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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:

Lenny
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.

Kyle
"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:

Harleyxx
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. Mark

    Religion is just a coping mechanism. People are frail. Good and bad things happen equally to people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. That alone is proof that religion and a belief in a God or spirtual guardian have zero effect on human affairs, and don't actually protect anyone from experiencing the same trajedies, pain, and accidents that affect us all equally.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Julie

      Someone that has never experienced an awakening experience in Jesus (which I am guessing is you) shouldn't explain what these people think, need, etc. You explain to people that it is a coping mechanism which is your way of placing yourself above Christians, because obviously in your mind you cope just fine. How can someone who has never had an experience explain the reasons for other peoples experience? If you have never tasted an apple pie, how can you tell the apple pie eater what he is experiencing and why he is eating it?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  2. RSC

    Without a knowledge of what God's will is, or at the least a knowledge of what God's purpose is for us even living, it is impossible to divine if: God's will was done, those that died fulfilled their purpose or were unjustly robbed of the opportunity to fulfill their purpose in this life.
    When we put our finite understanding forward to say that God was missing ignores the fact that he allows each of us to do our 'little' evils. But we presume that somehow he is unjust for allowing another of his creations to do their evil. Those that died in righteousness will receive their reward.
    We can only judge based on the innate moral goodness in each of us that defines taking life as wrong (not all religions believe this). I can't judge the mental or spiritual state of the perpetrator. And I certainly won't judge God. His justice will be done in his time and in his way.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  3. Jorge

    For those who profess faith in the God of the Bible, perhaps it is best to refer to the Bible for answers.

    Habakkuk was a Jewish prophet and writer of the Book of Habakkuk, written during 7th Century BCE. He chronicled violence in the city of Jerusalem, and wrote this in Hab. 1:2-4:

    "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."

    Sounds pretty much like what many in Aurora must feel – or in Anaheim, Mexico, Syria, China, or anywhere. But Habakkuk receives a response to his complaints in Hab. 2:3-4:

    "For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness."

    The righteous person who has faith in God will live. Jesus alluded to this when he said in Matthew 22:32, "He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living." Centuries after Habakkuk, and decades after Jesus death and resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote these words in Acts 24:14-15:

    "However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked."

    God sees everything – he is more than aware of what happened in Aurora. Matthew 10:28-30 contains these words from Jesus:

    "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

    The very hairs of your head are all numbered – that is the power and remembrance that God possesses – he has unlimited memory. And he will use that memory to restore all that is lost – health, youth, or life. Revelations 21:4,5:

    " ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”"

    God will make everything new, restore all that is lost. Those who believe in the God of the Bible will no doubt find comfort in His messages to us through accurate Bible knowledge. To those suffering in Aurora – and elsewhere – God is lovingly watching us.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Jorge

      For those who profess faith in the God of the Bible, perhaps it is best to refer to the Bible for answers.

      Habakkuk was a Jewish prophet and writer of the Book of Habakkuk, written during 7th Century BCE. He chronicled violence in the city of Jerusalem, and wrote this in Hab. 1:2-4:

      "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."

      Sounds pretty much like what many in Aurora must feel – or in Anaheim, Mexico, Syria, China, or anywhere. But Habakkuk receives a response to his complaints in Hab. 2:3-4:

      "For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness."

      The righteous person who has faith in God will live. Jesus alluded to this when he said in Matthew 22:32, "He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living." Centuries after Habakkuk, and decades after Jesus death and resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote these words in Acts 24:14-15:

      "However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked."

      God sees everything – he is more than aware of what happened in Aurora. Matthew 10:28-30 contains these words from Jesus:

      "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

      The very hairs of your head are all numbered – that is the power and remembrance that God possesses – he has unlimited memory. And he will use that memory to restore all that is lost – health, youth, or life. Revelations 21:4,5:

      " ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”"

      God will make everything new, restore all that is lost. Those who believe in the God of the Bible will no doubt find comfort in His messages to us through accurate Bible knowledge. To those suffering in Aurora – and elsewhere – God is lovingly watching us.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  4. ArmadilloTractor

    It's an "abomination" to eat meat more than three days old... so if you've ever eaten at any restaurant in America or bought meat from a grocery store... it's too late for you. God is actually pretty vengeful (as you already know and have pointed out), so if you've eaten at those places, you may as well have slept with a dude.

    And don't try to justify it... you can't just pick and choose which parts of the bible are true. Otherwise it's just a bunch of made up stories that you use to push your own agendas, but use God as your cover. I would think that would make God mad too (from what I understand from reading this board)...

    July 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  5. robert

    This is a paraphrase of a Mother Teresa quote when asked where God was in the midst of suffering. "He was there suffering alongside the people, the bigger question is, "Where were you?"

