Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – There are a lot of things I am sick of hearing after massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Here are six of them:
1. “It was God’s will.”
There may or may not be a God, but if there is, I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around raising up killers, plying them with semiautomatic weapons, goading them to target practice, encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming 6- and 7-year-old children. Much better to say there is no God or, as Abraham Lincoln did, “The Almighty has his own purposes,” than to flatter ourselves with knowing what those purposes are.
2. “Jesus called the children home.”
I don’t want to hear that Jesus needed 20 more kids in heaven on Friday – that Madeleine Hsu (age 6) or Daniel Barden (age 7) were slain because Jesus couldn't wait to see them join his heavenly choir. Even the most fervent Christians I know want to live out their lives on Earth before going “home” to “glory.” The Hebrew Bible patriarchs rightly wanted long lives. Moses lived to be 120. Abraham was 175 when he died. Madeleine and Daniel deserved more than 6 or 7 years.
3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”
In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death. Death is tragic, and deaths such as these are unspeakably so. So now is the time for grief, not for pat answers to piercing questions. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” says the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and now is not a time for laughing or dancing or talk of children raised from the dead.
4. “This was God’s judgment.”
After every hurricane or earthquake, someone steps up to a mic to say that “this was God’s judgment” on New Orleans for being too gay or the United States for being too secular. I’m not sure what judgment of God would provoke the killing of 27 innocent women and children, but I certainly don’t want to entertain any theorizing on the question right now. Let’s leave God’s judgment out of this one, OK? Especially if we want to continue to believe God's judgments are "true and righteous altogether" (Psalms 19:9).
5. “This happened because America is too secular.”
Unlike those of us who are shaking their heads trying to figure out what transpired in Newtown, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical icon, apparently has it all figured out. We don’t need fewer guns in the hands of killers, he said Friday on Fox News, we need more God in our public schools.
“Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability,” Huckabee said in an astonishing flight of theological and sociological fancy.
Just keep plying people like the killer with Glocks and Sig Sauers. As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away. The logic here is convoluted to the point of absent, leaving me wondering whether what passes for "leadership" in America can sink any lower.
6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. The logical fallacy here is imagining that people are killed either by people or by guns. Come again? Obviously, guns do not kill people on their own. But people do not shoot bullets into people without guns. At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people. This is a fact. To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting.
The question now is: Are those of us who have not yet been killed by guns going to allow these massacres to continue unimpeded? Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? I have read the Second Amendment, and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket? Do I really have the right to bear a nuclear weapon? Or a rocket-propelled grenade? Then why in God’s name would any U.S. civilian have the right (or the need) to bear a .223-caliber assault rifle made by Bushmaster?
If you believe in a God who is all powerful and all good, then covering up for the Almighty at a time like this is in my view deeply unfaithful. Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming. To do anything else is in my view to diminish the idea of God, and to cheapen faith in the process.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
The second amendment was writen in the most broad terms possible by intelligent people that knew that arms technology would always advance. The fact is they used the all encompasing term "arms" which includes, but is not limited to firearms rather than "muskets". They used the all encompasing term "people" rather than any subset. They used the broad term "infringed" rather than prohibited or similar. It is abundantly clear that they intended all of the people to have access to all of the most modern arms and to be free to brear them in public. The second amendment has already been substantially infringed.
In addition to these innocent children, Think about all the babies that are killed in abortions every day. We live in a sick, cold world
A fetus is not a baby.
As the pro-choice say, "If you don't believe in abortions, don't get one"
How about "If you don't believe in guns, don't get one."
Now Huebert, you know that your vice president Joe Biden has stated his belief that life begins at conception. Prolonged debate on this issue will reduce you to admitting that a child in the womb is alive and you know it. Then you will retreat to the "rights of personhood" argument.
Biden's belief has no bearing on mine. You act like the "personhood" argument is logically unsound, it isn't.
I don't believe in handguns or as.sault rifles, I don't own either. The reason I would seek to ban them is because they are tools that exist solely for killing people, not fetuses or zygotes, because I know that is the argument you are going to make, and I don't see any reason anyone needs to, or should be allowed to, own tools for killing people.
