Where was God in Aurora massacre?
Twelve crosses comprise a makeshift memorial near the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, scene of last week’s mass shooting
July 24th, 2012
02:13 PM ET

Where was God in Aurora massacre?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Where was God in Aurora?

It’s a fresh take on an age-old question: Why does God allow suffering, natural disasters or - if you believe in it - evil?

We put the question to Twitter on Tuesday and got some starkly different responses.

“In short, God was in complete control, exercising His will,” wrote @PastorRileyF, who leads a church in Bethune, Colorado.

That riled @TheTrivia Jockey, who tweeted, “If that was God's will, God is definitely not deserving of my worship.”

Watch: Survivor of massacre says he forgives gunman

@trentpayne also took issue with the Colorado pastor: "I'm going to respectfully disagree with you Pastor. God gives free will to man, but it wasn't his will that they die."

The back-and-forth provoked other believers to chime in on the theological issue of God’s sovereignty vs. human free will, with many Christians seeking to explain how a sovereign God could preside over seemingly senseless bloodshed.

“It is not God's will or want that people died in Aurora,” wrote @GospelBluesman 20m. "God allowed man's inhumanity to man, rather than intervene.”

The conversation and debate continued in the comments section of this post, with some insinuating that the massacre might be a kind of divine punishment, or at lease divine neglect:

We as a country have been telling God to go away. We told him to get off our currency, get out of our schools, get out of our Pledge of Allegiance, take your Ten Commandments out of our courthouses, get those Bibles out of hotels and no graduation ceremonies in our churches. How can we expect God to give us his blessing and his protection if we demand that he leave us alone?

Jesse R
Liberals have made it impossible for God to be anywhere during the upbringing of a child. Can't have any religious connotations in schools, libraries, government offices, etc., etc. Young men (and women) are growing up with no real sense of right and wrong. ... We no longer have the right of religion, but rather the right from religion. Parents no longer have the ability to discipline their children. We are always looking for the excuses ... violent video games and movies, bad teachers and schools ... when we should be looking in the mirror. We as a society are the reasons these massacres happen. We have allowed our children to become social misfits that lead to the kind of carnage we have seen on several occasions since religion and God disappeared from what the Founding Fathers once said was a necessity of a successful democracy ... faith.

Lots of readers used religious takes on the shooting to challenge the whole idea of God:

Who invited me?
How do you know the people that were killed didn't go to hell?, and how exactly does any of this show there is a reason? Reason is obviously something that you have replaced with belief, and you threw out logic with it.

"God doesn't exist, so he wasn't anywhere. Get over it. A man was evil, and he was evil because he was crazy.

Plenty of others said the shooting was the devil's work:

Evil things like this happen because Satan is the god of this world ... for the time being. God will undo all the damage caused by Satan's rebellion and man's disobedience when the time is right. In the meantime we all experience trials and tribulation due to living in an ungodly world. That is why Jesus taught his followers the Lord's Prayer ... 'to pray for God's kingdom to come.'

What’s your take? Where was God in the Aurora massacre? Or do you feel that such tragedies are evidence for a godless universe?

Let us know in comments, and we’ll highlight the best ones.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: God • Violence

soundoff (10,690 Responses)
  1. Rick Morrow

    Where was God, and God asks why are people going to a dark Satanic Movie like Batman? We all saw what it did for Heath Ledger? When you glorify evil, then evil comes. The shooter didn't imitate Batman the good guy, he imitated the Joker, the bad guy. Hollywood is to blame for the shooting, and the Batman creators should be shot for glorifying evil. That is Liberalism for you, Liberals don't know the difference between right and wrong. That is dangerous as we all saw in Aurora God says get off the Liberal stupid pills.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • this guy

      ^^^ This is the crazy lady from The Mist

      July 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  2. Ann

    God was not up on high watching this. He was down in the theater crying over one man's anger or pain that caused this tragedy. God loves us. He doesn't want us hurt. For those who said that these particular victims were going to hell, they haven't read the Bible. It says that it rains on the just and unjust. My prayers are with the victims, their families and the family of the shooter.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  3. adrifter

