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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:

Lenny
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.

Kyle
"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:

Harleyxx
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. Reve

    It is about time for you christians to wake up and smell the dog poop. If your god was loving and all-powerful, able to see all of our moves before they happen and have a plan for us, then he could have acted in a way to stop this massacre. He could have made the killer get in a car wreck and die before the event happened...he could have miraculously locked the door or "created" a wall that the killer could not have made it through...he could have done numerous things. But your worthless invisible magic man did nothing but cause hurt, killing, and destruction. There is no excuse to believe in a god that allows things like this to happen.

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

      Forget your anger medicine today?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Epicurius

      God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them? This is the problem of believing in god.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Revelation

      anger medicine...yes...good one pat. My anger medicine fools me into believing in a mythical being. I must have forgotten to take it this morning. i hide it in my bible

      July 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Joshua

      A true Christians belief does not require God to intervene to protect him from the depraved. Only pagans seek the mythical superhero God and are angered when they do not find this version after they have been living thier whole life for themselves. People want God to protect them, but that is the limit of thier desire for him in thier life, and so would complain if they felt they had no free will.

      You fail to make your point because you do not understand the mind of someone who believes, and attach to them your standards. Perhaps you should stop stereotyping.

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

      Epicurius, very good logic, except that isn't it possible that God can be doesn't just because He is just? He allows us to do bad things so that His harsh judgements can be just? If God stopped this loon, how could He judge the guy for something he didn't do? This isn't Minority Report where the police can arrest someone before they commit the crime. Everyone always wants God to merciful in everything. That's not what the Bible teaches. God is also just!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Yup, nothing says just like eternal torture for not loving something.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Let's not forget the totally just thing of holding every single generation responsible for something the first supposedly did. Yup, I can see the justice there.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      hawaiiguest, Eve was beguiled by satan in the garden of Eden the same way he beguiles everyone through man's time on earth. Some of us get passed the evil of satan and others continue to follow his lies.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  2. Michael

    Or maybe there is no god...

    That's actually the best explanation.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Kairho

      Or maybe he was out at a ball game or was playing pool. Ah ... attending a cricket match; they last forever don't they?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • varun

      God is not subject to your fanciful imaginations and concoctions. Rather you are completely subject to His laws. You dont want to grow old and die, right? Can you change that? No! So get it? There are some objective truths that exist irrespective your subjective opinions!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Kairho

      I rather like "fanciful imaginations and concoctions." Especially the concoctions. I'll tell ya, when god invented alcohol, or rather let some guy discover it , he hit a home run. Now that I think about it imagine how much better the world would be today if god had borned Abner Doubleday and Jim Naismith a few centuries earlier. Wonderful to speculate on!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Michael, sad to read that you reject your heritage in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  3. Pat

    CNN's pretty desperate today. 3 anti-christian articles already.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Epicurius

      God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Sigh

      Nothing in this article is anti-Christian. Take your paranoia meds.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  4. Don

    Now we have to punish God!

    July 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  5. varun

    Where was God? He was right there as He exists within and without both space and time. Unfortunately, we want God to be our obedient order supplier of favorable life conditions and events without trying seriously enough to understand Him in truth. So with that sort of mentality, we like God when things go our way and totally lose our faith when they do not. But seriously, is God simply our order supplier and nothing more? Rather, we are His unconditional servants. The more we surrender in that understanding, more we will connect with our eternal relationship with Him - a relationship that transcends all material conditions, space, time and yes - death itself.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  6. Sal

    God was in the same place they have always been: nonexistence.

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

      Where was God? He was with all the people that night who survived this awful attack. Yes there is good and evil in this world, and unfortunately you can not have one without the other. God loves everyone and it's the devil that like to try and trick us and shake our failth in the Lord and it looks like from the comments today he has won a small victory. All we can do is keep our faith strong and trust in God that he has a plan for all of us.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  7. sybaris

    Christians can only use willfull ignorance to dismiss their god having created evil.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  8. Brian

    We lived with God before this life. God told us we'd go to Earth to be tested to see if we'd keep His commandments. Thus the purpose of this life is to be tested. When we fall short we can ask for forgiveness through Christ's atonement. People are allowed to do bad things to good people so that when God judges them, His judgements will be just. He must allow us to make wrong choices, even allow such evil things to happen or else He cannot execute His judgements. People always seem to want God to only show mercy and never allow bad things. However, because He is just He must allow bad things. This life is not the end. In some people's cases, dying and living the life after this is better than living this life.

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

      there is no god. the minute you see that and wake up will be the minute that you start living life

      July 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Brian

      Life is fantastic believing in God. I live without the fear of death. I know I can be with my family again if any of us dies. How hard life must be without God!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      Indeed this is true, Brian. However, this fantastic benefit of religion is there whether or not god exists or religion is true or not. As they say, all you have to do is believe, and suddenly you will get the benefit of this comfort. Good luck with it (no, really, good luck).

