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. Chuck

    Great blame God for the sins of a devil

    anyone that questions God, is not a true believer

    July 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Observer

      Who created Satan?


      July 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who created Satan?

      July 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • One one

      What is the virtue in believing in an absurd fantasy ?

      July 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Rob Anderson

      Actually, the "devil" is just a literary personification of humans' desire to do what they know they shouldn't. So, actually I guess we should blame the devil.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  2. Sharon

    Please take some time to read this article.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      People please if you have a brain, stay away from this trash site. Putting god and science in the same line is like putting leprechauns and science together.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  3. Rob Anderson

    Actually, the Bhagavad Gita does a fairly good job of answering this question. In it, Arjuna – a warrior – laments having to go into battle and kill his kin on the other side of the battle. God (Krishna), disguised as his charioteer proceeds to explain the nature of human existence to him – good read, even if you're not Hindu (I'm not).

    July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  4. Suszanne

    We live in a fallen world. Tragedies are going to happen, and all I would like to say is that my heartfelt condolences go out to the families who have lost a loved one.
    For all of us who are true believers in God, our faith is not shaken by this tragic event. We will get through the most difficult times in life, because we serve a God who will sustain us.
    There is always so much hate and blame from you readers. This truly is not the time or place.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Rob Anderson

      But what do you mean by "God will sustain us"? He didn't sustain those who were killed. And if by "sustain" you mean everything will work out ok in the end, then fine – but still it makes that statement cognitively meaningless.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  5. usakristie

    In his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harrold Kushner explores this question. Many people believe two things: that God is all powerful and that God is good. If these two things are true then bad things can't happen. Ultimately, one needs to let go of one of these ideas if they are to accept a horrible event like the one that occurred in Aurora. Each person can explore their own faith, no matter what it is and come to their own conclusion.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  6. matt in nw

    Whats funny is 2000 year old thinking trumps adancing knowledge in the 21st century.... our backs are against the wall, believer, atheist alike... and we are still saddled with this bronze age crap.... 7.2 billion people ...most beleiving in some higher power ...thousands of interpetations...... maybe after 6,5 billion die off after a religion induced fury it...and the shattered remains of humanity pull they heads from a lower orifice we ll make real progress.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Behold the Man

      Now you're talking!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  7. Ego_Death

    I think that religion has provided a false idea of what God is.... God is Everything. We are a part of God. This life is a gift from God and its up to us to make what we do of it. Think of the entire universe as one celestial being.... Then you will understand what GOD is... He lets us choose our own path.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      All well and good, but it's really just a bunch of crap you made up in your head...like all religion.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Anti-indoctrination

      Rubbish. You don't know if God exists, you certainly don't know God's nature if one does exist (which I don't believe). Saying God is everywhere is the same as saying God is nowhere. You can't even accurately define the views you're trying to teach.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Ego_Death

      Teacher plants... The sooner we realize we are all one and everything is connected the better off EVERYTHING will be.
      Continue your search and you will learn.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  8. Anti-indoctrination

    There is no god. Never has been, never will be. A psycho with a gun killed and hurt people. It's terrible. I feel horrible for their families.

    The Reverend who said it was God's will is a perfect example of a real Christian. He's a real believer. He's also a sick and deluded man. Wake up, religious people, and recognize that to be truly religious is to be like the reverend. It is a sickness of the mind. The rest of you a just posers who use religion to justify your own opinion.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • A Hug

      You need a hug, huh? Anyone wants to give him a hug? ANYONE?!?!!

      July 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  9. One one

    God lets bad people kill at will.

    The devoted say it’s because of “free will”.
    Then why do they pray, and pray, and pray?
    For god to help them, day after day?
    They pray to god to improve their fate
    Their own free will they ask god to negate
    “Free will” for us all…, from the god of peace!

    Who sends us to hell for a wrong belief.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  10. Gina Givens

    God was in the Aurora Theater and in Aurora Colorado. The gunman's gun jammed and he couldn't use the 100 bullet magazine. This saved lives. The suspect's apartment didn't blow up because "something" stopped his neighbor from opening the door. This saved the neighbor Shock and possibly a police officers' life. The police came swiftly and caught the suspect. In the Aurora Theater people sacrificed their lives for their loved ones. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends " (John 15:13) . God Is Love.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Really??

      You are a moron

      July 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Anti-indoctrination

      Wow... if only God had been faster.... he could have stopped the bullets that killed 12 people. Time to switch back to Superman.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Observer


      Praise God! He ONLY let 70 innocent people be shot down. He ONLY allowed 12 innocent people to die.

      Get real.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Thomas Howard

      So we should thank God for only killing (or allowing to be killed) 12 people? I doubt the families of the dead are feeling very blessed right now.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • One one

      Right on ! I figure god thought: " I'll let this dude kill a few people.". "OK, that's enough!". " Now, I'll make his gun jam to stop him for a while.". "Now, I'll let him pull the glock, and shoot a few more people."

