My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared to blame the Newtown massacre at least partly on the secularization of schools.
December 18th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre

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.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • God • Mike Huckabee • United States • Violence

soundoff (5,447 Responses)
  1. threetowersresidential

    thank you. NRA logic is not logic. they are soundbites.

    1 – mental illness -26% of americans have it. they also have guns.
    2 – just because i am law abiding does nto mean i am always going to be law abiding
    3 – guns transfer legally or illegally
    4 – do not assume NRA is telling the truth – they are not all law abiding hunters. many are criminals.
    5 – reducing guns will reduce the number of deaths dramatically. don't follow their statistics for crie reduction WITH guns, that's a statistical intepretation trick.
    6 – arming teachers with guns is idiotic. why do teachers need to be trained killers or police officers?
    7 – personal nuclear devices (PADs) is the natural logic – we should arm everyone with a personal nuclear device for IMPROVED global safety. please destroy the NRA with these devices FIRST.

    January 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Athena12

    All excellent points, and in particular, thank you for picking apart the NRA's logic. Well done!

    January 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  3. Lois

    Thank you Stephen, i totally agree. A lot of the same people that support the idea that even military style weapons should be legal want to focus on the treatment of the mentally ill. However, this takes money and these same people would protest any funding. They go crazy on the subject of raising taxes on the wealthy or reducing funding for the military. Then the call themselves religious. It's going to take a grass roots movement like MADD to make anything worthwhile happen in this country. ONE WOMAN started MADD after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver. This isn't rocket science. Let's band together and make our voices heard.

    January 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  4. greg shepard

    I don't think shaking one's fist at God shows much understanding of God.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Yeah, it trips me out when people shake their fist at Thor.

      Really, though, have you seen any "fist shaking?"

      January 1, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Shaking one's fist at god actually requires a god to shake one's fist at.

      January 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      greg: do you feel that your knowledge of god is greater than those who "shake their fist at god"? if so, why?

      January 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      For the believer, it is a "shaking fist" against his god when anyone mocks his idea of god; because his idea of god is generated by him, he interprets rejection of his god as rejection of him; thus, "making fun of my god idea" equals "shaking your fist at god."

      January 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Decency costs Nothing

      Well said Greg.

      The usual suspects trawl out their usual juvenile comments – mainly because it takes intellect, logic and reason to accept a Supreme Creator.
      These Plods can't accept God but swallow the "Big bang folloed by a muddy puddle and single cell.........." without a murmur?

      You've got to pity their lack of education really. Poor souls.

      January 1, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      decency: you are a punk. your god is a punk. if you want to consider this a juvenile comment, have at it. go fvck yourself, punk

      January 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Decency costs Nothing

      sa m stone – your amazingly cretinous comment as a response to my post says everything about why you need to get back to your trailer and finish watching the c artoon channel!

      I'd love to explain my point to you but it would be like watching paint dry! Muppet!

      January 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      decency: you are a troll. i do not want your explanation for anything

      January 2, 2013 at 5:27 am |
  5. Jeff

    With a nation grieving and people finding their own ways to cope. Ya know what no one wants to hear? That some academic has a list of things he doesnt want to hear. Did it occur to you that perhaps people who have not embarqued on your depth of spiritual enlightenment just need sometHing to hang their hat on to make it through. The timing of your article is simply a pompous infliction of your own etiquette

    January 1, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • ENR

      Totally agree!

      January 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I couldn't disagree more, Jeff. I imagine that if I had lost someone and then heard much of the absolute horrifying bullsh!t coming from god believers I'd be extremely grateful for this article.

      January 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  6. BayCityMI

    The Newtown CT massacre was caused by a man who was mentally ill. He could have just as well killed the victims with a knife or his bare hands. This guy could have driven a car into a crowd of innocent and unsuspecting people. He could have poisoned hundreds, if he was methodical enough to think it through.

    This demonstrates a mental health system that is incompetent and insensitive to situations that mentally ill people are in - e.g. a socially retarded person in a home where there are firearms and he has had extensive training in using them. I'm not shaking my hand at God, I'm shaking it at his mother's grave. What was she thinking of?

    January 1, 2013 at 6:21 am |
    • Kane


      January 1, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • NYC

      I agree. What woman in her right mind would purchase six firearms and large capacity magazine clips when you know you have a seriously mentally ill person living in your home? Then what does she do? In the days before this horrific tragedy she leaves him home alone while she goes to a vacation resort! She wanted those guns to "protect" her from the government attacking her (I have a neighbor like that). If mental illness is hereditary, he got it from his mom.