      July 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Revelation

      how great life is not believing in your god. I do not fear death. I do not fear being judged or falsely accused of not believing "enough.". I do not need to go to a building once a week to pray to your false idol in order to feel good about myself. I do good in the community every day and reap the benefits from it while i am still living. i know that life will one day end and i am fully ok with that. it is only you, the weak ones, that feel the need to pray in order to prolong your life into the realm of "forever". You are afraid of the end. You do not want to accept the fact that life is in fact, finite.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Brian

      Life is full of work since life is a test. However, it would be much harder not to know that there's more to life than just the life here on Earth. Yes this life is finite but our souls live on. You sound so sure of your opinion, but I am quite sure of mine. When this life is over, if God didn't exist then there's no regrets right? I will have lived a happy life anyway. But if God does exist, you'll be the one wishing you tried to get to know Him.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Revelation, it's ironic that you use that name to write your sadness. You are the end generation described in the Book of Revelation which means to reveal.

      2 Timothy 4:3-4

      3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

      4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

      Amen.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  9. The Rev. Janet Weiblen

    God was where God always is: right in the midst of it all. But just as we have choices, so does God. Were God to intervene every time we decide to do evil, God would not only be exceedingly busy, God would make us into puppets, with God pulling the strings. Rather than do that, God watches and weeps. The atheists and agnostics can continue to think that God doesn't exist simply because they can't fathom the unfathomable. But some things we do know: out of love,God allows us to be fully who we are–capable of free will. The only other choice is to limit our free will and God loves us too much to do that. So we're stuck with who we are–the good and bad of it.
    Whoever decided it was God's job to stop evil? Gee, I thought it was ours!

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

      Very well said.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • One one

      God doesn't want us to be puppets. He just wants to torture us forever if we don't worship him.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Brian

      He won't be the one tormenting us after this life, we'll do that all on our own if we choose to ignore God.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      Whose job is it to stop evil? Why it is the one with the power to do so, of course. This is elementary, my dear reverend.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Revelation

      congrats rev. janet....you have wasted your life worshiping a god that doesnt exist

      July 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Brian

      How is life wasted when one follows Christ? Helping people and being nice to people is a waste of life? Having a strong family unit and raising good kids is a waste?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Revelation

      brian, i have no faith, yet on a daily basis i help people. i have a great family that is centered on each other, rather than on a magical being. i do good without the need to. i do good just because i want to.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • One one

      Having delusional fantasies about invisible friends Is not required to be a nice person and live a good life..

      July 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Brian

      Revelation, I didn't accuse you of being a bad person or not doing good. Instead I just pointed out that a follower of Christ lives a happy life of doing good, so how is their life wasted? If someone is happy living a religion, then how can you claim their life is wasted. I don't think your life is wasted, just that it could be better.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Believer

      Amen Reverend.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Good post sister Weiblen.

      Amen.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  10. Flex

    Blaming God is not the answer, it's the easy way out for pointing the finger at someone else other then the guilty party: Man, his flaws and shortcomings, and that is the true answer.

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

      God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them? The problem of evil.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      You know what, Flex, I think the vast majority of posters here would agree with your statement. This includes the religious and the non-religious. Whatever it is, it is certainly the fault of man.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Epicurius, God is long suffering, meaning, He wishes none of His children should perish into the lake of fire. All nonbelievers will end up there if they don't humble themselves to repent, ask Jesus Christ for forgiveness, ask Him if you can get closer to Him (meaning to knock and He shall answer and provide you access to His wisdom), then of course, sin no more.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  11. Dave NY USA

    "That riled @TheTrivia Jockey, who tweeted, “If that was God's will, God is definitely not deserving of my worship.”

    How sad your life must be to think you know more than He.

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

      I won't worship a God who plans out and endorses the suffering of children either. To say all this is according to God's will is to say that senseless murder was always God's intent for this world. No, God's will is for us to be Christ-like. It's our defiance of God's will that causes things like this. God was there in that theater that night...crying.

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

      "How sad your life must be to think you know more than He."

      It's Him ... more than Him. Use the dear god's English, man!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  12. Frank Espinoza

    hahaha kicking back, enjoying the show of course, that's where!
    I can't believe people still blindly put their faith into something so nonexistent, even in light of events like this. Try putting all of that misguided faith into yourself, and GO SOMEWHERE.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  13. Elsa Stahl

    I had to laugh when I saw that question. Where was God indeed – well dear friends, God are being denyed in everything and everywhere in this country. Americans do not even mention his name during the Christmas season. It is the 'holiday seoson'. So why, dear friends, does God has to step in and save people that does not even whorship Him anymore?

