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.
My Christmas wish is that a psychopath bursts into NRA headquarters and slaughters the whole lot of them.
i don't wish that.
i don't know that i would lose any sleep over it
Hence the need for personal protection. You do realize that you have just publicly advocated the murder of innocent American citizens for their political beliefs do you not?
Agree with all but last thing.
People were killing each other with various forms of weapons through the history.
Gun issue is simple – people with guns or only appointed officials with guns. People have a right not to rely on police 100% – police can not be everywhere at once, it can be corrupt, it can even become an instrument of dictator.
I find the part "and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket" very interesting. Had our company been founded 600 or 700 years earlier, the weapon of choice would probably have been a knife or a sword. Neither of which is a match for today's modern-day firearms. But using this logic, we would only have knives or swords to defend ourselves against guns. You need to get with the times, dude.
And you would have had to post your comment using pen and quill by Pony Express. I've come to expect fifth grade logic from some on the board but when it comes from the bloggers it's a little much.
"has been in the past.. and there are a number of people working to make it so again."
Really? Religious beliefs in general? I'll ask my wife the psychologist about that.
"The DSM-IV defines delusion as;
“a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what const itutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary” "
Yup, I've read that in the DSM.
"does delusional thinking (as it pertains to religious belief) having been excluded from dsm somehow validate it?"
Well, yeah. General religious belief is not, in itself, considered delusional by licensed, practicing psychologists and psychiatrists.
"so basically – what ppl are saying is – delusional thinking – if it's religious – isn't a mental illness – but under other circ umstances and for other reasons – it is."
I think the distinction here is that delusions can be cloaked in terms of religion but religious beliefs, in themselves, are not considered delusional. That's what I gather from talking to the two psychologist (one an analyst and the other a behaviourist) I know.
Laugh all you want (though I fail to see the humor and can only surmise that that was a clumsy attempt to dismiss my claims and demean me), but all I've done is state, as best I could, what I've learned from my wife and my own inquiries about this.
Is it not every bit as delusional, to expect order, coherence , sanity or even meaning from a universe that is purely a result of material accidents?
Why do you assume that there is meaning in the universe?
No, it is not considered delusional to express that which appears to be. It is, however, logically unsound to claim with certainty that there is order and reasoning beyond that which can be clearly demonstrated. Why do you do that?
There is only one thing that I don't want to hear and that is the liberal media blowing the whole thing out of proportion. It was a horrible thing. It is over. Life still has to continue.
Liberal media? And you don't think "Faux" News has not been all over the story already?
Correction (unintended double negative): And you think "Faux" News hasn't already been all over the story already?
The killings are now the #2 story on Fox news, right after the Benghazi story they are still busy blowing out of proportion.
Personally I think a story of a planned and organized attack on a US consulate and ambassador, which was deliberately not prepared for or defended against by high level state managers to be a more compelling story than the tragic outburst of an aberrant mentality.
Guns don't kill people, but people with guns kill a lot more people with guns than people who don't have guns, more quickly, more easily, and are much more difficult to stop than a person with a knife. This makes guns a rather different matter than other weapons. A car is not a weapon – yes, people die because of them, usually because drunks are driving them. However, people who are talking about reasonable control over gun violence are generally able to tell lthe difference between the purpose, use, and danger of guns, and that of other objects or substances. Certainly, I'd like to see an intelligent conversation that looks at the big picture, and not the usual knee-jerk nonsense we get bogged down. Gun advocates are correct – banning guns is not an answer. Neither are simple-minded slogans.
I completely agree with the last 3.
The first 3 however are a little exaggerated. I think the overall premise for the first three is just that God has a plan that we are not aware of. End of story, not any more complicated than that.
I couldn't agree more with the entire piece and I'm a gun owner and a theist though not a Christian.
I agree with you on the guns bit. I feel that background checks and mental health evaluations are essential in this day in age. I could also live with the assault weapons ban if it came down to it. The majority of people don't need AR's.
Also a gun owner by the way, shooting is one of my favorite things to do in the entire world. But something has to be done.
These discussions always intrigue me, because they are based on something that has no evidence to support it. I suppose that is what makes it fun, because I like to win arguments.
Ban semi-automatic rifles? Good! I wanted to get a sniper rifle anyway :)
This, coming from the man who signed the parole of someone who then killed 4 police officers? His judgement is poor, to say the least. Ignore the Idiot from Hope.
Only for the new members of this blog and also for Stevie P. who still cannot get a grip on his own beliefs.
Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!
• As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
ADDED DETAILS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.
A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.
"The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.
Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
Words cannot express the sorrow I feel. I think of this often. But then I read where some religious chieftain says that they are in a better world or a new life. That's is such a dumb statement. Leave it to the clergy to come up with stupid remarks, the same stupid q
quotations that we see all the time on church grounds.
Best quote I've seen on church grounds lately- "Trespassers will be Baptized"... Honorable mention- "Thou Shalt Not Park"
This seems to be an anti-religion rant that should really be aimed at the Westboro cult and an individual or two, not at Religion or one's belief in The Lord. Seriously.
This site IS where the atheist branch of the Westboro Baptist Church meets daily.
Yeah, the atheist branch of a church. Sure thing, sparky
I'm not a big fan of the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" clause of the 1st Amendment either. Come to think of it, I think freedom of speech is also overrated. I mean, if speech codes are good enough for college campuses, they ought to be good enough for the rest of us.
I say, repeal the 2nd Amendment, confiscate ALL the weapons! This is 2012. There is no reason for anyone in this country to own a gun, unless you're a minority member of an inner city gang, or a Mexican drug cartel – and in the case of the latter, we'll supply those to you.
....or a hunter
Any hunter who needs a 30 round clip must be a pretty pi ss poor one, though.
"Any hunter who needs a 30 round clip must be a pretty pi ss poor one, though."
Or, a very angry one
Hunting is supposed to be enjoyable and a sport measured in skill. It use to be that if you went out for a deer you could claim bragging rights if you came back with only ever firing a single shot. One shot, one nice clean kill with the animal suffering as little as possible. What are these modern-style hunters doing, fantasying that they're fighting zombies, or aliens?
Unless you are being deliberately sarcastic, you are betraying a deep ignorance of guns, and the gun culture at large, as well as ignoring the real arguments around the Second amendment. If gun control advocates are going to stick to ill-informed and emotional appeals that is one thing. But I would like to see a well reasoned argument on why a free and sovereign people does not have the right to arm itself against the possibility of totalitarianism.
Val: I have no idea. I don't hunt
"Guns don't kill people" "Bullets kill people." Let them have their 2nd amendment and their arms. Let the states with their so called well organized militias regulate the bullets their militia members use then tax the crap out of the ammo to help pay for the program. I'm thinking 10 bullets for every arm they own. After they use them up for self defense or whatever, they can go to a dealer, fill out a piece of paper, and buy 10 more bullets. Let the Barney Fifes have their day.
As someone who has lost a loved one, I have to disagree with number 3. Speaking with hope of a resurrection someday is the only thing that got me through the shock of losing my young brother. The author states that "now is not a time for laughing or dancing or talk of children raised from the dead." I am certainly not laughing and dancing, but in the case of the Newtown tragedy, I'm very much hopeful that these children will be one day reunited with their loved ones.
Without the resurrection, life is nothing but tragedy and every death a profound insult on human dignity. As Paul of Tarsus said, if the dead do not resurrect, we Christians are the most pitiful of all the men who ever lived.
If there be no resurrection, the happier your life, deeper the insult when death comes.
Hoping or wishing it were so may be soothing but does not make it real or true.
"....we Christians are the most pitiful of all the men who ever lived."
If you are any indication, yeah.
"If there be no resurrection, the happier your life, deeper the insult when death comes."
Or, you just die
This is just proof that religion stops you from grieving properly. It allows the delusion that you will be reunited in an afterlife.
"If there be no resurrection, the happier your life, deeper the insult when death comes."
Then Christians are to live like Puritans, no fun at all?
val: i would imagine that 2357 is a real hoot at a party
"Without the resurrection, life is nothing but tragedy and every death"
So we should believe in Mithra! All hail Mithra!
Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds
Was considered a great traveling teacher and master
Had 12 companions or disciples
Promised his followers immortality
Sacrificed himself for world peace
Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again
Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)
Was called "the Good Shepherd"
Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion
Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day (also known as the "Lord's Day,")
Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"
2357 probably wouldn't be at any "party".
I always find this funny, because Jesus in the gospels isn't afraid to socialize festively. His first miracle was to make more booze of a wedding party that was already drunk, after all. That puts him right up there with typical college frat guys making beer runs. How did so many of his followers end up just giving up on living like they have?
Val: To them, suffering and piousness go hand in hand. After all, their messiah suffered. It gives them spiritual wood
Life and all the good things that support it are God's provisions and we should be ever grateful. But most of us take these for granted, and some of us outright deny that God has any involvement with life period. Suffering, then, is the other means of communicating God's rightful credit due to him. He takes away a measure of comfort, nourishment, joy, sanity. That he doesn't lay us to complete waste, is a miracle and mercy in itself.
