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.
In a country that is trying to marginalize God as much as possible, they sure want to make much of Him
BJ: Your god is so weak it needs endorsement through the public school system?
I was completely with you til
"...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?..."
The founders refer to "arms", not "muskets", for the very good reason that they were smart enough to understand that weapons technology would continue to advance. Read it again, more closely, please. There is an argument to be made for restricting what class of weapons civilians are allowed to possess, but "we don't need nukes, so we shouldn't have a right to .223 rifles" is not it.
Blatant appeals to emotion may convey your position clearly, but they do nothing to persuede people who disagree with you.
I "blame" the "pill".
Tampon in too tight, Stevie?
Nothing worthwhile to contribute, Dave?
I don't own an assault riffle, but I don't see where banning them is going to stop future incidents like this. I completely agree with the right to own a gun, and I agree with many that I don't see the need for an assault weapon, so I see both sides. However, most people that I've met that own assault weapons are hobbyist and enjoy collecting and responsible. These are not the people that are shooting the schools up. The only people that will follow the rules under a ban are those people. If the goal of an assault weapon ban is to stop shootings in public, it will not work or limit them. Many people forget that Columbine and several other school shootings occured during the last assault ban. And one last thing, Cops don't carry guns to protect you, they carry guns to protect themselves.
I agree with soundoff. Cops don't carry guns to protect you, they carry guns to protect themselves. A gun ban will leave the law abiding citizen defenseless because the criminals already have their guns and will keep them. Any buy backs are pointless because the criminals are not going to turn anything in. As a collector, I support the second amendment and am a responsible gun owner and practice gun safety.
I'll ask you the same question I asked another poster: what kind of neighborhood do you live in? When was the last time a neighbor of yours was subject to an armed break-in and threatened by a gun-toting criminal?
To hear some of you yahoos tell it, you live in a war zone.
I have yet to hear a single good reason for a private citizen to own an assault rifle. Not a single one.
The real reason most of you want them is because you're compensating.
My favorite example of God's Will is that we live in a Second Hand Solar system. Apparently, the first one ticked God off, so it wuz blowed up. We'd better not screw up this resurrection.
I commend you on a well-thought out and articulated article.
Well done sir. Well done.
I can't say much about the religious part of Gov Huckabee's statement but the portion on guns was measured, reasonable and well-stated, certainly one of the best I have heard from a Republican voice.
Thank you Governor.
In response to the gun owner who claims they own an assault rifle in order to protect their family from intruders. I would say that implies you have immediate access to such an assault rifle in a timely fashion if an intruder busted through your front door. As in, it is not properly stowed in such as way that your children could not gain access to it if they chose.
You either are stowing your weapons in a gun safe that will take you some time to enter if you are under stress of needing access to your guns quickly, or your guns are sitting out with easy access and can be used to fight off home intruders, but I don't see how it can be both. Trigger locks have keys, that are either laying around with easy access to your children or are stowed away and in the event of an intruder you might not have time to get access to them.
Just say the truth, people want these guns because they are fun, and because it gives them some sense of security. The rest of America is saying that we are tired of your neurosis being an excuse that allows weapons to be turned against their owners or others.
It's difficult to interpret the meaning of right to bear arms when arms have become so lethal. A single shot musket is a far cry from an assault rifle, and where do you want the line drawn to satisfy your need to feel protected? Do you want to own RPG's? SAMs? ICBMs?
So, I've heard the question as to why someone needs to own a semi automatic weapon. The answer for me is simple, it's a hobby, and a responsibility. I pray I never need to use it, but if the lights go out, and the police don't come, I will rely on myself to protect my family. When protecting your family, clip size, caliber, and whether the stock is adjustable doesnt matter. You want an accurate appropriate weapon for any situation. That rifle is the AR-15.
With that said, stewards of these types of weapons should be vetted, certified, and properly trained. There is no reason in this country to not be able to own a semi automatic weapon, but I do not believe just anyone should be able to go into a sporting goods store, plop down their money and a driver's license and walk out with one 10 minutes later with unlimited ammo.
And just why must your weapon be automatic and capable if firing round after round for the purpose of self-defense?
