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.
Ok we ALL now know Mike Huckabee is a fool. We should treat religion for what it is. (A lot of crappola) NOW wake up and solve the problem.
The problem was a kid that was seeking some respect and had access to guns. Now he got respect!
Respect from whom?
For himself. It's always these weaklings that nobody respects. He just evened the score.
Evened the score? this is a game the kids lost. The kids or teachers had nothing to do with his short comings. The guy will be know as a sicko for the rest of time.
Believers know that God is Sovereign. People commit wicked, evil, and vile acts against others (and children) everyday in secret and publicly – not just with guns – and which is probably just as gut-wrenching (as this shooting) in God's eyes.
We should be careful what WE dole out. In word and deed.
If I had to pick one of the above, "Jesus called the children home". The act was extremely violent but God has more foresight than us.
Please wake up. We are a violent society period. Why? Because we are a species of animal. No matter how "civilized" we become. It is our nature to be violent. To believe otherwise is plain crazy!
Heck, the kid just wanted to be taken seriously. He got what he wanted, didn't he?
If children getting killed is a "fast pass" to heaven, then you support abortion, right?
People like you are part of the problem. "Gawd" does not exist, never existed and the use of that mythology is part of what makes this planet all screwed up. All of the items listed in this article are the reasons why we have problem. Nobody wants to admit the problem is the fact that GUNS KILL – PERIOD. There are too many of them in this country and we are a violent country.
Until we wake up, get rid of religion, guns and other such uncivilized garbage we are doomed to continually repeat incidents like this man made, man done, gun done tragedy.
The invisible sky daddy has no foresight for he is myth, not fact.
I think this short video could help explain why these things happen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnUOLbHRQ8E
"I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around.... encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming 6- and 7-year-old children."
Well now that's just silly: This "god" did stuff like that all the time, Gets praised for it in fact. One of the greatest demonstrations of loyalty" to this "god" was Abraham who didn't even blink when his god demanded he tie his son to a rock and butcher him like a sheep. Christians, Jews and Moslems all claim this is the most blessed of their forefathers for his unquestioning faith and willingness to do *anything* that "god" told him to do.
We'll end with "god's" commandment to the Israelites to "slay everything that hath breath in the city that God shall give thee save only the young virgin girls which you may keep for your own use."
All gods are fantasies but when a person claims to believe in the bible and also claim that "god" could not possibly condone or allow such things, then someone is truly living in a fantasy world.
Simply saying that "god works in mysterious ways" or other weasel words begs the question.
Delusions usually lead to bad things.
Where was god when the chit hit the fan? In hiding?
It was God's will. What you gonna do?
Yeah, but god was not willing!
Forget about god, sewage treatment is what it's all about. That's what really stinks!
Instead of seriously debating about god, why don't we talk about sewage treatment plant? Much more important to man!
Prospero is wrong about 6.
That's your opinion. Many more people disagree with you today than would have on Thursday.
There's no good reason for anyone to own a weapon that can discharge round after round. Not one.
I'll say it once and I'll say it again: at close range, assault rifles are perfect for keeping the king of England out of your face.
RL, one can use the same logic to say that no matter what kind of fire power one has, there is always the possibility that the other person might have a greater fire power, in which case your point is moot. Your excuse is LAME! Too much we are seeing these weapons that can kill numbers of people in minutes in the wrong hands – even though they are supposedly owned by "responsible" owners. Your are wrong.
If that's your best argument, you might as well give up.
As many other people have said, if England or the US government wants to knock down your door and take you out, they will find a way to do it regardless of your hobby weapons that you cherish more than human lives.
As someone interviewed on PBS said tonight: "The killer's mother bought guns to protect herself. Look how well that worked out for her."
It's a far more compelling argument than anything the gun control lobby can come up with.
Not convincing to me. At all. Why don't you respond to the post about the killer's mother?
It was irresponsible of her to have her psychologically damaged child so close to guns, although she was pretty weird herself. I agree the government should make it difficult for people who live with people with mental illness to acquire guns but it shouldn't affect the rest of us.
The boy didn't exhibit any symptoms of mental illness. He never had a violent episode before this.
Why does anyone need to have an automatic or semi-automatic? For protection? Again, look how well that worked out for his mother and for many, many others whose own guns end up killing them or someone isn their families.
I don't have a desire to ban all guns, but what we're doing now in this country doesn't work.
It was never God's will for men to suffer, but men will always suffer when they reject God. It is their will, not His, that causes men to suffer. When our nation was in its infancy, it was heavily armed but it was also filled with Christians. It was not until we removed God's name, prayer, book, and law from our schools that we began to see these kinds of tragedies. It seems that the founding Fathers were not afraid of firearms, or they would not have placed the right to keep and bear arms in our Bill of Rights. They must have known something that we don't. Maybe they knew God.
