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. Miss Manager

    People who believe in a god and satan are delusional. There is neither. Just made up characters from a book written by men who wanted to control the masses by frightening them. Yes this was also 2000 years ago when the earth was also flat. Grow up and take responsibility for your actions and stop blaming it on some non existent being.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mountaincore

      How old are you? Wow!

      July 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Miss Manager

      What does my age have to do with it? This person who did this is just mentally unstable and he should never had the ability to own a gun or 6000 rounds of ammunition.

      July 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  2. MelodyD

    God was in the middle of it. He was weeping at the evilness of man.
    The real question, I think, that people really are asking is why didn't He stop it? He didn't stop it because doing so would violate His own laws, God's own character. He gave us free will and guidelines how to live within His standards. We choose not to abide by those standards and so, eventually, that disobedience breeds this kind of behavior. God could intervene, and often does, but only in those lives, situations, or country, where He is allowed. Jesus said "I stand at the door and knock" not "I'll barge in and take control when you screw it up."
    It shows the pride and arrogance of people to demand that God stay out of everything, don't abide by His commands, and then get angry that He doesn't show up on cue.
    It's kind of like a teen who repeatedly ignores a father's command to drive safely, obeying the laws. The teen then wrecks and wonders why his father didn't prevent the wreck in some way.
    Yes, Jesus cried at this. It was not God's will that this happened. It was man's will and too often, we blame God when it is really our fault.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mountaincore


      July 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • James

      "He didn't stop it because doing so would violate His own laws, God's own character. He gave us free will and guidelines how to live within His standards. We choose not to abide by those standards and so, eventually, that disobedience breeds this kind of behavior."

      Seriously you're trying to make up excuses for your non-existant God. The people that got shot were probably trying to live up to their Christian Gods standards and weren't evil but they still got shot. The issues is your God doesn't exist so you have to come up with excuses to justify your belief in your cult.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      those are not gods laws....those "laws" were written by many men over many years, then edited by more men. Not written by god.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • James

      "It's kind of like a teen who repeatedly ignores a father's command to drive safely, obeying the laws. The teen then wrecks and wonders why his father didn't prevent the wreck in some way."

      Ok that was just a stupid comment because the people that got shot weren't disobeying the law, they were trying to watch a movie!

      July 25, 2012 at 3:46 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.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • matt in nw

      Wow... umm weeping at evil..... He...brought this into being acording to your religious texts........ Why cant you people connect the dots??? Lucifer is his right hand guy...playing the bad guy just as ordered... i say that because why in the blazes would anyone go toe to toe with an omnipotent being??? see the whole picture doesnt scan.....

      July 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bijouandbucky

      "It shows the pride and arrogance of people to demand that God stay out of everything" That has been repeated among several commenters. Nobody has ever made people keep Got out of everything. Just government. Every parent has a personal responsibility to teach kids their values–AT HOME! Teach your kids about God, Jesus and the Bible at the dinner table and when you tuck them in at night, and take them to church. If you do this, school teachers do not need to take on the resonsbility of making your kids religious, in addition to making them smarter.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • MelodyD

      Never said it was the theater goers ignoring God. It's society in general, this country, all of us. Not doing so allows opportunity for such tragedies and unfortunately, the innocent often bear the brunt of it. This is why the Scripture states that nations that seek after God will flourish and those that don't will be destroyed. It's not meant to be taken as God initiating a lightening bolt from Heaven, but that a failure to abide by God's commands will lead us to destroy ourselves.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  3. virginia

    Holmes would have not reacted to social presures if there were no God and evil, there would be no right and wrong there for there be no need for judgement on his part all those twelve people would stil be here with us today...and homes would be playing at the park with lots of good friend who would be incapable of causing him any wrong cause wrong don't exist his actions would be right...common poeple we all know wrong exist and there for Holms made a error in judgement...

    July 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  4. Mountaincore

    Where was God? God is, was, and always will be there for us. It is mankind who refuses his Word and does his own thing – like the shooter. God does not have a problem – man does. Take the Lord's spirit out of your heart and not much is left.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • matt in nw

      And once we all unite and follow God's directives, what then?

      cause historically when a bunch of religious people see eye to eye... they mob up and go kick the crap out of their neigbors...