How many of your neighbors have ever been victimized at gunpoint in their homes? How likely is it that you will be? Can you state with complete certainty that no gun accident could possibly occur in your home? That's what lots of gun owners thought until their kids got hold of their firearm and killed themselves or someone else either by accident or intentionally.
I had a neighbor a few years ago who's father and boyfriend both had their locked gun collections stollen in the same week.
Why was the comments that I posted the other day, wherein I posted a small critique against the bizarre doctrine proposed by some blasphemous thinkers (an apparently bizarre doctrine that has gained popularity in recent decades) : the bizarre , perverse doctrine that alleges that the murder of innnocent children serves some allegedly mysterious plan of God that we are allegedly not meant to understand , is insulting to God and , moreover, is completely contrary to *Jeremiah 19:5* which indicates that God never commanded the Israelites in the time of Jeremiah to harm their children and , moreover, that it never even entered the mind of God that they would do that ? Why was that post not posted ?
The typical atheist and other non-Christian versus evangelical Christian debates have been posted , why not the post that sheds a different light from the typical media talk lately in regard to such matters as theism and the problem of evil ?
Maybe you ran into the automatic word filter.
Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, sopho-more, etc.
ho-oters…as in sho-oters
ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
p-oon… as in sp-oon, lamp-oon, harp-oon
p-orn… as in p-ornography
pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
sm-ut…..as in transm-utation
sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, t-itle, ent-ity, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, salt-water, etc.
va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).
There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
Interesting that resurrection made the list. Even King David, the greatest of the Jewish kings said of losing his child, "I can go to him, but he can't come back to me." I happen to know some Jews who are not offended at all by the Christian idea of resurrection. If this offends Stephen, it just as likely that someone take offense to that offense.... given how tightly crafted the rest of his points are, this one felt way out of place.
I agree with most of these, but #3 does seem to be appropriate for certain people. The thing is you'd want to know someone really, really well before saying any such thing. This would be a very personal (not public) statement between two people of closely shared beliefs.
I don't agree. I think it would be offensive to anyone who has lost a loved one, and even more if that someone is a child, to hear someone blather nonsense, or as Prothero puts it, "pat answers" from some numbskull. Unless the bereaved brings it up, it's not appropriate to try to "comfort" him with such plat itudes.
At least one person posting here has said that such comments helped her through a family death. What people say privately to those they know well may not be fore us to determine.
I agree, Saraswati, but before I said ANYTHING to someone who's mourning, I'd wait and I'd listen to what the bereaved has to say. Why is that so impossible for so many to do? They think they "have to say something," when often all they need to do is listen.
From my own personal experience, having some ass hole say that "he/she is at peace now" made me want to slap them silly.
@Tom, Tom, Yeah, I wouldn't want to hear them say that either, and most mourning advice recommends sticking to "I'm so sorry" and sympathy, because you really don't feel someone else's pain unless you're the same relation and it just sounds hollow. But I think there are some scenarios, for some people, where this could be appropriate. But you won't ever hear me saying it, and if I hear that kind of thing in public I cringe.
"Guns don't kill people, People kill people"
Actually, this is true. Guns can be used to kill people, no doubt, but the Bath School Massacre was the largest mass killing of people on school property and it involved bombs and fire. Just, you know, putting it out there that a crazy person is gonna be crazy and kill loads of people no matter what you ban or do about it.
Guns don't kill people – PEOPLE WITH GUNS kill people. On the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, a deranged man in China attacked 22 children in a school. NONE OF THEM DIED because all he had was a knife.
flamespeak, it's not true. Guns make it much easier to kill people, and automatic weapons make it too easy to kill large numbers of people rapidly.
I've asked this question on several different threads and not one poster has been able to answer: Why does a private citizen need an automatic weapon?
If some idiot answers that it's to protect himself from the government, the response is that if the US government wanted to take you out, it would not matter how many guns you had.
@caddieo, The thing about these people is that they don't actually read international news. Their evidence set is therefore only a very small fraction of world data and it's almost impossible to educate someone from that level of ignorance with a few comments on a discussion board. Keep in mind you're talking to people with a very small and biased amount of actual knowledge on which their ideas are based.
