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.
Yes, at Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, but what about the Oklahoma City Federal Building? No guns there huh...?
No guns but a Christian nut job.
Timothy McVeigh was raised as a Catholic. He was a registered Republican and NRA member.
How many of them should we ban?
Mike huckabee didn't say it was Gods will he said that if we keep kicking God out of our country sin and evil is going to come in because we have escorted him out of our country
What is preventing you from praying wherever and whenever you want?
Why aren't there mass shootings in Finland, the most atheist of all countries?
Oh dear you are a dumb one.
You nailed it, mama.
Thank you for writing this article and for saying so well what many of us think
Why does CNN pay you for your opinion? This article is not worth a cent.
Other comments disprove your comment.
Yet, you apparently read it and didn't pay anything, dummy.
Where is God many folks ask and I shall attempt to answer all.
God and His whole family tree lives deeply seeded inside all things made of our living trees of life's evolution. He is our husbandry in that God and his family members are building our bodies within our mother's womb. God and His families are of such a very so very small scale of physical being, that God and His family could all be placed upon a single atom in that a single atom is but a tiny galaxy of extreme smallness. Okay? Okay then! Dream on!
The author of this article hit a home run. Great, objective, wise observations and offerings.
Every once in awhile, we see a lucid commentary from an intellectually able person. This is a great example of that.
Christians believe that God gave people decision making capability and freedom, so this was evil choices, not God's will. As a whole, the community provides too few mental health services, so that's their evil choice. I'd agree there. But how arrogant to say that those who believe in the resurrection should not have the comfort of their own beliefs. And how silly to think that a gun rises up and kills people – it is the person who pulls the trigger. If you want to say that so many people can't manage access to guns and therefore everyone must be controlled, that's a point that might have some traction. Just say so, rather than all of the rhetoric.
What "religion scholar" says there may not be a God?
hehehe- He doesn't believe in God there for his dedicated his life studing his existence, I'd give him a D- for his has yet not see dispite all his readings and studies about God, he's being looking for god in the printed words of books and not where god can be found...but with out a open mind when will he find him.
You get an F. You need to re-read what you type, it is gibberish.
For those who say that "without guns, there would have been no massacre," need I remind you of Rwanda? 800 000 innocent people killed. What was used? Sure there were guns, but a large portion of people simply used machetes. That was all that was needed, a weapon of some sort. I myself have thought about school massacres and how i could be able to carry them out. (I'd like to say that I don't plan on ever acting them out) I've never based it around using guns. A knife that i use personally, explosives in key locations, toxic chemical clouds in chokepoints, etc. A gun is hardly a key element to one of these plans. Also, if god (no need to capitalize!) were as powerful as claimed to be. To be able to create the universe and life and all that jazz, why is it so hard for him to get rid of something he essentially created? Did he not put that "tree of knowledge" there himself, knowing what can and will happen concerning it? If your counter-argument is "Satan's power", than ask yourself this. In a matter of days, god created everything, but in a matter of minutes Satan was able to mess that all up? And then god spends millenia trying to sort out this problem created by a simple suggestion?
Well we seem to have seen quite a number where guns was the plan. And stop with the silly comparison to Rwanda. We're talking about something that took minutes here from one individual.
But look at it this way, one person with presumably little planning, main intent on killing people, killed almost 30. Add thousands more and that number quickly escalates. Add more time and that number pretty much multiplies. This recent shooting happened in a place where guns are oh so easily accessible and there are rapid reaction forces to add pressure to the one acting out the crime. Rwanda had next to no threat towards the extremists and they had plenty of time to do what they wish. It is essentially history repeating itself, just as stated by Dalliare. With different conditions, the numbers change, but it is still the same situation. Different motives, similar outcomes. The man who performed the shooting wanted to take his frustration out, presumably on those who caused it the most. With pressure and those motives, he probably wanted the job done quickly and effortlessly. Well, guns are quick and effortlessly, so they suited his needs. If he intended on a larger scale, he probably would have used other means.
CNN - if you can have an atheist like Prothero write for you as your "religious scholar "then I would also like you to see a creationist write for you as your scholar on evolution. Does that expose your plain bias and hypocrisy?