    July 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  6. LibertyBell

    We bore the sins of Adam to this day. Yes God gave us all free will. And what we have done with that? Looked around you. All these killings, disasters and what not, are all man made. Admit it , we are not perfect. Only God is perfect and he is in control. He gave us mercy and love. His wrath has not come yet. For those who are in pastorial roles, you are double accountable before God. So understand clearly from the original texts and translate them clearly to one's tongue. This is not a democrat nor a republican agenda. It is mankind under extreme pressure to know the sovereignity of the Living God. There is only One and he has given us his Only Son to pay for our sins of the past, the present and the future. For those who believe will have everlasting life.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  7. Luke M.

    Where was God? I will tell you. He was under a seat bleading and dying with the victims.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Patrician

      "Bleading," was He? Is that kind of a hybrid between bleeding and bleating?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  8. K Kim

    Judging by the # of comments, I'd say the question of God is the ulitmate issue for everyone – believers and non-believers. Atheists say atheism is not a religion but their apparent zeal suggests otherwise.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Atheism is specifically a lack of belief. Many reject the entire concept of belief in general, regardless of whether applied to a deity. Zeal doesn't require belief as an origin.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • sam

      Did that really make better sense in your head, Kim?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • K Kim

      Re:"Many reject the entire concept of belief in general, regardless of whether applied to a deity."

      So many atheists don't believe in anything?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • K Kim

      So you can be zealous about something you specifically don't believe in?!?!

      July 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  9. Ivan

    I am LDS and here is my eternal perspective, which is the same among many in our Church. In Psalms 82:5-6 it talks about how our spirits existed even before the world was formed or when the "foundations of the earth are out of course". The Lord says: "Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High." We existed as God's spiritual children in the very beginning, long before we were born here on Earth. The Lord revealed this to the prophet Jeremiah when he said, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;" (Jeremiah 1:5) and also to the ancient saints in Ephesus, "he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). We even believe we had a part in the Earth's creation and in the creation of man. "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26).

    Scientists have determined the age of the earth to be 4.54 billion years old. Imagine how much preparation went into making our Earth. If scaled down to the age of a single day, man has been on earth for a mere 13 seconds. Using this same scale, each mortal's life, from birth until death, will last less than a second when compared to the age of the Earth. But also in comparison to the age of the Earth, the age of our spirits is greater. One analogy used in reference to the age of our spirits is this... Just like you can't make matter out of nothing, you can't destroy matter and turn it into nothing. The same applies to our spirits. Our spirits have always existed and are eternal. They will continue to exist even after the deaths of our mortal bodies. Because of the shear age of our spirits, our Father in Heaven and our Lord, Jesus Christ, know each and every single one of us on a personal level.

    This earth was created for a purpose. Its purpose is to help "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). It is part of Heavenly Father's plan for our happiness. God wants all of His children to progress and become more like Him. Time on earth provides opportunities for us to grow and progress. For instance, we receive a physical body, exercise free agency, and learn to choose between good and evil. Real-life experience can also help us become more like our Father in Heaven. Another purpose is to form family relationships, which bonds can literally become eternal.

    Because God wants us to become like him, he provided us help. He loves us so much that "he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17). Jesus Christ led a perfect example of how we must live. He said "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). We have the scriptures, living prophets, and the example of Jesus Christ to help us become more like our Father in Heaven.

    One of my points is that not everyone will choose the path of righteousness, like in the case of the shooter in Aurora. But my other point is that the lives of his victims also do not simply end with the point of a gun. God will make everything right and just for both the shooter AND his victims AND for those who love them dearly in the afterlife.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  10. Patrician

    @t3chn0ph0b3
    I am part of the 'God probably exists but evidently doesn't interfere with living humans" crowd.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Thanks. Just curious.

      Have you considered atheism? Having a useless God is pretty pointless.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Patrician

      @t3chn0ph0b3

      "Thanks. Just curious.

      Have you considered atheism? Having a useless God is pretty pointless."

      I did consider it, but ruled it out at an early stage. The idea that we evolved from microbes into the sole intelligent terrestrial species out of dumb luck seemed me, to put it bluntly, a damn sight too convienent.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • SAi

      It is not convenient because you did not count the number of times that life failed to arise. The universe is big and very old which means that unless something is absolutely impossible, it is bound to happen somewhere sometime.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  11. Tim Brown

    Where was God? God gave everybody... EveRYbody... free will and free choice to do either good or do evil. God and Mother Nature are both proponents of free will and free markets. God lets you own and posess whatever your heart desires... including guns if that what it may be. It is obvious that God is NOT a socialist gun controller, or else everybody in the Universe would automatically have the same amount of money in their pocket as the next guy, and guns would not exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Joel

      God caught a late show with Fred Willard that night. Fred can be a handful.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  12. Lance

    Hey guys, Will you visit SaveMaci.ORG..... a friend is fighting for her life, Thank you

    July 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  13. Adam

    There is simply no reason for good and evil to exist if God does not exist. No one has ever been able to give a reason in all of human history. Sad that people, without thinking critically, jump to the conclusion that good and evil exist outside of God's existence. You have to give a reason. And so far no one has ever been able to give a logical reason for morality's existence outside of God.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Eve

