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. Bill Watson

    We create a mess on this planet and then want to know where God is. He wasn't invited. I have to side with Atheist on this one. Albeit for different reasons. At least Atheist are true to their beliefs. They don't want God and they don't call on God. For others....you have kicked God out of just about every element of society. So why wonder where He's at? The ones who believe in God called on him the night of the shooting and you can see His attributes in the way they are handling this great trauma.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • jd

      Actually, athiest do not believe that god exists. Whether they want or dont want god is secondary.

      July 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  2. Robyn Whiteman

    There is God's will. Yet God's will does not mean that there is reason for all that happens. God is all. God is reason and God is chaos. So while our heart's break because we as humans have emotion; it is through the courage to continue to love and live that we can go on. My thoughts to all affected by this.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    The Almighty finds it necessary to do things in His official and public capacity which in His private and personal capacity He deplores.

    But it comes back to the old dilemma – can God make a stone so heavy He cannot lift it?
    Can an omniscient being create enti/ties with free will that defies omniscience?

    July 25, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      The stone-question is stupid, because it implies that "God could not (!) do something".

      Of course, God can lift every stone independent from its weight, its just a matter of scaling. God has access to the invisible set screws which determine the weight of a stone and your weight.

      Imagine you create a website, where the users could do certain things. Their capability to change things of your website would be limited. However, you as administrator could "lift every stone" on your website. You got me?

      July 25, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Not really getting you.
      So you're saying that God cannot create something beyond His control.
      That means that God is not omnipotent (kind of a catch22 – but there's the rub with omnipotence) and mankind doesn't truly have free will.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  4. The Asian Atheist

    I would trade a well trained, armed citizen with the presence of mind to shoot back over any god, any day.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • mike

      A civilian with a gun in a dark movie theater filled with people running around with multiple gunshots going off and smoke/teargas(i forget what they ended up saying it was) in the air. Yes, I can see nothing that could possibly go wrong in this scenario.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Uruk-hai

      Here here!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      @ mike
      I would take that chance over a room full of unarmed people any day. I also specified well trained, since I do not feel that citizens who don't shoot well should be allowed to carry. Kind of the same way I feel about terrible drivers. They probably should not drive.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  5. WeDon'tMatter

    Where was God? Be real, God got to the theater but God is old and it takes it a little longer to respond today than 15000 years ago. Want proof God showed up to stop the evil, the 100 round magazine jammed and only 70 people were killed or injured. If God hadn't intervened everybody would have been dead in the theater and at the apartment. Give God a break, its old and it might take it a few more rings to answer the phone.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Whose name would that be?
      Emperor Palpatine? The Dark Lord Sauron?
      Those types of va.gue threats are fitting for a villain, not a saviour.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Whoops! Above reply was for Rolo, who posted below...

      July 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Uruk-hai

      My Dragon Lord could whoop your gods butt any day of the week.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • WeDon'tMatter

      Yo, Doc, what threats? What are you talking about?

      July 25, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      So it was your imaginary friend that caused the gun to jam but not before it injured 58 and killed 12? All makes so much sense now...NOT!! You'd think that if your imaginary friend really cared, it would have caused the guns to all jam before they were fired. It's pure lunacy to make this out to be anything more that what it is...a man who was not well mentally...a man who believed he was the 'Joker'.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  6. DOLO

    By the end, you will say his name, you will submit to his will, you will respect his power, and you will bow down.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • abaddon

      you're funny

      July 25, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      scarry.....tell that to the kids...it works well on youthful, pliable minds.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • The Asian Atheist


      July 25, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • raju thomas

      Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess
      that Jesus Christ is Lord...... Amen

      July 25, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Who invited me?

      Are you talking about the joker?...you know he's just a fictional character....right?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Craig

      I know your grandma used to say that but she was/is wrong! aren't your a little too old to have imaginary friends?

      July 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  7. georgex

    The Internet is great to hear people's real thoughts and many here expressed doubts about God's involvement. Before doubters were isolated more with little outlets. Now there is an organization of for secular people at http://www.secular.org which provides more connections.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Bill Watson

      We create a mess on this planet and then want to know where God is. He wasn't invited. I have to side with Atheist on this one. Albeit for different reasons. At least Atheist are true to their beliefs. They don't want God and they don't call on God. For others....you have kicked God out of just about every element of society. So why wonder where He's at? The ones who believe in God called on him the night of the shooting and you can see His attributes in the way they are handling this great trauma.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  8. Mike

    God ..... you mean the imaginary person you talk to through mental telepathy ? Give me a break, there is so much evil in this world. How can anyone believe there's a God that could prevent it, but condons it and lets it happen because that's the way he wants it..... Good Grief !! What non-sensical thinking.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Leper Messiah

      Thank you! People need to get off of their butts and do something instead of believing in the "Great Wizard in the Sky". I really love, "Oh, I'll pray for you!" Really, gonna do nothing huh? Thanks!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  9. How you doin

