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.
Listen...If you don't want to part of any religion, that is your call. However, the parents that lost their loved ones had faith, and that is the way they heal. So, unless you lost a child, I hope people like you are never given a chance to express their views in public places in one of the most disrespectful way. YOU NEED GOD because you are lost.
This is the most basterdized view of Christianity I have ever read. What a pointlessly thought out viewpoint. I have yet to hear of a time where shaking a fist and defying God worked for the better.
Not sure that you should be picking pepper out of rat crap for the sake of getting in an opinion piece by deadline. People choose to mourn and make sense out of such a tragedy in whatever manner makes the best sense to them. How they choose to do so is not something to be judged or critiqued. How you choose to mourn is personal to you. How they choose to mourn is personal to them – and no manner is more right or wrong than the other. It is appropriate to mourn in accordance with one's personal beliefs. It is inappropriate to judge or criticize how someone else mourns. Next time you need to get an opinion piece make sure your points are valid – not knee-jerk reactionary.
Gun Control would not have prevented this, although a tragedy, that is so sad for the babies killed, gun control controls will only eliminate good citizens from protection, any criminal or person wanting a gun can get one. My heart goes out to the love ones that are suffering, words cannot express my sorrow. God bless all our children, and we pray this never happens again. But if also the gov't can't agree on tax cuts and fiscal cliff, they have no business in the issue of gun control., buy the way, I don't own a gun.
If a gun control law stated her guns had to secured in a gun safe, he would have had a much harder time stealing them. If a gun control law stated each of her guns had to have a trigger lock, he would have had a much harder time firing them. If a gun control law stated the prior to purchase of a gun a psychological assessment of everyone in the home had to be done – and repeated every six months – it is doubtful she would have been able to buy a single weapon.
Robert, you obviously don't know what you're talking about. There is no excuse for regular citizens to possess weapons will that capability.
Yeh Hahhh, This here sounds like a Huckabee special.
"The Kid was possessed by the Devil."
Yah, that right ye-all.
This is an absolutely PERFECT response. It's time this country choose which it loves best: 1) god, 2) guns, or 3) Human Beings. So long as we choose #1 or #2, the carnage will continue. If we choose #3, there is hope and change can happen.
The almighty "WE" god speaks in a demobocracy as told in the Sodom and Gomorrah saga.
One thing I don't want to hear any more...
is people talking about talking about this incident.
So, several of the posts in this section are saying that "God" knew this was going to happen and that it was somehow related to the evil that people were doing. Now I have to ask, what kind of "God", "Jesus", or any other Religious name or representation, would use the lives of 6 and 7 year olds to bring parents, communities, or the world for that matter toward them in belief. Your arguments imply that the parents of these children were sinners in such a magnitude that he took from them thier children as a means to reach them and bring them back to him. REALLY!!! I agree totally with the article. Huckabee needs to clarify his words a little, and people need to open thier eyes to what happened. A young man, with or without mental problems, got his hands on some legal guns, and made a decission to end the lives of 26 people (Not just 20 children), and we need to let people deal with it how they see fit. If religion helps you, work it, if religion doesn't nelp you, find out what does and use it.
So you want God to strip us all out of our wills in order to stop some of us from being worse than wild animals?
First of all, you god stated that he created evil (Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things.)
If your god didn't want evil to exist, he wouldn't have created it, would he.
Secondly, your god states he DOES punish children for the sins of their fathers (Deuteronomy 5:9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,)
Seriously, do none of you nutters know just how freaking sick your god is?
Sam A sez:
"So you want God to strip us all out of our wills in order to stop some of us from being worse than wild animals?"
Hmmm ... that maybe a good start. Look at the wild animals today. When was the last time you saw a horse lead its herd over a cliff, killing all of them? I have heard of only one other species ( could be more ... just havn't heard of them ) other than man that kills for no reason AND that other species does not kill it's own. Perdators really only kill to feed.
Seems to me that god stripping us of our wills would be a GOOD thing.
This Stephen who wrote this article is just one fool that has been given the avenue to spew his opinion, regardless of out of contex and ignorant they are. It seems he is afraid of the truth and is trying to sway other fools to believe him. It is all in God's control. The kids didn't deserve to live only 6 or 7 years. They are much better off now. It is the parents that have it tough. That was a very secular statement and now we can see where you are coming form . I agree, this was a horrible article.
