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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:

Lenny
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.

Kyle
"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:

Harleyxx
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. MannyVeritas

    God gave us free will.

    He did not make us pre-programmed robots. If we were pre-programmed, where would creativity be? For creativity, you need free will.

    If we do evil, you can't blame Him for that. He gave us rules: Love your neighbor. Thou shalt not murder. Etc.

    But our souls are free to choose as we wish. And some souls choose evil.

    Don't blame God. Remind people of the rules written on their heart. The rules of right and wrong.

    Then enjoy the blessings of free will.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      free will: The term used by religious affiliated people to explain the total absence of god when someone does something bad.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Peanut

      I hope the 'blessing' of free will does not include be being shot in the face by a lunatic God chooses to not stop when all I wanted to do was watch a movie in peace.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  2. unk

    There is no god, you fools.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Chrit's_follower67

      Psalm 14:1 " The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."

      Now who's the foolish one? May your eyes be opened to the Truth by the One. I am praying for you.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  3. damo12345

    God doesn't exist.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. TayanaGuy

    The one question I would ask is, If you believe in God, how can you even think you can understand him? That is like asking a painting to understand the painter. Also, stop playing the blame game or telling people to get over it is not an answer to the question, each person has to find their own answers.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • sam

      I like that analogy.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  5. Marsally

    God gives us the kind of world in which we want to live – a world with choice as a part of the equation. Where is God when humans choose badly? God is with the innocent sufferers – the courageous responders – the weak and vulnerable. To these God gives the blessings of God's presence, often in the flesh and blood presence of others.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • damo12345

      How convenient, an all-powerful all-knowing being that never makes its presence known in a way that can be scientifically demonstrated, and who always takes credit for good things happening, never bad things.

      (Except when someone full of hate wants to claim an evil act was their god "punishing" us for something)

      July 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Lawrence

      Well this is some test!

      July 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  6. Bremen

    Here is a better question. Why would God create life, put us here on this planet at all? So we can live out our lives free to choose who we are going to be. As someone who is Agnostic (meaning someone who is not sure if there is a God, or afterlife), this is what I believe we are here for, kind of like a test.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  7. bobop6

    What I'm wondering is why CNN brings this into debate at all. The victims had a prayer service after all, and I'm pretty sure they were all christian. I'm getting tired of CNN making religious people out to be morons. Whether you believe in God or not shouldn't affect the fact that this killer committed that atrocity out of his own free will, God didn't force him too. We all have free will, so we have the freedom to do right or wrong. My prayers go to the victims and their families.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  8. James

    To everybody citing free will... where was man's free will during the biblical flood? Sodom and Gomorrah? The Tower of Babel? The plagues of egypt including the murder of first born children? Do you believe in miracles? If you answered yes then you don't believe in free will because miracles are divine acts by a deity and by nature are a direct contradiction to free will. Marinate on that one for a bit, Christians.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • wow

      Having free will does NOT mean that there are no consequences for the decisions you make. It simply means you get to choose in your life. This post shows a sincere lack in understanding of the term itself. Whether or not a miracle exists does NOTHING to contradict free will.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Talking Snake

      Preach!

      July 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • junior

      We may have free will, but when we exercise that free will, we must also take the consequences of our actions. The inhabitants of Biblical times exercised their free will, against God's warnings, and thus experinced the consequences: the flood, Sodom and Gommorah, Egyptian plagues and the Tower of Babel. Free will does not negate, but invokes, resulting consequences, for good or bad.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • MannyVeritas

      General free will and occasional intervention by God at his discretion are by no means mutually exclusive.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • anonymous

      If you look at the context of these two examples, God did not take pleasure in these punishments.
      In actuality – it was 100 (roughly) years between when God told Noah to build the ark, and the actual flood. You can imagine that Noah spent a good amount of time trying to warn people. After the flood you see God making a covenant not to destroy the earth by flood again. However even before the ark is mentioned, people were filled with wickedness. That is a choice. Sodom and Gammorah were the same way – Abraham looked for a way to spare the city, but the people there chose their lifestyles.

      What kind of good God would allow injustice to continue unchecked?

      Granted this does not answer the situation in Aurora – it is only in hindsight that we can judge. But God is sovereign, and He knows what He is doing. Whether or not we respond correctly or not, or have our questions answered or not, does not dictate the sovereignty of God. Men should not make a God in their image – meaning creating a God that is "safe" or "comprehensible" or "controllable".

