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. AK- AK


    July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  2. oldgaffer

    God is where it has always been, in the minds of people who engage in the wishful thinking that there is a higher power running things for them and holding a place in a "better place" for them when they die, which is to say, only in their heads – where gods have always been.

    It's funny/sad/clever that CNN plays to the belief system of the religious right, typically the preserve of evangelical Christians, Republicans and gun owners, while appealing to the liberal gun-banning adherents on the non-religious left.

    Whatever it is, it's not good journalism, but that's not why one reads/watches CNN.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  3. Travis

    God has given us our free will to act and choose how we please. If it wasn't this way, we could never learn anything here on earth. A parent who controls a child's every action will never teach their child anything. He lets us make our own decisions, and sometimes we are also affected by other peoples' decisions. God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. However, God will always help us if we ask Him. But sometimes, that help may not come in the form that we are expecting. We must realize that we do not see all that God sees, and He knows how to help us better than we know how to help ourselves.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  4. HL

    Both US and Canada have turned into non-Christian countries-mainly because nobody is allowed in school, legislatures, or even in decorations in some places during Christmas – if you take God out of your lives, do not ask where he is? You told him to leave – and he left. Plain and simple.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Amy Tannehill

    There may have been a god/creator, but thinking even for a second that he still has influence is nothing more than proof that people are incapable of independent thought, and they're just looking for someone/something to blame things on so that they don't have to think further to solve problem in society such as these. Oh, yeah, this is Amerika, and we don't care about how the society as a whole.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  6. vince

    Stop pointing fingers, except at one person. The shooter! God did play a role. There could have been more deaths, but there was not. This man had an evil rage. Tormented by something mentally, and executed it on the helpless. We now need to rise above all the hatred floating around, and start coming together as a whole. Re-educate our young. Let's go back to the old school method. When people care about one another. Neighbor's watched out for each other. Then, maybe we can prevent another tragic event from unfolding. Doesn't anyone hear the cries of our youth anymore?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  7. Vince

    Where was God? It's one of two things, most likely. There is no God, or he just leaves us to our own devices and refuses to intervene. If he does exist, them I look at him as the all time biggest dead beat Dad.

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

      I don't think God cares what you think of him

      July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  8. SCY385

    I don't think it is as simple as 'where was G** in Aurora?' Where was G** on 9/11 for that matter? The truth is there is good and bad in this World. Man is capable of doing great and wonderful things. He is also capable of doing horrible and terrible things to his fellow man. You cannot have good without evil. It is the way of the World. For every good deed there is an evil one and the good does not always win the battles. James Holmes did an evil act in that theater. BUT there were many people in that theater who were trying to save others in the theater from Holmes evil intentions. How do you explain that? You really can't. The balance in life will be kept. There is just no way you will have all good or all evil. AND G** has given every single person their own free will. I think he gives us the rule book to play by. But he doesn't MAKE us play that way. We chose the way we live our lives and some of us decide to play by the rule book. Others do not and as a result they suffer the consequences of their choices. If one were to believe that there was a 'G**'s Plan' maybe there were signs given to certain people that Holmes was about to do something really terrible. But those people ignored those signs and this terrible tragedy unfolded. How do you explain that? You don't.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  9. Roger

    Please don't prosecute or persecute God – He is legally insane and criminally incompetent to stand trial.

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

      I agree with your first line, as for your second I believe a murderer is what he is and too many criminals seem to be getting away with this insanity defense. Put him on trial, put him away and if he wants forgiveness let him first ask God.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  10. Benisrael

    Which god?

    America is a melting pot of peoples and cultures – ergo gods? So when something goes awry, which god do people pray to?

    Liberty (Columbia) is a goddess. Santa is a god. So is Allah, Buddha, Jesus and a host of others. So the question is, do you mean the god of the bible?

    Read the bible and find out why these things are happening.....

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

    Our FATHER, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...


    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  12. mybakingempire

    I don't believe there's any justification for what happened, but without suffering, there wouldn't be compassion.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  13. Ryan

    So the majority here are saying the only thing keeping them from being a mass murderer is their belief in god? That perpetrator could have been more religious than half of the people here commenting. It is even possible, and hardly ridiculous, that he could have done this all in the name of his religion. More often than not this IS the culprit of many acts of violence across the world.

