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.
It seems to me that MOST of the atheists on this site are understandably outraged at the carnage in CT. Many come on blaming – through negation – a God they do not believe in. They blame Christians, Christianity, believers, guns, what have you. The bottom line is, they too are outraged. Their gut tells them there should be some kind of divine justice, correction, or reckoning of this terrible wrong. It's obvious that a universally moral wrong has occurred. One guy even taunted – "Justice, ha! In your religion Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven because he became a Christian in jail. He got away with it"
But if you were true to your convictions, you would not be outraged. You would not feel horror or sadness. We are merely a accident of nature. Here with no purpose, and for no purpose. We came from nothing, and we are heading toward nothing. Humans are not special. The universe is not special. There is no universal law, because there is no law giver. It wasn't just Lanza and Dahmer who got away with it . . . we ALL "get away with it." There is no right no wrong. No heaven, no hell. No God, no Devil. No deeper meaning,
So I say, have at it. Lock and load atheists! You snuffed out 100 million last century. What's to stop you now? Certainly not moral laws. They don't exist
You must be s#xually frustrated. Poor thing.
I stongly suspect ScrantonBob is a blue collar simpleton who never went to college or, if he did, didn't study anything that allowed his mind to develop.
The truth is that there is no correlation between belief in gods, ghosts or goblins and morality. Only believers who buy into the Sunday school garbage they were fed as children still believe that it is immoral to question, doubt or think for themselves.
Goth seems to be the music of choice for atheist retards. Kliebold, Harris, Brevik, Lanza, who's the next contestant? I propose a shotgun closet in every principals' office. Let's give the innocents a fighting chance.
You spent lots of time in the principal's office, didn't you? It shows.
The 80's & 90's called and want the word "goth" removed from any music released after '99...
2357 – don't listen to him, He wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment – right after the 1st.
Building codes for public schools should require a firearms closet right up there with sprinklers, hydrants, braille and wheelchair ramps. Train response personnel in-house, just like fire wardens and CPR admins. Lock and load indeed. Then bring on them atheist goth biatches.
Not a chance in hell of any such nonsense happening. Why not deal with the source instead of a response to it? Why not be proactive instead of reactive?
Oh, wait. Because you're too stupid to figure that out. Never mind.
What's REALLY hilarious about 2357's idiotic post is that taxpayers won't fork over money to fix leaking roofs–so when it rains, all the computers in the media center get wet. They don't want to pay for improvements in the HVAC systems to prevent mold from growing.
And you think they're going to pay for a firearms closet and the equipment that goes in it?
You're an idiot.
It's fascinating to see psychotic trolls like 2357. You know he wouldn't say this kind of idiocy in front of anyone in real life.
2357 doesn't HAVE a real life, HG.
Blame the NRA for Lanza???
Why not blame witches, christians, solar flares, blacks, jews, italians – he was a ginzo, his mother, phrenology,
Why are you so terrified of change, Boob?
Change in what?
Gun control laws. Do you have ADHD? You seem incapable of following a thought for more than 2 seconds.
TTTPS – lots of "maybe's" in your reply re" 10 clips vs. 30 clips. Hope is not a strategy.
Can't answer the question, can you? Figures. You're a little man in a little town in the middle of nowhere. Your guns are the only thing you have; they're a substi tute for that erection you can't get anymore.
You're question is "what's wrong with that?' or something like it.
Yours was a stupid suggestion. Maybe the teacher would have had more time to call the police. Yeah! Right. She did call the police! Then he shot her.
clip size is not the issue. It is easily circvmvented anyway. Ban semi-automatic rifles.
Uh huh. And if we banned semi-automatic weapons, what would happen? NO more gun violence? NO more mass shootings? No more murders? What would be the result?
the result would be FEWER deaths by firearms. People will still do stupid things.
If the life of one child is saved, it it worth it?
@GOPer – to answer your stupid question . . . NO!
It's nothing more than posing and grandstanding. Saving the children. Please! Are you pro choice?
