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. Peter

    Why would CNN ask this question in hard times but not in good times? Left leaning bias that is typically manifested by notions like Obama's claim that people cling to religion in times of distress. Far be it for the left to acknowledge the possibility that, in truth, Jesus raised from the dead

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • KOOL AID

      Thank you for drinking me. I am refreshing and come in a rainbow of flavors.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Peter

      Each one of us has a choice to believe that Jesus raised from the dead or not. If you choose to believe, it requires some faith. If you choose not to believe, it requires more faith. Which one is koolaid?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  2. Kay

    God gave us free will and some people with their free will have chosen satan.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Who invited me?

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

      July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  3. Young An

    This question is wrong in all ways, why question God?

    Either have full faith in him, or be a lukewarm and suffer in hell. It's OUR choice, it's YOUR choice.

    Don't question God about this incident and where he was, when we as "men" and "human" disregard him, and put him below our feet. He loves us so much, he gives us the "CHOICE" to follow him and have faith in him. Even then when we have disregarded him, he drowns us in his grace and mercy, forgiving us. We choose not to follow him, and that makes him angry and heavy hearted. If you want a answer, then find it out yourself. Read the bible, and ask him directly because he will speak to you.

    My heart goes out to those the suffered in Aurora Massacre, but God is not to blame.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • ME II

      "Either have full faith in him, or be a lukewarm..."
      What about having no faith?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Young An

      And stop asking questions about God through these horrible times if you are not going to ask them through the good times.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Young An

      "Either have full faith in him, or be a lukewarm..."
      What about having no faith?

      I will pray that you will get to know God and his grace. Faith is not a feeling, its a choice. If you have no faith in God, that is up to you.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  4. Athiest

    Since I don't believe in the tooth fairy, make believe, and fairy tales like the gullible majority of the world, the answer is clear.

    This man performed these acts alone, through sickness or evil intent.

    Stop looking to a make believe invisible bearded dude to the sky.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  5. Vonda

    God was at Heaven's gate. This was the work of the devil as others have mentioned. Earth is the devil's reign but God overcomes all evil through the good that will come out of all this. And is testimony to the fact that many other lives were spared. He promises that he is always near to those of a broken heart.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  6. debogail

    I don't think this event had anything to do with G_d, but everything to do with man. Man is the one who caused this tragedy. There are hundreds if not thousands of events over the course of history where one could question whether G_d let something terrible happen. I think if you believe in free will, then you have to look at man's treatment of man to find answers.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  7. 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 2:44 pm |
    • sam

      More spam.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

    We have a free will that GOD gives each and every one. GOD did not kill , it was a mad man, but that mad man will reap what he sows as will we all. I pray for those in pain and suffering, my heart goes out to each and every one. Please use your free will to serve the LORD, you will be you did. GOD is a GOD of love and peace , but the devil will destroy you if you let him. As for me and my house we will serve the LORD GOD .

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  9. Chase

    It is written that God knew us in the womb. He knows the future, the past, and the present. In the history of existence there have always been murderers, there have always been those who fall short. But we have all fallen short of the glory of God. I am pleading to you that you don't lose faith over this, because there are and always will be sinners in this world, and not a single human being goes through it all without losing something, without sin, and without being tested.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  10. It is up to us

    We will pay to see this stuff happen in our internal or imaginary world, yet when it shows up in our external or real world we are surprised and horrified. What is the difference? What we as individuals and as a collective focus on in our thoughts is bound to appear in our reality. We can blame God, we can blame the Devil, however ultimately the responsibility is with us individually and collectively.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Anton

    Maybe it would be more helpful to ask, "Where were we in Aurora?" If we live in violence, are entertained by violence, and accept violence as a part of our everyday life why would be surprised by violence? Perhaps a bit of prayer and reflection would help us see the kind of energy we bring to this world. Blaming the NRA or God seems to miss the point. Hopefully, we will allow our inherent wisdom to guide us and we can each bring a loving-kindness energy to this world.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  12. dre

    Obviously this is all because of something. Maybe the gays. But most likely there was a crazy person and he didn't get enough hugs when he was a kid. I don't know what "caused this", but I don't think there is a man in the sky who controlled the shooter like a marionette.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • bob

      "Maybe the gays?" What the heck is that supposed to mean?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Former Christian

      Holy cow! We got a member of Westboro Baptist Church on here!

