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. Ruben

    It is a common psychological phenomena to give credit to God for the good things that happen and to blame somebody for the bad things. When there is a drought we blame people for global warming, when it rains people thank God. When there is a natural disaster it can go both ways, people will figure out a way to say that God is punishing the people or that the people are ruining the globe with industrialization. Think about this; why do more uneducated people believe in a higher being than highly educated people? Why is the Earth 4.6 billion years old but the Bible says that we should only be about 3000 years old? Why do we find life that happened millions of years ago but the Bible says nothing about it? Look at how silly it is to believe in mythological gods like the Greeks and Romans, which pre-date the bible and the Bibles timeline of life. Religion was created to control the idiots and the idiots have seemed to pass it on. As long as it is taught from birth, it has a good chance of becoming a belief. For some reason, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny become silly but little kids believe in it. The reason is that you grow out of it but religion becomes a lifestyle of living in fear of rejection and suffering. People fear being shunned from the people that they grew up with and worshipped, they fear torture and pain from hell, they gamble with their money by tihting while making the church leader rich. It is all a bunch of B.S.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  2. Andrew A.

    This is simple. Adam and Even chose to eat the fruit and in essence chose the freedom to make their own decisions devoid of what God would choose for them (which, I believe is a symbolic story of the human condition.) The human condition is the result of decisions being made outside of the parameters in which God would have set for us had we not chosen free will. Free will goes both ways, people make great decisions, people make terrifying decisions. It's easy to say God wasn't there, but he was. This was an exercise in humanity's free will, and it resulted in a desensitized young man making a terrifyingly bad decision. Don't blame God, "call evil by its name."

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  3. Rob McDonald

    Oh my. "Where was God in Aurora?" You can't be serious. Isn't this story horrific enough without you causing more divisiveness and animosity? God was napping, in the shower, at a friend's place, on the toilet. He was at the gun range, the drive-in, he was putting on the 11th green. God was eating a burger and playing video games. Who cares where God was? Where were your gun laws?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  4. Bill

    Same place he, she or it has always been, in man's head. The reason the majority of people believe in a god of some sort is for comfort. It simply feels good to know that someone else is in charge and has all the answers, not mention mans greatest fear, death. With most belief systems involving a god you never need worry about death because there is none, you simply pass from this world to better one where you live forever with no pains or discomforts. The world truly is full of sheep, most will follow anyone who will promise something better.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  5. Jerry

    Well, has a society we have pushed God out of the schools, out of the families, out of the work place, and in some instances out of the Churches. The tragedy strikes, and we ask where God is?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  6. L Rivera

    So now we are demanding the protection of the same God we have been zelously kicking out from all the areas of our lives?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  7. DS

    why bad things happen to good people

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

      The official answer is that God doesn't exist and there was nothing special about these people and, like cows taken to the slaughter or babies aborted, it really doesn't matter that they died. People die all the time all over the world and we read about it on CNN. What makes these people so different? They were US citizens? Pfffft. They are dead and they dont remember anything and they don't care...so why should we? Unless you have some kind of personal stake, mind your own business and move on already.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • RT

      If God exists, it does not look like it micro-manages our life. It simply has created rules (nature) by which we procreate and survive and will eventually vanish. How we live and die is simply dependent on our environment and (randomness). Trying to connect it to God's will is only to feel good about ourselves.

      Human history is full of violence (even if we like to believe older generation was far more God abiding; they died in far greater numbers for no reason). God did not intervene then and wont intervene in future either.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  8. ac

    god, if there is one, is unfair, uncarring and selfish. it's hard to believe in anything these days.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Here a Little, There a Little

    As a Mormon Christian, my viewpoint of this tragedy is different. This was not an act of God, but was the act of a madman exercising his freedom to choose good or evil.