Again, Bob, why do you not want automatic, semi-automatic, and assault-type firearms banned?
So you oppose reducing the number of bullets a spree killer can fire in moments?
What do you need such weapons and ammunition for? Are the British trying to take over Scranton, PA?
why is it a "stupid question"?
What change will you support? "Do nothing" is not acceptable.
"NO more gun violence? NO more mass shootings? No more murders? What would be the result?"
It's just as insane to believe that if we gave up all our guns the governement would "take over" and make us slaves as it is to believe that banning assault weapons would rid us of all gun violence.
Sensible gun safety laws. That is all we need. To get back to the table and work out a middle ground between the gun nuts who think the "gubmint" is coming to take away their rights and those who do not think there is any need for gun's in civil society.
Because I believe we should ban cars first. They kill far more people than guns. Especially automatic cars.
Cars have another purpose. They get us to work and to school. Their primary function is not to kill others.
Can you say the same about assault-type weapons? What is their primary purpose?
What change to firearm ownership will you support Bob?
Christians are a death cult, I mean. Just look at the NRA.
100 million grown ups and children killed. Untold numbers of babies in the womb. You guys are a death cult!
Bullshit, Scranton Bob. The killings you reference were not done in the name of atheism, nor under any dictates of atheism. The same cannot be said, for example, for the many killings done in the name of Allah or in the name of Christian god. Actually, you win. Christians have done the most killing in the past few centuries.
Hi Nope!, er, I mean clerance
Now I'm so fulsterd I can't even tpye.
Like I said – you atheists, fire away! There is no right and wrong. Only social contracts.
The NRA always wants to fire away. A warm gun is the only warmth they have.
Bullshit, Scranton Bob. The killings you reference were not done in the name of atheism, nor under any dictates of it. The same cannot be said, for example, for the many killings done in the name of Allah or in the name of Christian god for centuries. Actually, you win. Christians have done the most killing in the past few centuries.
Angr , wrong, loser, liberal, wimp, killer.
100 million killed by liberals
Scranton Bob is a total loser.
Hey Nope and C. Brown You're getting your screen names mixed up. Try to remember to change them when you';re in you new persona
I have so many screen names that I get confused.
You're confused by escalators, you small-town ass.
100 million killed by atheists!!!! FACT
Yeah, but Joseph Stalin went to an Orthodox high school seminary.
Oh! I guess that settles it.
Bullshit, Scranton Bob. The killings you are referencing were not done in the name of atheism, nor under any dictates of it. The same cannot be said, for example, for the many killings done in the name of Allah or in the name of Christian god. Actually, you win. Christians have done the most killing in the past few centuries.
Angry, small pinked loser
I do believe you're ticked off.
Stalin was a Stalinist and a selfist he believed him self a god, and made people worship him as such ie religion
Stalin was also a Sagittarius does that make all those dorn in December killers.
Joey Stalin's dad was an angry, violent drunk. Jewish, astonishingly. His mother sent him to seminary hoping to make him an orthodox priest. Often times, no amount of henpecking can mend a broken son.
Fact: Hitler was a baptized Catholic.
Fact: Hitler ordered the murder of millions of jews, gays and atheists.
Fact: Scranton Bob approves of killing babies since he supports the Christian God who apparently miscarries nearly a million babies in the US every year.
Fact: Fact's can be used to say anything you want.
I'm sorry, "Scranton Bob", but your assertions regarding pretty much everything are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL". I'm sorry, "Scranton Bob", to hear that your Kielbasa has shrunk already for the winter.
I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
Bullshit, Scranton Bob. The killings you are referring to were not done in the name of atheism, nor under any dictates of it. The same cannot be said, for example, for the many killings done in the name of Allah or in the name of Christian god. Actually, you win. Christians have done the most killing in the past few centuries.
Stamp out religion. It is a cancer on humanity and it is a mental disease.
Scranton Bob is definitely a loser personally.
Most assuredly. He's a muttonhead.
How about-"there's nothing we can do."
That says to me-"My child did'nt die in this so we are safe from it."
