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.
You know, the thing that offends me most about people who choose to write in blogs and columns about GOD, is that fact that many of them really know nothing at all. It really amazes me that GOD is always the target of anger when bad things happen in our society. Ironically, Satan the evil spirit, who comes to steal, kill and destroy is NEVER to blame!! Neither are the people that are sane enough at the time, while plotting, planning and executing their EVIL missions out on the innocent.. WOW!! Go figure.. Since this very tragic and heartbreaking event, I have yet to hear or read any anger or outrage against Adam Lanza, who by choice and by his own hands, is now deceased. For anyone who is still confused by the details of this horrific massacre, here are the facts. GOD our HEAVENLY FATHER did not murder anyone Friday, December 14, 2012, demon possessed Adam Lanza did!!
I totally agree God is Good was not God at all
That's probably because you claim that your god is the source and conclusion of everything. The reason you don't hear anything about people blaming the person for this crime is partly that we already know he is to blame for it, and that nothing you can say about a god can possibly bring any solutions to this problem.
yeah, i'm sick of everyone blaming the devil. maybe hes a really nice guy but got the short straw and has to oversee hell.
Adam Lanza, the deranged 20-year-old that murdered 20 children in Newtown was catholic. Hitler was devoutly christian. In a 1938 Reichstag speech, he said "I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the lord's work." Must we also mention the 400+ years of inquisitions, or the thousands of years of terrorism and mass murder in the middle east, all religiously fueled? Or how about the thousands of years of vatican sanctioned child molestation?
The most logical conclusion that any thinking person can come to is that there is no god. It's just random events uncontrolled by anything.
a fact is proven true or false, that is your opinion.
I agree devil truly possessed Adam and he was very weak minded to not overcome it. But i am wondering such people usually give some signs of doing something bad before hand. Why no one read that sign around him? I read that his mother told he was burning his hand to feel pain or something like that. Is that not a sign of grave mental disease. Why his mom, neighbours never raised matter of his mental health before why no psychatrist involved before which could have prevented this? Why allow him to kill and then ask all sort of questions? Why not lock him up or treat him in hospital before he does something dangerous? I read so many places where people who know him say that he was weird. May be regular counselling would have set him right.
Uh, in spite of what anyone represents, Adam Lanza and Hitler were not true followers of Jesus Christ. Saying you're a Christian, or taking the role of a priest or a witch hunter or a crusader doesn't make you one. Satan finds ways in to those who are ultimately self-seeking and to discredit the name of Christ. More mass murder committed by atheists – by the way, e.g. Mao, Stalin. Yet there is good "fruit" all around if you look; though Christians aren't perfect, but they're not mass murderers.
BUT clearly if God is omni powerful, etc., etc., etc...(as is your and every other religion's definition) then he also created satan (if one exists). So ultimately he is to blame!
I liked this one. Good one Mr. Prothero! My fav part was “This happened because America is too secular.", but they were all good points.
Christopher Hitchens was correct: religion poisons everything.
larry , when you wake up in hell , then you find out what is real and isn't . you can do a fact check then
but it's too late.
In your first and final venture into deadness, you may notice how the weather is neither hot nor cold, and how there are no rainy days or sunny days. Or more specifically, you may have noticed how "weather" does not exist. Be very alarmed. Do not be alarmed. In fact, you may find in your dead state that approximately 100% of the sensations and phenomena you were familiar with in your living days are cons.picuously non-existent.
Remember how, when you were alive, you wasted hours and hours watching daytime (and probably night-time) television? Well, this is exactly like that, except without the television. And without the day and night. And without time.
Perhaps you have noticed a light shining in the distance. Please do not approach it. In the past countless dead like yourself have fooled themselves into believing it was the gate to heaven, or possibly an angel, or even God. However, it is none of the above. It's my cell phone blinking. I have mail. You don't though. Because you're dead.
at rational libertarian , i would read the book of jude where the angels who kept not their first estate are being
held in chains of darkness for eternal punishment, and ask myself it your cell phone will work there. your thoughts
don't nullify gods word.
Please. God doesn't exist. This is the first step.
Thank you! For stating the obvious.
