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. Verbatim

    Please. There were beings of intelligent creation that created the universe. Then they left.
    It's up to us wether we destroy ourselves or not. We are on our own.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      So you're part of the "God is Dead" crowd. It's a pretty pointless viewpoint. Just be an atheist.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Fred Bolanda

      Exactly, there is a God that created everything. What we do is up to us, nobody knows what God is thinking and what he is planning. No book can explain anything about God. That is true because how do you really know whether the Koran, Bible, Torah or any book is really true. Every man who wrote something in a book claims he knows what God is thinking, who can you really believe?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Joey

      God was the being that created us and then left...us to our own free will. There have been murders since the begining of time. Cain killed his own brother. God, was there in Colorado in Matthew's recount of Jesus, explaining Gods way...Matthew 5:21. In this passage Jesus who knows mankind tells Christians or Jew/Gentiles not to kill each other. So to be a christian you must not kill people. That is how God was there. By affirming that evil was present and is present and non christians will do their evil doings as long as they exist. The Christians in the room were not killing anyone for it is not Gods way, so they were doing as God comanded and by doing what is right by God made God present. So I ask not why was God not there, but why James Holmes was not with God? We need to do as our father says and spread the word of God. I ask this one favor...Ask God to open your eyes with a true heart felt pray before reading the book of John tonight after you have wound down. May your eye's be open and the ways of God be with you now and forever.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Arcadia Steve

      Here is a thought experiment – likely to upset some of you...Suppose the following:
      1. Every human has a soul that is immortal, not evil at birth, just undeveloped (virtues=spiritual arms+legs)
      2. God gives us tests (of all kinds) and free will to grow and develop the soul while our physical body (and mind) are alive
      3. A nasty person dies and goes to the next life, spiritually speaking, as a quadraplegic, perhaps even an inert rock
      4. In the next life God takes away our free will put still "puts us to use" as he wishes to inspire and help others here on earth
      5. You go to heaven and you find it like an auditorium, with God on the stage and "good people" sitting in the first rows
      6. That nasty person who died is now in the third row, and you're asked to just sit in the back...

      If we consider, perhaps, that "time" means nothing in the world of the soul (yes, I know that's a stretch), what could you
      conclude about the above scenario?

      If your theology is that a bad person goes to hell and is stuck there forever, this scenario seems extremely improbable.

      If you judge God by human standards, you might think He is crazy and unjust...

      However, consider that as a fetus in the womb you had "choice" about growing arms, legs, eyes, ears – all of which are really an annoyance in the world of the womb (although they are necessary for your later life and help you – dimly – perceive a world beyond). Yet God is providing for your needs because (supposedly) you have a Purpose awaiting you.

      Is it so far-fetched to imagine that the Aurora shooter might have a purpose -in this world and the next – even after committing atrocities? Did society have a duty in preventing these events, but failed to act? I think that we will find out (because he didn't commit suicide like many other kilelrs) that there is a long history leading up these killings, none of which is "random evil"...

      Why should the next life be – concetionally – so different.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  2. Colton

    God gave free will to man, this man under his own free will decided to commit this horrible crime. God can't interfere with our free will. We make choices in our lives and those choices are the deciding factors for wether we go to Heaven or Hell. For the people who took the bullet for their loved ones will surely be rewarded in Heaven. I assure you God is caring for the wounded and the dead. Maybe for the people who were wounded and who survived will believe in God or become closer with Him through prayer.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      free will: The term used by religious affiliated people to explain the total absence of god when someone does something bad.

      getting a lot of milage today with this one...kind of makes the point doesn't it.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Fred Bolanda

      That isn't true because probably everyone who got killed didn't have Jesus in their lives. So according to the bible they go to hell. That is another reason to not believe a book that a bunch of men wrote thinking they were listening to God.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  3. Bill B

    All gods are manmade.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  4. RapidOne

    Jesse R - you mean how 'NON-LIBERALS' (once you use the 'L' word as your full reasoning, you should honestly go to political hell forever), started wars that maimed and killed hundreds of thousands, graphically and horribly–teaching kids and people, and the shooter, that human life is not as beautiful and valuable as it needs to be seen? Or how about the 'NON-LIBERALS' that teach against compassion for the poor and needy and that molesting kids can often be swept under the rug?

