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. Jon

    I'm afraid God's not in the habit of saving us from our own foolishness (or in this case, madness). Humanity has to learn to handle its own problems.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |

      so if you have three kids and one kills another kid you will say to the last kid should have stopped him?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Fact

      God sent Christ for the very reason of saving us because we can not save ourselves. Those who are wise will seek him. Those who are foolish will continue to deny him.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  2. Dr Ema Kay

    God was in the heart of the little girl trying to save her 7 year old friend by giving her CPR when she had no idea if the gunman had left or not. God was in the heart of the boyfriend who thew himself over his girlfriend and took a bullet for her. God was in the heart of the church members who also attended that movie and prayed for others even as the bullets were flying. God was in the hearts of all the nameless people who rendedred aid and prayer in the parking lot and in the darkened floor of the theatre, in homes all across this nation in the people who immediately dropped to thier knees and started praying for people whom they did not know. God was there. Sadly – he was not in the heart of a gunman – who through his own free will that God has granted to us all – decided that he should open fire on innocent people in a movie theatre. We cannot assume to know what led the gunman to do what he did – even if he had been evangelized throughout his life – that is no gaurantee that he would have accepted the message and Jesus as his saviour – the evil that exists in this world was there – but more importantly GOD IS THERE!!!!!

    July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Stephen

      As Paul explains, “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). This quote from the bible shows that god is omniscient, knowing of everyone's choices before everyone else is. Since god is also all powerful, why would god choose to simply occupy the actions of the victims and respondents but leave James Holmes' actions up to himself? Perhaps god was not there at all. Perhaps these people who acted nobly did so because they have been genetically programmed to do so through the evolution of altruism. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/ This link will easily explain the concept of altruistic evolution) Lastly, perhaps we as a society need to grow up. When all evidence points to the existence of no god, human beings should accept there is no supernatural being looking over us. It may be comforting to think that our lives have meaning because if we do good deeds, live sin free, and worship the almighty, we will end up enjoying an eternity of euphoria in heaven. But at the same time, I would love to live my entire life believing that Santa really is responsible for the toys underneath the tree.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Fact

      Stephen – There is evidence all around us that God does exist. Just because he does not fit into your definition of what God should be like does not negate his existence. You are ignoring thousands of years of testimony and prophecies fulfilled regarding the existence of God and Christ the redeemer. Don't lead others astray with your foolishness. You are not smarter or wiser than the God who created you.
      "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4
      You would be wise to respect him and remember the verse you quoted.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Who invited me?

      What evidence do you see?
      And by the way I can come up with an explaination for anything you come up with that is equally plausible.
      The reason for this is you BELIEVE it is god ,but cannot PROVE it.
      That is an actual fact

      July 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Fact

      @ Who invited me
      I don't have to prove it. The reason I can see the evidence is because I believe. Look at the scripture I posted in my previous comment. BTW- neither can you prove that God does not exist. Just because you have not yet found Him does not mean He does not exist. He said, "You will seek for me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart." you will find Him when you are ready.
      Oh, and who invited you? Jesus. He said,"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

      July 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Who invited me?

      quoting your ancient tome that I have read several times will do nothing to sway me. It hasn't yet and never will because there is too much contradiction and flat out fallacy within its pages to be taken serioulsy
      you claimed to have evidence.
      What evidence?
      No proof required....what evidence?

      July 25, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. LordBruce

    God : is unfortunately on vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  4. Fact

    @ snowboarder – How is stating one's opinion considered "forcing". I'm quite certain the commenter knows she can't force anyone to agree with her.
    @ Closet Athiest – You are wrong. Get out your history books. The attempts at genocide and the major portion of wars were NOT started by Christians. Other religious Zealots, yes, but not Christians. Christianity serves to stave OFF evil, NOT promote it. Perhaps you are an Athiest because you really don't know what Chritianity is all about. When you can grasp why Christ would die on the cross for you- yes, even you- then you will begin to understand.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • joe

