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.
Christianity: the belief that a Jewish zombie from the great, undefined nether region, who was his fathers son and also his sons father, who physically impregnated his mother without ever touching her, who remained a virgin after copulation, can somehow grant you everlasting life if you wish for it hard enough and openly accept him as your one, true master. As long as you believe he walked on water, made the blind see, made the crippled walk, re-animated the dead, who was betrayed by one of his best friends for a handfull of coins, charged with blasphemy and sentenced to die on the cross for all your sins, then rose on the third day as a zombie to return to the great, undefined nether region never to be seen or heard from again. Then you symbolically drink of his blood and eat of his flesh given to you by "funny" men wearing dresses and funny hats, so he can remove an evil force (which he also created) that has permeated all of mankind, from acting over you because a woman who was only created as an afterthought was made from the rib bone of a man who was not an afterthought, was convinced by a talking snake in a wonderous garden to eat the fruit of a magical tree.
And they say my non-belief is just too crazy.
Faith in God no matter how small is one's Gift given up to just know and believe no matter how small God and God's family tree truly is! We are God's megaliths, God's buildings ever so grand and in great scales are we all God's buildings!
The confusion of non believers is that when they read the bible they read it literally.
A lot of christians read the bible literally also.
The bible was written during a time symbols were being converted to words. It was sort of an evolution of hieroglyphics. Language had evolve as our understanding evolved throughout the hundreds of years.
To think the bible should be taken literally is a huge sign of ignorance of the evolution of written and spoken language.
You stated, "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."
There is no questioning whether I believe there is a God or not...I KNOW THERE IS A GOD! My Heavenly Father is holy, righteous, and just....AND HE DOES NOT CHANGE! He is on His throne and always in control...NO MATTER WHAT MANKIND DOES!
Don't use this tragedy to question the Almighty! Instead, be who Jesus wants you to be and do what He wants you to do. Be the lighthouse in the storm for the hurting ones instead of cursing the storm. Surrender to Him, turn to Him, and lean on Him! Do not lean on your own understanding because His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Faithfulness is trusting Him through all the storms and believing He will work all things for good! BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS!
Read the book of Job. If you have already, read it again and ask Him for wisdom.
Regarding #6: Evil proceeds from the heart of a man...not that man's choice of weapon. You will NEVER abolish evil. Only the return of our Lord Jesus Christ will banish the evil one when he is cast into the pit!
....AND HE DOES NOT CHANGE!
He changes all the time. He started off having a chosen people....and then he changed his mind.
Your response is a cop out. When it is good, your ilk always talks about being in awe of what the Lord can do, but when it is tragic, it is the same "Who are you to question his great plan?" or "Ask him for the answer..". This is complete BS. No matter what you justify your response to make God the winner. It is not possible for God to fail or be wrong in your eyes, even though Noah once had to convince him not to flood the Earth again. You do not know there is a God, you just spend all of your time with tripe like this convincing yourself there is one.
Look, Diomitron, you're not convincing. The first thing you have to do tomorrow is change your name, cause it sounds like some kind of animated running machine in an upcoming Disney hi-tech movie about the social dilemmas of a bunch of gymn equipment. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't fit this backward hellfire bullshit that you spout.
And obviously thou who art better than us mere mortals has forgotten that to worship false idols is worse than everything else in his 10 commandments. I actually find it laughable believe in your god I believe in what I can and have accomplished. HE hasn't done it or helped me I've done it threw blood, sweat, tears, and sheer determination!
God and the devil is the same deity. Choose: Heads or tails. The outcome is always the same 50/50. Face it, Mankind is the most dangerous beast on earth. What sets us apart from one another are our core values – the compass that guides through sea of life. Make your call: Good or evil.
Spoken like a true Samarian!
but why not "rexchiencanadien"?
“Woo Pig Sooie”
Isn't the entire point of irreligion to serve our fellow man and not imaginary beings? How are we serving our fellow man by shouting at him or her. It is understandable to question faiths but no person will listen to a loud voice and a harsh tone. I
The lists of unpleasant trolls here are but of those who tend to use fowl language and bitter comments against the weak and remorseful. Some times I digress and use these trolls words of un-pleasantries against them who do first to sling their mud upon others willingly to degrade a simple folks desires to just be known by their comments.