    First of all, it is my viewpoint that our Heavenly Father does love us, completely and totally. However, Mormon Christianity teaches that this earth life is a time for men to prepare, a time to learn, a time to progress to learn to become more like our Father; it is a time to experience for ourselves and learn firsthand what good is and what evil is (see Alma 34:32–33). One of the greatest gifts our Heavenly Father has given to all men is the ability to make choices. And this ability to make choices is very real. God respects the ability of man to make choices for himself, and thereby learn through experience the consequences of those choices.

    In other words, God has granted all men the "agency" to have the opportunity to make bad choices as well as good choices. In other words, a lot of the suffering and bad things that occur in our lives happen because of our poor choices. In some cases, we are the ones who “allow” bad things to happen.

    But the question in the present case was about bad things happening to those who are innocent or who clearly don’t choose wrong, sich as the victims of this disaster. Sometimes the bad things that happen to the good and the innocent (such as is true in the present case) are a result of evil choices by others that cause suffering to the innocent.

    An excellent parallel is in the Boon of Mormon and the Book of Alma. While two great men, Alma and Amulek, were preaching to the ancient people of Ammonihah, they were thrown into prison. They were forced to watch as the believers, including women and children, who were thrown into a fire and burned along with their sacred records. Distressed, Amulek asked Alma if they could call upon God’s power to stop it and protect the innocent.

    But the Spirit told Alma that “the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts [of the murderers], that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them [i.e., the wicked] in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent [i.e., the victims] shall stand as a witness against them [i.e., the wicked]” (Alma 14:11). In other words, those who are innocent [i.e., the victims] will be received by the Lord in glory, and those who have injured them [i.e., the wicked] will be judged by the Lord.

    In considering this, a friend of mine is both a firefighter and a Mormon and wrote this:

    “I am a firefighter and emergency medical technician. I see bad things happen every day, and there are some days when I ask myself the same question. Then I remember that Heavenly Father has a plan for his children, and although bad things are happening now, they will be better tomorrow. Remember the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58:2–3 [D&C 58:2–3]: ‘He that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven".

    “‘Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.’

    “It’s knowledge of this and the promise that if we endure to the end we will have eternal life that allows me to do my job and help others realize they have the same promise.”

    It is my belief that the Lord is aware of us and loves us. Nonetheless, he has granted to men agency and the freedom to choose between good and evil. God will not intervene with man's agency.

    That said, I do not agree that this tragedy was an act of God, rather it was the act of a madman who, as a child of God himself, exercised his free will and freedom of choice to commit these heinous acts. From God's perspective, God has "allowed" this to happen so that his judgements agaist the wicked may be just and has taken the innocent in this case into his arms, into his glory, and into his peace and rest.

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

      How can you say a Mormon Christian, if you never mention Jesus? Mormons do not believe in Jesus as the Son of God. So how can you claim to follow Christ? Just asking.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Lengrayd75


      July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • JoshT

      @Jerry If I may clarify a common and curious misconception. Mormons, a common nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do indeed believe in Jesus Christ as the savior and redeemer of this world. Though he is the god, ruler and king of this world, he is still and will always be subordinate to God The Father, whom we refer to as Heavenly Father. While Jesus rules over this world, God rules over all. Even the text of scripture unique to our faith, The Book of Mormon uses a tagline "Another testament of Jesus Christ". Jesus is at the center of all our teachings and beliefs. Our first article of faith states: We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. Our 4th article of faith starts off: We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ...

      July 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Here a Little, There a Little


      Jerry, with all due respect, I think you are a little misinformed on this subject. The official name of my religion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint and we are, indeed, Christians in every sense of the word. (Of course, some will disagree with this statement since we do not accept the extrabiblical creeds developed by men several hundred years after the death, ressurection and ascention of Christ, but the most we could be accused of would be that we are non-othodox Christians. Really, I think the living Christ (not the Pagan Emperour Constantine) is the ultimate authority over who is and who is not a Christian.)

