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. William Shields

    God gives man a free will to do good or evil. We have that choice to accept Him or reject Him. Mr Holmes chose Satan the evil one. And those who died, if they were believers in Christ they are with him now and those who didn't are in darkness. But in the end Christ will Raine and put an end to all evil in this World.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Dan

    The absence of God is the presence of Satan. Look at our way of life before the ACLU started to remove God from anything public and look at it now. Satan is having a field day.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  3. G

    God gave man Agency

    Men make choices, some good, some evil

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  4. RSimms

    The Bible is pretty clear, suffering and 'bad' thing happen to good people all the time because we are all under Adam's sin still. We had our heaven on earth, no pain, no death, and we ruined it. As a christian we believe all are under Adam's sin.

    Despite the evil, wicked, sinful nature of the people of this world, God still loves us. Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. But God allows things to happen for His reasons, whether or not we understand them. Above all, however, we must remember that God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. However, instead of doubting God's goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him. ”Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Jesus died to free us from sin debt so we can be holy when going into heaven...not so we can live a pain and suffering free life here on Earth. God continues to allow us to live and breathe when none of us deserve it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Rogue351

      Washed is thy brain. Take a look at the middle east and see just how far a statment like "it is gods will" takes a people.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Bill

      None of us deserve to live and breath? Original sin? Sorry, but I'm not indebted to anyone's invisible man in the sky. I didn't ask to be born and I'm not in debt for a purchase I never made. If there is a god who wants MY respect then HE is the one who needs to earn it! People are living and dying on this planet because they don't agree on which interpretation of which set of rules from which invisible man are the right ones! No amount of wishing, meditating, or evangalism is going to get us to agree to live peacefully together as a whole. The only common language humans can work with is falsifiable arguments based on reproducible observations. There are a lot of questions we don't have answers to but filling in the gaps with faith / heresay doesn't make the filler any more true and certainly doesn't help build the foundation of a common understanding. If there is a god, and he wants our attention then he's going to need to step up and let himself be seen and heard in a way that doesn't require metaphors, individual interpretation, or inprecise flowerly language.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  5. wisdom4u2

    EVIL is, whether you believe in it...or not.
    31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

    “For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
    37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    Romans 8

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  6. Josh

    I am surprised at the total number of people who read merely "cross" and automatically prefix that with "Christian". They then sharply react and comment upon "Christian Cross".

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  7. Child of God

    I personally believe God allows nature to take its course. He has the power to stop anything, but think about this, he watched his own son Jesus get crusified on a cross and suffer a brutal death. He didn't intervene then because Jesus didn't ask him too. When someone dies it's such a tragedy to us humans, but in God's eyes we are coming back home to be with our Father in heaven for a perfect eternal life.

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

      Ummm my father is in florida ...not heaven .

      July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  8. Gerald

    To think religion or God had anything to do with this is both selfish and naive. This was a tragedy for sure, but more terrible things happen everyday around the world. I think if everyone who thinks "God" had something to do with this truly knew the sheer number of terrible things that happened everyday in the world, they would change their tune. Do you really think it was someone else's fault or doing other than the man that walked in there with the intent to kill? You may as well blame someone else(God) when you burn your dinner or hit your head working on your car.

    The sooner we as a human race take responsibility for our own actions instead of blaming it on "God's will" or "The Devil", the sooner we can grow as a person. It's possible to have good morals and an understanding of "right and wrong" without religion. Just be a good person.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. Ryan

    To those who say their is not God. If you are right then I am absolutely no worse off when I die than you. On the other side of the coin if their is a God you are in very big trouble.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  10. Chris

    Lack of religion does not mean lack of morals or distinction between right and wrong. So sick of reading this asinine comparison.

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

      no but it doesn't hurt...especially if the God you believe in is one of love and forgiveness....not a big fan of the old testament...

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

      Chris, then what do you use to determine what is right and what is wrong? Is it based on your beliefs? If so, what you believe to be wrong, to another person may not be wrong at all. How do you answer that question? The Nazis thought the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews were the right thing to do. Crazy logic, huh!