      July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Except possibly your humanity?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      Sorry but everything written in the bible was written by many men over many years then edited by other men to gain power, money and to convert pagans to Christianity. Learn the history of your religion please

      July 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Mountaincore

      You peple below are talking about religion and "directives" from God. I'm talking about real change in man's heart – not secular humanism.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      " It is mankind who refuses his Word "

      Its pretty clear you are speaking about directives from god. Or is English your second language?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • sunnygirl

      very well said mountaincore. Proverbs 29:18-27 tells us "A nation without God's guidance is a nation without order. Happy are those who keep God's law!". people have removed God, or have tried to, from every aspect possible. why then do people seem surprised? the message is clear...Galatians 6:7..." Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

      July 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Mountaincore

      To Religion A Way To Control. . . blah...blah: Obviously you don't know what God's word is. Stop pretending to know what you're talking about. Better yet, just stop talking.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  5. geenabeana

    Putting religion aside, I feel this is a problem with our society. There is mental illness out there. There is also too much media and word spreads fast and wide. Perpetrators see this as a world wide platform to gain notoriety in the most horrendous ways they possibly can. Each time, it seems to be more extreme than the last. I don't think this has anything to do with "God," but more of a human issue. We need to start taking responsibility for the human race rather than blaming a god or a devil. It is a human choice, most often because of the some kind of mental illness. We need to be more connected and help our fellow humans rather than trying to find a way to explain something that makes no sense.

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

      The ol' "society is to blame" bit, eh?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • geenabeana

      Ok then, Iwill just go straight to the source and blame the person who pulled the trigger. It's better than twisting something around to fit a religious agenda.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  6. O_o

    God, Santa Claus, Satan, Unicorns, Holy spirits,..... are ALL IMAGINARY. Religion is a delusion. Grow up and stop pretending to be offended when your 'faith' is ridiculed. The shootings were carried out by a delusional idiot, nothing more.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  7. the voice of reason

    That was nice, Tom. Do you eat with that mouth? Tell your parents that you need to put a child filter on your computer. You can't be older than 7.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • the voice of reason

      Never mind....the post was pulled. TY

      July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  8. RatifyEverything

    Violence has been allowed to flourish in our society because people expect it of males and as a nation we need to more proactive about doing away with the double standards in conduct. Destructive, abusive bullying behavior needs to be stamped out early in households.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  9. cornkits

    Stopped reading at "We put the question to Twitter".

    July 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  10. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Robert

    Dieu n'existe pas!

    July 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  12. Anne

    Welcoming his children home with open arms... comforting the loved ones left behind... weeping for the lost soul that caused this tragedy.

    In the most darkest times, we must have faith and be ready to receive our Lord. Remember we never know when we will be called home.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  13. GodWasThere

    God was there. God had to suffer through the pain just as the victims families did. God gives up the will to live, he gives us our lives. God created 4 great men, who protected their girlfriends. God doesnt create acts of evil. Thats on our part. Just as god created Adam, and with adams rib created eve. But then Eve decided to eat the apple. We as humans, as gods children choose out paths. And that man chose a path of murder. As i said. God had to suffer, he had to watch 12 of his children killed, and another 60 in pain.

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

      I KNEW IT!! It's ALL women's (EVE) fault!! 8) shhh...don't let my wife know....

      July 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  14. sadie456

    For what it's worth, here's my take on the question. God is INSIDE each one of us. We won't find him in the sky, or inside a place of worship, or hovering around to answer our selfish prayers. We find Him only if we stop looking for Him in places he ain't. It is NOT God's purpose to either create or diminish suffering. Human beings and the forces of nature do that very well. We have the answer to our own salvation within us. Call it God, or the soul, or whatever you will, but the spark is there. That spark is unique to me. I cannot force it on anyone else. I cannot make anyone see it. I have enough to do with my life trying to improve myself, to be tolerant and compassionate, and to understand why I am here.

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

      Well said...

