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.
If there was a "Jesus", he certainly would not have looked like a white man...neither would his parents. He would've looked just like the rest of the Arabs that live over there....but, the Jesus story is another of the made up fairy tales that the sheep have swallowed whole.
He had His Father's eyes and complexion. Looked just like Him... nose too. But his mother's smile.
Why is it that religious people equate socialism and atheism? I'd hate to break this to them but one can be a capitalist atheist or a socialist Christian.
For future reference….
Socialism – any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
Atheism – a disbelief in the existence of deity
Free Will is like the prime directive on Star Trek. It is supposed to be an absolute law, but it gets violated whenever it is convenient. And it's a handy excuse for why you decide not to act.
Jesus is the William Shatner of deities: kinda silly.
I like how snide everyone is in the wake of tragedy.
Well that was a snide remark!
Nice name. It fits.
Here is the truth, that you may be too much of a coward to accept it.
Guns don't kill people, Lunatics kill people, and they will do it no matter be it with a gun, or a knife, or a bus, they will find a way.
The worst coward is the one that surrenders his liberty out of fear. He deserves neither, liberty, nor safety.
yes, without guns, lunatics can find other ways to be destructful. like the man in china who attacked 22 children with a knife instead of a gun. But there is one issue that is hardly trivial – all 22 children in china survived. They will live another day, see their friends and families again. We'll never rid america of lunatics. This much is obvious. But ask the parents at Sandy Hook which scenario they'd rather have to live with.
You got that right.
An especially moronic statement. A man in China runs through a school with a knife and wounds/injures 23 people. A boy walks into a school with three weapons and kills almost thirty people. There's a reason that armies take rifles into wars, why police are armed with guns–increased lethality. To claim that a lunatic without a gun is as dangerous as a lunatic with a gun you either have to be stupid (and ignorant of history) or willfully lying to others.
Peter Vogel, yours is the most intelligent response I've seen yet.
Once again, the stupid rhetoric we have heard so many times. If this is the only argument you can put forward to rationalize the murders of innocents, then you are no better than the killers themselves.
well said, I am tired of these anti gun enthusiasts preaching how people would not have killed without "assault weapons". The reality is that people have been killing since the beginning of time, look how Cane killed Abel, not with an AR15 mind you, nor did any person commit a crime with a gun prior to their existence. So, are you telling me that crime was non-existent prior to the invention of firearms? Yes, some guns "look Scarier" then others, if you are ignorant to their function, but no they will not hurt you anymore than its counterpart, if disrespected. Guns do NOT kill people, they are a tool, just like any other "weapon" from the past, you do not blame the car in a Drunk Driving accident that killed someone, so why blame the gun? There is just no logic to thinking that guns commit crimes, guns are merely a tool, if used inappropriately they can cause harm, but in the right hands, they can also prevent harm. Dont blame the tool, blame the user of the tool.
OK what the churches teach and what the bible says are two very different things. Churches teach based on traditions of men not what the truth says in the Bible. For example..dead is dead. Ezekiel 18:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5,10
churches brainwash children to be adults who don't question the foolishness of religion.
philosophy gives you questions you cannot answer. religion gives you answer you cannot question
I saw plenty of full churches in Newtown and priests and ministers attending to the grieving citizens. I didn't see any atheist organizations there providing compassion and sympathy. Where's the ACLU when we need them? There are angels, crosses and Christmas trees being displayed in public places.
Do what religious people do. Blame it on Mother Nature.
Seeds from the Sower
The sower does sow all like manner in seeds of mankind and of sowing these seeds sown being of mankind does the sower await to reap the sown harvest of mankind's laments. As the sower does reap the laments harvests of mankind's seeded covetousness, the sower makes well the goodly many of the seeds yet to be sown. The sower can only plant the seeds of mankind and in the sower's planting of mankind's seed will the sowers ever be reaping that which the harvests declare from the seeds once and ever to be so sown.
Who else can the sowers be but of the family of God who all do live deeply inside our bodies which are but godly buildings sown and grown by all of God's families? We who do know are the harbingers of the seeds yet to be sown and in one's knowing of things to be coming does the sown seeds make ready the harbingers soon to be harvested seeds of tried laments. God being the first sower of all sowers does ever await all tested harbingers coming from many sown harvests.
what are you smoking? Jesus's loin cloth ?
time for your meds.
Bull sheet. Pure bullsheet.
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How about adding this one as another thing that should not be heard at this time?
"We need stricter gun control laws."
The State of Connecticut has the strictest gun control & registration laws in the country. All the guns were legally owned and registered. Even that did not prevent this tragedy.
