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. badtoe

    The battle of good versus evil is ongoing. It's a fair question to ask where was God in this massacre. Everyone will see it differently. Personally, I saw His angels hard at work as soon as I flipped on the coverage of the story. There were police, firemen, emergency personnel and common citizens running to the aid of those in need. They faced a horrific situation and did their best. Many lives were saved because of their actions and bravery. What about the bravery of those who shielded their loved ones. Yes, evil was there, but it was once again overpowered by the Good. May Peace be with all of us.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • 21k

      so good overpowered evil? wouldn't that have meant there would be no victims today, and maybe one dead or captured attempted murderer. what good does it do to think that angels swooped down after the killings, to clean up. the guy's gun jammed, and he surrendered. otherwise there would have been more dead. and don't say god jammed his gun, because if he did intervene he'd have been smart enough to do it before the shooting began.

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

      You didn't really see his angels at work but are speaking metaphorically, right?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  2. Shaun

    I think that the best way to understand why God allows suffering is to look at parenting here on Earth. Good, loving parents, regardless of their ability to prevent the suffering, allow their children to make mistakes and experience pain – allow them to suffer – to teach their children a valuable lesson. Otherwise, their children never learn to perservere and overcome suffering, which is an inevitable part of life. Do parents who allow their children to suffer love their children any less than a parent who swoops in to the rescue all the time? Not at all; in fact, I would argue that parents who allow their children to suffer love their children more.

    But one might ask, "Would you allow your children to go into a dangerous, life threatening situation to teach them a lesson?" No, of course not. That's because I value my children's lives and have earthbound hopes and dreams for them. However, the difference between God and me is that I live on this earth, and he lives in eternity. Deaths of His children here on Earth only bring them home to Him sooner, and maybe, just maybe get His other children left behind to realize that life on this "terrestrial ball" is only temporary, and that they need to focus on getting to Heaven.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • 21k

      gee, so middle-class american. how comfy. how about the BILLIONS of kids born onto garbage dumps, where they live a miserable life scraping up enough discarded food to eat once a day. no dreams , except maybe praying for a short life to end their hell. and you talk about how god treats us like his children.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  3. Atheist = Thinker

    Every single Christian in the world is an atheist... to every one of the 3000 other gods that are prayed to by people around the world... Atheists just believe in one fewer god than you do.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  4. Terra

    he hit traffic that day.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  5. Reason

    God was watching Batman at a GOOD theater.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  6. Irakanida

    Where was God in Aurora? The same place he was when my step-daughter was murdered. Nowhere but peoples minds.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  7. Beloved4ever

    The question isn't "Where was God" but rather " Where is Mankind". Jesus says , "Here I Am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and OPENS THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN". It's pretty simple. "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."17 He wants to enter our lives. Don't shut Him out any longer.....Let Him come in and be the Lord of your life, Your Savior.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  8. American Buddhist

    Buddha was not and is not a "god"!!! Buddha was simply a man who had found a method for an individual to relieve that individual's personal suffering. The fact that there are millions of people who worship him as a god, does not mean that he is one. They are just as deluded about Buddha's nature as they are about their own.

    So please don't go conflating Buddha with Jesus, Allah, Osiris, Shiva, or any other "god."

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

    Let me get this straight, when tragedy happens, God doesn't intervene because of human free will, but when something good happens that has one out of a million chance, it was divine intervention. LOL @ the religious hacks that can have it both ways.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  10. Liz

    Everything good that happens is because of the grace and goodness of God, and we should give praise. Everything bad that happens is because God, in His infinite goodness, chose to grant us free will, and we cannot blame God but should give praise. God gets credit whatever happens. How convenient.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  11. Count Boogie

    Free will IS "you can make your own choices and I will not judge you for it."
    But the christian version of god says "You can make your own choices but if you don't chose MY WAY you will burn in hell for eternity" that is NOT free will ...that is coercion. Free means NO CHARGE.
    That's like saying it's free will when you hand your wallet to someone who puts a gun to your head and says "gimme your money or I'l F'ing kill you".

    July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  12. logic

    Read the story of Job.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  13. jim r

    Where was God? He was in the same place that he was when they killed his only Son.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  14. Apatheist

    God is a Joke(r)...

    July 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  15. little flap

    God is NOT a Control Freak. We've been given free will.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • 21k

      love that old saw. god believes that the free will of one man to murder people is more important than the free will of the many victims to live their lives. great. what a god you have. he creates all the people in the universe, even the bad ones. then he does not intervene when they go on bloody killing sprees. why would such a being even bother creating us?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  16. junior

    A man is in a coma because he shielded his wife and unborn baby from the gunshots. The baby was born recently. Did he learn this from being secular? Or where his religious convictions put into action?

    July 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Evolution perfectly explains his actions, junior. Educate yourself.

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

      amazingly black and white, I guess people only have 2 choices when doing something

      July 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Mayo Man

      when I choose Hellman's mayo over Kraft am I doing it because Im an athiest or because I believe in Jesus?