      Stave off evil?? Surely you jest. Go look up the crusades.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |

      god never did genocide? was about Sodom and Gomorrah? what about flooding the world and killing everything? what about killing all of Egypt first born children? get your bible out and actually read it! if your god is real he has killed with out mercy

      July 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Do some research about Saint Augustine's doctrine of "cognite intrare" and how it has been used for centuries to justify Christian atrocities.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Fact

      Are you serious? These comments only show your lack of understanding. Of course there are times when killing is necessary- to stave off greater atrocities. Do you know why the Crusades took place? Do you know why God destroyed Sodom and Gommorah? Do you know why he sent an angel to kill the firstborn in Egypt? Obviously not. Ponder this: you live in a country where you and your people are a slave. God has come to help free you. The dictator will not let you go even though he has been warned over and over again that if he doesn't let these slaves leave God is going to kill all the firstborn. He still doesn't let you and your people leave. God follows through in order to rescue His people.
      You walk into your house and find your child is being rap ed by a man. You 1. Stand there and do nothing 2. Clobber the man and kill him.
      Point: God knows what He is doing whether you understand it or not.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Lot was spared God's wrath and he handed his vir/gin daughters over to a mob to be ra/ped.
      Jesus says to turn the other cheeck.
      God commands that you do nothing to the person ra/ping your daughter other than offer them any other children you might have.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Fact

      @Doc – Psalm 82:3-4
      Defend the weak and the fatherless;
          uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
       Rescue the weak and the needy;
          deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Fact

      I know the bible, know God, and Christ has saved me from my self, sin, and h e l l.
      I have peace and by God's grace will never return to the empty way of life I had when I was captive and blinded by Satan. If you prefer your life, so be it. We all are given the choice and I choose life with God and Christ.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  5. hilreal

    Maybe he was in the Hamptons with Mittins? Or maybe at the NRA convention?

    July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  6. midwstrngrl

    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 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Fact

      It is clear that you do not know God so why do come on here and speak as if you are smarter than Him?
      God has made a way for us to come into fellowship with Him and have peace. Those who seek Him and His ways will find their way to Him through Christ. Those who reject Him will continue to be blinded by Satan. Those who think this is all a fairy tale disregard or are ignorant of thousands of years and millions of testimonies to the reality of God and Christ.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  7. weedouthate

    When horrific actions like this occur, these send shock waves throughout society. The only way, that we as individuals can come back into balance ourselves, is to attempt to weed out hate within our souls, cleansing them, while cultivating our spirit. We should not ask God to change for us, rather,, we should attempt to harmonize with God, by performing altruistic acts, as God miight do. Only through this counterbalance can we counterbalance the pain within ourselves. In so doing so enhance our collective spiritual level. Just think what would happen if children across the country and around the world, would root out a symbolic weed of hatred. Together, we would take the first steps to weed out hate and sow the seeds of peace.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  8. catholic engineer

    Human beings apparently are not governed by instinct like lower animals. Humans are governed by free will and reason. The author of Sirach (in the Catholic OT) recognized this about 3000 years ago. Sirach 15:14-17 God in the beginning created human beings and made them subject to their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God.Set before you are fire and water;to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand.Before everyone are life and death,whichever they choose will be given them." It should go without saying that the exercise of our free choice combined with imperfect reasoning can have awful consequences for others.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  9. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Malarkey. What was in that movie theater was a man who was probably mentally ill who should never have been able to acquire an ar senal of weapons. No "evil". No "Satan".

    July 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  10. Pete

    Way to set up a troll thread CNN.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  11. snowboarder

    I'm a fecal head and I'm proving it.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  12. Pastor Bill Miller

    Complaining that God did not intervene in this terrible tragedy is like complaining that there was no life insurance money given to someone who dies without life insurance. We have allowed God to be forcibly removed from our schools, government, and media. If we turn to God again as a nation, we will see Him intervene more in our nation's affairs.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Shayna

      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?
      – Epicurus [341–270 B.C.]