I have said the same thing: "no civilians needs an assault weapon" and the two typical responses were the one you stated, and the second being, "should we ban cars, blah blah blah."
No one has satisfactorily explained why assault weapons should not be banned.
People who do not have access to guns kill a lot fewer people than those who do.
Guns are deadly weapons, even more so in the hands of criminals or deranged individuals. Does that really merit restriction or a ban?? I would point out that the deadliest mass murder event, 911, was reportedly carried out with box cutters, not firearms. There's a whole list of things that can be used to kill, should we restrict all that stuff too? Is America so full of pansies like yourself that you would have us all live in a sterile risk free environment?
The second and third words of the second amendment are "well regulated". What part of "well regulated" don't you understand?
The things you mention, especially 911, required evil planning, thought and coordinated action. Grabbing and loading an assault rifle in the midst of blind rage takes no such effort, making the nearly instantaneous murder of many just far too easy for the deranged to accomplish quickly. I would vote to minimize the danger of such an occurrence by making assault weapons unavailable to them.
Clearly everyone is deeply affected by what happened in Connecticut. Who could hear of such an inhuman, evil act and not be? Will we fully be able to understand? Maybe not. Is action necessary? Of course. Will a single action be fully preventative? Are we that foolish? Discussion requires many things. Charges of ignorance and manifestations of any form of bigotry (seems anti-Christian bigotry is the one form considered acceptable in this country) are ugly, counterproductive and not acceptable. Likewise, those who espouse no faith, as citizens, surely also have a place in the discussion, and are just as bound to seek to inform both reason and conscience.
It's clear that everyone is deeply affected by what happened in Connecticut, as we should be. And yes, we all could use some answers. Is the problem simple? I doubt it; rather, it's as complex as humanity, defying full comprehension amid such an evil, inhuman act. And surely it is apparent what the shooter did was evil and inhuman. We limited humans may never be able to fully understand. Charges of ignorance and any manifestations of bigotry (seems anti-Christian bigotry is the one type given approval in this country) are not acceptable and will not help. Likewise, those who espouse no faith can still enter discussion based on both reason and conscience, but are also obligated to seek to inform both.
First of all, you have already established in your mind that the United States is a good and righteous nation, and so there judgement could not possibly be an answer. I laugh at how you think that because we are a good nation, a righteous act of judgement could not possibly be put against us. To the contrary, if you look into our nations recent history.
Secondly, you think that making Jews and Hindus pray Christian prayers, that won't make a difference. I want you to look up a couple of things tonight. First, look at the problems that teachers had with students in 1950 as opposed to students in 1980. I also want you to look at the timeline that CNN put up the same day as the CT shooting that showed previous shootings. Tell me how many are before 1964 and how many are after. You will, of course, know what decision was made in 1964, and that was that prayer was taken out of public schools. I believe there were only 2 or 3 shootings before 1964, and at least 20 afterwards. Coincidence? I think not.
You think not, all right.
You're beyond silly; you're a liar. Prayer was never prohibited in schools or anywhere else. That you have to lie to try to force a point says all that need be said about your lack of a point.
Do explain how any teacher is going to "make Jews and Hindus pray Christian prayers."
1964??? 1962 was the decision regarding prayer. and 1963 was a decision regarding mandated Bible reading.
1964? Coincidence? I've a relative who blames it all on the civil rights movement. Personally, I think it's all because China got the bomb.
And of course, mama k, NOTHING at ALL has ever changed since then, right? THE ONLY POSSIBLE CAUSE of shootings is the lack of forced prayer in schools. Because otherwise, society is exactly the same as it was then. These morons crack me up.
Forrest Gump lives.
Wait! What year did the British Invasion begin? When did the Beatles burst onto the scene? I think it's all THEIR FAULT!
Yes, Tom – it's a ridiculous notion. If parents are not instilling the morals they would like to see their children have themselves, then they are not going to get them in public schools where children of different beliefs should only be learning disciplines they have in common like English, science & math. Isn't it hypocritical that the people most likely to want to create a theocracy and change the public school system are the same ones that want no barriers to bringing new life into this world at record pace (and then cop out on assuming responsibility for instilling morals into their children's lives).
