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. Rachel

    So, free will is what this is. You think that only certain people are given free will? No; everyone on earth has free will, including those who are able to commit such atrocities as this. There's no reason to vilify God for not being there; He did nothing wrong.
    And before I get crap from this, I'm not an extra-uber-religious freak. I'm just a regular person who has some faith and hope that there will be something after.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  2. Lotsoflaughs

    One of our greatest gifts from God is our free agency, the ability to act and choose how we wish. This is also why Satan is allowed to influence us. Our purpose on earth is to learn and grow. To be able to face choices and hopefully make the right choices in the process…the choice between good and evil, right and wrong. In making the right choices we become more like God and will have the opportunity to live with him in heaven.

    If God interferes with our choices or prevents us from making the wrong choices how can we truly learn or grow and become more like Him. That’s not to say that God doesn’t try to guide or influence us to make the right choices but He won’t prevent us from making the wrong one if even despite His influence we choose to ignore Him. To say God has allowed this evil is wrong. What God has allowed us to do is to live our lives and make choices, choices that sometimes affects the lives of others...sometimes for the good and unfortunately sometimes for the worse. God's desires would be for all of us to make the right choices and to help one another in our journey back to Him. There is no doubt in my mind that God mourns for those lives that were lost or affected by this tragedy.

    Our life on earth is our test. A test where we face good and evil, taste of the bitter and sweet, feel loved and perhaps rejection, know joy and sorrow. The whole process of life is to see if we can still manage to find God throughout it all. And for any of those who do they will have rich blessings and rewards in store for them after this life. And for those who choose to do evil things that affect the lives of others, well their judgment will come and that is the time that God will exact His will and when we will not have a choice in the consequences of our choices on earth.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  3. xchgon

    The price of sin is death. Everyone will die one day. God's mercy allows you life today and if he's merciful again, you get a tomorrow. Don't belive in him? No problem. You will die some day too. No one escapes the payment for sin. God was right where he always is.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Jo

      You gotta be kidding me!!! Right?

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

      You are right your God was there with the psycho shoooting the innocent people, they say God is mercy is that mercy killing people? your God is not my God because mine doesn't EXIST! i

      July 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Exactly. Right where he always was...nowhere. You will die, I will die, everyone will die. The explanation for death, as originating in sin, is a myth. There is not a shred of evidence that death began, when sin began. The very first organisms on earth died. They did not sin.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • someone who searches

      Thanks for your comment! You're probably quoting Scripture at Romans 7:23 which says: For the wages sin pays is death." The rest of the verse says: "but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord. " Revelations 21:3,4 (which was the Scripture that President Obama quoted during a recent news conference in CO) says that "death will be no more." This is one of many wonderful promises that will be fulfilled when the new earth (God's Kingdom) is established.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • God

      You were not there. I was. There were little Arachnid apples tress, and the little tad poles ate little apples, and i threw them out of Aranchnid Paradise. Now go find that Bippy, and bow before me, or you will go to gerbil hell.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • God

      Don't both quoting old books. Before you quote old books, you have to establish their authority. BTW, St Paul did not believe in immortality for everyone. He thought only the saved would be resurrected. Didn't you ever study the Babble ?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • jd

      Hey there brother in Christ – I wanted to say that you should remember that Christ came into the world not to condemn the world but to save it – We are a Church of reconciliation, not resolution, you wont win many people for Christ with this approach.
      God Bless

      July 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  4. Homer

    There is no God or gods. The universe just is. It is huge and contains amazing mysteries and beautiful things. But it can be harsh and does not care, it just is. Also, there is no fate, just random chance. You may accomplish some things by you will, but everything depends largely on chance. We are just floating around while random events unfold. There will always be people who believe in a god because there will always be things which we do not fully understand, just as we once did not understand the Sun and worship it. It is hardwired in our brains to believe on something greater than us, we can't help it, we are just animals and it is in our instinct. I used to believe, but things have happened in my life that made me reconsider. I can tell you 100% sure, there is no god.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  5. JTR22

