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. indogwetrust

    Some people just want to be slaves to their own imagination.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  2. Terri Murphy

    The Writer/Publisher of this Article Needs to Direct all the Anger to the Appropriate Party (the killer)

    July 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  3. GGM

    Let's call evil what it is. That young man was evil. God was in that movie theater giving courage to the heros and comfort to the bleeding. God is good. Man is not.

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


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

      Some of those people bled to death. Where's the comfort?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  4. uzumakiw

    Where was God? He wasn't there. He's not here. God is only there when something good happens so people can give him all the credit for allowing something good to happen, but is never there when something bad happens so people can blame him. He's never there. Never has been, never will be.

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

      All the fame none of the blame. Must be nice.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • byronswetland

      YOU would not be here on earth but for the Grace of God your Creator... Open your eyes; the fool says there is no God... I will pray for you.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • indogwetrust

      Ok fool.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  5. John Reed, Jr

    Just like 9/11... The point of a miracle and a tragedy are the same point. People died but miracles happened. You ask, "where was God during that shooting?" The problem is that many don't believe in God or follow Jesus but they were all in the same theater. Those that don't believe shoot, those that do believe and follow jesus were probably survivors or at home sleeping. The enemy comes to kill , steal and destroy (John 10:10), just like a thief in the night. Jesus came to save. The enemy comes out at night and the light snuffs out the darkness. It's seems quite simple, I believe. God is every where and non believers or followers are everywhere also. No one deserved to be a victim of this maniac but maybe people should listen to the Holy Spirit more.

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

      so an infant who is killed in a car accident died because he was a non-believer?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Rock

      I couldn't have said it better myself!

      Just like in the fires in Colorado, California and so on. God protects those who gave Him the right – the devil kills those who did not give him the right.

      the Holy Spirit is the answer for mankind!

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

      Those who don't believe, shoot?

      And people wonder why I'm so anti-religion!

      July 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  6. Cookie

    To the writer: If you don't believe in God why are you interested in where He was?

    July 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  7. Sam Yaza

    you know if you all really want your God Yahweh to do something to answer your prayers maybe next time you give offering give something your god like sacrifice goats, bulls, give him a goblet of Blood, a chunk of Iron, or the dead fetuses of your conquered nation, when asking something from a god it help to give them what they want

    which is one of the reason why my Goddess answer my prayers
    Amaterasu 100% answered
    Athena 74% answered
    Lilith 60% answered
    Gaia never asked
    Danu never asked

    it also helps not to ask for every little thing only what you absoluty need

    everything else is for you to do,..

    and for you atheist no I'm not going to ask my goddesses to bring world peace that's for man kind to figure out,.. if we got divine intervention it will only cheap-in the value of the triumph

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

      Please, step away from the mushrooms and call 911...

      July 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  8. an observer

    the question: "where was God"?, is the problem. Such a childish psychology got us into this mess. It's time to move on to a more adult mind-set and take responsibility for our world, our actions, our problmes and solutions. Then maybe God, or what-ever, will smile on us once again.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  9. byronswetland

    God has given mankind "FREE WILL"; however, He will one day judge everyone.

    There are two separate judgments. Believers are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12). Every believer will give an account of himself, and the Lord will judge the decisions he made—including those concerning issues of conscience. This judgment does not determine salvation, which is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), but rather is the time when believers must give an account of their lives in service to Christ. Our position in Christ is the “foundation” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. That which we build upon the foundation can be the “gold, silver, and precious stones” of good works in Christ’s name, obedience and fruitfulness—dedicated spiritual service to glorify God and build the church. Or what we build on the foundation may be the “wood, hay and stubble” of worthless, frivolous, shallow activity with no spiritual value. The Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal this.

    The gold, silver and precious stones in the lives of believers will survive God’s refining fire (v. 13), and believers will be rewarded based on those good works—how faithfully we served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27), how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9), etc. We will have to give an account for our actions, whether they were truly indicative of our position in Christ. The fire of God’s judgment will completely burn up the “wood, hay and stubble” of the words we spoke and things we did which had no eternal value. “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12 ).