      Mormons believe fully in the Bible and that Jesus of Nazareth (i.e., Jesus of the New Testament and Jehovah of the Old Testament) was both the Son of God and, in turn, God the Son. Mormons believe He was divine and atoned for the sins of all mankind. We believe He is the only way, the truth, and the light and that no man commeth unto the father but by and through him. We believe that all men must rely fully on the grace, merits and mercy of He who is mighty to save.

      That said, I think you should probably learn more about us Mormon Christians and our beliefs, since the living and ressurected Christ is the sole foundation, cornerstone and center of our worship.


      July 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Lengrayd75

      There are a lot of things that are nonsense ir Mormonism... Many of which are copied from Christianity. As bad as Mormonism is of a cult of Christianity, Chrisanity is worse of a cult of Judaism. Even God warned people who to not follow others who preached to goagainst God's commandments (which both Christianity and Mormonism do) Notice how firm God is on this, no ifs ands or buts...

      Deuteronomy 13

      English Standard Version (ESV)

      13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  10. joshua

    Sciense is the work of satan. he want us to depend on it more than to depend on God. Once the Holy Ghost comes again to the public eyes they will see that we dont need science that God can cure all sicknesses. god particle, cure for aids, cure for eye sights dont u people see that it has taken more than 2000 year for satan to try to find ways to mimic God. Jesus only use his Faith in the Creator and the Holy Ghost came to Him and started and is still healing. not the same as science. time is over. God is coming. May His Kingdom be Stablished. Praise the Lord our true Father.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • L Rivera

      God is the author of Science. The Bible exhorts to study.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Sciense is the work of satan."
      What the fuck are you doing!

      If Science is the work of satan, then the technology developed from it must also be. That computer that you used to type your drivel must also be the dark lord's work.

      Better step away. While you are at it, also get rid of your car, poly blend clothes, your air-conditioned house, anything electric or electronic.


      July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • JoshT

      In my opinion, what he was going for was something like "Replacing God with science is the work of Satan." Of course Satan would have us focus on something, anything other than scriptures, prayer and the things of God, even if it is something often worthwhile, like the various sciences. Because if our focus and are energies are elsewhere most or all the time, we're not focusing on God and that is all Satan needs to slowly work his influence on us.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  11. Kevin

    He was where he always was, INVISIBLE. NO WHERE TO BE FOUND. He doesn't exist...

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  12. Dog spelt backwards is god?

    God wasn't there because he was watching Dark Knight Rises with his girlfriend.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  13. Chuck

    Why all the debate? Since none of us have a clue why not let God speak for himself. I'd love to hear from the burning bush!

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

      Well said Chuck. It's funny that people try to respond as though they've got the answer all figured out like they got "God" on a everyday conversation. Let's just pull the answer out of our behinds and give what we think "God" does. I'd like to believe there's a God out there handing out paradise but I'm not going to hold my breath.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Nijer

      and if the bush spoke then what?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  14. Jess

    This is nonsense. Where was God in Aurora?? Maybe you're "god" was in Syria, or Kuwait, or any other place where mass slaughter is a daily practice. Why are we so self-centered that we would assume a God of ALL people would try to prevent the deaths of 12 when the deaths of hundreds occur every day?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Lost messiah

      Well put good sir.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  15. 1812overature

    God was there. God doesn't abandone us, but we abandon him with our egos and foolishness. This was a man made tragedy...not God's at all.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  16. J

    I'm fairly confident that almost everybody believes in evil. We just all have different conceptions of what evil is.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  17. JoshT

    Man (using generically to apply to all humans) has agency, or the ability to make choices, whether right or wrong. God doesn't permit -or- prohibit the wrong or evil actions of humans. This life is a test and earth is the testing ground. We are meant to prove our worth for a place in Heaven by making good choices. God didn't "allow" the shooting to occur, he allowed everyone to make their own choices. Those at the theater chose to be there. No, I don't believe they deserved what happened to them, but they chose to be there nonetheless. James Holmes chose to be there also and to take the actions he did, violating the right to agency of those he killed. He will be judged on earth according to the laws of this country. When he dies, he will also be judged according to God's laws, all things being considered. Stop blaming God for letting bad stuff happen. Stop blaming God for natural disasters. People do bad (and good, don't forget) things. Natural phenomena and weather patterns cause natural disasters. The state of this country and of the world at large is the result of the choices each individual makes and the ripple affect it has on all those around them. So far as I can tell, the only person responsible for this, on Heaven or Earth, is James Holmes.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Here a Little, There a Little

      Hello, brother. I could not agree with you more. I have long pondered this question and it seems we are of the same mind. I do believe that a full understanding of "agency" and "freedom of choice" is what many people fail to grasp.


