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 is not God's will, people have free will. I believe in some cases (not natural disasters, etc..) energy you put out there will come back. Such as a Mother with an adult son with mental illness introducing him into the world of guns. That energy came back to her that day along with 26 innocent children and women. As a person with a strong faith, turning to God in a time of tragedy is for comfort and strength. Praying cannot save people from evil, illness, etc.. but it can save you from dying inside. As a Mother of a 1st grader hearing this horrific news, my first thought was that it was time for the 2nd coming of Jesus. If it isn't the time yet, I pray for these families to find some comfort in the fact that there are so many of us praying for them and their angels. If this horrific massacre of precious people does not evoke change in our world, nothing will.
i suggest the "God bashers" should go join Anne Rice's facebook page so you can congrgate and talk about pedophiles in the church or whatever.
Your god bashes himself, we just report it.
Q: So Mr. Prothero, where is the hope?
A: Romans 8:38-39
I am hurting deeply emotionally from loss, work, etc., this year, yet I know my prayers have been answered in very specific ways as a Christian throughout my life. I have a professional degree, so it's not an intelligence question. To me, Christianity is the closest thing intellectually to make sense of the world, and that's not saying I understand much. However, I also know the doctrine that good and evil are God's allowing us to be free, but keep asking, can't the angels reign it in a bit more? All I can tell you is that to me God is real, and even with my questions and doubts, I realize like Job that once I realized He's real, the bigger question is whether I'll be faithful when I hurt over my pain or the pain of others like in Newtown, not whether I can explain things like this. I appreciate the last paragraph the most, because I don't want someone making excuses for God right now, I want people to support me with love to get through my hurt, anger, and confusion, and worry about answers later.
There are millions of Muslims and Hindus with PhDs. Advanced degrees, unfortunately, are no immunity against bronze age myths being taken as truth. As the latest computers are prone to getting computer virus, so is your capable brain prone to being infected by a religion virus.
No prayers have been answered since there is no god or saints or angels.
Ed, anyone can be deluded no matter what their IQ or education is, and I respect your disagreement, and know you could "logically" explain everything I say about my faith, call me delusional, whatever you may. All I will say in reply is that I haven't read or talked to anyone yet who can explain away what has happened in my life without God being in the middle of it. We'll agree to disagree, then, not because I have all of the answers, but because I don't think you do, either. Peace, brother.
Religion is the root of all evil and war.
Ed sorry you are so unhappy with your life, and to think you thought parting ways with God and buying into the worlds lies would make you happy.
Aint that the truth. If there was no religion, Hitler, under direction of his god, would have no reason to murder 6 million Jews.
Says the idiot with no knowledge of history or the barbarism of the pagan cultures.
Although I am atheist and I cannot understand religious thought(nor do I care to),your statement is over the top.
You'll find that agnostics and athiests dont necessarily choose to believe it because it makes them happy, they choose to believe it because it seems the most likely reality.
Do christians choose christianity because it makes them happy, or because it's true? There is no particular reason those two should align.
The civil war? WWII? WWI? I dont think it was the cause of ALL wars. Humans are the cause of evil and wars..that would be a more correct statement.
You might want to look up the GODS and religions of those so called Pagans.
Are you sure
Might want to do some research into the start of WW1
Also if you think the slaughter of 6 million Jews at the hands of Christians in WW2 had nothing to do with religion you are dumber than I thought.
I am far happier than you and not delusional.
I wake up every morning not worrying about wether an invisible god is watching me shower. LOL
Hitler was a Christian.
In his speech in 1932 he claimed he was bringing Christianity back to Germany.
In Mien Kampf he said the killing of the Jews was Gods work.
Every Nazi soldier wore a crucifix and a belt buckle saying "Gott Mit Uns" which I believe translates to "God Is With Us"
Wrong, pride is the root of all evil. Maybe you should consider that for a moment before you blast other people's beliefs.
Moses lived to be 120. Abraham was 175 when he died???
ZERO proof these people ever existed.
ZERO proof God ever existed.
the fact your sitting there writting your skewed response proves he exists and he gives you free will not to believe
Your logic...lacks logic
Yes, and you have the free will to apparentlfy believe in talking animals and unicorns.