    The second judgment is that of unbelievers who will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). This judgment does not determine salvation, either. Everyone at the Great White Throne is an unbeliever who has rejected Christ in life and is therefore already doomed to the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12 says that unbelievers will be “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Those who have rejected Christ as Lord and Savior will be judged based on their works alone, and because the Bible tells us that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16), they will be condemned. No amount of good works and the keeping of God’s laws can be sufficient to atone for sin. All their thoughts, words and actions will be judged against God’s perfect standard and found wanting. There will be no reward for them, only eternal condemnation and punishment.

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

      So close but not quite grasping the concepts. Keep praying for understanding. I can help if you'd like me to.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • byronswetland

      harleybird >>> Not a "Concept" – Simply The Word of The Living God. NO FLUFF

      July 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  10. Apologist

    As I understand it from my conservative acquaintences, God is an American, so he was undoubtedly asleep at the time.

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

      God is American? I want to see a birth certificate.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Bad Religion

    NO WHERE CUZ THERE IS NO GOD!!!! Sometimes super bad things happen by some super evil and twisted people which is why we have the judicial system! More people believe in god doesn't make a society more peaceful, in fact through out history it is clear that MORE RELIGION results generally in even MORE VIOLENCE. God has nothing to do with any of this and I really wish there would stop being these pointless esoteric articles on CNN everytime a hurricane hits or earth quake rumbles etc. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control and a part of a longer chain of events and causes leading up to the said "event" and whatever that entails, be it good or bad. It's called causality and realize that most of the times, myself included, DO NOT have all the answers to every question or all the information to understand how and why things unfold as they do, but that's more because we are finite limited life forms and not because some mystical sky daddy is in play. People who attribute everything to "god" neither see the bigger picture nor (I find) take accountability for their lives b/c everything always rest on the overly pre-school simplistic answer of "it's god's will"... NO sometimes a mad man just wants to shoot up a place and sometimes someone just wants to volunteer their time to a charitable organization, BOTH are determinant by each's own decision and causal chain of reality.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Sam Yaza


      July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  12. Justin

    Every time tragedy strikes on the national or international stage–whether it is a shooting or a tsunami or something else–people ask where God was. In some ways, it is evidence that people only pause to reflect on God when they finally perceive evil in the world. When the chips are up, we praise the human spirit. When the chips are down, we blame God for his failure to intervene. It is quite a strange double standard.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  13. Noonespecial

    God is a crutch for people who need to believe in something bigger than themselves, and to face life without the possibility of the hereafter is a completely bleak society for them. People who believe in god, capitalize the name, as if it were a person, place or thing. It isn't real, it's a made up way of not dealing with your own faults and saying that i was made in the image of god. What a joke. And while I'm on the matter why are there so many prisoners who believe in god? I see a direct connection between believing in god and needing to believe in something other than yourself. Take responsibility for your own actions, stop trying to blame, or relish in the gifts or sadness of life based on some image dictated to use by ancient man who freaked out every night the sun went below the horizon.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  14. Jerome Horowitz

    God can't keep an eye on every petri dish in the universe.

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

      But if we're to believe the believers, he doesn't have to since he created the entire universe just for us.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  15. Will B

    Yup. This one is easy. There is no God.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  16. BoldGeorge

    To ask the question like the article so mockingly states, "Where was God?" is like asking it this way: Did He arrive tomorrow? -or- Will He show up yesterday?

    God was, is and will forever be. He is not bound by time. The question should really be: Where were you when you first heard of Him? Where are you at this moment in time in life? and Where will you be when He calls you up for judgment?

    This is why in times like these when horrific things happen, we should all be asking ourselves, "What if that were me in that theater?" "Would I have been prepared to meet my Maker?" Or, would you have been asking yourself "Would I have been ready to meet my monkey who gave me life millions and millions of years ago?"

    There is no time to waste. The time is now to get right with God through Jesus Christ who came to redeem fallen man.

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

      The time is now to get right with God through Jesus Christ
      Do you feel any pity for those human beings who don't live in a part of the world where they will be exposed to christianity? Many, many people will never hear of Jesus. They are no less human than you are. Are you special? Does God love you more than others, because he enabled you to learn of christianity?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • RobPen

      Well said, BoldGeorge.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • indogwetrust

      No the question was. Where was our little imaginary friend?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  17. A Liberated Thinker

    Exactly, I could not agree more! All of these concepts are ancient mythology and it is beyond time we abandon them for science and reason!

