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.
Many believing thumpers (Like Huckabonehead above) try to bring up god AGAIN (didn't they figure out there isn't one yet.
The bible tells us to be happy 'dashing little ones against the stones" Happy. - Is this "pro-life"? This is one of numerous examples of god-ordained genocide. Even if you coldly feel there is justice in killing the innocent infants of people deemed "evil" by your religion, would you be happy to do it, as the bible declares? If this is not evil, then what is?
"O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." (Psalm 137:8-9) You have your "freedom of delusion" as granted by the 1st amendment, do the rest of us a favor and be quiet if you pray, , and leave the mental illness of religion behind closed doors where it belongs. There is enough mental illness in this situation already.
Make sure you understand the Bible before you criticize it. The passage you quoted is actually translated to: O daughter of Babylon who is doomed, the person who pays you back for the sh t you have done to us will be a happy person.
Testing. Why won't this work.
word filter problem, Steve? you have to separate certain sensitive words, like const itution, since it has that "dirty" word in the middle of it.
I agree with all 5 points in this article. About the shaking one's fist at God thing, even if God did tell YOU what should be done, that's a long way off from getting everyone else down here to agree with it. But yeah, I don't like 'it was God's will" - sounds like religious rationalization to me. As if the same God that came to us as Jesus Christ would will the violent death of 20 innocent children.
"It was God's judgement" is even more ridiculous. People use this as proof that God agrees with their ridiculous self-righteous opinions.
sadly, it truly is God's will. Republicans are correct and Huckabee is correct. Can God stop it? Yes. God is all-powerful. God can stop anything he wants. Then why? To punish us. Everyone that dies is punishment for sins. Aren't we BORN SINNERS, though? Yes, that is why hurricanes will never stop. And even if secularization of schools did not occur, the shootings would still happen.
your god is an asshat
Your god is evil beyond imagining.
Stephen Prothero, you're an idiot.
Concise, precise and 100% correct!
No, in fact, he isn't. You might not agree with what he wrote, but that doesn't mean he's the idiot here.
Why don't you explain just what you don't like about his article? I agree that I don't want to hear any of the idiotic pap he describes, either.
Mike, you ninny, what makes you imagine you have a corner on religious understanding? Just because you disagree with Prothero doesn't mean what he wrote isn't valid. It is. The plat itudes the Christian zealots utter are all over these blogs. They're obnoxious and not in the least helpful in dealing with such a tragedy. They do nothing but minimize it by attempting to use religious belief to "explain" it, when it ISN'T something easily explained. Religious nuts want to put everything in some neat little box and label it "God is good" and never think at all if they can avoid it.
God is useless. Admit it and move on – without god!
god is EVIL.
If there were a God and He were evil, you'd be dead.
So, I wonder how many semi-automatic weapons Jesus would own?
Jesus was "annointed" with oil made of marijhuana. pLUS, THERE WERE NO GUNS IN HIS DAYS. dUH!
"And low, God gave unto his only begotten son; four semi-automatic rifles, two rocket propelled grenades, six hand guns and an uzi. The town rejoiced and praised Him and his WMDs: for such is the kingdom of heaven"
– Gospel of Glock 3:24
We may need more God in society,but we certainly don't need any religion. These so called "Christians" that worship the bible have caused more misery than any thing else.
This whole article is just one big test from Satan himself.
@Observer – since you asked for examples of my writings in area of faith and spirituality - please visit
replace [dot] with a real dot.
I am so glad that the author posted this. I am so tired of people trying to bring religion into tragedies such as this.
"God is great. He cured my nana of cancer". "God loves me soooo much that he made that cop not write me a traffic ticket". "God is so good to me, He helped me pass that final exam even though I didn't study very hard". "God chose not to help those poor children, he had to let Adam exercise free will". Truly an arrogant, obnoxious, and deluded way to view the world.
I could use god to pay for my ticket. how was that again?
This free will thing has consequences and sometimes a high price has to be paid in order to keep free will free. God did not choose not to help those children – He was there helping just not in the way you see or expect. He can't go around fixing every problem created by humans otherwise there would be no point in living down here. The problem/failure here was not just the gunman but the entire system, ie. society.
God mostly shows up when people are dying...oh,and on football fields.
Religion scholar = oxymoron.
Only CNN uses an Atheist who doubts existence of God as a "religious scholar". Might as well also appoint a Creationist as their expert scholar on evolution just to balance things out. Only exposes their bias and hypocrisy!!
Religious Knowledge = oxymoron
Actually Mike, atheism is just fervent hope that there really is no all-powerful being as evil as the god you worship.
