of an explanation so they need to think themselves that since they do not know the answer someone "out there" greater must OR 3) those who need god simply because they are terrified of bad things such as these that happen and need to somehow feel comfortable that there is good out there...somewhere.
To simply put, if you have kids after something like this you are definitely "praying to god" to keep them safe – since you cannot control what happens to them throughout the day at all points – you feel better putting your faith in something "else" that hopefully does have control of them during that point which you do not.
But hey, whatever gets people through the day I'm all for. Do what makes you happy. Either way, this is such a sad sad tragedy what happened.
Suggestion: All teachers to carry a remote (panic button) that instantly sets-off sirens throughout and automatically alerts police.
And then they and the chilren in their care are killed one by one in their locked classroom.
The seventh thing we don't need to hear is Stephen Prothero.
To the gun owners of America,
the next steps are up to you. Anti-gun people don't have any material influence here. We have wanted to rid ourselves of this scourge for years but nothing has changed because you didn't want it to.
What steps are you willing to take to reduce mass killings by firearms?
It's obvious! If we rid sane people of guns, the insane people will not commit mass murders.
Yes – this is the question that, if ignored, will just add this last incident to the many as acceptable consequences.
I think what we've seen all too often, CGAW, is that it's the guns owned by supposedly sane people that wind up in the wrong hands.
Where would the 'insane people' get these guns then?
The steps I would take is just simply this...
Regulate the production of all civilian gun manufacturers to produce firearms that only have two chambers for bullets.
Military guns stay the same. You can only get military issue guns by being in the forces. Once you quit, you no longer have the rights to those weapons.
By the way.. the ammo.. you can buy however many you want. But the main issue is the civilian gun only has two bullets.
Seriously – we do need to address these issues and do everything we can. I am not in favor of assault weapons but eliminating weapons is not hte answer. Also, what about other issues such as parental and adult responsibilities, school security with a gun, what we let our kids watch and play - all these issues are involved. But if a person wants to be bad they will find a way.
you said: "I am not in favor of assault weapons but eliminating weapons is not hte answer."
So what is YOUR answer? "Do nothing" is clearly no longer acceptable.
It's a complex answer – I wnat people to do thier jobs and fulfil theor respponsibilities (don't let autistic people have access to guns), I want security at places at rish with the capability to eliminate a madman, I want a port and border security to prevent smuggling, I want sane people to have weapons but not military grade. For starters.
what do you propose to affect that? What would you do first?
let me ask the question differently, would you support:
1. A ban on the sale to the public of newly manufactured semi-automatic rifles?
2. A national, comprehensive background check and mandatory reseach/waiting period for ALL gun sales, commerical and private that checks against a database of known ineligible gun owners. This would include serious penalties for ANY gun sale, commercial or private that did not follow the procedure and resulted in a deliberate, non-suicide firearm fatality?
unless you have IQ points to spare, i suggest not reading further.
Acquiring intelligence is requiring oneself to read.. so what you are trying to do is counter-productive to oneself getting an education.
Answer has none to spare but what do you do when someone is too dumb to know any better? Pray.
That's funny. You praying is akin to admitting that you are useless. LOL
I love that.
I just made another 1 billion people useless – I added you to the church prayer list. Blessings!
Excellant article, excellant points. And the last thing we don't want to hear is the Founding Fathers this ir the Founding Fathers that....
Could you at least spell out "excellent" properly?
why not? Why is the intent of the 2nd amendment not open for discussion?
Try that in English, Johnn. I would suggest starting with your name.
There may or may not be a GOD? How can this man teach religion and make such a rediculous statement?
Maybe, ....because he's honest? Is that not allowed?
So being a religious scholar means you have to pick one?
thank you for your forthrightness on this sad occasion. I appreciate the sentiments you have expressed here.
It is time to stop the regurgitated trite plat!tudes of the faithful who cannot explain why their supposedly omnipotent, and omniscient yet loving God permits such suffering and the equally trite plat!tudes of those who regard the 2nd amendment as somehow sacred and inviolable.
It is time to start meaningful measures to minimize the recurrence of such tragedy.
The love from God is His treasures unending,
Our love onto God may ever be bending.
One man who was God died a solemn death of bitter tribute,
For all of our many did sin dare us unsoundness to be born resolute?