I went to school in the '40s and '50s, public school. NEVER did I hear a prayer said in school–not in assemblies, not in classrooms. The ONLY prayer I heard was a Christian prayer at graduation–and those are gone since they really violate the First Amendment. As a teacher and principal, then district administrator, NEVER did I receive any legislation banning prayer. First Amendment is what sets the stage for no prayer sanctioned or conducted by school personnel. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . ." Prayer exists in schools. "Meet at the pole." "Bible study in Room 12." These are student led events. The school is not prohibiting the free exercise, but a teacher, for example, does not lead the bible study or a prayer, completely optional, before a football game. Many churches and other religious organizations have before or after school meetings for kids. Hurrah for them, but they are not at school as part of the school curriculum. Bible reading? Teaching about religions? Both acceptable if not proseliting. Churches and other religious organizations and families are where children and youth should be hearing about belief, faith, and God. Personally, I don't want these taught in a generic manner or in the manner of a particular teacher or administrator or school board's belief system. What public schools did have prayer as part of the routine? When?
Now, Mr. Prothero in his 3rd paragraph makes a point about Jewish traditions. There is a problem a big problema with that. Jewish tradition is NOT the main subject matter here, unless of course Mr. Prothero is Jewish. Jesus was born a Jew also he was a Jew of Jews. I really don't understand why bring up such matter of Jewish traditions. Christians don't follow those traditions neither are under such traditions, and those who died in Newtown Ct were not Jews only. There were Catholics, Christians and others also there. So why bring that up?
To confuse morons like you.
Tom thumb the dumber's son
It may take one to know another!
You can't even get your nursery rhymes straight.
Wow. You are about as dumb as they come. My goodness.
One of the phoniest of all the phonies of the atheists is the problem they have with Death.
Well; in a way makes sense given their refusal to acknowledge the Creator of Life GOD, who BTW will bring back ALL from the grave. So what then is their problem, Death or Life? Why do we all die? Some die young some die old. Some die peacefully and others die violently. Some are killed by others in war, in a criminal act, in self defense or by the proper Authorities as due punishment for their Evil deeds. Some die in strange and inexplicable situations. Some die and nobody ever knew they were dead; others die in fame and notoriety. Or is it their problem that after Death there is something else, like for example Judgment Day? Or is it their problem that their ape like conscience, is still accusing them in spite of being so perverted?
God is the Author, Creator and Giver of Life. For the life of their fellowman men will give an account before God.
You are an apologist. A liar with an agenda. There is no god. Nothing you can say will change the actual truth.
I'm sorry, "Salero21", but "GOD", "God", "Judgement Day", and "Giver of Life" are all elements of mythology, therefore all of your assertions are falsehoods. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent true statements is: "EPIC FAIL". I see that you repeat these falsehoods 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...
What "problem" is it that you dream I have with death? It's inevitable. It's unavoidable. So what?
Salero, you seem rather obsessed.
No, I'm not an apologist neither a liar, YOU ARE!
Translation of Salero's spew: Nya, nya, am not! You are! I'm rubber.. etc.
So very eloquent.
"So what then is their problem, Death or Life?"
I think I missed something here. What is the problem with death?
Small C Christian – well said; my firearms are under lock and key in a vault. My point of leaving a gun on a table was a metaphorical one. A block of metal has no purpose until the one who wields it gives it one. Evil resides in man, not an object.
You might as well have left the guns at the store. Burying them under multiple locks removes their defensive value.
Why not just throw them into the sea if you really don't want to handle them? By the time you dig them out you'll be swiss chsz.
True, but it won't really matter because the idiot next door charging through your door because you watered his convertible at thae same time as your roses won't have one, either. He may have a baseball bat... he may have nothing more than his fists, but if my suggestion is followed, he wont have a gun, and you won't need one.
The alternative is to turn the whole country into an armed camp. Dodge City, Tombstone... where everyone feels they have the right overrule the law "just because". America should have moved beyond that in the last three centuries.
BTW- there are only 4.7 million members of the NRA, and according to some figures released this week, less than half of them are of the "armed camp" mentality... About two million and change... less than one one-hundredth of the overall population. Why are they running your brain? Think about it.
That same argument defends individuals person rights to have individual nuclear weapons stored in their back yards.
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.