I agree with many of the points made. Too often people twist events into their own strange version of religion. Huckabee's point I think was misinterpreted though. What I took away from that was a moral decline and a secularist emphasis, which has risen in education. Not that Christianity is the only true path, so force all to participate. We've had semi auto weapons for some time. Why didn't this happen in the 50s and 60s on a regular basis? I think that's valid.
I also believe the author's take on a .223 Bushmaster is comical. If it had been a long wooden hunting gun with the same action and capability, I hardly think it would receive the same emphasis.
I saw that too. Prothero probably doesn't know that a .223 is a rather light round. The world is full of scarier things. We should still try to make it a safe place for our children, but with effective action, not gestures.
Stop the religious fraud once and for all!
@Observer - since you asked for examples of my writings in area of faith and spirituality ...
The governments of the world unite! Religion should be targeted as the greatest fraud ever created by man.
That's only a dream, blogo. Governments and people who aspire to govern see the value of religion as a means to manipulate the people.
Heck, it would take only a few people with brains to turn this whole thing around!
It's sad how heartless several Americans are and have lost their values were supposed to be one nation under god...but we don't respect one another whether we have a religion or not. New America is definitely lost and hard headed it's like that troubled teen who think they figured life and doesn't listen to their parents. Alot of you shame this country and your ancestors. My people endured alot of pain in this country and we share stories from generation to generation. This is a different place in our land your local native american – Castilow
@crying: yeah i remember my ancestors had gods for everything and respected the land knowing long before others that you can't "own" the earth..................................i'm lakota, we fought, we died with pride.
It's really interesting how the religious people seem to be pro-guns. I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't be pro-guns. It's similar to super-religious people being unwilling to acknowledge global warming. It's a clear pattern of willful ignorance.
How can one claim to be pro life and pro guns?
How can one claim to be pro life but not care about others?
How can one be oblivious to this hypocrisy?
Hey, they're often quite fond of the death penalty, too.
Are you saying law-abiding citizens should not be able to defend themselves with a gun?
Is that what he wrote? Do you know how to read?
No, no they shouldn't. Because tragedies like this happen! Nutters can get guns from law-abiding citizens anyway. Heck, every one is law-abiding until they commit a crime. Why should you just have a gun anyway? Why stop there, why not an RPG? Why do you arbitrarily draw the line with gun and say "yes, this is where self defence is at!". Why not a sword? I could defend myself pretty well with a sword I think. Let everyone have the right to swords. Take everyone's guns away. Now we're all at the same level again. The 2nd amendment only guarantees the right to "arms" anyway. Not guns specifically.
An armed intruder breaks in your house thrreatening the lives of your children, you wouldn't shoot him with a gun even if you had a clear shot?
I'm a bit confused how you end the article discussing how if you can't shake your fists at God at this point, in your view, it's deeply unfaithful. Yet the six things you list as things you don't want to hear, in someone else's view is a perfectly logical and rational way to deal with what this was. A tragedy. It sounds like me that your particular issue is with people who don't question the Almighty, but not with the abhorrent media coverage of the issue in the first place. After all, the only reason you would hear those six things you don't want to hear is from the sensationalization media coverage of this senselessly heinous act of a suicidal murderer. To me, it seems as though the last thing listed that you don't want to hear, you actually do want to hear more about. You want to debate it. You want to explain that even if God does exist, .223 assault rifles by Bushmaster should in fact NOT exist. Or in the very least, not be available to anyone except the military or mercenaries. My question is whether or not you are as equally concerned about the fact that at any moment a crazed, unstable person could rupture a diesel tank on a school bus and drive it into a playground full of children killing just as many, if not more than this person with an assault rifle did. It seems that your impeccable unflawed logic should account for this, and it should be included in this article. Otherwise, it may just sound like you are feigning disdain for the six opinions you so eloquently expressed disdain for in this article in the interest of supporting more stringent gun regulations.
Drive a bus with a ruptured tank into a school yard? How about strap a bomb to a teacher. How many different mad scenarios do you expect the author to address? There's a million of them. Let's address the one that just happened. A nut case got ahold of a gun. Not a bus. Not a bomb. Not some anthrax. A gun. If we can't find the nut ahead of time, we can at least do what we can to keep him from having a gun. One way is to ban the type of gun he used. Doesn't seem to me the author is feigning anything in order to mask a hidden agenda of more stringent gun registration – seems pretty clear that's what he wants. His six items are straw men, sure, but so is the bus with the ruptured diesel tank. People bent on destruction will find a way to destroy. Is that supposed to be an excuse to do nothing?
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.