    Shut your ignorant trap already and open up your mind to the fact that God might just be in ALL OF US, and NOT JUST THOSE LIKE YOU WHO ***USE HIM*** IN THE MOST TASTELESS AND UGLY OF WAYS.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  5. Observer974

    Where was God? Well, according to CNN, he was throwing an barbecue and fund raiser for his Wall Street friends in the White House.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  6. Veronica

    God has been pushed out of society. When God was a part of society, before Vatican II changed all that, people were taught through the Catholic Church that everyone on earth without any exception has a cross to carry and to only look to the Holy Angels and Our Blessed Mother for consolation, never to the thieves and demons for consolation. Some people in the world didn't like that because they can make quite a lot of money off of addiction to sins caused by impurity and anger. Unconfessed sin is the basic problem, it piles up and people tend to not handle it very well. Sacramental confession can prevent such pile ups of emotion. It should be brought back and all of us should be required to go at least once a week until we get straightened out and love one another the way we all know we should.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Considering how only about 7% to 10% of people are atheists, I don't see how God has been pushed out of our society at all.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • JWT

      Freedom of religion and freedom from religion – your ideas a re full of sh!t. And should be put somewhere appropriate on your person.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  7. Jp47

    God was not invited unfortunately, remember Supreme Court took Him out of Schools, Public schools, court buildings. The USA is no longer under His protection, unfortunately, innocent people are murdered such as what happened last Friday. There will be idiots who will criticize my comment but I donot care remember freedom of speach, you always loudly voice your stupid opinions and make demands turned into bad laws which caused the damage we all now face so I can voice mine.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • sam

      No one needs to criticise your comment. It stands beautifully on its own as a beacon of willful ignorance.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Yeah. Nothing bad happens in theocracies.

      Sorry, sam. Had to comment. Couldn't let this trash slide.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  8. Ibelieve

    I believe with what many are saying. God created man in his likeness, and within that creation he created man of his own free will. Everyone has a choice to follow Gods law or mans law – to choose between right and wrong. And as human beings we know that there are consequences based on those decisions. We have strayed from being "one country under GOD" and revered to the likes of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • ME II

      "We have strayed from being 'one country under GOD'"
      God was added to the pledge and motto in the 1950s, i.e. we strayed from the original ones at that point.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  9. God is love

    Please google Lee Strobel aurora suffering.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  10. 1liner

    We are only promised one thing by God. if we ask for forgiveness and truely believe and accept Jesus Christ as our savior- we will go to heaven. This life on earth is just temporary, but heaven is forever. I honestly dont know how non-believers get through life's trials.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • roadrunner321

      Believe and love god and you won't be condemned to eternal suffering. Non-believers don't like blackmail and compulsory love, that's how.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • 1liner

      Roadrunner (Non Believers dont like blackmail) This is God's law- not mine. You chose to accept or not?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      " I honestly dont know how non-believers get through life's trials." I'll pretend you were serious; plenty of Christians are perfectly nice people. How do I get through my life? I have a great wife, and family, and we all have problems that would make a statue cry. I've lost friends and family to death and seen good men fall into despair and drink, and watched little kids grow up and fly away. I believe in lots of intangible things, like love and loyalty and freedom, things you can't see or quantify. I try to forgive my enemies and not hold grudges, same as you believers are ordered to do; I just feel it's right. When I die, I won't leave behind any enemies except the people I've bopped with the Clown Hammer™.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  11. Todd

    Man created God.

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

      I couldn't agree with you more. I'm astounded by the number of people who cling to the myths of bronze age tribesmen.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  12. Gagan Uppal

    God's existence or non-existence cannot be discovered, for there won't be enough evidence to support either assertion. For those that believe in God's existence, such incidents are God's will, or 'temporary' absence of God from this world, or 'punishment' for the 'bad souls'. For those that believe in God's non-existence in the universal setting, such incidents are tragic and random events. If God exists, then I stand against him and decline to worship him for I believe that God, if exists, is far from perfect and I will not bow to imperfection. Good for people who believe in God, I just do not take him seriously, if he exists because he is nothing but a playwright, and sucks at his job.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Arcadia Steve

      You may not be able to prove the existence (or non-existance) of the God as a Zeus-like personality, but it is logical to deduce that there is a Creator if you wonder where the universe came from. Consider three possibilities that the universe must have “evolved inherently into existence”, is “an accident”, or was somehow “created”. The first option doesn’t make sense, because if the universe just “had to come into being” it would possess only the characteristics of growth. A plant cannot simultaneously posses both the inherent characteristic of growth (life) and its opposite: decay (death). It is either one or the other, but we see simultaneously in the fabric of the world around us both processes all the time. On the other hand, the universe is not a series of “accidental” relationships. There is chaos, yes, but also order, and underlying he order, even more randomness. Still, chemical reactions happen with predictable regularity, the speed of light seems valid everywhere, etc. This leaves the third option: Creation. To say that the world contains all the properties, designs, processes (evolution, decay, randomness, order, etc) is not the same as saying you understand the nature of the Creator. I can appreciate all the beauty of the Mona Lisa painting but that only hints at the nature of the painter (humor, cleverness, elegance, etc).