      July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  11. gggg

    Did you make it a point to put the craziest answers from the twitterverse into this article? Or were these the sane ones? Last I checked, liberals believed in God too. Or does he/she (Jesse) believe that only the GOP believes in God? If that's the case you might want to check countries without the GOP and see if God is there or not. God was never in the Pledge until the 1950's, and it's still there. He's still on our money, too. Maybe Lenny should actually read some of the money in his pocket. Just how long has Satan been in charge? I'd like to know. If he's in charge, maybe that's why my golf game sucks; because God can't get in an help me the way he does all those overpaid athletes. Does this sound crazy? It does to me too. But no crazier than what I've read above. Holy cow. Take care of your own life. Take care of your family.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  12. Thetruth

    God and heaven were "created" to deal with humans being unable to accept their mortality. To get people to risk their lives in war being an example. It also helps people avoid focusing thoughts on the insignificance of their existence (a worker ant in an ant farm for most of us). If the concept helps people sleep better at night, good for them. In reality, god or no god (I believe no), no extraordinary power is going to present itself to help anyone on anything.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  13. Rob

    God does not owe us any apologies. He gave us all that we have, down to our very existence. We all have the power to chose to do the right thing, and James Holmes chose to satisfy his deviances at the cost of other people's lives. Even if God did not exist, we all get that dark feeling when we are doing the wrong thing. The only difference is that those who do not believe that their actions will have consequences will override their conscience in order to go through with their dirty deeds.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  14. mike hunt

    free agency.thats why he allows it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  15. 3

    It's funny how the religious people will say that everything is God's will till something bad happens and then oh! That wasn't his doing. Its only God's will when they want it to be. Perhaps they didn't give enough money to the church or they didn't pray enough so this happened to them. Its either one way or the other but you can't have it both ways.

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

    The Bible tells us there is a huge difference between God's WILL and God's PURPOSE. His purpose is to love us, and to reveal to the universe (even through bad things that happen, that are not His will) that love is the best way to live. His will is that we love Him and cooperate with His purpose.

    God's purpose is always fulfilled, but His will is not. (In Exodus 9:13-16, Pharaoh is an excellent example of fulfilling God's purpose of revealing Himself to the nations, even though Pharaoh defies His will.) His will would be that all would be saved, that nothing bad ever happens, and that people love as He loves. And as is evident throughout the Bible, God doesn't force His will on people. He lets them choose whether or not to follow His law of love. Then He allows people to see the consequences of choices, and to choose which law they want to rule their lives–the law of love or the law of selfishness.

    People who can't have children don't satisfy their longing by buying robots that repeat, "I love you, Mommy and Daddy." If God is a God of love, as the Bible says, then He does not want robots, either. He wants voluntary relationship. If that is so, then He must allow people to choose whether or not to love Him, or to devote their lives to selfishness.

    As terrible as it is, pain is one of the most persuasive factors involved in motivating change. When life in a world devoted to selfishness doesn't work out so well, we begin to feel the need for a better world, where people will live again by the law of love. This is why God allows pain and things that are against His will–to give us the information we need in order to make a decision about which law to follow.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • jeebus

      "The Bible tells us". I prefer what 'The Matrix' tells me. And other fantastic works of fiction.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Alex

      Wow finally someone that understands God, in the name of Jesus! May God bless you. 🙂

      July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  17. varun

    If you really want to understand then study Bhagavad Gita – the vedic/indian classic that was spoken on a battlefield for a reason. And Krishna Himself was present on that battlefield where thousands died. Please study and benefit! Here is a link –


    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • setnommarih

      Always makes more sense than Christianity, Moslem and Judaism to me

      July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  18. Ronald Raygun

    lol exactly! where is god? he sure loves humans so much doesnt it?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  19. nitadf

    How much longef are people going to stand by and watch these churches brainwash kids and scare them into believing there is an invisible man living in the sky? Religion is nothing more than a money maker. No taxes and a really good story teller that can also convince people they need to send them money. Oh, that's right...its a "Love Offering". I'm sure your god told you to buy yourself that 2 million dollar home and that new Mercedes with the money that you stole from all those people.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  20. Ryan

    If there is a God. He sure does hate Humans.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Tim

      "God did not make death and does not delight when life is destroyed. All creatures of the world are wholesome. Through the devil’s envy, death entered the world."–Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24. Death came through sin, not through God, and once sin entered the world, death became, in a way, God's deliverance from evil. A glance through the poetry of John Donne can easily show that death is an escape from the turmoil of this world, the beginning of new life, new hope, and new peace. It is not some great foe to be feared, but just the next step. In the midst of disasters like this shooting, or drowning in personal despair, sometimes we are overcome with a jealous hatred for a God who could allow such evil. But there can be no good without evil, just as there can be no light without dark, and He showed us how to overcome even the greatest evils by self-sacrificing love. C.S. Lewis dwells on this topic in his pamphlet A Grief Observed, and in it he tells how he would have given anything to share the pain of his wife's last illness, but in the end, he admits, that he couldn't, and if he could, he probably wouldn't have had the courage to. Yet, "It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again…He replies to our babble, “You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared (44).”" This is not a time to hate a God we don't understand, but rather this is a time to grow closer to one another, hope we may one day have the courage to dare as He dared, and to have faith in a God of love, not of death. He promises everlasting life, and here one finds hope–one finds faith.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:23 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.