Thank you, Rick, for your brilliant response. We need more thoughtful commentators like you to bring reason and depth to our discussions of these complex issues.
"The Hebrew Bible patriarchs rightly wanted long lives."
"In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death"
How ignorant of the spirit of religion while claiming scholarship. What is a surprise is that this guy teaches religion at Boston. He should teach philosophy, at least for a while, till he shows ability to understand religion.
The End Time prophecy is just wishful thinking.
And if I hear my pastor say 'It's part of God's plan' I'll walk out of the church.
I wouldn't go in then, because there is no other reason that you will get.
Stephen Prothero – you are an idiot.
A. To think that Christians are so insensitive that they would say things like that.
B. To have such a deep misunderstanding of religion
C. To think that because someone has a gun it makes them a killer
You have the right to rant in a public way – such is your job as protected by men – with guns – who have protected those rights....however, I have a right to say that you are clueless – spouting off what you think everyone wants to hear without a shred of evidence to back it up.......and as for thinking that God is absent or doesn't care – I do hope that you come to know Jesus before it really is too late....
you my friend are the real idiot
"spouting off what you think everyone wants to hear without a shred of evidence to back it up.......and as for thinking that God is absent or doesn't care – I do hope that you come to know Jesus before it really is too late...."
LOL talk about not having a shred of evidence to back up your extraordinary claims
You are the one who is clueless in fact you are far to clueless to even have a clue how clueless you are. Every point made by Stephen Prothero is valid, None of what he says is a rant. Fortunately, what he has to say is making more sense to more people which may mean that at some point this country will come to its senses about guns and the worship of weaponary. You make the point of saying that his rights are projected by men with guns. On that point I agree with you, the only ones who should be carrying guns are the professional soldiers and policeman that we hire to protect us. No one else needs a gun.
Truly sad – I'll be praying for this country and for all of you.....
Items 1-4: I agree with Prothero. Item 5: I agree with Huckabee. Item 6, paragraphs 1 and 2: I Agree with Prothero. Item 6, paragraph 3: I disagree. I think God gave us our free agency from the beginning. Divine intervention cannot be denied. There are reasons why it isn't applied evenly to all people. Those that pray for protection will receive warnings from the Spirit of God. We have to follow those promptings. If people are not prayerful, they cannot be too trusting of other people; there are too many bad people that are mentally ill; others are possessed by evil spirits who are bent on destroying us; we have to take all precautions and not leave our safety entirely up to God. Even people who are prayerful have to be distrustful of all people.
You really are nuts, aren't you? Perhaps the biggest mental illness is faith.
If you are so helpless as to what happens, what's the point of being here? Are you a puppet? What happens if you pray and pray and nothing happens? Is your god ignoring you?
"Divine intervention cannot be denied."
Then there is no free will. If god intervenes then he is doing HIS will ... and destroying my free will.
Free will and an omniscient god cannot co-exist. IF god is all knowing then he new 100 years ago that this shooting would occur, and the free will of the shooter was set in stone. Worse yet ... got allowed this person to be born anyway, therefore his is not omnibenevolent. A super natural being that is not omniscient nor omnibenevolent cannot be god, and is certainly not deserving of worship
Yeah but according to you, god gave you free will. So is it really free, because he made the decision to give you the will in the first place? Let's face it, he is charging you eternal damnation if you use your free will to not believe in god. So maybe it was a conditional loan.
Honestly the media doesn't even know that the "AR" in AR-15 doesn't stand for assualt rifle. I find it difficult to watch the media that seem to be way mis-leading than reporting the truth! Misleading people is not the way to help protect people in this country.
The mediums are in on the gubmint gig.
Does it matter that AR doesn't stand for Assault Rifle. It is one thats all that matters. If hunters and the like need to have an assault rifle to bring down a deer or etc, then they are a pretty bad shot and need to find a new hobby.
And that impacts this discussion how? The gun guys continue to argue the "it is not an assault rifle" angle, when that is a red herring. Don't care if it meets the technical definition of an assault rifle or not. Completely irrelevant. The point is that citizens do not need rapid firing (whether full automatic or semi-automatic) weapons designed for warfare. Those weapons were specially designed to rapidly maim and kill the enemy in close combat and medium range engagements. To the list of things citizens should not have: 30 round magazines, armored vests, hollow point bullets, laser sights, night vision equipment, and silencers. No good can come from any of those items.
please don't misquote what Mr. Huckabee said.Thie violence we are seeing is a result of a people who have rejected God and said "we don't need you . we are now able to take care of our enlightened selves " and now you God haters have the audacity to ask where is he now???? I tell you where he is ,,he never left,,America TURN and you will see his hand is still held out to you.