The argument for personhood may be sound but the argument that life is not present in the womb is not. The argument that an inanimate object has a purpose is not germane either. A hammer has a purpose for driving nails but it can also be used to crush your skull. And while a firearm of any type can be used to kill a person, that event may or may not be a crime and may or may not even be a moral quandary. From here we can begin to discuss the statistics on populations that have had gun laws foisted upon them and then subsequently systemically exterminated by their own governments.
Feel free to take yourself out of it anytime you wish, Pedro
A few observations on these comments:
-Most of the ones who do not believe just seem plain angry and sarcastic. I would be hardened to if it weren't for the holy spirit working in me, and Christ's teachings to live by. I struggle to stay loving, kind, compassionate on a daily basis. But, I have something bigger than me in my life. I notice the overall tone of those who don't believe are so tough in nature– that I can't help but think "What happened to them?"
-The Christians will not always agree, as different denominations and personal convictions lead us to see God's will as different. There are things God directly causes to happen, there are things he allows to happen, and there are things he stops from happening. His ways are not our own. He is God and we are not. It is natural to search for the answers, but God is so mysterious that we will never fully understand his world.
-The one good thing from this is that it at least gets people talking about God. It is helping those who believe, to believe deeper and more profoundly. It is helping those who do not to at least hear some of the other side. Perhaps there will be a few who will be more drawn to the peace that only those living in Christ seem to possess- the ability to take something so horrible and tragic and lean on God for support and comfort instead of bashing, turning inward, blaming, and using a bad event once again to proclaim there is no God. Perhaps there will be some that in the midst of their inner turmoil will turn to God.
-I have questioned God's existence myself at times. There is one thing that has always stuck out to me in my journey– and that is that we cannot rely on anyone else to find the truth for us, we have to dig deep with an open heart. I also remind myself that those who do not believe do a great job of theorizing where we come from and how we evolve. But there is nothing to explain how the natural laws came to be. Before the big bang, for example, where did the energy come from? Nothing comes from nothing. There must be something supernatural to start the natural, the biology, the chemistry, the life. Have we ever created life- as intelligent as we think we are? We cannot create a life from anything other than the life that exists already (egg and sperm).
-My hope is that people who are so angry in their hearts, angry enough to show a picture of a Bible in the trash can, can atleast be respectful of a christian view, in an age where tolerance is considered the most sought after character trait- it certainly seems the liberal athiest is lacking this trait altogether.
May God be with us!!
Erin – a couple pages back, on of your fellow Christians commented that those parents who are Christian will work thru this tragedy and glorify God. The others will never recover. How very loving and tolerant.
"I struggle to stay loving, kind, compassionate on a daily basis"
"I notice the overall tone of those who don't believe are so tough in nature– that I can't help but think 'What happened to them?'"
We are weary of the preaching of true believers. We are weary of those believers trying to legislate their beliefs to deny others their civil rights
Most of the ones who do not believe just seem plain angry and sarcastic. I would be hardened to if it weren't for the holy spirit working in me, and Christ's teachings to live by. I struggle to stay loving, kind, compassionate on a daily basis. But, I have something bigger than me in my life. I notice the overall tone of those who don't believe are so tough in nature– that I can't help but think "What happened to them?"
You… happened to them. Non-believers (in my experience) are no better or worse than believers. They don’t need a ‘higher power’ to give them basic human traits such as compassion. It is however easy to become frustrated, angry and defensive when believers are constantly trying to run their lives. Over and over again on CNN comments you will see Christians complaining Muslims are trying to force shaira law. Well it’s no different for non-believers or people of other faith when Christians try to force their ‘faith’ by law and social status. So when the subject comes up.. a negative reaction is only human.
Rather than being hardened I think many non-religious people get rather annoyed by some religous people's attempts to push their religious beliefs unto others in the laws of the land – gay marriage and abortion are two current issues.
Also the posiition of some christians, like yourself, who state that we would be better off if we believed in god. Speaking personally I can state for a fact that nothing in my life would be improved by believing in a non-existant god. If you believe that your belief in your fod makes you a better person then well and good but projecting that opinion onto other people is dumb.
