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. Wendy

    We are responsible for our own behaviors. There is no heaven and no hell, there are no gods, no unicorns, no santa claus, only humans being either good or evil to each other. The human race needs to grow up and let go of childish fantasies. Belief in god just breeds hate and warvand excuses for ourcpen behaviors. I have never heard of an atheist storming a theatre and shooting everyone in sight, it's always, ALWAYS someone who has some religion...it's unnatural to believe in that stuff as an adult, and that is why people are conflicted and do these kinds of crimes, IN THE NAME OF...(enter your misguided belief dafdy here). Why is it that 99% of peoplevbelieve what their parents told them to believe or in the religion of their country of origin? Could it be the captive audience dependent on food, shelter, and love? I am a freethinker and a humanist, I beleive in thinking freely without a book of hatredctelling ,e otherwise. I velieve in humans, and we can help each other rather than waiting for some myth to show uo.anyone seen Thor lately?

    July 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Colin

      Well said.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  2. Agnostic

    God gives people a free-will.

    Why can't atheists get it?!

    July 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Colin

      Well, don't credit your hokey sky-fairy when a person does something good. you can't have it both ways.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  3. glenda

    God gave man the option of making his own decisions, good and bad. This monster in Colorado used his option to kill and hurt innocent people. God had nothing to do with this. What is really sad, this man had a bullet proof vest and other equipment so the only people hurt, were the innocents. He wanted to live, while murdering his victims.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Colin

      Ah yes, but anytime anything good happens, it is immediately attributed to the Christian god. You can't have it both ways. If you believe an omnipotent god is pulling the strings, you have to accept that he caused this event. If you believe that causation stops with man, don't start crediting your sky-fairy everytime a person has good fortune or does something good.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Pokydoke

      If God allows us to make our own decisions why do so many Christians try to get in the way of that by stinking up politics with their particular brand of morality?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • neb

      It's beyond my comprehension that in this day in age otherwise rational individuals still willingly believe in a deity.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  4. Colin

    Dear Christians:

    God here.

    Let me tell you why I did nothing to stop the Aurora massacre. It is because I do not exist.

    The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was edited over the centuries, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smited all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric for me to even contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.


    July 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • mark delci

      Took the words right out of my mouth God

      July 24, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • mike

      you forgot "Firstly" It threw me off

      July 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Bindiboi

      Made my week! Thanks for this!!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Michael


      July 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Mary


      July 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • T.L.O'Connell II

      Well God ,I do hate to point this out to you , but should you have addressed your letter to more than just christians?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Are you Colin Farrell?

      July 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  5. Jeremy

    Dan Gilgoff, you have to be joking right? Do you really think this topic, “Where was God in Aurora massacre?” is somehow relevant in the overall discussion of the tragedy that happened in Colorado? Really? A CNN Religion Editor putting something like this out there; pandering for attention by pulling God into this event is really amateur reporting. You sir are a poor excuse for a journalist.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  6. Thomas Garrity

    God was there comforting those who were suffering. God gave humanity free will, and unfortunately this man used it to kill and horribly cripple the lives of many people. Religion is not a crutch for weak minded people. It takes a lot of strength to admit that there is something greater than humanity.

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

      Were you there? How do you know they were comforted. I'm sure there are plenty of people there who could tell you that many of those cursed with not dying instantly looked anything but comforted. Take off your rose colored glasses and see the world and the events occurring on it for what they are.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  7. Cq

    Every animal that needs to kill in order to survive is testament to suffering being part of God's supposed plan, right?

    July 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  8. Read the Bible & Get Educated!

    GOD GIVE US ALL A FREE WILL IN THIS SHORT-LIVED EARTHLY LIFE. It is clearly written in the Bible that there will be both good and bad stuff happening.

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

      Dump the Bible and get a real useful education.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Why are people praying if we already know bad things are going to happen? Why are we shocked?

      July 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  9. Rev. Paul

    God never wills "Sin", however, God does will for us to have "Free-Will".

    July 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  10. melissa

    God is ALWAYS good. Man is not. Don't get them confused!

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

      But would not total inaction by an omnipotent being amount to immoral activity?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • sam

      Except for that one time with the killing of the firstborn thing...but, you know.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  11. crashingwaves

    God is not on trial here, its James Holmes.