So if you don't believe in god your a bad person????
This again highlights the issue of attributing tangible events to supernatural intervention. In a country that is 80% christian, why would your imaginary friend be upset? I mean that is a B-, but still that's not bad?
Mr. Huckabee was not misquoted, and he could not be more disingenuous in his statements thus far.
So then genius...let's look at American history. The Civil War was the most brutal and violence period this country has every seen, with million dead, injured and suffering, and they LOVED God with a furor that puts the Taliban to shame...so explain how God helped them...
LOL please provide doc..ume...nted ev..ide...nce of your claim that non-chr..istians are more prone to cri...me and kil..ling.
Then explain why 90% of the pri....son pop...ula..tion is christian.
toby; can you show a causal link between atheism and violence?
i cannot ask the where beings in which i do not believe are. can you?
Favorite piece I've read so far. Well said.
Well written and now I understand even more why I’m an Atheist.
Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
"Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."...Leader of the Free World.
One can't be like "Most High"...if there is no "Most High". Therefore the point is useless.
Prove it Boo Roo.
lol?? – you forgot this verse from further down – Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things.
Your god is quite the sick fuck, isn't he?
Why do atheist always quote from some random book/person to back up their points? Not realizing that an opinion is just that, and opinion! A shaky foundation indeed! Now Christians obviously don't agree on everything, but one thing is for sure, they wouldn't spit on the inspired Holy Word of God. Morals are based on His Word, not Websters dictionary!
"I am Most High." – Gary O'Donnell, Class of 67
Morals are based on societal constraints and the innate human characteristic of the golden rule. There is no such thing as moral objectivity.
Erasmus, "morals come from His word?" Such a crock. So I suppose Hindus can't be moral. Buddhists can't be moral, etc...
The Bible is still words written on paper. While it contains writings about morality, it isn't the SOURCE of morality. Let's say, for the sake of argument, the Bible was written by men, who just wrote down things they thought were important in the form of stories. You DO admit this is possible, right? Are you saying in that case, all the morals you claim come from the Bible no longer do?
Bottom line, if you are moral only because it says so in a book and you have been taught to fear disobeying the book, then you have no morality at all. You're just following rules out of fear.
Why do you need a book, a church, a priest, a list of ten rules and the threat of eternal punishment from an "all-loving" god to figure out how to act? I don't think you do.
Rational, you don't really think you can explain sociobiology and the evolution of morality as conferring a genetic advantage to someone like Erasmus, do you?
It was worth a shot. But the nature of a debate is this: I am not trying to convince my opponent, but my audience.
Correct me if i am wrong, but seems the consensus from your responses is that Morals, or the definition there of, are based solely on what the majority vote makes it to be, this is called .......if i am not mistaken.........the opinion of the public........or Websters Dictionary. So we are in agreement, your foundation is not sure, yet as predicted..........you don't believe there is any surer foundation.
As convoluted as your statement is, that is hardly correct. We figured out how to live and work together long before religion was invented. This must mean that we have characteristics that are instinctual. I believe treating others as you would like to be treated is as strong a foundation as any.
Rational Human Being
I hope "rational human being" is not the official spokesman for Atheist. His responses are not rational, wants me to believe that humans are suppose to live out what they feel are their natural instincts........................ummmmm.............can't see anything wrong that scenario..............tongue in cheek.
The way we as a society live our lives is based on trial and error. We evolved into the people that we are now, both physically and socially. But it all stems from the natural inclination of humans to desire positive interaction with one another. Trust me, that book you cling to was written by men, so you derive how to live your life based on an over 2,000 year old text written based on the stories of desert tribesman.
Still waiting for Stevie P's declaration:->>>
My Take: One thing I want to hear from S. Prothero. ""After Newtown, "I am now an atheist.""
Good to see your back on, waiting your reply..always good reading.
The only thing wrong said in this article is the last line "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero." Wrong. The opinions expressed are the opinions of all thinking and caring people in this country.
Wrong too. The opinions expressed are the opinions of all thinking and caring people in the world!!!
Ye olde Socialist "WE" god sure is BIG! He has great influence.
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.