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. SickOfLiesInNYC

    "God" was watching the killer use the free will he and all the rest of us have

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  2. ceg10

    God has his reasons for everything he does. We may not understand it now but give it time, his end result might surprise you. Let me get you thinking outside of trying to blame God, to What message is God telling us? What does God really want us to grasp here? People died, yes innocent people and that's the horror or the shock now let's seek God for understanding what he wants us to do.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  3. terry

    HE was there, with his angels. HE gave us our agency and we make our choices. HE gives us guidence and direction but we must choose to listen and obey. HE does know all things, Heaven was prepared for those who would return home that evening, their families were there to greet them. HE prepared this earth for us to come to and gain experience. We passed through the veil of sorrows when we came to earth but will return to HIM and live in glory and immortality together with our families and loved ones. There is a purpose for life. He has given us a way to know that purpose and to know HIM. We are responsible for our actions and will be held accountable before the judgment bar of a loving and merciful Father in Heaven even God the greatest of all. Satan is real, he has no power only influence. Agian, we have our agency, the power to choose between good and evil, Heaven or Hell, Eternal life or Eternal punishment. This is the plan of God our eternal Father in Heaven, that great plan of happiness, to know Him and Jesus Christ Whom HE sent.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • JWT

      Remember that neither your god nor its judgement apply to any one that does not believe.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Madtown

      This is the plan of God our eternal Father
      Oh, you know exactly what God is up to. Wonder what God thinks about human beings who are exceptionally arrogant?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • kingdumb

      why do you keep yelling he?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  4. varun

    Only the followers of semitic religions have problem with understanding this – because they do not believe in re-birth and karma. As soon as you introduce these two concepts into picture along with the eternal indestructible soul (something semitic religions do believe in), everything makes sense. Read Bhagavad Gita and everything would be as clear as daylight:


    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  5. L

    I find it interesting that so many people cannot seem to say that one man decided to pick up a gun, one man decided to go to a movie theater, one man decided to fire that gun in that movie theater, one man shot and killed people, one man.......

    Only one man is responsible for this, only one. No one else.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  6. Not Looking 4 Salvation

    Bad things happen. Sometimes, like in Aurora, the reason is because a man chose to do a bad thing. Sometimes, like with the 2004 Christmas Tsunami where 250,000 die, it just happens. There is no controlling higher power allowing these things to happen. When a man chooses to do something bad he made a choice, no devil or evil spirit compelled him. There is no vain narcissistic "God" out there lashing out. Just people watching a movie who happened to be in the path of a mad man. Remember: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." But, why do we keep giving people guns?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  7. debogail

    This question can be asked at hundreds of events throughout history. For one who is religious, I answer back that this didn't have anything to do with G_d but everything to do with man. Man caused this tragedy, not G_d. If you believe in free will, then this is a possibility.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  8. erick

    6 million jews died, you would think they would get a clue but no that was part of gods will. 30,000 kids die each day of all religions and colors, but no god has a plan for them. stalin kills millions of russian ( christians of some kind) but no one questions god, ww1 and 2, i could go on. there is zero evidence for it, humans have made up gods since humans have existed to comfort us because we are clueless about life, religion is fading, within 100 years you will be the minority.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Peter Knight


      July 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  9. Timothy

    Never blame "God" for Mankind's failure to be self-responsible. God did not fail, Mankind failed. Are we not our Brothers'/Sisters' keeper? Are we as Americans, a society? Or are we just a collection of Lone Wolves?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  10. Khaystix

    How do you want God 2 intervene when you've cut off his arms of protection.. Though he still loves us regardless of sin abounding! He's a spirit and he cant get across to you if you are not conscious of him dwelling in you as a believer! Check the lives of the victims, not anyone who heed God's yearning would ever find themselves in a sorry situation... Return to righteousness America, return to the truth you once believed.. God doesnt permit evil if you're right with him.. Its not his will to us suffer rather ours.. He's given us the way out through christ jesus.. He wouldnt force us.. We choose what we want!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  11. Peter Knight

    GOD loves the NRA for their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. So that's where God was during the shooting. Americans are hypocrites. On one hand they shed tears when things like this happens and on the other hand they want the freedom for guns, Make up your mind. What do you want?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  12. beckabecks

