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. Brian Vanoy

    "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33

    July 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Hulk Will SMASH

      Avengers 8 Chapter 2

      Now I know you think it's stupid for me to base my life around a comic book, right?

      Then why do you?

      Grow up and realize you have been conned.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Brian

      in His simplicity, God has never said that terrible things would not happen. In fact, He declared from the beginning that we we as sinful people (Genesis 3) have fallen from a right relationship with Him (Romans 3:23). His desire is that we live in reconciliation to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). When troubles comes we are asked to endure/persevere (Romans 5:3-4) and to draw even closer to Him, trusting in Him (Nahum 1:7); then He will draw near to us. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He is far beyond what we could ever fathom or even begin to even imagine. In the end, God is love (1 John 4:8), and whoever does not love, does not know God (1 John 4:8). Yet, He still loves us even while we are sinners (Romans 5:8).

      July 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      William, are you really 15? You act it.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Brian

      William, I do not judge you.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  2. Mark

    I don't think this is a God-made disaster, but an American-made one. We've disposed of the public sphere more than half a century ago when we decided to build suburban and do away with the checks and balances of a main street full of people you know who will check up on you. There's simply no way for people to interact with each other in this society other then at the mall or by waving at each other for the right of way while driving down a street with seven lanes of traffic. It's an ugly way of planning out there. CNN wrote a recent article about how Aurora was really a nowhere city with no downtown or places to go. Look at where the people in the picture are putting up the memorial crosses. It's on some strip street with cars zooming by. There's no civic pride left anymore.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  3. JL

    God is a concept for measuring an individuals pain. Just heard that and it sounds logical but I have to do more thinking on it. The older I get the less I beleive in God, but I'm to scared to admit it other than in a post.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • mike fox

      GOD sees these posts too!

      July 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  4. Jubilee

    God must be a marvel fan.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  5. joe

    Why does man try to create a deity from something he doesn't understand? Current religion has created a mockery of what a god would represent if he were real. There is no god. Because if there is, every religion is wrong. Christianity can't be right if Islam is on the mark. Religion is the greatest example of perpetraiting a hoax that ever was.Take a look around our universe. We are one galaxy out of billions of galaxies. Our galaxy would take 100,000 light years to cross and it has two billion stars with billions of planets. We are one small spec in a vast universe. Why would anyone think that a god would pick a small dot in the universe to show up in the smallest and least populated place in the desert on planet earth to kill himself to absolve us of our sins that we are born with? Omnipotence seems to be an oxymoron here. The god you believe in is a direct result of where you were born and who your parents were.
    To quote Stephen Roberts:
    "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

    July 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jason

      You ask very good questions, Joe. I will give you a simple answer to all of them: Appreciating God and the life he has given us is not meant to be easy, for He created a world in which the desire for life was trumped for the desire for knowledge in the Garden of Eden. So we are cursed to seek the explanation for all the questions that exist in this world, which we will impossibly be able to answer at any time until we accept the only answer is God, and our pursuit of knowledge is meaningless without knowing Him first.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  6. David Murray

    It is impossible for God to be in control of everything AND for man to have free-will at the same time. Pick one or the other.

    Personally, as a deist, I believe there is a God who created and set the universe in motion. But I don't really think he's involved in our day-to-day events.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  7. IslandAtheist

    The same place as the Easter Bunny.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Me!

      So how is the easter bunny since you know him?

      July 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  8. Chance Sumner

    You cant have evil, unless you have good. This question shouldn't be a "Does God exist?" question. Instead this should be a "Divine sovereignty/free will?" question. Atheist, on what standard do you judge what James Holmes did as evil? Is not killing part of the evolutionary cycle? I mean, survival of the fittest, right?

    July 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • William Demuth



      Murder is BAD. All murder, all of the time. 100 percent bad.

      We all need to stop doing it, either personally, or with our proxies.

      Otherwise, we shall not survive much longer, because alas, we have gotten for to efficient at it.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Chance

      To say that something is evil because it kills our species off is pragmatic and not moral. Morality consists of more than pragmaticism. Morality asks "Is this wrong?" Pragmaticism asks "Will this work?" Those are two different questions. You are confusing them. What if James Holmes was killing off the weak humans so that he could breed more intelligent people like himself? Evolution has an innate survival of the fittest mentality. Killing is sometimes how survival is expressed.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  9. Brad76

    How is anyone supposed to learn anything if they're being saved from the learning experience?

    July 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  10. Paul

    He was in Africa that day, giving AIDs to babies.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  11. Wilson

    God has been kicked out of the gunman school!!!!!!!!

    July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  12. Sean Carroll

    Where was God is an age old question asked many times by people reeling from tragedy. God was in the theater in, He is with the victims, and He is even present to James Holmes. Psalm 139:7-12 states these words
    "7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
    God is outside of all our time and space limitations, He is here, and there at the same time. He is now, and later all at the same time, for He is God. He is the uncreated.

    God also is heartbroken over the event. In our time, as He sees the victims, as he sees James Holmes He is utterly crushed by the pain and suffering. That is why some of His words to the apostle John were this in the book of Revelation.

    In Revelation 7:17 God spoke of the end and said this
    "For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
    ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

    God will wipe away the tears of His people. He is tired of the endless pain and suffering that goes on in the world. That is why Jesus came to redeem the world, to reclaim the world, to put the world back together. Jesus spoke of God in terms of love, and He also spoke of the God who mourns the victim, the orphan, the widow and the oppressed. He lived the pain.

