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. Beth Early Brandt

    God gave human beings the gift of free will. But free will works both for good and for evil, and God left its use up to us. In Aurora, a man who has yet to be understood or charged, chose to exercise his free will through a heinous and horrible act. But human beings are incredibly complex. We may never know why he did what he did. What I do know is that God is always with me. I have experienced him throughout my 58-year-old life, and I believe that he has made me a better person. No scientific proof, no without-a-doubt faith, no possible bridge to jump from faith to knowing—just a heart full of love for those who exercise their free will for good AND those who exercise their free will for evil. That's what Jesus Christ asks of us Christians. Love the victims as well as the perpetrator. Very, very hard to get; harder to actually do.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  2. matt in nw

    f the Christians , Muslims and Jews are right.... and god bought this universe into being, created us ect.... then God cant be considered good. Every nasty thing that happens is according to god's plan . Every torture, every sadistic act, every manner of suffer came from his mind.... droughts. famines (presonal favorite of his) ...Satan ... all his design..... If god is real and good – why create us, and put us though this? ... If they re right..then God is has a SERIOUS fetish...

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • jg

      Sad for all you that don't believe in the O'Mighty God that created the heavens and the earth, all I can say is that you all are blinded by the devil, which actually God planned for the devil to blind people that don't believe in Him !!! end of story

      July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • no nothing

      Hey jg take your smug know it all self and stick it, end of story.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • matt in nw

      JG .. you dont really want to think about the gaping holes in Religions do you? most created thousands of years ago by people who were ingorant as snott..... thats why its all unraveling now...

      July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • jg

      matt in nw, religion is more like "a tradition" . God calls religious people hypocrites!! Jesus would always say to the pharisees which they were religious people, Hypocrites!!!!

      July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • matt in nw

      JG so you dont buy into oranized religion... ok.... the pharisees... from the Bible yes? all bibles the western world originate from the Catholics.. who 'translated' the Bible from greek to Latin ..and made it illegal to translate it out of latin..easier to make it fir current church needs that way .and thus it remained till Martin Luthor.... My point being...your bible was written by men, altered by men to fit their needs.... those stories.... absolute rubbish.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • matt in nw

      martin luther sorry

      July 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Loren

      Horrible acts are not Gods plan .............. his plan is for you to have free will ........... giving you free will means just that ........ letting you decide........... once you make your decision God use it to continue his plan. There will be much good that will come from this horrible act .

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  3. Kelly, Kansas City

    I'd encourage all to read the book "Why?-Making Sense of God's Will" – an in-depth look at this topic with excellent points by Pastor Adam Hamilton.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • no nothing

      You almost had me until you said the book was written by a pastor. no bias there.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  4. Nick

    Ummmm...maybe because there is no God? ever think of that, lemmings?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • JoshT

      One could easily say that everyone banding together in the "God doesn't exist" wagon are lemmings also. All you're really saying is that lemmings are people who follow the crowd because it is what everyone else in the crowd, individually, is doing. By your definition, everyone is a lemming because everyone is in one crowd or another.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  5. R Soni

    This is not complicated to understand if you understand theory of 'karma'. Read some Vedic literature to understand this.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    Postets here say the U. S. is being punished by God because we're upholding the Furst Amendment separation of church and state. I guess that's easier to believe than accept that an insane man committed this crime and God, in giving us free will, also gives us the freedom to do horrible things to each other.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  7. TheMagusNYC

    There are good and bad things, natural and manmade. With all the evil in the world, some say there is no God, or none worthy of my time/worship. If there were no evil in the world, those same would say, there is no God, or none worthy of my time/worship. Job did not get the answer he was seeking, but he certainly did get an answer.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. Paradox

    Oh you poor poor people. Your Imaginary friend didnt save the lives of a few people in the states. Just like he doesn't care about the millions starving in dying in third world countries. Or all the children being massacred over in the middle east. GOD DOESN'T EXIST. HUMANS ARE A PLAGUE

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • TheMagusNYC

      There are no more grounds for denying the existence of God than for claiming it. Just arrogant to belittle either side.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Paradox

      Magus you are very wrong with that claim. The "grounds" to stand for the nonexistence of god far outstretch the claims OF existence. People just like to bend and twist their thought process trying desperately to make sense of something that is just ridiculous.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  9. Megan Allene

    This is seriously newsworthy? And why does "evil" get the "if you believe in it" clause, where "God" doesn't? Evil is a hell of a lot easier to identify than some invisible guy in the sky.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  10. Mark

    I do not attempt to rationalize "God". If such a being exists, I see no reason why it should possess human qualities such as a "Will" or even "Intelligence".

