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. Robert

    It is a logical impossibility that a good God would allow this to happen. God does exist tho, it's an unanswerable mystery.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  2. Jon

    Francois Mauriac, a Christian friend of Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, wrote one of the most anguished and powerful responses to the question of God and Evil I've read. Weisel included that response as the introduction to the harrowing memoir of the camps, "Night." That's the best literary explanation I know of... along with some of the writing of Dostoyevsky.

    Personally, as a Christian who is hyper-aware of Evil as a reality, I believe the only response to it that makes sense is not an "answer" but rather a faith-based action. And that is to love. Sounds frivolous, doesn't it, in the face of a madman in a theatre or a madman who gassed six million Jews (not to mention millions of others). I know less and less as I get older. But the one shining hope I cling to is that God is Real and God is Good... and His Love will not in the end be defeated by humanity's evil or mortality (that is, death). I think of Jesus life, death, and resurrection... and when asked abstract questions by Pilate, he chose silence. My little theology (which perhaps is silly) says that his silence was because he himself was the only answer available... and to know that answer one has to come into relationship with Him.

    But again, that comes too close to being abstract. Like Job's friends, silence in the face of suffering, but a silence which practices presence and empathy to the one most keenly suffering, is about the best we can do.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • iheartyou

      This was a very lovely post, John. I don't believe in any god or religion, and I believe that man can love without a faith in any deity. But, nonetheless, I did appreciate the kindness and sincerity of your post. Peace.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  3. bigdoggie

    I wish there was a god! I would be his/her biggest advocate. But, after the Jews and Arabs got in a shootout at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – supposedly Jesus" birthplace – that pretty much wrapped it up for god in my book.
    I refer you to Oolon Coluphid's seminal works, 'Where god went wrong," "More of god's greatest mistakes," "Who is this god person, anyway," and "That about wraps it up for god!"

    July 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Ushdnobtr

      I don't know whether to scoff at your silly answer, or to grin at the well-placed Douglas Adams reference...

      July 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • bmw678

      So you are still living in the past !!! This is 2012, exactly that many years after Jesus.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • bigdoggie

      Ushdnobtr, thanks for being literate!

      July 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  4. Archangel Michael

    God leaves man to act according to his free will. It's not his job to be puppet master or keep everyone from stubbing their toes or even from being murdered. To think so is ignorant.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • One one

      But it is his job to make sure man doesn't misuse his pee pee.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  5. questionman

    Obviously there are a lot of atheist and people who totally deny the existence of God. Why is it that when things happen we question why God let this happen? How come we never consider Buddha, Mohommad, Krishna, or even Satan as the one responsible for letting some tragedy happen? Interesting how only God gets the blame or bad PR. I know why, but to this audience I will only say read the book.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • One one

      It was Bushe's fault

      July 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  6. godsgrace19

    We cannot define the will of God based on one man's choices. Holmes made his own choices. They were choices that affected others more than himself. But God was working in spite of Holmes. We saw God when: Holmes' gun jammed prevented him from killing even more people, a police officer noticed his attire was not standard and they captured him unarmed, the police were warned of the booby trapped apt. and were able to diffuse it without an accident, his neighbor did not open his door, everyone got out of the apt building safely, most of the injuries at the theatre are healing and not resulting in death, the heroism of some protecting others... plus countless other miracles.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • bmw678

      So, there is GOD !!!

      July 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • iheartyou

      "countless other miracles"???. Seriously??? You're attributing Holmes' inability to be a good serial killer to "god's miracles"? Well, where were god's miracles for the people that died? That innocent 6 year old? Why was she undeserving of a miracle??? If "god worked in spite of Holmes" then maybe god needs to be fired because he did a lousy job.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • One one

      LMAO ! "We saw god when Holmes gun jammed" ?!?

      So god must have thought: "I'll let this dude kill a few people." "That's enough" "Now, I'll make his gun jam to stop him."

      Yeah, that makes sense.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  7. Joley

    Good and bad things are bound to happen in this world. God is not at fault, but when things do happen like the deaths in CO, we look for God to lean on and comfort us. I do not believe in the saying, 'it was in God's will. What is God's will? If we do not know what's in his will, how can we say it is his will? When bad and unfortunate things happen, we need someone or something to lean on.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Thezel


      July 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  8. clwilki

    L. Shupe, your right on! Keep up the good work Brother! This is country is headed to straight to hell and all His wrath is to humble us.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Thezel

    A fallible human gives in to the devil's temptations, and when this happens, the devil's unknowing minions jump on CNN and mock those that still believe.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  10. M.

    Whenever something bad happens, whenever something good happens, all the time, every time, God is always exactly the same – He is too busy not existing to make any difference.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • bigdoggie

      Love it!