Hate and betray our lord God if one must,
Remember your ashes and dust is just dust.
The God of Creations did make all things known,
All the animals and us and even all plants ever are so grown.
Creations evolve and thru distances t r a v e r s e d,
Life in its abundances can never be ever r e h e a r s e d.
Love God and to all life, be ever gentle and kind,
For you see life of the living God, in nurtures, can never rewind.
Our God knows of all our pains,
Our God loves and yet He refrains.
My God is your God too,
Your God is my God ever so true.
Their God is our God one and the same,
God cares for all creatures even the lame.
Let Us Love.
God's Oldest Dreamer
Is "lettuce love" even legal?!
In two states it is! :-)
48 more to go! :-)
I've ready a number of comments and for the first time, decided to write something. Let me begin by saying three things: 1) I am a Christian, 2) I own guns for hunting and 3) I have no objection to limiting the number of shells a weapon can hold (my hunting rifles and shotguns hold 3. I've never had to reload).
I'd like to tackle a couple of issues I read in this article and in the comments. This was NOT God's will. It was the will of a disturbed young man. Man has free will and man is sinful. Need I say more? God does not make us do anything nor does He prevent us from doing anything. To think otherwise makes us less than human, the highest form of creation.
2. This is not the "sins of the fathers". If you read the Bible, Jesus was asked this very question about a young man who was disabled. He was asked if it was due to his sin or his parents and Jesus said neither, then healed him. And God was glorified.
3. Guns are not necessary to kill large numbers of people by Civilians (although they are used for such by some twisted, evil, sick individuals). If you would like to argue that, I simply point to Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City. Some fertilizer and diesel and access to the internet was sufficient. Without the aid of gun, he killed 168 people (including 19 children under the age of six ) and wounded 680. I'm not saying this to argue for or against any form of regulation (I won't go there), but simply to point out that man can be evil and twisted and will find a way to do harm if he so desires.
In conclusion, guns do kill people, if aimed by an idiot. Cars kill people, if driven by an idiot. Until mankind's heart is changed, evil will be done. We can't legislate safety or morality (and oddly enough, many of those who want less morals, want more safety..... doesn't work that way). We can make it difficult to get certain items by those who shouldn't have them. And if congress decides to do that, so be it.
Seat belts save lives...that's not preaching that's common sense. So is gun control.
This statement: "We can't legislate safety or morality" is ridiculous.
We do legislate safety. There are safety standards for machinery, the workplace and even the home.
We do legislate morality. It is illegal to kill. It is illegal to steal.
Why can't we legislate firearms better?
Good words for many to ponder on,,,,
One thought to the person who replied we do legislate safety and morality. We do have laws, some of which are designed to keep us safe (and work to some degree... idiots in cars do kill innocents in seat belts). But laws like "do not steal" are not simple morality (although they are baed on judeo-Christian teachings just like the ones folks want to get rid of at times) and those who keep then in fear of the law are not necessarily moral, just afraid of the consequences. I appreciate your comment. It was a good one and worth some thought.
The docile poster by the handle Answer tries to convince you it is a being of rationale for the physical universe with no god and that we humans are no longer barbaric but Answer has publicy procalimed its need to mock and spread discord among believers and chastise believers in a froum on a religious topic. Ignore the troll.
Oh yes please do counter the logic of reason that a god is involved in your life.
Experience the relationship of your delusions and please report to other people about those fabulous emotions that can sway people to want to be a lunatic like yourself. XD
You have no credential that the rest of us do not. Welcome to the internet, chuck.
Massacres are a religious topic?! ... actually, I probably agree!
Look up the word "docile"...
Come on, get real. How come there is a God to help you after the fact, but not there to prevent it?
The differnce between believers and non-believers....believers demand justice for an act afterwards – non-believers prefer to try to prevent an injustice from happening in the first place.
How do we know that God didn't Prevented more deaths. When the devil is trying to draw people away from salvation, he will use any instrument to did his will and putting a demon in this vile killer is one of them. People are question God right now because of it.
I'm sorry, but last I checked, it was illegal to own nuclear armaments and rocket propelled grenades... Just saying.
Really? I thought I just seen those items on ebay and Craigslist.