So it was the will of these kids to suffer? This is exactly the cr@p that is unwelcome.
So, that whole Crusades thing...?
It's crazy Christian fucks like you who scare the shit out of me.
the will of man nimrod....a generality
1927! God was still in our schools and that did not stop the Bath, Michigan bombing. Please understand that no one, not a single soul stops individuals from a moment of silent prayer anywhere in this country. If you want your children to pray in school then teach them to do so. I only ask that you refrain from asking everyone to pray to your particular believe system.
Maybe there is no god and things happen, good and bad, arbitrarily on this spinning little planet.
Bill, why are you so full of hate? Why must you athiests attack christians every chance you get? You are so shrill and disrespectful. I can't WAIT for you to BURN IN TORMENT FOR ETERNITY!!!! GOD AND JEEBUS WILL JUDGE YOU!!!!!
Ed, calm down. Bill is just telling the truth. Don't get mad if it hurts.
I see a person stating his opinion not attacking anyone. Why is it that Christians refuse to hear anyone else's point of view. You seem a bit worried that you may be wrong.
People like you are why I am not a Christian. I can't be part of a group that is so closed minded and haven't figured out how to critically think, that they freak out whenever some else thinks differently than them.
FYI People like you are why I am not a Christian. I can't be part of a group that is so closed minded and haven't figured out how to critically think, that they freak out whenever some else thinks differently than them.
And to think Huckabee was a serious Presidential candidate. What if that idiot had won?
I'd rather not think about that.
He's no Ross Perot, that's for sure.
The Fairytale Never Ends.
God is an invention of early man to explain that which has no explanation. Therefore came the 2nd invention to assist the 1st, faith.
I am as saddened by all the stupidity and horrifying violence as everyone else but I have no faith in a fairytale. God if there were such a supreme being of goodness he/she/it would not let such things keep happening.
I have no problem with those who have a strong belief and faith, but I cannot fathom such a being allowing this and all the other violence in the world continue, much of it in "his name".
It is way past time for the powers in D C to get an amendment for the right to bear arms with some strong control factors. I do not define control as banning weapons only to make controls that will help to stop such violence. If one child is saved by new laws then it's worth the effort of the politicians to make them so they work.
Many other country's said the same thing and when the gun control laws took affect the one who were still getting killed were the law abiding citizens.
Cite your sources. What country's (sic)?
I completely agree.
If the slaughter at Sandy Hook was God's will, I want nothing to do with such a God.
Where was God that horrible day? He was holding tight the ones who hovered in corners, closets and bathrooms, he was guiding the teachers to remain calm in the face of danger and giving the courage to those whom died protecting those tiny children knowing they gave the ultimate sacrifice, he was giving that little girl the strength to remain still(what child can remain still as death in this situation?), he was ensuring the call got off quickly enough to prevent larger loss of life, he was surrounding the young boy in the hall from the flying bullets, he was weeping as evil fell upon our angels and he was there to take them home...God cannot prevent evil but he can be there in ways to battle the evil and now he is carrying the families of the angels until they may walk beside him again...take a piece of paper for example, you cannot have one side without the other, therefore there can be no good without the bad...he gives us challenges that most cannot endure but gives us the strength to get through it. These families have suffered the ultimate loss and yet, they turn to God, knowing he is the only thing to get them through it....I needed to get this off my chest, hearing too many say 'Where was your God?' He was there, is there and will be there.
What condescending crap you posted. Your callous disregard for the reality of what you're saying is truly astounding, and I can only hope that one day you look back on this post, and wonder what the fuck you were thinking posting this shit.
If you were there and could have ended it, would you have NOT done it?
Pitiful excuse. Try again.
How rude of you to make such vileness words!
So much ugh.
@hawaii...Kristi is posting what she feels, and just because you don't like it shouldn't give you the right to be a d*ck. So...suck it.
Pay no mind to these regular trolls who make vileness their trade. :-(
That sentence doesn't really work. Also, what's more rude is telling a grieving parent their dead child is floating on a cloud with pixies and fairies.
No Dave, the First Amendment gives us the right to be d.icks, which is why Kristi, LL and yourself are not being arrested right now.
I know that's how she feels, but that doesn't change the nature of what it is. She has the right to say it, and I have the right to point out what it really is. Are you suggesting we should curtail speech to spare people feewings? I wonder, would you be jumping to the defense if she said something completely different and I said something you agreed with? Something tells me no.
