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. New Gawker

    God's the same place he's always been, in your mind.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No, in my heart

      July 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Get Real

      Bill Deacon,

      In your heart? Because you get those pitter-pats and kathumps and thrill-like sensations in response to chemical and electrical signals from your brain (or from other physical/chemical stimuli)? Your heart is muscular a blood-pumping organ.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  2. OPEN400

    Our free will was given to us such that we can radiate love and peace with it; or, act in selfish destructive ways. The choice is ours. Sometimes we can learn through our own mistakes. Please remember that Jesus on Easter overcame the hatred and violence was inflicted upon him on Good Friday. We need to overcome this sensless violenrt act and have the courage to change these violent obessions we have with guns.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  3. jimbojonesiv

    Well, if we are to believe their words, God is with the politicians who insist they are doing Jesus' work by putting an assult rifle and multi round clips in the hands of every nutcase in America. Unfortunately, they don't yet have the part down where some concealed carry second amendment hero saves the day. But they sure got the first part of their fantasy working well.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  4. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  5. igor1980

    By focusing on whether "god" or "gods" were involved or present during the Aurora Massacre is a disservice to logic and reality, and is dangerous in that it ignores the real threat of mental disease. First, this is an extreme incident that should not be reflected onto the masses or taken as a "state of society" problem. If such is the case, then we must take into consideration bloodshed around the world. In fact, just days after Aurora, 85 people were killed in one instance in Baghdad – where were your gods then? To my original point, focusing on god's role begets that a deranged lunatic took 12 lives. If we sit and wait for god to intervene, we'll continue to let this happen. Rather, our efforts should be focused on civil liberties, health, science, and building a stronger national social fabric. Taken along with instances such as Columbine and Tucson, there seems to be a systemic relation between these incidents. We should focus on the true causes; the tangible causes we can touch, see, feel, and manipulate. There isn't a shred of evidence of god or a higher being in this situation – all we have is the subject, Mr. Holmes. And he is alive. What can we learn from him that will allow us to notice the warning signs early on that allow us to prevent this type of tragedy? What was his childhood like? What were his influences? What did he eat? Who were his friends? Etc. But stop looking for god here, because it doesn't exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • damo12345

      Well said, but the format of this comment section means few will read it.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      His influences and what he ate were a steady diet of selfish, entertainment driven, lustful, greedy distortions in a cacophony designed to drive men away from their rightful inheritance as Sons of a merciful, forgiving Father into the blind, ignorant pigs we have become. Some of us just become arrogant and self righteous. Others, the best, learn to serve. Some break into shards and fire automatic weapons into public places.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  6. Sifleut

    Anyone can be spiritual, but religion and god separates people as you can see evidence in these comments.
    There is no god, we all have good in us and should believe in ourselves.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I bet Holmes believes in himself

      July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  7. Kris

    I look at all of the miraculous things in the world (animal and plant life, planes, cars, buildings) and know that there must be a god. Then I see tragedies that cause great human suffering and know god can't exist...

    July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

    God was crying for humankind....what it had become.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  9. cacique

    I guess He was watching the idiocy and stupidity we have indulged in. He may be asking himself what is that we are going to do with all that free will he gave us. I my self ask to know what is the NRA going to do to help victims and relatives that have to suffer the receiving end of the right to bear arms.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Future PA

    Where was God? In the same place he was when he had to watch his son die on the cross...

    July 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Thanos

      If you believe in such nonsene, God IS Jesus, so he watched himself sacrifice himself. Doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • loco

      Why people keep blaming God. The bible clearly states that the world is ruled by Satan. Soon God will bring his kingdom and provide those seeking him and doing the will of God salvation. God gave us free will and some choose to do evil things because they do not know God because if they did they love their neighbors and do fine works. The wicked will soon be removed if they do not come to repentance. end of story.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Kel

    The original question...."Where was God in Aurora Massacre".
    I believe God was in heaven looking down upon his children. Did he intervene? Possibly. Did he turn his back on his children? No, I do not believe He did. Often when a tragedy occurs, we humans often wonder where was God, how could he allow this to happen? God gave human's the freedom of choice. It wasn't a matter of allowing or not, it was a matter of how humans treat one another.
    As a parent, I would be crushed if anything should happen to my children. But in reality, wouldn't that make me selfish? As a Christian, I believe that when we die we go to heaven, providing we lived a life devoted to God. So, if I were to lose a loved one (which I have) shouldn't I be happy that they have moved on to a better life, an everlasting life in heaven?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  12. PARKER


    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able to stop evil, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?
    Then why cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

    on a separate note:
    why would an omnipotent god allow 20,000 children to die everyday from malnutrition and diarrhea? why would god allow innocent children to suffer the pain of incurable cancer and other diseases?

    by what laws of physics did god whip up our universe in 6 days and create 2 humanoids? it also seems there was a lot of incest taking place in order to be fruitful and multiply.

