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. TC

    As usual – the typical atheist trolls come to a topic for the faithful. Can any atheist in here expalin with respect and professionalism the logical need for atheists to come here and continually call believers "crazy"

    July 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • mike

      We like to see you get upset?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • DG

      because they are...

      July 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I only call one believer on here crazy, and that's HeavenSent. Se has shown this over many months. Otherwise, I merely address the arguments themselves, and only if the argument is presented as some kind of truth that everyone needs to accept. I also address misinformation or outright lies. I know that some atheists here fit your description, but that in no way represents all atheists here.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Smarka

      Do you believe in a magic invisible super-being that always existed? ...who conjured up and can control everything in the universe? ...who'll allow even little children to suffer extreme physical and emotional pain and misery routinely? ...who will be forced to allow you to be tortured for all eternity if you don't happen to have been taught to believe in one particular religious story among the thousands that have been popular at various times throughout history?

      Nah, that's not crazy at all.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • lou

      Because there are more of you "crazies" and you keep practicing the same traditions and mantras that brainwash you kids and dullens any reasonable discourse with non-sense. For humanity to advance we most drop the crutch of religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  2. Open Eyes

    God is irrelevant. If he exists, he either caused it or did nothing to stop it. If his divine "plan" or will is a mystery to us, then why bother dealing with a god no one understands? The only thing that prevented more innocent people from dying were human beings taking action to saves lives. And the only way to limit future tragedies is human compassion and action. It's up to us, not a god, to build better families, neighborhoods, communities, cities, countries and world. Still, I weep for the victims and their families and if faith in a god gives them peace and comfort, bless them.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • TC

      I agree with your take on making humans resposnible for all this but its only your personal belief that if God exists it was his causing or failure to intervene – very much your opinion that is quite an assumption

      July 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  3. God

    Where was I? Uh, well you see, Bitsy Sniffles needed me to get a good parking spot in Winnemucca, and Chester Kreep kept praying that he would win that eBay auction right then, and Chad Diarrhea kept praying that his Chick-fil-A sandwich wouldn't be so dripping with fat like usual, and, well,

    I was swamped! Really!

    I had it on my calendar to have Holmes get killed in a car crash on the way, but I got busy! Like that Holocaust thing – I meant to stop it before it started, but the lines got busy!

    So I meant to do it, really.

    But don't feel bad, because I was going to send most of them to hell anyway, which is all Holmes did. If you think they deserve heaven or hell soon, why do you feel bad that they got it now?

    Uh, yeah. That's it. And I did it to deceive unbelievers to keep unbelieving!

    Yeah. But hey, I'm God. Whatcha gonna do?

    July 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • mike

      Bravo God

      July 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • DG

      Nice one.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • OrthoPA

      I feel bad for you people, I really do. You have so much anger and hate towards religion and GOD, it must consume a very large part of your day, night and life. Such a waste of energy... Maybe you're right...maybe we are...and so it goes...

      July 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • junior

      You would not like it if I ridiculed your mother and father.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  4. Malachai

    Religious sheeple have to keep in mind that if there is a god, then he/she/it created a world where his/her/its creations kill and devour one another for survival. Not sure how they come up with the idea of a benevolent god other than being uncomfortable with the concept that the world is a cruel and dangerous place.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • junior

      The world is cruel but God is all loving. Both can exists, more the reason we need the light to differentiate good and evil.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  5. John13_34

    The loving relationship between parent and child is a good analogy for the love God has for us. If you've ever taken your child for a vaccination and seen the look of disbelief in their eyes that you would just sit there and watch as a stranger jabs them with a giant needle, you can see how when we don't have all the information or are too immature to understand the full picture, we draw the wrong conclusion. We think we know what God should or shouldn't allow. Our reference point is, if it hurts, it shouldn't happen. But we have no idea how God plans to use the evil that occurs in this world for good. And if you trust that God is perfectly just, perfectly good, and perfectly sovereign, there's not much to worry about in this world. It is too difficult for many of us to believe that however, and we are left feeling like our Father intentionally wants to hurt us (remember the child getting the shot) or doesn't care, or doesn't even exist. Whatever the truth is, it doesn't change just because you choose to believe it or not. Either trust God and live a life of peace, or don't and be afraid or cynical of everything. If I'm right, both my life here and for eternity will be blessed. If I'm wrong, my life was full of peace, and eternity doesn't matter.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Madtown

      We think we know what God should or shouldn't allow
      I agree with a lot of what you wrote. The truth is, we can't know the answers to these questions, and that's ok. Humans created religions in a effort to understand things that maybe we're just not meant to understand.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • blinky

      John: Well said, thanks.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • junior

      Well put John

      July 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  6. Snow

    when do you see a man take moral interest in what ants do in their ant hills? Never. Same with god – if he exists, that is. A god who creates a universe that is millions of light years in diameter does not have to be concerned with what a man thinks or does with himself on a puny inconsequential little planet on the edge of the smallest galaxy. Just like a man does not care if an ant is cheating on its mate ant.. cold hard truth..

