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.
5 out of 6 are entirely religious notions. The only one's who would think that crap appropriate are deeply religious types....believe what you like, I'm just sayin'.
Read the comments that stem from this blog, and you can just see the split personality of american culture standing out so boldly . Gun control advocates come across as reasonable human beings, whereas the pro-gun writers come across as being from another planet where violence reins.
I lived in the US for a while and so understand it from personal experience, so am always interested to listen to others views on the country. There seems to be a consensus that the USA is a wonderful, dynamic, beautiful nation with so much on offer. In certain areas though, it comes across as completely crazy... esp. with regards to guns. What a terrified nation! No-one can tell who will pull out a gun next and start shooting. Armed police in schools? Armed teachers? We are laughing at you – but in a kind of despairing way. What next? Arm good children with little guns, to defend against the bad children? What about hair-dressers? (a man's guard is down when his hair is getting cut) Armed police in Gyms? restaurants, churches, each hospital ward, every newsagents?
In the UK , our police even don't have guns, which is one of the things that I am most proud of, as a British man. I think there were less than 100 deaths due to hand guns last year in the UK(37? died I think). USA : 10,000 died last year. That's a war!!@!
100,000 injured due to gun related violence. !!! 100,000!!!! THAT IS MAD.
Does God bless America? She blesses those whose bless themselves.... I believe that she is beautifully indifferent and yet intimately interested in all that occurs. Of course she is. She is the grand, eternal paradox, existing beyond and before both is and is not...
Every child knows god. – its in the nature of a child to know- that's my view anyway....
The truth is this: trauma physicians from all over the world, come to the US to learn how to deal with gun shot victims. WAKE UP USA , AND RETURN TO PLANET EARTH (without your ridiculous guns).
First of all, there is a God. He is Sovereign over all. Yes, there is also the presence of evil. Who are we to shake our fists at heaven and demand answers from a God who causes this earth to spin and puts breath in our lungs every day? To most questions like this, we will never have answers, as much as we want them. I am sad that these things happen, but as long as we live in this world of fallen human beings, they will most likely continue to. The issue of mental health needs to be addressed more than anything else.
"The issue of mental health needs to be addressed more than anything else." Absolutely. The sanity of anyone like you who believes in such sillliness is obviously impaired and needs to be addressed.
your saying that there is a god does not make it so.
which god are you speaking of, refguy?
Wow, what a waste of my time. I expect more from our scholars. What a way to put a negative spin on things before anyone even says a word. Professors like you are the reason that online degrees have any validity; because you are a close minded fool.
I would say, rather, that he was being openminded, by claiming not to have all the answers. This is what scholarship IS.
Closed-minded? Maybe you should read the article instead of stopping when you ran across something you disagreed with.
It would be more a waste of your time to say or listen to the 6 things mentioned in the article. Pretty much the point of the article, dontcha know
To the writer Stephen.......you mention that it was an assault rifle .223 cal bushmaster that killed the kids. This rifle is NOT i say NOT an assault rifle. It is a semiautomaitc rifle. Get your head out of you know where and go get educated so you don't write incorrect statements that make you look like an uneducated moron.
When easily fitted with certain aftermarket components it absolutely is an assault weapon. Repeating the NRA's deceitful talking points does not make them "Reality."
He had an AR 15. I think that a civilian version of an M-16 most definitely is an assault rifle.
Keep repeating the NRA's lies though. Just like the tea party, the nra is falling out of favor with us citizens. We are tired of their irresponsibility.
@Reality ... wow, lighten up nut job – not everyone likes to make out with guns as much as you do.
3 out of 6 points being valid is not a bad article for cnn
Stephen Prothero,religion scholar, better come to a conclusion as to "There may or may not be a God,"
Being a scholar means that you study many religions and their tenets - not that you have all the answers, especially all the answers to any one religion's questions. Don't be so smug.
