Six things that should not be said after any tragedy

Stephen Prothero, a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University, lists the six things he does not want to hear in the wake of massacres like last week’s.

  1. It was God’s will.
  2. Jesus called the children home.
  3. After death, there is the resurrection.
  4. This was God’s judgment. (Are you listening, James Dobson?)
  5. This happened because America is too secular. (He’s talking to you, Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer)
  6. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

He explains why he finds each rationalization offensive.

But unfortunately we will hear all those sentiments over and over again after every tragedy because this is the best that the religious apologists have to deal with the problem of theodicy.


  1. left0ver1under says

    Unfortunately, one can say true things that are still unintentionally hurtful to those grieving:

    “It hurts because you loved them.” (or some variant of that)
    “You did everything right and tried your best.”
    “Some things in life we just can’t control.”

    A piece of advice I heard once was: The worst thing to say when someone dies is nothing. Let people know you’re thinking of them, know that you care. Being afraid to say “the wrong thing” could leave people feeling isolated and abandoned.

    I don’t know if others agree, but it makes sense to me.

  2. says

    I love the banner ad for “the tesla shield” product in the adbox on the right. I even clicked,through to see if I could cost them a fractional penny. Whee! “Powerful And Advanced Transformational Technology For Mind Body And Soul.” Based on the work of Tesla – I hope The Oatmeal does a product review of it some day…

  3. Maureen Brian says

    I agree that it is important to say something, to acknowledge that grieving people still matter, are still part of the group.

    But repeating other people’s worn out cliches is not “saying something” – it’s just waving your lips about and as meaningful as random readings from billboards. It has to come from you, the person, not from Joe Soap’s Book of Sayings for Tragedies.

    That’s why I like the Irish formula – “I’m sorry for your trouble” – which is enough in itself but also breaks the ice if either of you has something more to say at that moment.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    8 (said by my sister, after my atheist brother’s death) “he may not have believed in God, but God believed in him.”

  5. bobo says

    I heard some idiots saying that backyard pools kill more children than guns so ya know…ban pools!

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