I was a christian for 30 years and some of the most bitter and petty and hypocritical people were the most "churchy". So let's not hear how christians have cornered the market on being "good".
"What happened to them?"
They get fed up constantly hearing condescending people preach they deserve to burn in hell for not believing the myths that you believe.
No surprise that this author makes statements without actual textual reference. Huckabee did not say to put God back in schools. In fact, he knew that liberals would "interpret...and worse...report" on his statement in inaccurate ways. Amazing how free speech and opinion only apply to those who support the liberals who are so afraid (and angrily!) of genuine faith. Easier to try and demonize anyone who stands up for their beliefs in this world of "anything goes." Too bad this "author" has a platform at all...but my faith...and that of so many others will never be swayed by this guy. Merry Christmas!
"genuine faith" sent jetliners into the World Trade Center.
Science will fly you to the moon.
Religion will fly you into a building.
Genuine faith is not something to be proud of. Faith being defined as belief without evidence, so the better way to phrase that is Genuine Ignorance.
"We ask why there’s violence in our school but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “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."
His meaning is very clear.
Cut the semantics.
Your government flew planes into the World Trade Center...And that, my friends, is not a comment based on "genuine faith" but on genuine facts.
Let me also say, whether you believe in God or not...there are consequences for every action, good and bad, that ripple out over time. There will be consequences for this horrific action, good and (more easily seen) bad as well. Stop trying to understand it and argue over it. Take it for what it is and be considerate of those directly involved. Also, I can't remember who referenced the comment about Christian parents getting over this and non-Christian parents not... People handle grief (despite their religious preference) in their own way and in their own time. How dare we pass such a judgement!?
"If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it." I'll help you out on this one: "Yes we can."
November still hurts, doesn't it? :-)
You said, ""If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it." I'll help you out on this one: "Yes we can.""
Not only did he claim he could, he did it. Twice.
Actually.. he claimed WE could and WE did it twice.. just barely.
Why is death such a bad thing? Yes it is sad and tragic for family members but if you believe in eternal life then really it should be considered a blessing to leave this wicked world and go to a truely better place. I disagree with the authors assumption that the ressurection should not be brought up. Are you serious? What better comfort to any person the words from the bible "he has risen". It means Jesus Christ ressurrected and because of this all man kind upon death will be ressurrected, which means death is not the end that are loved ones are safe and well and are not feeling any pain. These children that died, died before the age of accountablity which means that they were innocent yet to grasp sin. They are saved in Gods highest Kindom. People may as why did God not save these children. The answer is he did save them. They are happier then we can ever imagen and in that we find peace.
All of mankind will be resurrected, but a lot of them will be sentenced to eternal torture, some just because they believed in the "wrong" things, right? How is this an improvement over just dying?
People like you disgust me. Your view cheapens life. You view earth a s some sort of cosmic waiting room, therefore things that happen here aren't real or important. I have news for you, this is the only life you get, and for these 20 children it was cut tragically short.
I'm an atheist but if one of these parents are getting through this un-imaginable trauma by believing they will see their child again one day and that child is currently alive in paradise then that's great. It would be most cruel to dissuade them otherwise. But when oppurtunists such as Mike Huckabee are calling for a Christian theocracy and that not having their Christian theocracy is the root cause of these tragedies then I spit in their face.
Lmsolo28: Please go to Connecticut and repeat those horrific sentiments to the families who are burying their innocent children. People who think like you should be locked in a padded room safely tucked away from society!
do you seriously desire eternal life?
With tax simplification, the child shooter could have spent more time with his dad.
For "lol??": I am not new here, but this is the first time I have ever had the experience with a good friend's 6-year-old niece having been shredded and massacred by a lunatic with an assault weapon. I can't believe some of the rubbish I am reading here.
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.
No, the vanity is believing that the creator of the universe loves you and desires a personal relationship with you
Add another, "We need tougher gun control laws".
Guns kill people like forks eat spaghetti.
