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. HE

    There is a God and He is real whether you admit it or not. Humans have free will because God wants us to chose Him, not control us like robots. The fact that you think that this massacre was an act of evil proves that there is some objective moral truth in our lives. If there wasn't then who's to say that this massacre was wrong? There is objective moral truth and that standard was set by God. If you are true to yourself you will admit that the following statements are true. "If there is no objective moral truth then there is no God. There is objecive moral truth, therefore there is a God." Don't believe in objective moral truth? Then I guess this massacre can be justified because who's to say that this was wrong...murder is wrong. I think everyone on the planet would agree with that statement.

    I don't know why this happened but it saddens me to think that people expect God to always give them everything. Bless them with success and good health and safety when they themselves give nothing to God. I urge you to believe in Him because I don't think He's real, I know for a fact that He is. There are so many reasons beside the Bible to know that there is a God.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Who invited me?

      I will admit it when you can prove it.
      I'll be waiting....a very, very long time

      July 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • HE

      I just did. If you don't believe in absolute objective moral truth then you are in denial.

      Not to mention, I suppose your computer just appeared out of thin air. No one created but it just popped into existance because that's how the world works. Didn't think so...the world had to have come from someone. Want to believe in the big bang? Tell me who created the particles that 'banged.' What I don't understand is why people don't just give the Bible a chance. Why don't you just pick up a Bible (don't go to church). Pick up a Bible and read it for yourself. Give it a chance. People think they know it all already when they never look into the subject in depth for themselves...

      July 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Carochan52

      God was absolutely weeping over this event – even more than we were. But He has given us free will and while we are here, evil does exist and manifest itself in many ways. He does not force us to come to Him – who would want someone to love them who didn't have a choice in the matter. And for that person who said they would not believe without proof – what proof do you have that wind exists – you cannot see it directly – only the effects. So does that mean you don't believe in wind? Most people who say they don't believe in God do so, I believe, because they do not want accountability.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  2. Susana25

    God has allowed free will. But God was seen on this day in many ways. The gun Holmes was using jammed, less people were killed/injured. The people who were able to help others was through the grace of God. But I find it interesting that when something bad happens, people ask where is God? But where is God in their daily life? I am sure they do not make time for God, so God is where they want them to be.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • HE


      July 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Larry89

      What a bunch of boloney. The gun jammed, because guns jam occasionally. If this god of yours was really loving, he would've saved every innocent there and had the gun go off in the killers face. Or was that beyond his powers?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • HE

      Larry89, It seems like you expect God to provide us with this perfect world with perfect people in it. If that was the case then we would be robots doing exactly as our master says. No where in the Bible does it say "There shall be no evil in the world because I love you too much." The Bible actually portrays God as our 'father.' Would you rather someone love you because they were forced to love you or love you because they wanted to love you? Furthermore, do you think parents should control their children and tell them what do to or in essence, run their lives? No, and neither would God because He is our Father. You act as if God did this Himself when a human being did this.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Susana25

      Larry, if you do not believe in God, then you should believe that he was not there because in your opinion he did not stop it. For us who believe in God, we can see the way God reveled himself on that day. As I mentioned if you choose not to include God in your life, how can you expect him to be there during the bad times. Either way, HE and I will say a prayer for you Larry.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  3. mishagoetz

    Where was God in the Aurora, CO shooting? He was there. He was there, shielding the people who hid under their seats. He was there, protecting the woman who was pregnant yet lost her six-year-old daughter. He was there, weeping over those who had been shot down, and he was there, giving comfort to those who mourned. How do I know he was there? Because He himself says, "I am near to the brokenhearted and I save those who are crushed in spirit." He doesn't say, I will keep all the world from evil, and I will keep every bad thing from happening. In fact, he says quite the opposite. He guarantees that there will be trouble; "In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world." Why must there be trouble?? Because there is an enemy. There is an opposer of God named the devil who desires nothing but death and destruction for this world and its people. He was present that day as well, and because this world is under his power, until the Lord returns, defeating the enemy and making all things right once and for all, the enemy rules and wins his little battles, but this we know...he will not win the war. This is our hope. This is what we cling to, and this is what makes life worth living– knowing that there is one who has gone before us and who is coming again and will wipe away every tear from our eyes and make all things new.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Madtown

      Because He himself says, "I am near to the brokenhearted and I save those who are crushed in spirit."
      How do you know what God says? Have you interviewed him?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • mishagoetz

      Nope, but I read the Bible and believe it to be true. Those words are from Psalm 34:18.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  4. Erica