    I think morgan freeman was filming his next movie because he is god...other than that, hasnt that always been the question, where is god, nobody can answer this because it is unanswerable therefore, at this time, a myth till proven otherwise

    July 25, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  10. raju thomas

    God is the supernatural intervener for most religious beliefs. But for a Christian, the trinity – God father, son and the holy spirit work together, at the same time there is an opposite evil force the Satan. As someone put in these comments, the concept of free will prevails-you choose the good or bad, god or satan. All evil things happen because the people who do it is not spiritually born again or have decided not to accept God. In other words, who ever is godly in nature will not perform acts like this. It is your free will to choose God or not. Please read the Bible and prey to god every day to show you
    His will so that you may be living a life worthy to god as well as to the fellow human being. God bless.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "All evil things happen because the people who do it is not spiritually born again or have decided not to accept God."

      Yet the leaders of the church commit these atrocities all of the time. they have accepted god as their savior, are supposedly righteous, but commit horrific acts. Why?

      It was very evil for a church to pander votes to strike down equal marriage rights for gays. It was more evil for the members to make that vote based on bronze aged stories and what bigoted pastors said. I guess no one is a "Chrstian" then

      July 25, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • raju thomas

      Once upon a time a sharp edged rock fell from the mountain top in to a stream of water flowing down... years of rolling and
      hitting on and rubbing made t that sharp edged stone in to a smooth shiny pebble at the sea shore.....Be humble and soft
      minded to the needs of others...love others....leave all the hatred... try to teach and do good things....God bless

      July 25, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  11. BMoore

    Obviously, the gunman is responsible for the shootings. The question is, "If God could have intervened before this happened, why didn't He?" The answer is unknowable because we are not God. However, I believe the glory of One who alone had no beginning and will have no end is the ultimate purpose of all things. God must be glorified for everything that He is. So consider these questions: If there were no sin, could God be glorified for His mercy, grace and forgiveness? If there were no evil, could God be glorified for His justice? If we could not choose to do wrong, could God be glorified by our love and worship? The truth is this... If we could fully understand, at all times, why God does what He does or allows what others do, then we would be God. We are not.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      " However, I believe the glory of One who alone had no beginning and will have no end is the ultimate purpose of all things. God must be glorified for everything that He is"

      Yet everything you believe that he is was written by a bunch of men over a long period of time to control populations, then edited by more men for power, money and to convert pagans. Those are not gods words but the words of fallible humans.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  12. Patrick

    This is NOT God's will, God will not control man's decision, There is reasoning behind all this believe it or not something great will come out of this, this is sad times for America. However God is in control, He takes the bad and turns it around for good, I pray for the familys of the victims, that God will comfort them during these times and show Himself to them. AMEN!!

    July 25, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  13. zod

    god went to the matinee on saturday.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  14. Ravi

    Hey Closet Atheist – I have a tree in my backyard with a dragon on it, do the dragons exist?

    July 25, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      Wait, dragons don't exist? First I have heard this craziness. Next thing your going to tell me is that the tooth fairy isn't real. Holy crap, is the tooth fairy real? The Easter Bunny? Santa? What is happening!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Yes,dragon meant very big lizard. The word dinosaur is relatively new when compared to dragon

      July 25, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      Well yeah dinosaurs are made up by those damn scientists trying to test my faith, those jerks.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      I saw the white, bearded jesus in my oatmeal a few weeks ago. I started weeping uncontrollably and speaking in tongues. It was a blessed day.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      I saw an ominous message in my cereal, it said ooooooooooo! Oh wait, damn, they were Cheerios. Thank you Peter Griffin.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • pntkl

      School is out and the best fun some can think of is commenting on CNN abrasively? No wonder there's more economic depletion than amplification. While there are those some that spend their time inventing two dollar solutions to trillion dollar problems–there are just as many that would rather spend it trying to join others in their company of misery. It doesn't take much reading into comments, to recognize the many signs of narcissism here.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      @ pnktl ~~ I would argue that the practicing of most religions is a greater form of narcissism. Worshipping something without and proof and thinking this "person" cares about you.... not narcissistic??

      July 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • jd

      pntkl – you dont have a very developed sense of irony do you? lol!

      July 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    Safety is good, but freedom too. That is a dilemma, even for God.

    "Where was God in Aurora massacre?"

    Where was the police, when half a dozen or so people got murdered in New York yesterday (I don't know how many people really get killed in New York every day)?

    Nobody of us would wish that around every corner is a policeman which would prevent crimes. We would get the feeling to live in a state of surveillance, extremly unpleasant.

    Now let us imagine "God would be around every corner" and prevent us from doing evil. Would we be happy about that? Would we still be free people?

    God is somewhat in a dilemma. At the one hand he wants freedom, on the other hand he wants to prevent injustice. Seemingly, God tolerates the evildoesrs for a while up to Judgement Day. During our time on earth it becomes manifest, if we are good people or evildoers. Beginning with Judgement Day the evildoers will get punished (of course, yet before Judgement Day the authority can punish the extreme sinners, called criminals).

