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.
Why doesn't Prothero just come right out and say that God does not exist? A distant God who asks nothing of us, has no opinion on things and offers us no hope either in this life or the next is a God not worth knowing. Just come right out and say that God doesn't exist. Don't beat around the bush.
"A distant God who asks nothing of us, has no opinion on things and offers us no hope either in this life or the next is a God not worth knowing"
Many of us feel the same about the Christian god
THANK YOU JESUS FOR VOICING THAT. I CANNOT STAND TO HEAR THOSE "REASONS" EITHER. THERE IS NO REASON EXCEPT FOR A DERRANGED INDIVIDUAL LASHING OUT AT SOCIETY FOR WHATEVER REASON HE HAD TO BE SO MISERABLE AND HARBOR SUCH ANGER. WE MAY NEVER KNOW WHY. AND WHILE I AM VOICING MY OPINION, WHY CANT PEOPLE STAY ON THE TOPIC AND END UP ATTACKING EACH OTHERS COMMENTS????
I am sick to death of these wacko, demented religious fanatics shoving their medieval ideology down everybody's throats...and NO, this tragedy is not an excuse to turn our public schools into your goofy church. If you want church, go to church.
It is, however, a time to reflect and reconsider our gun laws.
I can see you studied to the test in school.
Guns religion and gold will not sustain you, melt your weapons into plowshares and be a human becoming ...not ending, Transformation is everything!
Transformer man! When you can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps, the Socialists will give you a little AC for inductive reasoning.
"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?" –yes, because this is the only gun that can kill people. Bushmaster is already out of buisness beacause of the lunatic who did this. I'm sure all the people that worked for the company appreciate losing their jobs.
The brand of the gun is unimportant. The question is why would anyone need a .223 as.sault rifle.
It's not the only one, but it was designed and has been proven to be one of the most efficient tools for killing humans ever invented. So, the issue really is with people being allowed to own military-style weapons that were designed for lone gunmen to kill as many people as possible without being stopped by opposing forces. It's not a hunting weapon. You can't hope to shoot 20 deer at a time, and the deer aren't shooting back at you either. If you need to fire 20-30 rounds at a single deer then you are a pi$$ poor shot and reckless to boot. If you own it just to mess around at the range then it's just a toy for you, and I doubt that any of our frontiersmen ancestors would appreciate dandies who treat firearms as mere toys intended for "fun", right?
I've read the 2nd ammendment as well...where does it limit the possession of a firearm to an 18th century musket?
Here's the part I don't get when it comes to the 2nd amendment and right to bear arms. One of the reasons this was written in , was in order to prevent the government from miltarily taking over the citizens. Military abroad, or military within. But honestly, if the military wants to take over this country, I'm not sure what a private citizen is really gonna do without an M1 Abrams Tank or Apache Helicopter in their back yard. I mean, they have satellites, air craft carriers, fighter jets, bombers, you name it. I don't really think your right to bear an assault rifle is going to do much.
Yup, another nitwit alright.
You obviously forget that Satan is the ruler on this world. No where in your article did you address or even acknowledge that Satan (the Devil) exists. He is where your anger should be directed. He is laughing his but off every time someone blames God for this or asks where was God in this. That is exactly what he would like for you to do, keep on believing that he does not exist and that this is all God's fault. WAKE UP!!!!
So, are you telling me you should have the right to purchase a missile launcher? I mean, no limits right?
Well you see, 200 years ago, when it was made. There was no such thing as an assult rifle. What if they had put in that you have the right to bear explosives? Does that mean in todays world you would be be allowed to have a nuclear bomb? Wake up people, the 2nd ammendment is crap. It should be gone completely. How can you people sit here and defend it after what has happened???
There are gun "enthusiasts" who would love to own an armed tank as well as rocket launchers, full machine guns, grenades, and other things that are already restricted or illegal. Some people already own .50 rifles that can easily take out the engines of jumbo jets as they take off or land. Think about that while you take your holiday flight this year.
THIS I BELIEVE
"I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them."
"I believe in my neighbors."
"I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults. Take Father Michael down our road a piece –I'm not of his creed, but I know the goodness and charity and lovingkindness that shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike; if I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next-door neighbor is a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat. No fee - no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc."
"I believe in my townspeople. You can knock on any door in our town say, 'I'm hungry,' and you will be fed. Our town is no exception; I've found the same ready charity everywhere. For the one who says, 'To heck with you - I got mine,' there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, 'Sure, pal, sit down.'
"I know that, despite all warnings against hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride and in a few minutes a car or a truck will stop and someone will say, 'Climb in, Mac. How how far you going?'
"I believe in my fellow citizens. Our headlines are splashed with crime, yet for every criminal there are 10,000 honest decent kindly men. If it were not so, no child would live to grow up, business could not go on from day to day. Decency is not news; it is buried in the obituaries –but it is a force stronger than crime."
"I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses...in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land."
"I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones."
"I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman there are hundreds of politicians, low paid or not paid at all, doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies."
"I believe in Rodger Young. You and I are free today because of endless unnamed heroes from Valley Forge to the Yalu River."
