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. The Asian Atheist

    Agnostics need to just come over to the atheist side. It is impossible to convince yourself of something for which there is no evidence if you had not been raised on it. It would be like convincing yourself that unicorns are real.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • cleareye1

      There is little difference between atheists and born againers, both have the arrogance of self deception. No one knows the truth.

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

      Next thing you'll tell me Santa Claus, the tooth fairly and the Easter bunny are not real.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • LinCA

      @The Asian Atheist

      You said, "Agnostics need to just come over to the atheist side."
      Atheism and agnosticism aren't mutually exclusive as they relate to different things. Theism and atheism are about belief, or the lack thereof, gnosticism and agnosticism are about knowledge, or the lack thereof. They are complementary.

      I'm agnostic because I don't (and can't) know whether there are any gods. I'm an atheist because I don't believe there are any.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • The Asian Atheist

      Exactly my point, nobody knows. But I am willing to be wrong, and despite not believing, I also do not know. It is unlikely, but again, I don't know. Christians know, without a shadow of a doubt, they just know. So who are the arrogant ones?

      July 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      wow Lin, that's the first time I've heard anyone admit that atheism is a belief system. How refreshing. Of course if a Christian had made the statement, non-believers would be piling on saying it is not it's the "lack of a belief system"

      July 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Bill Deacon

      You said, "wow Lin, that's the first time I've heard anyone admit that atheism is a belief system. How refreshing. Of course if a Christian had made the statement, non-believers would be piling on saying it is not it's the "lack of a belief system""
      Reading for comprehension isn't your strong suit, is it? How you can interpret my post as claiming that "atheism is a belief system" is beyond me. Did you finish high school?

      When I said "Theism and atheism are about belief, or the lack thereof,..", wasn't it obvious that theism is about belief and atheism about the lack of belief?

      On a slightly different, but related note, why is it that believers feel the need to classify atheism as a "belief"? Do you feel that makes it "just as bad" as your own? Do you implicitly acknowledge that your own beliefs are irrational but, by lumping atheism in the same bucket, you level the playing field?

      July 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  2. MDDon

    Since God doesn't exist he wasn't available in Aurora.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • The Asian Atheist

      He was at In and Out Burger getting a double double animal style. Hard to turn down In and Out Burger.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • cleareye1

      God was away on business. -Tom Waits

      July 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  3. Dan

    This is a silly article written by a brain-washed person that quotes other brain-washed people.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • MDDon

      You make a good case, since obviously you are brainwashed.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  4. John

    Which god? Zeus? Shiva? Jupiter? Thor?

    July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Which do you follow?

      July 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Scott

    Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Where was God? He was there in Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves who sacrificed their lives to shelter others. He was there in the emergency medical workers who cared for the injured, not knowing whether the shooter was still at large. He was there in the police officers who entered a theatre filled with an unknown gas to evacuate the victims. Evil is in the world, but God raises up the good – people who will risk their lives, and sometimes lose them – to counter evil.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Your imaginary friend couldn't have been there dolt!!! Your imaginary friend is just that-imaginary and until you provide the evidence to say otherwise, we will go on knowing this fact. Imaginary friends are for children...get back to the sandbox little Scotty.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Stephen

      Oh, so an omnipotent and all powerful gets the credit for purely human actions of self sacrifice? Why not just stop the killer from entering the theater or something you know...god like?

      July 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Irish Catholic


      July 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  6. glades2

    I'm going to say something that is not popular at all – sometimes, as Christians and even non-Christians know, God will permit - not bless but permit - something bad for a good outcome.

    One day after the Colorado shooting I posted a comment on another web site regarding my own family members who spent most of the overnight hours last Thursday sitting in a movie theater for the same film, and told them, based on my own life's errors, that (as the Bible states) when people flock to darkness, it's darkness that they will find, and as we know in Colorado it was found in the form of a man with a gun, and it was to no surprise that the person responsbile for this terrible crime was influenced at least in some way by the characters in the film, or past similar films...

    Does God bless the evil that Hollywood produces – absolutely not – but does God sometimes find it necessary to permit something terrifying in order to shock a person's mind and soul awake – yes, He does, as shown again and again in similar cases...

    A good example was the good that came out of the Columbine shooting – as many know, Rachel Scott's legacy (Rachel was one of the murdered students) continues to inspire teens around the world to do good to this day, and only God knows how many souls will be saved as a result of the good that does come the goodness that emerges from bad events...