    People always question where God is when something bad happens but NEVER mention God or His goodness when good things happen. You can't have it both ways. You can't get rid of prayer in the schools then have a National Day of Prayer when a terrorist attack happens. You can't give credit to yourself or other humans when good things happen, but when bad things happen go straight to blaming God. Make up your mind. Either God is the creator of all things good and His will is being exercised on this planet in times of good AND evil, or He's not at work at all.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Larry89

      Actually it's the complete opposite. I don't blame god for this because i don't believe in god. However, I've noticed that religious types tend to give god credit for all GOOD things, and then refuse to say anything about him when something bad happens. Example, if a person has cancer and survives, it's gods will. If that person dies, it's the doctors fault.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  5. Name*Chedar

    When karma rises, this events happen. Karma (consciousness) is all there is to it. Anything that happen in this small world of ours, the sadness, attachment, jealousy, delusion, murder good events and bad are the resultant and creation of our mind. It has nothing to do with an omnipotent God who are powerless to do anything.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  6. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  7. Jean-Luc

    @The_Humanist: Just because God is everywhere does not mean he has to actually care about what he's witnessing. If I see a ant killing another ant I don't go out of my way to stop it..I let nature take its course.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  8. Carrot Cake Man

    GUN nuts are usually also "god" nuts. It looks like their "god" gave then what they really want–more and more violence.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  9. miss londa


    July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Carrot Cake Man

      Did you "god" do this?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  10. lovehealshearts

    "God is Love"

    It is not God that is to blame.

    If you believe in God and you believe that the bible is his inspired word, then, the answers to this question is contained within.

    He is not aloof and mysterious; he is “a lover of justice,” and he detests wickedness and the suffering it causes. (Psalm 37:28; Proverbs 6:16-19) Back in the days of Noah, God felt “hurt at his heart” because of the violence spreading in the earth.

    God is never the source of wickedness. The Bible makes this quite clear. 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."

    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.

    God will not allow Satan and his wicked world to go on indefinitely. God’s original purpose to make this earth a paradise has never altered. To that end, his Kingdom and its supporters will go from strength to strength, while the world under Satan’s control will experience increasing “pangs of distress” until God brings it to an end. (Matthew 24:3, 7, 8) So if you have sincerely cried out, “Why?” to God, listen to him by taking to heart the Bible’s message of comfort and hope.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Madtown

      Is the bible the only way of developing a spiritual connection with God? If so, why?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Ed

      I agree with you lovehealshearts!!!! BTW, who was that lunatic that said all authority in heaven and ON EARTH was his.......oh yeah, according to you, that was satan.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:49 am |

      If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NAB)...Is this part of the bible too?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  11. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  12. drnight

    Where was God? If you must ask then no answer will suffice save your own. I'd like to think God was in the hearts of the people who used their own bodies to shield others or stayed with the wounded not knowing if the danger was over. And if you want to push it, perhaps in the gun that finally jammed and stopped the rampage.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Larry89

      This gun jamming theory is heavy in here. If god had the ability to make the gun jam, then why didn't he do it on the first shot? I guess 12 was an acceptable number of people dieing before he made the gun jam.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  13. attyvette

    God allows free will if He didn't do this, well, we would all be as puppets having no choice to do good or do evil and only doing what God said we could do. Remember, God allowed Adam and Eve to eat of every fruit in the garden of Eden except the forbidden fruit..(which fruit was the knowledge of good and evil). God knew that Eve and Adam would sin and eat of this forbidden fruit and that God would then have to expel them from Eden. Though it grieved God to have to do this, He allowed man to chose what path they chose which was the path of sin. We all have a choice to do good or evil..the shooter of the victims in the Aurora Theatre chose to do evil just as there were heroes that laid down their lives literally for others ( and these heroes chose to do good in the face of evil).God knows our choices and allows them because we have a free will to chose what we will do even though it might not be what God wants us to do..thus, there are consequences for the choices we make.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • ib42

      god grieves?
      No, we do.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  14. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Who invited me?

      Aren't you neglecting all of the other names you post under?
      trollin'trollin,trollin,..keep the dawgies trollin

      July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  15. Vad

    All who don't believe in God feel free to take that chance with your eternal soul. Don't tell me to risk mine because you think it's stupid. As to why God doesn't intervene in tradegy, who says he doesn't? Problem with preventing tradegy is the public will never know how close to tradegy they were and when a tradegy does occur they will ask " why doesn't God prevent anything bad from happening?" God allows bad things to happen so we can learn from our mistakes. Just like a good parent, we must let our kids make mistakes so they can learn.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |

      Sir, you need to check in to see a psychaitrist for a condition call schizophrenia.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Huebert

      Pascal's wager is a very poor argument.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • miss londa

      WELL SAID!

