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. Doug

    God is always given the credit when anything good happens, but never the blame when horrible things like this happen.

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

      he was watching over all of our servicemen fighting wars so we can live safe lives!!!! at home.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm |


    July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  3. Rich Edwards

    First and foremost, it is never God's will to force anyone to do anything. To do that, he takes away our will, ergo we stop being human. The only test there is at this time is how we respond to massacre. Do we give in to hate and bigotry or others? Or do we as humans do our best to spread love. This act was created from hate, to respond with hate it will only and only create more hate. As is said for every person that is killed someone mourns for them. Does the person mourning respond with more violence, ergo making someone else mourn for someone they care for? Or should they mourn and try to make everyone around them better so that the violence doesn't happen again. For those that say they are Christians, Muslims, Buddhist,... To respond with more killing and more violence you mar the teachings that you so hold dear. This shooting has absolutely nothing to do with what was almost never on our dollar bill till the 1950's or what was in the front of the courthouse. It is *your* faith, and how *you* respond to hate, is what God cares about.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  4. Corbin

    The generally accepted concept of God, particularly in J/I/C Monotheism, is that God:
    1. Makes the rules
    2. Is the only being with the power of absolute creation
    3. Is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent
    4. Granted free will to mankind as a creation
    I'd say this qualifies God to stay out of things like this. Some would say God has a responsibility to prevent it, but that's a bit like hubris to say, I think. God gave free will, and if someone wants to use it to shoot up a theatre, I'd think it's likely that he'd influence those with free will that might prevent it but, free will is still free will. Tragedies happen; those who survive them or survive their victims become stronger, lessons are learned, humanity is empowered. God is unlikely to contradict his own omniscience; this is where we get into the whole "mysterious ways" bit.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      as long as he is concentrating on Tebow.

      What a crock!

      July 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  5. ReasonableXX

    Where was god? The same place as Superman, Spiderman, and Batman...in peoples' imaginations.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  6. Paul

    Where was God? He was saving hundreds of other lives at a theatre in Aurora Colorado.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Dan

    While I haven't read all the comments, there is one simple truth...God doesn't allow the suffering and evil in this world - WE DO!

    We are the cause, not God, not the Left, not the Right, not this religion or that religion...We allow it, it's all on us.

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

      Please count me out on your beliefs. I don't support mass murder or wars.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  8. Adron

    Luke 13:4 holds up this tragedy, past tragedies, and future tragedies.

    Something like this will try the faith of those who believe, but in the end they will accepts God’s sovereignty. As for those who do not really believe, or are ignorant of the word of God, they will keep asking this same question over and over again – when its already been answered two thousand years ago.

    Death can and will come for the just and unjust – your concern should be that your soul is ready for the reaping – leave the rest up to God.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  9. wackywabbit

    MIracle is a relative word. If you ask the victims families if a miracle happened there they obviously would say no. If you asked someone who was there and didn't get shot and killed they might say that a miracle happened to them.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  10. Stephen

    It is strange to read that this happens because of a lack of god in our public schools when the idea of god leads to more killing that almost any other idea. Do you not think that if we let god back into those areas they would not fill up with hate and injustice. It is had to blame anyone for what happened that day other that the man that did it. For some reason he lost his compassion for others and found a way to justify a terrible act. This was not the will of God or the will of the Devil it was the will of one person. It would be great if we started to face the things we do as the actions of mankind and not a mythical being. Look around you at the world we live and ask if something is really watching out for us? Look how far we have come and how far we strive to go. God is holding us up but religion is holding us back. Would be nice if men stopped pretending to know Gods will by leaning on books written by man.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Josie

    This is ridiculous. People who say that it was "God's will" or that God is somehow punishing us have no compassion. Is it God's will that 25 million died under Stalin's rule? Or does God's will only apply to the USA? What about poverty and disease in countries in Africa or on the India subcontinent? Does belief in God mean nothing bad happens to you? What about cancer and disease in God-fearing Christians? What about the Christians who died in Aurora? It is so backward to think that God's will includes hurting/killing people. God exists, no doubt, but he gives us free will. What we do with it depends on our relationship with God, or the "good" in the world. He has no interaction with any of us on a daily basis. If so, all good Christians would be millionaires and living the good life, don't you think? If he intervened in our lives, wouldn't all Christians have incredible "luck"? Why is this so hard to understand? God surely exists and perhaps the good comes from him, but the bad doesn't. We create the bad ourselves. Some people believe THIS is hell and heaven is a place where no bad every happens to anyone. Problem becomes, who is going to heaven? Catholics? Protestants? Both? Jews? Muslims? Good, God-fearing people exist in all societies and it's ignorant to believe that heaven will be filled with Protestants, as Evangelicals seem to believe. Furthermore, the right wingnuts saying we have "taken God from our country" is ludicrous. Remember the Romans who had Christians eaten by lions? Where was God there? What about the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church bled people of all money and food in order to make the Church richer? Where was God then? What about the Puritans who burned women at the stake? Was that God's will? Read some history, people. God is happy to let us live our lives as we see fit. He only hopes we let him in.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  12. Nate

