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. Izoto

    Blaming God for the deranged actions of a single man, typical baiting is typical.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  2. Colin

    I think I'll let Carl Sagan take this one:

    The Dragon In My Garage (an excerpt from Sagan's A Demon Haunted World)
    by Carl Sagan

    "A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

    Suppose I seriously make such a claim to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

    "Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle - but no dragon.

    "Where's the dragon?" you ask.

    "Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving va.guely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

    You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

    "Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."

    Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

    "Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

    You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

    "Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."

    And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work. Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?

    If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, claims immune to disproof are worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.”

    And that, my friends, is the Christian god.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Mortalc01l

      There ARE clever, logical people still in America. Thank you Colin.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  3. Pscyclepath

    Somebody asked this same sort of question to Jesus, and got a straight answer. In this case, Roman soldiers had recently massacred a new of Jews while they were at worship, while others had been killed in a building collapse:

    (1) Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. (2) Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? (3) I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. (4) Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? (5) I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13: 1-5, (NIV))

    Miracles aren't delivered every day, and none of us know if we will be there to greet the dawn tomorrow morning. It is very rare that we are given exactly when we will shuffle off this mortal coil and into the hereafter. Literally, "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night." It's up to us individually to be prepared for when that hour comes, according to our beliefs.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  4. Tom

    The fallacy is thinking that god is just like a good person, and if he was soverign he would not have allowed this to happen. Spiriitual reality is far more complex than that, and spiritual reality includes both good and evil. What took place in that theater is horrific from humanity's point of view, but from god's point of view, which we can only begin to comprehend, it was perfect. You may think that such a statement should elicit a negative reaction from you, but your reaction was not negative, was it? Your soul knows that it is true. The universe is perfect, and so this tragedy is also perfect. Heartbreaking and enraging, but perfect. The only way we can heal is to try to understand in what way it was perfect, beyond our concepts of good and evil.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • pntkl

      Most people's idea of good and evil is that the ends justify the means. If this is the dark side, only a shadow of the heavens–one's moral compass, as dictated by those lacking validation, is inherently flawed.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  5. Nick

    I just don't understand why we have to bring religion into every single thing. This is just an awful tragedy and we need to remember those who lost their lives. It really is funny that cnn would even put this question on here. I mean if this it what it takes to be a journalist then I want to get in on this whole journalism thing. So to the question why does God allow suffering? Why don't you read the Bible first and then post a nonsense question on here. Go to the source for you answer...isn't that Journalism or reporting 101?

    Ok so as for the answer why does God allow suffering? Because in my view we have a choice. Choose the way of God or make your own way. God doesn't mess with free will. If He intervened every time we would never depend on Him. We would get complacent and never see the true beauty when He does work in our life. Another thing is if you really believe in God no matter what happens, he has given us a promise of protection, healing and everlasting life. You can say what you want about Christianity, but there is no other religion that compares. Science never tells us how we ought to live anyway. It doesn't promise us an afterlife, doesn't tell us we shouldn't kill or steal. Most of our laws came from the Bible anway.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  6. LeoTheGreater

    Charlton Heston said: 'From my cold dead hands'. Well Heston is cold and he is dead so what are we waiting for. Now is the time.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  7. >>>> GOD

    Jesus Christ is our lord and saviour. Amen.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  8. Booggaloo

    God did not creat Satan. Satan was once an angel who turned against God and God banished him to hell. Read "23 Minutes in HELL" by Bill Wiese and you'll learn all about Satan and where the evil people of this earth go when all is said and done.
    The perpetrator in Aurora will meet his fate in the end. Don't loose faith in the good and loving God who is always there for us. It's all in the choices that we as people make that decides what is going to happen here on earth. If you choose evil you will pay in the end. Shame on you for blaming our good and loving God for the evil choices of humans. It isn't God who puts the guns in mans hands. It's man himself with the help of Satan who puts these guns in mans hands. It's man's bad choices.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  9. Geoffrey

    Really, you think the question is going to be answered here? OK, I'll bite. We are selfish, self absorbed human beings. We really want nothing more than...MORE. We want more of our parents when they die. We want more of our pets when they die. We miss them. Do you think they are really missing us?

    Assuming that there is a heaven(I believe that there is) then, they are partying beyond 1999. They are hanging with the great leaders and minds of all the ages of earth. Well many of them. I'm not to certain that they are missing you with all the learning, fun and questions being answered by God and others. Questions like, "God where were you when.....?" and "Why did this or that happen?"