"And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown –in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability....and goodness.....of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth –but that we will always make it....survive....endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure –will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage –and his noble essential decency."
"This I believe with all my heart."
– Robert Heinlein
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon explains all the things “under the sun”, that he tried and tested, apart from God. He includes the things Heinlein mentions, as you test these humanist ideas, you may come to find as Solomon did, that it is all “vanity and vexation of spirit” without God.
I put Heinlein's diatribe up to show that secularists are capable of hope without God.
Personally, I am much more a misanthropist than the Grand Master was.
When last I checked, Diogenes' search never yielded results.
But neither do I buy into the Kierkergaardian idea that all people are hollow and depressed without God.
According to a recent study:
Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation
Why is that?
What is your source?
Makes sense, easy to tide over rough times with hope that God will make things better. Even false hope can help. However, tell that to the millions of Christians and Jews who died in WWII. God never came to help them. Because there is none. Snap out of it.
Here you go!
Actually the study comes from 2004
To give you an example, last time I checked, gays in schools were being bullied -among others- by christians who consider their way of life sinful. You gotta look further sometimes for answers. Narrow response for a narrow way of thinking.
Because, well Christians at least, are taught that suicide will send you to hell immediately. If yo believe in such ridiculous places, this could be a deterrent.
that study sounds....made up.
Ignorance is bliss.
My study shows that religiously affiliated people are obnoxious and annoying, ignorant and stupid.
Last time I checked, eight years is not a "recent study." Not to mention it uses a pitifully small sample size of 371 inpatients. Also, atheists tend not to fear going to hell if they commit suicide. Christians are often taught that suicide is a one way ticket straight to Hades, and thus are likely a bit more deterred from ending their own life.
Because believing in the type of hell that your "all-loving" god threatens you with is way more scary than anything that could happen to an individual on this earth. Suicide is considered a "sin" at least by christians.
Thanks for the article.
A one point before I get in to the reasons. This study examined persons that had already under gone a major depressive episode, so the furthest reaching conclusion that can be supported by this study is that people with major depression, that are religiously affiliated, are less likely to commit suicide than depressed persons with no such affiliation.
As to the reasons for this phenomena, as stated in the conclusion of the article, most religions have a strong moral objection to suicide. If a person is a follower of such a religion they are less likely to commit suicide because they view suicide as an immoral action. Another factor relating to suicide attempts is a sense of belonging, people who feel as though they belong to a group are less likely to commit suicide. Religious affiliation inherently involves group membership, and thus provides a bit of protection against suicidal thoughts and actions.
The discussion section of the article, a link to which Gerri was kind enough to provide, goes into far greater detail than I will, but this is a general over of a few of the reasons.
AMEN. I could of not said it any better.
You can't have a God that knows everything and sees everything and have Free will! It's a paradox. If you have a God that knows everything and sees everything before it happens that you can't have Free will. Because if you have free will then God wouldn't know what decision you would make, which would mean that he doesn't know everything or see everything before it will happen. And if God does know and see everything before it is going to happen, then you don't really have free will do you?! So one of two things is going on, either your God really isn't "all mighty and powerful" or your God set you up for failure by knowing the sins you commit in your life before you make them, then damns you for it!!
God does know all, and He knows everything we're going to do, even before we do it. There IS still free will because we have the abilities to do anything that we choose, but that doesn't mean that God doesn't already know that it's going to happen and allows us to do it. I'm sure it's a difficult thing for you all to wrap your little minds around.
I do not say this to come off as condescending. Your logic is very far off though. God's ability to see all and know all does not have anything to do with choice or ability to choose. If people say go is omnipotent and omnipresent does not imply we are puppets on string. Most people that believe in free will do so on the basis that God has a plan and already knows everything that is going to happen but He does not cause it to happen. Knowledge and sight do not necessarily lead to Him pulling the strings. You are really arguing two very good, deep but different theological debates.
Just because one knows you will make some decision does not necessitate that decision was made for you. One can freely make a decision based on their own will, with another already knowing what decision they will make in that situation.
of course he knows everything, Neil. But only because he is a figment of your imagination.
My goodness, people like Neil will make all sorts of excuses for their sociopath god. If he knows even before you exist what you will do, free will is a ridiculous concept.
"There IS still free will because we have the abilities to do anything that we choose"
We cannot do anything other than what god knows we are going to do. We cannot surprise god
I belive God knows everything and we also have a free will. He knows what will happen but he will not interfer with our free will. He taougt us with different means and gave us what is good and bad but he will not interfer with our choice. Some one may ask , if God knows the future, why didn't protect thses kids? The answer is, he will not interfer with our free will. Finally, i want to tell you, the way we see things and the way God see things are incomparable.
For those who replied reread my last line "God set you up for failure by knowing the sins you commit in your life before you make them, then damns you for it!!"
