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.
No Need for religions to say a thing they should be answering the statement below!
ORIGIN OF LIFE: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics
Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.
Two things Governor Huckabee should do immediately:
1) join the Westboro Baptist Church hate group.
2) explain why these mass murders are not happening in Western European countries. Are they that much more religious?
So, Stephen Prothero, what are the six things you believe would be helpful to hear after a significant tragedy?
Short and sweet: "I am very sorry for your loss. If there is anything I can do you, please let me know. I care."
Yes, I have to agree with iamok on this post.
That being said: the comment by Stephen that we should shake our fists and "demand answers" from God...is he kidding? Who are we to demand answers or anything else from God? And, again I'll say: God is not responsible for this. Evil jealousy and a sick mind, who COULD NOT GET HELP from this society that has abandoned all the people with mental disabilities so state governors and officials could line their pockets with the money they didn't spend on insitutions and staff to help these poor people who are SUFFERING and becoming DANGEROUS. It's not like they don't know. It's that they DON'T CARE–because THEIR children are safe, guarded by people with GUNS. Then they have the nerve to cry their croccodile tears over everyone else's children being slain, while their pockets get are stuffed with our tax money.
People can say what they want. Does it really matter what one person does or doesn't want to hear? It's called freedom of speech. Or do you think they should take that right completely away also? My mother was a victim on gun violence, but I do not blame the gun. The selfish idiot on the other end of the gun was the real cause. If he didn't have a gun he would have used some other means. Anyway, my point is people have a right to say anything they want. That doesn't mean we have to believe in it.
Regarding #6 – “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” They need to finish the sentence. It should read, "“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people WITH GUNS.” The problem with so many guns, is they get into the wrong hands. For example, the Sandy Hook killer, didn't purchase and procure the guns he carried into that school that fateful day. He took them from his mother. A large percentage of shootings happen with stolen or methods of obtaining guns, other than legally obtaining them.
Guns are ALREADY EASILY in the hands of crazy and evil people. All the gun laws do is RESTRICT THE LAW ABIDING FROM PROTECTING THEIR SELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES. Can you please tell me: what is so hard to understand about that reality?
Illinois has gun laws: look at the murder rate in Chicago. The Newtown school had no guns on the property and a locked door. What good did they do? Use some logic, Please. On teacher, or the principal with a gun would have stopped him.
Dot, I agree we'll never cure crazy, but the NRA solution of arming everybody is a recipe for disaster on a bigger scale. Imagine the chaos in Colorado if all the movie goers starting firing in the dark and in that case the crazy was in full body armor so was not likely to be stopped even if the movie goers were able to hit him. We'd just get more of the NRA-sponsored craziness that is the "stand your ground" laws introduced in most states – just an excuse to let your emotions take over.
Every year countless nutria, muskrat and coyote cause damage on our south east coastal vegetable farm. Beyond less humane and time consuming trapping, the one single devise that I can count on to help control this ever growing problem is my Colt AR15 rifle. It is a valuble tool used on a working farm. Nothing more, nothing less.
Its also great for shooting people.
With regard to #6, the Founding Fathers were very clear why they included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It was not for hunting, sport or creating a state militia, notwithstanding the first sentence If you read the Federalist Papers, the primary purpose of having an armed citizenry is to provide a deterrent to tyrannical government. They did not put an expiration date on the amendment, because human nature doesn't change.
The way our lawmakers are rushing to enact gun control measures that didn't work the first time we tried them, as opposed to increase access to and funding for mental health care is telling. It is more than a little concerning that many of our lawmakers are acting in a manner our Founding Fathers warned us about.
So we should ignore the first sentence? What a blowhard you are.
A new study shows that 100% of people who are shooting victims were shot by a person with a gun. The study goes on to state that there have been no reported cases of people being shot by someone who did not have a gun.
This study shows that I have a much, much better chance of being shot by someone with a gun than someone without a gun. This would also mean that someone with a gun is a potential threat to me and my family. My second ammendment rights state that I should be able to carry a flame-thrower and incinerate anyone I see with a gun because they could shoot me.