Why couldn't god protect all of them. He failed those kids just like we have. Your god is no better than us.
Too bad he didn't bother to stick his omnipotent finger into the gun barrel and let the backblast take out the shooter and allow the kids to live. Funny way to show how much you love someone when you always show up *after* the disaster to give comfort when you knew the disaster was coming and indeed put the ability to do such a thing into your creation.
If you see your neighbor's house on fire but do not call the fire department so that you nay give comfort to those left alive afterward, what does that say about you? Saying it was the neighbor's choice to have a house fire does not cut it when it kills people who made no such choice.
Free will doesn't cut it. I can flap my arms as hard as I will yet I do not leave the ground despite that being my will because that's how god made the universe. Just as easy to make the concept of killing children not exist in our minds.
He can't prevent evil? Then he is not omnipotent.
Why bother worshiping such a weak god?
If you guys read Kristi's comment, her god is not all powerful. If someone does not view god as all powerful, they are seeing him as helpless to stop this kind of thing as are humans. The criticism is fair against those who think god has absolute power, but for those who do not, there's really no play on those grounds.
"take a piece of paper for example, you cannot have one side without the other, therefore there can be no good without the bad."
Slept through math class I take it? Ever hear of a Mobius strip? You most certainly can have a piece of paper with one side.
And besides, the analogy you are using has the paper having *three* sides. The edge has a dimension too.
If there is no good without evil, was god both good and evil when the entire universe only contained him/her/it? Christianity almost always devolves into dualism when you try to argue this sort of thing.
What part(s) of monotheism declare sky fairies and other ilk you spew out? The Kingdom of God lays INSIDE YOU on such a scale of smallness we all need to die in order to be once again reborn back into God's kingdom domains! Your dreams of sky fairies are your delusion not true believers in God and God's kingdom being upon our insides! So grow up and be made known a true believers views!
So I was right, god is in my ass.
A bit of advice, you've trolled yourself into utter irrelevancy on this site. The only ones who would bother reading any of your crap are new people.
The only thing in your a s s is the excrement you eat then digest to come out your a s s !
So then, what your implying is that your trolling is better than my trolling? Funny thing about trolls, they need to get paid before crossing over!
Why in the world would God choose to do all that rather than just stopping the shooter?
So I'm assuming the ACLU is going to sue the school since the teachers were all praying with their students during this tragedy.
Another moron suffers a brain fart.
If you assume that, why don't you go out and place a few large bets on it. No? Because you really don't believe any such nonsense.
To be fair, even bookmakers aren't callous enough to take wagers on that.
Only a few of them–the others were dead from gunfreak idiocy.
For being some scholar I don't think you have a clue. Why would you publish such an article? Do you think your story over the hurricane and where is God touch anybody and do any goo for anyone. I don't think so. Why don't you put your time and knowledge into producing some article that might encourage instead of tare down? I think there are some things in this world we will never understand. I would think you of all people would understand that.
Doesn't have a clue about what? Look around, people are actually saying this stuff.
The Book of Job takes a faithful man and lets Satan take everything away, and put him in misery. In the end, he can't figure out why but stays faithful even through his questions. The others trying to explain with reasons like those above were the ones God rebuked the most in the end. David in the Psalms certainly doesn't sound like an apologist, venting his anger and confusion, but stays faithful. There is a right time and a wrong time to debate God's will, how little of it mere humans understand. This is NOT one of those times. I agree with the author on the overriding principle. The best thing we can do now is support the hurting emotionally–that's what people need, and leave the debate for later.
I like your answer, and I totally agree with you.
rediculous blog! What Stephen doesn't grasp in his limited understanding is none of us can grasp the will of God or understand his ways. That's why we have faith! Woudn't we all like the answers to the questions we seek! These events are from the evil one who WANTS to use this to move more and more people away from GOD and in stephen's case the devil won
Rediculous? Try spelling it right.
And by the way, it's Devil, not devil. lol.
There IS some not grasping the issue going on here...but it isn't by Stephen.
I do not spell "devil" with a capital D nor is it spelled that way in the Word. The evil one deserves no such respect! You may capitalize it if he is your father. He is NOT my Father! Who is yours? You can only choose one. If you choose not my Father, you follow the other father who is the devil with a small "d"!
Apparently, the worst thing you can be is an innocent bystander when god is having a tantrum.
But you forget...there is no such thing as "innocent". You're deserving of roasting in the eternal unquentiable lake of fire the moment the egg is fertilized in the womb. You are then tripped up throughout the rest of your life as you try and appease the angry psychotic god of Abraham. Be careful how you choose which cult to follow and the thousands of sub-sects of that cult.
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.