A gun, like a fork, is a tool. But where a fork is a tool for eating, a gun is a tool for killing. Do we really need to give people tools that are specifically designed for killing?
Forks make it easier to eat spaghetti, just as guns make it easier to kill. Fool.
Janus, till it doesn't mean that the gun literally killed someone. And btw how did you manage to graduate preschool without learning not to call people names. Besides that if you were intelligent you wouldn't be so eager to loose your right to defend yourself.
Quoting a bit here "...people with guns killed people" That is true. And people with knives kill people, and people with bats kill people, people with hammers kill people, people with cars kill people. I can go on. The one common theme is people. People using and misusing tools and causing death. Millions of people drive cars responsibly. A few idiots decide to drink and drive and kill someone or a bunch of someones. We don't take cars away from everyone for the actions of a few people that do that. Millions of people enjoy using their guns responsibly. Some idiot gets a gun and kills someone or a bunch of someones. Let's infringe on the rights of everyone because of an idiot? I don't agree with that. It was shocking to see so many young lives destroyed. And it is nice that we are looking for a solution to this problem. But the problem is not the tool. The problem is not the gun. The problem is people.
And you would advocate the legalization of, say, rocket propelled grenades or bombs in or near *your* school district, because hey, bombs don't kill people, people kill people – with bombs of course. Of all the logical fallacies in the lexicon, yours is perhaps the silliest of them all.
I agree. Ron, come one, don't be foolish. Guns, knives, and other tools of the like were originally designed to hunt game. They were designed for survival. The weapons you are describing were specifically engineered to kill people. I think most of us are smart enough to make that differentiation in our minds. Those such tools are not, and will (hopefully) never be dealt to JUST ANYONE.
The ol' gray Harvard ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be............
Most of these phrases he has a problem with are perfectly understandable to a Christian. God does have a will and he will judge us. His will is not that children die or anyone else. His original plan was that death, disease, and suffering would not exist in the world. But all these come from the wicked and evil in this world introduced by sin. Biblical principles provide a counter to that and could be more prevalent in our schools. However, mass killings of children were much more prevalent years ago when those principles were more present in schools. The home is the place to instill the virtues and values the Bible teaches. But in our secular society more and more parents fail to spend the time to teach these virtues and values to their children because they don't see them as important. So what little opportunity there is exists in the schools.
God has the power, and rightly so, to judge his creation. He also has the power to grace us with his protection. That protection can be withdrawn and was throughout the Old Testament when Israel failed to honor God and worshipped other gods or no god at all. God can do this today also. We are not Israel but He has bleesed this nation tremendously and we should acknowledge that rather than expel him from our national life as we have clearly done. God does have His limits. Should we really be testing that linit?
I took religion in college and the teaching was so superfilous you couldn't learn anything other than the highest level of understanding of a religion. Certainly not in any depth to gain any useful knowledge. I don't doubt the writer teaches his classes the same way.
It's perfectly okay be to be angry with God and He allows us to approach HIm through His son Jesus to express that. But we must accept his answer if it's not what we hoped for. He is omnicient and knows everyting that happens. The Bible tells us He has numbered every hair on our head. He know what is to come as well and he wants what is best for each of us. But in our self-centeredness and pride we turn Him away and sin grows bringing decay, evil, disease and the results of these as displayed in this horrible event.
Being a good or bad person has nothing to do with your belief in any god. Same thing with society. While your reality may include a god mine does not, I in no way acknowledge any kidn of god and also insist that you keep your god out of the public schools where it does not belong.
No one said that belief in God is necessary for someone to be good. What is being stated is that God is necessary for things to be able to be considered objectively good or objectively evil.
According to evolution alone, this act was an individual acting on processes that he has no control over, brought about by evolution and the way he was born. In fact, based on evolution alone, it cannot even be considered an evil act. It is simply an act that you don't like. Of course not liking something is not a rational means of claiming it is wrong.
Believing in right and wrong, good and evil takes no belief in god. Morality is always subjective and changes throughout history. Morality is not cast in stone for all eternity.
God is not necessary for anything at all.