    I think CNN asks these idiotic questions just to rile people up and start a useless debate. Whether you believe in a god or you don't believe in a god, there is no answer to such a question. The cynic in me suspects CNN tries to be controversial about religion to increase its website readership. More advertising revenue with increased readership.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Maen Jauhary

    Life by itself is a test, we were born only to worship God, Life is not supposed to be heaven, otherwise there will be no heaven to look for. We will all die , it is the nature of earth either by a gun, by getting sick or by getting old or by any other means..
    every person has his share of life and fate according to whichever God chose for him or her, we shall accept it as is. God is also Just, so sometimes you are punished on earth so God will take away your sins, other times it is saved for you after you die, sometimes God takes away souls at a young age because their test on earth is done and they are already passed it so no point to live longer and suffer later in life maybe of a disease or something else...we need to think outside the box , it is not just black or white...Death and disasters have been happening since the creation of earth and will keep happening , we will all die good or bad..

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • 10


      July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  5. this guy

    does anyone KNOW if Jesus wasn't just some huge D-bag?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  6. Brian

    Adversity and evil give value to the good things in life. It allows us to learn from such experiences, and overcome them. If God didn't allow evil things to happen, it would defeat the purpose.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  7. johneturnerii


    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  8. scout

    @ Lenny in the article: It is the parents responsibility to teach their children what is right and what is wrong. Just like it is the responsibility to teach their children the religion they have chosen. Never should it be society teaching the children the difference between right & wrong.
    Parents please take total responsibility to teach your children what is right.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Kew

    We can all take what happen and learn from it or continue to debate about where was God in this situation. I am witness that God does show us the problems in our world so that we are aware of what's out there and what we need to fix. whether we take heed or is up to us. Remember his weapon did jam and there could've been more casualties. Kew

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  10. Realist

    God WAS there. If He wasn't, then Aurora would be burying more than the twelve they're holding services for; His divine intervention was what caused the shooter's Beta Mag to malfunction. Because if this shooter had done his research, he would've discovered that Beta Mags are very unreliable in the AR platform. Why do you think the military doesn't use them?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Brian

    It was not God's will that the passengers in Arizona died any more than it was his will that the people in Colorado died. The God I beleive in does not control our every move. He does hold us accountable for our actions and in-actions. If we go crazy with a gun or fall asleep while driving a pickup that is overloaded, those are choices that we make that we will have to answer for. The hate or compasion we show to others is our reflection of God's love and grace. The God I beleive in is equally sad for both events and probably wonders why the rest of us are not using our gifts to prevent both of these kind of events.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Matt

      God was there the whole time this was happening. This shooting was a result of man's sin and God permitted it. Not so that evil would win, but so that God's glory would be known. He'll one day punish this evil and through that, His glory will be defended and justice will rule. God doesn't need us, he doesn't need our worship either. But the great news is that, he loves us. Even though we have sin in us, he pursues us. He takes us and all of our sin and gets rid of it. He kills it (through Jesus). Him loving us proclaims his Glory. Either through wrath or salvation God's Glory will be understood. Worship is a reaction to Him and knowing who He is, not something we own and decide whether to give him or not.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  12. rachel

    We all so often blame things on God when something tragic or bad happens but when we accomplish something or things are going so well in life WE as human take credit for it. I as a so called Christian feel so selfish to not give thanks for the many blessings he gives us on a daily basis but instead to damn him for the loved ones we lose or the struggles in life we sometimes have to deal with. Shame on us for not doing what we as Christians should be doing, our jobs are to bring the lost to Christ so maybe if we tried a little harder we would have a lot less tragedies like this. It's just a reminder for me that I have lost track of what I'm supposed to do

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • 10


      July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  13. Surfeit

    Okay, I understand how this topic serves as a counterweight to the crazy, Falwell-style blame-the-secularists swill that floods the airwaves whenever there's a tragedy or natural disaster, and I daresay it takes some guts to make "Where Was God?" the headline on the front page of CNN, but isn't this all too soon? As an atheist, I do think the question of why a benevolent god would allow such atrocities must be addressed, but let's give those in mourning some space. The massacre happened not one week ago, and this topic only serves to wrench open the victims' wounds before they've even begun to heal.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  14. guy