Assault rifles and long-clip handguns warrant legal reclassification as 'destructive device'. A shotgun or rifle is a firearm. Semi autos are diabolic apparati born of the industrial revolution. They should be treated with equal vigilance and stigma as pedophiles. NRA, please help us retrieve some dignity as Americans. You're losing your future base.
they are magazines – not clips. a clip is a short strip of metal holding shell casings together at the rim – magazines hold any number of whole cartridges.
all firearms are "destructive devices".
stop playing into the hysterics. there are over 250,000 firearms in the united states and it is every law-abiding americans right to own and possess them. good luck collecting all those guns, princess. lol
placing the same "stigma" on them as a "pedophile" is probably the most retarded suggestion i've read all week. are you a schizophrenic 13 year old girl or something?
how about we work harder to classify mentally ill people earlier – educate people about the warning signs of someone who may suffer a psychotic break... and maybe teach people to secure their weapons better.
calling for a ban on guns is the childish response – and your suggestions were just... well... stupid.
in a perfect united states – delusional thinking (like you display) would be classified as a mental illness – and those who clearly harbor delusional beliefs would be prohibited from voting, holding public office, purchasing/owning firearms – and teaching public school. as it is – we have to allow mentally ill folks to roam among us freely – like it's some freaking divine right or something.
tolerance of stupidity like this has to end... you're retarding the entire planet.
oops... 250,000 = 250,000,000 (for very large quant ities of 250,000) ha
you know what i meant... shut up.
So the AnVil's argument is that anyone who confuses "clip" with "magazine" is not allowed an opinion (a typical NRA misdirection, as they have no real argument). And that if you disagree with him you must be developmentally disabled. But what AnVIL doesn't understand is that the 2nd Amenedment doesn't say what he thinks it does, and that this time next year he's going to have to turn in his high-capacity magazines and assault weapons should he own any because NOBODY BELIEVES HIM ANYMORE EXCEPT THE OTHER NUTJOBS IN THE NRA. Don't go away angry, AnVil – just go away.
tony – i was happy to correct 2357 on his incorrect use of the term "clip". it's a pet peeve of mine (and many others). it's good to know a little about what you're "discussing". that correction had little to do with my "argument" – aside from pointing out the author of the post was ignorant – as demonstrated by his entire post.
as for the right to bear arms and the 2nd amendment – i am completely aware of how it's written and the meaning behind it.
the natural right to facilitate self-defense may not normally necessitate a need to own fully automatic, magazine fed assault rifles – but it is legal to purchase them and so long as it is – i think it's great that people can own them if they want to.
my "argument" is – firearms with large capacity magazines have been around for a long time – while these psychotic breaks are a relatively contemporary reality.
the culprit isn't firearms – it's mental illness and angry, deranged, mentally delusional people like yourself.
the cries for banning firearms are immature and childish – and won't do a thing to stop psychotic breaks.
no one needs an assault rifle with a large capacity magazine to kill a lot of people quickly, stupid.
just because you're dumb, with no imagination doesn't mean others are like you.
we need better methods of understanding mental illness – and better education for people in general about being aware of the warning signs.
banning firearms means the only people who will have them will be the state – and those who choose to break the law.
prohibition never works – it just causes more death, dummy.
i own no assault rifles with high capacity magazines – but i'm going to go out and purchase a few tomorrow – and good luck trying to take them from me LOL
I couldn't possibly have said it any better myself...thank you for this concise, direct, realistic, sane, logic-based take on this incredibly sad situation and the public discourse that has followed...
The shooter's father had a career in ripping off the neighbors with tax law. So what do you expect with his love for the neighbors?
" 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?
Using this logic then the first amendment applies only to speech exchanged directly to other individuals. It should not include speech over any media such as radio, TV or internet. Freedom of Religion should only apply then to religions that were in existence at that time and not to any religions that came to be since then. You can take the gun away from a lunatic and crazed killer and you still have a lunatic and crazed killer. You can take the gun away from a law-abiding American who has no intention of killing anyone and what good have you done other than perhaps satisfy your own feelings against guns.
@kelly: i would say the big difference between crazied killer with a gun and crazied killer without, is the one without has to get within your arms reach to harm you, the armed guy can do it from over 100 yards away.
i would prefer my chances( being ex-military) against the guy with a knife as opposed to a firearm.
oh yeah one more thing, most crazy people start out law abidding citizens...........that is how "a crazy killer" gets weapons most of the time, they bought them themselves. just look at the guy that was snipering people in washington, he owned those weapons.