We act NOW-We change the status quo NOW.
NO MORE over ten round magazines. and there is more after that.
Get off your collective rear ends and change this for the better.i-e-safer.
And what would that do?
Reducing the number of assault-type weapons and the amount of ammunition one could buy might reduce the number of people murdered in a spree shooting like this one, stupid.
Why are you afraid of trying such a strategy? Think the gubmint is gonna take yer guns, Cletus?
In a "gun free school zone" If Adam Lanza is the only one with a gun, what difference does it make if he has 10 round clips or 30 round clips! HE'S THE ONLY ONE WITH A GUN!!! What are the teachers going to do – throw an eraser at him?
1. Ban semi-automatic rifles.
2. Inst!tute a national, standard mandatory background check/waiting period for ALL gun sales, commercial and private, based on a web-accessible database of ineligible gun owners. Inst!tute strong penalies for sellers who do not follow the process and whose guns are subsequently used in a homicide.
trading safety for liberty you should be ashamed of your self, for supporting the patriot act
for fuck sake i'm i the only progressive trying to defend "all" of the rights in the bill
If he was unable to rapidly fire multiple rounds into the entry to the building, it would have taken him longer to get inside. Had the principal had more time, she might have been able to contact police. Had the shooter had to reload, he might have shot fewer kids.
What's your big problem with that?
I understand the argument and the comparison with the Patriot Act is apt and appropriate, however ...
Thomas Jefferson, 1787:
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.
Feel free to look up the tree of liberty quote but in context Jefferson is complaining about non-specific deficiencies in the Constitution and made observations about the revolution including: ”I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness.” and goes on to say ”Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusets: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order..”
Jefferson’s thinking is replete with the concept of personal liberty trumping personal safety. One can only imagine his response to the G.W. Bush ‘Patriot’ Act! In the ‘little rebellion’ quote, Jefferson also says:
“Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.”
“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”
While doubtless Jefferson’s words still resonate with many Americans, the actual history of the United States repeatedly squashes Jeffersonian ideals of liberty.
Anytime citizens in the United States rise against the Government, they are put down. The notion of the second amendment securing the ‘right to rebel’ is entirely specious. It is a chimera. We see this over and over in our history:
– the Whiskey Rebellion (1794) personally led by none other than George Washington
– the John Brown raid at Harpers Ferry (1859)
– the Confederate States of America (1861 – 1865)
– the Bonus Army (1932)
– the Branch Davidians (1993)
Every time anyone asserts their Jeffersonian interpretation that the 'tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots' under the 2nd amendment they get killed.
The notion that the 2nd amendment protects you from a tyrannical government is fantasy – as proven by the Patriot Act.
What I really wonder, Loser Bob who lives in Sh!thole, PA, is why you think it would be a problem to cut down on the number of assault-type weapons and large magazines sold in the future? Does it threaten your puny manhood?
You get the prize for the most people killed because they were inconvenient!
justsayin, why'd you change your moniker? Too embarrassed to use the original because you've been completely discredited?
What's my original moniker??? I don't even remember. I've had so many.
Bullshit, Scranton Bob. The killings you reference were not done in the name of atheism, nor under any dictates of it. The same cannot be said, for example, for the many killings done in the name of Allah or in the name of Christian god. Actually, you win. Christians have done the most killing in the past few centuries.
Atheists governments. 100 million killed in the 20th century. You win!
Bullshit, Scranton Bob. The killings you reference were not done in the name of atheism, nor under any dictates of it. The same cannot be said, for example, for the many, many killings done in the name of Allah or in the name of Christian god. Actually, you win. Christians have done the most killing in the past few centuries.
Atheist governments? I know there were some dictators who killed millions of their own citizens and claimed to be non-religious. Socialist and communist ideologies do not equate to "atheist governments". Religious backed governments throughout history have no better track record.
Not only does your God not exist, he has no power and is a weak excuse for your supposed righteousness. Christianity is a sick joke and just serves to give stubborn idiots some false sense of security while their master fleece their pockets without an ounce of remorse.