Mexico has even stricter gun control laws than anywhere in the USA. So guess what? Only the drug dealer gangsters have guns. The regular law abiding people can not defend themselves because they do not have guns.
The county needs to have some system in place to control violent mentally ill people.
Because of the NRA, any state in the US cannot have very strict gun control. We need a federal gun control law and then that will allow effective gun control.
Couldn't agree with the writer more. Here's another one for you, "God will never give you more than you can handle"...huh, really? Well considering this situation and the fact that someone commits suicide every 15 seconds, I guess that blows that theory.
God is never to blame for evil. Satan did this..and if you look at the individuals that committed these crimes they were all medicated, every one of them. and with less gun control in many years past, and less medicatioins and illegal drugs, we had not the violence of today. we also have video games that promote this violence and this how the characters inthe games dress in black carrying guns. Criminals will always get guns, just like locks on doors keep out honest people, they have yet to keep out a criminal.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UhO0Pul_FcE
My invisible pink unicorn is praying that you get a clue.
If God is omnipotent and there is no greater force possible how is that Satan can oppose God? Obviously, Satan can't do anything unless God allows Satan to do it. So the choices are; Satan is nothing more than God's agent acting on God's behalf, Satan is as powerful as God and can thereby subvert God's will, Satan doesn't exist and is a handy excuse we use to explain why bad things happen to good people, or neither Satan nor God exists. Personally, I believe in God but the idea that somehow Satan can oppose God? That's just a bridge too far.
Thanks for clearing that up for us. God does the good stuff, satan does the bad stuff.... .. how ridiculous..
Who created Satan?
Religion does not play a part in this. If there is not a God, end of story its irrelevant. If there is a God why did he allow it to happen? The reason is ... there isnt a God. Anyone who still believes in imaginary people needs their head looking at. Its escapism. I agree with the author. The issue here is Guns. America is the only country in the developed world that has this issue to this extent. The other developed countries have their share of mental health issues and divorce and graphic video games, but not the wide availability of guns.
The riight to bear arms was written in a time of militia and muzzle loaded rifles. Its a different period today and we should review this law immediately, its long overdue.
Anyone who does, in this time, believe in a god, should be considered mentally unfit and bared from gun ownership.
I think Prothero's article was fair in terms of running down the list of the most annoying 'Religious' responses to this tragedy and offering his evaluation.
You, like all the rest of us, try to say something that will comfort but EVERYONE misses the mark. I read your article because I find it interesting that some people try to tell others what should or should not be said at times like this.... Face it there is no right & wrong. The best thing you can do is hug the person grieving & not say anything unless the person wants to talk. Then listen to them & see where it takes you. All the rest is really for us people that are not personally involved, we are trying to feel better by sympathizing & that is a good thing. So be quite & let people handle it the best way they know how...
There is no Sky Fairy.
Get over it.
Wow, I'm at a loss for words. I'v always considered Prothero a blabbering idiot. This is the first time I have ever agreed with him.
You are not wrong. He is an idiot
Then don't read his articles if you think he's an idiot. Stfu.
The Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, and he becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery and he engineers the slaughter of little children.
How do you people believe this tripe?!?!
Because a 2000 year old work of fiction tells them to?
That's poetry buddy. Great stuff.
I'm reading Time Enough For Love right now. ;-)
Seriously, how could ANYONE with a brain believe some fat white man made Earth? Simply unbelievable.
There is much more evidence that Clifford the Big Red Dog and Santa Claus exists.
Simply unbelievable in 2012 to think big fat powerful Action Hero's dwell in the clouds. I don't understand how religious people even cross a street ... because it is apparent they do not live in the real world.
Sorry folks, but did you know that 9/11 was really caused by a flock of killer ninja-turtles? I am serious. There are books written about it. Each Ninja turtle was over 1000 feet tall, and you can see them all in video's of 9/11.
I am serious. Ninja Turtles, and if you don't believe me you are a complete godless fool.
God has nothing to do with this tragedy. God created us and now he is just watching humanity unfold.
so why the %$&^ do you pray?!?!
But he knows how it will unfold, right?
Maybe it works like the movie "Carlito's Way". From the very beginning you know that he dies, yet as the rest of the movie plays out you start wanting it not to happen, hoping for some last minute change.
Of course you don't want your religion questioned. You want sheep. I thought your God was omnipotent? Are there "chinks in your God's armor"?
You would have been saying he created a miracle if the guns had jammed. So, it only works one way?
Rad, d*mned right I want sheep. They are delicious. Humans are too greasy.
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.