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. cinqo

    when this cinema killer was stockpiling with amunition and a swat team body armor (this here should have raised a flag), why didn't the seller of the bofy armor alert the authorities? was it because this murderer didn't look like a muslim?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  2. pearlsgirl

    We shun God and when human nature does what it does without the influence of God, we shake our fist and blame Him. The question of "where was God" or "Why did God allow this?" is in context to your teenager going against safety rules and then asking why YOU let them get hurt. The free will God gives us is the freedom to accept his ways and lifestyle with peaceful results or continue to ignore his advice and do it our own way, often with not so good results. God is against greed, envy, lying, strife, murder, etc. We are the ones that are telling God, "We want to wallow in filth and not get dirty". It doesn't work that way.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  3. johnofgodchurch

    God is all that is and all that isn't. All religions teach this. It is the TRUTH that we are all one. God was in the light of those shining against the darkness, helping their loved ones to survive. God was in the darkness of the perpetrator's eyes. Without darkness how could light shine bright? We live in a world of opposites so that we may experience what it is to be light and dark, what it is to be kind and cruel, what it is to be brave and cowardly. This is quickly coming to an end though as this paradigm passes. We have experienced this enough and can now progress upwards to a higher vibration. If God is imposing her will upon us, it is not so much to curtail our free will as to happily progress us upward and onward to new experiences where opposites are not as important. I look forward to this time like a child looks forward to Christmas. This tragedy is hopefully one of the last few we will have to go through. There will be more in the coming months as the lower energies struggle to survive, but in the end, those of the higher energies will move on to a better world where light shines with other light and experiences a higher calling. Remember this: That man did not kill a single soul. He snuffed out their bodies, but their souls were not damaged. They live on and are seeing that their "deaths" were just transitions. I feel great sadness for those who lost loved ones and those who are struggling with injuries. But there is growth and learning in all of this. The biggest tragedy is if we fail to learn and grow from this. Prayers all around!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  4. Mr Mark

    The obvious, rational and ADULT answer: there is no god.

    Pretty simple.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • bob

      poor soul

      July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  5. BradR

    The shooting was not nor will ever be God's will. His will is for us to have life not death. We live in an extremely broken world and unfortunately because of man's sin we have to deal with suffering.....not because of God's punishment but rather consequences of our own free will decisions. If one crazy man through his own free will chooses to murder, there will be suffering. We also have an enemy (Satan) that is out to maul us. What a better attack on one's heart than to create this terrible view of God that He was not present...or caused this...or was His will... The Bible is very clear that there will be suffering...it has come and will continue so we need to best prepare ourselves for it.... Lots of crazies in the word but God is not one of them

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  6. Greg

    God was weeping as he saw his children dying.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  7. goba

    if god is real he made life and everything he doesn't control events or things that happen how does anyone even know death is really that bad if there is a afterlife life is never ending and death cant be bad

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  8. Forgotmyname

    God didn't create the massacre, because James Holmes was given free will to become a good person and he chose to become a crazy lunatic. I believe God was there, as in the case of all those who saved their friend's lives and their families lives. God was there through the kindness of Stephanie (a girl who saved her best friend's life). I know there are a lot of people how think that God should have intervened, but he actually did, through the people who are doing these miraculous life saving gestures. How are humans supposed to know that a neuroscience graduate student is actually crazy? He's kept everything in secret, so how would anyone know? Miracles??? The 911 happened because terrorists were crazy. We are given the right to become a good human being, and one man, James Holmes, decided to do otherwise. It's not God's fault....it has always been James Holmes's fault...and always will be. God was there.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  9. tuffpo

    Beth – You have it exactly correct. I tried to say as much last night. Everyone who tried to express this view were attacked by by
    some really smooth tongued atheists who seemed to think they had all the answers to debunk anyone who feels the way we do. I finally signed off. God Bless.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • sam

      LOL "Smooth tongued" = "I was outsmarted by logic."

      July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  10. robroland

    First, this is my belief; I don't seek to impose it on anyone but merely share it for consideration. I do not live in a Godless universe. My Creator is just and loving. Yet, the greatest gift my Creator granted me was free will. So powerful is this gift that He/She protects it to the point that He/She will not intervene in human activity because doing so would violate this gift. It is this same gift that compelled at least four movie-goers to give their lives for their girlfriends. We ourselves CHOOSE to act with love or with hate. It is in this choice that our Creator's love is made manifest.