Eric G – Nowhere in the 2nd does it allow for flamethrowers, nor does it allow for full automatic weapons. These weapons are positively in the realm of those weapons covered under "Dangerous and Destructive Devices" these items are allowed with additional background checks and the additional payment of an additional TAX. BATFE will do the background checks along with local and state officials and these state and local officials will only do these checks if that particular state allows for the ownership of these items. They are not governed by Federal Law alone. It also appears that there have been "NO LEGALLY OWNED CLASS III WEAPONS USED IN AN ILLEGAL ACT"
1-5, great response. Number 6, not so much. We have the second amendment as a means of protection, especially protection from authorities that wish to make us subjects of the state rather than its master. Muskets have nothing to do with it. Do you seriously believe allowing persons to have muskets is a good response to an armed intruder in your home when any realistic police protection is 10 minutes away? How about the scenario of one armed individual in the school saving many innocents by acting as soon as the crisis started. The problem is not the gun, it is the person. Look how well gun control works – the places were guns are banned are killing zones (areas of Chicago for example). Of course creating "gun free zones" just identifies targets of opportunity to these monsters.
Just found this:
John – The second amendment has nothing to do with bearing arms for protection. The second amendment focus was on bearing arms in the context of forming a well regulated militia, when necessary to ensure security of a free state. In that instance "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed". In whole the second amendment reads as follows: " A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed"
The author's general point is that the framers could not have foreseen the advancement in weapons technology or how they would be used, the framers did address to the peoples ability to bear arms in response to threats against the "state".
I find it interesting how the second amendment deconstructed and used incorrectly by both sides of the gun control debate especially when justifying ownership of weapons that were clearly manufactured for something other than personal use.
Banning so-called "assault weapons" will work as well as banning marijuana, cocaine and meth. And, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
Louis – you might want to read the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, James Madison's Federalist #46, and Madison's Federalist #29, before presenting yourself as a Second Amendment expert.
tom, tom and 4thand26...the issue is not in the weapon choice or the fact that it took only a few minutes to kill 27 people with a gun.
it doesn't matter if it take 15 minutes or 15 years to kill 27 people. a serial killer can get away with killing 27 people over the span of 15 years...with a rope, a knife, a gun or whatever the heck he choses! 27 people either way.
there are evil, corrupt people in the world. you can't change that. if someone has enough of the evil inside of them, there's no telling what/when/how they will do something.
So your arguement is, "Might as well make it easy on them?"
That has to be the dumbest thing I've seen on this thread, Lauren.
I would have to say the person most responsible for the tragedy was the mother. She knew her son had mental health issues. She had researched them. She did not get him proper help or put him in a place for his own safety (or that of others). Instead of that, she trained him to shoot, provided the weapons to shoot, and then failed to keep them secure. In short, the mother was a person who believed the end was near and her foolishness and beliefs made them a self-fulfilling prophecy for herself, her son, and all those others. People keep dancing around the edge of this part of the issue but I think it should be faced directly. Idiotic belief (bordering on a desire to see) in the end of the world and/or break down of society drove her to collect the very weapons and setup the situation wherein it played out in a microcosm. It was idiotic just like the notion that putting MORE guns out there solves the problem. What will we say when one of the teachers we arm is the one to snap and kill a bunch of people? Do we then argue that the students as young as five years old need guns too? People who seem to like this Hollywood idea of the rugged, wild west seem to be conveniently leaving out that the lawmen who tamed the wild west and brought order did it by taking away all the guns. If you rode into town, you checked your guns with the law. The wild west was a bloody, horrible place where people (innocent and guilty) died in great numbers and only became civilized when law and order became the rule over the gun.
We should ask ourselves why one of the other teachers or the principal had to take the life of the teacher who snapped. That would be the saftey of having more than one armed person on the campus.
there's obviously no hiding the fact that guns are common weapons used to kill people.
but guess what....i could kill someone with a pencil.
SO LET'S BAN PENCILS.
Can you kill 27 people in a matter of minutes with a pencil, ya moron?
That is the dumbest thing I think I've ever read...
Tom, Tom the Piper's Son is not thinking this through properly. MOST OF THE STATISTICS PROVE THAT WHEN YOU BAN GUNS, GUN VIOLENCE ACTUALLY GOES UP. You are rude to call Lauren a moron.
Lkatemeier, so why is it then that other developed nations that have less weapons in the hands of citizens have ASTONISHINGLY less gun violence, exponentially so.
Our next door neighbor, da canadians der eh, whom have plenty of hunters brandishing firearms, have no where near the gun related deaths we do on an annual basis.
This "arms race" of weaponizing every man woman and child, which is exactly what we've been preaching these last few decades, clearly aren't working as shootings are on the rise and it seems (for the most part) our country is the only with this issue.... wake up
To everyone giving Lauren crap over the killing of "one" versus "multiple" people, logic dictates that you must now take all those killings of "one" out of your own argument. In other words, you can only use cases where another weapon would not have caused as much damage (by your own argument that using another weapon, e.g., a penci, wouldn't allow the killer to kill as many people); we generally call them "mass killings" or "mass murders." Now, figure out what percentage of murders occur in mass killings in the US and decide if you think this is the most pressing issue at hand. Just a thought...