    July 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • OrthoPA

      Truth? Really? This blog is filled with people who condemn GOD and those who believe in HIM/HER. You speak with such conviction and authority that one is compelled to think you are an export on the subject. Please cite your FACTS to back it up... For every one of us who BELIEVE, there is one who does not, and that's OK...Just QUIT trying to prove the other wrong 'cause we simply cannot, as much as we think we can. Many of you have such a condemning tone when you speak of religion and GOD. IN religion the child abuse and the crime and the coverups and the...have been perpetrated by humans so if you want to hate religion, direct it towards the humans who think they know what HE wants, yet do all the wrong things...not HIM

      July 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • junior

      you err in assuming that God is just a bigger version of us humans.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  7. trueamericanpatriot99


    July 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  8. blinky

    The pro- and anti-God responses have been pretty disappointing to me. We have freedom, which you can't account for easily in a godless universe. If God exists but prevents us from enacting crimes, then we would be lesser beings and literally imprisoned by God's love. God's mercy and compassion do not amount to constraining us. We make our own path, guided by God's wisdom when we so choose. (By the way, I'm not Christian and do not belong to any organized religion.)

    July 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Q

      Well Said.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • lou

      we have freedom because there is no god....imagine if god really existed and we where made in his image, that god would want to be on tv and radio all the time personally. He would marry all the women and drink all the beer and eat all the steak. He would gloat and show off his power all the time...imagine your neighbor with a god's power.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  9. Patti

    The same place he always is, people's imaginations.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  10. Eric

    Christians want it both ways. When something GOOD happens, it's "proof" their prayers were answered and that God loves them. And if you ask them, they are 100% sure about this. It shows how loving God is and how he takes care of us and listens to our prayers. However, when something BAD happens, then suddenly we're not intelligent enough to understand God's motives and his perfect plan, and we shouldn't apply our concept of morality because God 's will is inscrutable and he operates on a level so far above us we cannot even begin to comprehend. This is in direct contrast to how we should feel when something good happens - God's will is then very easy to comprehend and we can apply our concepts of morality to that outcome. If you take God out of the equation and just accept the natural world as it exists, then suddenly there is no ambiguity.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Patti

      Eric, I have made the same argument. Our prayers have been answered when the outcome is good and if they aren't then it's just "God's will." So what if someone was ill and no one prayed for them. Would God be thinking "No one is praying for you, so I guess your number is up."

      July 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  11. IZ

    Maybe we're just to blinded by the fact that we are so attached to material and worldly things. If God intervened in everything we did we would all be mad because he'd be taking away our "free will". This is not our home because he has a set place for us when we all pass & that decision would be made on whether or not we follow Him.

    But, whatever, people have the right to believe in what they want.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  12. James Hakim

    God was sitting in judgment against the sins of the killer, and sitting in judgment against the myriad sins of each one killed. In short, God was just and holy.

    Yet, at the same time, God was mercifully granting them breath, food, clothing, wealth, and a variety of other blessings–totally undeserved and in contradiction to what each actually deserved. This is why He says that loving our enemies is one way to imitate Him in Matthew 5:45. In short, God was being patient and merciful.

    What's even more amazing is that for almost everyone–perhaps everyone–they have heard at least the words of the message that God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but that the world through Him might be saved. Even though the vast majority of those folks in the theater had lived for their own glory not God's, and by their own rules not God's, God Himself has endured the wrath that such wickedness deserves. God has so loved the world that He has given His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

    In short: where was God? God was continuing to patiently endure sinners and their sin, so that before He judges them and condemns them and justly condemns them to Hell, yet more of them would believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.