      January 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jethro Blewell

      Honey, it's far more difficult to kill people with a knife or bare hands than it is with a gun. He probably would have killed people, but far fewer, and teachers and staff could have easily disarmed him

      January 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • sam stone

      there are only so many drive by stabbings

      January 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  7. Witness

    The thing about guns is that they are now being venerated by people who should feel bound to worship no god but God. They have become a fetish. And the fantastic scenarios about guns as tools of salvation...it just makes you cringe with embarrassment. Some of these guys have regressed to 7th grade.

    January 1, 2013 at 3:19 am |
    • SomeRandomGuy

      I really wish that the stereotype being portrayed by a small minority weren't being used by every opponent of religion and/or guns. The people who are using the arguments cited are the minority of religious people, and they are being recycled BY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE AGAINST THESE ARGUMENTS. With the exception of #6, the only time I've heard these arguments are when opponents of God and guns are claiming them to be the views of right-wing religious fanatics (or some equally stereotypical and demeaning exaggeration). As for #6, common sense alone will tell you that you can't claim guns are to blame for deaths unless you are willing to accept that cars are responsible for deaths, not drivers...that scalpels are responsible for deaths, not the doctors who make life-threatening mistakes in surgery...that sofas are responsible for heart attacks, not the people who sit on them rather than exercising...etc., etc. People can't keep blaming the instruments causing deaths rather than the people operating these instruments. More deaths were caused last year by baseball bats and bare hands than by guns. If you really want to stick by #6, you have to be demanding that all bats, kitchen knives, bare hands and cars be taken from people as well...since they're killing hundreds of times more people than guns. If you really think #6 is false, try using the same argument for the weapons that are responsible for far more deaths than guns are (Bats, knives, cars and bare hands). Sheesh.

      January 1, 2013 at 4:06 am |
  8. ScepticStill

    astounding, I find myself in agreement with Stephen Prothero,

    January 1, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • Decency costs Nothing

      Astounding! You're admitting that YOU'RE a patronizing, egotistical wannabee philosother too are you?

      January 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      decency: you are a troll. go fvck yourself

      January 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  9. Steve

    What a load of tripe!!

    January 1, 2013 at 12:47 am |
  10. Tina

    People of various religions have gone to their religious leaders and teachers to ask why there is so much suffering. Often, the response is that suffering is God’s will and that he long ago determined everything that would ever happen, including tragic events. Many are told that God’s ways are mysterious or that he brings death upon people—even children—so that he can have them in heaven with him. Jehovah God never causes what is bad. The Bible says: “Far be it from the true God to act wickedly, and the Almighty to act unjustly!”—Job 34:10. Do you know why people make the mistake of blaming God for all the suffering in the world? In many cases, they blame Almighty God because they think that he is the real ruler of this world. They do not know a simple but important truth that the Bible teaches. The real ruler of this world is Satan the Devil.Bible clearly states: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) When you think about it, does that not make sense? This world reflects the personality of the invisible spirit creature who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) Satan is hateful, deceptive, and cruel. So the world, under his influence, is full of hatred, deceit, and cruelty. That is one reason why there is so much suffering. The real question is "Why does God Allow Suffering? When will Suffering End? For answer to these questions, I bring your attention to jw.org.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Ivan

      Where in the human psyche is this idea that we are promised no suffering?

      December 31, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Tina

      Quite the contrary. God's word the bible tells us in Genesis, that if mankind were disobedient, we would suffer. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed – we now suffer. The question is: How long, when will it end?

      December 31, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Natty Dread

      And the Jehovah"s Witnesses is offshoot from the Millerites of the late 19th century. Look it up if you don't know. You should. Also, most christian people regard the "word of God" to mean the bible and the bible alone. Very wrong. Misguided from the start. Just my observation.

      January 1, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • sam stone

      tina: more like edited, translated iron age hearsay than the word of god

      January 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  11. jim

    last time I checked we were one nation under GOD !!! and it is people who kill people no matter what laws we create those that wish too cause this hell will find a way so it isnt the guns.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  12. Zammi

    6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

    You are the idiot.. the POINT is it's the person who does the killing that needs to be looked at and people that need to be monitored. Everyday people kill others using other methods from knives to commuter trains because of among other things mental illness! Did your computer blog or was it you? Cars are not blamed for drunken driver deaths (which are equal to if not HIGHER then gun related fatalies) and the truth is a child is more LIKELY to be taken out by a drunk driver than a stray bullet across most of the united states. It's not the gun doing the crime it's the twisted individual behind it.. and if guns were replaced with potatoes it would be the potatoes fault..but AT WHAT POINT do people have to take responsibility for themselves and their actions? The gun does not tell people to go shoot innocent people. The gun has no freewill and cannot act on it's own and if guns were abolished kitchen knives and bats would be the leading causes of deaths. Taking THAT specific weapon out of the person hand doesnt change the problems in the persons minds

    December 31, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Really?

