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. fsjunkie

    I grew up going to pentecostal worship a minimum of 4 times per week for 15 out of the first 17 years of my life...a lot less in the 22 years since, but off and on. During those 22 years, i've earned up to my Masters Degree, and have had the chance to explore and eat a lot of knowledge apples in this "Garden of Eden". My comfortable place right now is to not ask these kinds of questions. I'm kind of in a "wait and see" mode. In my lessons learned from the church, that means that i'm gonna burn in Hell. That doesn't seem right at all...I also learned that my ending was written before my beginning. Again, i'm happiest just living a moral life and loving my kids.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  2. JDA379

    I will just reiterate what Kyle said, as it says it all here: "God doesn't exist, so he wasn't anywhere. Get over it. A man was evil, and he was evil because he was crazy." My thoughts go to the families of the injured and deceased. Don't turn to religion for answers here, turn to the ones you love and be grateful of the time you have remaining with them. Best of luck.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  3. creek

    look, bad things happen. good things happen, too. the world requires balance. such as the balance between people who believe in a higher power and those who don't. for those who believe, god was there. look how many survived and were saved by the goodness of others. for those who don't believe, it was just another tragic event, not dissimilar from any other man-made carnage for the past 2500 years. for those who believe and say we've brought tragedy upon ourselves because we are pushing god away as a society...that's pure drivel. look back in time to when society was at its holiest and look at the tragedies that unfolded then. there have never been any "good ol' days" for the whole of society. when people talk about "back in my day we respected the church and used our manners and didn't have to lock our doors" that was for a select few. i can guarantee that your good ol' days were days of suffering for someone else.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  4. Tom Gearhart

    It say's in the Bible that the rain falls on the richest and on the unjust,which means everyone has good and bad days.If you were at that theatre that night you had a very bad evening just like the twin towers on 9/11.God gives us free will to choose in life how we act and on this ocasion the young man who did this was disturbed and chose to do evil acts.No God had nothing to do with this young man's choices which were bad choices and the whole nation greeves over the ones who lost their lives and I hope everyone who parrished went to be with GOD.The good lord givith and the good Lord taketh away.Bless be the name of the Lord .Amen

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      I bet you're a Republican.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  5. cb4bz

    He got traded to the Jets a couple months ago. Everybody knows that.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  6. GeorgeBos95

    Irrational beliefs are rationalized any way they can. There is no logic, because they make it into a moving target. I don't see any difference between "the Lord works in mysterious ways" as an "explanation" of something ... and voodoo.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. Kaylina

    It is NOT part of God's will for things like this to happen. If anyone tells you it's part of his plan or that God needed another angel in heaven, don't listen to them. If God needed another angel in heaven, he would have simply created one, like he did with the other myriads of angels already there. That notion is ignorant and cruel. The Bible gives plain clear answers as to why these things happen. I will list a few:

    1. Satan is in control on earth:

    (Revelation 12:9) So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.
    (Revelation 12:12) On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”

    (1 John 5:19) We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one.

    2. God is not the source of our problems:

    (James 1:13) When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.

    (Job 34:10) Therefore, you men of heart, listen to me. Far be it from the [true] God to act wickedly, And the Almighty to act unjustly!

    3. The Bible foretold that in the last days, the condition of man would deteriorate and badness would increase on the earth:

    (2 Timothy 3:1-5) But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, 3 having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, 4 betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.

    4. God promises to undo all the suffering in the future:

    (Psalm 37:10-11) And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. 11 But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.

    (Revelation 21:4) And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

    (John 5:28-29) Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.

    5. All these things are possible, not through man's efforts, but through God's Kingdom:

    (Daniel 2:44) “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite;

    (Matthew 6:9-10) “YOU must pray, then, this way: “‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. 10 Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.

    Why do you think Jesus told us to pray the Lord's Prayer if he didn't think it would come true? The sad fact is, these kinds of things happen all over the world every day. But God promised to redeem humanity and bring us back to the perfect conditions that existed before Adam and Eve sinned. All we have to do is wait on God and try to prove ourselves faithful. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not, "slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance."

    He wants to give everyone a fair chance to learn about him and have a relationship with him. John 17:3 says that knowledge of God and Jesus is essential to everlasting life. Do not fear if a loved one dies. Jesus promised to resurrect the dead. The only ones who should be afraid are the wicked.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Stephen

      I just want to point out you are quoting a book written by men that formed a very powerful church. That has started wars and killed more than a few people while in power. It protects it's members(even the ones that prey on children) and tries to destroy those that disagree or have a different god.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Kaylina

      Actually the Bible is a book inspired of God. Many churches do not adhere to what the Bible teaches about killing, immorality, spiritism, among other things. Most churches favor tradition over truth, which Is why I can understand why you made your comment. However, I can honestly say that there is truth out there. It might be a found in a small minority of the people who claim to be Christian, but it does exist. Cynicism aside, I strongly urge you search for answers within God's word. I have read the Bible three times. and each time I find it more enriching and beneficial to my overall well-being. Some would claim that the Bible is not harmonious, but it is. The entire Bible has one strong theme throughout- God's Kingdom. The fact that the Bible was written by 40 different men from vastly different backgrounds, over a span of 1600 years, and yet is still in agreement, should tell you that it is no ordinary work of man.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  8. ElvisOfNazareth