Mostly, I can agree with what is being said here. And those items I disagree with, mostly, are matters of belief or opinion. But I'd like to suggest that the writer COMPLETE his #6 point with some intellectual integrity. "At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people." should read "At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people WITHOUT GUNS." THAT is the fact. Those people with guns went looking for soft, unresistant, legally-compliant targets. And I seriously believe that is how they saw them – not as "victims" or "people" but as "targets".
We have the some of the best law enforcement and military training for force-on-force scenarios – it is strongly based upon simulator use. Through the use of simulators, the police and military work through scenarios where they can pre-determine their actions and responses without having to actually defend their lives at the same time. Anybody with two neurons to rub together can understand this makes better cops and service personnel. It saves lives by training them to experience the stress and manage it in a non-lethal situation so they can perform in lethal situations.
In the rest of the world, we call those simulators "video games." And we have a generation-and-a-half who have been "supervised" by these games – and people wonder why we have a generation of violent kids, even those who don't kill are entertained by it. They thrive on it. Sandy Hook will not be the last. Take away all the guns you want, there will be other tools used to murder our kids.
You NRA freaks should love violent video games, they give you gun buying customers!!! You seriously think that a school teacher who works, probably is a mom herself, has the time or the need to go through the training that police and the military go through?? That is the biggest fallacy put out by the NRA and its minions like you, that shooting at a paper target and going through some BS course on gun safety will prepare you to face an individual armed with an assault type weapon...you people live in a video game, life is cheap to you...the 2nd Amendment was written at a time when people used no better than a musket to defend themselves, the founding fathers could never have forseen the firepower we have today for if they had I know they would have written it differently...NRA – (N)onsensical (R)hetoric for (A)merica!!!!
You got it 4th. The idea that school staff, or even more laughable, a person in a darkened, tear gas filled theater, has the ability to do something without further endangering others is one of the lamest arguments I've ever heard. Shake. and. bake.
Put an armed security guard in all schools. In Colorado, we have armed "resource officers" in every high school, and we should extend that protection to middle and elementary schools. There are still crazies out there, and the gun that will be involved in the next mass shooting has already been sold. No law will stop the next shooter.
You kill more people with nukes than with knives, all other weapons fall in between and you have to draw a line somewhere. It will take a while to work the more powerful weapons out of the system, but the end result will be worth it. I agree on the video games – any one who argues they don't make a difference hasn't bothered to read the research.
I believe there was an armed guard (or police officer) at Columbine and also at Virigina Tech.
Thank you Steven for saying publicly what I have been thinking.
To summarize: shut up all you people who don't think like me!
Ah Stephen Prothero, voice of the asses... I mean Masses.
Obviously abused by Nuns as a child, his rants against religion are as predictable as Rosanne pigging out at an all you can eat buffet.
And for Liberals that's what Newtown has been, an all you can eat buffet, or, more exactly, an all you can blame free for all.
So far the Liberals have blamed Gun Owners, the Mental Health Care System, Conservatives, the NRA, Christianity, and now God himself.
Here's the problem... the person really respondsible for this tragedy... is dead.
A madman who wanted to kill.
Not a madman who wanted to shoot. If that's what he wanted, there were shooting ranges available.
He wanted to kill. A gun was just his tool. He could have used a Machette. He could have poured gas into the school and set it a fire. He could have built pipe bombs and thrown them thru the windows.
He didn't care how he killed... he just wanted to kill.
But guess what?
All these methods of killing (even the shooting), could have been stopped by proper security at the School.
Liberals don't want to talk about that.
Liberals can give a half billion dollars a year to the Arts and Public Broadcasting,
But School Security is too expensive for Liberals.
Who killed the victims in Newtown... A Madman.
Who opened the door for him... The Liberals who failed to protect the victims.
You haven't spent much time in a school in your life, have you, Johnny? It shows. Any idiot who capitalizes random words is too ignorant to comment on school security or anything else related to education.
And apparently, your reading skills suck–there WAS security, you ass.
Maybe you should have spent more time in school, you might not be so stupid.
Rant against religion? Really? It seemed like a reasoned, logical discussion to me. Just because it fell on the opposite side of your beliefs doesn't make it a rant. I think the rest of the commenters addressed the other issues with your comment.
Think Instead, did you not read the last paragraph? It's definitely a rant against religion. However, that should not be a surprise. Everything Prothero writes turns out to be somewhat anti-religious. He tries to cloak it as "religious studies" or some such nonsense, but it's pretty transparent. He's been looking for something for a long time and hasn't found it; I suggest he start with himself.