      What is the purpose of a car? What is the purpose of a gun? Your argument holds no water.

      January 1, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • Sparky36

      Don't blog blatantly false information. In 2011, gun deaths in the USA were over 8.500; no other instrument exceeded 2,000. However, auto deaths are a different story. Hand guns and assault rifles are manufactured for one purpose only: to injure a human being. All other instruments have a different primary purpose. BTW, a little over 500 people were killed in England in 2011, where gun ownership is approximately 6 for every 100 people. In the USA, there are 89 guns for every 100 people. Do you now see the correlation in the death figures?

      January 1, 2013 at 7:50 am |
  13. chris casey

    i am so glad i saw this. having been depressed over all the killings, and not understanding why all the, religious takes to explain it away. this makes some sense of all of it. thank you.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  14. Dwayne Frykman

    First, I totally agree with #6. Totally an idiotic statement. On the other 5, I am a ordained pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, and as I told my congregation the following Sunday morning, I have no answer for them. I do believe that God is in control. I believe He knows way more than our meager earthly minds can possibly understand. I do believe that one day, when we are with Him in Heaven we WILL understand. His ways or not our ways. However, I will trust in Him and Him alone for my salvation and I will give Him all the glory. I also know that I would not want to go through a tragedy like this without Him by my side.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Natty Dread

      Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Its a parable. Do you understand? "Thine will be done, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN". Get it? Work on making a heaven of the earth(life) that you already have and don't get into a "cult of death" – like philosophy. No pie in the sky.

      January 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Peter Tosh

      That's not what I meant at all.

      January 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Decency costs Nothing

      Dwayne, you probably mean well BUT once again, as with others, you are putting the responsibility for evil onto God.

      God made man – He gave man unconditional free will – He will not interfere with man's free will but we WILL have to answer to Him for our actions when we die.

      This creature killed 30 people. The last one at the theatre killed indiscriminately. They, like others were ALL flagged as being dangerous / odd/ twisted. Where were the parents, medics and police BEFORE the murders????? Sorry. Personal responsibility on behalf of several agencies caused it ........saying God is in control is a gigantic cop-out.

      January 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      decency.......man made god

      besides, how do the concepts of freewill and an omniscient god co-exist?

      January 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  15. threefifty7

    I liked your article. I have listened to those quotes for 77 years and they are of no comfort to anyone except literal believers of scripture. But as much as you or most anyone else does'nt like the fact, the Bushmaster .223 is a legal firearm classed as a sports rifle! As we saw in disgust and horror it wiil kill as all firearms can. It is not FULLY automatic nor big caliber like an illegal assault rifle! My point is the bushmaster would have to be re-classified to make it illegal. IN the USA . law enforcement and military are, for all practical purpose the only legal users of FULLY automatic assault rifles. But not criminals! they can find,import and use all they want!

    December 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  16. mkrueger

    i hear you especially with #6..i agree with that wholeheartedly..i am not religious..but if i hear that one more time..uugghh!!

    December 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  17. jerry

    Steve, Well said. I could not agree more.

    December 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  18. ounbbl

    Stephen, if you don't want to hear them, why don't you plug up your ears? Perhaps you don't want see things happen. Then pluck out your eyes. Then, all is well to you and perhaps to many like you.

    December 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Russell

    If you don't want to hear any of these six things, then basically who the hell cares how we rationalize or irrationalize this whole issue. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. These are the most meaningless irrelevant words I've heard yet.

    December 31, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  20. Pierre - Westmount

    To Mike Huckabee: –

    Let me paraphrase a famous quote that applies to you and your kind:- "If God needs human agents like you to make us fear Him, then you must tell me what paltry manner of god He must be."

    December 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Steve

      God gave Man free will the day he kicked Adam & Eve out of the garden of Eden for sinning. We exercise our own free will. Don't blame God for this, he gave us free will to make our own decisions and to act.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • SomeRandomGuy

      Ironic that nobody wants to give God credit for anything good, but everybody wants to blame Him for something that's bad. The mentality of this set of arguments is that God needs to take the blame, and right below Him would be guns. Somewhere way below both of those things are the people committing the crimes.

      You have no right to blame Him, especially if you're not giving Him credit for the good things in your life.

      At least be consistent in your own beliefs...

      January 1, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • sam stone

      steve: how does the concept of free will jibe with that of an omniscient god?

      January 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
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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.