    July 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • norman

      because he never existed to begin with-man made god because he fears death and wants somehtign betetr next life-psychology 101

      July 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • QS

      I have to laugh at people who believe like you do!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  14. Teresa in Aurora, CO

    We are so quick to say, something bad happens, therefore, there either is no God or He just plain doesn't care, and therefore, we choose not to believe.

    I choose to see it another way. This is a fallen world, a world with ugliness in it and that ugliness sometimes, many times, impacts the innocent. God sees that and believe me, it breaks His mighty heart.

    I believe that what God would love to see us do, as a family, a community, and a nation, is to become dedicated enough to relieve suffering and to build a better world that we would devote more time and resources than we currently do towards any number of social ills. "Come let us reason together", figure out the answers, and make some meaningful changes.

    Then, perhaps, we could begin to reduce and eliminate the social ills, such as violence in our society, crime, substance abuse, neglect, bullying, disrespecting, stigmas towards mental health and other differences, hunger, disease, homelessness... you name it.

    I believe that if you look at these types of terrible things that happen, you will see there were many opportunities for intervention in the life of the person(s) committing this great evil... and they were missed.

    To me, the real discussion needs to be, what can we do to come together as a people and make our world a better place.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • QS

      To reason together, reason must first be acknowledged...something religious people seem to go out of their way to avoid.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • JSR

      If God wanted people to believe, he should do something.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  15. lorraineogan

    Slight revision from above:

    I think a good way to think about this question is by analogy. Suppose that the police never showed up on the scene. We might ask, "where were the cops in Aurora?" We expect the cops to show up to intervene. But suppose the cops said that it was apart of their plan to not show up, and while it might not make sense to the public, they have their reasons. If the cops did something like that, there would be a public outrage. Why? Because the cops have a duty to prevent crime to the best of their ability. Does God have the duty to prevent suffering to the best of his ability? If you said yes, then I don't know where God was. Maybe He didn't hear about it.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Joshua

      But,

      It is not God's duty to protect the lives of the righteous or the wicked. But, pagans do not like the thought of living thier lives for anyone or anything other than themselves, and would not want God intervening then, yet when they are suffering or tragedy befalls them they ask where he was. The answer is, the same place God was when you were living for yourself your whole life.

      The truth is God is unknowable by nature. No man can fathom that which they truly cannot comprehend. So people ask why God allows this suffering...yet if God did intervene, and God has before, then people would complain that they lack "free will"...

      People want a mythical protector to keep them from danger but they want to continue to kill thier children in the womb and engage in adultery and self destructive behavior of all sorts. So, while I do not care what the practices of pagans are, I do take issue with them invoking a question when they do not believe in God, with the simple cause of (pathetically) attempting to make people question thier beliefs.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
      • lorraineleilani

        "The truth is God is unknowable by nature. No man can fathom that which they truly cannot comprehend."

        How can you believe something that you don't understand?

        August 1, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  16. Joshua

    If God exists his will and true nature are not only unknowable to mere mortals, but cannot be comprehended because by definition, they would be supernatural. How can one question the motives of God when they do not believe in him, furthermore, how can they questions the nature of God when they do not seek to understand, but only ask the question in a petty attempt to make people question thier own beliefs.

    I have an answer "God was where is always was and always will be,"

    July 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  17. laen noser

    at an NRA fundraiser.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  18. Elliott

    "God's will or theology in general are the last ditch efforts of a man/woman who has no argument and excuses logic from ever forming a solid idea." – George Carlin

    July 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  19. Beth A Waldeck

    This heinous act of violence is a prime example of demonic forces which are sweeping over this country~~and actually the whole world. God did not have anything to do with it whatsoever, and he especially did not "will" this to happen. God was not "in control" of it either. God gives all his creatures a measure of free will, and lots of this free will is an irrevocable gift. It would violate His nature to supernaturally revoke free will from even the most vile human beings. That battle over the souls of human beings goes back to Cain and Abel, and those of us who are spiritually grounded know that it was God's "permissive will" but not supreme will. God WAS present in the theatre that day, through the heroic actions of the 11-12 who instinctually protected their loved ones with their own bodies. God IS present through the startling and amazing statements of the victims families who profess forgiveness and moving on in loving rememberence of their loved ones~~and challenging the media to take every bit of focus and mention of the psycho's name out of the press. He is alive in body, but his soul is dead–he's gone already. Celebrate the living!

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

      "God did not have anything to do with it whatsoever"

      That's why God should be ashamed if he exists.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  20. Jeff Jenks

    God doesn't exist. Mercy...We're well into the 21st century, folks. You STILL believe in a bearded guy in the sky?? Waste of time.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:02 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.