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. kersey22

    This is a silly question. I am sure that God was there. But so was the Devil. And this was the devil's work of art. Now, it is how we respond. This guy is a monster. But as Christians if we attack him, then we are doing just what the devil wants us to do and that is not what GOD wants us to do. God wants us to forgive the most horrible of people and if we can do that then we are as righteous as he wants us to act. The devil wants us to hate them. We are told by GOD to ignore the bad things that people do and to do right by him and others. God was there. And he is there now, watching how we respond.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • jacqueline P

      Beautifully written Kersey.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Bob

      kersey, if your "god" is there but never does anything to prove that, and is as evil as the Christian one that the bible describes, why do you insist on claiming allegiance to it?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  2. highplainparson

    Jimbo, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the inferior gender.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  3. georgex

    The beauty of the Internet is that it allows many doubters to express their views here as we become a more open society. Before, many doubters didn't have anyone to share their ideas with. There are now organizations for non-believers such as http://www.secular.org that have meetings and interesting projects.
    Personally, I don't think we can blame God for these killings anymore than we should give him credit for the survivors. He seems to stay out of almost every human event.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Bob

      Not "almost every". "every".

      July 27, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. Tanya Smith

    Where was God? I would imagine He was trying as hard as He could to jam the gun(s), when that didn't work, He spread his arms wide and waited to welcome twelve beautiful people back home. I do not believe for a moment that He "let" this happen, but believe that He could only still the hands of those who believe in Him.

    I am not a religous person, so if what I wrote seems offensive, I assure you it is NOT intended.


    July 27, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Bob

      Why do you believe any of that, Tanya? Belief is an absolute, so it seems that doubt would be a more appropriate position in your case.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Hambone Jones

      So, being murdered is an instant ticket to salvation?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  5. jacqueline P

    Oh, yes, God was in Aurora. And can any of us say the victims were not angels sent to earth to teach some of us a lesson from God. I choose to believe they were angels. Otherwise, there should have been many more deaths with the fire power that was in the theatre that night. Yes, I believe God was right there. The Bible refers to angels in human bodies. And my belief is a comfort.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • georgex

      You might want to really separate your emotionally looking for something nice for the reality of this terrible happening. Reality is sometimes just not nice but in the long run is better to understand and solve problems.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • jacqueline P

      Excellent point, George. My theory is a developed one I formulated after my Mother was killed. And your point is well taken. Thank you for posting that.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  6. Bud Palmer

    Maybe the real question should be "Where is man (humanity)? God has bless us with so much visible and invisible. Where were we for Mr. Holmes? Why couldn't we see his problems way ahead of time? How many others are out there like him "ticking" like a time bomb? The blame doesn't belong to God but to the creatures he has given freedom to either love or destroy!!!

    July 27, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  7. Dusty the Church Dog

    Where was God? God was there in the young person who applied pressure to her friend's neck wound; God was in the young man who gave his life shielding his girl friend and her brother; God was in the paramedics and other first responders; God was in the trauma doctors, nurses, and orderlies. As Fred (Mr.) Rogers used to say, when terrible things happen, look for the helpers. He was right – that's where you will find God.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • john

      I hate the way that people say god was the one to stand in frunt of a bullet or save a life.
      its is the People Not god who do great acts of bravery.
      dont you get it? god will not save you! did god try to stop this mad man? NO!
      its all up to YOU not god. stop blaming god for ever thing.
      It is You not god. it is You who saves people and do great acts of kindness.
      and it is people like You who are the mad killers Not the devil.
      Stop blaming others and take responsibility for Yor actions.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Steph

      Very beautifully put. So true! Amen!

      July 27, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  8. Matthew Marquardt

    I agree with Sandra. God was in the same place He was when Christ was crucified: receiving and caring for the souls of the victims, who are after safe now in His arms; and watching the rest of us to see what we make of it.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • jimbo

      Lord Marquardt Huffed and Puffed..... and sent an eviction notice. (read in a german pig's voice)

      July 27, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  9. Aurora

    Why is God and Godly living and values forgotten when you are responsible for producing violent movies and video games and feeding violence into the minds of the masses?

    God never asked you to put the gun in the hand of a killer. Did he? Have you ever asked the question what purpose a gun serves?

    Now you ask 'where is God' really???

