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.
James 1:13 "When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. "
Why do people always say these things are God's will. They are not.
Blame Satan. He hates human beings.
1 John 5:19 "We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one. '
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
No, but Satan is little more than an excuse for how bad we can be when we go selfish... and a creator and a universe that's really quite divine – that's a story.... by now everyone knows you can't prove anything with a gun, only defense and target-shooting talent
Perfect! But losers like Prothero will NEVER understand .. him and Gilgoff will keep trying to milk every such tragedy with headline, "where was God". What losers!
the middle Party dot net
moderate Party dot com
theoretical religion dot com
abstract/categorical religion dot com
how do you know the devil hates humans?
Prothero .... what about Obama who addressed the gathering in Newtown CT as follows, "God has called them all HOME"?
Looks like nutcases like Prothero only have issues when the Conservatives talk about God but no issues when a liberal Obama says exactly the same thing, "God has called them ALL HOME".
Just a bias and hatred of conservatives ... thats all! Just a visceral irrational gut reaction!! JUST IRRATIONAL HATRED!
After all, Obama is saying the EXACT same thing? Is it not?
So it seems that when Obama talks about God it does not offend atheists but when Conservatives talk about God it somehow offends athiests? What hypocrisy?
Is that because you think Obama is God and he is talking about himself when he is talking about God? You just cant take it because conservatives talk about the real God and not a false IDOL. Is that it?
You honestly think someone who doesn't believe in a god can get elected as president in these times of religious extermism? Wow! You must really think atheists are amazing people!
If Prothero feels so strongly about these points - why didnt he target Obama for saying, "God has called them ALL HOME"? Why is he picking on Huckabee and other conservatives?
Finally something in the Belief Blog I can agree with.
Mike Huckabee, an evangelical icon? Because a certain segment of professing evangelicals in the political sphere think so? Orthodox believers are not a monolith, let's get that straight. Huckabee is a politician like Obama is a politician like GW was a politician, et al.
I strongly disagree. Obama is a politician. Huckabee is just a hack... a self-appointed religious 'authority' for a hate-filled cult whose greatest achievement is Westboro Baptist members. You should thank the tea-vangelicals.. they are the reason the Mittster got tossed into tha' dumpster. Kin ah hear an AMEN??? Out public doesn't want extremist zealots running us.Praise Jeeeeeeeeeeeeezus
I could not agree with this article more. No questions about God. There is no reason this happened. There is nothing to be "explained." These kids died because they were shot by someone whose motives cannot be known. The. End.
Refreshing to hear from someone who understands. Thank you. It really is as simple as that.
Prothero .... what about Obama who addressed the gathering in Newtown CT as follows, "God has called them all HOME"? Any comments?
Just an expression. Placates the religious, doesn't offend most atheists. Don't take it literally.
Obamer is also a d.ouchebag.
@Mile – clearly you're the one with the hatred issues.
Don't expect an answer anytime soon. Prothero is a liberal first, a Christian second....
So when Obama talks about God it does not offend Atheists but when Conservatives talk about God it somehow offends athiests? What hypocrisy?
Is that because you think Obama is God and he is talking about himself when he is talking about God? You just cant take it because conservatives talk about the real God and not a false IDOL.
Please don't use the terms liberal and atheist interchangeably Mike.
Why do you assume that he wasn't including Obama? I think he was talking to all alike, stop picking apart irrelevant and focus on his message.
Depends on the context, amigo.
Rational Libertarian -
Dont worry I am not confusing the two -
Obama = Liberal
Prothero = Atheist
Obama is not exactly and atheist but rather an opportunist believer who will use God when it is convenient e.g when such tragedies hit OR when polls show that God must be re-inserted into DNC agenda.
What context amigo? Isnt Obama saying the exact same thing, "God has called them ALL HOME". How come that doesn't offend you coming from Obama but offends you a lot when coming from conservatives? Could you please care to explain?
C'mon Athy let me know ... is it because you worship the false IDOL named Obama who you think is God ... and as such whatever he says is perfect and can never be wrong or criticized even when he says exactly the same thing that you find offensive when conservatives say it? Is that it? I am sorry to blow your cover of hypocrisy but I couldnt help it.
Mike, you sound really butthurt about Obama winning the election. Let the hate go. Follow those so called "christian" principles of yours and find the love and caring in your heart. Oh wait, you can't, because it's more important for you to be an angry, butthurt, loser than follow your "christian" principles.
Looks more like you are "butthurt" by my blowing the cover of your hypocrisy. So instead of answering my direct question you are making personal attacks and bringing in irrelevant issues like election which no one is talking about in this context. Why don't you instead try to answer what I am asking @Athy who it seems has conceded the debate and disappeared after I exposed his hypocrisy.
I might be a bit bemused when Obama waxes religious, but I wouldn't call it 'offended'. I think he's less likely than many others to insert his fantasies into government.
Stephan, you need to stop denying it. You know there's a God, so stop fighting it.
