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. Bootyfunk

    where was god? same place you'll always find him - in his follower's imagination.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Bob


      July 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  2. Polite Atheist

    If you believe in an eternal afterlife that is greater than this life, then why are these events tragic? This is an honest question and not meant to be a smart a comment.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Al

      Define your concept of an enternal afterlife? I think for most practicing Christians the concept of God is here and now.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • TomPaine

      I've wondered the same question before–why do Christians mourn death if they believe someone is moving on to a better existence? Presumably, then, the tragedy is not about the death of the victim but about the loss to their families and friends.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  3. Voice of Reason

    Do Atheists subscribe to CNN alerts anytime the word God is written in an article?

    July 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      atheist articles go here too, bozo.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      The article is about God though and not atheism and you don't believe in God so why are there so many atheists on this blog? It literally looks like you all subscribe to CNN alerts so that anytime an article about God comes out you are quickly notified.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  4. John

    Here is what Jehovah God himself says on the matter. He will intervene at his appointed time.
    James 1:13 When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.
    Eccl 9:11 time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.
    Rev 12:12 Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to YOU, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”
    Eccl 8:9 man has dominated man to his injury.
    Matt 6:10 Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.
    Ps. 37:10-11 And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. 11 But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. See also Prov 2:21,22
    For a full explanation see http://watchtower.org/e/200611/article_01.htm

    July 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Ran

      Quoting the bible. Good one. That's hilarious.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  5. sunpacific

    You have to love the insistence of believers who obstinately stick to their beliefs: if something good happens, they cry, “Look, it is a miracle!” If something bad happens, you get the same excuses being paraded here: “God acts in mysterious ways,” “The gun jammed- so only 12 innocent people died, it’s a miracle!” “God is testing us.” The death of an innocent 6 year old girl is a miracle? Do you people believe in such a “benevolent” god?

    It is astounding what we will do to not have to take responsibility ourselves. Thomas Jefferson said it best: "In extracting the pure principles which he taught,” Jefferson wrote in 1813, “we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms. ... There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."

    I believe that Jefferson would have been called an agnostic or even an atheist today. He removed references to miracles, etc. from the bible which he called "artificial vestments" and was left with the exemplary ethics of an exemplary man. A man- not a god, not a son of god. In short, he looked upon Jesus as an example of morality based on the principle of love. Of course, far-right-wing-religious-zealots today would take issue with this. Go ahead and keep believing that the innocent slaying by a mad-man who had easy access to a semi-automatic assault rifle thanks to the NRA is a part of god’s grand plan. The rest of us will try and deal with the reality of the situation.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  6. bosefasaurus

    8.8 million children under the age of 5 day every year. That's the equivalent of a 2004 tsunami every 10 days killing only young children. That's 17 children a minute. If whatever god you happen to believe in would allow this many children to die in fear and terror every year, what makes you think it gives a damn about 12 people in a movie theater?

    July 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Ran

      God cares more about touchdowns than starving children!

      July 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Yeah but most of those kids are brown and live in countries where they believe in a different god and their parents would've raised them to believe in that god anyway.

      In other words, they don't matter to the real god.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  7. TIM C

    Where was god in Aurora? He was nowhere because there is no god, it doesnt get any easier than that folks. Clear your minds of decades of religious brain-washing and look at the clear truth. Occam's Razor.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Warren

      Your right on! all mumbo jumbo and I was hooked, same as all the rest, then I wised up.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  8. GW

    God is pretend.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Rob R.

      Shatner is forever.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Al

      until God is needed.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  9. DR Blackinstien

    Why these kinds of senseless things happen in life? Only God knows why. One thing is for sure. HE is in control eventhough we may not understand why they happen. For those who deny evil and satan, these senseless acts of murder only prove both exist. God's ways are much higher than our ways. HIS thoughts are much higher than our thoughts.Many

    Many times in life people put themselves in bad situations and open the door for evil into their lives.The movie itself had an evil overtone, "The Dark Night". God is Light! Satan is Darkness! Think about it!