You pretend to know more than Prothero, so why not submit pieces showing your true knowledge of the topic?
Prothero is no atheist.
Yes, I notice a lot of squawking from this Mike, but lacking substance.
Have at it, the creationist would be quite literally laughed into retirement
Just like so many are laughing at the gross ignorance of this m0r0n Prothero ... filthy low-class b@st@rd appointed by CNN to divide believers by pointing out differences in their external form - instead of emphasizing the unity of inner cores of all religions - eternal nature of the self and life after death.
Sorry, Mike, but the only laughter you're hearing is directed at you and your temper tantrums.
@Observer - since you asked for examples of my writing in area of faith and spirituality - visit -
replace [dot] with a real dot.
"As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away."
Where does Huckabee say that, Prothero? Your goal is to pit people of different faiths against each other ... point is all religions believe in life after death and eternity of the self. You think you can put us against each other on those basic fundamentals by reminding us of different prayers we chant or sing? Pathetic m0r0n!!!
Does your religion support HYPOCRITES who engage in name-calling. Please quote the Bible on that.
Implicit in Huckabee's assertion that removing the Christian god from the classroom has a direct correlation to violence. Think before you post. Read between the lines. Most often, there is always a subtext to what is being said.
He is not saying this as a direct quote, nor is he saying that that is what Huckabee intends on. It is simple implication. It's a remark like one said in this situation. "You can come to the party, just so long as you don't wear denim, polyester, cotton, wool, etc." "So...we should just show up naked?"
Ed, It will be much worse for you than North Korea.....
How so Ed, again please elaborate
I think it is okay to say, "Why God?" I don't think we will ever understand during our life here on earth but all I know is that it caused a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. I pray that the victims, those who witnessed it, the families of the victims, the Emergency responders, and others find a peace that surpasses all understanding because i don't think there will be any understanding this. I pray that they will find peace in the storm.
Your style of writing is completely ineffective. You are way too much "in your face" i could smell your breath just reading this.
sound like it had an effect then?
..the man is spot on... good article.
fellow citizens the Good News is "life events repeat themselves", the bad News is "Life EVEnts Repeat themselves". lean from your mistakes and try not to repeat them let some else do so for heaven's sake. well i am sure some of you will make the same mistake more then twice and some of you will allow other to make them again for you....
Another article of intolerance. I guess nothing is Gods will when we don't like it.
Where is the intolerance? You guys just love feeling persecuted..
Yeah just too bad Prothero is in support of mandatory bible literacy, but don't let facts get in your way
Alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence, the World Health Organization warned on Friday. "The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world's leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59," the report found.
How many children have been abused and even killed due to alcohol? How many kids have been run over by drunk drivers, and beaten by drunken parents Where is the outcry to ban booze?
If guns are a problem, alcohol is a far greater problem. Or perhaps, sin and darkness is the real problem and Jesus is the answer.
We tried banning alcohol once already. It didn't work out so well.
People purchase alcohol to use it.
What do people purchase weapons that are solely designed for one purpose, the killing of humans, to do with them?
How many drunks have grabbed assault weapons and killed everyone around?
If you are trapped in a room with a madman with a mass-killing weapon, would you prefer he be sober or drunk?
Lots of them, you don't have to believe to study it.
Bob. When you think about your right to bear arms, to own land and to speak freely who gave you those rights? Was it God perhaps? Now I, personally would like for you to still have those rights. So in my opinion God can exist so can Santa..it's fine with me. Make sense?
you religiotards are crazy. Every knee will bend? Every head will bow? Where do you want to live? North Korea?
At least in NK the Dear Leader exists.
I posed this question before, Ed to an atheist...and since you're speaking of North Korea I might mention it to you as well. If your right to own land was given to you by Harry Potter...would you take that moment to start shouting "There is no harry potter". My suggestion is to try deism. No obligation to any religion but you can protect your investments that way.
It will be much worse for you than North Korea.....
How so, Ed?
Chips, your question is rediculous, obviously athiests do not think that rights come from anywhere other than mankind.
I dont care what this guy wants to hear or not. Words are just hot air moving between gums and flapping lips. That's all. They can't hurt anyone quit being afraid of words.
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.