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.
Excellent article and I agree with every single word. Thank you.
I hate Christians. They are just so intellectually stupid, historically ignorant, scientifically retarded and politically vulnerable to manipulation. The “dumb kids” of America who need to rely on a Bronze Age sky-fairy to protect them – like gutless, frightened children. Pathetic.
well Colin i need no protection from any man especially you who hides behind a computer
Well, good for you Henry, you are a real man – hiding behind your own computer and all.
I hate people named Colin. They are so spiteful and self-loathing.
In all your posts I have read, I have yet to see what your claims Christians not to be for your own recognitions to so be! Tell me Colin, what say you intellectually speaking are your thoughts regarding creations such as the celestial and even the atomic creations? I await your answer.
hey dude, just publish your address and let's see how brave you are. Your more of a wimp than Lanza! GOLLY!
Colin is probly sitting in a chair watching his lady get a cuckold creampie!
Colin, would you consider Francis Collins to be scientifically retarded? He's Christian and was the head of the Human Genome Project. Imagine what he could have done if he hadn't been scientifically retarded!
Mordecai- science is a verb not a noun. The scientific approach leaves no room for childish nonsense like sky gods protecting weak minds from reality. To the extent he is a Christian, it just means that, in that part of his life, he lives a dream. In other parts – his work – he doesn't. So what?
Why would CNN put this on their website? It's irreverent dribble by an idiot. People need comfort not more confusion and questions thrown into the wind by a moron looking for a little attention. C'mon CNN .... Take it down and plz don't publish this kind of God bashing at a time like this!
Oh, for the love of Pete. This isn't your church and Prothero isn't your minister delivering a sermon to comfort you.
Get a clue.
A time like this is exactly when it is needed because no one ever talks about this type of BS during a time like this. It is just as much about the event as our society's reaction to it, which historically, has been poor.
Basically true news doesn't exist anymore. its personal opinions to drive a political agenda. spread the word to all its the greatest gift to give the one of truth that reveals indoctrination at all levels! The ability to discern and think for ourself and not be driven by media but by our own convection
Evil exits when God is absent. Put God and prayer back in schools and much evil will be overwhelmed by God.
God created the devil and evil.
Read it sometime.
Why did God give up on omnipresence?
"Evil exists when God is absent." - BINGO, but not for the reason you think.
I was taught in Catholic school that god is everywhere, even in that class room and in Lanza's brain. Everything is part of god's creation therefore everything is equally sacred. And if god is everywhere, where is hell?
I love schooling the non-christians! God is not the creator of evil and suffering!! 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.
That's not what your book says
45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7, KJV)
This guy is full of it. What a bunch of crud.
What about the million of unborn murdered children.
Speaking of "crud" and HYPOCRITES, if you actually read the Bible you'd know the word "abortion" isn't in it.
Reblogged this on Tomes of Bragi and commented:
I think Prothero here is saying things worth saying. To say that the massacre was in any shape or form God's will is an explosive, unmitigated misguidance that is in every way worth reprimanding.
Thank you. One of the best commentaries in a long time.
CNN LEANS a little more left nothing new here! But the fact that not even a week following this tragedy and you are using these poor children who passed away as pawns is ridiculous let the mourning process heal a little before u shine your koolaid around the room. Wow thank God we are educated on media biases in this era.
Forget religion, respect humanity. Those little budding angels, no way deserved such a tragic end.
spread the message of love, not hatred, since incidents like this point out the shortcomings we have in the current system and need for a social reform, an inevitable change, much awaited for generations.
Guns, according to me have the following abbreviation and should have no place in the society where we intend to spread the message of love.
G – Gruesome
U – Uncalled for.
N – Nasty
S – Suicidal
Every life is precious and recurrence of such accidents/events emphasizes the fact that we keep repeating the same mistakes again & again,without bringing in social reform which is needed.
Why Schools – should not have Gated Security Premises (like the BIG cORPORATES) – with a single parent (with valid identification) – only allowed inside the premises.
Why Schools – should not have Cops guarding the arena while the school is in session, to make sure that monsters dont attack the budding angels.
When you raise taxes, to account for increase cost of healthcare, why schools should experience a cut in fundings, compromising the security of kids.?
Unless we ban guns, it is easy for insane person/ emotionally compromised individuals to catch hold of their parent's guns, who held them for securing their lives,
with out having a faintest of idea that those guns, could kill them one day at the hands of their loved ones.
except my stuff is real and you are just making yourself look like a fool who's being schooled in an argument
The bible god loved the slaughter of children. Such a role model. Believing is irrational and irrationality only makes problems worse and delays real solution.
I also do not want to hear someone mocking other people's beliefs as they turn to their faith and God to find comfort and understanding.
Let me tell you where I was while this disturbed young man slaughtered 20 beautiful little children and devastated the lives of their parents. I was in the same place I was when 2 kids murdered 20 others in Columbine, when 19 terrorists flew 2 planes into the World Trade Center and killed 3,000 and when Nazis systematically killed 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.
I was nowhere. You see, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.
Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.
Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.
Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.
Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?
Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).
Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.
Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.
Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?
Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.
Move on – get over me. I did.
Wow, Colin! Congratulations on your beautiful existentialism. You have really done us all a giant cynical favor. Thanks for taking the time to share.
Don't mention it, Dave.
For someone who claims to believe that God doesn't exist, you certainly put a lot of thought into your "Letter from God". The funny thing about Atheists is that they sure do put a lot of energy in trying to prove that God doesn't exist. If He doesn't exist, then why does the idea of Him bother you so much?
Mike W – "HE" doesn't bother me at all, any more than Santa Claus does. The people who believe in him do.
But god... you work in mysterious ways... are all these facts another test of my faith?