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

      Anders Breivik is a religious man. Religion doesn't stop people from being lunatics.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Jim Jones

      What does God need with a starship?

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

      I'm reading the acts of violence are because of satan.. Are you stating your god is not omnipotent? Or at least not as powerful as satan?

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

    The existence of evil thoroughly defeats any notion of an omnipotent, ominscient, omnibenevolent god.

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

      unless evil is anything going against God and His glory...in which case, Evil directly proves the existence of God.

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

      Surveying the comments I don't see many responses actually trying to answer the question. The answer is God is where He always is, he is omnipresent and everlasting. The more important reality that should be evident is that God was not at the center of this man's life who led to the destruction that he dealt out. The fall of man is continuing to live in Sin and his own desires instead of seeking righteousness and God's will. If we as a society are not seeking the Will of God in our lives the more and more occurence of these events will continue to occur. Jesus told us the two greatest commandments were to Love God, and to Love your neighbor as yourself. I assure you this man did not have people around him who truly loved him, which is in effect our responsiblility as a society, but we are fallen, because too many of us are not seeking to Love God, and follow His Holy Word....but He is here, and there is hope for all those who are lost, because He does Love us....but we need to Love Him also!!!

      July 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • indypolitic

      if there is evil then God must exist. Do you think man is what keeps the world from spinning out of control with wreckless human beings?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  15. irunner

    "if you believe in it". The article answered the question in the first line.

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

      Man are you confused. With no evidence and so many contradictions, you still believe. Go back and read what you said. It makes no sense. God forgives us for our sins? Hey. according to your thinking, he created us. He had better forgive us! If God is perfect, why did he not know that man would not be perfect when he created man? And then banished his own creation from Eden when his creation wasn't perfect, punishing us for his own mistakes. Wake up.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  17. Ruth McMonagle

    My God, Jesus, said that hating in the heart, and vile angry speech directed to another, is a form of murder. His standards are vastly higher than ours. We simply fall short of the standard all the time. While we decry the excessive violence in the media, on TV, in gaming, in movies, and struggle with the causality of the relationship between mental illness and violence, all of us are guilty in the long run. Personally we need to commit to honourable behaviour, to cleaning up our reading and thought life. As free societies we need to chose to move beyond the dollar value of disgusting shock and perversion to redeeming decency and caring. I am a Canadian. But I lived in the US as a child. I have never met such friendly, caring people. There is so much I love about the US. But the underbelly of greed and violence frightens all people everywhere. YOU have a moral responsibility to model what is good, to behave in line with your values. Do it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  18. Ben

    God does not exist. Responsibility for our actions and their outcomes is singularly dependent upon us as individuals and as a community. The knowledge that there is no God and no magical heavenly afterlife makes this life that much more precious and worth the effort to protect and perfect for all of us and our future generations. This is a time for reflection on the tragic loss of life and what that means for a whole community terrorized by an evil man, as well as a time to reflect on how we as a society can build better relations with each other and forget about the politics that divide us. My thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  19. Sam

    God was in Aurora along with all other products of our minds: the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus....etc...etc..etc. That's what makes religion such a perfect product, if nobody had died it would have been a miracle from God but now that people have died "its God's will" or "God works in mysterious ways". The question is really moot, people will believe what they want to believe.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  20. Jesus Christ

    I am the way the truth and the light, no man comes to the father but through me.

    last time I checked the government has done everything to remove God from the lives of everyday people in a false teaching that there is a separation of church and state. It will not matter if you don't believe in God, as everyone will come before him in the end. The people that died in the theater know full well that there is life after death. (They are either with the father or forever separated from him).

    The question of "Where Was God" is a moot point; he is, was and always will be there for you. The answer is "Where are you!" will you be ready to see God and be forgiven by faith through Jesus or will you find out that there is no other way but through Jesus to have a relationship with God.

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

      It should be removed from government – evangelicals keep trying to push legislation that only favors them, based on the bible. No one's removing religion from anyone's daily life, or trying to keep you from worship. We're trying to survive your self-serving, discriminatory lunacy.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Which God??

      Wow. Just wow. You really are that stupid. Jesus H Fooking Christ. Take a real history class.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:26 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.