So I say, have at it. Lock and load atheists! You snuffed out 100 million last century. What's to stop you now? Certainly not moral laws. They don't exist.
You're too stupid to bother with.
Am i the only sane person here, yo christian its you who snuffed out those people, not the atheist, Christians are responsible for the burning years, manifest destiny, the holocaust and the list goes one, the only slaughter in history atheist have done was the Huns
You just did. Move on. You're too smart for all of us.
I OWNS GUNS ACAUSE PRINCE CHARLES MIGHT RAISE AN ARMY AND COME TRY TO TAKE BACK THU COLONIES!!!! AND HE'S UGLY!!!
way to win an argument
its not the prince I'm concerned about all though i would love to see his head in a basket, its the politicians, the Clergy, and the .001%
You fear guns because you yourself would misuse them.
For a different point of view, try – http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=25477
for an even brouder point of view Martin Luther was an anti Semite, and Hitler inspiration, Hitler was also inspired by Charlemagne (aka the Protector of Christendom)
I would hope as we speak that teams of lawyers from the ACLU are drafting lawsuits against any of the surviving faculty and staff that prayed and survived. By now we all realize that prayer is a futile gesture in that we were not born of a god, but of Darwin's simple cell organism that crawled from the primordial mix. I must question why everyone is so up in arms about such. Did not the fittest survive the longest. I am not sure why there are so many cries for gun control. Which part of Darwin's theory suggest that the fittest relinquish their superiority? Are not the victims simply one more living organism among millions that appeared by happen chance? Do we mourn for the countless thousands of animals struck by automobiles every year? Are we in Darwin's design, truly any superior? From when in the theory of evolution does our accountability lie? We are accountable to whom and why? Are not the victims simply numbers and occurances, in the evolution of things present and to come?
Is it not the weak, who wish for laws to protect them from those who are truly the fittest? Is there anything within the natural order that says it is wise to relinquish a superior edge? Are we not destined to conquer and excel for the furtherence of our own species and gene pool? For now, whose superiority and mercy is the most important? Why do we cling and empower others who ultimately will only use it against us?
When you have a thought of your own, feel free to post it. Not terribly impressed with people who need someone else to articulate simple ideas like this one.
They went for the easy "militia" discussion (though they did a pretty clumsy job with it). The problem word is "arms", which they correctly used the word "weapons" as a synonym. The Second Amendment allows everyone the uninfringable right to any and all types of weapons, and this is what the Founding Fathers wanted . . . because they could not imagine how devastating weapons would be. They didn't even have high explosives back they, much less WMDs.
So you and every other American citizen, including insane people, extremist Muslims, and people who advocate terrorism, have the right to own a shouldeer-launched anti-airliner missile, a nuclear device, weaponized anthrax, mustard gas, whatever, and that is uninfringable, so it includes felons, terrorists, and insane people.
Even the wildest gun nut does not think that is a good idea.
It's about where to draw the line in the sand, and assault rifles have no legitimate practical value beyond being toys for enthusiasts. They are lousy for defense – the bullet is too powerful and can easily pass through walls and kill neighbors or your own family. They really are not hunting guns. And the people who are attracted to them tend to be the very people who you don't want posessing dangerous objects. They appeal to something childish in people; they are a compensation and a power fantasy. And people who have them tend to fantasize about scenarios in which they can use them to kill legally and be a hero.
All academic. No gun laws will get through the Republican congress. It's all sound and fury, just posturing.
my reasoning for keeping arms completely differs from other gun advocates, although the simplicity that Pen and teller give in explaining the second amendment is dead on.
i would not mind owning anti aircraft guns, yes am a purist, i do believe in no regulation, the fact remains a republic is founded of the power of fear; you see it used to be that the governments had all the power by scaring the citizens into submission. then along came a republic were the people had the power; another words the could scare the governments into submission. people have the power! if our governments take away our weapons we will become to a totalitarianist government because we the people will lose ore safety net for when government goes to far, the people lose the power! this to me is unacceptable. they have already made it illegal to scare your elected officials, we are losing the republic, and going the way of Rome.
