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. Tom the realist

    Why do humans love the slavery of their own minds? There is no God. Humans are responsible for most things on this planet, and until humans take responsibility for their own actions and collectively the actions of our species, nothing will change. Perpetuating this idea that it is the will of some magical man in the sky prevents progress from happening. All of life happens here and now, live it and forget the idea of heaven and hell. When you die, it is over. Live well now. This is why atheists do not commit the atrocities associated with religion, because we accept we are the authors of our lives.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  2. Scott

    That there is such a large body of christian apologetics should be a clue to the truth: there is no god.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • k kim

      That just means that many "Christians" waiver in our faith from time to time. No one said it is easy to believe in God that you can't see. Faith has to be tested and refined and grown through trials, even sufferings and tribulations.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  3. Tyler

    God does not always choose to intervene when His children are exercising their freedom to make decisions. Certainly this means bad things will happen, perhaps often. I trust God will treat the victims of this massacre justly and compassionately. By not intervening, God has also allowed for Holmes to be dealt justice (i.e he will be held accountable for all the innocent lives he took). Think of it this way: If the police force somehow prevented a man from killing another person, could the would-be murderer be charged with murder? Attempted murder, yes. But not murder because he did not commit that crime. In the same way, God cannot fully hold people accountable for their actions if he always prevents them from doing bad things. The blood of these innocent victims will cry mightily against Holmes at the judgment bar and will stand as a witness against Him as he is being judged. Holmes will receive the punishment of a just God, a God will not only judge him on his heart, but on his actions as well. I know this will cause some to resent God because "He could have stopped it and He didn't," but we live in a world touched by the Fall of Adam. People will make bad choices and hurt others. What I've said doesn't make the hurt go away. But it helps me to understand a little of what God had in mind last Friday morning.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • sick of christian phonies

      My eyes glazed over before the 1st sentence ended.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Tyler

      Don't worry, man. I feel the same way about all of the long-winded atheistic responses too.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Canaan

      Michele is right on point when she stated: "God allows His creation to exercise free-will. Otherwise, we would be nothing more than puppets."

      July 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  4. sean

    God gave us choice. He told us the rules. We all have to answer for what we do in the end.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • HKIS

      Which God and related rules are you referring to?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • sean

      There is only one God. Pick the name you think is best, not an argument I would be willing to have with you. The Ten Commandments – which were simplified by Christ.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • JR

      Eh, all he has to do is repent and he gets a free ride to heaven. Love those rules.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • sean

      The rules I mentioned having nothing to do repenting. You are confused.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • HKIS

      Thanks for response Sean. I am a Muslim and believe in God but I am wondering how such rules apply to me.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • sean

      The rules apply to everyone equally. You do not have to believe in God for the rules to apply. Mohammed was taught by a Christian Cleric, so I am sure he took the good lessons for what they are and how they would apply to all people.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  5. Bob Loblaw

    Well, his brand new AR-15 did jam, they say there would've been way more fatalities given he was using a 100 round drum magazine with it.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  6. Atheist = Thinker

    Santa 12:25 – I shall visiteth half a fortnight beforeth the New Year, when I shall shimmieth down your chimney and delivereth presents unto your offspring.

    See... I can make up fairy tales, too.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  7. caleb

    God doesnt 'allow' bad things to happen, sometimes things just happen in the natural and He didnt make it happen! But His love is there for us nd sufficent for us when we turn to Him!

    July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Canaan

      God is in control of all things. He DOES allow these things to happen. But He does not make evil happen, we are the idiots that do it. He does, however, allow it. He is all powerful. He can stop if he wishes. But he allows bad things so that we humble ourselves and come to Him.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • sick of christian phonies

      As a wise person once said: Yadda yadda yadda.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • JR

      Isaiah 45:7 – I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  8. Rob F.

    Why, in light of the Christian faith and theology, is death considered an evil? When you base an entire religion on the promise of a blessed afterlife, why is their so much blame directed toward the deity of that religion when souls are ushered into that heavenly realm? Where did the idea come from that says that the same God who must provide you with an enjoyable eternity must also provide you with 70+ healthy years here on earth first?

    So either say there is no God and that this is a truly evil happening or say there is a God and realize that this does nothing to tarnish his reputation.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Reason

      yeah I never really understood this. They go on and on about how great it will be to get to heaven – and how long it will last (eternity?). But when someone dies they are like "this is horrible / how could got let this happen / etc etc"

      Shouldnt all the people that believe in heaven be cheering when something like this happens.

      Oh yeah its religion – dont expect it to make any sense and expect it to be full of contradiction.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • sick of christian phonies

      Boy, I bet if the 6,000,000 killed in the Holocaust had been able to hear you they'd feel a lot better.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Rob F.

      @Reason – Although I am a theist myself, I am very thankful that someone else recognizes the contradiction! I wish more would understand that you can't thank God for providing you a "ticket to heaven" and then curse him for taking you there.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Beloved4ever

      Phillipians 1:21 " to live means living for Christ and to die is even better (gain). Or in other words...Christ means everything to me in this life and when I die I'll have even more? But make sure we understand...God is a Giver not a Taker. The enemy comes but to kill, steal and Destroy. But I (Christ) have come so that you may have life and life more abundantly !

      July 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Rob F.

      @Beloved4ever – While that's a lovely sentiment, Job himself said "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the Lord."

