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.
I have always thought it interesting that those who deny God for lack of proof also have no proof that God doesn't exist. But strangely, for some reason, those who say there is no God due to lack of proof will tell others that they are duped for having faith in God. Let's face it, there is no proof either way, but yet, those with faith have their testimony of their witness. Do atheists have faith in their own position of lack of proof there is no God?
Mormon 9:2 Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God?
Bolo, I am not a true to heart Atheist because I do believe there is a celestial power but neither am I agnostic. I find it very difficult and impossible for myself to believe that there is a benevolent being in the heavens that has a genuine care for our race. If in fact your text is correct, then God created the entire cosmos. Think about that for a minute... The Universe is so incredibly large, there are so many planets, suns, comets, asteroids, moons, etc.. and so many things going on with each passing second that our minds couldn't begin to comprehend them. Essentially what I'm saying, God has a lot on his plate. Especially if he Micro-manages things to the point that your bible states. Directly worrying about the worries of a "lesser" race I doubt is his main priority, especially with the known possibility that alien life can exist on other planets. That just compounds the problem. I ask how can you put blind faith into a religion that preaches peace, kindness, and love for the Lord loves each and everyone one of us individually but yet all of these atrocities happen constantly and daily? I understand there may be a bigger picture that I'm not able to see, but regardless I care very little about that picture. Fact is, some people of similar religious views as yourself believe that this was the will of God. This is not a God I would want as my "Lord and Savior".
Sinnedangel, do you really believe that all these atrocities are the result of the behavior of either a god or a people who believe in "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". If you believe in anything like a god, you have to at least be open to the possibility of an opfor. We believe in freedom of choice, if there's a god then he knows you've got to choose what you're gonna be and there's got to be an option to choose. Even if that means choosing to be something really horrendous. I think we'll hear eventually that people had a feeling about that day, some ignore it and some payed attention. I just wish some of the people that had payed attention to that feeling had showed up at the school in time to stop what happened but I can't pretend to know why stuff does or doesn't happen. God's gives us a choice and let's us prove we mean it. For good or for bad. Those kids didn't ever get that choice, and I think that's the one thing god will definitely make up to everybody. They'll get their choice back somehow. It's truly awful what happened, but why would you blame it on god instead of the person that did it? Do you really want somebody making every decision for everybody on the planet? I like what Joe Clark said in Lean on Me "I don't have to do anything but be black and die!" Well there you go. We gotta live and we gotta die, everything in between is a choice. Why not choose to love our neighbor as ourself. How is that going to make things worse? It's pretty easy to imagine that if the shooter had that at the top of his agenda, he might've been a little less likely to kill a bunch of people he didn't even know.
I agree with Huckabee, this shooting happened because we don't have enough religion in schools. We need a copy of the Quran for every student and to have them pray to Allah 5 times a day.
Hell, let's have the little buggers pray all day long. That'll keep 'em so tied up in knots that they can't get into any trouble at all.
You cannot prove scientifically that George Washington ever existed, but we accept it because of the historical records, written accounts, etc. I would submit that God is absolutely the most written about being in our history. We have countless historical records that support the existence and actions of Abraham and other Biblical figures. But ultimately it is a matter of faith, some are blessed enough to have it and some do not. I support anyone who chooses not to believe, but I am flabbergasted by people who seem to not reciprocate that right to me. Many Christians believe that there is a certain element of judgement involved in these terrible tragedies, but it is more the logical result of a country, or culture, that constantly embraces the darker side of our world rather than celebrating and encouraging beauty and moral uprightness. When we, in my opinion, waste our precious time on this earth by glorifying violence through media, or spending free moments drinking ourselves into oblivion, or lusting after what your neighbor has that you do not (wife, car, house, looks, money, etc.) then we reap what we sow. To put in simply: junk in and junk out. If you eat too much fatty foods you will become overweight. If we fill this world with unkindness, violence and immorality, then we reap mean behaviour, violent acts and lives ruined by our lack of self-control. This is a spiritual law that was put in place, I believe, by God. God surely can stop these type of things from happening, and I believe that He does stop them constantly. The question is not why they happen, but, based on the way we conduct ourselves, why they don't happen more often. I encourage anyone who reads this, whether you be an atheist, Buddhist, Jew, Christian or whatever, to dedicate the remainder of your life to being a person that strives to live to a higher standard of goodness and responsibility. If we don't, the ugliness that is our world today is only going to proliferate.
Actually, we can prove George Washington lived. He has a grave and it has been exhumed and his remains have been examined and his DNA has been recorded. There is no similar record of Jesus, so that point of your argument is invalid. The rest, is faith, not evidence. There is more fiction written about the Hardy boys than is contained in the Bible about Jesus, yet that does not make the Hardy Boys real or prove they exist. It is an issue of faith, plain and simple. Once you attempt to prove it, you are missing the whole point of religion. Religion is a set of beliefs that DO NOT HAVE TO BE PROVEN. Once something is proven, it is called science. Quit claiming to have proof and the rest of the world will quit thinking you are deranged and will simply respect that you are religious.
I believe everything that you said in your comment things will just keep getting worse till we all wake up and really see what it happening . I watch the history channel which is showing all that is happing . People that don't believe in god will be crying out to him when things really get bad..
Intellectually dishonest frank. We only have information about washington due to extremely complete historical records and chronological adjancency which aren't possible for the time frame you pretend to directly compare. I thought atheism was about intellectual honesty.
I'd like to hear franks evidence that seneca existed.
Let's hear your evidence that YOU exist.
Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you really know what you're speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also seek advice from my site =). We can have a link exchange arrangement among us
If Jesus had anything to do with letting this happen ..Or if it was his will...Then he needs to answer for it with his life ..And this time stay dead..And his followers dispersed...FOREVER...
