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.
The "Right to bear Arms" refered to the arms that are normally attached to one's body.
Yes 223 rifles made by bushmaster are the evils of the world. Come on dude get over yourself. Real world – 2011 over 1000 people where murdered by stabbing with a knife or blunt force truama (baseball bats). In the last 10 years less people have been killed in massacres then in 2011 deaths by knives. Should we ban all knives and blunt force instruments. In 2011 over 9000 people were killed by drunk drivers who made the decision to drive their vehicles and make weapons out of them.
Evil will find a way to do harm. It is only stopped with force.
Enforce the laws we have. Make parents responsible to raise their kids (yes the Mom is partially to blame here she should not have had guns in the house when the evil man had showed signs of mental issues).
Stop making a smoke screen that assult rifles are the cause or the solution if you ban them.
Outside of the military, as.sault rifles are nothing more than deadly toys for immature adults who haven't outgrown playing cops and robbers.
Too secular? That's what the religious fanatics in Iran are saying. Religion is part of the problem if you look at history.
wrong, humans are. EVERYTHING humans get involved in or create its corrupted
I wasted my time reading this article. Write something better.
If there is a Satan....he must be saying right about now..."everything is proceeding as planned"....
There isn't a satan, so, next...
Think about religion as another drug addiction. Instead of "mind altering chemicals", people are getting "mind altering illusions". Same thing. People love their addictions and are willing to down-trade to religion, but not give it up entirely!
Ignorance must be bliss for you.
Really? So you are an "educated" believer? How impressive! Not!
I generally don't care much for Prothero, but this was a good article.
Most people learn to tolerate religious nuts. It's not their fault, they were brainwashed that way!
I love this article. My fave quote is: " 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?"... thanks for keeping me fair and balanced. XO
I love this article. My fave quote is: " 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? 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?"... thanks for keeping me fair and balanced. XO
Isn't god supposed to prevent incidents like that? He is not doing his job! I propose we start a little uprising, "Occupy Heaven" and throw the rascal out.
I would pay yo if you find me in the Bible where it says that God is suppose to prevent things like these
Do u think God exists to please us?
dont respond with a question, FIND IT
Lets make a deal. Christians stop saying how "powerful" god is and we wont ask him to prevent killings.
Lets make another deal, how about people do their research before posting their comments, so much ignorance is boring
@joan.............What research are you referring to?
there are lots of things I dont want to hear either, you are not alone. I propose CNN creates a link in which all God haters may enter and unleash their fury loool, I think it would be a great idea since they are doing such a great job bashing God and Jesus and their "followers"
What's a "fury loool" Joan?
lol stands for laughing out loud. and I would assume you know what the word fury means
Moral decay is the cause of this..not guns.WAKE UP AMERICA!
You act like the gun was taken there against it's will.
Stop posting lies to further your agenda of banning guns. The second amendment clearly states "The right to bear arms shall not be infringed." Unless you cannot read that seems like a clear an obvious statement.
Well, that's what Amendments are for.
Have you NOT read the first part of the statement? May I suggest you do to put the entire thought of the framers into context. Otherwise, perhaps you should go back to school to learn to read. Hopefully, you will not be shot dead, just like those little kids.
The 2nd Amendment has ZERO RESTRICTIONS for children, the mentally disabled, the senile, the blind, felons, etc.
So do you SUPPORT GUN CONTROL?
Read the whole thing: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The well regulated militia at the time used muskets, not semi-automatic weapons.
Each and every one of us came into this world with free agency, we ALL have the right to choose what we do – be that good or evil. Heavenly Father & The Lord not intervening when something awful is about to happen does not mean they are both not real. That is simply ignorant to say.. Being here on this earth is not easy. There is a lot of pain and hurt that comes from living here on this earth, but there is also great joy and happiness. We need to take care of those that are left behind now. Support them, mourn with them and be steadfast in our daily lives to do good – despite what may or may not happen the next day.
Isn't religion dumb? It sets up ridiculous rituals and rules that are completely contrary to normal human functioning.
hide in a cave
Both god and dog are man's best friends!
and you call yourself a religious scholar?? i have never read such a ridiculous and uneducated opinion in my life. god created humans with free will....do you know the definition of free will??? that means idiots like that in conn. and all over this planet with the means to kill...will do just that...its called free will.
Speaking of ridiculous and uneducated, Prothero is a college professor who has published books and been featured by top newpapers.
For comparison, how are you doing as an expert on religion?
So what you are saying is that god allows free will to people who want to commit violent acts, but doesn't allow people who simply want to survive to make that choice? Your god is a jerk.
I commend you on this article. As an atheist, I tend to read articles pertaining to religion with a grain-of-salt and expect some remarkably inexplicable line of (il)logic under the pretense of "being a good Christian".
You sir wrote one of the most well worded and thought provoking articles pertaining to the philosophy of the mass shooting that I have seen throughout all of these senseless murders. I extend my kudos to you for how well you thought this through. Regards & happy holidays!
No, Moses did not live to be 120. And Abraham was not 175. At least say "the Bible says..." before that. Why does CNN continue to publish this crappy, second rate author and ridiculous, religiously clouded articles?
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.