but never mind all that you could not possible understand the ideology of the God of Rebellion. so let me just say this since when has prohibition ever worked for reducing crimes. if you make guns illegal then you have already created the criminal. These monster like that kids will get the weapons some how,and the cops are inefficient not to mention corrupt. whether you can call them cops, knights or samurai. they will never truly protect the people only extort and subjugate. i do not trust them. i only trust the one standing next to me
so another words in short
a few tragedies may occur, but its better for humanity as a whole.
fighting for individual of people is good for the specie, although i care little for the individual it is best for humanity.
and i Love you Humans i only wants what is best for you♥
I generally respect Mr. Gillette as an intelligent person, but here he isn't even reading the sentence properly. The American MILITIA was fighting the professional ARMY from England ("the redcoats" in their fancy uniforms) in the war for independence. The second amendment is stating that in order to have a fighting force available (a militia), citizens (or citizen-soldiers, if you prefer) have the right to have firearms. To imply that the 'citizens' are armed against 'the militia' is a complete mis-reading of the sentence. The citizens are supposed to compose the 'well-regulated militia' (and nobody seems to pay attention to the 'well-regulated' part) to defend the newborn nation from attack.
I am not opposed to firearm ownership. I am opposed to poorly-regulated and/or irresponsible firearm ownership. If you want or need to own a firearm (or several) you MUST: learn the rules for safe handling of a weapon, follow the rules AND the federal, state and local laws, and those laws need to be enforced swiftly and surely if violated.
Thank you for proving one of my points: "Tthe people who are attracted to them tend to be the very people who you don't want posessing dangerous objects. They appeal to something childish in people; they are a compensation and a power fantasy. And people who have them tend to fantasize about scenarios in which they can use them to kill legally and be a hero."
Though I do have to add paranoid people to the list of the wrong kind of people attracted to guns.
Okee dokee, Sam, I am in complete agreement with Thelonius here. I honestly didn't think you were this much of a nutcase. Some of us would like to live a little more peacefully in current society and not be so paranoid of the government.
peace bores me, i want rapid change.
peace is death
life is revolution
If we do not add some common sense gun safety laws against high magazine rounds, guns in schools, semi-automatic rifles and handguns designed specifically for combat, then we might as well start investing in companies that make bullet proof childrens clothing lines and bullet proof vests for ourselves and our teachers. Is that what the gun nuts want? Everyone walking around in armor? They want us to go back to the "good ol days" of the wild west which is the modern reallity we see in some countries like Somalia, Syria or Sudan. If thats the country you want for your children then you are a sick violent perverters. (verb of pervert: Alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.)
Even the Wild West didn't have anything more advanced than six sh00ters and Winchester rifles. I can't even imagine what it would have been like with high capacity automatics and a$$ault rifles with 30 round clips.
" can't even imagine what it would have been like with high capacity automatics and a$$ault rifles with 30 round clips"
i imagine that taking out Custer with a 50 cal would be amusing
The contradiction between prayer and the doctrine of free will is exposed by events like this.
I assume many of the 27 victims prayed to god t o protect them. Their prayers were not answered.
The devoted say its because of "free will".
If true, there is no point in praying t o god for help because god will not interfere with anyone's free will to provide help.
In spite of prayer for help, god did not interfere with the shooter's "free will" to deliver help.
Therefore, when people pray, they are asking god to interfere with someone's "free will" which , according to believers, god does not do.
Thus, what is the point of prayer ?
This simple logic fails them
Informed prayer does not ask for safety, success or healing. Those are marginal problems compared to our sinfulness. Ignorance can be fatal in this regard. Prayer is primarily the plea for mercy from a holy Father who destroys all who sin. As the Lord warned his disciples, "Do not rejoice that you have power over demons, but rather rejoice that your names are written in the book of life."
Your "logic" fails. Their prayers WERE answered. They prayed for protection and God said NO. You presuppose that the answer will always be what you wish.
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.