      July 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Stunning. Just stunning.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  11. Roger

    As Roger Waters put in a now long forgotten song: "What God wants. God gets."

    July 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  12. Bolaji09

    Typical challengers of God's presence at tragedies such as Aurora's are curiously not unlike elements who've historically never been sympathetic to civil rights issues quoting MLK to make their case against civil rights activists.

    By the way, on the day of the Aurora massacre, God was exactly the same place He was when HIS child was assaulted and crucified.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Except, (allegedly because I don't believe any of the bible's hocus pocus) god got his kid back in a few days. The parents, children, and family of the people who died will NEVER get their kids/parents/family members back.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • fred

      Sad just how empty the atheist outlook can be. Can you not even see what has happened to your own soul when atheism leads you to darkness at every turn

      July 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • fred

      There was a reason that in the beginning God seperated the light from the darkness. Darkness is what you get when the light of life is removed. Amazing atheist thought embraces that darkness even longing for eternal rest in an afterlife devoid of light.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • yeahalright

      What are you talking about? I'm empathizing with the families of the people who lost their lives. And in a way your god doesn't know – forever.

      Empathy is darkness? Seriously, what are you talking about?

      July 25, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • fred

      No you're not, you are making fun of Chirst who died for all so that none would perish. You're words betray the emptyness when there is no hope. I suspect 90% of the discussion in the homes of those who lost children reflects hope that their children are not lost in never ending darkness.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • yeahalright

      1. If I had it within my power to either a. prevent them from dying or b. bring them back from the dead, I would. Your god didn't and won't.
      2. I wish they lived forever in eternity too. I really really wish that. But, sadly, it's not reality. Us grown ups have to live there, even when it's sad.
      3. I'm contrasting the loss that their parents suffered to the "loss" that god allegedly suffered.

      At no point did I make fun of Jesus. Learn to read. Expressing incredulousness at the gullibility and lack of critical thinking skills of your average believer – like you, guilty as charged.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • fred

      You make assumptions about what God will do or has done based upon your belief doctrines. Your doctrines are in direct conflict with what we know about God. Your assumptions only work if there is no God. Your world view puts the lost ones into an unknown void of darkness.
      The alternate world view recognizes that there is a vast powerful unknown (confirmed by science)that can be explained by faith. Even in the absence of faith you understand what is good. It is not good that these children die and meet the same fate as a frog or other organic mass. I would think that you know this to be so. If you do not then you would be classified a sociopath. Afterlife is either part of what is good or the absence of good. That is not the fairy tale of a child but the reality of an adult.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • yeahalright

      – My assumptions are based on my observations, learning, and reality. I haven't once seen a person come back to life (real life) after they died. Therefore, I assume the victims won't be either. That's a safe assumption in my opinion.
      – Neither you, nor anyone else, knows a single thing about god, if he exists. So how you can know my views are in conflict is beyond me.
      – What vast powerful unknown that has been recognized by science is there? There's the unknown, yes. The universe is vast, yes. There are powerful things like black holes and supernovas in the universe, yes. Is that what you mean?
      – Yes, I understand living is good and dying sucks and correct I don't need to believe in magic to understand that.
      – Yes, I think it sucks that we only get X number of years of existence and that then life goes on without us, like all other living things past present and future.
      – I think an afterlife would be awesome! Truly, really cool. I mean who wouldn't want to live forever. It's a really nice thought. Yes, a fairy tale, a wish, and a hope.

      But, and here's where we differ. A really nice thought =/= reality.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • fred

      “But, and here's where we differ. A really nice thought =/= reality.”
      Regardless if God is a delusion or reality the hope for a promised land is better than no hope. That changes how you live today which is your reality. Hope is a very powerful emotion.
      As to powerful unknown I was referring to dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our universe and the fact whatever causation was behind the singularity could not have been part of our 4 dimensional existence.
      Your views are in conflict with my views because I see man as more than simple organic chemical reactions. Goodness is the opposite of natural selection as the sick, weak and defective characteristics are protected while the strong, violent natural animal is scorned.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Correction Fred, hope of a promised land is better than no hope for YOU. Not me. For me, it matters very much that what I hope for is actually real. I can't pretend to believe something I don't believe. Further, knowing that this is the one and only life I get makes me want to live it to the fullest in a way that hoping I'm auditioning for entry into a netherworld doesn't.

      Yes, the force causing the expansion of the universe is unknown. So??? That proves god how exactly? What you're doing is called "the god of the gaps." It goes like this – anytime something is unknown or not understood, i.e. a gap in knowledge, you get to say "well, god did it/explains it," brush your hands and that's that. Sorry, in this world/universe there are things we know and things we don't. There always have been. Sometimes we figure it out, some we're still working on.

