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. Chris Bowman

    I believe that there is a spirit greater than myself, a power greater than myself. And I choose to call this power God. If I do what I believe is God's will for me than I am at peace on this earth. If something bad happens to me, or if I am killed unjustly and unfairly, than that is life on life's terms. I don't believe it has anything to do with God. Bad things and accidents are going to happen to good and bad people. This is life. God won't intervene every time there is danger. As long as I keep my side of the street clean I can be at peace for the moment, one day at a time. And if something horrific happens to me at least I will be living a spiritual life when it does.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • URgod not there

      You choose not to think for yourself and reject reason, rationality and science.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  2. John Chan

    Most religious people I know use region as a social event and business oppertunity. Wake up, there is no GOD, as I was told by Chinese education system. See how your GODs help China to be the world superpower. I asked my coworker how God helps US and was told that GOD WILL show his power SOMETIME LATER. Same comments here... LOL...

    Spend money on your children's math class, instead of church donation. Spend time on math practice, instead of praying. Science helps mankind move forward. Religion promotes violence and war.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  3. Centrist

    Seriously, as children God is everywhere. Now we are questioning if God was at the theater. Was he watching the movie? Logic dictates that if he is everywhere....da...he's at the theater and everywhere. We forget that our perception is what makes us decide our reality which differs between each individual in direction and depth. If God is a person or any singular physical object then he is in one place, if everywhere (and this includes "dark matter") then he is all things possible to exist. Mankind changes the rules of all things possible to fit their own perception. Thus the Holmes mind had his own.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  4. Tadd

    God did not make us robots he gave us a free will to use. Some use this free will for good others for evil. How do we know that it was not God to cause this guy's gun to jam? I bet some of the survivors belive in a God.

    I am a Navy vet and have had too many near death experiances not to belive in a God. It may not be the God that the churches sell, but still I belive.

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

    God is in Syria, Africa, Iraq where he is needed. He is wherenthere is true suffering in the world. What happened in aurora was a horrible tragedy. This was a wake up call to get people with mental health issues the medical help they need. James Holme could be anyones son. Do we have to endure the never ending news coverage on what victim is going to sue? How about some investigative reporting on the mental health crisis in America.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  6. tafugate

    completely stupid question. all reasonable people know there's no supreme being looking out for you in your daily lives. so philosophers wrote a collection of books 2000 years ago and compiled within a book called the bible. religion is a psychological opiate that gets some people through their day. hardly anything that would protect you from evil. or a crazy person.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • URgod not there


      July 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Daveky

      Just curious as to how you know that there is no supreme being; you say that all reasonable people should know this. Since you are reasonable, please explain how you know this. Thanks.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  7. Greyhound37

    It was interesting, in part, to read the comments of "Lenny" quoted in the above article. I'd like to address a few of them:

    It seems the crux of Lenny's argument is that we were fine, as a country, until we 'told god to go away'.

    For instance prior to 1957 when "In God We Trust" was put on our paper currency our country was morally bankrupt.

    Parochial schools have always been perfect whilst secular, public schools have always been abominable.

    Prior to 1954 when the Pledge of Allegiance was altered to include the words "under God" our country just couldn't get by.

    Since the Gideons began dropping their particular flavor of supernatural mythology in hotel rooms in 1908, the country's relative morality has risen. Or, what a minute, who was Gideon again? Wasn't he the guy who slaughtered thousands, murdered thousands more, tortured and killed people for taunting him, then fathered 70 kids through multiple wives and concubines?

    Anyone who did not have a graduation ceremony in a church was pretty obviously damned.

    So because of all this... your god has chosen to take his appointed representative (this student killer) to wreak his revenge in July of 2012 on a very specific group of people at a very specific and important venue to him/her/it (the premiere of a Batman film being of utmost importance in most Christian theology).

    Yep, makes sense to me....

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  8. troy

    This happened not because of god, god does not intervene when one man strays. This happened not only because the liberals are doing everything in their power to take god out of our lives. But because the liberals our making our country so dependant on the government. Never in our country time have we had some many people on welfare. These people grow up having everything handed to them, never having to work for anything. When we question how you can buy alcohol and drugs and still receive my money we are the enemy. He couldn’t find work, things didn’t go his way of what the liberals have done to this county one man took things into his own hands.

    God is still here, all these atheist get all up in arms when people talk about god but they can spew their hate for god all they want and its ok?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • david esmay

      Acknowledging that god does not exist, is not an act of hate. Believing in an imaginary being is an act of denial. No hate, just fact. People believe in concepts like god out of fear, for the most part, fear of death, fear of the unknown, and fear of knowledge.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  9. Loren

    The reason and purpose of God allowing the killings to happen, like so many other things in life, may never be know to us. His wisdom his far beyond our understanding. But if we say that God does not exist because evil occured, then how could we deny his existence when incredible things happen? And if we say God does not eist .... then how can we judge this persons acts as evil? If we were not created by God .... but just "happen to come about" then there is no rhyme or reason as to why it happened ... it just did. God allows bad things to happen because he gave us free will ..... a will to choose the right from the wrong. If it were otherwise we would not be children of God we would be "Drones" of God or "robots" of God. We are given the gift of choice ........ but because we are human and imperfect we do not always make "good" choices. And as with everything we do ........ others are affected by our actions. If God does not exist ... the who do the victims and their families turn too. Do they pray to the oak tree in the front yard? The clouds in the sky? The rain? Mother earth? Believe me God exist and he was there in that theater ....... why else did the big 100 round magazine jam ........ if it hadn't there would have been many more casualties ...... God was there and he was deeply saddened by what happened.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Tadd

      Well said ...

