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. Not Above Belief

    Where was God?
    As I recall, the people that left the building unharmed greatly outnumbered the injured. Maybe He just couldn't save them all.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Adam

      You argue, then, for a pathetic being...

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

      Not Above Belief,

      Praise God! He ONLY let 70 innocent people be shot and ONLY 12 innocent people died in the "Christian United States".

      July 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Theyon

      Then he is not all powerful. He couldn't managed to save just 12 more people? I expect more from my savior.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Oops

      Yeah, because a god who could create the unfathomable large universe had trouble stopping a couple of bullets. You should pick a different god.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Maybe He just couldn't save them all." So you are saying he's only a small god, not a big one, and he was fibbing when he claimed to have invented the universe? Can he send out for pizza, or is that too complicated as well?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  2. Leo

    If there is no God then was this simply natural selection?

    Richard Dawkins was asked about ra-pe during an interview:

    Justin Brierley (JB): If we had evolved into a society where ra-pe was considered fine, would that mean that ra-pe is fine?
    Richard Dawkins (RD): I, I wouldn’t, I don’t want to answer that question. It, it, it’s enough for me to say that we live in a society where it’s not considered fine. We live in a society where uhm, selfishness, where failure to pay your debts, failure to reciprocate favors is, is, is regarded askance. That is the society in which we live. I’m very glad, that’s a value judgment, I’m very glad that I live in such a society.
    JB: When you make a value judgment don’t you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good. And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement.
    RD: My value judgment itself could come from my evolutionary past.
    JB: So therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.
    RD: You could say that, it doesn’t in any case, nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.
    JB: Ultimately, your belief that ra-pe is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.
    RD: You could say that, yeah.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  3. Erica Johnson

    God was not at the massacre, James Holmes was.

    And it is not because Satan is the God of this world, nor is it because we are not educating children–who may not even be Christians–down the path of God. This happened because one man was pushed over the brink of insanity, and there is nothing else anyone can do about that. Sometimes nefarious things happen, because without them people would not understand joy. So if you want an explanation for why this happened: perchance it is because without malicious things occurring, wonderful things cannot occur either. Next time, instead of using a massacre as a way to slap Christianity in non-Christians' faces, why not take this as a moral opportunity to decide for yourself how you can become a better Christian or Muslim or Atheist or Buddhist. Because not everything revolves around Christianity. And consider the fact that you could be wrong...

    July 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Gohek

    First off, nowhere in the bible des it mention "hell" in the sense you religious fools make it out to be. I believe in God, but you all take everything too far. This killing isn't some "divine punishment", or "god's will", or any of that. This was human imperfection in the form of sin. This man is not going to "hell" neither are the people who died going to heaven. They will both be dead until the judgement of the righteous and unrighteous. No soul, no zombie, no body will live on, they'll be concious of nothing. Its a tragic event yes but many fools on here insist on defaming god's name. And for the ones who disagree, atheists, etc, to each his own, while you may not believe in Jehovah/Yaheweh/God, I don't believe in random chance. But thats what atheism and religion are, beliefs.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  5. CACkle

    Called in sick?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  6. John in Oakland

    God is not really so mysterious. When good things happen, that's God answering your prayers. When bad things happen, that's the fault of human beings or nature.

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

      god's quite the politician. Credit for the good, "not my fault" on the bad.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • ME II

      Hope you're being sarcastic because that's some serious 'head I win tails you lose' thinking.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  7. Steven

    We know one place the devil was; in the killer.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • hannah1

      No such thing as "the devil" dude. Just evil, twisted people.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  8. CACkle

    Taking a dump?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  9. Bperez

    Why is this question asked only when bad things happen? Most of you no nothing about God or Jesus, just some slanted interpretation that someone told you in life. My friends don't be fooled God is everywhere, even if you have tried to take him out of everything, he still exists! Bad things happen because of the evil in the world, God did not change his mind from the old and new testament, he saw how fallen we were and sent his Son to save us! Do you think it was just luck that more people are not dead because the gun jammed, or because the door to the apartment was not opened, or because he was caught or because so many people were trying to save each other, that is God people, where there are human beings there will be evil, but where there is love and forgiveness and healing , that is where God is.