You really want to be served up? How would you like to be cooked?
O.K., if we're gonna talk about this in a "religious" point of view then let's not take chances and think about it for a moment, we all know that God doesn't like violence and us killing each other, especially children, I am sure that it wasn't God's will for 20 children to get killed this way, but regardless they're in a place where all of us Christians and believers wanna go to, nobody that has died and has been in the gates of heaven ever ever ever wanna come back, I wanna go there, but we also have to remember that there's a devil and he will do whatever and use whoever to make us doubt of the almighty, especially things like this, it could have been worst, he still had ammo and the will and the weapons...why didn't he keep on killing????How come everyone who needs to blame somebody only blames God? If you believe in God you also have to believe in the devil...do you think that he's only out there not doing anything??? I honestly wish that none of these things would have happened, but even for God things happen so quick and he still needs time to react, I don't think the gunman killing himself was by coincidental, remember, God doesn't let any of this things happen, that is not his wish, I just really hope that as a society we can all figure out a way to make sure none of this ever happens again, I'm a father of four and there hasn't been a day since friday that I have gone without crying, God bless us...
Now that this comment section has grown and notice only one person wrote on a last comment of mine.....here it is for you religious "righteous" who believe God is missing in our schools....
Excellent point. But then I ask this "righteous" people..........
Fine, you want God back in public schools. Ok fine lets bring Him in. But then I ask you, which God? Who's God? Which Name? Because last time I check, this country is made up of different people with different religious beliefs. And not only that, but they choose FREELY to follows their own beliefs. Are we bringing then all in it are we just bringing YOUR God?!
You want religion back at schools, then you better allow ALL RELIGIONS at school.
So, you people saying we need God back, you willing for Muslims, Judaism, Hinduism, Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Johova Withness, Gnosticism, Confuciasm, (ohh so many to list) pray at schools?!!!!
So again, which Name are you willing to use? Or are you completely open for all religions to worship?
First, you need to remove the pledge. A Socialist disguised as a Baptist put it there. He sold a load of flags, progressive approved.
In my opinion, there is good and evil in this world. We need to have faith in God. Evil was able to take over this man and that is how he was able to do what he did. It's incredible how so many people think that its ok not to have any kind of reglious faith. So many people trying to take God out of our daily lives. They try to take God out of our schools by trying to omit one nation under God in our pledge or even remove God from some songs. It's very sad. Where there is weakness (no kind of faith), evil will start to breed. We all have choices! It is up to us to chose light over darkness. I pray for all the families directly affected but I also pray for this nation that we can come together and acknowledge that goodness always overpowers evil. We must have faith. RAKing (Random Acts of Kindness) is a Great way to start, I just hope it doesn't stop after a few weeks. If everyone, at least once a day did one RAK, just imagine how much light would shine over this world. God Bless Everyone.
Tip the barmaid well. She might remember you when she makes it big.
Is it possible to do random acts of kindness without them being tied to god, Jesus, religious faith, etc., etc., etc.?
So you want to have your cake and eat it too? It's okay to think God lets children starve by the millions every year, but not that he let 20 get shot in one day? I fail to see how one situation is worse than the other, if you truly believe there is a God and that he has some sort of role in all of our terrible lives.
Not to worry. Americult has all the answers.
This is a terrible article and I don't even disagree with everything that is being stated by said author! CNN should be embarrassed for even putting this on their website. As for the author, you are no better than the people you are making fun of for saying such statements. "Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming." Who even are you? With a statement like that, you're no better than the people you are mocking! Oh and for the record, people die by other things too, not just guns. If there were no guys, sorry to tell you, but violence wouldn't just disappear. So yes people do kill people.
Socialists avoid shame like the plague. If that doesn't work, they share the pain.
We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.
We've all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry and sullen, can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain. Some who lose a child to a drunk driver turn inward in chronic rage and never-ending despair; another turns outward to help others by founding Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
We make the choice to either run away from God or to run to him. And what happens if we run to him?
Above I quoted part of what Jesus said in John 16:33. Now let me give you the entire verse: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world."