    All tragedies happen for one reason: to allow us an opportunity to be better, to rise up, to become heroic and compassionate and stronger. Jesus taught us that death is an illusion, but each time we face it, whether our own or in Aurora or in tsunamis that kill thousands, the people rise up and become better, and that is how we evolve. God is simply giving us another opportunity to become more noble. Let's not waste it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  9. GodDoesNotLikeYou

    God does not like human beings. Me and God talk constantly because I'm his favored son. He despises human beings and toys us. He tortures humans because he is not the sweet, loving, creator that you believe. God laughs that you think he cares if human children around the earth die in excrutiating way on a daily basis. God told me to tell you people that he hasn't even begun to use all the terrible tortures you can imagine. God says he is getting bored with torturing humans on earth and will only let it exist another 788 years. He says to tell you to get ready because there's a lot worse coming in the near future.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Ilovejesus


      July 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  10. Snake-Eyes

    Much of this scares me. lots of people out there claim to know what God is thinking, scarry stuff people.

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

    I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but have courage–I have conquered the world.

    Job, too, affirms the tragic reality that this world offers in Job 14:1:

    Man, born of woman,
    lives but a few days, and full of trouble.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  12. Mary J

    God is a loving and merciful God. He loves his people but he does not force us into loving him. We make that choice freely. He gives us free will to choose from right and wrong to sin or not to sin. Why are we blaming the one who made us and who loves us through all of our wrong doings rather than own up to our own actions and realize sin is and has been on this Earth forever. What is happening now has happened in the past in one form or another.

    God makes everything beautiful in its time or season. He makes every bad situation a good situation. Yes the killings were senseless, cruel, and to us unforgiveable but God has his hand over this situation. Evil does exist but that is not always because of God or Satan. We make our own choices to love or to hate. If God made each one of us love him and be exactly the same, we would resent God because he has forced it on us.

    I have lost loved ones in my life and never understanding why. God will make this right and will make something beautiful come out of this. It might look meek and weary but God is already at work. We have to have faith and trust that what needs to happen now will happen. We cannot change the past but move forward knowing that our lives are short and we need and should make the most of it. We should not blame God but realize that God has a purpose for both the good and bad.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  13. Garry

    Ask a question with a question. Where is SIN? Funny how the media has no problem calling out GOD but ignores SIN altogether. This world has ignored both.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  14. Max

    if everything is done by gods will, then god loves people suffering. he murders everyone for fun. how dare you question his motives. you should thank god for killing your loved ones because it was his choice. people have no free will, god is the only person that makes things happen.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  15. stacey

    I know watching this video on youtube is 28 minutes, but it provides the best answer to these types of questions that I have seen.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  16. Gecul

    He's in the same place he has always been, in your imagination!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • GRF

      You got it! Why is this even on CNN? This belongs in the National Enquirer along with all of the other articles about fairy tales.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. Commonsense

    I don't know if there is a god or not. All I do know is that if there is a god, one that is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful, and stuff like this and wars, and famine, and disease, and on and on is allowed to happen, then that's a creator that's quite frankly a sadistic b@st@rd. All the centuries of punishment and death disproves the notion of any kind and loving god to me, but I'm fully capable of seeing a deity (or deities) as being either uncaring at best or full-on evil at worst. Ultimately, this whole does or doesn't god exist argument is pointless. There can never be a winner or a loser in this contest. Only those that have died could say for certain...y'know, if they weren't already dead.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  18. Red Foreman

    Amazing! over 6000 responses! all this arguing over religion! just shows how ridiculous this belief in a "god" is.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. Lucy Wilkerson

    @ Rundvelt

    So if God gives his free will then we are free to accept God or not. I choose too... God is in every minute of my life and I thank him for it...My God is not obscured by semantic games, or dogma impossed by organized followers of any religion. I know God exists for me.. each free willed creation has to find that presence in their own faith search. Some choose not too. I think they find an easy out myself. God is a struggle more than joy...just as the right thing to do is often the hardest thing to do. I can't prove it, just as no one can prove what Milk tastes like. You can provide it's attributes but you can't definitively say it is this and not that. In the end I have no designs for what happens to my "soul" when we die. Life is hard enough and joy enough... I hope the victims of Aurora have found piece and that those that are left behind find a place of comfort.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  20. Josh

    This is a pathetic attempt to extend the news coverage of this event. We should be discussing gun control, mental health, and body armor regulation. Not this poor attempt at rationalizing a Mythological creature's whims.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • preston

      That was my first thought as soon as I saw it on the front page. Shame on cnn. I like your news coverage but shame on you this time.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:22 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.