When people say this was God's will, I don't think you understand the meaning of that. God may not have purposed this to happen but He obviously allowed it to. Maybe if we as a nation would have turned to Him long ago, He wouldn't simply let things happen. But because His love is a free will, we choose to take it or leave it. If you leave it, how can you expect God to step in and do His good? If we don't want the whole package of who He is, we can't have is miraculous help whenever we think we may need it. And if you read anything from the Bible about the end times, well you would know that we are living in the end times. I'm not at all surprised this happened. Yes, it's terrible and I deeply feel sorrow for the families that lost their children, but if you know God and you live by His word you know that this is satans work and God is coming.
Ummm...care to bet on that? I returned the package because it smelled foul and was defective.
Wow, vita. How did you ever get that way?
let god come. then maybe we can have a nice talk about why alot of people dont believe/like him.
Your god is in your mind. Existence is all. Oneness is absolute.
The sound of the ocean is dead
It's just the echo of the blood in your head
This article is too one-sided.
We have to stop buying these guns from stores all The United States Of America. Here in America We need to know why people to get guns? who they want to kill for these guns? I hope the U.S Government will totally ban all guns. Guns will kill people, but not to born people.
And so the cawing of the crows must be heard.
I do not want to here those six things after an event like this takes place, but everybody has there own way to cope with issues. Many people feel that this is the best way to try and make sense of what happened. It is jus diffrent strokes for diffrent folks. In the end if saying these six things makes a person feel better no issue with me, just do not want everyone to jump on the bandwagon.
hear, not here
their, not there
If you're going to write a serious post, do it in English. Yours is third-grade level at best.
Thank you, Stephen for you thoughtful article. I don't believe God wanted all those beautiful and innocent children home, therefore, he or she sent a disturb individual with an assault rifle to end their life . And yes, guns do kill people. Four more people were killed in a small town in Colorado this morning. A gun was used to kill them.
That must be the first case in recorded history in which a gun killed someone of its own accord. Sentient, self aware guns; now I am scared.
Now Rational, can you honestly say that the weaponry didn't severely increase the body count? I find it very hard to believe it didn't.
Nobody is saying the guns caused the killer to kill. We are saying that the weapons made it possible for far more children to be killed. And guns have so very little social value, unlike the car death apples they are oranges next to.
Compared to what? A knife, yes. A hydrogen bomb, no.
Aw, that was cute. I thought you might be up to a more thoughtful response, but if glib irrelevance is the best you can do, then could you list all the h-bomb murder sprees that have occured instead?
Bob, you said that things like this are a consequence of sin. I don't understand you fully. Whose sin? Certainly not the sin of the young children and the heroes who lost their lives defending those children! The sin of the killer? Then why were the children the one's to suffer? I am afraid that I think your comment to #3 is just as pat and ridiculous as saying it's God's judgement. I think bad things happen just because they will – no big plan or grand scheme. Unfortunately the person in this situation had access to assault rifles and for a society to allow such easy access to guns designed only to commit mass killing, that is the sin.
There is a God and we are not him. Trying to learn why is us trying to control things we are not in control of. God is in control, not us.
God was having a bad hair day.
ME: Where’s your proof,buster. And don't give me an oral dissertation on nothing. I want to talk to god. Can you provide me with that? no right. Then shut up.
How can you claim your god is infinite, if anything that exists isn't in its infinity? Either there is no god or there is only god. As an atheist I can confidently say that there is only god because there is only oneness.
I would like to tell yoy Mr.Stepheen Prothero There is Almighty God wherever we are, whatever we do ,one day we will returned to him without no question. It's sad,sad, sad to kill small children, but you can not stop when people get call from our GOD that they should return to him. God bless all these children.
Surely you should bless Lanza also for being Yahweh's prophet.
Your not smart enough to fold Dr Prothero's napkins at lunch
God called the children home ? Really ? Really? If this is your idea of a God, then he/it is a COWARD. If he need them in Heaven, he/it sure could have found a much less evil way to call them home vs. the way they were horrifically murdered ! If this is God's plan, I want nothing to do with the thug.
There is no God. I stopped believing in one after so many years of asking "Why do you permit such suffering" for a species that you supposedly created and love so much?
And yes did the same god asked Lanza to kill 26 innocent lives? Then we need some sanity adjustment here
Oman, you're retarded. Your beliefs shout it, and your writing shouts It. There can be no other explanation.
Why blame God for allowing the suffering humans visit on each other. That is a question that baffles me. Natural disasters? Why should love keep us from suffering? Our parents gave birth to us in love but it is not healthy for them to keep us from suffering. Suffering helps us mature. It is not a bad thingin itself. I know people who have been embittered by war and people who would do everything to maintain peace because they know these people.
Your "universe" is seems really small.
Though I agree with a sence with all but number 2 most people find peace in knowing their child or dead loved one will again see life but the next time they do it will be ever lasting. Jesus himself would comfort those who lost a loved one by telling them they would be ressurected again this is what he did with Lazarus. 4 things everyone should know the bible doesn't teach are these people don't go to heaven when they die read eccl: 9:5 there is no hell God does not have a part in the bad things that happen in this world. There will be a ressurection all of these things and truths are found in the bible one only has to pray to God for understanding and start reading.
What if one of those parents doesn't believe in the maniacal Yahweh? Imagine how upsetting hearing number 2 is for them.