    More to the point is this. Our days are numbered. No one get out alive. That particular night was there night and their time. They are asking God right now to comfort their loved ones because, they are having a wonderful time in His presence.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Ryan

    god was hanging out with Jerry Sandusky banging little boys.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  11. God is the best

    Where was God in WWII?

    – He punished the Jews for denying Christ.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • PAJ

      If "God" wanted to punish the Jews for denying Christ, why did he wait 2000 years? This is just more religious nonsense that infects society like a flesh eating bacteria. Anyone who actually believes this type of religious trash is living in a sadistic dream world. Let's set aside these hateful beliefs and work to improve our society, if we can.

      July 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  12. God is the best

    I'm sick and tired when atheists mention Science. Ahh so annoying

    July 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • John Gault

      But when God tells you it's your time and you get cancer, the first place you turn is to science for a cure.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  13. bombastus

    This is a nonsense question that comes up over and over again when something like this happens. Where was God in WWII, inquisition, etc.? The answer is, as Dentson says, there is no God or at least not the supreme being that makes it all go and to whom a bunch of people pray. As comforting as it might be to believe there is something/someone out there we can ask for help, I'm afraid we are on our own. That is pretty scary.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  14. CB

    God was there! He saved dozens of people that day; for there were survivors that walked out of that crowded movie theater. God has no control over evil, the devil does. There are evil people in the world, just as their are good people.
    We are going to be faced with adversity in this life because this world is not a perfect world, nor is any one person perfect. However, we are all made in the image of Christ and should live are lives striving to better our relationship with the One who loves us deeper than any of us could ever fathom.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  15. Varun

    Really? Do we believe in God only if He makes us immortal in these clay-like bodies?

    July 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  16. DREAM15X

    The true irony is how this nation is SOOO very quick to remove God from any government or public school establishment. Public prayer was the beginning and now any and everything that even remotely refers to God is removed and then when tragedy and disaster occurs people question 'where is God'.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  17. Gradschooldude

    I have never really understood why people feel the need to externalize their existence by attibuting the presence or lack of presence of a god. To ask where god was in Aurora implies a subtle view that we were somehow let down by theis god. Rather, we were let down by legislation that allows someone to own combat weaponary and enough ammunition to create such a horror. Isn't the better question, "Where was a sane society that condones the possession of assault weapons by its citizens?"

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

      Sorry...meant condems, not condones.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • PAJ

      It is irritating to see someone put the blame on "guns" as if those weapons did the killing on their own. How ridiculous. What if this guy had driven a truck into the theater and killed 16 or 17 people. Would you then be condemning the government for allowing people to drive cars? Let's not ignorantly turn this issue into a gun control discussion. This is about one man who committed a terrible crime.

      July 24, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  18. PAJ

    Do you people really believe that there are Angels, Gods, or other Deities that hold our hands 24 hours each day to keep us from harm? How can any of you believe such things and yet live on this planet and witness life first hand? The entire history of the world stands against such beliefs. And yet you wonder where "God" was during this terrible shooting? On this probationary planet, life happens. Hence, we get what we get out of life, good and bad. Nobody is protecting us from life. That's our job, to help each other, to protect each other, to do all we can make life productive and peaceful for all of us while we are living here on this awful probationary planet.

    The religions of the world, Christian, Hindi, Muslim, Buddhism, Scientology, etc., have deceived you all and have blinded you from the real truth about life, the world, the universe, and who you really are. It's like you are all living in a Matrix - a belief system that is void of truth and facts. And in light of thousands of years of recorded history, not to mention current events, you still blindly believe that someone from "above' is going to protect you. Is that not a clear definition of insanity?!

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

      Not bad.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  19. Truth is great !!


    July 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • John Gault

      I agree if they find YOU.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  20. Jim

    "God is not worthy of my worship". This is exactly why our society is what it is...Plain and simple. These times were foretold in the oldest history book known to man. It saddens me to think I was fortunate to be born and raised in a free nation built on Christian principles only to see it slowly be eradicated by greed, perversion, violence, divorce, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse and total selfishness. Mr. Holmes is a product of our society and the violent scene of the movie that he brought to life. Where was God? "Exercising his will" in a society undeserving of his blessings. For those of us with faith in God...his promise is coming too. Thank God...Literally.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Daniel

      Wow that explains the inquisition! And the witch burnings and the Crusades! They sure did have a real clear moral compass back in those days when people were more religious than we are today!!

      July 24, 2012 at 6:59 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.