    most religions back track their history and date their creation to 5000 to 7000 years which doesn't agree with any rock i can pick up in my backyard and date to almost 4 billion years ago.

    what of evolution which is a proven science?
    why is there no mention of dinosaurs in the bible?
    what of the 3 degree above absolute zero temperature of the universe which proves a 14 billion year old universe?
    if methuselah lived 900 years, why can't we?
    how did jonah get swallowed by a big fish and survive?
    god wiped out mankind and allowed noah's family to repopulate the world? there we go with a lot of incest again.
    web sources state that there are between 3 million and 30 million animal species and 10,000 new ones are discovered/catalogued every year. how did noah get them on the ark?
    what about an earth centric universe? we know our solar system revolves around the sun.
    ten plagues? come on. mysterious death of first born child plague?
    a burning bush that isn't consumed?
    wandering in the desert for 40 years? how come we don't see these miracles on the 6 o'clock news? i could go on and on but i've gotta get back to work.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Wally West

      You don't care what a certain Jewish man said 2000 years ago, why should we care that you bring up EPICURUS?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Atheists in CNN Religious Forums are Trolls

      You could go on and on but no one is really reading what you already posted by an atheist Greek philosopher.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • matt in nw

      Loving, caring God has a plan...... besides, dont underestimate how wayward and vile a 4 or 5 year old can be!! sarvations what they deserved and starvations what they got..mind ya.... on a releated note God's good with the Bankers....has to be cause God's justice wouldnt be uneven or sporatic or anything....no the believers have it right bud...leave em be....:)))

      July 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Sifleut

      I love it when these believer's heads explode when their beliefs are debunked. The sting of their pride gets them every time.
      "You'll all burn in hell!" Love, God

      July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • TheTruth

      You speak as though God were a puppet master and we merely unwilling puppets, dancing on His strings. Free will is just that. The Bible makes it very clear that God has given us the freedom to do what we will – why is it that you blame God for what people do? Your twisted logic fails, and your lack of wisdom is made clear.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • matt in nw

      Truth If creationist are right.... everything.... the whole package is his doing... he set the stage, the players, the rules and the consequences and punshment... with the added complication that we were already born into sin ...because of an apple tree and a snake.... the whole thing is laughible bad... except hundreds of millions in history have died because of it....

      July 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  13. Matt K

    No Dieties has anything to do with the tragedy that happened there. Human civilization is based on free will, whether given to us by God or a byproduct of the brains ability to reason. This man did something terrible because he wanted to. There is no reason to find a why, to look for any type of reason or justification from God. It happened, its over, and there is no one to blame but the man who committed the crime. Stop wasting your time and take this as an opportunity to encourage change.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  14. Marie

    So,If Heaven really exists, you have to die to get there – there is no other way. So, if Heaven really exists, death is a good thing. This means that those people got to go to Heaven before the rest of us and they are lucky, right?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Bill Deacon


      July 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • lee

      What an awful belief system

      July 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  15. Wayfaring Stranger

    Same place he is when we abort our innocent children. Watching man destroy himself with free-will. And taking names.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Observer


      The Bible NEVER mentioned abortion. Read it sometime.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Wayfaring Stranger

      observer. thou shalt not kill. you're not very observant are you?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Ooooooh taking names.

      Face it, if he exists, he's a really sick guy. Allegedly: He created us. He gave us free will. He knows everything, including all the horrific stuff that would result from it.

      Sounds like he's responsible.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Observer


      You really should read the Bible. You're not very observant.

      The Bible says if you hurt a PERSON, the penalty is "an eye for an eye". If you cause a woman to miscarry, the punishment is a FINE.

      Read it sometime.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Wayfaring Stranger

      Observer.......abortion is murder of your own child, not accidentally causing a woman to miscarry.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Question_it

      So why would god watch so many innocent children be born only to be subjected to a unbearable pain, abuse, starvation, and numerous other horrors only to die before they young. Was he making them earn their way to heaven? Were they paying for other people's sins? What purpose did that serve? (Hint: this is where you tell me that we can't know his master plan.)

      July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Observer


      Still haven't read the Bible, have you? The FINE is to be paid if someone CAUSES the woman to lose the fetus.

      As is typical in the Bible, the woman is considered inferior since the fine is not paid to the injured woman, but her HUSBAND.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Wayfaring Stranger

      yeahalright.........there is no if. he does exist. he warned us about sin, we're the dumb ones that ignored him. take some responsiblity. he's not the sick one, he will punish sin, what would be sick is to allow murderers to slaughter people in the theater without punishment. Men are evil because they want to be.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Craboo

      Was god behind the Spanish inquisition? Because Rome and the Church were.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • fred

      In Exodus the Phareoh sent the midwives out with instructions to use late term abortion (kill the Hebrew babies as they exit the womb). Do you not count that as abortion................