Zero proof you're a US citizen.
I am starting to believe more in Mother Nature than in any God. We humans are on our own on earth to make our own decisions.
Well that was before Mitochondrial Eve. Now you're supposed to multiply those years by like 35 from what they say to make it all make "Biblical" sense. So like Lamech lived like (777 * 35) 27,195 years or something like that. lol. This pope will probably come out with a new calculation sometime soon since he likes to "explain" things.
Henry you are an idiot.
My passport and birth certificate disagree with you.
Zero proof in God??? Have you run the numbers on what the chances are that life randomly happened in a universe that follows the second law of thermodynamics? Let me just say that after looking at the facts, its unbelievable that anyone with a scientific background would not believe in God.
That's the dumbest thing I have ever seen.
And random life happens all the time without a god.
Do you want to run the numbers or logic of there being a god?
What happened to all the gods throughout history? Did they disappear?
And random life happens all the time without a god. – Please explain to me how fertilization works. I would like to hear detail about exactly what happens at the moment of conception. Please use science to prove that it can happen without God. You can't.
Do you want to run the numbers or logic of there being a god? – That is impossible to do, which is why people run the numbers the way I suggested above.
yahoodlum, I agree with your post:
It's tragic, the country that murders over 3000 innocents a day (abortions) isn't outraged like they are over this tragedy.
Your god is the BEST performer of abortions
Where's your source for that number? And how many children have you adopted? How many pregnant teens have you helped financially? Do you vote for candidates who support thorough s3x education in the public schools? Do you support making contraception available to women and girls?
But you Christians have no issue with God fearing Bush killing 500k Iraqis.
Yes, its pretty bad out there every day.
Ed, where is your source that Bush killed 500k Iraqis? Even if he actually did, what does that have to do with the massacre or this topic at all? You are pretty hateful towards Christians. Why don't you figure yourself out before you belittle other people for having beliefs.
Thank You, Stephen. I know exactly what you mean and agree fully. You can still have faith in God, but also understand that this God is not responsible for every tragic event on our planet. I certainly don't think it was God's will that someone go to a school and murder innocent children.
So what does god do? Help football players score touchdowns?
Michael, I respect your right to practice whatever religion you want, but my question to you is, where was God when that lunatic was killing those kids? If he is so all powerful, he just sat there and watched it. Having the power to stop something evil and choosing not to exercise that power is as bad as doing it yourself. There is no God, and if there is, he isn't worthy of worship. You worship him out of fear that you will go to Hell if you do not. When you die, there will be nothing, as there was nothing before you were born, and that is OK.
Some people ask, "Couldn't God have foreseen all of this?" and no doubt he did. But look at it this way. Many of you are parents. Even before you had children, couldn't you foresee that there was the very real possibility they may suffer disappointment or pain or heartache in life, or that they might even hurt you and walk away from you? Of course—but you still had kids. Why? Because you knew there was also the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning
I wouldn't torture or punish my kids for not worshipping me.
Stephen Prothero is a liberal hack. The victims faith in God was the only thing that comforted them before they were gunned down. Atheists are self concious jack a&&es....here's a word for you ...TOLERANCE!!
Oh, so you were there, Dave? You know that those children were "comforted" before they died?
What a POS.
Of which you seem to have none.
None of these children were thinking about invisible space men when they were shot.
There is no god.
Speaking of "jack a&&es....", if you were God, would have have DONE NOTHING and watched the slaughter like he did?
Yes or no?
@Tom- No...I wasn't there, but know the children and the teachers were people of faith....and it must be easy to call someone names from your computer. POS back at you....
@Observer....I'm not so the question can't be answered. As a human/a dad/a coach....I like to hope I would have got to him and put a bullet in his head...but...I wasn't. There are evil people in this world....it's just a reality.
You know that all the people killed were "of faith?" You are a POS. You know nothing about them. You certainly have no idea what the children believed. You are exactly the sort of pap-spewing zealot Prothero is talking about. Not a clue.