LOL! I wish I could frame this. "Furiously reproducing" LOL!!
OK Colin – First, let me inform you that God does exist and you are not Him. Deny it if you choose, you have that right – He gave us free will. But please, don't start schooling those of us who know better with your liberal jibberish. Beleive what you want to believe – and Yes, Satan was an angel created by God who chose to rebel against God just as many humans, also created by God – choose to rebel and do their own thing – be their own god. When the resurrection does occur – you will know along with the rest of humanity – unfortunately, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses – it will be too late for many. I will be praying for you.
Mike W – Atheists do not put any energy whatsoever into proving God doesn't exist. For one, the burden of proof should be on the believer, not the atheist, and secondly, you can't ever prove ANYTHING doesn't exist. I can't prove an invisible pink elephant doesn't live in my refrigerator. I can't prove that Santa Claus doesn't steer a fliying sleigh pulled by magical reindeer around the world one night a year. However, what CAN be proven are all of the things throughout human history that have consistently debunked the myths and legends spoken about in the Bible (and any other religious text). As human knowledge about the world around us increases, religious mythology retreats. Religion is an ever-shrinking pocket of scientific ignorance. Whatever we don't currently understand, we attribute to God; it's been that way for the entirety of human history, and yet throughout history we have progressively come to understand one thing after another, and we have yet to find something that we fully understand that turned out to be caused by any god. Go figure.
When you can understand why you reject all other gods, you will understand why I reject yours.
You know the believers are shaking their head in wonderment at your stupidity as in how could you possibly have typed all this stuff if you are not even you? There's no comedy, irony or logic when god's around.
Sheelly, given what "believers" believe, the fact that they shake their head at me is hardly insulting.
Thank you for sharing your post. It is unfortunate that most of the people commenting on this site cannot see the truth in it. Sheep, all...
another horrific crime, and no help from god. but then, there is never help from god. only empty words from preachers who make a living off of other people's sorrow. i hope these childrens' spirits meet their parents again some day , somewhere in the universe. but not in the presence of this evil god that allowed them to be slaughtered.
The word "ASSAULT" rifle means In law, assault is a crime that involves causing a victim to apprehend violence
Attack...not defend. The word speaks by itself...therefore it should be banned!
That is pretty ridiculous logic.
I agree with you that assault weapons should be banned, but using the logic you just used is ridiculous. It's not called an "assault" weapon because it's an attack weapon. That's ludicrous logic.
So, why is it called assault ?
This is all the fault of liberal idiots.
You took school prayer out and replaced it with Hollywood's violent movies, including cartoons.
Liberals did not make this country great. They only destroy it and spend others people money just to feel good about themselves.
do us all a favor. stop using up our precious oxygen. it's wasted on folks like you.
What school did you go to, we never got to watch cartoons?
Funniest comments of the day. Well done.
What are you babbling about? Are you drunk?
Parents are the ones replacing education of values with video games. This has nothing to do with public education that meets the common needs of all students.
Which violent movies did Hitler watch? Which violent video games did he play?
Thank you. The idea of a vengeful God, so annoyed that "he's not in schools" that he causes the vicious gunning down of child, is disgusting–as is Mike Huckabee.
Anyone who trots out "guns don't kill people" obviously values their gun more than the lives of people.
What we are doing isn't working. Time to rethink it.
People keep saying "How could God let this happen to children in a school?" My reply is "In the United States, God is not allowed in schools"
--- bless America?
Plain lie. Repeating it won't make it so. Why do you Christards have to lie to attempt to make a point?
You just make yourselves look worse.
So your mighty god is afraid of the Establishment Clause? He sounds like a pvssy.
That's absurd. If your God is all-powerful, no one would be able to keep him out of schools. Seriously, some of you people are incapable of rational thought.
Can you then explain why/how children are molested in churches?
So "banning" God in school caused him to have a hissy fit and let 20 children die?
Get read. Get serious.
That's a rediculiously idiotic response.
1) No Omnipotence – god isn’t powerful enough to evade a school system ban.
2) No Omnipresence – god isn’t inside the school, so god can’t be everywhere.
3) No Omniscience – he didn’t see this coming?
We don't allow prayer in schools, and that's why 20 children died there. Huckabee, you're insane. What if Lanza had chosen to go into a mall? Or a train station? Or (God forbid) a church? Would your rant have been different?
I'm curious to know, at what point in U.S. history was there "God in schools" as you describe? 1983? 1975? 1965? 1950? U.S. public education was never parochial education. U.S. children did not receive religious education in schools.
It is so presumptuous to say what God's will was or is. I am a dedicated Christian, but I believe that God did not deign that this horrific tragedy should happen. God created man with free will because He wanted to be loved freely and not by force. Therefore, I believe that when this miscreant chose to kill all of those people, it was his free will at work and not God's will. As I said, that is just my own belief.
I believe that God saw it happened. Why He didn't stop it, I do not know. There are so many things that I do not understand when it comes to God. I just simply believe that the God I love and worship is good and loving, and not the creator of evil.
I don't know why atheists think as they do. That's their business. It has nothing to do with me. They can do what they wish and I will do as I believe I should.
I believe in prayer in school, but I don't for one second believe that having prayer in school would have stopped this killer. I do believe that he had true evil from Satan in him, and of course any prayer would then be ignored.
You need psychiatric evaluation.
I am agnostic, but this kind of Christianity makes sense to me. You have your beliefs, but you don't require everyone else to live by them. Thank you.
I was always taught in catholic school that god created everything. And being All-Knowing of course god knew how it would all play out. And bible-thumpers always tell of god's plan for each of us sounds like Pre-Destiny to me.
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.