WASP – First, most gun crimes are NOT committed by people who legally obtained their guns. MOST gun crimes are committed by felons that are not supposed to have guns to start with, or other criminal who may not be up to felon status yet. Second, here is a bit of food for thought about "crazed murderers" – the man who killed two firefighters the other day did, in fact, shoot them. BUT, he also spent 18 years in prison for murdering his grandmother with a HAMMER, and he set several houses on fire, very obviously hoping to cause even more death. You can bet that if he had not (illegally) had a gun, he would have figured out something else equally heinous to kill.
“Arms” does NOT mean hand grenades, chemical weapons, atomic bombs, RPG’s, etc. Those items are already classified as “destructive devices” and are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934.
I agree with the author. And furthermore...
1. “It was God’s will.”
No, this was a a human being's crime against humanity. G-d gave us free will, and he chose evil.
2. “Jesus called the children home.”
If that's the case, Jesus is a cruel SOB. But since my People have been slaughtered in his name over the centuries, this sort of thinking doesn't really surprise me.
3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”
How can anyone know this? Have they been there? And how, exactly, does saying this help comfort grieving parents of young children who have been murdered?
4. “This was God’s judgment.”
And you know this how? Are you so holy that you know for certain what G-d thinks? If you believe that, you should seek help immediately.
5. “This happened because America is too secular.”
No. This happened because it is t easy for seriously mentally ill people to gain access to weapons. This happened because it's easier to buy a gun than it is to get a driver's license. This happened because gun owners aren't being screened for mental health issues. This happened because the NRA has bought off congress.
"1. No, this was a a human being's crime against humanity. G-d gave us free will, and he chose evil. "
- In that case God is either not all-knowing or not all-loving.
God is more powerfull than me. Therefore he must have knowledge greater than I. I know the present and the past. God must know the future as well. He 1000 years ago kenw that Adam Lanza would do this, and yet god created Adam Lanza anyway, to do the very thing that is against god's so called 'will' (Thou shall not kill). And yet god stood by and did nothing. ... Some all powerfull all knowing all loving 'god'.
"And yet god stood by and did nothing." So it seems. But, I've been taught that we shouldn't rely on miracles. We should do all that's humanly possible to prevent evil from prevailing, and only then will G-d help us the rest of the way.
Besides, it's WE who did nothing, by not passing and enforcing laws granting easy access to guns by those with mental health issues, and letting the NRA bribe congress and mislead average Americans into believing a sick, twisted interpretation of the 2nd amendment that allows anyone who wants to to buy a rapid-fire weapon and enough ammo to kill anyone, including little children.
But, it's WE who could, and must, not stand by and do nothing any longer. G-d gave us the ability to heal the world, but we must choose to act.
I do not think God called those kids home. Nor that it is that our schools are too secular. And we can debate this all but the fact remains it was a terrible tragedy. People that make such comments do NOT understand what the Bible teaches us. God gave man the right to choose-good or evil. God no more is responsible than the man in the moon. It is the sick people that place no value on any lives and in this case even his own. So stop blaming Christians, God, saying Jesus called them home and all this nonsense. If man would learn to love one another-and as Martin Luther King said well that we are not a neighborhood, we are a BROTHERHOOD and treat one another as brothers we would see at least a decline in this. Have any of you people ever noticed that hate is increasing? God loves those who love him and the man that killed those poor kids took God's children and God's perogative into his own hands. We have free will. But mark these words you athiests: You will in fact stand in front of God one day and give an accounting. He will ask how you can see that every snowflake is totally unique, every tree is totally different, and you do not see me? You kill. You steal. You think it's my fault? You'll be judged as you have judged .....Jesus said. Maybe you call him a fake but just stop and use your head for one minute. If someone said before you boarded a plane that there is a 20% chance you will NOT land safely, would you get oni? No! But yet God's presence is all around you and yet you blame him, when he is letting all of us do as we choose. He has given you all you need to understand what is happening around you. Some people still just cannot get it. I feel sorry for all of you that think God willed those kids dead or that Jesus called them home.