In other words, he offers us the two very things we need when we're hurting: peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future. How? Because he has conquered the world! Through his own suffering and death, he has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn't have the last word anymore. Death doesn't have the last word anymore. God has the last word!
We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to Cthulhu for peace and courage.
We've all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject Cthulhu, to become hard and angry and sullen, can cause another person to turn to Cthulhu, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain. Some who lose a child to a drunk driver turn inward in chronic rage and never-ending despair; another turns outward to help others by founding Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
We make the choice to either run away from Cthulhu or to run to him. And what happens if we run to him?
Above I quoted part of what Yog-Sothoth said in Azatoth 16:33. Now let me give you the entire verse: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world."
In other words, he offers us the two very things we need when we're hurting: peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future. How? Because he has conquered the world! Through his own suffering and death, he has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn't have the last word anymore. Death doesn't have the last word anymore. Cthulhu has the last word!
And why did god have to create a blood sacrifice of himself to create the loophole for the rule he created to begin with? Why didn't he just change his mind?
I mean, sure, come to the hood!! You dare you, I double dare. Your just like Gorge Bush, lol, trying to lock down America. It won't happen, not in any major city coward boy!
It's "you're." Let me guess. Either you're 14 and not in the GT program, or you're 32 and still live in the basement.
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.
The dog ate your homework.
Stephen, you disgust me
You want to strip us for our right to bare arms, come into my hood and say that to everyone where it is violence everyday. You won't, your a coward just like the shooter was.
Isn't there some sort of IQ test for those who want to buy a gun?
I assume most of the guns in your 'hood' weren't legally acquired.
I guess not if Billy Poole has one.
If you bare yer arms, please use deodorant, then the rest of us can bear your arms... then check your dictionary if you want people to take you seriously.
Why should anyone shake the fist towards God? That is illogical. We allowed this to happen. The gunman had a choice to make and he obviously made a bad one. That is the problem of freedom and freewill.
We can't handle freedom of choice because a lot of people loves to make the bad ones. If evil did not exist then why evil things occur almost everyday?
Our suffering will pale in comparison to the good things God has in store for his followers.
In Romans 8:18 we read: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Remember these words were written by the apostle Paul, who suffered through beatings and stonings and shipwrecks and imprisonments and rejection and hunger and thirst and homelessness—far more pain that most of us will ever have to endure
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
Yep. The Bible says that part of God's plan is to turn us into cannibals. Nice guy.
The default for mankind is having a god.
The default for mankind is believing the sun revolves around the earth.
How does that prove in any way that a god exists? Hint: it doesn't. Al you have proven is that you like to swallow the kind of flawed reasoning that fundamentalists 'authorities' use to convince their innocent, trusting, simple followers. Fundamentalist dogma does not hold up to valid logic. You might as well just have said: I'm a'gonna foller tha beleefs ov ever-body else cuz what the crowd thinks must be right...
You nailed it with all your points! Finally someone who is not afraid to speak the truth!
I get so mad when I hear my Christian friends justify that God has big plans and wants those who died in heaven! If you can't explain something don't speak for God. No body knows what the heck is going on n how to stop these massacres. Praying has not helped n I m losing faith! But God help us! if he has the power now is the time to show it.
For a religion professor you have ruled out religion as the solution or the lack of religion as the problem. I am a PhD in historical theology and historically, Christians of all centuries have comforted themselves with the hope of the resurrection.
well i can tell you. the kids is in heaven with the lord. some day the familys will see there little angels again.
No they're not and no they won't.
So abortion is a "fast pass" to heaven, right?
Donny, Can I create a fantasy world and believe in it too?
I hope you are a child because otherwise you are insulting if this is what is supposed to comfort the people who had their children mangled, disfigured, and brutally murdered in what was likely the most frightening moment of their existence. Little angels in Heaven... that makes it all okay. It also makes it easier for the religious to add a silver lining to something that does not have one.
Science, excellent post. You are right. There is no silver lining.
Actually people don't change into angels......"1Cr 6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?"
I think its foolish to believe that God turned His back in this situation if you truly believe in God.
You are right. He is either all powerful and chose not to do anything or he is not all powerful, in which case there is no reason to worship him/it.
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.