    July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Stephen

      You are insane.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  7. bdl1978

    keep praying to your imaginary god. brainwashed fools

    July 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Keep reviling the faith that guides billions to useful lives.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  8. Truth About Guns

    God was simply watching the events unfold... the only intervention that could have occured would have been on the part of those in the theatre. But alas, they left their guns at home because they were in a "Gun Free Zone." Let me further define that law/phrase. The victims were in a "No Viable Means for Self Defense and Self Preservation Zone" this could also be construed as a "Waiting to Be Murdered Thanks to My State's Laws Zone" or a "Please Kill Me Now as I Follow the Law and Therefore Will Not Illegaly Carry a Gun Here Despite the Fact that CRIMINALS WILL Zone"

    When I leave my house... I have my gun... When I go to a restaurant... I have a gun... When I watch a movie... I have a gun. Am I paranoid? Perhaps... but I AM ALIVE

    July 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Stephen

      Right, because it's not like there is a book which describes in great detail god interfering and interacting in humans lives, sometimes directly.

      Oh wait, it's in the original book that claimed that gods existence.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  9. Brian Fr Langley BC

    Freewill? what is it really? If I can't do evil, then do I really have any? That freewill can result in incredible evil does not diminish it's inherent value. In fact what would our humanity be without it. In almost most everty single thing we do as humans we inevitably make choices. Some good some evil. What other creature that ever existed could find an injured lamb and think "oh the poor thing" rather than "oh dinner is served? Freewill is the Almighty's greatest gift. Using it for yourself, then blaming him when it's misused is an arguement that has no coherance whatever, (unless you think we should all simply be mindless beasts like the rest of creation).

    July 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Stephen

      Was god not capable of making a universe with freewill and also free of evil? "No" Then god is not all powerful. "Yes" then he is the source of evil.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Stephen

    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 12:09 pm |
    • John

      I have a simpler answer.

      The idea that a jewish zombie, who was his own father, can grant you eternal life if you telepathically accept him as your savior and symbolically eat his flesh, allowing you to be forgiven for the inherent evil that is in all of us because a rib-woman ate an apple at the behest of at talking snake doesn't make any sense.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • cleareye1

      Surprise for John.

      It makes sense to over a billion Christians, including all of the current American political leaders. Does anyone still wonder why we are floundering?

      July 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Stephen

      Cleareye, http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/bandwagon

      July 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  11. Melissa

    Wow, reading these answers shows that there are a lot of problems with mean and intolerant people today. Calling people stupid and morons for their personal religious beliefs is really, well, stupid. We've become so very intolerant of any opinions but our own. I personally believe in God. I also believe that my life has a plan. I've been through some really BAD things in my life, all of them led me down various paths and dead ends. Through faith I've walked through it all only to lead me where I am today. I look back at all of the things that have shaped who I am, and I think there is some sort of intelligent design to it all.

    I agree with the fact God gave us free will, and that he loves us. I happen to be a Christian. I have no use for anyone who is intolerant of others beliefs and say demeaning or derogatory comments about those who believe different . Religion and YOUR relationship with YOUR deity (or decision not to believe) is a personal decision that only YOU can make. I have no beef with anyone else who believes in whatever religion appeals to them – we should all be free to worship as we choose, or not to worship if that is how you feel. But being mean and making ugly remarks is uncalled for from either side.

    Where do I think God was that day? He was there with those that crossed over to the other side, and he was there with those who were wounded and afraid in the theater. We don't know the reasons why these things are allowed to happen, but things do happen for a reason, and something down the road will change somehow for the better.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hi -Melissa...

      " things do happen for a *reason* "

      I respect your right to believe what you wish... and the *reason/s* 'may' very much be totally different than what you *believe*.



      July 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • gatorguy1

      Melissa, you seem to be a very thoughtful polite Christian and I am happy that your faith has helped you in your life. Whether or not God exists it seems that your religion and faith have had a very positive influence on your life and I am happy to live in a country where people are free to practice whatever religion they choose. Personally I am an atheist as I have no reason to believe in the existence of God (despite being raised Presbyterian) and as a scientist I am always eager to learn more about the universe in which we live. The quest for knowledge is one of the most exciting endeavors for mankind in my opinion, and I hope that I can contribute to mankind's understanding of his place in the universe just as those who came before me added to man's body of knowledge. I try to be a good person not because I hope for an eternal reward or fear eternal damnation but rather because I would like to enrich the lives of those around me and hope that others will do the same leading to a better life for all of mankind. In my opinion religion was created by early man to try to answer life's greatest questions: what is the meaning of life, where did we come from, and what happens when we die? They did the best they could with the knowledge that they had, but now we know so much more and have amazing tools to continue probing, testing, and learning about the universe in which we live. In addition advances in science and technology can help improve the lives of people around the world and may even let us explore other planets and even one day maybe other solar systems and galaxies. Although the existence of God may be answer enough for some I hope to continue man's eternal quest for knowledge throughout my life. If only more people on both sides were as open minded and polite as you seem to be then there could be more civilized discussion between theists and atheists, then people would see that those who have different beliefs are not evil or stupid but rather coming to terms with life and existence in a way that makes the most sense to them.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  12. Gloria Rose

    "Where was God in the Aurora massacre?" It's a valid question and a version of the question–No, the accusation–I make of God every day: "Why, God? Why did cancer take my brother at so young an age? He had an 18-month-old son. Really, God? And why did my friend's house have to burn down to the ground in the Colorado fires? If ever there was a saint, it is her. She had just taken in a single mom and her child to live in her basement until they could get on their feet. Really, God? And while we're at it, why do I keep getting these migraines?"

