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.
I pray for all to know God and it truly saddens me when I see so many lost. I have to admit though, there are times when I see how man directly bashes God and when I see this, I cannot wait for the day when they meet God. The sad part is, it will be too late and they will not have an advocate. As far as I know, there will be many that will still hate God even when God is before them....just like Satan. Satan knows who God is but does not want a relationship with Him. I will stick to God's side.
Sorry, but you had a total LOGIC failure. Only BELIEVERS can hate God.
Funny how you say people "bash" god. Are we hurting his feelings? Please grow up.
Ken, you don't even make sense. Bash is just a word to generalize anti God statements, etc. "If God was a loving God why would he allow that", etc. etc. The point is, man better look at their sin and not question God. That is the problem, many do not believe they have sin.
If we lived in a world with no sorrow or tragedy, these Atheists still would not believe.
"Pro 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." Can't wish this God away, observer.
Observer, what was your point to ask me and others what we would do if we were God? To me it seems like you would hate the true God if He showed Himself to you and proved He exists. I know what I read in your question. You definitely cannot fathom a God that allows children to be shot. You are the one that asked me the question and you are the one that does not believe in God. Sounds like you should not be asking the question. You will never understand God or believers until you open to truth and believe. It is useless to debate it really.
@holly..........We all "sin" one way or another. You are not perfect, yet you believe you are going to heaven. If you are so sure, kill yourself. Why stick around us heathens.
I know. No answer for a simple yes-or-no question that nonbelievers can answer immediately.
No problem. I knew you wouldn't be able to answer this simple question.
Excellent point, kenbaby, you first. You thought of it leader.
Reminds me of the legion entering the pigs and going over the cliff. The first angel said, "Follow me men, ooops, angels."
I cried just like you. Didn't need god to tell me too.
Thank you, Atheist.
FINALLY, someone with some brains in America. Your comments are right on the mark.
Mr. Prothero, well said. I do read what people have to say because sometimes you'll find a nugget or two of intelligence, feeling, and sympathy, but it's true that we have to sift through the most ridiculous comments: people boiling things down into slogans aimed at pushing blame to some obscure being.
Perhaps God is wondering whether we'll ever develop the wisdom to use our God-given hearts and minds in order to prevent such human failings in the future. Perhaps God is waiting to see if he just needs to try again on some other planet in his universe.
How long is he going to wait?
Ok, scratch All-Knowing from your list of "God" characteristics then.
I'm waiting for the National Rifle Association (NRA) to agree that we no longer need assault rifles .... instead we need 50 calber machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers so that we can enjoy deer hunting better. After all we have the second ammendment which states that we have the right to bear arms. I for one think that assault rifles are obsolete and irrelavent. We deer hunters who love our guns need MORE POWER ... MORE BULLETS ... BIGGER BULLETS ... EXPLOSIVE BULLETS .....
TANK in my drive way
Leave god out of this argument; both sides want to polarize this event to their cause. Let us just stop looking for blame and comfort and care for the students who survived. There is nothing we can do to help those who already died, we need to focus on the 600 or so students who will never be the same people because of this.
We wont have 600 or more students in the future unless America "BALLS UP" and passes gun control.
Are they going to fill these kids heads with their friends and teachers are now beautiful angels? Are they going to say to them that that evil man is burning in fire? What good is that? How hard is it to explain that the man was very sick and he wanted to hurt people before he hurt himself?
Indeed Ken. That worked for Chicago and Washington DC.
and the best thing they can do is always remember their friends and that we will all keep them safe.
@john 3:16......... I live in NYC. NY is the SAFEST BIG CITY IN AMERICA. So it does work. Sprinkle some federal laws with teeth and we'll kick the gun habit.
Not G-Ds' Will, but G-D allowed this to happened. Any true believer knows that G-D gives us life and HE also gives us death. There is a reason why G-D allowed this horrific incident to happen. Maybe our society will become more kinder and draw closer to each other because of what happened to these innocent children. This phase of our existence is not the end of our journey.
So the killing of adults is not enough to make us change.
Nothing in this entire world gives me evidence of a god that is good.
The parents of the 680 children at Sandy Hook that were unharmed, I'm quite sure, are thanking God for sparing each and every one of their children. I imagine they are thanking a "good God."
How about #7 - Thank God (my child survived). If God is responsible for saving your child, he also must be responsible for killing the others.
But then you don't thank god; you say something like, "well, god works in mysterious ways," or "we don't see the big picture." Anythng it takes to avoid the painful truth.
I fully agree with Mr. Prothero's points. I was raised in a Jewish household, and was sent to religious school at the age of twelve in the early 50s. We were told about the victims of the Holocaust, and how no one fought back against the Nazis. The question was "Where was G-d; how could he let this happen?" When I was a teen I read the book "The Wall" by John Hersey, which told the story of the Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto, and how many retained their faith even as they faced death.
The tragedy that occurred in Newtown should not have happened. It does not help healing when families are told that their children are dead because of God's will, or they are angels going to heaven. The religious fanatics have their own churches; let them go there.
The Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, is said, not for the dead, but to bring comfort to the living. My thoughts and prayers are for the children lost and their grieving families.
Time to put away the guns, folks.
The radish gives comfort to the living possiblybecause that religion selfish to the core, did not have a thought of afterlife and did not have thought about anybody who did not belong to the tribe. For them god was a tribal king who gave them the laws.
Nope. It's time for some more prayers. Our fadder who art in washington, hollow is thy name, ................
If we lived in a world without evil, how would we know what is good? Can "hot" exist if there is no "cold"?
I'll bet that an omniscient and omnipotent god could figure out a way for this to happen.
Wow. I can only hope you're being sarcastic in some weird way. So we couldn't appreciate the "good" things in life if that massacre didn't happen? Good and evil....hot and cold...are LABELS we put on things. There is no opposite of a chair...does that mean chairs don't exist?