    If you study history, and not just of America, you see horrific acts against humanity going back thousands of years.
    If you believe it, Jesus was brutally crucified. Thousands of people have been tortured and killed in the "name of god".
    Religious leaders of all type preen and posture themselves against each other. "Ours is the one true religion".
    Religion is a force of INTOLERANCE, VIOLENCE and CONDEMNATION.
    So, why is our current state of society so different than it was in the year 1 B.C.?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  15. ceramicbisque

    God gives us free will. And we use it, and some of us use it badly. Don't blame the victims (they were maybe going to hell) and don't blame God. Blame the shooter, THE END.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  16. Ryan

    We as society as a whole have fallen away from God and have even defied him. These terrible things happen in hope to bring us back to him.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Xdoc

      Wow, tell that to the parents of the 6 yr old who died.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  17. Brian

    God was off with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • StevenR

      He was in theater 7 watching True Lies...

      July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Brian

      So God murders innocent children to make sure we obey him? Would you obey a leader that murders children to get his way?

      July 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • jamy

      Brian.. God didn't murder them.. a man did... he also doesn't murder all the innocent unborn children in this world.. man can take credit for that one too...

      July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  18. G.A.

    I don't know what is more insane, people posting comments attempting to define god or someone going ballistic and shooting people in a movie theater. The former is like trying to squeeze the universe into a little box to satisfy your fear and ego, the latter is simply psychotic. Understanding either is like pushing rope.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  19. 10

    It's really sad that people are so amazingly scared of death they actually believe in an old guy in the sky that micromanages everything. Or worse, people who ALL of sudden turn their "will and life" over when they hit rock bottom. I have no idea what happens when I die but going all-in on and old wives tale is not possible for my rational mind. That, and arguing over who's god is the real one is main the reason for violence all over the world. Only one of you can be right. It's just amazing in 2012 that so many people still believe in going to Heaven or Hell. Seriously, it's comical.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  20. jimbozo

    To those who question this whole event and the plan that God has-No one will ever figure it out, for to know God's plan is the one true mortal sin. Do you ever think we could understand any of this, the universe, the meaning of life? No, and it is not our nature to know. Who would be so privileged to know such facts? Nobody. However, if you think he was "exercising His will", that's ignorant. We were giving free will to choose how to act. He does not want to watch people suffer.

    To those who don't believe in God- That is your choice. But to see people losing faith in today's world and the direction that the world is heading in, if you don't see any correlation, then I don't know what to say. To look into the sky at night and think this is all for nothing, shame.

    To those who say we need to ban assault rifles- Evil people really love to follow the rules. Right?! If we took away the privilege for good people to possess weapons so as to protect themselves, what would stop the evil people NOT to follow that rule and stock up. Please, tell me more how they follow the law. Don't forget Norway, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in the world, lost 70+ people due to some maniac. This will not solve the problem of what people know is wrong and right. Oh yeah, most hunting rifles are more powerful than assault rifles.

    Everyone is free to believe what they do, that's why we live in this country. A country founded on faith, what's right and wrong, the ability to protect yourself, and of freedom, independence, and liberty. Freedom, independence, liberty refer to an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one's rights and powers. Freedom emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one's rights, powers, desires, or the like: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement. Independence implies not only lack of restrictions but also the ability to stand alone, unsustained by anything else: Independence of thought promotes invention and discovery. Liberty, though most often interchanged with freedom, is also used to imply undue exercise of freedom: He took liberties with the text.

    This was a tragic event that cost innocent people their lives. The only thing we can do is to hope that people will respect themselves and others, and to choose right over wrong, good over evil, or whatever it is for the naturalists.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • this guy

      cool story bro

      July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Xdoc

      If that's your take, then why have any rules at all if they are only meant for "good" people anyway? By the way, it's not the rule the stops evil people from committing atrocities, it's the consequences.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214
About this blog

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.