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  11. WHAM

    God is or is not. It's not a question of where God may or may not be for how could "God" move anywhere one way or another? It's a question of where humanity is. If God exists, it cannot prevent such things for that would be interference. If God doesn't exist, it's still up to us. Either way, what we do, decide and how we handle such things–that's up to us, individually and collectively. There is no exit from this responsibility.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • JoshT

      I'm on the "God exists" side of the coin, but I love this explanation. Whether God exists or not, what happens to us is largely determined by us and arguing one way or another whether God exists does not nullify that fact.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  12. johneturnerii


    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  13. Marc

    It's widely accepted that the Judeo-Muslim-Christian God is imbued with omnipresence and omnipotence. If this God is all knowing and everywhere, i.e. infinite (with no beginning or end), that means two important things which seems often forgotten or simply ignored: 1) There is no free will. If God knows all there is to know, then God already knows what choices you will make in the future. That means God already knows if you will or will not accept Jesus as your personal savior in your lifetime, which is the lynchpin for acceptance into Heaven according to most in the Christian faith. So, before Mr. Holmes was even born, God already knew what he was going to do before Holmes knew it himself. 2) There is no point to having a Heaven or Hell or an Earth for that matter if our fates are already predetermined. If God is infinite, then the brief lives we spend on Earth, making the choices we perceive to be of free will, is incomparable to infinity because you cannot compare a number to infinity. It could also be said then that we are God. In fact, everything is God if God is infinite much like the ouroboros, the circular serpent devouring its own tail because it is infinity and there is nothing else but it. There is no need to worship a God if we are God. Nor is there a need for God to demand our fealty to grant access into Heaven if God already knows what choice we will make in our finite lifetimes. Therefore, either everything is God, or more likely, God is man-made and simply a way to excuse away whatever good things or bad things we choose to do in our lifetime. Where was God in all of this? God was you and me.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • JoshT

      As a parent, there are some choices I can predict my children will make with 100% accuracy. Does that mean they didn't make the choice? Of course not.. knowing the choice will be made doesn't cause it to happen. Only when the person makes the choice does it happen, but it was still a choice, made by that person. Just because God knows all of us well enough to know what we will do in a given situation does not mean the choice was already made, it means as an all-knowing being, He knows us better than we know ourselves, and that allows Him to know what we will do. He's not making the choices for us.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Where was God? God was making a miracle happen in that only 12 people lost their lives out of the 70 or so total people the gunman shot. Nothing short of a miracle. God was showing himself through the brave men that gave their lives protecting their girlfriends and family members. If you believe in God, you believe in Satan and evil in the world as well. Evil was at work through James Holmes, but as I stated above, God was showing he was working against it as well.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • paul

      Not so sure those 12 people were thinking of this as a miracle.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • wackywabbit

      Agreed Ryan, even the news was stating it would have been much worse had his clip not jammed. God bless all the victims and their families in this challenging time. Let's really remember what this is all about and that people lost their lives.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • DanW

      Ryan, your tongue was in your cheek when you were writing this, right? God could create a miracle by jamming Holmes's automatic rifle but couldn't throw a rod in his car's engine as he was driving over to keep him from arriving? Miracles aren't what they used to be.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • EndRace&Religtion

      The insanity of this world is due to our need to believe that we are from some higher being. This need came from the evolution of culture which attached "gods" to everything natural that wasn't understood. God of rain, fire, wind, rivers etc. We are part of the natural world and evolved along with every other creature that inhabits the earth/world. Its quite simple. God wasn't there because he isn't anywhere other than in the minds of people. Its not anyone's fault because culture has dictated this ideas for thousands of years. However, culture will dictate new ideas and the truth in the thousands of years to come. When there is enough education that we are all part of one species and all related through evolution then we will have peace. We are just one big family that doesn't realize it. It really is very simple.

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

      @paul, perhaps not while it was happening, but once they shuffled off the mortal coil and entered paradise, I'm guessing the only things troubling their minds was the sadness their loved ones would feel at their death and the anger they felt toward the man who killed them.