    July 27, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • old golfer

      History has shown that humans will kill one another, with or without guns. Guns do level the playing field though. If threatened, I will shoot and then talk to God about it.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  10. Moderate1981

    Look to a solution. Not a divisive conversation. The rest of America may not have to deal with our issues in Aurora, Co, but it should respect the demeanor and integrity of our nation. Politicians may be watching that and furthermore they may be posturing to what we say. Remember Aurora : We Will Remember. I will not comment for the respect of the victims and families of the tragic events of July20th, 2012. Blaming faith (any peaceful faith) is only divisive and draws out the division of the faith you are talking about.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • jimbo

      lol....this was the most prejudice comment in the whole comments section. Care to explain what "(any peaceful faith)" means in your head? I'm betting its got something to do with the children's bibles that eliminate all those uncomfortable things perpetrated in the name of some angry dude in the sky that nobody can see or hear and claims to love you but will torture and kill you if wear clothing made of different threads.
      Why even mention "any peaceful faith" in your "moderate" comment if not to differentiate it from those other non-peaceful faiths that people kill for? I suggest you look at a faith with ZERO KILLINGS in the name of its noodly creator.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  11. MarkinFL

    So many people claiming to know the mind of a god....

    These same people do not understand their own children or their spouses but they know the inner workings of their god's mind.


    July 27, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  12. Tommy Drew

    In 1988 my 12 year old daughter was stabbed with a 9" butcher knife by an escaped felon thru vital veins. In 2008, my wife suffered a tramatic brain injury thru a bicyle accident. The brain surgeon said it may take her a year to wake up, or she might not ever wake up.

    Where was God?

    July 27, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • BillMD

      That's terrible, Tommy; I'm so sorry you've had to go through all that. If you don't mind me asking, did both your daughter and your wife pass away from these tragedies?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  13. Craig

    The whole idea of god, something that is immaterial yet still exists, is illogical from the beginning. The whole concept is flawed from the start. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence to say that he does exist. If he's there, you cannot prove or measure his presence in any way. That being as it is, there is most likely no god. The tragedy that happened in Colorado was just a random act. It was the result of any number of previous random interactions in an infinite universe. You're free to take any meaning from it that you want.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Crosby

      Einstein once proved a professor wrong with that logic too. just because you cannot see or measure god...that doesnt mean he does not exist. he told the teacher that when we say we are cold or hot that the number of temperature is not proof that we are hot or cold. Because hot and cold are just feelings. Whether or not you believe or dont.... doesnt matter and why argue because we will all face ther same thing and find out one day!

      July 27, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Ummm, whether a person FEELS cold or hot is subjective. I guess Einstein was suggesting that belief in a god is purely subjective, just a feeling.

      However, heat is a real measurable phenomenon. Basically you cannot prove whether someone feels hot or cold but you CAN prove the existence of heat.
      BTW, you cannot prove the non-existence of an object.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Craig

      Crosby, you're right. Evidence could come up that could increase our understanding and demonstrate how the illogical is possible. Some day someone may come up with a way to quantify god. But, at this point, it hasn't happened. If someone is making a claim it is up to them to provide evidence to support it. To go on as if something is true without any evidence to support it is just silly.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Hannah

      I agree that it was a random act- people have free will and exercise it. I don't know why so many people seem to think God should intervene for them...not just in acts of violence, but in many aspects of their life. Sometimes things happen randomly.

      If you don't mind, I would like to address the existence of God, though. I think there is proof that he exists, although perhaps not the type of proof many would like (i.e. the capability to measure "him" or "his work"). Although, one could argue the universe is so complex, with such necessary calculations to make the planet livable and sustain human life, that the chance of having a spontaneously developed world be able to sustain human life is nigh impossible.

      If I might suggest- I had all these questions recently about God, but then I read "The Case for Faith", which was written by a journalist who investigates 8 questions, including "How can a God exist if children are allowed to suffer and die?", etc. The people he interviewed supplied interesting answers, some of which persuaded me, others which did not- but it changed my perspective and gave me a lot to think about.

      The book also addresses the question of proving God's existence. I hope you'll read it. If anything, it will make you think.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  14. smartenough nottoo

    When you people realize that your god is a fantasy designed to control you, you will be better off. Show me any religious leader that isn't a lying hypocrite, self serving leech and manipulative b1ch and I'll show you a person with 6 feet of dirt over their face. All of those senseless deaths were at the hands of a punk and all of the people who knew he was a problem (parents) and did nothing to stop him. Removing our guns is not the cure, doing what it takes to make certain a mental case like that doesn't get any guns is (may I remind you the as with common viruses, there is no cure).