How do you dare to assume what was going through a 6-year-old's mind as a crazed gunman was firing at him? I repeat, you're a POS.
Hey Dave -I believe you were the first to resort to name calling from the safety of your computer..or is that sort of thing OK for a christian?
The sad irony here of course is that @DaveinCincy is saying:
Of course he is. That's why the article offends him so–because he's babbled some of the same nonsensical, stupid crap! He probably says that kind of bushwa to people at funerals all the time. "He has called your mom (dad, brother, sister, child) home because he needed another angel."
Simple question. Atheists and agnostics can easily answer it.
Why are you stumped?
The moral fiber of America is in decay and the more that the notion that there is no right or wrong and anything goes is advanced, there will be more and more of the type carnage we are now seeing. Mike Huckabee is right, we are beginning to pay the price for our Socially Progressive anti-God culture.
your 100% right, when i go to church, there are no kids there. I guess the parents let the kids boss them around and stay home so they can play violent games, text, and eat processed foods which probly caused his mental issues
You don't need a fairy tale God to have right and wrong. You can just have right and wrong in their own right. I personally don't need fear of eternal damnation to make me do right. That man did what he did because he was mentally ill. It is incredibly sad that so many had to die because of his mental illness.
Ok THAT was funny. LIBERALS are pushng for a world without rules? Oh that is RICH coming from the right-wingers who thought they had every right to torture innocentnpeople after invading their country on a BAD HUNCH. The party that tells us it's okay to shove an ultrasound probe into a woman's body whether she wants it or not, but regulating a BANKER who gambles with OTHER PEOPLES' MONEY is unAmerican. The people who think it's a great idea for anyone at a gun show to buy military weapons and then carry as many CONCEALED weapons as they want into bars and parks.
Yes sir, you boys are just the MODELS of self control as we watch gun sales go thru the roof every time the NRA makes up lies about the President taking your guns away. Who could have guessed that a bunch of people who adore guns, invasions, torture, and the death penalty are such brave champions of Christian compassion and restraint?
Mr. Prothero... you're a pretty weird, angry dude.
I agree. He's also a bit delusional, thinking that if he uses the terms "idiotic, offensive, etc." then it gives his silly little words more gravity. Go back to smoking whatever you're smoking at good old Boston U. Stephen, your opinion and 'moral outrage' is as valuable to the conversation as that of the bum I met on the corner this afternoon. At least he isn't using a tragedy to try and make a name for himself.
It really is quite simple. There will always be people that don't quite catch up to the rest. Those keds we need to keep an eye on and try to help!
Don't blame Adam Lanza; he was just the whistle god used to "call his children home." Used and apparently discarded.
God is not the creator of evil and suffering, that is fact. we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from him. And that has resulted in the introduction of evil into the world. happy to educate you
So god is a pouting infantile who lets children get murdered because he didn't get his way?
Henry, ummm snakes don't talk, the earth is more than 8000 years old, and "the flood" has no evidence for ever occuring. I'd be happy to educate you, but you are to blinded by your bronze age myths to be educated.
agreed, Henry. There is enough evil in this world for MANY things to go wrong, and they do! God helps us cope with the fallout.To those who say "Why did God let that happen?" He works in mysterious ways, like making Klebold and Harris's guns jam before even more victims were killed. There is a purpose for each life. Some people's lives have more impact once they're gone. They are a life lesson for the rest of us...
Henry, your good book disagrees with you.
•I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7, KJV)
You cannot be serious. You have insulted all of the victims and their kins which that ridiculous line of reasoning.
Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, anyone who knows (and believes) the Bible knows at least that much. God does allow horrible things to happen for a reason, he lives outside of time and can see the entire picture, we can't. That being said, I don't think this was God's will, he doesn't want these things to happen but because we live in a fallen world, horrible things will continue to happen until he returns.
So you admit your god isn't omnipotent. Why worship him? Why not worship Cthulhu?
And you know this how? When's the last time God made an appearance? Outside of opinionated people who read from a book written by men and rewritten more times than Fairy tales, there is nothing suggesting the existence of a god.
God does allow horrible things to happen for a reason...
What a DISGUSTING rant! You belong in an asylum.