      If we are going to say that there is a supreme Being in complete control of the cosmos, then yes, we have to say that he gives and he takes.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Canaan


      Death, whether you go to heaven or hell, is a curse on us that originated from our failure to obey God. Not all people will go to heaven. And some (the few) will be saved through the sacrifice of God's Son. No one but God knows who trully is saved. And the curse of death is a reminder of how vulnerable we really are. So like when your mother gave birth to you, it was a painful process that she didnt jump up and down on her way to the Hospital, but eventually did have joy when she saw your cute little theist face. So consider Earth and death the "labor" and holding your baby "heaven"

      July 24, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  9. Polar Bear

    Really? Anything bad or heinous happens and that's the question. One does not need this level of horror to ask the question. Non-believers looking for an exclamation mark on their disbelief by asking this question in this case are simply disingenuous.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  10. little flap

    And God jammed the guy's gun, probably. Hopefully. So that it couldn't keep going. That is what I hope happened. ( And , Thank you, if you did. )

    July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Michele

    God allows His creation to exercise free-will. Otherwise, we would be nothing more than puppets.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • little flap

      Yes! or pre-programmed Robots! Agree!

      July 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • sick of christian phonies

      Wake up! You're already his puppet.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm |

      But your focus here is on the free will of the shooter, as it is in all tragedies perpetuated by some crazy person with a gun. Wasn't the free will of the people who were killed violated? Given a choice, would they have chosen to die that night? Your error is a common one: focus on God not intervening to stop the shooter since that would violate the principle of free will. But the free will of the victims is conveniently ignored. Free will violation occurred here–don't deceive yourself–but people seldom focus on the temporal nature of the free will violation in order to simplify this rationalization so it makes sense to them.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  12. B

    Saddened by the news

    July 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  13. Mike Brown

    A fake being of the imagination isn't going to save you or anyone else from a psychopath on the street.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • junior

      lack of compassion isn't going to elevate your trust in humanity either.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Yep, cause god just isn't smart enough to know when to turn off free will.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  14. Dave

    Where was god? Where he always is, in peoples' imaginations.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • sick of christian phonies

      He was busy, helping one of those baseball players that point up and invoke him win a game.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  15. sn0wb0arder

    it surprises me in this age of information with the inumerable deities, religions and doctrines, that people have not realized how adept man is at creating god.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  16. Bob

    Funny how ultra-conservatives railed against Obama for suggesting that a small business couldn't work without some government-made infrastructure. Yet, in the same breath they credit God for everything. All that hard work you did? Too bad. God was responsible for all of it. Then when tragedy happens "You can't blame God for that!" Sorry, God can't take credit without the blame. It goes both ways. Stephen Hawking said it best: "If there is a God, he hasn't done anything since the Big Bang or at least there is no evidence of him doing anything." Too me, crediting cheapens the achievements of man and that makes sense when you think about who was responsible for spreading religion. The Roman Empire or the English Monarchy (most Christians in this country swear by the King James Bible) are all about making individuals not think about their station in life or how to improve it. "You'll get a reward after you die so suck up your terrible quality of life and don't want anything more for yourself. Give an excess to the King or the Church because you don't need it." If the Bible preached ambition and self-reliance, monarchies would fall and collection plates would be empty. The Pope wouldn't be sitting on a gold throne in Prada shoes. So the heavily censored Roman Catholic view of the world (lots of scriptures left out of the official Bible) or the King James slant on the teachings of Christ keep the serfs from rising up and getting rid of the fat, lazy idle rich.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Polar Bear

      Oh, that's right. Taking Hawkins out of context makes your argument sound intelligent.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  17. Backwards_dog

    God was shopping for a new AK47 with his NRA Sr. citizen discount card...o.k

    Enough with this pointless banter, there are 12 innocent victims to another senseless crime. Colorado has a death penalty...too bad it will be years before they could possibly invoke it.

    Society is doomed until people are held accountable for their actions at the time they occur. No consequences = more crime.

    Frankly, I could care less if someone believes in god and santa. If they want to hold murders, crooked wall street bankers and politicians accountable for their actions and deal out swift and painful punishment, I'm ok with that...just don't start preaching to me o.k.?

    July 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  18. Freddiefranklins

    Until someone or something can duplicate the universe in its entirety, I will believe that there are far greater powers then just humans. This is a loaded and biased question fueling an upcoming Godless generation where religion is a fairytale of our parents.

    Once again, mass media making a joke of ( any ) God. No one can explain why horrible things like this happen nor can anyone scratch the surface of a God. Maybe if more people followed the morals of most universal religions, things like this would happen far less often, if at all.

    Life would be pointless if we didn't have free will but we will have to pay a piper for our actions.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      What a backwards way of looking at the world! Let's see...should I place the burden of proof on physicists, chemists, scientists and engineers who repeatedly...without fail...continue to identify and discern the workings of the universe on a regular basis, impact society through their own efforts and creativity, and who are always working towards a smarter and better informed society, and who actually invite criticism and debate? Or shall I place the burden of proof on a bunch of people who get their facts from a 200-year-old book with very little factual evidence, virtually no logical cause-effect foundation, and a desire to deny, ignore, threaten, or pass judgement on anyone who questions them and their beliefs?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Freddiefranklins

      exlonghorn: When did I ever mention a particular religion or a 200-year old book? We don't even know what is on the bottom of our own oceans. Those same physicists, chemists, and scientists you are refering to also were convinced, only some time back, that the earth was flat and that there was only one universe with nine planets in it. We don't even know what is on the bottom of our own oceans but we are ready to rule out a creator that set forth a motion?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  19. HKIS

    How many folks in the theater lived because of God's will? I heard a number of survivors thank God because of his power that saved them. Clearly it was God's will that certain people lived and others died.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • sick of christian phonies

      what a dick.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  20. exlonghorn

    Has anyone ever started a war, lynched, shot, burned, ostracized, or otherwise harmed numbers of their fellow man because they were atheist? I wonder what the heck God (Buddha, Allah, Thor, whatever) thinks about that!

    July 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Rob F.

      Stalin and Mao come to mind. Pol Pot also. Any ideology, theistic or atheistic, can be used to harm.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:21 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.