    July 27, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  15. ygalg

    God resides in the texts. To expect God to come out of volumes, to your aid, is like vision superman, takes off from the comic book.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:17 am |
  16. Mike

    Tragic event happen it is life. God has nothing to do with anything for God does no exist. From some of the comments in the article such as Jesse R think and assume that tragic events would never happen in America if everyone was deeply devoted kneeling God fearing Christians.

    Religious leaders and their followers will use this tragic event as their soap box in a feeble attempt at correlation equals causation. They think and assume that the lack of religion is what lead to this event.

    Theocracy is one of the worst forms of government a nation can have; and yet it is no surprise that religious leaders and their followers would love to have America become a Christian theocracy.

    July 27, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  17. Mark12_31

    Most of my life I have not been a believer. Contrary to many comments, it was only after I matured, experienced tragedies and joys in life that I decided there is meaning in this universe that is greater than I am. Believing in God is not weak, lazy or immature, although I used to believe that. Now I realize my pride and fear of looking foolish kept me from daring to have faith in something I couldn't necessarily prove. It actually takes a lot of courage and humility to do that, which I still wish I had more of. God's story in the Bible is a nothing less than the greatest love story ever told, between the Creator and His Creation. After having children I finally understood the relationship God wants to have with us. But like spoiled children, we rebel, insist we are self-sufficient, and don't need Him. Christianity is really about losing yourself to a much greater purpose.
    I admit Christians have not given Christianity a good name throughout history. But that doesn't change the truth of God's story, it just makes us bad ambassadors. Believers are no more brain-washed than secularists are brain-washed by social conditioning of this world.
    When I first discovered faith, it was an experiment: What if it IS true? I decided to try living for 6 months as if the Bible were true. My life was transformed, and I never saw it coming. That's why they call it a LEAP of faith.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • MarkinFL

      So now you think that your life is of significance to an all powerful universe spanning god? You apparently have a much different definition of humility than I do.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  18. Elizabeth

    Hambone Jones, I think the Devil was directing Hitler-he finds people to do his will all the time -he would not have considered the option -the Devil already knows the rules of the game. And knowing that the poor Jewish victims end was totally against their will. Jesus knows all this and more than you or I can imagine–I feel they stood a great chance to be saved from hell.Jesus is the one that took the keys from Hell anyway . I think if I go out and kill someone -perhaps their sins are on me then? Thanks for your comment Hambone, I have never posted anything in my life and this is my 3rd one tonight . Kind of fun.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  19. Tiffany in Denver

    I live in Denver and listened on Alice 105.9 to a survivor named Pierce who laid pretending to be dead at the gunmans feet. He said as the gunman stood over him and shot, he literally felt an "evil darkness" from him. And then a minute later, he said he felt something he could only describe as God enter the auditorium. He said it was as if God told to the gunman to stop, and he did and simply walked out and didnt return. This man said he felt a noticeable difference of evil and light in that theater as he laid on the floor; and I absolutely believe him.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Livelystone

      Somebody was praying and God answered

      July 27, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  20. highplainsparson

    Yes, God was in complete control, and it was His will, as I said in the article's first quotation. For a more thorough explanation, click on my name above to go to my blog. –@PastorRileyF

    July 27, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Sandra

      God, was the same place & is in the same place when his son Jesus died on the cross over two- thousand years ago. I think that what we as mortal's should do is live where the love of God shines through us. God is a Holy God, He has nothing to do with evil. God is in complete control. He will allow things to happen.It can't be explain by mortal man. Man's intelligency is foolishness to God. He is the only one that can tell us why it happen. He's God he doesn't owe us an explantation. Do we ask him where he is when we do what we want to do in our lives. sin is sin , wrong is wrong, there's no degress in transgressions.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • The Underpants King

      So what you're saying is that your god is completely responsible for this tragic event. So we need to put him and his followers on trial for murder in the first degree, much like they did to Charles Manson. It is wonderful to know that you support this logic, despite not believing in reason.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:03 am |
      • highplainsparson

        The creature has no authority or position to judge the Creator. You might as well ask a lump of clay to judge the potter (Romans 9.) And without God, reason could not exist.

        July 27, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • jimbo

      Finally! A man with some faith in God and His word. I have absolutely had up to HERE with all of these women claiming to know or think that they can lecture me about ANYTHING. I should be the one teaching them how not to have a busted lip... you said it highplainparson, look to Bible for wisdom!
      "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." 2 Timothy 2:11 – 2:12

      July 27, 2012 at 9:42 am |
      • highplainsparson

        Good verse, but it doesn't say what you said. I've had to deal with the issue of women thinking they should preach lately myself, so it is a relevant issue.

        July 27, 2012 at 9:47 am |
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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.