    July 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  18. Rock

    God is always in control, but He gives people a free will, He is not a tyrant, people make a choice and Aurora is just a consequence for some. The devil is a legalist and takes what is nobodies. God does not force anything on anybody, He can only offer protection if you ask!

    How come it's always "Wheres God in these situations?" and silence about God in when good happens?
    People, there is a devil, and the sooner the credit for these situations will be given to him, the sooner they will end.

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

      Funny isn't it. God is never mentioned until a tragedy happens. Then all you hear is where was God? for me, I would love to be with God right now. If I got killed in any tragedy, I wouldn't want no one blaming God for it. Some of us have to understand, people who don't believe in God, will have the answer they do. If they had some kind of relationship with him they would know he exists. God will not make himself known if people choose not to believe. I learned long ago you get nowhere, talking to non believers who choose not to find God out for themselves. They want us to show he exists and if they don't believe, God's not going to show himself to them. People who were non believers have searched to see if God exists and found it to be truth and there living for God today. I heard many testimonies how people never believed and now they believe. Its all about choices one makes in their lives.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  19. why/whynot

    Why is it that God's existence is only questioned when and after tragedy strikes?

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

      right on point!

      and no question of the devil?

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

      Good question. The only thing I can think of is because humanity has it backwards and you can't expect better when we are filled with ridiculous pride. The more ideal thing to question would be ourselves: Why do we continue to choose to do evil? Why don't we just put our complete trust in God who has shown and proven to humanity that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one can enter His kingdom if it is not through Him.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Madtown

      It's not.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • PaulieJ

      I question it practically every day. Or rather, I see, hear or read about things frequently that assure me there isn't one or at least one I freely choose not to pay homage to.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  20. Mario

    God was everywhere in Aurora. How many people didn't die? The bible says the sun shines on the just and unjust and it rains on the just and unjust. The beauty of God is that he has given us free will to make good or bad choices. There is a heaven and a hell and for those who do not repent of their sins and come to Christ will be destined to the lake of fire. It takes more faith to beleive that thers isn't a God then there is. 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 7 reads for we walk by faith, not by sight. The beauty of God's loving grace is that even James Holmes can call on the name of the Lord, repent of his sins and be forgiven and have everlasting life.

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

      oh! and God's will or plan never ever involves sin!

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


      LOL. So God ONLY let 12 innocent people die and ONLY let more than 70 get shot.

      Get serious. Your agument is RIDICULOUS.

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

      "The beauty of God's loving grace is that even James Holmes can call on the name of the Lord, repent of his sins and be forgiven and have everlasting life."

      Gotta love how a mass murderer can repent and get into heaven because he happens to be truly remorseful for what he did....yet I as a gay man, who will not apologize for being born a certain way that the god-squad disagrees with, will burn in hell for being true to myself.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      @ Mario "oh! and God's will or plan never ever involves sin!"

      No...it is your will and plan that involves sin (mine too by the way). God is just waiting to redeem you from it when you decide to be redeemed. If I decided to answer God's call, so can you.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • damo12345

      It's funny how you only ever credit your toothfairy with doing good. If every single person on the planet except for one died in the most horrible way imaginable, it'd be "but this god didn't do the bad things, he saved that one!"

      July 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • indogwetrust

      How many people didn't die? Really?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • harleybird

      Close but saying everyone goes to hell or heaven when they die shows, with all due respect, you don't understand. God is love and would never want to torment anyone forever. Such thinking dishonors God. And it doesn't agree with what the bible says. All the people brought back to life in the bible never spoke of heaven in any way shape or form. It does talk about the state of the dead though Eccl 9:5,6,10. Instead of wondering where God was why not try and think that this person, as do we all, had a choice. We can choose to do bad or good and either way we are responsible and have to live with our actions. God gives us the choice. If you do his will then you are blessed.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • byronswetland

      It's soooo sad that the ones that do not know God have no clue. They cannot help it; they are in complete darkness; let's keep praying for them, that their eyes would be opened.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:51 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.