I know there is a God a he does not do things like this so tired of hearing God done this really hope u know there's a God we live in hell everyday I believe u believe there is a God because you said BIBLE quotes thank u so much it's so not a out God did it God Bless you julie
You seem to still believe in fairy tales, but I'm guessing you don't believe in punctuation.
@LinCA, it's not so much the puctuation, it's about about putting together coerent sentences. as well. Her thought process resembles scrambled eggs, lightly cooked..runny.
Anyone can quote a book of literature. It doesn't mean they believe it. People can quote from the Egyptian book of the Dead, or the Ancient Near Eastern texts. So what? Doesn't prove any claims of such texts simply by reading them.
I knew that CNN was basically liberal. I just didn't realize that the "Belief Blog" and Religion writers like Stephen Prothero, were so liberal. Now I also realize that the bloggers don't really know how this country was founded and the thoughts of Jefferson, Franklin, Monroe and other fore fathers about our Christian Faith. The state of our nation is so sad. It's no wonder why the U.S.A. is not the world leader we once were.
You said, "The state of our nation is so sad. It's no wonder why the U.S.A. is not the world leader we once were."
One of the reasons the US is falling behind is because large parts of the population refuse to give up their fantasies while the rest of the world is moving on. Infantile beliefs stymie science and education.
Well we certainly aren't the leader in certain areas of education and that's partly connected to religious stance & belief about certain subjects. America is still predominately christian with nearly 80% of Americans part of Christianity. So if you attribute the state of the nation to religious belief, then it isn't because the country is suddenly "non-christian". The united states still has the largest population of Christians in the world, with Brazil and Mexico following. So obviously belief isn't an attribute for success.
You will find nor shotage of commenters here quite happy to provide you with innumerable quotes from the Founding Fathers regarding religion – Christianity in particular.
"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787
"It is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentence toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it."
– Thomas Jefferson
Is god in control or not. If so, he's responsible.
Exactly. Well said.
But you see, he's in control only when good things happen otherwise it's "hand's off, not my fault!".
"As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away."
Really? That's what you think people are saying when they say that we have taken God out of the classrooms? You are an idiot. The thought of you having any influence over today's youth frightens me.
Well, what do you mean when you say "we've taken God out of the classroom?"
Why does this "frighten" you? Stephen has accurately "POINTED OUT" the blatant prevailing belief and sentiment among the vast majoity of the self-righteous right wing! Plain and simple! What is YOUR take on the so-called crises of "God being taken out of the classroom"??
HMM? GOD never belonged in the classroom in the first place, unless you are attending a seminary school! I don't see any problem at all with leaving discussions of "god" in the church where it belongs!...
That's what *I* think they're saying when they say we need God put back in the classroom. Bibles are allowed in schools. The students may carry their own Bible if they choose. Teachers may provide a Bible for students to use during their free time. If people really have God in their hearts, as they claim, then how can God not be allowed anywhere? Can you think of a way to keep anyone from praying if they want to pray? I can't.
If you think that teachers should show a good example by being decent, responsible, caring people, then I agree with you 100%. If you're saying children should be expected to stand up and say a particular prayer (yours or anyone else's), or if you think students should be instructed to read from the Bible (yours or anyone else's) in the classroom, or if you think teachers should be required or allowed to teach any religion (yours or anyone else's) to children in the classroom, then I disagree with you 100%. That's what private schools, your home and your church are for. If you instill your values in your child, they will hold on to those values as long as YOU reenforce them. That's your job.
Like I said, Bibles are allowed in public schools and children are allowed to pray in public schools. Many public schools even allow groups to gather before or after school to worship *as they please*. So before you call other people idiots, tell us what you're talking about. Warning....even if you do explain your views in a rational, non-name-calling manner, there may still be people who disagree with you. Keep in mind that that is their right.
Merry Christmas from the NRA and Sarah Palin and all her gun loving little teabaggies.
I think religion should be categorized as a Mental Illness....
Well, actually believing in the myths perpetuated by Christianity and other cults is at least delusional.
JJ, exactly. Delusions are considered a mental illness too, correct?
And if you get all the guns then you could come put us in re-education camps couldn't you?
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.