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.
Leave God out of this. Call it for what it is. A kid that was mentally ill with access to firearms commits a senseless act of violence. Stop trying to make sense out of the senseless.
The insurance companies know how to treat the mentally ill.
Great point. I can leave this discussion now.
I'm sorry but I lose patience with the idea that God only gives the good, and the bad come from a nebulous 'other'. If God made everything, if we're supposed to thank him for every damned blade of grass, then he also made the bits that spiraled into this massacre. There's no escaping that - he must OWN this.
God forgive them for they do not know what their doing. May God comfort all the families of the deceased.
There's no god, Nate. They'll have to do it on their own.
Well said Nate.
Guns, guns and more guns...I've got a gun, you've got a gun, 300 million guns in America. Why not treat like we do with cars and driving? License, safety checks, renewals, register, annual recertification? Assault rifles with clips? 100 magazines? What's next anti aircraft guns and shoulder fired missles?
Public Servants have guns as an extension of the Masters' right to carry.
How about a Vulcan M61? Fires 6000 rounds per minute. That's 100 per second for those of you that are mathematically challenged.
If there is a god, he is a psychotic basterd
I agree completely . If I go somewhere and meet a God I will do my best to kick his a-s!
You'll find out if there is a God.
"You kids just wait until your father gets home!" Proxy threats don't work, jimmy.
The only reason you make them is to get a stiffie.
Tommy, Are you an Atheist?
I genuinely hope God forgives you for your comments here. You must be pretty confident about your atheist beliefs.
Huckabeelzebub already has his gawwwwwd in our science textbooks for, wait for it, innocent, easily indoctrinated children. They claim that god has been taken out of our schools... what they mean is THEIR gawwwwd has been taken out of our schools... which is what our founders wanted. You cannot trust a cult that gave us Westboro Baptists to influence children whose parents DON'T want their children indoctrinated with fundamentalist beliefs. Nobody in our schools is stopping school children from going to church to learn religious beliefs... nobody.
How do all you know what god thinks or says?
Do you really believe the Bible is a true story and every other religion in the world is wrong?
Gees, maybe thats whats wrong with America. Tooo much religion.
#6 is correct. A gun is a piece of metal. It is not capable of action without someone to operate it. Saying guns kill people is like saying cars cause driving. An inanimate object is simply that.
No, it's stupid to say that guns don't kill people. Assault-type weapons are for nothing else. There is no reason to have one except to kill someone else.
As I said to RL, the mother of the shooter bought those guns to protect herself, and look how well that worked out for her.
It is an inanimate object, yes, but an inanimate object with exactly one purpose: to kill, brutally and efficiently than any other weapon that came before it. Cars kill people, but that is when cars do things they are not intended to do, i.e. crash or hit pedestrians. Guns are only supposed to do one thing, they do it magnificently well, and since that one thing is in the best interests of literally no living thing, it really baffles me how much we worship it.
Tom tom, you are illogical. An object has no purpose without human intervention. It has no will of its own and therefore can not create action.
Question for atheists and agnostics:
If God is real and you were God, would you have prevented the slaughter? Yes or no?
wow – a double hypothetical. There is no god. The question is meaningless.
Ok. I'll rephrase it for you: If you had the power to save these innocent children, would you? Yes or no?
Agnostic and yes I would have. I would also have prevented cancer, heart disease, death in general, anger, malice, and probably lizards.
@Voice of reason "I would also have prevented... anger, malice"
@Chad "so.. at what point in your life would you have evaporated in a puff of smoke?"
You can't double stamp a triple stamp, you can't double stamp a triple stamp...
Atheists are idiots who think high of themselves. They don't even realize that they don't even have a clue. They this is double negative. Bit then they turn around and blame a god who does not exist. pathetic.
Several responses apparenlty from Christians and NOT ONE can answer a simple "yes or no" question about saving innocent children.
No, rochdoc. It just gets too clunky to say "this alleged god, "God", as described by you and old Middle Eastern Hebrew men" each and every time.
Hey, I have a great idea: I'll take a murderous crime against humanity and turn it into my own Letterman-esque Top 10 List (only 6) blog about why I'm sick of hearing about it. Next up on Stephen Prothero's list blogs: 6 Things I'm Sick of Hearing About Dead Soldiers, 6 Things I'm Sick of Hearing About Cancer Deaths, 6 Things I'm Sick of Hearing About Starving Children. How about a little respect for grieving people, and their beliefs? You are a TOOL, dude.