Finally about God. God does not say anyone to kill. A human kills. Indeed thank that God above that he had sent teachers to protect the other small kids. Else imagine if those teachers had been selfish like most and said let anyone die i will save myself. Teachers are not army man and police who are taught to risk their life for others but still i salute and my greatest respect those great humans who gave their life to save their pupils. By their selfless act they have renewed my faith and worlds faith in humanity. They have renewed my faith in GOD that not all are selfish they are a few who do not mind giving up their life to save someone who is not related to them. They are true angels for all those small kids.
Has nobody else noticed (or maybe it's just me that doesn't want to troll through 50 pages), that the hard core believers are the people who come onto this page and call the author, critics, and commentators, 'godless heathen athiest liberals'? Since when does an article about god become a political stepping stone to call other people names, even if they believe the same thing you do (and yes, there are liberals who believe in god)? How about everybody who believes in the conservative god continue to believe that these children were called back to god, and the people who believe in the liberal god continue to believe that we have much more work to do to make this world the heaven they believe it can be?
You can be a conservative Christian or a liberal Christian, but there is only one god for Christians to worship. He is genocidal, angry, jealous and incredibly petty, so he fits into both ideologies well.
so true. for two people to argue so adamantly about something they both believe in but have no proof of seems so pointless.
Amen Mr. Prothero!
Stephen there is a God true and righteous and he does not raise up killers, he knows our appointed time to die. I agree those children were taken early but death know no age. and it is not God that is killing it is men, human nature is evil. mike Huckabee is right prayer needs be brought back every where you look in the news God is offensive to someone, the true living God that is. I trust God no doubt those children are in heaven but if you want to blame the supernatural blame the devil. And Stephen if you dont know God he is real he sent his son for you come to know him.
Good point Brandon, from now on all kids must say Islamic prayers in school... Oh wait...you said the true god... So, the Jewish one? Or Zeus? the Christian god? Which one is real?
Take a hike... Or send your kids to a Christian school where they can get their heads filled with rocks, keep your narrow minded religious views away from my kids school.
good stuff= gods fault
bad stuff= human nature or the devils fault
Steve from seatle the God i am talking about is the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob the God of our Saviour Jesus Christ. There is many gods, but one True Living God. Thank you for your comment.
Don't ban atheism, unless of course you feel that atheism is a bigger threat than a loaded 9mm staring at your face.
My sentiments exactly, Steve. It's none of anyone's business what I believe and I certainly don't want anyone telling me or my children what to believe. When religion is in charge of government people who don't believe the right things are jailed or burned at the stake. One man's religion is another's blasphemy.
Brandon, If religion takes over the government you'd better hope it's your religion. Your one true living god just reflects the brand of religion that you were brainwashed into believing. Other people are brainwashed into different beliefs but fundamentally there is no difference. Only when you learn to think for yourself will you begin to understand how the universe works.
Imagine you create a computer program that prompts your screen to send you various messages throughout the day telling you how much your computer loves you, how much it adores you and how much it enjoys the time the two of you spend together. Now, if you were to tell your friends how much your computer loves you, chances are they won't be too impressed. Sure they will be impressed that you were able to create the program, but they won't actually believe that the computer has the capacity to love you, because you PROGRAMMED those functions into it.
God doesn't program us to love as love, by nature, cannot occur outside of free will. He doesn't program us to do the right thing b/c without the option to do the wrong thing, the former becomes insignificant. It's just that the same free will that allows us to love is the same free will that allows us to commit evil acts. I don't know what God was thinking when he created human beings, but maybe he thought the moments of true love and justice towards one another far outweighed the horrible acts that his creation could commit against one another. Maybe after weighing the possibilities God decided to take a chance. People always focus on their personal faith in God, but I believe that God also has faith that his creation can rise above using their free will toward selfish gain and choose to love and do righteously. Knowing that God is a loving God perhaps those little moments are what keeps him from just scrapping his entire creation.
Proof? Nope, didn't think so.
No i don't have proof that God exists, it is my personal belief. However, I do believe I have made a valid argument for the idea that love can't exist outside of free will, unless you can prove my argument wrong?
So you are saying that I cannot love my wife, son, mother, father, sister, or brother without the existense of free will? Then I just have to ask, what will is it then that I love all of these people. Everybody on this list has done their share of wrongdoing, yet my love for them remains strong. Perhaps what you call freewill, is really just the options I have. I can choose to like apples or oranges, if I like them both is that still freewill?
