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. TOMG


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



      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  2. Ian

    Good try, but god isn't real.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |


    July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Job was God's bee-yotch.

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

      ?? Where's your other brother Darrell?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  4. BoThome

    The whole point of free will is just that, we are free to do whatever we want. Whatever your belief of a higher power, free will is free to do what you want whenever you want. Millions of creatures die or are killed each day, it's a part of nature. If God or whatever Supreme Spaghetti Monster you believe or didn't believe in death, destruction and mayhem, they wouldn't have put it into the system, right?

    It's of little condolence to those who have been affected by this tragedy, but all the good and happiness in the world can only be measured and appreciated because we've also had to experience all the bad and evil in the world.

    Murderers used assault weapons to kill 3800 people from 2000 to 2008
    Murderers used knifes and other bladed weapons to kill 16,500 people from 2000 to 2008
    Lesson: Stop the murderers, don't ban the tools us by law abiding citizens protecting ourselves from the murderers. Criminals don't care about regulation/laws/bans, they will always have the best weapons regardless of what I have in my house, but I'd rather defend my house with an AR than a baseball bat.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • matt in nw

      Reason has no place here..begone!:))) Bet the anti gun crowd will jack the hell out of those numbers......

      July 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  5. Greg

    Listen everyone, God has started taking His hand off a country that is blessed by Him. What happened after 9/11, we all started praying for the victims, but we never asked for forgiveness of our sins. The Bible says, " If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I from Heaven, and heal their land." II Chron. 7:14 We have not turned from our wicked ways, our country has gotten more wicked! When right is wrong and wrong is right, we as a nation are in Trouble, I.E. Roman Empire!

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

      Taken his hand off? More like finally stopped groping.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  6. PJG

    If God knows everything and everything includes the future, then God knows what is going to happen before it does. Therefore, what is going to happen is known by God and cannot be changed. Therefore, if God knows everything, there is no free will.

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

      Are you serious? You think because God knows what will happen that there is no free will? Just because I know that when a person jumps off the face of Half Dome WILL DIE, that doesn't mean there is no free will. It means I know the outcome of his free will to jump.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • One but not the same

      Jack....Free will is an illusion. By definition God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. God is the all pervading complete controller of everything and everyone you experience. If you honestly think about it, you don't have control over anything.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  7. One but not the same

    God is omnipresent by definition...God is everywhere. He/She was present in the mind and thoughts of the shooter, as the substances that make up the ammo, the controlling forces that made the bullets hit the targets. Nothing happens by accident or by chance. Let go of the illusion that you have free will or any control in this world. You are always controlled and inspired by an all pervading force. Just try to see the true reality that you and everyone else is only a conscious being going along for the ride...becoming aware of the experiences in life you are forced to experience. Let go of false reality of control and watch the magic happen all around you.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  8. nje

    Where was God?

    God was there beforehand, pleading with the shooter not to go through with it. God was there comforting and consoling those who were scared and afraid. God was there when the shooter's semi-automatic weapon uncharacteristicly jammed, forcing him to switch to a lesser gun. God was there when a bullet went through the wall into the other theatre, through the neck of a high school boy yet missed all of his vitals. God was there 22 years earlier when a victims brain 'defect' was formed in her brain without her knowing allowing a bullet to go through her brain without harming her (link below) and God will continue to be there for all who hurt and who are heartbroken, because God is Love.

    Psalms 34:18 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit'


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

      That God is useless and irrelevant, and should be discarded.

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

      Aw isn't that sweet? God jammed the gun! Bet the 50 wounded and families ofthe 12 dead wish he stuck his divine thumb in the barrel a lot sooner.

      God wasn't there because he doesn't exist.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  9. str8vision

    Where was "God" during the shootings? Hanging out with Zeus, Ra, Budda, Odin and the rest of the gang.....

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  10. Just Saying

    May I suggest a very popular book on the subject of bad things not being prevented by God ... It is called "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" written by Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi, whose own son was born with a terribly disfiguring and rapid aging disease. The book is a short, easy read, and puts tragedies in perspective.
    God is also heartbroken by this latest tragedy.

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

      Why's he heartbroken? Because he's full of shame and guilt that he could've stopped it and didn't?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  11. Fifi

    Really? Really!

    Now everyone is asking (Where was God?). What little FAITH we have.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  12. Nancy

    I am so disappointed when I hear people blaming such situations on God. As a Christian, I believe this is of 'human doing' not God doing. Human beings have the choice of acting in good or bad ways and while horrific situations like this rock our belief systems, we must keep this on the level it is: a 24-year male planned to live out some crazy fantasy in a movie theatre, dreased as The Joker taking the lives of innocent people. This is not about God but about the same bad behaviors we have faced from humans throughout our world's existence. It is senseless and heart wrenching, but this is not about what God did or God didn't do. It's about one person who acted shamefully.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Former Christian

      No one is blaming God for this. THey are simply bringing up the fact that God is not present. One day people (as in the majority of Americans) will finally admit there is no God.
      “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

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • yeahalright

      God created the shooter.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  13. Lanie

    Where was God? God was there...He was with the people in trouble and His Spirit was in those that fought to protect loved ones and others in the theater. Just because something horrible happened, doesn't mean that God was and is absent...God was there and is still here to provide comfort and healing after this tragedy. How can we say that God is not among us when there where people willing to put their lives on the line to save others, when there are people sending thoughts and prayers through all forms of media, when there are nurses and doctors working hard to aid those that were injured, and when there are people all around the country who are working to help the victims and their families in any way that they can? God was there, God is here, God will always be with us.