      July 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • independentlyowned

      Well the main difference is that life insurance is a man-made thing that costs money, also a man-made creation. You're claiming good and evil are divine creations, and that God can control these things. And stop this whole BS about God being taken out of schools. Do kids still share their crayons? Do they still help each other? Do schools still sponsor toy and food drives for the poor?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |

      which god do you want us to choose? or is this not an option just go with yours? I for one is a fan of Scientology at least they make it completely obvious that they are full of bs and you get a good story written by a sci-fi writer.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • ArthurP

      Which of course makes me a better person than God because no matter what my children do I will be there to help them out. I may not absolve them of their responsibility for their actions but I will never stop loving them and leave then to 'hang out to dry'.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • cronewinter

      Wrong pastor, flat out wrong. A god who would allow the insanity against his children to continue since the very first day is a monster and not a deity worthy of the worship of anyone. If the god of the bible was a human parent we would be screaming for his blood as a murdering child abuser.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • The Asian Atheist

      The strength of our nation came from the leaders who created this country, and the way we have shaped our laws and government. It came from vast resources and ingenuity. Plus the atomic bomb didn't hurt.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Pastor Bill Miller

      It is true that good parents take care of their children. But with GROWN children, parents intervene in their lives as much as the grown children will allow. When grown children sever the ties, the parents are excluded. That is America's problem right now.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  13. Meagan Hudson

    Theodicy is when people try and keep the notion of an all-loving God depite the problem of evil. God created life, but he also created death. Even if we knew for certain he existed, we would not have anything to base our morals on. If God essentially watches people die, does that mean it is moral for us to watch others die? There are too many questions with too few answers.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  14. Joshua

    I must be a rare form of christian but I disagree with all those coming out and saying its God's will that this happened. God gave us free will and he may know the course that history will take but he does not just go in and stop everything bad from happening. As far as I know, no one in any religion can say that their God does that. All the wars in human history show this to be true. As far as I believe, we must take from it what we can. There are people out there that will do bad things and all we can do in our own life is say, "I will be the best person I can and never fall to that level" We all feel for the victims and familys that are hurting from this tragedy so I think we should all focus on sending support and helping where we can rather then trying to find someone to blame for it. We all know at this point who it was so how about we just stick with that for now.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  15. Tara

    really why does is the where is God only brought up at points of horror. Never once have i heard a simple wow this is Gods work when it is something great or beautiful...and there is plenty of that around.I believe in God but certainly am aware that many people for many different reasons do not believe in Him. i don't need any questioning on my beliefs but certainly have a lot of questions for the big man if and when i should ever meet him. Call me stupid or naive or whatever (but really i have heard it all before so no need to use or question me here:-) Read a great book when i was younger–When Bad Things Happen to Good People.. long before I really would need to put into practice what i learned.... def made me think about why and when we question... I think what i got out of it was that sometimes there are no clear answers at the moment (frustrating for those of us who believe there is always an answer if we just look hard enough) and no i do not believe that God allows things like this to happen because He is teaching us a lesson(although i do know there are those who do). what I believe instead is that you can learn from every positive or negative experience you have and use those lessons... or not. I'll be honest in that i have and constantly question the notion of God especially when stuff like this happens but still working on that

    July 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  16. Wootings

    Any appeal to a deity is an admission on your part of abject stupidity. If there are any gods of any kind, they clearly don't give a rat's ass about humanity. The Aurora tragedy is just one more example in an infinitely-long line of events proving that God doesn't exist...or at the very least, isn't the being that the religious wish to portray him as.

    According to the religious, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and opposes evil. The problem being that evil still exists. Always has, always will. So it is clear from this simple irrefutable fact that God either: A. Does not oppose evil, because he allows it to continue to exist, B. Is not omnipotent/omniscient, and therefore can't actually do what needs to be done to stop evil, or C. Does not exist.