The Abrahamic concept of god is quite juvenile.
I guess that what i mean by free will could also be translated as options, i guess I should say I believe it is by free will that people commit acts of love. I'm sure you love your family deeply and that you don't have to question the acts of love that you express towards them. However there are many who have the free will to show acts of love towards aging parents yet forget about them in nursing homes, many who have the free will to show acts of love towards their children but abuse them, who can show acts of love towards siblings but wont speak to them for years.
All I'm saying is that love itself is meaningless without the choice of failing to show love. It's difficult to appreciate that which is taken for granted. If people know that you are willing to go to the ends of the world for them out of love, while knowing that there are others who don't always choose to do the same for their loved ones, then your acts of love become much more meaningful and appreciated in their eyes. Having full knowledge that a person doesn't HAVE to be kind, generous or loving in a world that can often be selfish is what gives love it's meaning in the first place, it's what even makes heaven meaningful. A world where everyone is loving is a world where love goes unrecognized because it is the norm. Human beings have a hard time appreciating things that come easily and freely to them, and our American society is a testament to that. Maybe God knew we could not appreciate the gift that is love without having the free will in witnessing it's absence.
Let me tell you something, the coverage involving this tragedy has got to be some of the worst on record. Information about the perpetraitor of this crime was grossly inacurate from the start and I think more is being withheld from the public concerning this individual. What the nation decides to do now in regards to public safety is centerstage so we'll see what gets done.
Did I ask anything about proof? Exclude me from your conservative vs liberal arguments , thank you.
Many of these posts are callous, opinionated and out in center field. Small children were murdered and all I see is a large percentage of rubbish being posted on these sites. These people ought to be ashamed of themselves with their lack of respect, ethic, sympathy and veering of on tangents that have little or nothing to do with what happened to those innocent children. Ignorance rears its ugly head via the internet.
I am shocked and cannot imagine how those small babies felt when they were shot. I am from India where we hardly have heard of any child killed in a classroom ever. I think government must ban guns first. Police must increase patrolling and provide security to all through community policing so that people are not scared and keep guns for protection. Similarly ban hunting if people keep guns for hunting then the number of people buying guns will reduce. Its dangerous that many people have guns and if they are angry or upset will use it on innocent bystanders and family and friends.
Adam Lanza may have considered his life is tough because he was bullied and made fun of in school but if he visits India, Africa etc he will realize how common even more grave bullying, ragging etc is in other parts of the world. Adam was lucky despite his condition his mom cared for him so much in India majority of kids with autism are abondoned on streets or orphanages or killed by parents after birth. My suggestion is sensitize children to conditions of other kids in other worlds or other parts of US like slum kids how tough a life they have then they will realize how blessed they are to be born in a country which cares and protects them. I will not agree at all that he was bullied and hence it led to his rampage. Learn to forgive those classmates were misguided. I was also bullied in school because i was an very unwell and weak kid in school but now that we are big the same classmates are my good friends and are apologetic of their behaviour when they were small. If Adam had tried to make friends he would have got many if not in his school outside.
My deepest sympathy to all familes that lost their small angels. And all parents who run after money and fame and success please give some time to your kids especially from age of 0-20 years. These are growing years where every child needs to feel wanted especially by his parents and siblings. Yes friends and teachers behaviour too are very important but parents and siblings acceptance and affection is very much required. I feel if Adam had got adequate love and support from his father and brother apart from mom he may not have done something so drastic. I do not find much fault with the mother may be minor faults but poor lady should be appreciated for taking care of him even at 20 years age. I hope and pray nothing like this ever happens. Request all Americans look around your friends and neighbours and family is someone lonely does someone need love and care or just your time to speak. Please give time to others who may just need a bit of your time listening to them. Remember all people in this world are one we all came from a single mother and father- we are all related to each other we are all one big family this world. Treat people who are small children, aged, sick and lonely and people who are is difficulty with same love and respect you expect others to give to yourself in such time. Forget I, me and mine and learn to think we, ours and then this world will become a peaceful place to live with no one wanting to kill others to avenge something.