      @DanW I think the point Ryan was trying to make is that evidence of the goodness and influence of God was more evident during the shooting than Satan's. Satan's influence was evident in the actions of one person. God's influence was evident in every person who bravely tended to a friend and saving her life, every boyfriend who shielded his girlfriend from gunfire at the cost of his own life. God's influence is further witnessed with every act of compassion, love and mutual mourning that comes out of this. Satan's influence was limited (though more vividly noticed) during the event and will be limited in events surrounding it during the aftermath, but God's influence comes through much stronger once you stop paying attention to the evil actions of one man and focus on the loving and selfless actions of several others.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  15. Mavy

    The Ten Commandments & the Golden Rule are essential necessary items required for living in a civilized society. Unfortunately the Ten Commandments and Golden Rule are constantly disregarded as items of a religious nature only and not pertinent. However this is completely the opposite. The observation and following of the Ten Commandments and Golden Rule are exactly what is needed for a Society to prosper and grow. However, since these ideals are not practiced by all, the fallout is unfortunately seen again and again. God gave us free will and unfortunately there are those that exercise that free will in a harmful and deplorable manner. We all have a choice whether or not to embrace good or evil.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • paul

      They are not necessary at all. Laws are necessary for civilization.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  16. varun


    Bhagavad Gita - the vedic/indian classic was spoken on a battlefield for a reason. And Krishna Himself was present on that battlefield where thousands died. Please study and benefit!

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  17. wackywabbit

    There sure are alot of bitter non-believers on this post. Did something bad happen to you as a child or did someone you love that you were close with die??? Get down on your knees and pray to God and ask him to come into your hearts. Can it hurt, nah won't hurt and then make it a daily practice to make your lives better by not giving into posting rude, negative comments about something you know nothing of and do something good with your lives, go visit the elderly in nursing homes..something to make yourself feel worth while. Peace+

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • no nothing

      NO it just that millions of innocent lives have been wasted by those who say that they have the authority by god to do so.

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

      Why does your "god" need people to pray to it? Vain and narcisstic much? For that matter, how come your god "needs' anything from us at all, and why did he make people like you so needy?

      Pretty pathetic and wacky god you've made for yourself there, wabbit.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

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

      What happened? I grew up.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • JoshT

      @no nothing

      Two things. Just because someone claims to have God's authority doesn't make it true. Just because someone claims God's authority does not make it God's fault.


      Why do your parents need you to follow their rules? Because they're your parents and they say so. God needs no other reason than He is God, he is the Father, King and ruler of all that is. He doesn't need a reason for us to obey him than a human parent needs for a child to go to bed when they say so.

      Children rely (rightly so) on their parents for everything. As they get older, they become more capable of doing and providing for themselves.. But even long after they've left the nest and don't directly rely on their parents for support or guidance, they still ask for it and even need it sometimes. God wants us to be responsible people, to make good choices all on our own. But we never stop being reliant on following the rules. The addage "as long as you live in my house, you follow my rules" applies to our relationship with Heavenly Father. We live on his planet, in his galaxy within his universe. We will never not be required to follow his rules, enjoy the benefits when we do and suffer the consequences when we don't.

      So unless you are denying the necessary dynamic of children to their parents in a much more limited and temporal sense, then you should also be able to accept that same dynamic on an eternal cosmic sense.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Bob

      That's a steaming load of you-know-what that you just posted Josh.

      Read my post again, and try really responding to my questions, but with substance this time. And while you are at it, present some proof that your particular god exists. You'd be the first to ever do that.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  18. ES

    Why must there be an explanation for what happened that night in Aurora? Is it not plausible that this person accused was driven by neither God nor Satan? Who is to say that it wasn't something completely different that caused this, say a Greek God or Buddha or simply Holmes' own mind?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • JoshT

      In my opinion, very simply, it was the last item in your post. James Holmes chose to do every action that led up to, and including the shooting. Neither God nor Satan made him do anything, and it's neither of their fault. James and James alone is responsible for James walking into that theater and pulling the trigger. No one pulled it for him.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  19. MaryM

    When will people realize that God does not and will not control our lives. We do. Its was a crazy man that caused this tragedy. Not God or Satan. Wake up people, it is up to us to fix things. NOT God

    July 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  20. junior

    This question always amuses me; it only surfaces following a tragic event. "Where was God? There can be no God if this happened!" everybody screams. But no-one attributes the good in life to God...are we so self-absorbed that all good is self-generated? Either God is there all the time, or He is absent all the time...whatever your beliefs, He/She/It isn't a hit or miss presence.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • ViK100

      absolutely agree.. Most Americans have foresaken God yet they want God to do everthing they want, when they want it. The creator of life gives it and takes it.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
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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.