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.
6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
People have been killing each other since Cain and Abel.
Timothy McVeigh didn't use a gun.
He managed to kill 168 people, 19 of them were children under the age of 6.
He injured over 680 other people.
Murderers will kill people with or with out a gun.
Guns are not the issue its psychos that get a hold of legal gun's that's the issue.
Yes more people are killed at one time with a gun then say a knife.
But if your the family of that one person then it does not matter what killed them it is that they are dead.
I lost my high school sweetheart to a drunk driver. She spent 6 months in a bed in a coma before she died.
We tried Prohibition that didn't work.
Should we take away cars? NO!
I can buy a gun and set on the table and if nothing ever changes no one will ever die from it.
Death only happens when someone had evil intent in their heart.
9/11 almost 3,000 people were killed but we don't ban planes because someone might fly a plane again in to a building.
No we spend more time scanning people and making sure they do not have bomb's, gun's, knifes, etc...
I support a ban on full automatic guns and clips that hold more then 20 rounds.
I am a hunter and I do it not only for sport but for food (I eat what I kill) and not only to I take a rifle with me but I will take a handgun as well.
I am tired of the knee jerk reaction by people.
When we do that we give up more of our rites then we intended to.
Many people gave their life and blood to make sure we have rights and here we want to give them up with out a fight.
The second amendment was created so we could defend ourselves against all invaders foreign and domestic.
That does not mean I think that our government will turn on us, but one never knows.
We have given away more and more of our freedoms each and every day with out a fight.
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
In New York your being told how big of a drink you can buy.
After the movie Super Size Me, we are unable to buy Supersized drink or frys.
Before the movie I would buy a hamburger supersized fry and drink and get my girlfriend a hamburger and we would share the fry's and drink.
I don't smoke but I will defend a persons right to smoke in their own home or outside.
I don't smoke pot but I have seen it help people with cancer and if it comes up to a vote I will vote for it and defend a persons right to smoke it.
I don't drink but so long as they do not drink and drive I will support a persons right to drink.
Stop giving up your rights and freedoms people or one day we will wake up and not have any.
Still no answer as to why anyone needs an assault-type weapon.
I have no issue with guns for hunting or even for self-defense. But to have a weapon that can fire round after round after round has NO other purpose but to kill people and lots of them, very fast.
How can you defend the "right" to own any such weapon?
By the way, dearie, you have the right to a free education. From your cruddy post, I can see you never took advantage of that right. Get a clue. If you want to argue a point, you should be able to write about intelligently. It's "fries," not "frys." It's "you're" not "your."
Someone like you having access to firearms is troubling.
"Assault type weapon" is political language not technical. Many non-"assault" weapons can take large magazines.
If we let them come for "assault" weapons then next they will come for some other made up nomenclature
so on and so forth
until guns are banned.
Tom Tom –
What does the 2nd amendment have to do with hunting???
Another illiterate cretin yaps.
If you represent most of the gun owners, I'm all for a ban. You're dumb as a box of hair.
@ tom tom piper –
You excoriate Thom for errors in his post and you have errors in yours too. What's your point. Are just as stupid as you think he is???
T. Banks, I didn't say it had anything to do with hunting. Do you have a point?
Are there errors in my posts? What are they?
"Yes more people are killed at one time with a gun then say a knife.
But if your the family of that one person then it does not matter what killed them it is that they are dead."
It may not matter that much to the one person who died from a knife wound, but it matters a heck of a lot to the families of the 19 other people who didn't die because that person had a knife and not a gun.
Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son
Really out of all that all you got out of it was a few grammatical errors.
Something can look like an assault weapon but is not.
My issue is with people that have "Full Automatic" weapons that have magazines that can hold more then 20 rounds.
" 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?" Fail.
"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the RIGHT to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Funny. I don't see any mention of the word "Musket" here.
And, just for posteritys' sake, modern day definitions of the following terms are provided: "Well regulated": Well trained in the use and care of. "Militia" ANY male between the ages of 16 to 66. YOU are the militia- I am the militia. "Free State" The founders of this nation intended this country to be run FREE from tyranny. For example, they split the power of the gov't up into three equally powerful branches in order to keep ALL of the power out of the hands of one or two individuals. "Keep and bear": not only did they believe it was a good idea to have a "Free State", they KNEW that the only way to PROTECT this "free state" was to allow the citizens to not only possess, but also have on their persons (preferably at all times) firearms in order to keep marauders, outlaws, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) the gov't in check and on notice: ("You Eff up, and I'm gonna shoot your @$$") "Shall not be infringed": Shall not be tampered with in any way.