      July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  13. bob

    God was where he always is: in the imaginations of gullible people.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  14. David

    The question is senseless because there is no old man in the sky. Grow up, people! A giant snake and a magic fruit tree - is this really where we are in the 21st century?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • indypolitic

      Your yet another person who is shallow to the idea the those who believe in Christ and his word must throw that to the side to come into the 21st century. You just keep on believing there is no God and rely on our government and man to save you and we'll see how far that gets you.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  15. Phil

    God was present in the good that was present – those who protected others, those who prayed for safety, those who responded and continue to repond to provide support, comfort, and care.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  16. Doc

    James Holmes is not crazy. Please do not insult people with actual mental illness by lumping this loser in with them. Holmes enjoyed every minute of what he did – from planning to execution. He is just an evil person and should be treated as such. It is important that we call evil exactly that and stop trying to explain it away by saying evil people are "crazy," suggesting it's treatable. Someone who doesn't have control of their mental capacities (a truly mentally ill person) could not plan and carry out this massacre. Holmes is very much sane and should be punished as such.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      There are many forms of mental illness, some of which do allow for complex planning and preparation. And not all forms of mental illness are treatable, at least not to the point of being free to walk unhindered in society.

      Anyone who COULD do this clearly is not fully in charge of his mental health.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  17. PK

    It is difficult to say where God was during the massacre. We cannot prove that He was there or He wasn't. And we cannot answer why he allowed it. We do not know the answer but we can only imagine all the possible answers.

    It helps however, to pray for everyone involved in the massacre and believe that they will be taken care of after they died. We cannot prove this or disprove this. We can only hope for the best. And that spirit is God's spirit , a positive spirit which helps us to live our lives more postively and lovingly, according to what I think.

    After all, we all have to die one day- one way or another..some by shootings, some by accidents or illnesses or simply old age. What happens after life cannot be proved or disproved.

    For those who survived, they might live a life in physical and mental pain...and so do the people injured in wars or suffering from malnuttrition or struck by diseases. Some people experience emotional suffering.. suffering has always been there right from the start. Only some people are lucky to suffer less.. But ultimately everyone will die one day due to some reason.. We can only hope and pray that God exists and takes care of us after we die. We should also pray to God to take care of us while we live... and we should take care of others..That is what I think.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  18. Gary

    We all must die. It is just a matter of how. The question : Is your lamp full

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  19. erick

    all any open minded god loving religious person has to do is watch religious, but you wont cause you're too scared to find out the truth, ignorance is bliss.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  20. john

    If you believe in God you should also know that God gave man control over his own destiny/decisions, he was given a soul, something denied to angels (which made some of them despise man). Since God gave man control over his own actions it cannot be questioned as to why God let this happen. Men do bad things (and good things) for various reasons so don't give God a bad rap for the bad things that happen.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • nelene

      THANK YOU!!!! John that is exactly it....God wanted us to follow him, BUT gave us all the opportunity to choose your own actions....this was not God's will, but the actions of an individual.....

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

      If you believe God gave us free will, then he cannot be "all-knowing." For if he were all knowing, he would know the future and each and every action each individual on this planet will ever take... which means we all have one fate. There is no free will... our futures are already set in stone... Which would mean that God put this lunatic on the planet knowing he would murder several people. So, either is all God's fault or he is not "all-knowing". And I'll be damned if I'll spend my Sundays in church instead of watching football to worship some invisible guy with an invisible beard who doesn't even know everything .

      July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      So does having a soul intrinsic to having free will? If so, then how could Lucifer have rebelled, unless he was specifically made to rebel?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Phillips

      Amen !!! The truth

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 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.