No, it's an opinion about fundamentalist morons who utter trite nonsense in response to tragedies.
Right, more security. Kevlar backpacks for all the kids and teachers roaming the halls with assault rifles. Yes, assault rifles. If the assault rifle is the weapon of choice by crazed persons, which it clearly is, then you need equal or greater firepower to overcome it. Then you need to train the teachers for close-quarters combat to make certain that they not only can carry the weapon, but know how to effectively use it as well. Then you'll need to assign point guards to be vigilant to early detection of an assault and hold drills regularly to prevent complacency and teach the children how to respond and form circles with their backpacks so that their vulnerable body parts are not exposed.
Based upon your take of things, the only people to blame are ones just like you who could care less if it's a million little children and the staff who oversee them because if they try and take away your assault weapons they can pry it from your cold, dead hands. It's a mentality that clearly demonstrates the level of immaturity and distorted priorities.
You're a moron.
John – some good points. Don't forget that the last THREE killing sprees [including this one] in 2012 were carried out by mentally ill peope who had been FLAGGED by medics, police and family but THEY failed to act! What kind if mentality allows know oddballs on the street with guns? Streuth! Only in America folks. Then wannabee "philosophers like Prothero blame God??????
My stance is, how well has making drugs illegal worked for keeping people form getting them. When alcohol was band while in prohibition. Otherwise law abiding citizens where going to the local illegal speakeasy to find and get what it is they wanted. So making more gun laws you will just make some one that is knows as a good person today and an outlaw tomorrow. While the bad people that want to do the eval of this world (that has been repeated daily since the invention of the firearm) will find a way to complete his or her selfish thoughts, ideals, agendas, and hatreds, wether it be from ignorance, stupidity, or some crazy DNA coading that is unknown at this time.
Keeping the gross loss of life that happened before Christmas, is to fight fire with firearms. To protect yourself or others you need to be willing to do what you are wonting to stop. Now two wrong don't make a right, but in extreme sercomstance to keep some one from losing there life you must take another's.
I apologize for this ugly truth but, this is the world we live in, and it is not perfect. So silly fantasies of making the world a better place by invoicing laws that only restrict the majority rights in the hops that it won't happen again. i tell u "go smoke crack its on the corner being sold by a 15 year old boy and he has a gun"!!! And laws in place now has not kept that from being possible.
When alcohol was band, they played all the hits! Shake and Bake!
You are wrong to believe that banning the import, manufacture or ownership of assault grade weapons will only cause law-abiding citizens to find them by illegal means. Most people in this country are caught up in the fad of ownership of such weapons and frankly, haven't the slightest realm of competency to use them if the true need to do so ever arose. It's nothing more than a symbol of power.
I'm a former ranger and at my age now, I keep a simple revolver in my home for self-protection. Assault weapons are designed for combat, for superior firepower and enemy suppression by a single soldier to the extent possible through weapon design and training. They were never intended for civilian ownership or use and therein lies the problem.
You can not condone the access and ownership of such weapons at the expense of the tragedies which occur with great regularity. It's not just the acquisition of these weapons, but the mentality which possession of them unavoidably creates, the belief that one is to some extent invincible when so equipped and the driving urge to test the premise, however irrational.
Superb, Stephen, and I'm generally right of center. Excellent take.
If God-believers all say Heaven is so wonderful and glorious, why don't any of them WANT to die??? You'd think every devout Christian, Muslim, Jew, or any other religion that pushes belief in an intelligent, supernatural Creator would jump at the chance to die so they could go someplace "better". Interestingly, though, none of them do (extremists excluded)...and, in fact, pray for long lives. Am I the only one who sees a serious flaw in their logic???
yep....you would think the they would build temples over 6 or so stories tall so the devout can go meet jeebus. or, at a minimum, provide a fatal dosage of drugs or a fatal dosage of revolver so that their parishoners would be in the arms of the savior
Because it's scary. People have been here a long, long time and going someplace you have not seen yet (on purpose) is hard to do. We (as Christians-real Christians, none of this God did this or God did that- stuff, but people wanting to help others and share the Bible, and if you/they/whoever don't believe in God, that's ok- we still want to show love and help anyway) always wonder if we did/do enough to help people. I think it is part of being human nobody wants to die. Yes we say "heaven is our glorious resting place" or whatnot, but God didn't make us to be born then die, He made us to help people- any people even if they don't believe/like God. Until we get to that place we need to make use of our time in a good way. btw, I do agree with the article, people that say stuff like that make Christians look bad. Thanks
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