      July 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  11. bmw678

    Bill, I am sorry to hear that you have been betrayed by Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and Easter Bunny. As you said, you are grown up so leave them concepts behind. The ever expanding universe is testimony of GOD's presence which was revealed to mankind in several book, Turah, Bible and Quran. But we all thought that is read like a sci-fi script. Watch Science Channel and will figure out the scientific proof that you are looking for. God Bless you my friend.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  12. sbk

    By definition, God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Thus, he/she/it is not bound by the constraints of the physical world, including time and ability to alter matter as he/she/it sees fit.
    If God exists, he/she/it already knows EVERYTHING that's happened in the past, present, and in the future. If God already knows what happened in the future, then human "free will" is just an illusion, since everything is already predetermined. How is it free will if everything about the future is already known by God?

    July 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Madtown

      Could be that God is not all-knowing. We humans invented those definitions of God, and we aren't really qualified to do so. We don't really know.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  13. Steve

    What if God showed up and stopped the gun man? Doesn't that miss the whole point of this world? Aren't we supposed to walk by faith? Those who saw God and then had knowledge that God existed would then have to live accordingly, by the fullness of the law, since faith/mercy would no longer apply. Is it more loving to let those people live by faith and take those who died back into his arms? Just some questions.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • pntkl

      With an idolatrous and covetous generation, there wouldn't be acceptance of Him; even if He had performed myriad of man's idea of miracles.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Madtown

      We get into a lot of trouble defining the "right" faith. Each religion asserts its own viewpoints to be the only correct ones, with all others being incorrect. Truth is, we don't know. If God were to show up, at least he could point us to the religion that he considered "correct", if he even cared at all to begin with.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  14. dontbow

    He was busy teaching morons about free will, obviously this writer didn't get it. lol

    July 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  15. what are you doing

    Would all you people get off the internet... go and enjoy life..

    No-one is guaranteed tomorrow... and it's proven everyday.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  16. One one

    Many of these comments boil down to:

    Because we don't worship god enough, he is letting us suffer to teach us a lesson.

    This would be the behavior of a spoiled, spiteful , child.

    If you keep presenting "god" in such a manner, don't whine about people giving up religion.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Jon

      As a Christian, I agree completely. What an appalling picture of God!! Needing to drain his wrath on human beings by using a lunatic with firearms?!! This reminds me of the folks suggesting 9/11 or AIDS or [fill in blank] all had to do with God making sure we knew he was angry with us. The Jesus I know has nothing at all to do with such smallness of mind and heart. Frightening and sad.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  17. Ushdnobtr

    From an engineer's standpoint...a firearm is a remarkably simple device for the power that it wields. It is, however, not an autonomic device. To use a very tired cliche, guns don't kill people, people kill people. And yes, I feel perfectly okay with bringing up the gun argument since CNN's blogger essentially said "Debate the existence of God in the comment section...Go!" which must be a very simple way to earn a living.

    As to God, this is a facetious issue to bring up concerning the tragedy in Aurora. If believers are right, then man's evil nature is to blame and it falls to the courts to render justice and mete out punishment. I understand that this right, "the sword of authority" is given by God to governments. Holmes will receive the sentence of our courts and we can focus on helping those affected cope.

    If believers are wrong, however, then (try to follow me here) it falls to the courts to render justice and mete out punishment; and it is the duty of the rest of us as moral humans to help those affected cope.

    The result is the same.

    What a waste of journalistic currency this "Belief Blog" can be.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  18. CHET

    Maybe god has given up on Colorodo there may be to many abortions and liberals there that are non belivers

    July 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • bmw678

      Here we go, taking a tragedy and turning it into a political scam and then eventually making it an Obama problem.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • bigdoggie

      Nice grammer, bro!

      July 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Chet: Please explain how this article has anything to do with a woman's personal right to do as she wishes with her body in regards to abortion? I know that your tiny brain can't comprehend this but this article is about a mad man who believed in the same imaginary friend you believe it, not about fetuses.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Mirosal

      Chet, how's life holed up inside the Westboro church with all the rest of your family?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      I think God has turned His back on us…

      We kick God out of our schools, we take down the 10 commandments, we put restrictions on Christian religions that believe in the Holy and Righteous God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we try to eliminate EVERY aspect of Jesus, Christ, God, Christmas, etc…,we allow innocent lives to be terminated at birth, we "figuratively" spit and slap God in the face by the way we live and by the way we conduct ourselves, we tell God we don't need you, nor do we want you to be a part of our lives or society, we basically tell God-we can handle this by ourselves…then when something like this happens—we BLAME God for not helping or intervening.

      “And whatsoever we ask (of God) we receiveth, because we keep His (God’s) commandments and we do those things that are pleasing in His (Gods) sight.”

      Ask yourself…are we keeping God’s commandments and are we doing those things that are pleasing in His sight?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  19. lifeofablackgirl

    I thought God didn't exist you hypocrits. If you blame God for this event or take this event of proof of God's nonexistence (or engage the concept of God at all in this conversation), then you believe God exists!

    July 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No one here is blaming god except the christards. Any non-believer is simply stating that if your so-called good loving sky daddy really existed and allowed this to happen then he obviously is not a creature worth our time and energy.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Mirosal

      that's not true, we know Santa doesn't exist either, but we'll still use that figure of speech at the end of the year. Would you rather people say "Zeus damn you!!" when they get mad?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Nope, but believers do exist... they are the ones who are being addressed.