Yep. It's it good to have LAWS to control SOME weapons of MASS-KILLING.
Yep. It's very good to have LAWS to control SOME weapons of MASS-KILLING.
Lets see here, the last time I checked the Bible, when God god po'd he killed a bunch of first born children, sent all manors of plaques and famine, drowned every last creature on the earth save a few on the arc and well to top it off killed his only begotten son. And we wonder where people get these ideas from? I personally think we need more secularization and less of this murderous Judeo/Christianity morality.
But I want to stone my wife, eat my neighbor, and sell my child to slavery...
how can I justify that without the bible?
Don't say it is God's will? Then I shall quote Doris Day, "Que Sera, Sera Whatever Will Be, Will Be"
Rock solid sir! As a progressive Christian who has heard way too many goats masquerading as sheep spouting the heresy that this is God's judgement I offer a sincere thank you. Here are my own reflections – a bit more caustic for sure – on the kind of people who claim such.
You're still nuts.
Oh......so you don't want to hear BIBLICAL truth?
Biblical truth = oxymoron
To live like there is no God makes you a fool
Says the indoctrinated fool.
Shake your fist at God? You have no idea how much he suffered on your behalf – and how much continutes to suffer. I feel for you and your cold heart. You have no idea what a loving an all powerful God we have. And as far as your attempt to understand Him, let me be clear – I would never worship a God that YOU (specifically) understand. To do so would put your understanding on a level with the devine – something you are light years away from.
"loving God"??? One that would let Hitler (a Christian) go to heaven since he probably asked for forgiveness before he died but would send Ghandi to Hell because he wasn't a Chrisitian?
I'm sorry, "Tommy", but "God" and "Him" are elements of mythology, therefore it cannot suffer, love or have power. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".
"You have no idea how much he suffered on your behalf."
LOL! Actually, even we Atheists unfortunately know the fables and myths in your preferred religious text!
Just because we don't believe it as childishly as you doesn't mean we don't understand the story.
Look the fact of the matter is, that God gives each and everyone of use free will.
We make our own choices and mistakes.
We cannot blame God for this, Lanza used his free will to carry this out.
Some times bad things happen to good people.
That is it in a nutshell, you cannot blame no one buy Adam Lanza.
Banning guns, banning games and movies, or blaming this whole thing on anything other than Mr. Lanza is a cop out.
All we can do now is pray for the families and hope to God it never happens again.
I mean let's face it, we in America murder some 200 children a day via Abortion.
However we do not see people want to ban doctors or mothers.
Well you've found a lovely way to inject your political views into this tragedy. Congrats, do you feel better about yourself now?
Abortion is LEGAL and NEVER mentioned in the Bible.
Try to stay on topic.
Your god aborts thousands of babies every day.
LOL! I love when people start a sentence about "god" or religion with "the fact is"! LMAO!
To: hawaiiguest and Observer:
I understand, but is it not true that we Americans murder 200 children a day?
Also the article does make a statement about guns and gun control?
I am just making a statement that is 100% Abortion is legal, freedom of religion is legal and owning guns are legal.
Abortion is 100% murder, Guns kill a whole lot less then Abortion does.
Now this man says he does not want to hear these things.
However they are all part of healing and overcoming.
I say do not write articles telling people what to believe or what to say, and then when people reply
call the political or anything else.
So God MURDERED EVERY pregnant woman, child, baby and fetus on the face of the earth.
Where's your outrage? Do you support that mass-killing of innocents? Yes or no?
Murder is defined as an illegal killing. Abortion is legal, therefore not murder.
Also, don't try the little "it's murder in the eyes of god" bullshit, because that's one argument you're not going to get anywhere on here.
I think what happened in CT is very sad with out question.
However what I am trying to say is that 200 unborn children are murdered every day and we as Americans do not force laws to make that illegal.
If you look at the facts for humans have been killed by Abortion, then by any man made weapon on the face of the earth.
That is the facts and you keep dodging that and making it look like I do not care.
I am very sad about what happened to those young children.
However I believe Gun Control will not stop it from happening again.
You can spin my words any way you like, but that is the facts.
Here is what Tim really is saying..
"Abortion is murder because that is how I was taught. And s-c-r-e-w the human laws that says it isn't. My god is the law and you should believe that I am right. Case closed."