    Not that I belive in god, but if you blame this activity on the lack of religion in the public sphere (i.g. no prayer in the classroom, no commandments in courts ect...), you are arguing that the government should be the provider of faith. You should be very opposed to this idea!. If you want your childeren to live christian values, why expect that their public school teachers, government beurocrats and courts teach those values to them? I will never question a parents desision to raise their child according to the tenants of their faith and to import the values assosiated into their personality. But let it be your work and the work of the church or place of faith that you belong to. It is not an easy prosses, and the world is full of chalanges to that faith and system of values. But instead of making the government conform to your line of thought, insist that your progeny follow your faith. If you want government to teach your child faith for you, then you are either lazy or your faith is not that important to you.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  13. Rome

    First of all, to the person saying the founding fathers wanted religion in schools an government buildings. You're wrong. Second, to the ppl who believe in a god an say it gave us free will an does not intervene, why do you pray? Why do you go to church? If you're a good person, wouldn't he know this? He doesn't intervene when people get shot, but he blessed your dinner every night after you say grace. THAT makes sense...

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  14. John

    God was preventing more carnage.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  15. varun

    Atheists would rather believe in fiction like batman than believing in Absolute Reality - aka God

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • PG13

      Not true, Varun. We do believe in both; Good entertainment value.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  16. G

    We will not have to face the eternal consequences for the evil acts of others.

    We may suffer, in this life, because of them, but that suffering stands as a witness against those who have done the evil.

    When we men are finished making our choices in this life, God will ensure justice is eternal.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  17. linda Operle

    There is no God just evil, sick men. People don't want to believe there is no God so they try to justify Evil as God's will. They are almost as sick as the man who did this, to turn their fantasy around and around to suit whatever happens. If Holmes came in and gave everyone a 1,000 dollars then christians would say that was God's good will. The lack of rational in all this is lost on the lost.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  18. Yakobi

    I love that the previous entry in this blog is "Philly priest gets 3 to 6 years in abuse case". All religion is evil because they're all false.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  19. planethou

    The question assumes there is a god, which there is not. Therefore, it's not really a valid question.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • PaulB87

      Sad, but true we have all been told a lie so that we have "correct" morals and ethics time to look after eachother and not a being that is not there

      July 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • George Lewis

      God has checked out. People have disappointed him to no end, including our churches. Look at the Catholic church and the child molesters there. All Churches breed hate and intolerance and that is not what God intended. Very shameful

      July 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. Jeff Lucas

    has anyone read the harbinger?

    It kind of sidesteps the theological issues of free will and God's sovreignty, but it is a valid complaint against America. Our nation, as a nation, has rejected God. Don't come crying now that he has lifted his veil of protection. Our nation didn't want God in the movie theater, they wanted entertainment and secular humanism. They didn't get Jesus a ticket to the movie, he wasn't invited. And when the trouble came, did they cry out to God? Nope, They wanted batman to come and save them, not God.

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

      he was busy watching over all of our servicemen fighting so we can be safe at home !!!!

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


      You are the man and right on. Because lawlessness will abound the love of many will go cold. I am one of those who feel Christ's return is right upon us. Most all the world laughs about the end of the world but Christ promised to be with us even to the end of the age and then for us it is a new beginning but since they don't believe he came at all how can they believe he will return?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      So lets see.... all christians through jesus go to heaven. All muslims and those of every other "faith" will burn forever with me in hell. Its is no wonder that the majority of humans on this planet are still neanderthals that worship the invisible all knowing and underachieving heavenly idiot. This is why many very intelligent people refuse to bring children into this world,
      and this assures the future of humans is certainly in doubt. Zealots with nuclear weapons will be the demise of human existance. Congratulations idiots.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:20 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.