      **sigh** must we specify, "your fictional/imaginary god" every time we react to a mention of it?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  20. A Liberated Thinker

    The poorest people in the world are extremely religious and God fearing, yet they continue to live in abject poverty, and suffer from disease, war and natural diasters, etc. Believing in and praying to whatever God they worship has done nothing to allieviate their suffering. It simply does not make sense that God would continue to allow billions of people who love him so much to live such wretched lives and that He would continue to contribute to their suffering and death in great numbers.

    With the advancement of science comes new knowledge and discoveries. Scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, who does not believe in God, have now determined that because gravity exists, the Earth created itself from nothing. Thousands of years ago, this was not known, so God was created to explain how things originated. God is an archaic, outdated notion and science has evolved well beyond that point so that now we know the truth about the origins of the universe. The belief in these ancient myths is perpetuated by the church and childhood indoctrination. Children do not have the ability to refute or question what they are told; they simply believe what they hear and incorporate these fallacies as part of their belief system. Adults, however, have the capacity to use reason and logic in evaluating various beliefs. If they start thinking about God and try to make sense out of all of the aspects of such a belief, as I briefly did above, they will come to realize that this simply does not make sense on any level. Very few adults would believe in God if they first learned about Him in adulthood because it is so nonsensical.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • what are you doing

      It's a beautiful day.. why not go for a walk and give your brain a rest.. plus, it's going to rain tomorrow and you'll miss the opportunity... enjoy.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Atheism is a religion

      You are a deluded , arrogant person. you think that the only things that people should believe , is what you believe. I personally do not believe in god, but i do not go out of my way to belittle others beliefs. Also, if the people who do believe in god, should understand that in the bible god gave man free will, so in trying to state that the god is vengeful, or indifferent , remember, after paradise was lost, god stopped interfering in human life.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Michael Sciullo

      Faith is the belief in that which does not make sense in this sphere of existence. Jesus Christ was God. He died a horrible death and God allowed the plans of the godless to triumph. He rose from the dead. Now that doesn't make sense either. If you are of this world then you will die. If you are of the other you will live on in eternity. It's simple. That's why you don't get it.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • rotfogel

      I agree with you that the notion of 'God' is absolutely insane at the level of what it is we as humans are trying to attempt to fathom. Having said that, the only true point of view is agnostic...One does not know exactly how things were ultimately created...what is before the big bang...no human being yet knows these answers, to say a being was not behind the initial stages of the big bang is false, ultimately nobody knows, not Stephan Hawking, not Albert Einstein, nobody.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • bigdoggie

      My sister, the only christian in my family, is sick as hell and keeps getting turned down by Social Security. Where is her god, now! As always, non-existent.
      If you want to read a great book that, through no intent of its own, shoots so many holes in faith that it seems ludacrous humans ever bought into the idea, I recommend "Remarkable Creatures" by Sean B. Carroll.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Alex

      The truth about the origins of our universe? How about this one, Thinker: I am speculating right now that you have a small body and a very big head, because you call yourself Thinker, therefore your brain must be really big. I am now going to share this theory with my important friends in important places who also need an explanation for you. We have just come up with a theory. We are going to now keep fighting for this theory until we run out of excuses and come up with an alternative theory that you must be an alien, because such an unexplained phenomenon as your post can only be posted by an alien. There's another theory. Follow my drift? I'm not saying that there is no grounds for what you're saying, but your entire post is self-defeating, because: Where did gravity come from? And if gravity came from something, then where did that something come from? And for that matter, can you actually explain to me the truth of where Stephen Hawking come from? The truth now, please.

      The universe is not infinite, we've already proved that through the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Science and Religion both agree that the Universe has an END, it will run out of energy, there is no doubts about that. So if it has an end, it must also have a beginning. A beginning, out of nothing.

      So please, do your research before posting such ridiculous know-it-all nonsense. Lets just agree that we have no freaking idea, ok?


      July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Jon

      That was a serious comment deserving of a longer reply that I can offer due to time. But let me suggest a few things as a Christian just to help us escape the either/or thinking that goes on in such discussions.

      First, very poor people who believe in God despite their sufferings may in fact gain considerable comfort from those beliefs. That doesn't make said beliefs true... or false. It does suggest though that belief has a comforting, positive role to play in a psychological sense. Further, as a Christian, I'd note that though first world Christians seems blissfully unaware of the centrality of suffering in the Christian story (and Christ's assurance that WE will know suffering more the closer we draw to Him in his sufferings!), Christians in history and in the present overall do indeed have a uniquely powerful narrative regarding suffering. 'Nuff on that, though... I'm no theologian.

      Second, science is wonderful. The old binary that says one must choose either faith or science is just that - an old binary either/or that has little logic or evidence behind it. One can believe in full-blown evolution, as does Francis Collins (head of the NIH), and be an orthodox Christian theologically. Atheism has its powerful points... but let's not caricature Christians as all being fundamentalists just because the usual small and very vocal group of them shows up in threads such as this.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:01 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.