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

      Are you answering for him? just as you would answer on behalf of Divinity?

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

      Do you risk life and limb every time you open a jar of Mayo?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • little flap

      He was good. Like God. Some people are just good. The learning about God is a gift from Him. Only those who want to learn about Him get this gift. "If you search for me with all your heart, I will let myself be found by you."

      July 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Timmuh

      Do you honestly believe that those who are religious have a monopoly on good deeds?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Sara

      Are you implying that a person without religious convictions would not have shielded their loved ones from violence? That is quite the assumption to make!

      July 24, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  17. nope

    they cant blame freewill on "acts of god," they cant make up an excuse for earthquakes and fires and they cant explain why their prayers just make things worse

    July 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  18. J

    "Human free will," there is and always will be good and evil. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night."

    July 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  19. Airek

    TO THE UNBELEIVERS: It doesn't matter how we die, where we die, what causes us to die, who kills us, or why we die.... We all eventually are going to die. The awesome promise is that because of Jesus, we will be with Him in the afterlife. So you don't want to believe in God? Well that's just your free will. Biblically you will be in a place where God is not present... Just the way you want it. Right? However, just the same way we all cast jugdements on others for their faulty behavior; such as past commenters on this site, "THROW HIM IN THE GAS CHAMBER", "HE SHOULD BE EXECUTED BY A FIRING SQUAD" and other comments. God's Word does say there will be a judgment on us in the end. But THANK GOD HE SENT HIS SON JESUS TO DIE FOR OUR SINS. Paul the Apostle says in Romans 10:9 "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is LORD," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED." Yes it's that simple. 

    But if you don't believe... Unbiblically, when you die worst case scenario, you will sleep forever and ever without a dream to comfort you. 

    Come on, we want to believe in aliens, mythical creatures, the world having peace finally, but if we do discover aliens, mythical creatures, and the earth finally obtaining world peace, what's that worth once we die?? 

    July 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Timmuh

      Do you have any evidence for your supernatural claims what-so-ever? What makes your unsubstantiated beliefs any more valid that any of the other 4,500 active religions in today's day and age? Also, atheists don't hate god and want to be removed from him, they/we just don't believe that he exists, or in other words that you have made your case that he does. Finally, you need to demonstrate the bible is true and correct before any quotes from it will hold any weight.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Apatheist

      Belief or non-belief is not a matter of 'free will'. Just as you cannot choose to believe in santa clause, easter bunny, tooth fairy, etc, i cannot choose to believe in a god. I can say that i do, but that doesn't change my true belief that it is bs...

      July 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Airek

      @ Timmuh: That is what's so awesome about God. There is so much evidence that scientIst are still trying to discover it all. Look around you at things that is not man made, study how a baby is created in a mothers womb... The list goes on and on. 

      Second question: all I know is that because of Jesus Christ, death is not something to be afraid of. With that promise, my faith lies with Jesus.

      Third question: it doesn't matter if you hate God or don't believe. There are times that i get angry with God and at times i don't believe. But I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. He has called us all heavenward in Christ Jesus. You and i were called by God before you were in your mothers womb. I believe God placed the thought of what happens after we die. Once we have that thought then we want a solution. Well the solution is Jesus, check out that verse I laid out regarding "Romans 10:9" in my original comment.

      Lastly: If you want to believe or don't, that's your choice. You have to believe on your own. But you cant just believe you have to read the bible and dissect it yourself if it's true or not. Don't just sit in church and listen to a pastor only. Read the bible for yourself. Plus, I can't force you to believe or anyone else. 

      July 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  20. Cfox

    I just don't get why it seems that believing in god is such a bad thing. One thing I have noticed about people who don't believe or people who would challenge the belief is that they spend so much time trying telling believers not to push their belief in god upon people, but will type out long drawn out responses insulting , mocking or trying to convince people that their belief is the right way. Back to the topic; maybe god isn't around because he has left us to our own devices. Similar to a parent who must let their child make their own mistakes as they make their way.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • junior

      Satan wants to divide us.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      If one of my kids was about to kill my other kids I wouldn't let him. I'm better than god.

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

      I see, so you are able to keep tabs on your kids 24/7 for the rest of their lives?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Well... some of it has to do with the fact that 'believers' don't just believe and have -0- effect on everyone else.

      You guys, or 'bible believers' often take what is said in the bible literally, and then want to enact laws into our society based on a book that they *believe* was divinely inspired.

      So, hence your, or believers beliefs are open and fair game for scrutiny.


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

      Believers get mocked because they have unsubstantiated beliefs of wishful thinking in the face of a fear of death. Faith, or an unshakable belief with no evidence for a proposition what-so-ever is silly. Unfortunately for the believer their belief system seems coherent when viewed from within, but has the credibility of Zeus and Apollo to the non-believer when viewed from the outside.

      July 24, 2012 at 8:49 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.