Attacking someone's God does not make your point. If you are saying non-Judaeo-Christians are offended by someone trying to comfort them in such a manner it is not so. I lost my mum and when a Pagan talked about her death in her terms I did not get offended. The comfort and love being shown is more important. If you are emotionally mature you will realise this.
If I had just lost my child and someone said "Don't worry, they're with god now", at best I would tell them to fvck off, at worst I'd violently attack them
That says more about you than about them. It will show you were an emotional wreck just waiting too happen. You don't even have to be Christian to mature. Just consider things from the other person's eyes not just your own.
I realize I don't have to believe in pixies, goblins and Yahweh to be mature. Also, an emotional wreck is someone who can't accept that they will never see a dead person ever again and insist on keeping them alive on a fluffy cloud.
Who is keeping who alive on a fluffy cloud? You definitely are not mature enough to be rational.
Finally! A logical and refreshing opinion on this! I get constantly bashed and recieve hostility for my views on gun control but the people who do this never offer any alternatives. Its mind boggling when I'm considered the bad guy because I want to see something done to lessen the chances of innocent people being shot dead, regardless of if you agree or disagree with I think should be done. This article refreshes and confirms my faith that there are good people in the USA.
So people who respect the Second Amendment aren't good people?
Nopbody respects the Second Amendment. Nobody wants "unabridged" access to "arms" for anyone in the United States. Arms=weapons. WMD=weapons=arms. The NRA is not here for you–they are here for Colt, and Winchester, and Bushmaster, and Glock, and so on. They are simply another arm of a capitalist function of our society. They are running their own little arms race–and we're the rats doing the racing.
Why are lefties so afraid of capitalism? If it wasn't for capitalism we'd all be living in fields dying when we're thirty because of our rotten teeth.
In my country you could buy a hunting rifle, shot gun or revolver for personal protection and hunting. Automatic pistols, machine pistols, assault rifles, bazookas, machine cannons and the like are not allowed. Gun crime is well-nigh non-existent though the Police Service is not that strong. Even hunting rifles can be used for destroying the peace in a fragile country like mine and we have witnessed some ethnic conflicts where they played a prominent role. Please do not rationalize unbridled weapon ownership since it can always come back to bite you somewhere I would rather not say
I'll rationalize what I damn well like.
You are if you believe in Yahweh. Also, you're too retarded to be rational.
"[i]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?[/i]"
What part of "shall not be abridged" did you find ambiguous?
I'm a Christian and I agree that some, but only some of these things should not be said. I agree #1 and #2 are not appropriate ever; God is not the author of evil; God gives us sovereignty over our own free will decisions. Based on the current info, Adam Lanza seems to be responsible for his own dark choices; (this changes if he is actually clinically "insane.") So there is no "cover up" for God here necessary. #3 – the children are in heaven– this is only discomforting if you don't believe in God or heaven. In the amazing CNN interview, composed parents of victim Grace are totally comforted that their little girl is in heaven (and her friends are heaven together). #4 –God's Judgement? No. I think this is the natural consequence of sin. Things seem to be getting worse–but there's some time left to turn your life around invite God into your life. & 5; America too secular–yes, but compassion first, believers! I would just say, now that the subject is at hand: ANY prayer in schools is better than none. Prayer to the same God of Jews and Christians would be the most effective one, as demonstrated by how blessed and protected our nation has been before so many of us have turned away. It's okay to personally "shake your fist at God", as long as this is sincere or despairing search for answers. Search Him with a sincere heart–He's really there, he wants to meet us in our needs. The gun issue doesn't belong in the same topic so no comment. More at godthink . o r g
When were we "blessed and protected?" Oh, right, when we had black people sitting in the back of the bus, going to segregated and run down schools, or a little farther back and treated no better than a piece of used furniture. What were these "blessed and protected" times? Oh, yeah, you're white aren't you?
I see America handling the gun problem with their heart instead of a logical head. Analyze the problem, regardless of your support or non-support of owning guns, regardless of your religion, regardless of any other agenda – and come up with some type of solution – because whatever you have going on now – it does NOT work.
I'm all for a solution that doesn't prohibit healthy, sane, law abiding individuals from accessing guns.
Rational Lib, What kind of guns? A 120 smooth bore M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank is just a truck with really big gun. The depleted uranium, sabot, and HEAT rounds are just really big bullets. How about the cyclic rate and kill power on the M2, .50 caliber machine gun? A mortar is just a gun you point up. A 155mm HE round is just a big bullet pushed with a lot of powder. Which guns and why? Why is the line drawn above the 7.62 AK-47 or 5.56 M4? Or do you believe law abiding private citizens should be able to load 20mm cannon and AIM-9X missiles on the private aircraft (OK, right, Stingers are cheaper, and Hellfire's are more fun), you know, just in case the "guvment" decides to impede on yer raights?
Yep, as long as it helps to keep the king of England out of my face.
No, it's not working. And a whole lot of these "sane, responsible" gun owners quite obviously aren't doing a very good job of being responsible. The guns in the latest shootings were all obtained legally, but were not stored properly and others had access. I don't consider this to be responsible gun ownership.
Nor do I.
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