So by your thinking even though you have "free will" your God knows everything that you are going to do before you even do it, so that is not really free will, because your God knows your decisions before you make it and then will damn you for it. By your reasoning God knew Eve would eat the fruit even before she did, but still put her in the Garden of Eden to eat the forbidden fruit, then damned her and the rest of humanity, even though your God knew she would eat the forbidden fruit! Wouldn't it have been smarter to not put her in the Garden in the first place since your God knew she would eat the fruit?!
marcybelle, you should ask your hubby about theological questions and be quiet in church. I know your cuttin' up here but don't forget.
lol?? Sit back and ask my hubby theological questions and be quiet in church huh? I won't step foot in church because it's a waste of time. Maybe you are just threatened by a logical woman. Do I give you a shrinky winky there guy?
Well according to the bible, god sent bears to kill 42 kids. Stop claiming that your god doesn't kill children. Hes killed more people than Lucifer if you go by the bible.
By any of the expressions such as "It was God's will", "Jesus called the children home", or "This was God's judgment", is placing our Creator, Jehovah God as having responsibility in this massacre. This is diametrically opposed to the truth, for God had nothing to do with these deaths, but rather his archenemy, Satan, does.
Because Satan challenged God's right and way of ruling in the Garden of Eden some 6000 years ago by asking Eve "Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden" (Gen 3:1), because God's sovereignty was called into question before both Adam, Eve and all the angels of heaven who were watching this scenario unfold, Jehovah has permitted Satan to rule the world of wicked mankind to prove that his way of ruling is flawed, oppressive, and results in death.(1 John 5:19) This issue of universal sovereignty that was raised in the Garden of Eden will be settled once and for all at the end of Jesus millennial reign that will soon start.(Rev 20:7-10)
Jesus however, spoke of the resurrection of loved ones, by saying to the Jews: "For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself...Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out."(John 5:26, 28, 29)
Jesus will use his power of "life in himself" or being able to resurrect people from the dead just as the Father has in order to bring loved ones from the grave to have the hope of living forever on an earthly paradise "in an abundance of peace".(Ps 37:11, 29; Luke 23:43)
What blather! It is hard to understand how a grownup could have such silly concepts.
Lucifer is not the enemy of God. Any power satan has is only through God. The relationship God and Lucifer have is a complicated one only they can understand. Satan is given control over earth but God has control of Satan. Look at Job, Satan comes before God and God gives Satan permission to tempt Job. God does not cause the suffering be is very aware of what is taking place. Adam's sin is God's true enemy yet sin is under God's control. Our battle with the flesh and spirit is intertwined in the complicated relationship.
unfortunately, those silly concepts are passed to children who grow to adulthood and pass it on again. it will continue for as long as people are afraid to think (and hold accountability) for themselves.
RAW – It's like listening to pre-teens bicker over Harry Potter characters. Hilarious and scary.
By your thinking your God also created "Satan", so wouldn't that mean that God is Inherently evil too?
marcybelle, that would require a leap, like pigs going over the cliff.
lol?? It's ok I understand that all this logic scares you. Here I will explain it to you in lamen's terms "God is make believe, made up by those who have feeble minds and are easily scared by things like thunderstorms." There you go buddy Happy Holidays.
THANK YOU. Finally a voice of reason among all the bs.
With dread of unknown comes Religiosity, with religiosity comes irrationality.
And with irrationality comes a Socialist.
Then you welcome Socialism. Committees are so sensual when they reach a consensus.
Well said. Unfortunately I am one of those who think nothing is going to change. If it did not change after Columbine, it will never happen. Guns are embedded in american culture. This is not like texting and driving. This is more like an addiction to Americans. It is sad but true. I do not want to get my hopes high because I will be disappointed. I already am, after hearing news that americans are buying more guns after what happened in Connecticut... to supposedly defend themselves
MIke Huckabee needs to join Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck in the "I've lost it" catagory
Maybe he doesn't have the "joiner" instinct that is so common among commie Socialists?
Very well written... I agree with everything said.
Amen, Joan. VERY well written.
How's Rev Wright doin' these dayz?
Growing up, my mom used to tell me "god protects baby's and drunks"
Well, being the latter of the two, (recovery) my life is good, full, and I have had many opportunities to make mistakes, amends and raise 3 beautiful children with a wonderful husband.
Today, I would trade places with any one of those little children. I would not hesitate to give my life so they could have an opportunity to grow up, fall in love, get their heart broken etc.
My faith has been shaken to it's core.
I don't know how to pray anymore.
You need to graduate so you can give up the light bulb god.
The insanity of this whole thing is bad enough, now we have the real crazy people like Mike Huckabee and his ilk makeing matters worse by not letting these parents morn their devestating loss in their own way. If they want your kinda religion fine thats their choise, other than that leave them alone you idea of god isn`t everyones, and your idea of god is just one of many throughout history and no one needs a history lesson after a loss such as theirs.
How 'bout sending an email to the prez, expressing your displeasure? You saw what pastor O did to Rev Wright that must have been so wrong.
the almighty needs to start explaining a few things -just sayn
Hard to do any 'splainin when you don't exist. Just sayin...
You should hold your breath while you wait for God's explanation.
All I know, is that if there is a God, he/she is one sick sadistic SOB!
You got that right, beth. There's no such thing as a crabman, unless he's an Iranian plant.
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.