Finally a message to anyone who is angry with this world because it has not treated you kindly please think of those beggars on road who have no one to feed them and who are lucky if they have one meal a day. Yes this world is unfair and treats others unjustly sometimes but not everyone is bad in this world. Try to make friends if a lakh treat you shabbily 10 will treat you with love and respect and will consider you as their friend. Try to find those 10 friends and you will not feel like taking guns and killing your parents and classmates in school or colleagues in office or strangers in the road. Remember when Jesus was having difficulty carring his cross someone helped him carry it. You will find someone to help you too if you keep trying to find true friends. Think that person whom you are planning to shoot in rage is just like you he has also faced some problem like you in life but he/she has learned to cope with it not go around blaming others and killing them. Trust in God and everything will be fine and one day you will achieve what you wanted to be as a innocent 5-6 year old kid.
don't ban guns
Prem, did you proof read your comment before posting I?
Americans aren't ready for the caste system yet. But it won't be long, ready or not.
cnn espousing the doctrine of the antichrist again !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
oh that's right a confessed aithiest runs cnn !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
JESUS SAID EVERY IDLE WORD AND DEED WILL BE JUDGED ,,,,,,,,,,,, good luck ted.
The only thing those who want world dominance fear is that 300 million americans have guns. However, there is no excuse for having assault rifles to defend our families.
Hahahahahahahahaha!!! I needed a good laugh. One Taleban can take out 100 of your "gun toting" kind.
Theism causes far more death then the few crazies that do this stuff. Even if this happened daily, there would still be far more blood on the christian muslem and jewish hands.
It's spelled "Muslim."
This blog is about religion rather than some idiot with a broken brained son who didnt secure firearms and prevent a national tragedy? Really? Beam me up Scotty. There is no intelligent life here. I used to think that I lived in the greatest country on the planet. Religious zealots except for some.
Haven't you liberal stooges seen the polls? 2/3 of Americans don't want any more gun control laws, in fact, they're buying guns in record numbers ! So, in conclusion, you lame, transparent attempts to politicize this crime to push your anti-gun agenda will fail, but what else is new? I mean after all, you're liberals, failure is where you live. Good thing other liberals give out awards and praise for failure, as long as you hew to the party line, otherwise you guys would be running a hot dog stand in Hades.
Dude... Get your head on strait. Most recent polling says nearly 60% of Americans want stricter gun control laws.
Let's line up again, red (or grey) against blue! It was so much fun the last time with muskets and poor medical treatment. This time will be even better.
so, what... it'll be guys who dont want guns shooting guys who do?
To shake our fist at heaven and demand answers is the height of silliness considering how totally insignificant we are in our galaxy, and how insignificant it is in our universe. The only reason we do not see answers is because we do not want to. We are far from God because of our own free will and no one to blame but ourselves. Let us shake our fists in the mirror and clean up our act instead of laying the blame on the Almighty Creator.
Yes, this was God's will and there is resurrection. However, God's immense mercy is shown by the fact that those who die before the age of responsibility go to heaven, like the children did, while most of humankind will not. The children were part of the souls that repented and came to serve a function like the animals, birds etc. for the rebellious humans who did not uphold God's absolute authority and see a test of satan's claim that he could be a god besides God. There is misery and chaos and disease in satan's kingdom and he inflicts this. Those who uphold God's laws are blessed with perfect health, wealth and peace of mind in this life and the next.
How can those who rise to heaven stand by while a place like hell exists? Do they not care about the billions of people there? I for one would gladly turn down an invitation to heaven if that is what people there think.
So heaven is mostly full of children? How can you honestly believe this fairy tale, Serena? I know it's comforting, but it's so far out it's laughable.
God does not want robots – only those who want to be with God of their own free will. The rest are out, of their own free will with no one to blame but themselves. It is not a question of standing by, but a question of taking responsibility for the choices we make.
You and your comments make me completely ill. It's obvious you have no ability to think clearly whatsoever.
Which crazy asylum did you just break out from?
There are plenty like her in this USA. In fact it seems a significant number close to 50% of Americans are just like her. Nincompoops with a capital N!
Serana is a nuuuut. Serana is a nuuuut. Serana is a nuuuut. Sing along with me, children!
now, now, lets not tantalize the poor girl. let us show gracious professionalism while we argue her statements
serana likes preaching, she thinks she knows better than us, she thinks she is better than us, she acts superior to us, she has a hotline to god that we don't have.
In the immortal words of the immortal James Brown: Talking loud and saying nothing.
What a joke of an article.
Really? Why? I thought it was very well written and thought out...
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.