    God was right there in that movie theater, with all the people. To some, he protected, but to some others, he said it was their time to die. It is our, as in mankind's, fault that this was allowed to happen. God did allow this to happen, because it is 100% man's choice whether to sin or not to sin. In this case, James Holmes 100% chose to sin, and therefore murder 12 people. For one thing, we are not God's little toy figures for him just to play with. In Genesis, it says that we, mankind, were made in God's image. We were given free will, the ability to choose. However, mankind chose to sin. Mankind chose to ignore God's rules. Nowadays, people blame other people for the wrongdoings in the world, but above all, people blame God for THEIR wrongdoings. God didn't do anything wrong because people chose to do wrong. Does it seem fair that when something goes wrong in the world, it's God's fault, but when something good happens in the world, people claim it's all their doing and not God's? No, it doesn't seem fair that God gets blamed for when people do wrong because people choose to do bad things. God is a good God and he hates to see all this happening. That is why God will one day return, and lay judgment upon the Earth. Then after that, there won't be anymore evil in this world. But until then, mankind will repeatedly see each other do wrong.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Michael

      You mean he gets to see all the movies for free? He has nothing else to do? No wonder he is so incompetent!!!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  6. Sam

    I love bugging atheists out.... that's why I wear a BIG CROSS!!

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Colin

      Might I suggest an even bigger one....and four nails.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, ghouls, goblins or guns

      I encourage all atheists to join the Out Campaign and to wear a 'Scarlet Letter' – check it out at richarddawkins.net.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  7. Gloria

    It is hard to believe that anyone could read the story about one of the victims, Petra Anderson and say there is no God. Just a coincidence? Hardly.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • internetisgay

      I guess God only cares about Petra and not the other 12 people.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Colin

      It is hard to believe anybody could read about the 11 dead and believe in a god. "Moving in mysterious ways"? Hardly.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      It's hard to believe people could think 12 people were important when their god allowed millions to die in the Holocaust, 10 million African babies last Summer, and millions more with the Bubonic Plague, and millions more in the countless slaughters of countless wars. Ain't no god(s).

      July 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  8. M.E.

    He was where he always is, off giving AIDS to babies in africa, DUH!

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  9. James Hager, D.O.

    There are versus in the Bible that deal with this very thing. I Peter 2:19-21 offers a good example. Jesus died for our sins despite the fact he had no sin and suffered undeservedly. There are scores of people in Colorado affected by this tragedy and undeservedly so. Suffering for doing good is commendable before God. James 1:2-4 tells us that suffering and bad times will test your patience and faith. But keeping faith and patience will have a perfect result lacking in nothing. Let us remember the selfless acts of several people in the theater that day to save others. God was there and provided safety to many and courage to others. We are humans. One such human took his right to free will and chose a bad path. Pray for those affected if you believe. If you don't and for those posting horrible things about God on here, I'll pray for you too. You will need it.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Quoting the bible is useless. The salvation paradigm is debunked. The need to appease an ancient angry pi'ss'ed – off deity is for illiterate nomads, not for educated people. It's truly amazing the same month the Higgs Boson was discovered, we still have idiots like you quoting this junk, cooked up by ignorant priests, 2000 years ago.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      And you ain't no DO. It's verses. Any DO knows the difference between verses, and "versus", whatever that is.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  10. Jessica

    "Religion flies you into buildings"

    – Don't confuse Islam (A cult religion created by a pedo.phile) with Christianity (The truly and only religion).
    Being Christian is a blessing and paradise.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • noevidence

      Wow, that shows some real deep understanding of life's mysteries. Bravo, you've got it all figured out. Your religion is the only true one. Remarkable.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  11. LeoTheGreater

    Post all the crosses you want, it means nothing to the big "G"; absolutely NOTHING.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  12. maria

    That is when I don't believe is a GOD,specially when atrocities happen to small children......it lets me to think !