    C. is the only rational answer. Any and all BS that comes from the mouths of idiots trying to make excuses for the "problem of evil" are just that – BS.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |

      if god created everything and created humans in their image, then god must be evil himself

      July 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • joe

      You know, this is what happens after centuries of painting an overly simplistic, fluffy ultra-perfect all-everything God. Maybe its not A B or C. Maybe God is just more complicated than all of the oversimplified concepts people put together. I mean people are complicated, we don't always get what they do or why they do it.
      What if God isn't perfect? What if God created a world that includes the probabilities for some very horrible stuff...and also wonderful, beautiful things....and what if God keeps hoping we will use the gifts we have been given to make wonderful beautiful stuff even in the midst of or in spite of the horrible things....Hey, I'm not sure what God was or was not doing when it happened. But I choose ot believe that God isn't the golden, superman that many talk about (so not the God of the Bible anyway)...But that thing that makes peoples hearts go out to those victims and families and inspires people to help them recover and heal, that's what make us human, and that thing is God to me, and I trust it with my life.
      Now here's a questions for you...if there is not God, no divine order...what is the basis for saying this is even a tragedy, or wrong, or evil. If there is no divine order, then everything just is what it is, why label it good or bad at all? IF there is no God then what are you mad about?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  17. Jenny

    When Adam and Eve sinned by their disobedience, they fell for the lie that Satan told them; that they didn't need God, they could rule themselves successfully without him. The years have proven that man cannot make it on his own. Many governments and religions have been allowed, but few have succeeded in ending human tragedy. This is proof of how desperately mankind needs a government, ruled by God, that is known as God's Kingdom that Jesus explained that we should pray for. The sorrows will eventually end.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |

      isn't incest a sin also? so god put two people on the planet then made it a sin for their children to reproduce with each other but yet her was all are. nothing like setting them up to fail

      July 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      unfortunately you cannot have free will and perfection at the same time

      July 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The problem is that you cannot have a government ruled by God as He isn't very good at communicating.
      For some reason, He always speaks through a single human conduit and doesn't address everybody at once.
      Becuase nobody has a psychic decoder capable of intercepting divine messages, we have to either take the prophet at face value or dismiss them entirely.
      Can you be certain that God spoke directly to Moses via flaming foliage, but not to Joseph smith through golden plates?
      Rudolf Steiner maintained that from 1930 onwards, Jesus would grant certain people psychic powers to enable them to witness his presence in the “etheric plane', but alas nobody has got the message yet.
      Benjamin Crème stated that on June 21st, 1982 Christ would make a worldwide television announcement. I had my BetaMax recording all setup, but the announcement never came.
      Sun Myung Moon, Emanuel Swedenborg, Baha u llah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, David Koresh, Hailie Selassie, John Thom, Arnold Potter, William Davies, George roux, Ernest Norman, Krishna Venta, Ahn Sahng-Hong, Jim Jones, Mashall Applewhite, Hulon Mitchell, Wayne Bent, Ariffin Mohammed, Mitsuo Matayoshi, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, Inri Cristo, Thomas Provenzano, David Icke, Shoko Asahara, Hogan Fukinaga, Marina Tsvigun and Sergei Troop have all been revered as the 2nd Coming of Christ Himself.
      Would you want any of those people ruling the nation?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  18. Kumar

    What happened to the victims in Aurora, Colorado is unfortunate and my thoughts go out to their families.

    As for god's absence in this case, I think god was taking a vacation with santa, krishna, mohammed, Dr. seuss and countless other make believe characters. Seriously, when will we stop believing in fairy tales! This is 2012. I can understand the need to believe in something super natural thousands of years ago when people still believed the earth was flat, but our understanding of the world around us has changed significantly since then!

    July 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |

    reading over some of your comments it amazes me how delusional you people are, and it is scary that you people denounce all logic and reason because we were indoctrinated since birth and instead of thinking for your selves just follow blindly with faith. you can explain anything with god because its simple and easy. by the way on my way to work i saw a burning bush and he told me to come on here and tell all you people to stop being illogical nobody saw the burning bush but me so prove me wrong!

    July 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  20. Judy

    God is a disinterested third-party.

    We're on our own.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      You feel very similar to many of our founding fathers. They felt there may be a God but he does not involve himself in mankind's affairs.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      unfortunately you cannot have free will and perfection.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • ArthurP

      Yep on the seventh day he did not rest he and the Misses went on vacation and they're not back yet.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:05 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.