    Many people today love the Darkness rather than the Light. Yes, just a movie. But evil needs a door to enter. James Holmes found that door as he was called by satan that DARK night. Peoplelike Holmes are not sick or insane, their possessed by evil. Satan. Many will say after that they heard voices speaking to them. Evil can manifest itself anywhere and anytime. Why would God allow it to happen? The real question should be, what are people doing in their lives that invoke evil and allow satan to take control over them.

    For without a doubt, just as sure as there is a GOD, there is a Devil who takes control of many today to do evil acts of murder, and other perverted evil acts.

    The Doctor

    July 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Bob

      Provide proof for any of your statements.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Keenan Salla

      LOL, Doctor of Divinity is my guess.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  10. vinster

    Why do we always look towards God in situations like these? Have we no self esteem in our own courage and abilities as humans that we have to look for a non existent being to solve out troubles? There are killings that go on all over the world in places with and without people believing in God. We were unlucky enough to have it happen here.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  11. Derek

    He was to busy helping starving kids in Africa....oh wait, no he wasn't.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  12. elopez

    More logic.

    1. If God exists, then he is transcendent (i.e., outside of space and time)
    2. If God exists, he is omnipresent.
    3. To be transcendent, a being cannot exist anywhere in space.
    4. To be omnipresent, a being must exist everywhere in space.
    5. Hence, it is impossible for a transcendent being to be omnipresent
    6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • DR Blackinstien

      Just because you don't understand why doesn't make GOD unreal!
      "The FOOL has said there is no GOD"
      Look up Fool!
      The Doctor

      July 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Rob Anderson

      Again your logic is flawed. God need not be omnipresent. Suppose our "creator" is an alien in some other dimension that created our universe for kicks and then got bored and went to do something else.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • dvwp

      You don't have to understand something for it to exist. Not everything can be solved by our logic. If that were the case, cancer would be cured already. Speaking as an analytical chemist, we DO NOT understand the subatomic world. It does not behave in the same manner by which the macroscopic world works. Our concept of physics cannot fully embrace it. Its bigger than a list of 1. thru 6. So is God. Your mind (and mine with years of scientific training and research) will never logistically explain God.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • elopez

      @dvwp, That my mind, (which also has 9 years of scientific training and counting, in case you thought this somehow my not pointing this out invalidated my point) or yours dont understand the atomic world doesn't mean that: a) At some point in history it will. b) Maybe in some point of our lifes wi will. Science builds on itlself, you should know this. Not being able disprove God isn't proof. The mere fact that the Higgs, after decades of theoreticaly being proved, just now was physically measured should be evidence enough that just because you don't know it now, doen't mean it will never be known. Much love and respect 😉

      July 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  13. Gigi

    After a tragedy in my own life, I asked the same question. Why did God allow this? I immediately thought I was being "punished" for something –although I didn't know what. Eventually I just accepted that I am not supposed to know why. Perhaps God allows certain things to happen because this life is an experience. We can't have light without dark. That's all part of our personal and collective journey. As far as free will, I have a hard time with that theory. We do make choices and we do feel the consequences. However, I have a difficult time believing anyone–whether crazy or evil–wants to be "that person." How much of it is environment, genes, or other forces that cause people to do horrible things? I don't think we're supposed to know the answers to these tough questions.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Bob

      Perhaps god doesn't exist. Certainly Christian god does not exist.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Not supposed to know? Yipes. The church has really crushed your curiosity.

      The only way to survive in this universe as a species is to try to understand it and navigate it for the good of humanity. Through collective learning, we alone on this planet have the opportunity to give our species immortality among the stars. Think about that. In time, every other species on this planet will become extinct unless we save them by saving ourselves.

      Don't give up on trying to figure stuff out. It's in your own best interest.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • George

      Bad things happen because people are evil and the earth isn't flat. Gigi, how can you simply suspend your critical thinking and believe in faith. There is no god.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Gigi

      I just wanted to add that I have a very open mind and more importantly, an open heart. I never stop questioning life and all of its mysteries. Many things are invisible and can't be "proven" but they still exist.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Gigi, if said things can't be proven, then what is your proof that they exist?