Wow amazing the comments I see here. Anybody who thinks the statement that Guns don't kill people ,people kill people isn't the truth is a damn idiot. So go ahead and take the guns away from good law abiding citizens and see what happens..
Don't think for one minute that the criminals are going to give up thier guns. So now they can go around and shoot who they want without worrying about being shot back at. GET REAL .
If the mother didn't leave weapons laying around for her unstable kid to get his hands on this would have never happened. Sounds like people killed people again to me. If someone wants to harm or kill another person they will do it one way or another, gun or no gun.
Why does anyone need an assault-type weapon? For self-defense? That's why Lanza's mother bought them. Look how well that worked out for her.
I have yet to see a single poster give any good reason for people to have weapons that can fire round after round. Can you?
And by the way, nobody's talking about taking YOUR guns away. They ARE talking about making it harder to buy weapons like those Lanza used. What's wrong with that?
Tom whats wrong is that it is like boiling a frog. I refuse to be that frog. Going down this road, one day no guns in the USA.
So you can't answer the question. Thanks for playing, lollipop.
Since foul mouth tom cant get metafores, I wil spell it out
They come for "assault" weapons now. Many usefun guns get banned.
Next they come for hand guns. (coz the hand guns kill)
next for all kinds of guns.
Its like putting the frog into water and then starting the water. The only way to protect my right to arm myself is to protect the 2nd amen-dment now!
It's "metaphor," you fvcktard.
You have yet to defend the need for assault-type weapons whose sole purpose it to kill many people quickly. When are you going to get around to that?
Using a "slippery slope" fallacy won't do, muttonhead.
American Christians please read me well. I know this type of Protestants very, very well since I was Catholic. They are leading you astray, they are leading you back to Rome, to the Vatican, to the Pope. Dishonoring the memory of Martin Luther and all of the Reformers. Many of whom paid with their lives for serving God.
They don't fast, that's why they're always obese and overweight. They don't study their Bibles. That's why they are always confounding worldly and worldly politics issues with Biblical doctrines. That is not right.
They think they can create some sort of Heavenly Celestial Kingdome in the US of A. But that's total gibberish. The Kingdom of God is NOT of this world.
There are no true Scotsmen, heh Exxie?
American Christians and I meant the ones that are really Christians not the fake ones. Not the ones who play Religion and fake Conversions. Not the ones that mix the Faith with Partisan Politics.
This man is a Fake and all of the rest like him, all they want to do is to lead you all back to Rome, to the Vatican, to be subjugated by the Pope. He will KISS the Pope's ring over and over and over. Then they'll lead you all to Worship Dead Idols, Statues and Paintings on the Wall. You will be told to pray the Rosary and carry idols in your wallets, around your neck, in your cars and to have Idols everywhere like they do in Latin America.
Do not be deceived. This mans will Kiss the Pope's ring.
No True Scotsmen. Google it, EX.
As a former Catholic I know this type of Protestants very, very well.
All they want is to be the center of attention and have the first places in the churches. The other thing they want more than that is to go to the Vatican and Kiss the Pope's ring incessantly over and over and over. He and PR, JB, SP, JmC, conservatives/protestants et al. They all dream with the day when they can go to the Vatican and kiss the Pope's ring time and again and again and again, over and over and over.
JmC went to Mexico during the 2008 Presidential Campaign and Worshiped and Abhorrent Idol. Then the Monsignor of the Cathedral in Mexico City anointed him with some fabled holy water, laid hands on him and "prayed" for him. He though that was going to give him the Presidency, but he DID NOT Win.
W went to the funeral of the Pope and kneeled there before his Cadaver and worshipped the Dead Pope. His wife LB was the only foolish woman of any prominence wearing a head covering. His brother JB had gone before that and like an obtuse Idolater bowed, kneeled and worshipped the Pope like if he was God. Then proceeded to kiss the Pope's ring over, and over, and over.
The No True Scotsmen fallacy, exemplified.
There are manifold other productive things to do than "shake your fist at heaven and demand answers" – like major gun control, improving access to mental health services, and addressing the glorification of violence in our society. However, if one is going down the ecclesiastical route on this tragedy, at least Prothero is sane … I enjoyed his article.
I believe that if the existence of an afterlife in heaven AND the existence of hell could be proven to everyone's satisfaction to NOT be true, there would be much fewer devotedly religious people.
Much of religion may boil down to fear of death, desire to live forever, and avoidance of eternal damnation.
A reasonable question is, what is the evidence that heaven and hell really exist ?