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

    For someone who does not believe in God, or in sin, or in evil, there is no satisfactory answer to this question. It seems that many people do not believe in God, nor in their own sin and guilt, yet they still want to believe in a benevolent and loving caretaker who should protect them from bad things. God's plan, and His message to His creation is clear: man sinned; man is guilty and deserving of punishment, and the only way that man can be reconciled to God is by accepting and claiming the price paid for his sin by God's son, Jesus. Right now, we are still in a time when man can make that choice to humbly confess his sin and come to know God through his son, Jesus. But, while we are in this time, our world is still under the influence of man's sin. Does that mean that the individuals who died in the theatre were "deserving" of death – – no more so than any of the rest of us. But, it does mean that sinful men like this murderer still have freedom to act and to have an awful influence in our lives. This is not God's fault. It is not the fault of, nor God's judgment upon the people in that theatre. This is very simply, and very sadly, the consequence of living in sinful world, occupied and influenced by sinful people. Ultimately, God will judge and punish the sinners. And, ultimately, "All things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). But, until then, while we can enjoy the beauty and blessings that God has given us, we also must still experience the sadnesses and sufferings of living in a sinful world. As a believing Christian, I can assure you that I am not perfect, and that my life is not without challenges or sadness. But, I have hope for the future, and I have the peace and love that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I pray that others may seek Him and come to know Him even through this terrible tragedy.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  12. Sarah Conner

    Don't you remember? God was banned about the same time corporal punishment was banned.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  13. STLBroker

    For the same reason he didn't spare his own Son from the evil of this world. He never guaranteed us the absence of evil. In fact he warns us that Satan prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Thankfully he sent his Son to teach us how to love one another and overcome the evil of this world. And we said thank you by killing him.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Have a little faith

    "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1; "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" Hebrews 3:14; "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9;

    I can't imagine the loss or the trauma that has been experienced in Aurora. I only know that my God is just and he is faithful, he is brokenhearted and he can only go as far as people will let him go. Prayer changes things, so PRAY WITHOUT CEASING!!! Don't let the devil tear apart the church with the questions. Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  15. OOO

    There are two many contradictions introduced by the belief in any one religions god for that god to actually exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  16. GE

    This is some pathetic journalism.

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

    I doubt any meaningless internet conversation over God or not God will make a hill of beans difference to the pain the families with lost ones are feeling.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  18. Gregg

    God allows suffering and even unspeakable events like the shooting in Aurora to draw us to Himself. Human beings have a natural tendency to rely on themselves when things are going well. We like to take credit and tell ourselves we are in control, which is a lie. God knows better. He is constantly trying to get our attention because He knows we will never experience true fulfillment, meaning and joy when we are not completely dependent on Him (“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5). That is where suffering comes in. Suffering breaks the illusion of control and hopefully shifts our attention to Him who is in control. It also helps to realize that Gods ultimate aim is not our comfort but His glory. We glorify God when we acknowledge our dependence on Him and "abide in Him". This is a hard truth because it means we have to submit our will to God. Our nature has and will always resist Him. That is why suffering is so necessary. Those reading this who are suffering or may have a loved one who is, please remember we will all suffer in this life, just as he suffered for us so that we could be with him for eternity.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • david

      In reponse to Gregg:

      Wow...that is one sick God you have. But as long as that provides you comfort, I guess that is what really matters right?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Philippi44

    God was, and still is, where we shut him out.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  20. Lokust

    To reply to some of the comments posted in the article.

    LENNY: I hope you are trolling, but I suspect you're serious and just ignorant. The pledge of allegiance when written in 1892 did not included 'under god.' That was added in 1954 after years of religious groups trying to push it through. Those of us with different belief than yours prefer it without, because we're happy to be citizens of this country, but think using that oath for religious ends is inappropriate.

    JESSE R: Don't make claims of not having the right of religion unless you're living somewhere that actual persecution happens. I mean people who kill you for believing differently – not just wanting things to be religion neutral so as to not annoy anyone. There's nothing liberal about that. It's just common sense.

    Personally I don't see this horrible event as evidence of any deity existing or not existing. They don't seem to correlate in any way. If we want to look at facts we go back and look at cultures in our past and find that just as many horrible things happened to the people who believed in norse gods, greek gods, egyptian gods, etc among many others. There is no evidence that the god that is popular here now is any more real or imagined than the gods in any of the aforementioned cultures. There certainly is record, however, of people wondering why the gods had forsaken them. I imagine in another thousand years when there is a different dominant religion that people will still be asking the same questions.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 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.