      July 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Craboo

      More people have been killed in the name of god and the church than any other unnatural cause. The only reason their were believers in the first place is because they killed anyone that said they did not believe. If everything that the religious people say about god is true then he certainly does not have anything to do with religion.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  16. Atheists in CNN Religious Forums are Trolls

    As always – tons of atheists on a religious topic. If topic was non-believer centric, of course atheists would be here. Th earticle is where was God, not do you believe. Everyone knows atheists have it al lfigured out.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      No. Atheists admit that we don't have it all figured out. Christians are the ones who pretend to have all the answers in one book.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      You have that reversed my friend. Atheists have nothing figured out. That's why we don't believe in that which is unproven. It's the believers who seem to feel they have it all figured out.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Stephanie Brown


      July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Craboo

      How open minded of you to know that we have it figured out, now just teach the rest of your brainwashed friends and we will leave the forums alone.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  17. Rev. Schaeffer

    I was taught how to pray and how to be a good person by parents who were both liberal and conservative. And as the atheists remind us, the condition of morality is independent of the path we choose to get there. It wasn't their faith or politics, it was the compassion of those people, from wildly diverse backgrounds, who sacrificed so much for me that has made the difference in my life. United we stand. And for that I owe a great debt.

    I believe in the Divine and I believe in Karma. It's just not as simple as an eye for an eye. I believe there are consequences to every action and I believe that sometimes stuff happens for no apparent reason. Sometimes we make bad choices and sometimes the pain is not directly our fault. That's life and nobody really knows all the why. I don't have all the answers. I just woke up here one day, the same as you. Follow your own heart. Your path doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to be free.

    Through my own sorrows I too have struggled to understand why such intense suffering is permitted. Eventually I learned that life isn't always about what I want. The hardest part of love is learning how to let go. Give others the love you would have for yourself. Share the bounty you have received and it will eventually come back to you. Remain vigilant, but never fear what is to come. Live in the fullness of each moment. It's all we ever really have.

    And remember that for every dark night, there is a new dawn.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Linda

      Amen, Rev Schaeffer. You are closer than most of the replies here. God isn't an all controlling puppeteer, however, the Divine does operate in the universe. The invitaion is to live out Divine love, mercy, compassion, grace, and forgiveness in our own lives. If more of us lived that way suffering would lessen. Would it still be there from those who refuse, yes? But there is not a Divine power making these things happen. We are to live and respond with a whole different set of principles than any fundamentalist of any religion is purporting. And many atheist miss the point by arguing against the fundmentalist God and not a Divine force/principle that is always more than our own human imaging or imagining.fStunning how conservatives used this against liberals and vice versa. Nice job on the comment, Rev.

      Rev L.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  18. Ct

    A tragedy like this says absolutely nothing about God's existence - except that he does exist. To even call this a tragedy or reference the terms bad and evil presupposes some point of comparison that must exist outside of the natural realm. If there is no God, then James Holmes was merely obeying his biochemistry as were those who saved others - no villain, no heroes, just animals doing what animals do.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Leo

      If there is no God then who has the right to say what he did was even wrong?

      Yes Godlessness has problems!!

      July 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Woody

      More than just humans care for their young and elderly . Take elephants for example ! Go to a zoo sometime and watch ! Its a mammal instinct not a godly one as elephants know nothing about any god !

      July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Leo

      Was it natural selection?

      Godlessness really has problems!!

      July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Leo

      Woody they were designed that way just like Man. The only problem is man is rebelious!!

      July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Veritas

      To blame God for the premeditated act of a criminal is to LET HOLMES off the hook.

      If everything bad is God's fault, why have Laws, why have Courts, why have Judges and Juries, WHY TRY Holmes at al if it's NOT his fault or responsibility if he wantonly kills and maims 60+ victims.

      Pull down your prisons, America, your Godless people don't believe in answerability and self control. By your standards – James Holmes should be back on the streets by tonight, a free man – planning his next atrocity----But hey! no problem – it's GOD'S fault! Let Holmes have his perverted pleasure at GOD'S expense.

      SEE how utterly stupid this question is?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  19. cinqo

    cinema killer occured under obama watch.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Chris

      Can't wait for Obama to announce how *HE* caught him... just like Bin Laden.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • cinqo

      you are talking nonsense. nothing like what happened in colorado occured under bush watch

      July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Craboo

      No just our troops murdering innocent civilians in the Illegal War in Iraq happens under Bushes orders, oh yeah and the complete meltdown of the world economy. Thank you to our soldiers for all you do, you are strong and brave. I support our troops just not the leaders that send them to die in the desert. Oil or god they don't deserve that fate.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Joel

      It was Bush's fault!

      July 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  20. Woody

    There is a reason why we have police , personal protection permits, and soldiers . Because some of us have to deal in reality and if you really think about it do you call the police or your bible when you are about to be in danger ? If there really was a god that was going to fix everything you would not need police, firefighters, soldiers, hospitals . I am glad some went to school to deal with the real world or we would all be in trouble !

    July 25, 2012 at 4:08 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.