    The myth is not that of a good and just and merciful God. The myth is that of a good, and righteous, and innocent human.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • John13_34

      "The myth is not that of a good and just and merciful God. The myth is that of a good, and righteous, and innocent human." Amen! That is awesome.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Patti

      God's son? DNA is proving we evolved from the animal kingdom.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • MJT

      If I understand what you wrote accurately, it seems to be exactly what Luke 13:3-5 is describing:

      3. I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5. I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  13. Amanda

    God was present, hes always present! He gave us free will to choose what we want. For example: to believe in him, or not to believe in him, to take another life, or to not take another life. We choose. But God was surely there when that man chose to murder those innocent people and i believe that is evident through the people that sacrificed themselves to save their loved ones, and through the people that made it out alive to tell of the "miracle" that they were able to get out alive. We have free will for a reason. God is not to blame. Human stupidity, and lack of humanity is.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Daniel

      God gave us free will? I'm sure it was the free will of the victims to die; and I'm sure it was the free will of their families to lose a cherished family member.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Amanda

      would you not rather believe in God to one day find out he is not real, then to live your life believing he is not only to one day find out he is? We have free will over our own actions, not others.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Q

      Just as its your free will to leave ridiculous messages on this blog, Daniel.
      I don't think you understand the concept of 'free will'.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • william

      couldnt have said it better

      July 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  14. Sheila

    God created man with free will. Free will comes with a price. The same will that allows people to lie to each other, cheat on each other, backstab, steal from each other, gossip, fail to come to someone's aid – that's the same will that allows some humans to allow evil into their lives and go with it. Then again, some people are mentally ill, and we don't know for sure that this man was sane at the time. The wrong that was done is huge, and so out of magnitude with the wrongs most of us do everyday that we say "he's not like us", but as Jesus said, "let the man with no sin cast the first stone."

    July 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  15. jcstauff

    god was the same place god always is. In the land of make-believe. Fairy tales are for children. Grow up, people.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • John13_34

      What is wrong with being like a child? Deep down everyone wishes they could trust and love like a little child who is well cared for. How did we become so cynical that we look down on anyone who openly yearns for that? "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these" Matt19:14.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Guest

      Unfortunately people talk about God even those what they knew about God is based on few lessons that they were forced to learn when they were young. I encourage you to to truly learn about God now. The bible works at all ages for any situation at every time.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
      • jcstauff

        I encourage you to learn about English. Seriously. Because reading your response was about as rough as reading the bible, which I have done. I've done my research on god. I've researched god more than most believers have. It's because of my learning about god that I can say with great confidence that your god is not there.

        July 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  16. william

    i must say you all are sick in the head talking about god the way you have, are lord is and always will be here to help us in the time of need, and as far as james holmes he was a very sick p.o.s that took lives and hurt good people for no reason, i myself dont understand how anyone can hurt others,, life is bad because we have made it this way not because of god, we are the only reason bad things happen. its easy to put the blame on someone else, just so we all can try to make are selfs look good... remember god didnt make anyone perfect.. we all lie cheat and steal, but its up to "use" to fix are self's and makes this world a better place... as for are god he made this man aka "jame's holmes" so i no deep down god already new what was to come, and was looking over everyone that night... r.i.p 7/20/12 maybe gone but will never be forgotten..

    July 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  17. Vanessa Kirkland

    He was already there! We live in a fallen world, with free will.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  18. dave yeager

    No, I gave up on the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus too.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  19. Eye roll

    Aurora Shooting, Holocaust, The Gulags in North Korea, Children with BONE CANCER... It amazes me that people have to force themselves to believe in god even though they are faced with such atrocities. god either willed it or just decided not to intervene in these situations. What evidence does religion have? And no I will not accept seeing Jesus on toast as an answer because if that is how god wants to prove he exists, he is a wimp.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Patti

      I have to agree with you on this one, eye roll.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • John Smith

      Why do you think God should intervene to prevent a tragedy? I don't see why he's obligated to sort out things amongst us. Nor do you have any right to demand that someone solve the world's problems.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Snow

      @johnsmith.. so what is the point of god existing? he doesn't do anything and he waits for people to suck up to (oops, glorify) him and does NOTHING?? how does that even make sense to you?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Q

      @Snow, in that scenario, what is the point of humans existing?
      It sounds like you think Christians believe that God serves them. Its kinda the other way around...

      July 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  20. Chris

    God allows horrible things like this to happen so that those who believe in Him can find ways to glorify Him through these trials. It is a good reminder that we should love, and show that love, to our neighbors and our enemies even more than our own families. Just think if someone showed a small glimpse of Christ's love to James Holmes and prayed for him and with him during the weeks leading up to that horrible day. Would it have stopped him? Maybe not, but I think it's safe to say there's a good chance it would have. Love everyone around you and never show hatred. Those two actions could have stopped this better than any anit-gun law. Thanks for reading. God bless.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Snow

      fluffy fluffy fairy foo.. so you are saying god is not happy with so many millions sucking up to him.. that he brings down these atrocities so that people can suck up to him more? what kind of new breed of egotist is he?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:08 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.