      Morality existed long before religion; long before this 'god' came about via the bible; thousands of years back. Read a book.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Kenja

      In demanding a logical reason for good and evil, I believe you are asking the wrong question. Human beings are not robots, yet we are who we are via brute force evolution, and so we evolved emotions as necessary for love of life or mere survival and one just has to accept that. I also accept that we have ice cream parlors, beautiful parks and a particular person that we find attractive and that it is a desirable thing to combine the three for a pleasant afternoon. If you demand logical reasons for those desires and the many other things that make us quirkily human, you completely miss the point. Conversely, violence sucks, pain sucks, death really sucks and most normal people >>>feel<<< the same way as you and me, so both you and me (as illogical as it may be) might as well live in such a way as to preserve and promote the common "good" of who we are. It would be even more illogical to go against our common nature.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  14. mmilligan

    God was at the theater with everyone there. Where did you think he was? If the question is why do bad things happen in this world ask your self why do you do bad things? Have you lied, cheated, stole, thought bad things about anyone, the list could continue. So why does God allow you to do this things? If you are looking for a God who will control every aspect of our lives, good luck with that. Bad things happen in this world because WE lack the ability to love our nieghbor as our self. Good and bad fall on the all of us, there are no special people. For those who do not think there is a God why would you care where he was or is. For you this is just another part of life in this world. Our part now is to comfort those who are wounded and are grieving. The current course of media and society is to find out why this happen, why? Will this prevent it from happening again, hardly! This is happening around the world and will continue so long as there are two people who do not value life.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  15. Name*RatifyEverything

    Where's my post?

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Ralph M

      The truth is always deleted.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  16. Josh

    More people have been killed in this world because of Religion and here we are again contemplating where God was. God was in the same place this time that he was during all the other human tragedies and where he will be in all of our future tragedies. In some peoples' imaginations.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  17. Rober Cyr

    Where was god during the Colorado massacre? With the billions of stars in our universe and countless plannets able to sustain life, it's a big universe. Apparently even god's ability to multi-task goes just so far.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  18. Bryan

    I can only sigh about all the silliness that inevitably follows tragedies such as this one. All the believers come out to tell us all that God is angry, or indifferent, or how he has temporarily ceded power to Satan or some other such bogeyman. In the end it more likely comes down to this: We are relatively highly evolved primates that possess complex brains that sometimes malfunction. When they do, those that are experiencing the malfunction believe outlandish things and may have strange and compelling desires that they act on. Sometimes in that situation they hurt and even kill others. Suspending your own critical thinking skills and abandoning logic and giving this all up to an imaginary controller of all things does nothing to ease the pain of the victims and their families. And while I was not personally impacted by this terrible event, I would still find more comfort in the idea that sometimes people just malfunction and it can have terrible consequences. Leave the fairy tales to the Brothers Grimm please.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  19. amit

    I don't believe in God because scientifically there is no proof of God's existence. If scientists ever discover the proof for a supreme being's existence then I will change my mind. But, this doesn't mean that I can't teach good morals to my kids. My kids know the difference between good and evil and I have been raising them to understand about morals and how they should respect every other person regardless of their color, race, religious beliefs or opinion. Without visiting a temple or a church, my kids understand the difference between right and wrong, and they understand that good morals are essential to them. So, IMO Religion or God is not necessary for someone to be good. People can still have morals without God. So, the argument that without God people will not have morals is incorrect.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You seem to have a well reasoned and moderate approach to life. My question is this. What is the basis for the moral teachings you give your children? Is good and evil based on their perspective (good for me is good)? Do you think the law of the land is sufficient? Maybe you just know what is good without having to think about it? Or do societal pressures, peer groups and politics decide for you?

      It seems to me it is all well and good to raise children within the norm of our modern societal values but ultimately the question arises, what is the root of those values? I maintain that Judeo-Christian values are that root.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  20. stella

    I am always sickened by articles like this. Many people live their lives not giving God a thought, they do not care about God, or live for God, or worse yet, they have made up their own version of God, and expect God to line up with the rules they have made for HIM. I in no way blame those poor victems for what happened to them, it was evil and awful, but I have no idea if any of them, or all of them even Believed in God at all. I don't know who God may have tried to keep from going to that show that night at that time, neither do you. Everyone thinks every except maybe Hitler is going to heaven and that is just not true. We all are sorry for the loss of life, but I don't know where any of the victems were at with God, its just as fair to ask that question

    July 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • PaulBel

      Incredibly stupid post. So you're saying that, perhaps these people were not believers (although I still don't fathom what you think they should believe it) it was possible that they deserved to be killed and maimed? And of course, a six year old better have her beliefs in order lest god decide she's not worthy of living.

      Trying to tie this heinous act of a demented person to some imaginary concept of heavenly justice is more than stupid; its sickening.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • oj

      That is a stupid post. Why is their version of "god" any less valid than whatever you think "god" is?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
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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.