    Concerning the victims:

    In a way death belongs to life. Maybe, if they had not died by the massacre, they had died by a disease or an accident or something else. There is no guarantee that we survive the current day. This should make us hurry to search for the real faith which leads us to eternal life. If we have got eternal life, we can die peacefully or in fact we only pass away.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  16. laurie

    God was where God always is. Within and around us. God is the creating and redeeming power of love. God was with every person in the theatre and in the shooter – pleading for them, for all of us, to learn to love one another. God is the energy of love. Every time we choose love, all of us win. Every time we choose hate, it will be that much more difficult to find God and God's love. Look inside yourself for God, not "out there."

    July 25, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  17. Ravi

    god created humans and allowed free will and not he will punish them for practicing free will, what a non-sense this is. There is NO god, angles, heaven or

    July 25, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Beaven means sky,look up and you see heaven

      July 25, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  18. Rainer Braendlein

    The real faith:

    God's Gospel of his Son Jesus Christ:

    God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, Jesus, for our sins and raised him from the dead for our justification.

    Everybody who believes that and gets sacramentally baptized becomes righteous. God will release the believer for a righeous life in reality and day by day. Jesus' sacrifice is not only an atonement, but also a work which sets us free, if we believe it and get baptized. It is not only about forgiveness, but also about a life of love and righteousness. There is no cheap grace, but only costly grace. Only if we allow God to change our heart, we can expect forgiveness.

    I am a Protestant. The sacramental baptism was not invented by the pope-rat, but by Jesus Christ himself. The sacramental baptism belongs to the worldwide general Christian Church, it is not a special Catholic thing.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Why would I am have to be anyone other than I am ?

      July 25, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • mary

      Well said!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Indeed, if there would be no divine revelation like the Bible, we only could regard our sinful state as the regular or usual state.

      Maybe sometimes we would wonder, why our fellow human beings feel disgust, when they see us doing things which we regard as usual: fornication, adultry, gayness, etc..

      Thank God we have a divine revelation, the Bible, which helps us to understand reality. Our longing to kill someone or to torture someone is not usual, but it is a disease or defect. We are not in a state of health by birth.

      Our grandgrandgrand ... father has degenerated and we have inherited his degenerated nature.

      Yet, Jesus and the apostles tell us that God wants to cure us and set us free from our greed for se-x, power, honor and riches and our longing for revenge and other things.

      One argument beside the Bible:

      If all human beings would regard murder, adultery, fornication, theft as normal, the world would colapse. Hence, the world had ever collpased, if their had been no divine revelation, because people had always thought, their sinful state would be normal. You got me?

      July 25, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  19. mike

    God was where he always is. Why do people only ask this inane question when tragedies happen? It shows a lack of understanding of what God is supposed to be. Humans are sinful. A human did this to other humans. God played no part in this happening beyond creating us and giving us free will. God *could* have created a world free of sin where nothing like this happens, but would you really rather live without free will? Suffering and tragedy are a part of the human condition. It's nice to think how much better the world would be without them, but we can't "be" humans without them, for better or worse.

    The majority of people asking where God is aren't even Christians anyway, and ask it in a mocking way to provoke people. The real question should be – where did this guy's parents, the education system, the medical system, fail? It's a lot easier to blame God than to actually examine what truly allowed this event to occur.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      Whatever you need to tell yourself to keep believing...

      July 25, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      We cant enjoy life unless God gives us the will to kill?

      July 25, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein



      I appreciate your comment. Very deliberate!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Kenny

      Wow!!! I would totally have to agree with Mike. You nailed every point i wanted to make. Thanks for sharing mike.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • mike

      BamaDaniel – do you enjoy twisting peoples' words into hyperbole? Do you actually gain anything from "discussing" in this way? No, "the will to kill" is not something everyone has, nor does God intend it to be. My point is, you can't have free will if all evil/sin is prevented. The very definition of free will means you will have some that choose to do good, some that choose to do evil. You can't stop the evil without getting rid of free will.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      Yeah like I have been saying, people need to be responsible for their actions. The rest of that nonsense I will just ignore. It is so simple to just say god is there, but he just watches with horrific apathy. But hey, those people have heaven to look forward too, right? I am sure that little girl is much happier dead. I have to say, it kind of takes the fun out of life thinking that this is just a prelude to eternal servitude. I don't want to spend eternity on my knees.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:17 am |
  20. Ravi

    Even children grow out of believing in santa. . . . We, as human species, have fear of unknown (probably evolutions effort to keep us alive) and the belief in god plays on this fear. There is NO god, there is not a shred of evidence for his/her exisistence

    July 25, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      Not true, Ravi... there's a tree in queens now with the virgin mary on it. You want proof, you've got it...!!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      @ Closet Atheist

      Don't be afraid to share your views! Sure it will generate some vitriol, but silence is a far worse offence. Try not to put a premium on not offending people, it makes life boring.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      I don't mind offending stupidity. It's actually a pleasure.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      I mean publicly, not just online.

      July 25, 2012 at 8:18 am |
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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.