    July 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  13. noevidence

    This tragedy is not evidence of a godless universe.. Because there has been no evidence of a god in this universe to begin with. Ever. The burden of proof rests on people "of faith" (by definition, these people admittedly have no proof of anything). Free advice: Read more than one book in your lifetime, look up Russel's Teapot, and do some original thinking.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Without Name

      You and I will both die, correct? If I die accepting the Lord, I go to heaven. If I'm wrong, I'm just dead. That is my best case and worst case, agreed?

      What is your best case? It sounds like my worst case. What is your worst case? Same as your best case? By definition, you have nothing to lose, and the people of God aren't rejecting you, you're just rejecting them. It's binary, God exists or He doesn't. A rational mind would at least seek the best risk/reward, rather than simply accepting death in the best case and worst case scenarios. If someone gave you a lottery ticket for free, would you reject it? Either you win for free or didn't lose a thing in the first place. You don't have to buy your lottery ticket with God. By definition, you have nothing to lose.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  14. Steven

    The short explanation is God allows what man freely chooses out of love and respect for His creation. Man makes the choice of whether or not to shot 70 people in a theater or feed a homeless veteran or spend $$$ on a plasma TV. You can't have love without free will. If God just made man as a robot, doing everything that God wanted what sort of creation would that be? God was there, in the police who came to help, to the first responders and brave souls who stayed behind to help the wounded, in those who gave up their lives for others. God was there. God did not want this to happen. He does not want any pain or grief or suffering to happen but when we blame God we should be looking in the mirror at ourselves. God helps if we ask, but He does not interfere when we go off on our own and do "what we think we should or can do". I love God and my fellow human. God only wants what good for us and gives us a way to receive that goodness. we simply choose to ignore it.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • maria

      Okay you said God not want this to happen? so why it happen? I don't iunderstand your jungle mumbo so God was there only for the ones who were saved not for the ones who die without reason just because a phsycho decide their destinity!

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

      Maria, God is there for all. This happened because a man chose to commit this act. We have free will, we can choose life or death, good or evil, love or hate. We can't blame God every time something goes wrong when in the end we caused it. The Holocaust was probably the worst event in human history, but it was carried out and executed by men, not by God. God is love. That is all we have to know. We either can be love or not, it's up to us.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      @Steven, if man has free will to do whatever he chooses, than that means that God does not know the future or have control over it. This means that God does not have a "plan", and is not omnipotent, or perfect. If you are willing to settle for a God that is not perfect and does not know the future or have a plan, than you will have to dismiss most of the bible. Afterall, it was written by humans and their own free-will, right? Or does God just take free-will away and make you do what he wants when it's convenient – which then means that those people are puppets. And like you said, what kind of creation would that be?

      July 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Without Name

      @HappyMadison – The argument that God giving man free will negates God's omnipotence is illogical. In my free will, I could choose to tackle you, but you could prevent me from doing so by "overpowering" me. You would not be omnipotent, but relative to my free will to tackle you, you would have been more powerful – preventing me from doing so. No God believing person believes earth is the end of life. If God gives us free will to operate as we wish on the earth but doesn't allow those actions to affect eternity, has He not given us free will and been omnipotent at the same time?

      You sound like a philosophy student...try I think therefore I am.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      @Without Name – I've never formally studied philosophy, but thank you for the compliment. I do want to press a little further though about what you are defining as free will. In your analogy, you used 2 football players and said that neither of them is 'omnipotent' but that the one who is stronger would win out over the other. I'm not sure how this argument helps your case if you are arguing for mans free will and Gods omnipotence. Are you saying that neither God nor man is omnipotent, but God's will would 'win out' over mans? To put it into your analogy, are you saying that man has free will to a certain point, but that God will "tackle them" whenever they start to go against his will? If that is what you are saying than you agree with me – man does not truly have free will.

