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 one that really made me cringe was the mom who was being interviewed. Her kid had survived and her comment was that 'there were Angels in the room' protecting her child. I understand she didn't know what she really said, but the thought that Angels saved some kids while let others die is just horrific.
The idea of a selective God doesn't work either. He just wasn't in the mood that day to protect the kids? If he does exist, what is he waiting for. He could end all this horror on the earth right now. Yet here we are. No father lets his kids die if he can do anything about it.
So, what's the logical explanation, Dan? Not too complicated, is it?
Bravo, Mr. Prothero. Twice that bravo for No. 6. This need to be repeated, again and again. There is no excuse for a gun of this type in any civilian's hands, mental health be damned.
That's what the health care corps say. BTW marrying that industry to the gubmint is gonna be bad news.
The only belief system that should be enforced by the government is the rational one. Otherwise they are not just encouraging, but supporting fraud (religion).
Religious beliefs are a matter of brainwashing, not reason, maturity, or the freedom of the speech. Pure and simple. If you have beliefs not based on reason, facts, evidence and probability, than you believe in nonsense and you are nothing but a brainwashed fool.
That means Atheists are brainwashed fools.
"in the beginning, God created the ...BIG BANG!"
I agree with much of what he said but the dude has an agenda: to undermine Christians by pointing out the idiot Christian slogans and the idiot christian poster boys of which Mike Huckabee is not.
We have to get together as one nation to tackle this issue. Bringing God, religion, politics will only side track us from addressing the core issue – how do we prevent such massacres from ever happening.
Remember God helps those who help themselves.
We Americans have achieved tremendous feats in the past like building the Panama Canal when many nations gave up! We can and have to talk one language to get the lawmakers address this issue. It's time now.
We cannot justify using the 'God Clause' for such a heinous crime.
Religious stupidity has no place in today's world and must be stamped out. Nobody is helped by tolerating idiocy.
first of all Mr. Prothero do you believe that there is something bigger than us humans? because if you do not you are not able to understand how us Christians think about this issue. when someone says it was "God's will" is a way of comfort to the soul, but it is God'will to show us how bad us humans have become where nothing stands in our way, anything we want we can do, or achieve , no morals so it is God's will to let us know that we need him, that without believing in him we become animals, just when us humans killed his own son, think bout that , we KILLED God's son and now you don't think with evil just free in our earth is not capable of instigating killing of innocent souls like our kids? and yes guns don't kill people humans do, you are so arrogant to think that we have a right to shout out God, why? after we don't pray to him, we don't follow his teachings. it was not God's will for these beautiful kids to die, it was God's will to let us know that evil people like you exist and without him we are nothing sir
You know a lot about what god's will is.
You must be special... Or arrogant.
Michael...I'm afraid you are the arrogant one. You cannot comprehend something that is beyond comprehension. You cannot measure something that is infinite. This god you speak of has so many rules, so many things we have to do, so many things we could do wrong. Sounds like you, not god. And Christians don't think, they believe. There is a difference.
Adam Lanza was crazy. He was mentally deranged. His mother was a nitwit for buying weapons like this when her son was so unstable. Being killed by your own child is not something sane. Mental health benefits need to be afforded to more people who are in this situation.
Being angry and being crazy are two different things....
People are saying how quiet this boy was how shy. In my opinion he was planning this shooting maybe not necessarily for the elementary school, but his plan was to take out someone.
America should return to Godly principles
Author of this article doesn't make.any sense? ?
By the way when was the last time a left minded author's article make any sense?
this isn't a "left-minded" opinion, it is a "right-minded" opinion as in "right", "correct". So you're saying right-wingers should keep allowing this to happen? god what idiots we have out there. @ Help US – I agree!!
LBGT Pedo Bears are to blame ?
"Marine Links Candyman to disrespected Lesbians and Sandy Hook Snuff With FBI JABS"
A thinking person's article. Well done, Stephen.
There is no God, no Moses. Only a mothers' failure to see that her son was damaged and that leaving firearms outside of a locked safe was a stupid idea. She got hers, he took his own life and those of 26 other innocent people in the process. Get a safe for your guns people. This woman got 300k a year in alimony and couldnt get a gun safe to keep her dreanged boy from harming others? Trust me, you KNOW if your kid aint right. Lets leave guns around for everyone to play with. She was grossly negligent and it cost her not only her own life but that of 20 children and six adults who were caring for them. Drunks dont need cars, disenfranchised boys who dont think that anyone loves them don't need guns to take out their anger on society. Plain and simple. Wake up people and secure your firearms.
We don't know that she left them out unlocked. It's entirely possible that her highly intelligent son secretly figured out where she leaves her key or the safe codes.
Just goes to show that not only should the firearms buyer be checked for mental stability, but everyone that comes in contact with the buyer too!
Better yet, maybe we should all come to grips that the 2nd amendment is no longer meaningful in any way and should be repealed.
I think your message is good. However, intelligent evil-doers will find a way to get the guns including holding a knife on his mother to open the safe.
When you have empty vessels of human beings that have no moral conscience, no fear of eternal punishment, only the need to get revenge for perceived injustices, they will kill.
I have a good memory. Nobody would get into my gunsafe to get at my guns if i had a safe or a gun. I own neither. You cant get into them without a cutting torch if you dont know my combo. Unstable youth do not need access. The whole thing was preventable. Plain and simple.
No matter how well you would keep your guns, there are going to be people out there who don't. (Remember, there are 350 million americans and even more than that many guns).
I don't want my kids lives in yours or anybody elses hands. REPEAL THE 2ND AMENDMENT!
Leaving gun posession to the criminals is INSANE.
The best response to Adam Lanza storming the school would have been a gun aimed at his forehead when he was shooting out the front door of the school.
To accomplish that you would have to arem every man, woman, and yes – child. Talk about INSANE.
Leave gun posession to the cops. Everyone one else with one has it illegally!
You don't have to arm every man woman and child!!!!!!!
All it takes is a trained gun owner whether it be security or a school staff member.
Who says Adam Lanza had no compassion? He killed his mother while she slept. This guy was a creep, but he was not crazy....
Susan, please put the crack pipe down.
The success rate of weaning people off physical drugs (once addicted) is almost none (except when they convert to Jesus, which is really just a switch from one drug to another). It's almost impossible to get people off their religious drug. The way to do it is to start fresh – making sure the kids are not exposed to religious brainwashing at an early age (it's like giving cocaine to 3 year olds). That's why the separation of church and state, especially at the schools, is of outmost importance!
I agree 200%
The cops have the right to carry as an extension of the citizens' right to carry. Take the citizens' guns and the cops must give up theirs, too.
Ok NRA member.
Everytime I think I see the stupiest comment on the internet – another one comes alond ever stupider.. Congrats lol – you won today!
Everytime I think I see the stupiest comment on the internet – another one comes along ever stupider.. Congrats lol – you won today!
This makes no sense whatsoever.
This comment makes no sense at all.
Servants are not greater than their Masters. Unless you're a Socialist who makes everything up as you go along. They progress, so to speak. HAHAHA
I do not want to worship a god that requires mass murder of children; then that god is NOT Pro Life.
"requires mass murder"?
You don't know God.
"How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation"
Similar to Vladimir Lenin - "We will win with Slogans"
Enslavement for the Serfs - Victory for U$
"Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? " In a word: Yes
Not all of U$ are Evil World Order Psychopaths.
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.