Look at Huckabeelzebubs rabbit eyes... looks kinda creeeeeeeeepy... can you say brainwashed-by-his-own-dogma cult-leader boys and girls? I betcha can...
The great thing about invisible ooga booga GOTCHA gods in the sky is it takes away any personal responsibility from a tragedy.
GOD DID IT.
No he didn't. He's a figment of your imagination, conjured up to explain away the scary things in the night.
Know what else is scary? The state of mental health issues in the united states. How we shun people with mental health issues and cannot provide any help other then to lock them away. That's the real scare. That any one of us could be a ticking time bomb about to go postal.
It's much cleaner to say Jesus called these babies to heaven because it prevents you from having to confront the cold hard truth. That we as a society need to do a better job of recognizing problems and helping each other.
We kill and maim each other over BELIEFS. We do the same over resources or political alliances.
When is the world going to grow the heck up and realize we only have US. It's all of US on this planet and we must all learn to get along and take care of each other.
Cruelty, torture, and death to the innocent is one of the many proofs that god does not exist. Or, if he did exist, it would mean he is not worth worshipping and I spit upon his name. In either case, he can go to hell.
Humanity as a whole. The complete organism. I like it. Using all recorded knowledge to come to most efficient solutions. Conquer the stars and beyond together. You know that this goes against the "goat herders prophesies"?
Well actually... if you believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God, then there is no getting around that God at least condoning the action. If the God is omniscient, then the God must have known about it. If the God is omnipotent, then there was nothing to prevent the God from taking action to prevent it. Therefore since the God would have known about it and would have had the power to intervene but didn’t, the God condoned the action.
If you believe there is a “judgment” in what I just wrote, then it is a judgment that you brought to it that I didn’t put there. I simply stated reality without making any judgment.
Condoning? Well, not, not really. Allowing us to choose for ourselves – yes, God will do that.
I know what you're trying for, Andy. But the God must therefore be condoning the action in order to allow the path you suggest to proceed.
You wouldn't fib, would you?
Holy cow. I can't believe the number of people who have completely missed the point of a very well written article, including you. Free will? Sin? The devil? Evil? Please stop. The arguments that you recycle from Intro to Religion 101 (the free will defense? Really?) Let's just for a second forget the fact that this has nothing to do with the author's comments. Here, for the sake of argument, I'll just grant you every one of your silly arguments. So, let me ask you this: even with free will, are you saying that we as humans have the power to commit a sin so heinous that it is more powerful than God's ability to forgive it? Our power to sin is stronger than his power to love and forgive? We then, have more power than your God. Your logic, not mine. That sir, is laughable, ignorant, self-centered, self-important, contradictory, downright ridiculous, and, an unforgivable sin. Shame on you and your puny, finite thinking. This "creator" of universes and space and time is aghast at your astounding self-important horse*hit.
occurs in 0 verses in the KJV"
"It may be that the Deity can forgive sins, but I do not see how." – Socrates, to Plato, 500 B.C.
If you have two children, you may understand the difficulty a parent faces when one strikes the other. Can you merely forgive the act? What about the harm done to the other? Do you not have a responsibility to do something? A time out?
If you feel some responsibility to take action, you will perhaps start to understand God.
I encourage kids to take it out on God, not each other.
Sorry, I meant the God delusion of course.
Observer, what is your point? I am not God and I have no idea what I would do if I were God. I cannot put myself in that position. A human naturally would want God to intervene directly and not allow the guy to shoot. Also, we would naturally want God to intervene and not allow car accidents that take young lives or any horrible thing...any murder, etc. You will never understand because you deny God. Why are you even asking this question if you do not even believe in God. It should be a mute point. I think the problem is, down deep you have a fear there is a God but not a God you want to know. I see that you think God must be a monster because he allows things to happen and allowed the killer to kill innocent children. The problem is, you are lost and do not understand the things of God. There is no way I or any other Christian can help you understand until you first put your arrogance aside and open up to know God. The evil is this world is from the fruits of sin. God has paid the price for this sin and all can be saved if they trust in Him and believe and have faith. One day all evil will be put aside. Where will you be then? You will be on the side of evil and you will not have an advocate. I am truly sorry you do not see or understand. Pray that Satan steps aside so you can.
Like I said, no man can question God and it is God who determines what is just not man. We are merely man and do not understand all the whys. If we had it mans way we would all perish for we have sin. But, God is a forgiving God and offered Himself by suffering a painful physical death. You should be joyful that God who did not have to do that, did for all who will believe. There is no way for me to help you understand more unless you read scripture and pray for faith and understanding. "Those who are HIs will hear" (hear in the Bible means understand). Those who are not His will not understand the things of God. However, even believers will not understand everything but can understand God's word.
That's okay. You have answered my question. You are UNWILLING to say you'd save the kids.
Not the same for those "immoral" atheists and agnostics, so don't try to preach morals.
Your thinking is that bad things happen, so there is no God.
If there was a God, there would be no sorrow or tragedy. It would be like heaven.
Is this your thinking?
"OK Observer, Your thinking is that bad things happen, so there is no God."
Nope. It's just obvious that MOST of us would not run the world like God supposedly does.
He coulda have that A$$ trip on his own shoelace and shot himself on in face face before he left his house. No , their isn't a god. This A$$ was crazy and he wanted to go out famous. I refuse to use his name and I wished we all could have his name erased from human history.
apikopires, is more like it!
No one seems to understand the Boy was sick and suffered greatly . I don't see any evil here, only victims .
And I ain't religious , so take that you bible thumpers. Who your daddy ?
As long as the medical governmental complex is prospering, everything's cool.
It's the End. We're doomed.
This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end
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.