      BTW, this conclusion suggest that there has always been a Creation, just maybe not int he form you see today (Big Bang?). That's because a Creator would also be the possesor of all names and atributes (e.g., the All-Knowing, All-fiorgiving) and you cannot have a Creation without a Creator (like a king without a kingdom). However the rays of light are how we know there is a sun, but the sun does not depend on the existence of the rays to be a start – it's just an attribute.

      Now whether you believe the Creator sends us messengers (greater than us but still not co-equal with the Creator) that is a different topic....

      July 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Steve, dang it, you are just pulling that stuff out of your black hole. The universe actually exists and can be observed, and we are pretty sure that there was a 'state change' of some kind at the beginning. Big Bang? Tiny pop? There could have been a universe here made of completely different stuff for all we know. What you are getting at is called Chaos Theory, and it came from the discovery of Brownian motion of molecules; everything on a molecular level is constantly shifting. So when you look very closely, chaos is at the heart of all order. I'm alive and strong in a body that already contains the seeds of decay; I'll age and die, constantly shifting, and still be the same person as the child I recall being. Our basic mission is to understand, if we ever can, what the previous 'state' of the universe was like. We're beginning to suspect that the Higgs particle is still actually in that previous state! Could it still be there, and we're 'painted over it?'
      You have the right idea, though; no way a god would make a puzzle this intricate and not expect us to try solving it. Find out everything you can about reality.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Arcadia Steve

      Yes, the purpose of my posting was to suggest that there IS a Creator, versus the notion that the universe "just happened". Many people don't see the logic because they think it would force them to accept some part of all the mythology that goes with much of theology (e.g., God is like us, only greater, God is an all-powerful Intelligence, etc). What you are also mentioning, however, is that you have a soul, with power of imagination and the ability to preceive the reality of natural laws and forces. This power of abstract thought – as opposed to being 100% captive to the physical senses and animal instinct) – is what makes you human. This is where religious thought should be focused – virtues, serving our fellow man, etc – not asking God to solve our problems and concluding there is no Creator because bad stuff happens.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  13. Paul

    I don't believe God causes evil, the human being does, I wish the blame on God would stop, This is the suspect's doing no one else. period. As for the email that mentioned the devil and angels I don't believe in that either. There will be an accounting some day. That I do believe.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  14. Donkey

    It has nothing to do with god. If he in fact exists, and nobody knows for sure if he does, he allows for free will. Bad things have happened to people since they came into existence.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • The King Is Coming

      I know for sure that Jesus Christ exists!

      July 27, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  15. Richard Smith

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    Epicurus 350 BC --–not much has changed

    July 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      What use is a god who never manifests?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  16. ziegfeldf

    The whole issue is an exercise in question-begging.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • sam


      July 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  17. Ponder

    If you truely understand faith, God was there that day, he was there with those that are now with him, he was there giving the hero's the strength to help and protect other's. If you truely know your faith and God, you know that he will not interfer. He does not wish harm upon us. But gives us free will to make a choice, the choice is yours. That is what is wrong with this country! Instead of taking responsibliy for your own actions, you want someone to blame. I wish people would wake up and take responsiblity for their actions. You do something bad, don't blame it on insanity, on others, oh I had a crappy childhood....You have the choice to make your life what you want it to be. I have seen people who didn't have a good life but was still a good person and tried to make a better life for themselves. That's because they allowed God into their life and made the CHOICE to be responsible for themselves and the CHOICES they make. Stop making this about God, it was tragic and sad, but this was not God's doing. It was the CHOICE of one person and that person will answer for what he did be it now or later. PRAYERS for those that were lost and injured and for their loved ones for the strength to rise above.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  18. JustSayin'

    What happened in an Aurora theater can happen in any public meeting place. Like a church, a mall, a hospital. We throw God out of our classrooms, our political offices, businesses, even out of many churches, and then we wonder "Where is God?" in places like Aurora. I think passages like the following speak to the question: Psalm 2:1-5; Psalm 14:1-3 and Romans 1:28-32. But will enough people in America listen?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • sam

      So, according to you, god is a petulant teenager who sulks and withdraws his favor if the ten commandments aren't printed on the side of every courthouse?

      Bitch please.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  19. Bill Ball

    Back to blaming God for everything I see..................We were given freedom of choice, this animal choose and we did not and will not take the necessary precautions to prevent it.................either change and/or modify the laws of gun ownership and purchasing or continue these incidents. How many have there been in the last 20 yrs.? I'll bet that you have forgotten more than the ones you remember. Were was God my ass!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Media is the cause

    Why are you whipping up the wackos. With less media coverage of these tragic events there would be fewer wackos wanting their 15 minutes. This CNN discussion is ill conceived. Many of the postings are from wackos waiting for their time in the spotlight. I guess I qualify for even posting to this stupidity.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Ooh! Put the spotlight on me and I'll do my balloon act. So Saul said to David, bring me 100 foreskins . . .

      July 25, 2012 at 2:31 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.