      July 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  15. vanessa

    This pastor didn't bother reading the bible before giving such a stupid answer. That just goes to show that pastors don't know the bible and don't care to teach what's in it. they have no idea of anything, and all they learn is how to fill their pockets with money that doesn't belong to them.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  16. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  17. animalsafehaven16

    It has always been my believe that God never gives you what you cannot handle and he may give or take things out of your life based upon what you are going through. I am not saying these people deserved to die and I am not saying that people deserved to lose their family. I am saying these that lost a loved one will grieve and move on to help overs based on what they have gone through. I am not one of those " I know the feeling" just to say it. I have lost several in my life due to domestic violence, auto accidents and cancer and I always say why me??? I have lost but if not for that loss I would not have helped those that I have today and gone on to help others. Yes, this man is evil and he will pay!! But I feel these people sacraficed their lives to protect others God made sure they were recgonized.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • the voice of reason

      Explain the word suicide, please.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Steve m

      Didn't anybody hear? His gun JAMMED. And people ask where God was in Aurora. Who do they think jammed that gun?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Mikey

      The gun jammed a little too late didn't it? If your god is omnipotent, wouldn't he have known about the premeditation? or he was too lazy to get off his heavenly ass

      July 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  18. RCS

    God asks us the same question everyday. Where are "we" when injustice continues daily? When we sit by and watch while millions of babies are aborted in the US every year? When we continue in greed and excess while people die of starvation? When we go to the polls and vote for unrighteousness? When gang violence continues in our communities taking lives everyday and we keep silent? When we allow God to be removed from every nook and cranny on the earth and then we want Him to majestically show up in crisis?

    God is unchanging, He never wills that we hurt. But he also gives us the free will to exercise our beliefs, be they humane or not. In Aurora, God was no less present than He is in our streets, our homes, our lives everyday. His heart hurts infinitely more than those who lost their loved ones, not only because of their pain, but because it could have been prevented and the same people who ask, "Where was God?" will turn a blind eye to the opportuniites we are given every day to save a life. God is as present as we allow Him to be. We can't ignore Him all the time and then get mad at Him when He respects our desire to be left alone.

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

      Within that concept, humans behave exactly as God designed them. So either it made us this way intentionally, or is an incompetent designer.

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

      If god exists, he is a vengeful god and helps nobody. Apparently sinners deserve to die, but can be redeemed by just asking for redemption. What are the sins of children who die every day from cancer, violence and accidents. Did they not eat their vegetables? Were they mean to their siblings. It's a stupid belief that this so-called god looks over us.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  19. sanjosemike

    Suffering has always been a difficult issue for religions. Some, like Catholicism make a "cult" out of suffering. Others, like Budaism suggest that suffering in one life will give you a better Karma when you return for another.

    Atheists seem to have the closest connection to reality, in that there is no evidence that any god or gods exist, except in the minds of the beholders.

    In times like this, it is always difficult to find a way (including for atheists) to deal with tragedy. But if you ask Cambodians and Jews, who have probably suffered the most from genocide they will probably tell you that the best you can do is to try to celebrate the lives of those lost in whatever way you can, and be grateful that you had them around you as long as you did. It helps to try to treat others well, since after all, you have no idea how long they'll be around.

    And of course try to seek justice. That's about all we can do.


    July 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  20. djembry

    I hope to not make my response strictly about religion and answer the question "Where was God in the Aurora massacre". I do not follow an organized religion, but one that is much like our great founding fathers. I am a diest. That is someone who does not feel the need to have a go-between with a relationship with God or one that believes in a religion with revelations to just one person or specific group of persons. I do not believe that people can dictate to God (praying) what they want God's will or their will to be. I personally believe God created the universe and does not interact with it. I do not believe in a satan or a devil or demons, but I do believe people can choose to be evil. Man has been given reason and free will. We exercise our reason and free will on a daily basis on small and large things. God's Creation is his revelation to us and cannot be altered. It does not rely on any man's or men's written or spoken words. What God has done for us is to set a natural order of things and he does not intervene. With regards to the tragedy in Aurora (or really any tragedy), God was watching his Creation act out its free will. God has given each of us free will, but he has also given us Reason to give consequences to that free will. Man has been set up on a checks and balances system. Many people ask why God would let this happen. Many Christians suggest that God is strictly a loving God and loving father. If he is a truly loving father, then he could not let a tragedy occur and separate loved ones from each other and provide such an immense amount of pain for so many. The Christian logic goes against God 's omnipotence. My suggestion is that God is not the loving father that Christians proclaim, but more like the watchmaker. It seems cold and harsh, but how else do you explain God's lack of action and his lack of fatherly attentiveness to his Creation. Until we all realize that we are each God's precious Creation and must do no harm to God's creation, we will continue to have tragedies like this happen. It is not God's action we must ask to come to pass , it is our corrective action which must continue to happen.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:37 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.