    God was in the midst of the victims in that theater, tenderly taking them into His arms and ushering them home. God, in Christ, knows exactly what it's like to die a horrific, tragic death. God well knows how vast the gulf is between death and life. Therefore God, in Christ, came to conquer death. God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living! Those brethren in Aurora will one day rise again at the Resurrection, and "Suspect A" will one day stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and answer for what he has done.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  13. mahmoud

    Humans are clueless regarding the nature of god.
    I marvel at the endless diatribe of silliness!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  14. Small Voice

    Remember God destroyed the world once for mans evil ways. It happened in a flood. He has promised under his covenant of truth and grace to save all thru his son, Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection. Mans inhumanity to man will be judged at judgement day. Gods gives man free choice to decide if he will accept a personal relationship with him through his son. Make no mistake about it....you will take one very important aspect with you when your natural body passes away and that aspect is your choice to accept him. If not you will pay the consequences to the fullest. Its called the great white throne of judgement or if you know him and do his will its the judgement seat of Christ. Grace is the greatest gift from God and his love is like no other. Honor him above all. The tragedy at Aurora was the result of sin...it will be judged and fully accounted for in this life or the next.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  15. Shiloh

    There is no God. God is something humankind made up to manipulate each other, and, at best, to keep themselves and others from doing wrong. But, ultimately, there is only humankind, with its imperfections, emotions, actions and responses. Unforunately we are a petty lot and our reactions to what we perceive as threats or even the smallest imagined slights can result in bad decisions and violence towards ourselves and others. Most of the wars in the world have had religion as a starting point, from the beginning of time. A kind, loving deity would put a stop to this early on, but that hasn't happened and it won't. If there is a God and he sees and hears all the garbage going on, he's not doing anything about it, and we're better off without him. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and be vigilant with others, without bringing violence into it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  16. Tommy

    God was always there, that was His will and HE took away the people that he thought needed to be with Him and not with this cruel world anymore.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • JDinHouston

      God's phone rings off the hook with calls from Evangelicals asking to become rich, powerful, hate others, win at sports. He didn't realize one of those calls was a cry for protection from evil. Stop asking God for your own self aggrandizement and you might find He has time to protect people from evil.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  17. varun

    Only the followers of semitic religions have problem with understanding this - because they do not believe in re-birth and karma. As soon as you introduce these two concepts into picture along with the eternal indestructible soul (something semitic religions do believe in), everything makes sense. Read Bhagavad Gita and everything would be clear:


    July 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  18. anon631

    man is not a creation of god. it is the idea of "god" that was created by man. it is the human condition that makes us good / evil / morlal / immoral / etc... 'god' has nothing to do with this and never did or will, since the beginning of time.

    the tragic events that occured in aurora were the work of one man. working 'god' into the equation is simply rhetoric for feeble minded people.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  19. Eric

    god was where he always is, buried in the recesses of the minds of deluded "believers." Good things can happen to bad people and bad things to good people; that is just the way it is. Get over it, and god.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • fsjunkie

      Far too many absolutes in this comment, Eric. You are saying that something can only exist if you believe in it. That's naive...to put it mildly.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • karl

      Yes, bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. But "get over it" is a cold and less than human response. God was there. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a courageous pastor and theologian in Germany during Hitler's reign, said it best when asked the same question by a fellow political prisoner when they saw someone severely beaten by the guards. "Where is your God now?" this agnostic asked him. Bonhoeffer answered, "He's right there taking the beating." Precisely the central point of the Christian faith. And this is the only lasting source of consolation for those who have lost loved ones.... Jesus, the incarnation of God himself, means we are not alone in our suffering. God is with us. Ultimately, he also delivers us from our suffering if we hold on to him, though we may have to suffer many things in this life. True life is bigger than all our pain. True life is "God with us."

      July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • fsjunkie

      Very helpful perspective, karl. Tell some of your other Christian brethren on this comment board to give dialogue a try sometime.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  20. coachw44

    Why would he stop it? What do you think this is? This is just life, it's the proverbial ACT. You either get into heaven or you die. That is what the bible says. Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

    July 25, 2012 at 2:40 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.