    God is present in the suffering and the cross of shame he bore shows Him saying as well, I know your pain, I know your heartbreak.

    That's why there is grace, that's why there is forgiveness. Events like this when we speak of evil, show that we know good and evil, that there is truth, that there is a better way. God, has showed it to us, and through this painful act in which James Holmes misused his freewill to sin and kill, together we can unite at the cross, in the place of ultimate love and sacrifice and all be remade, and healed.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Kiko


      July 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Matthew

      That is easily one of the most intelligent posts I've read. Bravo.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  13. rutiluspallium

    This is a father watching his child fall down because the child will never learn if Daddy just keeps catching him. God's desire is for us to *choose* to follow him, and we can't do that if we're compelled by divine action. For us to be truly free to make a choice, God has to allow the bad along with the good.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  14. Oracularman

    GOD is a creation of a very wise human being to maintain law and order just as we have cops and laws in the modern world today. Example 1: Today's law says you cannot drive at more than 65 mph and in the past if you recklessly drove your chariot or horse into somebody, GOD would punish you. Example 2: In today's time, If you eat too much meat, you will fall sick while in the past, if you killed more than you needed to eat or if you killed animals for food or protection unnecessarily, GOD would punish you. GET IT? If No , history will continue to repeat. After all we are just micro-organisms when seen from planet Venus or Mars via a telescope.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  15. Jess V.

    The Bible makes this quite clear. Those who attribute such things as murder and terrorism to God are maligning him. Note what Job 34:10 says: “Far be it from the true God to act wickedly, and the Almighty to act unjustly!” Similarly, James 1:13 states: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” So if you have suffered evil, rest assured that God is not the cause.

    Who Rules the World?
    The foregoing still leaves us with the question, If God is loving, just, and powerful, why are we surrounded by evil? One common misperception needs to be cleared up first. Many people think of Almighty God as the ruler of this world, the one who is in direct control of everything. “Not one atom or molecule of the universe is outside his active rule,” said the president of one theological seminary. Does the Bible really teach that?

    Not at all. Many are surprised to learn what the Bible actually says about who rules the world. For example, 1 John 5:19 states: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” Who is this wicked one? Jesus Christ identified him as Satan the Devil, whom he called “the ruler of the world.” (John 14:30) Now, does that not make sense? Satan is cruel, deceptive, and hateful—traits that underlie much of the suffering that people experience. Why, though, does God allow Satan to rule?
    Want more answers to this question??? Pray to God Jehovah for wisdom and seek a Bible study.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  16. Barb

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    July 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  17. Kiko

    Where is Zeus when you need him or maybe Thor and Captain America

    July 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  18. Kyle

    Oh God was there alright – How else would you explain this story http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/23/aurora-shooting-survivor-_n_1695792.html
    I firmly believe the tragedy happened because of mans inhumanity towards man, or some may call it sin. But Petra Anderson survived by a miracle. Only God could have known her condition when no one else did and only God could have made that bullet travel in its perfect path and spare her life. Thank GOD shes alive.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • URgod not there

      Kyle, you are without a doubt the dumbest poster here.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Kevin in Atlanta

      Yes, clearly it was God's will that she survived. Just as it was God's will that 12 people died? Was it his hand that also guided the bullets on their perfect path to killing other innocent people? Was it God's had that guided the shooter to the theater that night? If God wanted to save this young woman, why even lead her to the theater to be in that situation at all?

      It annoys me when in tragedies like this, if one ONE person survies, it must be a miracle attributed to God. Yet the other countless, senseless deaths are a tragedy attributed to evil.

      If God can take glory and praise for the surviver, why can he not take blame for the victims?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  19. Jim

    He was at an NRA rally

    July 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  20. YBP

    God was where he has always been...in each individual believer's reason-free, pre-scientific, child-like imagination. He is an obsolete figment, nothing more. The fact that every believer imagines him differently is proof of it. There is more proof. There's compelling evidence available against the existence of all the gods, let alone those of the ancient near east. The Age of Reason began over 400 years ago. We have a lot of catching up to do.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • URgod not there


      July 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • rutiluspallium

      You had me right up until "There is compelling evidence available against the existences of all the gods". That's a foolish statement easily dismissed. You can't prove something does not exist, unless you qualify properly. if God is a stem of broccoli in my pocket, then...nope, no God. But if God is a vast ethereal being who can perceive all of time and space at once...how do we test for that? There may be no evidence FOR God, but there can never be enough evidence AGAINST God either. Never assert the absence of god; you can't win that argument.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • jmcondreay

      What evidence do you site? If you are requiring that the deist show his evidence, then show yours. What science proves with 100% certainty that there is no god, gods, or God?

      July 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Val

      You are absolutely right. God and all of the other Biblical notions were things that were simply invented by primitive people thousands of years ago to explain phenomenia that at the time had no other explanation and to keep the masses under control. Science has evolved tremendously from that time and has discovered, thanks to Stephen Hawking, that because gravity exists, "The Earth can and will create itself from nothing." In other words, gravity created the Earth, not God. He has also stated that God does not exist. As science progresses, it continues to find new explanations for our origins and evolution which do not include God. It is time we stop believing this ancient nonsense that has no bearing on today's reality and which is increasingly being discredited by science.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:59 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.