Oh but it very much seems like you don't care. Do you know why? You've used this tragedy as a forum to voice your view on a completely irrelevant subject, thinking that more people will see it. You were trying to be a sneak opportunist, just admit it and we can all move on.
Okay, after trying to decipher Tim's responses I've changed my mind....I hate it when religious people start a sentence about "god" or religion with "The fact is" because they like to try to somehow convert their beliefs into what they refer to as "facts"....then try to convince you they're right based on those false facts that they created for themselves.
You are so out of touch with reality, just because a form of Murder is legal does not make it right.
You telling me that it is ok to take the life of an unborn child, just because the Government says it is ok?
Murder is murder no matter which way to spin it.
People like you make me sick and are the number one reason we need Guns to protect us from dumb a**holes like you.
I am not making any of the facts up.
If you had an education beyond the third grade you could look it up for yourself.
The facts state around 200 Children are Aborted per day in The United States of America.
Read the facts, instead of believing what others tell you.
sorry late term abortion is mentioned: Exodus 1:16 " “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”
And here comes the true colors. I was suspecting something like this would happen, and you have performed flawlessly. You don't know my reasons for supporting the right of a woman to choose to continue through a pregnancy, or even exactly what my views are. Yet you are perfectly willing to say imply that I should be shot for my views. I bet you probably agree with those groups who bomb clinics or murder an abortion doctor as he's coming out of church.
Christian "love" at its finest.
You are wrong.
You only read and wrote the part you wanted to hear.
The pharo of Egypt told the midwives to do such.
It was because he did not want males who could fight in war against his Kingdom.
I never said I was a Christian did I?
I am Christian, but you just gave your own double standard, because you did not know I was.
However you judged me as such.
Look Murder is Murder and that is it.
You crazy people can believe what ever you want to, however don't push your laws on me.
I don't care what you think, I never have and never will.
To me you do not even have enough common sense to blow your nose.
So live in you fantasy and leave the rest of us alone.
The capital G god is standard Christianity, because Islam doesn't use it, neither does Judaism, and Hindus actually have names for their gods, as do other polytheistic religions, as do Wicca, Norse, etc. The captical G is iconic, and is as good as declaring from a rooftop that you're a Christian.
As for the rest of your self-righteous post, it's very entertaining, please continue repeating yourself in an effort to make yourself look more right. I called you out on something, and you got angry. Big surprise.
Listen, Timmie... the "fact" is that an aborted fetus is just that. NOT a child. A "child" is one that can survive outside the host. A fetus cannot survive outside its host, thus NOT a child. Nothing more than a glob of cells with the potential to become a child, assuming that it exists and sucks off its host long enough to reach birth.
Again... if it can survive outside its host, it can be called a "child." If not, it's a glob of cells. If it's a glob of cells, it isn't murder. Repeat slowly, and someday it may sink in.
See how easy it is when you mix biologic evolution with a world view that excludes God. I wonder how those of us who were not aborted look at the compassion in your reply.
Can I call you mommy dearist?
Another pointless post from fred the fool.
Who cares what you want and don't want to hear. People have various beliefs and can say whatever they want just the same as you. Obviously, you're an agnostic, so what does it matter to you what people of various faiths have to say about the tragedy. You've had your little say in your moment of CNN fame. Tomorrow, that moment of insignificant fame and your opinion will vanish like a vapor. Stop pontificating from your ivory tower. Behold, the arrogance of the scholarly elite.
"Obviously, you're an agnostic, so what does it matter to you what people of various faiths have to say about the tragedy?"
Did you read the article? He actually explains in detail why these particular sayings are ridiculous at best, and offensive at worst. But as a person of faith you obviously don't care what people of varying beliefs have to say about the tragedy, do you?
QS, have you not read the article? He is not commenting on the tragedy itself, he is commenting on how people of faith should talk about the tragedy.
"He is not commenting on the tragedy itself, he is commenting on how people of faith should talk about the tragedy."
And? That's was my point, that you apparently didn't get....that just because you may be a person of faith doesn't mean you should use those particular phrases to talk about the tragedy as they are offensive to many.
Your response didn't make sense.
Typo, should be "That was my point". :-)
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.