      Why is goodness the opposite of natural selection? For one thing as this isn't the place to go on an essay, but consider the human (and there are other animals that help the weak/wounded btw) practice of caring for the weak, old, wounded, etc. Those weak, old, and wounded carry knowledge that helps and/or heal up and then help the group find food and reproduce and grow. Further comes the reassurance of other members of the group that they'll be cared for, so they're more likely to stay. Both effects of taking care of the weak/old/wounded benefit a tribe/group/species that does it. That tribe will have more babies than one that doesn't. aka natural selection. So while I think it's not the only explanation for goodness, you mentioned it and there you go. A natural selection explanation for goodness.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  13. Lizzy10

    Maybe God was there protecting those who survived.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Sure does suck for the ones that didn't huh?

      July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • kenny

      deep down we all know there is no god... some of us accept it, most of us develop a delusional disorder known as faith... life just ends and it has for all time and will continue to do so for all time... its like going to sleep forever.. you won't even know it... so TRY and live the best life you can ... its the ONLY one you get...

      July 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  14. Hawkeye

    ...that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
    C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963), from _Mere_Christianity_

    July 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  15. brent hanson

    evidently God has more important things to do than go to a batman movie....

    July 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  16. Peterm8808

    If I have a 21 year old son who son chooses to smoke crack as a lifestyle, and, as a result, harms other people, does that mean I don't exist? And if I did, is the harm he does my fault? What if I had the means to lock him up and prevent him from bringing harm? Should I? A good father gives His children everything they need for success and let's them decide if they will succeed. God has given more than we will ever understand. What we do with it is up to us.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Jes-s

      I was eating a ham sandwich

      July 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • yeahalright

      If your son was pointing a gun at a group of people, and you could stop him at no risk to yourself, then you're damn right you should.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • eam0012

      I think that this is one of the greatest examples I've ever heard. Thank you for putting into terms that we all can understand. God loves all of us unconditionally, but can't force our hand in anything. He leaves that decision up to us. If we choose to love him back, he will bless us immeasurably. He didn't facilitate the attacks. James Holmes went against God when he decided to commit those murders. God was there, with every single victim, until their last breath. And is in the hospitals/homes with the survivors as they recover. It is OUR choice if we allow him in, but that doesn't mean he's not there.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Ryan C

      Horrible analogy. Unless you claim to be an omniscient, omnipotent creator of all things.....

      July 25, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  17. Stephen Richardson

    Although what happened in Aurora was almost unspeakably tragic, the most 'tragic' and most wicked moment in history occurred some 2000 years ago when Jesus was crucified. Unlike the rest of us He knew no sin and lived a perfectly righteous life. While we (all alike) deserve condemnation, He deserved heaven. The Bible says that what happened that day was the act of lawless, responsible men including "Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel." Nevertheless, it also says that they – Herod, Pontius Pilate and the rest – did whatever God's hand and plan had predestined to take place (Acts 4:27-28). The crucifixion of Jesus was a very dark moment in history, but it was also according to plan. There in fulfillment of prophecy Jesus was "wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities;" there "the LORD laid on him the iniquity [the sin] of us all (Isaiah 53)." The massacre in Aurora will always be seen as a dark moment in history, and the fault lies with the depraved, lawless 23 yr. old who committed the crime. Nevertheless, it also was according to plan. "And we know" says Paul "that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." And how can all things work together for good "except that they all do His bidding in all their actions?"

    So, where was God in Aurora massacre? Where He always is: on His throne. "To suppose," says Paul "that God has made a universe – or even a single being – the control of which he renounces, is to accuse him of similar immorality. What right has he to make it, if he cannot or will not control it? It is not a moral act to perpetrate chaos. We have not only dethroned God; we have demoralized Him.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Stephen Richardson

      The last quote belongs to B.B. Warfield and not Paul!

      July 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  18. Rob Anderson

    Forget Friday, why does God allow a quarter of a million people to die in the world every day? Answer: God doesn't care that people die because he/she/it experiences the universe from a higher perspective and knows that our lives and deaths are just part of a bigger plan that we puny humans can't comprehend.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  19. Ken

    I believe God is omnipresent. That means He was with each person in the theater when it happened, just as He was with each of us who heard about and grieved over the tragedy. But, it wasn't God's will that the shooting occured. I believe that it was God's intention from the beginning to give us free will – the ability to make our own decisions. This must mean that what happens in this world is the result of us exercising the free will that He gave us. So, I have to conclude the actions of the shooter in Aurora were his actions, not what God intended. While we all hurt for this tragedy, I believe that God hurts far more than we do when we commit evil acts. So, those evil acts must be against His will.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      His hinduism, criminality is product of hindu Judaism, self center ism, secular ism, had he learned truth absolute in life, he would have never done it.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  20. justme

    Harley has it right so just go to JW.org to learn more

    July 25, 2012 at 7:06 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.