"Life and all the good things that support it are God's provisions and we should be ever grateful"
I, for one, am very grateful for the z of purple kush I have in my fridge at home
So, god makes you suffer so that you may praise him more? What a pr1ck
Huckabee means village idiot in several languages.
How exactly do you "huck" a bee?
"How exactly do you "huck" a bee?"
First of all, give it a buzz
Sounds sweet as honey.
Val: Depends on the bud
I think that everyone is not realizing some important facts. First everyone regardless of which side of gun control they are on, regardless of whether lack of religion and morality is to blame, regardless of political affiliations etc all want the same thing. To attempt to put a stop to this type of behavior and to hopefully stop it from happening agian.
It IS a common bond and I wish everyone would stop forgetting that is the bottom line and using this to support their own agenda in attempts to "proving" their side is the correct way. I've heard those who said not looking to over turn the 2nd Amendment but stricter gun control. Others say "overturn the 2nd Amendment". And while I personally hate that stupid idiom "guns don't kill people do". It is in fact partly true.
If a gun is sitting on a table fully loaded, safety off and nobody near it the gun will not kill the next person who enters the room. However put that same gun in somebody hand and it could very well do just that. Now take that same person who cannot get their hands on a gun YET has an overwhelming pension, an obsession to kill then he/she will find a way. Wether that be explosives, a car, an airplane, a sword, or hell his/her hands.
Everyone is so busy arguing their point on guns that nobody is focusing on where the focus should be. The person who pulled the trigger, or set off the explosive, or picked up a barbell.... The common ground with all these people, Lanza, Cho, Mcveigh, Kominisky, Holmes etc. There is a mental health issue at hand. Let's face it somebody in their "right mind" does not plan such actions. Has anybody recently researched and viewed how mental health issues are perceived and handled in this country? Do I think that it's the only problem? No. But it's a dang big one!
We can't lock up everyone who might potentially "snap" so let's get real.
Yes, people will always find a way to kill people, but these high-capacity weapons of mass-killing makes it FAR too easy.
"Snap". Since when did psychopaths "Snap" if the are devoid of emotions in the first place? The government needs to track the moves of the antisocial personalities in our society. It's not like they haven't damaged other people along the way in their lives. They have, it's just the government doesn't listen to what they need to focus on.
Swords and bombs require skills to kill with. If you want to kill 20 kids with a sword, you'd have to do it when no adults were around, and you'd have to be within a 2 foot diameter. For the record, buying ingredients making bombs will alert the authorities to your actions. We don't have a massive domestic bombing issue in America. If we did, would we still entertain people's "rights" to make bombs?
In another article, you can read about J.apan (where I currently live) and its gun laws. In 2011 the US had 12,000 gun related deaths. J.apan had 11. Not 11,000. 11. We have just as much access to bombs and swords (if not more) than America. We have just as much mental illness as America. We have some seriously whack sh!t going on sometimes that I find appalling and disturbing. But we don't have "bring your gun to school day and kill all of the kids around you day" like America has almost yearly now.
The bottom line is, every human being on some level suffers from psychosis. With the stresses of each day, most sit on the edge of cracking, which is evidenced by the mass consumption of vices. Somehow it's easy for our brains to understand while landmines are illegal, but when it comes to guns, we shut off. Both are innocuous when sitting on the table, but in the hands of just 1 wrong person, scores of innocent people can die. It shouldn't at very least be easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver's license.
@gizzy: you know i dislike that idiom also. "guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people."
it's wrong. BULLETS kill people, not the gun.
just add biometrics to all firearms and limit the population to only low caliber non-auto weapons.
it accomplishes 2 things, only owner can fire the weapon, plus you don't require a 50 cal. anything to stop a home invader.
@godfree: i would have to say your post is one of the more ensightful comments i have had the pleasure of reading on here. :)
so a pet jumps on the table, topples it, and the gun falls to the floor and fires because it was loaded and safety off, hits your 6 yr old child and kills him or her....do you still believe that guns dont kill people? Cause if you do, your an idiot! They are dangerous weapons that can be misused by being placed on a table, loaded and safety off as in your scenario. Next thing you will say guns dont kill people, cats kill people! Read over what you write before you post, you will actually see how stupid you sound!
Grizz- by and large, guns provide people with the opportunity and mindset to kill on a wholesale level. After all, that's what weapons with 30-shot mags are all about. Annihlation. Not skill. I have no issues with the spirit of the 2nd Amendment, but like other countries where posession is legal, keep the weapon locked with a trigger guard lock or in a proper gun safe, and keep the ammo locked in a seperate location, AWAY from the gun itself. End of discussison. It worked in our house for over 50 years. Why wouldn't it work in someone else's?
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.