I would just call this one ridiculous. This is a totally different world we live in. dude. Get a clue. There are people trying to kill us around the world everyday. None of the countries who allow weapons have a problem when they see them in public all the time. We have gone soft in the heads here acting like there is no earthly reason to have weapons. The well armed militia was intended to assist the government to put down uprisings against it, not to attack the government to bring it down. Since our government seems to enjoy sending our troops out of the country to spread our type of lifestyle and values to other parts of the world, I think it's a good idea. If we give up our weapons we can not do that which was written in as part of our civic duty. In between these horrific acts of nonsensical violence we still see stories of ordinary people who happen to be gun owners, protecting their families and homes from the dregs of society, when they bust in their front door in broad daylight or sneak in during the night. Some of us need to think about what happened the last time we had our homes and private property invaded or violated. What's that you say? Never happened to you? That figures. I happen to be a veteran, I have Asperger's syndrome, and I have used a gun to protect my home from a burglar(s) who thought they had found easy pickings. I have never, nor do I ever intend, to go anywhere to shoot and kill anyone. If you do not wish to own learn about, or even have nothing to do with guns, that's fine. It is your right, and I have been in the military to make sure that right stays in place. Please don't start thinking that you can stop senseless acts of violence by eradicating, or tightening controls on my weapons. Criminals do not obey the laws and that is a fact. People who fall apart because they cannot handle the stress and tensions of the world we live in (especially here), cannot be predetermined by anyone, ever. If we have our weapons removed from our homes, taken away from us, and even surrendered, We will be defenseless before the criminals who will delight in looting our homes, and then killing us so we can't identify or testify against them, So let's all try to figure out a PRACTICAL solution to this problem. We need to find some common facts that we can all settle on, to make this country and keep our children safe and happy, instead of over reacting and going off on each other in blogs, on the TV news, Facebook, Twitter or whatever you use... For their sake. I hope I'm not too far off topic.
Please list these "other countries" that allow unregulated, unregistered weapons or the same types we allow that provide opportunities to purchase without background checks or training.
"I have never, nor do I ever intend, to go anywhere to shoot and kill anyone."
And neither did Adam Lanza up until he did. By that time it was too late.
How do I know that you are the next Adam Lanza? or your kid is.
Are you sure that your son isn't going to shoot you in the head? Like Adam Lanza did to his mother?
Sleep tight !!
"So let's all try to figure out a PRACTICAL solution to this problem."
Typical pro-gun advocate, says we need a "PRACTICAL" solution and offers nothing to that end.
Oh my goodness, what a bunch of "stuff."
What kind of a "religion expert" are you? You really don't seem to believe in anything, so I would call you more of an "agnostic" expert or an "athiest" expert.
If you don't believe in God or religion or just feel like shaking your fist at God and demanding answers, let me suggest that maybe you haven't studied it enough, or in the right way. You can separate religion and faith and call yourself some kind of an expert. I don't know why we have to read stupid stuff like this from someone who just wants a soap box to stand on.
Let me write a column....I am sure I can find something I can claim to be an expert in....
By your logic only someone with schizophrenia could be a schizophrenia expert and only a murderer should get a PhD in criminal studies.
"II don't know why we have to read stupid stuff like this from someone who just wants a soap box to stand on." Here's the thing: you DON'T have to read stuff like this. Just like I DON'T have to go to your church and listen to the nonsense there.
You cannot own RPGs (rocket propelled grenade) or nuclear weapons. RPGs require federal licenses to own.
Nuclear weapons are illegal to possess.
"You cannot own RPGs (rocket propelled grenade) or nuclear weapons. RPGs require federal licenses to own."
EXACTLY the point. Why cannot I walk into a gun store an purchase these things? Maybe because these things can do great damage on a scale that the founding fathers could not imagine? Cannot assult rifles with huge magazines fall into the same category?
This is what I don't understand about ardent pro-gun proponents. WE already HAVE gun control in this country. Assult weapons should be added to that list.