      July 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  10. Morty

    God wasn't in Aurora. Once someone proves that there is a god, we can ask him/her/it where he/she/it was.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  11. solex

    As soon as I heard the scriptures like "I am a jealous God" and "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord", I knew that it was a fabrication.

    Jealousy, hatred, and vengeance are man-made things. They just need "God" to relieve them of the responsibilty for behaving badly. I always remember one thing:

    It's NOT "God's" will. It's yours. Take responsibility for it and be a man, not a stooge.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  12. David Blyth

    "Our Father, who art in heaven", to state this from Matthew 6, "Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth, as it is in Heaven". There'd be no reason to pray that if God's will was already being done here on earth, or if God's kingdom was already here.

    So if there is _not_ a God, then our will is being done here on earth. And if there _is_ a God, then our will is still being done here on earth anyway. Either way, clearly God's kingdom has not come.

    So no matter how you look at Christianity, God had no part in Aurora.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • John Espot

      You take the prayer out of context. It can also be seen as a submission to God for His will and plan for our lives, and for His will to be accomplished, not our own. It is not saying that God's work is absent in this life.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  13. Donald in CA

    I guess God was at a NRA meeting, because he sure wasnt in Aurora

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  14. SoothSayer

    Some of you reading this will be dead by the end of day today. Some of you will have relatives that die by the end of day today. Some of you have found out today that one of your loved ones has died. The reason for this a lot of times is that you are just lucky enough to be getting old. So shut up your whining, it happens to all humans sooner than you think. Life is hell. You have died and are in hell now.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Rahn

    The christian god is a creator of evil (Isaiah 45:7) We put evil people in jail so they can't do any more harm to the general public. This is human morality and justice at work. The reality is, that there are no gods who watch over us. It's wishful thinking at best. There is no ultimate justice. Under the christian religion, this man who slaughtered these people will spend an eternity in heaven and all he has to do is have the belief in a god, while some of the atheists who were mercilessly killed go to hell. There are people that believe this. That belief is evil in it's intent. Wishing eternal harm to an innocent child who doesn't believe in the fairy tale god you all were raised with, is down right evil. Take a long look at what you believe and ask yourself some hard questions. Am I a good person for believing what I believe ? Only an evil god, a creator of evil, would do nothing. As the old saying goes. "The only way for evil to flourish is when good men do nothing".

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  16. John Espot

    The reason that there is wrong in the world is that there is freewill. Without freewill we could not make the wrong decision. But we could also not choose to love or have faith in God because we would be forced into it, and is that true love or belief? This occurred because God loves everyone equally, and respect's everyone's right to free choice. He loved the killer just as much as he loved those who were killed. God didn't make this happened, He allowed it. For if we did not have free choice, would we truly be alive?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Donna LeGoo

    If you truly believe that it is God who has given us life, then one must look at what life represents....joy, pain, suffering, loss. It's a package deal. I don't think the elements of life itself have any significance on the creation of it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  18. Kathryn

    If God is in your heart, stop trying to defend Him. Everytime someone questions where God was in all of this, send a donation to the victims' families and say a prayer. Let God take care of answering everyone else's questions.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • fsjunkie

      Head in the sand. That's what your words sound like to someone who is seeking and who sincerely wants to know. Salvation shouldn't be so elusive. If you can't answer the question, don't try with dismissive and blameful rhetoric like "you don't know because you are not seeking him."

      July 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  19. F Shuler

    God said there will be hard times. And there will be sorrow, trust in him believe in him his son Jesus Christ is the answer. This country has strayed away from the bible. And we need to come back. Do I think that God allowed this to happen? Not directly. He gave most of the people there the free will to be there. But I know he was there during, and after. And will be with those who ask for his blessing. This country is like a snow headed for HELL. I pray that everyone effected by this and every tragedy will look up instead of looking around. I pray this in my Lords name.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • What

      You are a momster religion, you are just like the shooter, there no f ing god

      July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Charlie

    God was there. Trust me. He was there.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Bellezurdog

      But he didn't have a concealed carry permit so he wasn't packing.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Del

      Yes, God was there! We read and hear "God bless America". I think it is time we start saying, "America, bless God". Our nation is on a downhill ride. If we don't want God, He won't force himself on us. God is always there, here and everywhere, but when we push Him out, I don't think we should ask "where is God." He is as close as our breath, if we want Him in our lives. "It is not His will that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance."

      July 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Rose

      God was there. Simply and well said.

      He was there in the darkest hours, sustaining and turning what seems senseless into blessings. "sweetly broken"

      July 25, 2012 at 2:43 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.