      July 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Sarah

    I do not participate in organized worship. While people bash "God" and say how could he allow this to happen without intervening- my thought is the gun jammed before he could kill more people. So whether you believe or not, something happened that stopped the rampage that day. If there is a divine-then please bless all the families involved so that their hearts may heal! In love there is possibilty <3

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Richard Strobel

    God was there that night in Aurora. Only 12 people died in a crowed theater where a man was firing an automatic rifle. Hundreds could easily have died, but the shooter's gun jammed. God is everywhere. He has told us how to live our lives (see the ten commandments), but he doesn't force us to listen. He has given us free will. Most of us live by His rules (or at least a majority of them), or by similar civil rules. Some of us don't. Right now, God is with the victims and families of victims that survived.He is there. He is here. He is everywhere. We just have to seek Him out.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Jack Kolstedt

      It wasn't an automatic rifle, and the magazine jammed because it was a terrible magazine that is notorious for causing jams.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  11. Chiniquy

    G-D Presence is everywhere. Death is not a punishment. Death delivers us into the next phase of our existence. Just as we died as unborn babies in our mothers' wombs to come alive in this world, so must we die to be born into the next life. We grieve whenever our loved ones or acquaintences die, because we will not see them again in this life, but know that we will be with them again in the next life.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • There. Are. No. Gods!

      Then how about you go ahead and die already so you can go get your big reward. Moron. There. Are. No. Gods!

      July 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  12. There. Are. No. Gods!

    A belief in a supernatural being is stupid. If you believe in god you are stupid. Fact. There. Are. No. Gods!

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • MannyVeritas

      What created the universe 13.7 billion years ago? Elves and unicorns? Cosmic membranes? Matter can be neither created nor destroyed. So something beyond our science was at work. It is written that God is Spirit (not just physical), and that is what it would take to break physical law.
      At least we have good rules to follow and faith in someone who has taught us how to better live our lives in love.

      In.100.Years.There.Will.Be.No.You.But.God.Will.Still.Be.Worshipped

      July 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Reason

      Many, your physics got stuck in primary I think. You should have keep going to HighSchhol and College to see a bit more and how the universe can be created from nothing.

      "In.100.Years.There.Will.Be.No.You.But.God.Will.Still.Be.Worshipped" That is fact, and why Einstein used to say “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”

      July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  13. Jack

    God was a good concept we when had no understanding of the world or universe. Today with all that we know it is more and more obvious that if a higher power does exist it is not the one in the bible. It amazes me that there are still people trying to derive their lives meaning from a 2000 year old text that has been proven inaccurate time and time again.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  14. Mr Gray

    It is the fume of liberals, unnatural people, and non believers what makes God angry to allow these carnages to happen. These are ALL illegals to the law of GOD, so lets deport all liberals to China and get back our country as the founders allways intended. Go USA!

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  15. onestarman

    WHERE is GOD in times of Tragedy – Weeping with those in Pain. It is God's DESIRE and the PURPOSE of Christ's Manifestation on Earth that All People have ABUNDANT LIFE. Why was there a HOLOCAUST or HIROSHIMA or a Mass Murder in Colorado? Because PEOPLE can choose to do BAD THINGS.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Michael Bindner

    God was there in those who sacrificed their lives to save friends and loved ones – or covered them and were lucky enough not to get shot.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Anonymous

      And as I recall, his gun jammed for some unexplicable reason during the middle of his rampage...

      July 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  17. Jim

    God would have to be in a million places at once to stop all the evil in the world. Maybe he's tired of helping.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Observer

      Where was God? According to many Christian athletes, he might have been watching a sporting event and answering the prayers of the Christians on offense or the Christians on defense.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • snow white

      I have to agree. God is tired of helping because we as human beings who were given the gift of life have betrayed his greatest gift. There is no respect for human life anymore. We are nothing and treat each other with little and no respect. He is tired and disappointed that the lives he created are proving a waste of time. The monster that caused this tragic event should be extinguished, poof his gone.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  18. heswrong

    This article is both offensive to those who believe and don't believe. I happen to be a believer...and one who is grieving as well. I don't know exactly the reason for this article, but if I were to guess, it was to spark a debate that will get people talking, therefore getting yourselves some more notoriety...like you really needed it. As far as I'm concerned, all you did was feed off of a tragedy, using people's emotions. Well played, sirs. Well played.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  19. James

    Free will is not a simple thing, it can effect so many things for other people. God is an excellent chess player though, and with an eternal perspective we can find reasons to have peace in the storms.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  20. Eric

    God doesn't exist. There you go.

    July 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Dan

      It is not God's job to alleviate suffering on Earth. It is ours.

      July 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
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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.