Assault weapons are on that list already. What you are asking for is something else which betrays your lack of knowledge on the subject. You are, understandably having an emotional reaction to the horror in Newtown without considering the implications of what you are asking.
The NRA thinks every child going to school should have a gun for their own protection. NRA's false sound bite is that guns don't kill kids, kids kill kids so they should have guns to protect themselves. NRA sickos...
The NRA is calling for armed security at schools, not armed children.
I don't know how you came up with that but it is a blatant lie.
But the NRA does think it's ok to turn schools into a wild west shoot out, with innocent children likely in no man's land. . .
Mike Bender is correct. The NRA wants there to be armed security guards at schools, just like there were that horrible day at Columbine High School.
That was an effective deterrent, wasn't it?
Parents (G-d fearing and otherwise), here is the nightmare scenario: Deranged person arrives at your children's school, murder and mayhem in his mind. Shoots his way through the locked front door, reloads his weapon, gets into firefight with pistol-equipped "security" guard, then enters classroom, where teacher, upon hearing commotion in the hallway and correctly deducing that Spawn of Satan has arrived to do Bad Things, grabs her 9mm Glock from the top drawer of her desk and starts blazing away at the bad guy while he shoots at her. Hot lead is now flying in both directins as the children scream in fear.
Who's in the middle?
If that thought doesn't scare you, there is something seriously wrong between your ears. Yet this is exactly the scenario the NRA exec has put on the table as the "only way to stop a bad guy with a gun.." Heck, Wyatt Earp would not have gotten involved with that one!
You are aware, aren't you, that there are not one, but eleven armed guards at the school in DC that Obama's kids attend. And that is not counting the Secret Service officers that are assigned to them. There are armed police in many of Chicago's schools as well, just as an example.
Re: Obama's children's school, any idiot would realize that they are kidnap targets, not deranged believer with a gun targets. And of course, Chicago is a complete red herring.
OG – master of red herrings
So instead of a possible shootout with the teachers you would rather the bad guy slaughter 18 kids huddled in a closet
You want to shake your fist at God because you are unwilling to look at your own evil and complicity in creating the Adam Lanzas of the world. You want to blame the tools for the problems, rather than look at the real causes, because then you might have to change. You are a fool and a coward. If people had reached out and treated Adam Lanza as a human being deserving of compassion and love, would this have happened? If even one person had taken the time to become his friend and see the pain there, all could all of this have been prevented? Who is brave enough to ask that question?
Many people tried to become his friend. He had a neuropsychological disorder that prevented him from having friends, and probably prevented him from making rational decisions. If you had bothered to read any articles about the background of this case you would know this. But then you wouldn't be able to hold onto your smug, idiotic "just one hug" theory of this event. You are the real fool and coward, and I strongly doubt you have a clue about "the meaning of compassion and love".
Easy access to an assault rifle turned one person's sad life situation into 27 deaths, hundreds of other lives destroyed and changed forever, and most of a nation trying to find rational solutions to prevent similar problems in the future. Taking assault weapons out of the picture is the kind of compassion this country really needs.
So, if he didn't have an assault rifle, he wouldn't have possibly found another way to kill? And while you blame the ASSAULT RIFLE for the deaths, the "easy access" through free-for-all purchase that you speak against was NOT how he got the guns – in fact, by law, he was REFUSED in his attempt to purchase his own weapon. The CURRENT LAW of the state of CT WORKED. What DIDN'T work was his mother's refusal to see that her son was a potential LIFE threat, and accordingly remove the weapons from the home altogether. This IS a story about the blindness of a parent, NOT about loose gun laws.
The #1 by far quote most Americans never want to hear ever again: that's racist!
Boy who cried wolf, etc. No one cares anymore.
Do we trust in a God given USA or do we run in fear needing personal assault guns. If latter our country will DIE an early grave and us also.
Years ago, the CIA would have kept a list of people making these types of statements, as 'possible subversives'. It shouldn't be too much of an archival challenge, with modern-day computers, to resume this noble pursuit?
"Subversive"? What, exactly, is subversive about this opinion piece? Specifics, please. You do realize that McCarthyism and the Red Scare is regarded as a black mark on our history, right?
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.