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

      You already posted that

      July 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  12. ken

    Ask yourself – where is God when you stepped those poor ants and kill them without even realizing. You humans think you are the only important thing around. You are just a minute piece of atom in the universe. enough said.

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

      Ken, do the world a favor and off yourself.

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

      An ant has no quarrel with a boot.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Oops

      Was that comment in favor of god or against the idea of god?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Your prayers were NOT ANSWERED! I'M STILL HEREEEEEEE ! By the way, did G-od give us the same name?

      July 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  13. kmwatersaz

    It could be as simple as God allowing these 12 wonderful souls to join Him.

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

      In the most violent, terrifying way possible. That's awesome! Thanks god!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  14. Ken Margo

    G-od was in the same place as he was on 9/11, Columbine, Virginia Tech etc. etc. You may ask where is Allah during the car bombings, bus bombings, be-headings, war etc. etc. No where to be found.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  15. TimBryant

    There IS a God. In many cultures He is called many things – but He is still supreme over all. As for the question? Why does God let this happen? Why does God allow hurricanes; tornadoes; typhoons; wars; etc. Why does God allow a loving couple to be blessed with a Down's child – or a child with other disabilities?

    God makes all of us go through trials and tests. At first we might not understand why they are happening or why God has made this happen. Though in the long run... and trust me whether a believer or not... you will see where Gods' workings are all a part of a larger picture. From tragedy comes understanding and awareness. From illness or suffering, comes compassion and love.


    July 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      How long are we going to be tested? We ALL have failed the so called test. You can believe all you want, but stop trying to sell this crap.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  16. asif

    It's totally idiotic nonsense to say: "God allowed man's inhumanity to man, rather than intervene.” . . . this "god" you speak of does not exist . . . religion is a crutch for weak-minded people who find safety in numbers . . . that's all you get for your hard-earned money. You get nothing and your "leaders" get it all. No bang for the buck there.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Mark

      First, stop saying God – then allah/buddha/chrishna..etc. Only the God of the Bible is one true God. Besides – it does depend on which faith you have and which god you worship and how you answer this question!
      Then, each act of violence–or act of evil–needs to be looked at individually to asnwer "where was God."
      In this instance, a number of things could be said. But one thing is clear - if we don't repent, as a nation or people still living and enjoying God's favor, if we don't repent - will all perish!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  17. ThePlainTruth

    Yes, God was watching as he always is. The beginning of the Bible tells that God created both Good and Evil. Thus the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, Both were available for man to learn about. Also remember he gave fair warning about touching the tree in the middles of the garden. In that Day you shall surely die. God's will is simply...Do the DO's and Don't do the DONT"S.. This guy did one of the Don't. "Don't Murder". God is not a genie or some kind of crap shoot........."C'mon God...I need a new house!"

    July 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  18. varun

    God is not subject to our fanciful imaginations and concoctions. Rather we are completely subject to His laws. We don't want to grow old and die, right? Can you change that? No! So do we get it? There are some objective truths that exist irrespective our subjective & fanciful opinions! Denying existence of God does not do an iota to His absolute existence, but rather it perpetuates our material existence within this samsara cycle of birth, old age, disease and death as we choose to live without Him.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • sam

      Too bad we can't agree on what his laws are.

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

      @sam, His laws are plainly evident in nature. we are all subject to their control. That doesnt depend on which church you go to. we all are subject to pains and pleasures and old age and death and diseases. God is pure spirit, so is our real self - unfortunately we are obsessed with temporary and perishable material body as the self. God wants us to detach ourselves from matter and revive our eternal spiritual relationship with Him. But, alas, we are merely interested in Him only to the extent he can provide for favorable material conditions - even with respect to God, our interests are limited to our temporary material bodily existence. And as soon as things do not go our way, we lose all faith in God - who is the creator, controller and our best well-wisher.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • sam

      Ohhhhhhhh boy.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      In other words IT IS WHAT IT IS.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  19. crashingwaves

    James Holmes did the killings, not God. Look at the news. God is not on trial here.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • sam

      That was that one George Burns movie where god was on trial, though. Wasn't John Denver in that one too?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  20. Reasonably

    Where was the Budda, Vishnu, Allah, Gaea or any of the other myriad deities so many believe in?

    July 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • varun

      Gross ignorance. God's existence is not affected by your opinion who are completely under control of stringent laws of material nature (like old age and death) which is working under the jurisdiction of God.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:24 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.