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

      This is the epitome of god gets credit for good things, but can not be held accountable for any bad things. Or in playground vernacular: he's rubber and you're glue; everything bad baounces off of him and sticks to you!

      July 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  10. CACkle

    Smoking a joint?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  11. CACkle

    On a coffee break?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Damien

    What God?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • John in Oakland

      I think Mars or Kali would be appropriate choices.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. waterman

    If God knows the future, like most agree he ought to, we cannot possibly have free will. God already knows that I am going to do such and such on this date and time in the future. God knows which babies are going to grow up to be murderers, rapists. When James Holmes was born, God knew that he was going to do this precisely at this time. Holmes may think that he did something from free will, but it is all God's plan and God know everything beforehand. Holmes could not have decided anything. Nor can we. If God knows the future, we have no free will.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Here a Little, There a Little

      Not true.

      You make the irrational connect that because God knows something is going to happen, his children has no choice? How do you make that connection.

      I know that if a candy jar is left open on the counter, my son will raid the entire thing until it is gone. I know this with 100% certainty and, indeed, know the future of this event depending only on certain contingencies. It is my fervent wish my son chooses not to eat the candy. But, I will respect and allow him the freedom to choose his own path. Why? Because i love him and, and painful as some consequences might be for him, I want him to learn responsibility.

      I am sorry, but just because God has a foreknowledge of events does not in any way shape or form detract from the truth: it was ultimately Mr. Holmes CHOICE to kill those people, not God's.

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

      If you were a parent of a small child knowing his/her personality inside and out. And You knew that if you left that child alone in a room with a cookie jar that he/she would eat a cookie and lie about it. Does that mean you forced that child to eat the cookie and lie? No, it was the child's choice. So too is our choice in life. Just because God knows does not mean we do not have free will. We make our choices in life. God can't be faulted for knowing it. But then you ask why doesn't he change all that is evil? bc he's given us free will. He loves us and wants to teach us how to make right choices. Not to force us like robots but to truly make us good...

      July 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • waterman

      @Here – no, it is logically necessary that if God knows the future, we cannot possibly have free will. The problem with your analogy (father/son = God/us) is that you as a father do not have powers of God. You can predict some events of the future with high accuracy, but you cannot guarantee anything. You are only guessing based on your knowledge of your son and how children behave. For example – if you leave the jar open, and your son is running to get candy, but on the way he trips and ends up in hospital. No chance to eat candy. You did not know that. You could not predict that. You were guessing the probable event (candy gone) but there is always the possibility (however small) that it does not happen. For God, on the other hand, there is no possibility that what he knows will happen in the future will not happen. It is set in stone, because God knows the future perfectly. God knew what Holmes was going to do even before he was born. Holmes has no chance to alter that.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • waterman

      @Grace – if God was a person guessing or estimating what people will do based on his knowledge of us, what you said would be true. But God is not estimating anything – he has perfect knowledge. Not 99.999%, but 100%. As humans, we are ALWAYS guessing and estimating, we cannot know anything for sure until it happens. God is different because he is all powerful, and knows, with perfect certainty, who is going to do what.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Guest11

      Not true, Here a Little.

      If you leave a candy jar open, you will reasonably assume that your son will raid it if he is given a chance. You do NOT for sure that it will happen. Your son may get distracted by something else, an eartquake may happen and destroy the house before he reaches the jar, so you do NOT know the future for sure; it's all an assumption. With God there is no if's and but's, he would know something for a fact.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • waterman

      A question: when a baby is born, do you think God knows that he/she will become? What s/he will do in life? Every detail? Only some details? And if God knows, does the baby/person have a chance to alter that, based on their free will? And if they do alter it, then God didn't really know what was going to happen, did he? And if we can't alter it, then where is free will?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  14. LK2