      July 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • LinCA


      Pascal's Wager:
      In effect, Pascal's wager states that while we can't know with absolute certainty whether the christian god exists, a rational evaluation should lead to a belief. If having to choose between believing (in the christian god), or not believing, the reward for being correct, and the price for being wrong, tips the balance in favor of believing.

      It says, if you believe and are correct, you will gain heaven, while the price for being wrong is nothing. On the other hand, if you don't believe, it says you will gain nothing for being right, yet lose everything if you are wrong. So, belief results in a win/neutral, and non-belief in a neutral/lose position, tipping the balance clearly in favor of the "belief" position.

      Why Pascal's Wager is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.
      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.
      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.
      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the odds for the reward and the risk of punishment.

      Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god. Including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      Also, just going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. Sex life suffers, too.

      In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order.

      Risk is (simplistically) the chance that a negative event occurs, multiplied by the cost of that event. As an example, being hit by a meteorite carries a very high cost (probably death), but since the odds are extremely low, the risk associated with it is low. Similarly, the chance of getting rained on is pretty high, but the cost is very low, representing also a low risk. On the other hand the cost and chances of, and therefore the risk associated with, a traffic accident are high.

      The choice whether to mitigate a risk depends on, among other things, the severity of the risk, the cost of the mitigation and the tolerance of that risk. In the above examples, the cost to mitigate each risk are; exorbitant, low and high, respectively. Methods to reduce or eliminate the risk of meteorite impacts are cost prohibitive and far exceed the risk. An umbrella and a check of the weather forecast effectively mitigate the risk of getting rained on, and is easily worth the cost. Car crashes, and their after-effects are mitigated to various degrees by expensive technology (from street surface technology to driver training, airbags and traction control). People bear those costs to their financial ability and tolerance for the risk.

      A similar reasoning applies to reward. The choice whether to pursue a reward is guided by the perception value of the reward, the perception of the odds of gaining the reward and the cost to pursue it.

      In the belief versus non-belief question, believers tend to irrationally overestimate both the reward for belief, and the risk associated with non-belief.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Vad

      First of all, I am shocked there are people who are reading the comment section all the way to page 81. If I were a betting man I would place money that ACHINESEMAN is getting paid by some anti-faith group to insult Pro God commenters by insulting them and then suggesting they have some sort of psychological disorder. I see I am not the only one he has done this to. It's as if he is operating off a script. Pascal's Wager aside, there is much benefit to following God's Commandments.
      The problem with Religion is mankind. We screw up everything then blame God. Pascal is just another example of how someone supports one belief system, then another simply arises to debunk it. I would not force my belief system on another. If asked I would present it, but it is the individual who must make their own choice and live with the decision. The reason I posted on CNN was because they asked "where was God?"

      July 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  16. Reality check

    Why when a trajedy occurs, do we turn to GOD to blame (where was HE, why did He allow this, etc). I'll don't understand this. Have we (our country) not fought to take God out of schools (we don't say the allegience anymore). We fought for a separation of state & church. So now why do we blame someone whom we have 'separated' ourselves from?

    July 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  17. Patrick Lewis

    God has nothing to do with it. Good things happen to bad people just as bad things happen to good people and things just come out of the blue.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  18. biblicalaaronc

    Some say God was in 100% control and it was part of his plan. Others hide behind "free will". Either way, God allowed it to happen, because he had the power to stop it but refused to do so, and therefore is just as responsible for it as if he had done it himself. He could have made Holmes's gun jam on the first bullet, or given Holmes a heart attack, or any number of other things that he is depicted as miraculously doing in the Old and New Testament. Yet these things didn't happen. Religious people have no coherent answer for this, at all. They are all over the map with their excuses, but at the end of the day, none of their fanciful speculations sound convincing. The best explanation is that there is no God and this is why we see no intervention.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Vad

      If God exercised his 100% control to keep us safe and secure all the time, you would likely come to see God as a tyrant. As it is you merely don't believe in God because he does not reveal himself in a way that is obvious to you. I like to believe that something good will come out of this.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  19. TOMG


    July 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |

      GO see a psychiatrist

      July 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  20. Aesop

    Epicurus already provided the best answer in the second century BCE:

    Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot.
    Or he can, but does not want to.
    Or he cannot, and does not want to.

    If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent.
    If he can, but does not want to, then he is wicked.
    If he neither can, nor wants to, he is both powerless and wicked.

    Or he doesn't exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • ib42


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

      Perhaps he does not abolish evil because to abolish evil means to abolish man.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Perhaps without evil we would not recognize good. Then how would we choose?

      July 25, 2012 at 11:00 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.