"More guns and more God" is what Hucklebee and the other deluded religious dupes of his ilk are saying. What a bunch of idiots.
You're right. More violent video games, no God, and less prayer sure is working wonders, huh?
I am going to stop reading articles on CNN because I see it's coming from all the same uninformed people. In the right hands a pistol is just as dangerous as a .223 rifle if not more. The virgina tech shooter used only pistols and destroyed more lives. More murders are commited with handguns then any other weapon as reported by the FBI in a recent study, but everyone is demonizing assault rifles because they don't know anything about them other than the dumb statement "only the military and police shouldn't have them". There are millions of things that are available to the American public that no one really needs; many things that can be dangerous, but as Americans we should be free to have these things as responsible adults, and one nut job shouldn't ruin my ability to buy certain kinds of rifles. No one writing for CNN has any clue what an assault rifle is an I implore uninformed people to learn the facts. You want to ban something, and save lives then how about banning cigarettes.
Yeah, right ban cigarettes and legalize pot. . .that's what they are trying to do already!
One has to be reasonable. Eternity gets boring without having earned it. And being around cowards and the faithless for all eternity would – well, frankly, it would suck. Therefore one must be given free will. But in order to express it one must survive. The only way to do that is to use apes with opposable thumbs. Literally. And guess what? You need a balanced ecology or the whole thing goes to pieces very quickly. That means you need predators. That means the apes have to have some built-in aggressiveness or they won't survive. You would have found a better way? GREAT!!!
.......HOW? Think about it. No – – – *really* sit down and **think** about it.
There are 2 types of God's will: His perfect sovereign will and His permissive will. Be mindful of which God's will you are talking about. Also, I doubt seriously that anyone here thinks any comment on this and other blogs are directed at the grieving families. One more remark: imo God's greatest miracle is that He can console, comfort and restore hope and joy to the parents who lost children. Can the author or anyone here do that?
"imo God's greatest miracle is that He can console, comfort and restore hope and joy to the parents who lost children."
God's greatest miracle would have been to jam the guns immediately and save the kids.
Little late now. Your priorities are nonsense.
I ditto Jason.
Why doesn't CNN bring John MacArthur or Al molher?
The right to "keep and bear arms" was written by men who personally experienced a government with all the weapons bullying people who had nothing. if you are going to state things...be sure you do your homework.
God is a God of free will. So to say where was God or God did this is just false. God allowed it to happen for reasons we may never understand here on earth. We have free will which means there are consquences to pay for our decisions we make. We as Americans chose to take God out of schools and some would go as far to completely take God out of everything if possible. Its no wonder, some of the things that happen in this life! God's will is love and life! Without God's will is death, which means nothing good can come from a self righteous person. You can try to be good but its meaningless because of the evil deads branded on ur hearts. I mourned the death of these kids and i dont fully understand why it happened and i think its ignorant to assume or speculate on God's will!! But i do know God allows us to make our own decisions whether to love him or to ignore him and if u were God u wouldnt allow free will to ur people would u?So what would u know about Gods will?
The fear of not being in control is what America is worried about. Its not about guns or security, its about having control, and whether u want to admit it or not ITS OUT OF EVERYONES CONTROL!!!!
"The fear of not being in control is what America is worried about."
Apply this thought to the belief in god and see where it goes.
That thought takes me where it should: I have no control, and I have to put my faith and belief in God & Jesus – come what may, good and bad.
Why argue with people who believe in something that can only be brought into existence through dialogue. Figment of a believers mind, period.
Yeah...keep thinking that...there is so much common sense in that theory.
It's called Faith. Try it sometime.....it might save you somewhere down the road.
You can thank me later.
Faith is not a virtue
The bottom line is God does not exist if you don't talk about him.
So – if we don't talk about you, then you don't exist? That works.....
Let us refer to the truly wise men, those great philosophers whose lives and words give us our ethics and explain the meaning of life, all stolen and mangled by the people who wrote the various books of the 'bible':
"Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?" -Epicurus
Apikoires more like it.
Protheros masters (the culture he showing high reverence to) will be happy and will throw him a bone.
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.