Jesus had nothing to do with these mass killings. Evil entered the man who did this, and took over. Just as any other atrocity that is appalling to a man.
He already did. That and a lot more. Interesting hate there.
Great Blog. I agree with you so much. I look foward to reading more of your blogs.
I just want to ask why U.S Supreme Court criminalizes and condemns the killing of innocent children in school, but legalizes the killing of innocent children in the womb of a mother.
Because what individuals do with their own bodies is their business, not yours, you pathetic piece of filth.
That's right Leo. SO if you want to kill helpless children you have to A.be a woman B. do it before they are born.
I have to agree with donner because of his intelligent and well though out argument that indicates it's ok to kill people because they haven't been born yet. I'm sure that's great for the species. Also I found his use of invective to be original and well thought out. Clearly donner is personally familiar with Leo. Either that or it takes one to know one, unless of course donner just are one. Which, given the relatively anonymous nature of CNN posting, and donner's extreme familiarity with pathetic filth, I find more likely.
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. "
• As far as anyone knows or can tell, there was no big bang. Therefor, Science doesn't exist.
• As far as anyone knows, there was no unified Roman Empire. Therefor, Western Civilization doesn't exist.
• As far as anyone knows, the blackness of space is just the color of the cape of the goddess of life. Therefor, dark matter doesn't exist.
I'm not even religious, but it fulfills your criteria for fact perfectly.
origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.
New Torah For Modern Minds
“Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).
The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.
The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."
666 666 666
666 666 666 666
Eaxctly – that's what we need in our chools – more six education!
Tom Tom – I can play nice too. Really! But you come out swinging like that, a man has to defend his turf, Any time you;d like to have an intelligent conversation about firsts causes, the via negative, apophatic theology, or what have you, I;m ready. Just don'r come out of the shoot shouting names like stupid, retard, imbecile . You don't wins friends that way.
ready to start over?
TT isn't trying to make friends with anyone who has any views that oppose hers. Her sole tactic is a deluge of invsults.
oh man...your country is so fkuced and guns make it worse.
No geographical area is or has been immune to atrocities.
The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)
The Muslim Conquest of India
"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "
Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*
1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")
2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)
3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)
4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)
5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)
6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)
7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)
8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)
9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C
10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)
11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)
12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)
13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C
14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C
15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C
16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)
17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)
18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)
19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)
20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C
OK Tom Tom – you seem like a smart qweef.
Can you say with absolute certainly whether or not there is reality beyond what humans have been able to observe up to now?
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
Nope. Can you?
I can say there is reality beyond observable science with moral certainty – not with scientific certainly
ANd with anecdotal and experiential certainly.
"Moral certainty"? What, precisely, is that? It just means that you're certain that you're right. Not that it's fact.
You believe. You do not know.
Do tell. I'm sure you can provide details. And they'll be as meaningless as everything else you've written.
Belief, as it turns out is just as unreliable as knowing, and vice versa. Though I lean toward knowledge myself.
That has to be one of the least intelligent posts I've seen today.
The only thing you lean toward is another beer and some tw@t's boobs.
Knowledge is beyond you.
so your original rely – as far as you are concerned – if it is not proven, or validated by some field of science, it probably does not exist.
How about your dreams? Your feelings? the idea of the good, the true, the beautiful? Are they unproveable, and thus non-existent?
Tw@t??? You've got the won't guy here honey.
Dreams exist and can be shown through measurement of brain activity during sleep. And I never said that if science hasn't yet proven it, it doesn't exist. That was you.
You're not a very astute reader, are you?
I simply see no evidence that there is some invisible being who created all. If you can produce such evidence, do so by all means. I'd love to see it.
As things are now, the fact that we don't yet know everything about how the "Big Bang" was initiated does not mean that I have to throw up my hands and say, "Well, then it MUST have been God."
"Tw@t??? You've got the won't guy here honey."
What is a "won't guy"?
And what is your point? Abolish the laws of the land?
Nope. Never said anything about "abolishing" anything. There are limits to every right. Your right to speak freely is limited. You can't yell "Fire" in a crowded theater because your right to do so may endanger others.
The Second Amendment has limits.
What part of this is difficult for you to grasp?
Tom Tom went to sip from her older sisters' napkin – if you know what I mean
remember to use both sides of your tongue
My day is complete. I hit a nerve.
Here, T. Have a cookie.
I think tom tom the pipers son smokes italian sausages – if you know what I mean
You must be new here. I'm female, ass wipe.
Well you may be female, but you sure as hell aint no lady.
That said, who knows what your really are you internet troll
So now you're all butt-hurt because you have no point and can't find any errors in my posts that are different from those you made yourself?
Do you pout like this all the time? You know what Santa says about that, honey.
@ Tom tom –
you are either a haggard old rent boy or a muff diver
So, you couldn't find any mistakes that you didn't make yourself. Again, dear, thanks for playing.
@ tom tom
You wrote: If you want to argue a point, you should be able to write about intelligently.
See if you can find the mistake?
Yup. I left out the word "you." And so did your pal T. Banks.
Do you have an answer to the question, or are you going to fold like a cheap suit?
Your writing is execrable. I have no time for idiots who think they have a point but can't manage to write a coherent sentence.
No to big gubmint in any area
Can it, lollipop.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure." – Jefferson
Ricky Bobby, is that you?
And if you don't like mass shootings, move. The USA is a cesspool and I feel sorry for anyone living in that hell hole, filled with mentally disturbed gun nuts, evangelical maniacs and Stepford wives.
"Those that would give up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserve neither"
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.