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

      Lanie, I absolutely Agree! I believe God was there in the midst with the victims; wrapping his loving arms around those and bringing them comfort. Ultimately, men and women have free will and some do not adhere to the will of God which brings about terrible events such as this... I don't blame God for this but the man that carried out this attack. I pray God will give his peace and love that passes all understanding to those who have lost a loved one or been affected in this tragedy.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  14. dan

    The fact that this question is even being asked, in 2012, is way, way more shocking than these murders. People please, can we just stop this fairy tale nonsense? When are we going to wake up, and realize that this life is IT. No more or less. There is no god, there never was a god, and there never will be a god.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  15. Dennis

    Busy having a tea party with the White Rabbit and some Leprechauns

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Jessica/Confused?

    WHY the heck is this even on your site!?!!?!?! FIRST STORY!!? i mean, after watching the coverage on the families (bless their hearts) and after being told, WE (media especially) should stop attracting or mentioning the accused(s) (IN ANY CASE) names, THEN YOU POST A STORY ABOUT GOD!?!?! AND WHY HE WAS NOT THERE IN Aurora?!?! YOU BAFFLE me! You are CNN for crying out loud! did you lose your brass balls?!? We're honestly are going to sit here and comment on our religion beliefs!! this is ludicrous! so what if EVERYONE commented about "God" (ON TWITTER!) not being there or "Evil" powers. Get back to some more support stories, not turning everyone against themselves over a debate in religion the day of a senseless massacre. Who ever allowed this post to be published, shame on you for dipping SO LOW. Go find yourselves another top trending story on twitter.. you newscasters............. Oh wait – tune in on Saturday night for YOUR search for answers!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jessica/Confused?

      PS. Read ONE comment and was already disgusted - telling us that they are probably all in hell already. Great way to bring a community, heck the whole world, TOGETHER after such a traumatic turn of events. Religion is the WORST subject to bring up, and everyone, even the believers/non-believers know this. Shame. And the audacity to have the picture you do above your story. What an outrage.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Burps

      Amen! This is one of the dumbest articles I've read on CNN. Let's blame God for all evil in the world? What about Satan? Why doesn't anyone blame him. He had influence on this demon who went into the theater and murdered all those people. God had nothing to do with it. God also gave us Free Will to make our own decisions in life. Why are people so ignorant? And what about those who don't believe in God. What do they think happened? If there's no God, then you can't blame him or say he allowed this to happen.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Former Christian

      Shut up...seriously

      July 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jessica/Confused?

      See? now the "former Christian" has an opinion on my – NOT EVEN ranting about God!! And may i ask.. FORMER, why did you turn?! You STOP TYPIN.. cause i was not even TALKING!

      July 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Burps

      I have noticed that the "former" christians and atheists are the most bitter and hateful. I think it's because they have no faith in their lives. Faith can bring happiness. We'll shut up when you go away and stop complaining.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  17. a voice

    Freedom of choice is a trickier thing to understand than most. Logic, reason, and psychology are all equally tricky to understand. The shooter's logic, reason, and psychology from point A to B may never be known in an entirety. What happened from A to B in the conclusion of surrendering to the police is determined through numerous days of investigation by law enforcement officials and their associates.

    Asking where someone is amidst this tragedy is pointless, there is no face-to-face debate here. The real question will be who truly will remember this tragedy. Can society identify the cause and effect of such tragedies? If they keep happening I am assume not.

    Society assumes too much, and remembers mostly that which effects it the most. This seems a human trait for us all until the next tragedy strikes. People tend ask "do you remember when ____ happened?" And many may remember after the fact . . . but do they remember every day like the family members and friends of the victims likely will? Doubtful.

    When asking where God is amidst tragedy, does anyone think to ask if the shooter remembered where God was in the midst of his actions? I would say the shooter remembered nothing of God.

    Saying he wasn't there or that he is there in any capacity is not defined in any way a single testimonial of belief will yield. The faithful can only pray and work to prevent such tragedy from happening again. The faithless can only continue living. And by faithless I deem only those who fail to actualize any amount of hope in their lives for changing the world to be better place within the borders of their own lives. Such people are often defined by a stance little belief in anything.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  18. Harriet

    G-d was in the jamming of the last rifle.

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

      Yeah, I guess they left that part out of the article. It could have been a lot worse had that gun not jammed. Who else would you thank for that besides God?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Tammy

    God is wonderful. He CREATED us. For whatever reason He has for us, He also created us to know different emotions happiness, sadness and others here on EARTH. We do not understand why we have them especially sadness, it's all part of HIS plan for us. If you believe in God, and live your life FOR him, you will find the answer to
    all those questions in eternity.

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

      Your Capitalization is Strangely programmed.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      So, we get all of the answers after we die? Not much of a point looking for them now if that's the case, is there?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  20. gus

    God and religion were created by people that wanted to gain power, money and controll people thru fear.
    most of the horible things that man has done to each other thru history has been done in the name of religion. So we might as well blame it for the Aurora shootings too.
    Can only guess that the shooter ( I refuse to use his name, like the press should) did this to become famous.( in his eyes more powerfull) We should just lock him up and never talk about him again

    July 25, 2012 at 2:50 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.