    My questions reveal the myths in my heart:

    I can earn the love and intervention of God.
    I must earn God's favor because He can't be trusted.
    I have a right to control my life on earth because...

    ...and there is where the myths break down. My questions fizzle. I'm going to die. We all will–one way or another. And only God knows how and when and where.

    Pain and tragedy throw me back on the truth: I am here and I live because God has willed it.

    It's so...confounding, frustrating, scary...humbling.

    The truth forces me to return to today and this moment. I receive this breath from God..and the next one...and the next.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  13. judeamorris

    What the debate boils down to is: 1.) those people who believe in a God that is involved in minute details of human life, running the world like a puppet show, 2.) those who believe in a God who created and then gave free will for humans to choose their behaviors in life, and 3.) those who do not believe in a Supreme Being at all. Never the three shall meet. Same old argument in a new context.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Melissa

      True, and the same old argument will go on until the end of time. But nasty remarks and name calling from the opposing sides is what really irks me. It is silly and barbaric. We have this freedom to believe or not to believe as we choose. We should choose to believe as we want to and not worry about what others think and not be nasty to those with opposing beliefs.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  14. R. Crayo

    Wow. There are enough religious nuts here to feed a million squirrels.

    Fact: throughout history, regardless of culture and religion, there have been crazy, violent, dangerous people. Nowadays those people can buy numerous automatic weapons and protective military grade gear. The USA is the only country on Earth that allows people to arm themselves to the teeth without so much as a doctor's note. This explains everything. This has nothing to do with belief or lack of belief in God, gods or fairies. In any other country the damage this guy could have done would be minimal.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Scott

      Tell that to the folks in Norway

      July 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  15. lee

    why do some people leave a comment they donot have no respect for god and the family of aurora they need love and hugs and prays not some of your dumd comments like fluke300

    July 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • cleareye1

      Wel said.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  16. Travis

    There have been murderers, serial killers, and mass murderers every time and place in history. It is sad but now is no different, despite relative prosperity. One person in the adjacent theater "thanked God for his mercy and protection". God didn't protect him- he was just lucky he was in a different theater. I don't see what is so merciful about 12 dead and 60 wounded. Maybe that increased the mans faith from his self-centered perspective, but it seems to me to add weight to the opposite argument. I see no evidence of God in this atrocity.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • cleareye1

      That person that thanked his 'god' for the mercy shown to him insulted all of the victims and their families. A truly disgusting comment by a crude, insensitive person..

      July 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Jerome Haltom

    There is no such thing as God. See? That question was easy.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You discredit atheism when you make absolute assertions sir.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • matt in nw

      Bill look up Atheithism brother.... we re not Agnostics...

      July 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  18. FrankHayward

    Why is it asking about God? What about Budda or Allah or any other "god" from a religion besides christianity? Maybe if people stopped believing in a false notion and just realized that there are no gods, they would realize that the one to have faith in is ourselves. Christians make an excuse for everything. One minute it's God's plan then the next God gave us free will. Whichever works for them, they will make the reasoning the way they see fit to explain God. Life is so much simpler when you're not trying to figure out what an imaginary concept is all about. It's quite absurd.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Steve

      Your ignorance is showing...Buddha is not a god.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • cleareye1

      All life is absurd. Get used to it.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • FrankHayward

      Not all life is absurd. At least not in my life. Sorry if yours is.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • FrankHayward

      Steve...no he was not as his followers made him out to be. And Buddha himself said he was not but also said he was not a man either. But people worship him as a god and that is where the problem lies. There is no god period.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  19. Steve H.

    God was in another theater watching it in IMAX.

    With that bit of sarcasm out of the way, let's take a reality check. There are three types of people: those who believe in God, those who don't and those who aren't sure. There are no other choices available. That being said, here is where God was during the shooting:

    Believers – God was in the theater allowing the events to take place, as he has granted man the gift/curse of free will. He may have prepared for some new heavenly arrivals or Hell-bound sinners, jammed the 100 round drum or piqued the thirst of a patron so they would be in the lobby getting a soda out of harm's way. Its God, who can presume to know what his plan is. We only know there is a plan.

    Non-believers – This is a non-question. You might as well ask where Santa was. No God, no need to know where He was. End of story.

    Unsures – The only group who has any need to honestly ask the question. The answer is just as unsure as you are. Remember, you either BELIEVE or not. God has never been a fact. According to his own believers, God himself stated that "he is nothing without faith." Choose to believe or don't; at least you have the choice.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  20. Mark

    Either some god had the power to stop this or it didn't. If it could have intervened and didn't (or allowed free will to reign) then it doesn't deserve worship. If it couldn't have stopped it isn't much of a god.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:03 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.