      July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Lengrayd75

      How about this. Our food goes in one end of the tube and out then other end as poop. Much like an earthworm. Both humans and earthworms reproduce and die. However, an earthworm does not go around knocking on other earthworms doors trying to convince them that his idea of the alternate plains of existance and diety is far superior to all other dieties. An earthworm also does not have to strap explosives on his chest and blow up buses full of people because he thinks his God will grant him unthinkable treasures in earthworm heaven.

      I guess what I am trying to say is that what we think or feel or believe has nothing to do with whether we live or die. Becaue unlike an earth worm, we have developed logic and reason. When you stop making decisions based on those two principles, you end up with Mormons, Suicide Bombers, Jehovah Witness, Christians, Branch Dividians, Scientologists.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • JoshT

      You're painting some pretty broad strokes lumping in people who are simply religious people of faith and terrorists. I won't speak for other religions, but my church (as a whole) does not try to force our beliefs on others. We make it available to anyone who will hear our message and let them decide for theirselves, even if the decision is that you never want to hear from us again. You have that right, just like we have the right to share our message with you. Most people of faith (regardless of the building they worship in) are good, decent, flawed people trying to make their way through the highs and lows of life as best they can while trying to leave this world a little better off than when they entered it.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Lengrayd75

      LEave it a little better than you found it? Hardly.

      The point I was trying to make is that you have to abandon reason and logic to embrace the ideas that religions preach, you will have lost all logic and reason when you decide to blow yourself up and kill everyone around you.

      The only thing that makes you moral and human are logic and reason. It is not logical or reasonable to think that the creator of every atom of the universe can only muster forgiveness of his creations by witnessing the murder of his alter ego self as a human.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  18. Scott

    I think God has to remain out of reach of scientific proof to allow free will. If you obey the law becuse a cop follows you everywhere, are you really demonstrating your morality? No, I think God hangs back to give us the choice to act as we choose. He never promises us a world without trouble, although there'd be a lot less if we did as He says. But there will always be tragedies. On the other hand, sometimes luck brings positive events. Anyway, I'm guessing he'd prefer we respond to this event by helping the victims than holding extended philosophical discussions.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  19. Blame Bush

    There is NO god, never was. It's all a scheme to control people, that's it.

    BTW, where the hell was god at Auschwitz?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • CKW1221

      I don't feel that the belief in God controls everyone; however, some denominations are doing just that. I do believe that God was present in Aurora and at Auschwitz, but then again so was Satan. Mankind has free will and they can either act out of love for God, or out of hate for Satan. If God could control the world and make changes as he sees fit, then there wouldn't be any non-believers now would there?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Blame Bush

      CKW1221, spare us the massive spin surrounding religion, you guys have been making this stuff up for centuries to fool people.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • CKW1221

      First of all, I have not made anything up. I have never claimed to have made anything up, or to have all the answers. It's not a spin, it's a belief. The part that will really shock you about true Christians, is that we aren't even judging you for what you're saying. That's not up to us, but only God.

      You are more than welcome to believe anything you wish; however, my wish for you is that you open up to the idea that something larger than you made it possible for you to be here, and you might possibly have to meet them face to face after death. Should God turn out to be real for you after all, you'll definitely be regretting denying Him all of your life.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  20. Tualla

    John, UNTIL, you get right with God and live Free of doubt, you will always ponder how Christians can have both.....SAD, VERY SAD !!!!!

    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 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.