      July 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      @Without Name – Also, you seem to be interested in philosophy, so here is a Wikipedia article about the argument of free will and God's will: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_free_will

      Speaking of logic – you may want to pay close attention to this argument:
      Yesterday God infallibly believed T. (Supposition of infallible foreknowledge as a subset of omniscience)
      If E occurred in the past, it is now-necessary that E occurred then. (Principle of the Necessity of the Past)
      It is now-necessary that yesterday God believed T. (1, 2)
      Necessarily, if yesterday God believed T, then T. (Definition of “infallibility”)
      If p is now-necessary, and necessarily (p → q), then q is now-necessary. (Transfer of Necessity Principle)
      So it is now-necessary that T. (3, 4, 5)
      If it is now-necessary that T, then God cannot do otherwise. (Definition of “necessary”)
      Therefore, God cannot do otherwise. (6, 7)
      If God cannot do otherwise when God does an act, God does not act freely. (Principle of Alternate Possibilities)
      Therefore, when God does an act, God will not do it freely. (8, 9)
      Therefore, an omniscient god cannot have free will. (1, 10)

      If you still think that there is no reason to believe that there is a problem with Gods Will vs Man's Will, than how do you explain that there is a division among Christianity itself on the issue? Calvinists believe in predestination and Arminianists believe in mans free will – and both have their biblical verses supporting them. Although there are far more supporting verses for Calvinists.

      July 24, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  15. LeoTheGreater


    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  16. eroteme

    I wonder if there will be dissenters who protest the display of these 12 crosses. Would not surprise me.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      It will probably be Westboro Baptist.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • someone who searches

      @eroteme: Of course, there would be those (ie, athiests) who reject the belief of the "presence of God" and would be offended by the use of crosses to represent the memory of their loved ones. There are many who believe that the cross is a pagan symbol that has been assimilated into Christianity during the early centuries...those people would be likely offended, as well.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  17. Without Name

    Life is a training ground. Why curse the only One that can give life for a man's taking of life? Where was God you ask? If you don't believe in heaven and you don't believe in God's ability to give life, surely it's unfathomable to you that God exists, was there, and works for the good for those that love him. After all, several people died, and that is deeply saddening to us. But what if we aren't as smart as we think we are? What if we don't understand what happens after death? Or maybe we think we understand, but are lacking of faith? If death is the absolute end, then absolutely it warrants the question, "Where was God?" But, what if it isn't the end? What if God acted rationally according to the knowledge of God, and we just fail to understand it? What if God allowed the tragic events to take place to promote good while allowing us to learn in our training ground? Is it rational to believe that God exists, is sovereign, but allows us to cause permanent irreparable harm to others? No. We don't have absolute power. Although the events took place, and therefore, God allowed it, it doesn't mean God doesn't exist or is evil at all. It just means He's allowing us to learn in our sandbox with the knowledge that He can override the permanent nature of any harm we cause. After all, isn't that what Christ did? He wiped out every error we've ever made, and I'm thankful I don't have the ability to cause permanent harm – only learn from my mistakes. I'm saddened by the events that took place in Colorado, but offer the message that death is not the end. I'm pretty sure God is showering the victims with love, just as we should shower the families with love and encouragement. Why did He let it happen? Because He has our backs, and knows that our free will only affects those things on earth, but we have no control over what happens afterwards. That's all in His hands, and it is good.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Steven

      God allows things out of free will but is still there. He cares. He loves. I agree He loves all those who were hurt and killed and their friends and family now. He did not want this to happen, I 100000% believe that and this wasn't some retribution for our nations sins or anything like that. God does not punish. It's not in His nature.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  18. stop the madness

    Shift the blame to god? I got bad news for you. god doesn't exist.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  19. 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 war and excuses for our own behaviors, remember the lady in Texas whole drowned her 5 kids, because God told her to?. 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 daddy here). Why is it that 99% of people believe 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 hatred telling me otherwise. I believe in humans, and we can help each other rather than waiting for some myth to show up...anyone seen Thor lately? God does not exist, so that is why he was not at Aurora! We are on our own people, so be good to each other, for goodness sake!

    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Dr. X

    he was not in Aurora. He was Giving GEORGE ZIMMERMAN new instructions

    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 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.