Thank you Stephen. Your article was a panacea for my soul. You said everything I was thinking. I'm so tired of the Huckabees' of the world, thinking they always have the right words to say. There are no right words for this horrible event. Just time for grieving and sorrow and trying to support the helpless families of Newtown, Ct. with cards or letters of love and kindness. It's obvious none of the above have ever lived through the kind of loss these families have, just by what they wrote. I so thoroughly thank you for saying everything my heart feels. Mr. Prothero.
Saying it's "God's will" is just one more opportunity for people to absolve themselves of responsibility for what humankind has created in this world.
God's not real, get over it.
And I think you're missing the point of the whole "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" saying. It's meaning is that even if guns didn't exist, people would still harm each other some other way.
Quit whining about it. CNN needs to employ people who are able to think properly.
How does America respond when 20 children are slaughtered? They rush out and buy even more guns. Hey kids? This country is knee deep in idiots. And they are getting worse. God help us.
Good comment until your last sentence.
guns are not the problem fear is!
No, guns are clearly part of the problem.
I just can't believe it was God's will to resurect the children so he could call them home after passing his judgement on a nation that is to secular. Or it could just be that guns dont kill people, people kill people.
People use guns to kill people. The more readily they can get their hands on guns that can be rapidly fired and rapidly reloaded, well, you take it from there, Mike, but stow the hackneyed, useless phrases already please.
Have you read Job? God likes to let satan screw with people just to see what they will do. This is just another case of god letting satan do the dirty work and then sitting back and enjoying the show. He is god. He would never pull the wings off of flies himself; but, he likes to watch while satan does it, and god provides the flies
Yeah, and in the Hebrew Scriptures, Satan is not the devil – that's a Christian invention. In Job, Satan – ha-satan, the "adversary" or "opposer" – is one of the Sons of God, a member of God's heavenly council. His role is to act as a tempter to try to test men's faith and report back to God. He and God make a little wager on Job's faith and whether it will stand up tothea loss of everything he has. God gives ha-satan permission to do anything short of killing Job, and the torment starts. Nice God.
You hit the nail right on its head. Every time I see one of those sayings.. I it's like fingernails down a chalk board.
Stephen, Why would anyone care what YOU do or don't want to hear. Just because you're a godless flaming liberal doesn't mean that everyone else is. Consider OKC bombing...........how many guns used to kill 168 people? Zero. quit trying provide people with a manner to shift their blame and consider imploring people to take some personal accountability.
How many bombings have we had this past year? in the past 10 years?
Why would anyone care what he wants to hear? He is writing an opinion piece. If you don't like it, don't read it. Is that too fvcking hard for you?
"Just because you're a godless flaming liberal doesn't mean that everyone else is. "
No, some people, like Wayne, are Jeebus sucking pseudo conservatives
Good reply, I agree.
We always want something to blame. Let's blame guns, lack of mental health services etc. No article has mentioned that all these shootings have been done by men. Let's ban men! Seriously, maybe we need to take a look at what in our culture is affecting young men that makes them do these things. All the shootings in school, workplaces, the movie theater in Colorado were all done by men.
While I agree with you that we should definitely look at the affects our society is having on males, here is a list of female mass murderers:
Jennifer San Marco
A good thing to blame is the celebrity status of every mass shooter created by the media. I think news organizations have come to this realization too. Look on the homepage of any respectable news source and you will be hard-pressed to find the name of the shooter mentioned anywhere; he is just referred to as "shooter" or "gunman". The celebrities need to be the heroic adults who gave their lives for those children. Victoria Soto and Anne Marie Murphy need to be the household names. Less celebrity means less inspiration of others.
Right Grey. This is a part of the generalized glorification of violence that permeates our theater and sports as well.
The vast majority of these mass murderers are also white. Goodness golly gosh, white people must be evil inside.
All "GUN-FREE ZONES" too. The most unsafe place to be is the gun-free zone, at least when it comes time for someones brain to short-circuit..
nevertheless, i'm going to say it
guns don't kill people, people kill people
people with guns kill people
People without guns kill people. That is the point. The worst mass murder of school children in American history took place in 1927, by a school board member. He killed 38 children and many adults without firing a shot at anyone. People kill people with guns, knives, explosives, etc. It is people that are the problem. Not the guns. Actually guns save lives in the hands of good people.
They did the shooter's mother a whole lot of good.
The wicked are ssooooo wicked that they say, "I get rain, too, and I'm proud of being wicked. 'Sides, it proves there is no God!"
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.