    Lenny said:
    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.
    Nothing has changed! There was STILL these very things happening BEFORE we told "GOD" to leave us alone. Actually, evil MORE evil was committed, until WE did something to change that... He didn't. I used to be a believer. Went to church 2 – 3 times a week as a kid. Grew up saying my prayers before bedtime, etc. Then I got real. I turned Atheist for many reasons. One of them is what happened in Aurora. Or why doesn't "He" ever open up the skies when people and animals are dying in Wild Fires, etc. So much "He" could have done, but let people die anyway in those fires. If you want to say "He" called them to Him, then I think your God is very selfish to take them in such a violent way. Don't claim that is the Devil's work, because I was taught during my church going days that God was more powerful. So don't blame the people for "God" not doing his job, because WE asked him to butt out. That's not true, and stop using that as an excuse.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  15. CAC

    On a coffee break?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  16. Ask him yourself.

    If truly you want to know where was God, don't blog it or ask other people on a web page. Go to him in prayer; tell him you need him and without him in your life you are lost. Ask him to save your soul (mind, will and emotions). Believe that his Son is the living representation (ambassor) of who God and then follow his teachings. Before you know it, God will reveal a little of himself every day of your life and you'll not be surprised by calamity, disasters, strange weather and leaps in revealed knowledge. All things will become new and more understandable.

    The trouble with unbelievers, non-christians and "vampire Christians", is they want the label of being called "good" but they don't want to learn of him. Their hearts are far from him. Don't be a nominal Christian; hunger and thirst for his righteousness and you'll be filled to overflowing.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Belief does not create goodness, it just creates belief.

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

      The trouble with unbelievers, non-christians and "vampire Christians",
      You are extremely arrogant. How do you know your way is the "right" way? What if followers of different religions have it right, and you have it wrong? How can your way be the only way, when other humans don't have access to it? Are you special?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Bperez

      Good Word

      July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • hannah1

      Oh, give me a BREAK! YOU ask him, and let us know what he says.

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

      My comment was for the original comment of ASK HIM YOURSELF!

      July 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      And if you hear Him speak to you, please see a psychiatrist.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  17. David

    There is no god. Grow up.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • LK2

      That is right, David! People have been brainwashed for years, just like I was until I finally realized it's nothing but a fantasy. Something to make people believe is a real thing to get them through life's struggles. They have to "believe" in something. They give "Him" credit when indeed it was man/woman that saved a life, etc. I don't disrespect anyone's beliefs, but since this is an "open" discussion, I'm expressing mine. If you believe in God, fine. But let me NOT believe without being judged.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • 1LL

      What u fail to understand is that you are "god". U r level 2 and I am 3 levels above you. None of us can go anywhere till your consciousness reaches the point of being considered an intelligent species in this universe. Need a place to start opening your mind, follow the triangles.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Wendy Kommany

    God is in complete control even when these tragedies occur, I take it as a way to call his lost children and to strenghten those who are already of his own, I struggle to keep up with God's will but I keep trying, I prefer to do it by my own instead of kind of forced by him when something bad happens. He loves us so much that he allows this to happen to try to bring us to him, unfortunately we don't always understand his message.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • hannah1

      Yeah, and you know all this because he came to you in an hallucination and told you, right. Do you even listen to yourself?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  19. Todd

    The most precious gift given to man is the freedom to choose. This gift is unconditional and caries with it the possibility of men misusing it. God will not take away this freedom, but, in the end, he also promises to hold us accountable for how we use it.

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

      Here we go again, the problem of free will:

      Let's assume there is a God and he does have a will. If man has free will he can do whatever he wants without intervention from God, right? What if man's will conflicts with Gods? 1) Does God step aside and change his will depending on what man does? 2) Or does God overpower man's will? If the answer is 1 than God is not in control – man is. If the answer is 2 than man does not have free will.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • ME II

      So if it's good it's God's plan, if not, it's our fault.
      If God exists, then does not Satan as well?

      July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  20. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Answer is in the way of truth, not in soul, desire of man.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:23 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.