God was never here since he doesn't exist.
But man sure is evil, and mostly the religious ones.
Well i guess we should let Stephen or the other non-believers decide how the world should be run. We all expect earth to be like heaven. In John 16:33 he said, "You will have suffering in this world." He didn't say you might—he said it is going to happen. I don't have God's mind; I don't share his perspective. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we're told, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity So in order for us to experience love, God bestowed on us free will. But unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from him. And that has resulted in the introduction of evil into the world
God ceated EVERYTHING according to the Bible which includes Satan, evil and hell. Thanks.
So you go ahead and spout the SAME BS this article is about. I also couldn't care less what your interpretation of scripture is. YOU are part of the problem!
God is evil.
1 Samuel 15:2,3
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' "
More evil god.....
16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open."
8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-
9 he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.
That's almost as many as God kills through miscarriages, apparently.
Amen to that. This type of thing happens every day. Before this happened, who was still talking about The Batman shootings? Because children were involved "the outrage"
God did it. He called those 3000 home.
Where are your stats to prove your daily 3000 abortions?!
just couldn't wait to insert that completely unrelated and unwanted point of view could ya?
next time, think before you type.
henry = troll
No problem when the Christian Germans killed 6 million jews.
700,000 non abortion ended pregnancies a year in the US.
God is sure killing a lot of babies.
According to the religious doctrine,all these kids go straight to the hot place as unbelievers.Sleep on that.The circular dead end logic of the religious, is bizarre and more than a little twisted.Good grief !
I agree with this post. Especially the part where it is not right to say "Jesus called the children home". As a Christian this ticks me off to hear this. It was never God's will that people die. Death is not right. The part I think is ok to mention is that there will be a ressurrection someday. For now we need to grieve. I hold to the Ressurrection belief because the Bible says it wil happen when Jesus comes-1 Cor 15. However, this belief is not meant to make the pain easier-just to give us hope.
Bringing up the resurrection to someone whose child has died is NOT okay, unless the parent brings it up first. Why don't people get it?
Another person admitting their god isn't omnipotent. Why not worship Yog-Sothoth?
Kristi- Oh so RIGHT. But the atheists that post here are so full of hate for the deity and anyone who believes that they will be extremely critical of you and I and anyone opposes their stand on the subject.
We don't hate the "deity" since there is no such thing; we hate the mental defectives who worship such an EVIL fiction.
I personally do not see a reason for people to 'worship' something that has no proof to exist. Though in argument let's suppose he does exist, then either he allows these things to happen and does nothing to stop them or he has no power to stop them. Either way, the 'being' would not be something I would worship.
Sqeptiq, why do you athiests have to attack believers and be so full of hate?!?! YOU WILL BE JUDGED ONE DAY BY GAWD AND JEEBUS AND I WILL LAUGH IN HEAVEN WHILE YOU BURN IN TORMENT FOR ALL ETERNITY? If only you athiests could be less hateful and understanding of others' beliefs.
To hate a diety than a real life human? Hate what does not exist, love what does.
The first murder in the bible was Cain and able. No guns no bombs no cars no problem. Guns were more prevelent in society 100 years ago than they are today and they didn't have this problem to this degree. Guns are not to blame. This culture of be-littleing life by playstation Hollywood and abortion is the real enemy. A culture of instant gratification No work involved. Turn on a tv or look at the games kids play. With a divorce rate of 55 percent in this country spurred on by gov subsidies that make it financially gainful to be unmarried and have kids this is what liberials and progressives have been working for and it should not suprise any one. It is a tragedy but it probly won't be the last.
People like you give rational pro gun people a bad name.
Do you really think you can kill as many people with a knife as with an assault rifle? Take a look at all the school attacks that take place in China and look how few actually end in deaths compared to those in the US.
I swear people should be required to take a test of international events and cultures before being allowed to speak publicly on any political topic. The ignorance is stunning. This is up there with the guy who posted earlier that there were more murders in Canada than the US.
People like you give faith a bad name.
financially gainful to be unmarried and have kids?? GOT to be kidding
There are millions of more guns today then there were 100 years ago.
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.