      July 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  14. TransWarpDrive

    Someone asked the very same question after the Oklahoma City bombing back in 1995. Someone (I don't remember who right now) wrote an eloquent response in which he stated that God's mercy came through in the form of the rescue workers and first-responders who climbed through the wreckage looking for survivors, and treated the injured. His mercy showed through the actions of all who responded to that disaster, and did whatever they could to help the victims.
    That same response applies to this tragedy in Colorado. God's mercy was shown in the actions of those who gave their lives to shield their loved ones from the gunman's bullets. His mercy was shown in the actions of those other moviegoers who helped the wounded out of the cinema, so they might live. His mercy was shown in the outpouring of comfort and support in the town of Aurora after the shooting, as well as in the swift response of the police department in getting to the theater and arresting the gunman. God's mercy was shown in the compassionate response of people from all over the nation to the suffering that occurred in Aurora last Friday morning.
    Where was God in Aurora, you ask? He was there – you just need to know where to look.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  15. TIM C

    Whats really a hoot are the pastors telling his flock "thank God for the people who miraculously survived, God was looking out for them!" Yeah, ok, so then God was NOT looking out for the 12 people who were murdered? Give me a break. No other than Abraham Lincoln pondered this question: "We the North pray to God for victory, yet the South prays for the same thing... God cannot be both for and against the same cause in this immense strugle." The answer if you courageous enough to see it, is clear= there is no God.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  16. cinqo

    the colorado killer is son of a mathematician. don't blame God. read the history of mathematician. remember unabomber? he was a mathematician. my own crazy brother( former brother) also joined the club: mathematician. i can elaborate about how mathematicians think, but this is not the place. theater killer is son of a mathematician.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Bob

      Yeah, those mathematicians. Don't forget lawyers too while you toss around your circumstantial ad hominems.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  17. Daniel the reasonable

    Where was he? In the theater down the street... Come on... Same place he's always been everywhere, a figment of the imagination of those living 2,000 years ago that wanted to control other people. "Read and believe in this book and when you die, it's really awesome!! otherwise, you go to like, the worst place ever, it sucks!"

    July 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  18. elopez

    Here's some more of that damn greek logic for'ya

    1. God is (by definition) a being that which no greater being can be thought.
    2. Greatness includes the greatness of virtue.
    3. Therefore, God is a being that which no being could be more virtuous.
    4. But virtue involves overcoming pains and danger.
    5. Indeed, a being can only be properly said to be virtuous if it can suffer pain or be destroyed.
    6. A God that can suffer pain or is destructible is no one that which no greater being can be thought.
    7. For you can think of a greater being, on that is non-suffering and indestructible.
    8. Therefore, God does not exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Rob Anderson

      Your logic is so full of holes it's hard to know where to start....for example, if there is a God he/she it certainly isn't subject to our definition, nor is it necessary for this God to be virtuous according to our definition of what that is...

      July 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      @Rob – If we are made in God's image – like the Christian belief goes – than wouldn't it make sense that our sense of what virtue is would be similar to Gods?

      If God's logic and our logic are completely different, than we could never freely do anything that God wanted – unless it was just by chance. Or if God was forcing us to do everything.

      If there are 2 different kinds of logic than religious folks would be SOL.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • DR Blackinstien

      For all the ATHEIST on this blog.
      You don't and never will have all the answers, BUT GOD does!
      Stop using your lil pea brain to explain analize God.
      Were you there when HE created the universe and all in it? JOHN 1:1
      You need to find HIM(Jesus Christ) before you die and open your eyes in Hell.

      The Doctor

      July 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • elopez

      It isn't my logic. It's logic, plain and simple. And you call it flawed? An imaginary (in that it can't be seen, measured, or obverved in anyway) being that, for the believers convenience, doesn't "fit" into our definitions, yet somehow can be defended by the believers mind? You call this bullet proof logic? It's self serving convenience in the face of facts that are difficult to accept.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  19. Woody

    It sure seems American Christians prefer athiest labor and products from China . I take it athiest are better than American christian workers ? Look inside your tee shirt and see if you prefer athiest ! Its on the tag !

    July 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Most Chinese are Buddhists, which I guess you can try to equate with atheism if you have no idea what either atheism or Buddhism is.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  20. Rob Anderson

    A quarter of a million people die every day in the world, probably 8,000 of those in the U.S. From God's perspective this wasn't even a blip.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:14 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.