Are All the Victims in the Aurora Tragedy Christian?

Because that seems to be the assumption Greg Zanis was making when he put 12 crosses up on behalf of the victims of the shooting in Colorado:

12 crosses to remember the victims in Aurora (Karen E. Crummy – The Denver Post)

“These crosses are [for] them,” Zanis said of the families. “We love them. We are not going to pretend we know what you are going through, but we wanted to represent your children.”

Zanis used to run an organization called Crosses for Losses, but it was unclear whether that was still in tact Sunday. He has put up little white crosses in other places marked by tragedy over the past ten years, including outside a Wisconsin hotel in 2005 where a man killed seven others at a church service.

This doesn’t even consider whether or not the crosses are on public property, but if any of these victims weren’t Christian — and we don’t know if they were or not — it’s just adding insult to injury for their families, no matter how good the intentions were.

At the very least, I find it hard to believe the six-year-old who died had made up her mind about Jesus just yet.

And if you think I’m being insensitive for even bringing this up, what would the reaction have been if someone put up Muslim or atheist symbols in their honor instead? Maybe there are better ways to honor the victims than by claiming them for your faith.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • jonhanson

    I was thinking about this, it’s kind of shitty, but at the same time as we become more secular the cross in these sort of situations is losing its religious meaning and is sort of becoming a generic death marker like the tombstone shape. If I knew a cross would be erected in my honor I wouldn’t really complain as long as that was the extent of it, I’d just appreciate the gesture in good will.

    Still, I have to imagine that Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians might not feel the same and would be offended, so I do agree that this sort of thing is insensitive without the consent of the families of the victims.

    • Cynthia McCain

      that’s how I view the crosses, too. Especially if I see one on the road. I don’t think, “oh jesus christ was that person’s saviour!” I think, sheesh, someone croaked RIGHT THERE.

      And I also agree that if I were a specific non-christian religion, I would not be pleased if someone put up a cross for me or one of my loved ones.

      • ImRike

         I agree. Any time I see a cross, my first thought is of death – no religion, no jesus, no god. Just “oh, somebody is buried there!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Murphy/1408010278 Anne Murphy

    No matter how well meaning it was by the person that did it, I would never want a cross put up on my behalf, not on behalf of my husband or son.  

    There are other ways to show remembrance – wreaths, or plants for instance.  The cross is not a generic marker, and without knowing the victims personally it is very presumptive to assume they’re all Christian.

    • TheAbominableDavid

      If  I’m in the situation where I need some kind of memorial, I’m not longer going to be in a position to care what shape it takes – cross, star, crescent, or other.

      This really strikes me as bitching just for the sake of bitching.

      • Slavoc

         Respect for the memory of the dead is one of the decreasing number of things that separates us from lower animals. Moreover, the memorials are for those left behind, not for those lost.

        Or, y’know, we can just assume that anyone who even slightly disagrees with us is just bitching for the sake of bitching.

        • AxeGrrl

          the memorials are for those left behind, not for those lost.

          Unless those left behind are misrepresenting the person who’s died.

          Anyone attending/putting on a memorial that doesn’t respect the dead person being memorialized shouldn’t be at the memorial, as far as I’m concerned.

          • Slavoc

            Which is exactly my point: memorials are for those left behind. That TheAbominableDavid won’t care about his particular gravestone or what have you after he dies does not mean that those who loved him and value his memory won’t.

            • TheAbominableDavid

              And “those who loved me” are free to put up whatever kind of memorials they want. My Christian mother, for instance, would probably put up a memorial with a Christian theme. My atheist friends, if any of them were the memorial raising type, would probably put up something non-religious.

              Just because my mother put up a Christian themed memorial first doesn’t mean that no one else is allowed to put up their own memorial, themed however they want. 

              And, as you say, memorials are for those left behind. Is it really too hard to accept that Christians  putting up a memorial might use a Christian theme? If that helps them to get past it, imagining that everyone that died is in heaven where it’s all bunnies and light, why obsess over their choice of memorial marker? 
              And for those with the overpowering sense of entitlement to demand that any memorial put up for them portray them accurately, perhaps it would be a good idea to plan your own memorial now and not depend on complete strangers to get it right.

      • 3lemenope

        It may not matter to the dead, but it often matters for those who seek to preserve those they care about that have passed through memorialization. So it certainly isn’t the case that it doesn’t matter. I’d also say a person has a legitimate interest in being portrayed accurately on such matters, even posthumously. 

        It’s not, obviously, the most important thing ever, and people do seem to get exercised about it disproportionately to the slight it represents, but then again it is somewhat foolish to expect people to be coldly rational while they are living through profound grief. Death makes sentimentalists of most people, and it isn’t much to ask that the sentiment expressed match the sentiment that is meant to be honored.

        • AxeGrrl

          It may not matter to the dead, but it often matters for those who seek to preserve those they care about that have passed through memorialization. So it certainly isn’t the case that it doesn’t matter. I’d also say a person has a legitimate interest in being portrayed accurately on such matters, even posthumously.

          Bingo.

          Anyone who truly loved the deceased would care a great deal about memorializing them accurately.

      • http://atheiststation.wordpress.com/ katey123

        Yeah you’re right it’s really the thought that counts. 

      • Isilzha

        Once I’m dead I may be past caring, but until then, the thought of someone representing me with a cross after I am dead is offensive.  I may not be remembered for much in my life, but if I was a victim of an event like this I would want my Atheism recognized as much as someone’s xianity is.  Why should others, strangers, be allowed to erase who I actually WAS for THEIR purposes?  I would hope that someone close to me would speak for me.

      • stop2wonder

        I’m an atheist; any immortality I will have will be thru the memories my friends and family have of me. 

        I care very much that those memories not be misrepresented or rewritten.

      • Luther

         My life is not just about me. A memorial that treats me as atheist serves as an example and encouragement to other atheists. That is why I would not want this. It is stealing the meaning from life, just like they tried to do to Pat Tillman

      • Thackerie

         What we need here is a “Strongly Dislike” button.

  • newavocation

    Just another opportunistic act. I’m sure it’s been a real ratings boost for the news networks too. Why don’t the networks talk about the 40 plus people killed by drunk drivers every day!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      …because it’s an everyday occurrence?
      I know the news is often criticized for going for what people will find most interesting…but it’s called “news” for a reason.
      We know people are killed by drunk drivers all the time. People are not the victims of mass shootings nearly as often, and it takes a lot more to make someone purposely kill other people than accidentally kill someone.

      • newavocation

        I didn’t know drunk driving was an accident. Frankly, the news also goes after the more gory accidents instead of reporting on the real ills of our society. Of course their sponsors, like the beer industry and others have a lot of influence in what gets reported and what doesn’t. 

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          Drunk driving isn’t always an accident, though it definitely can be. Plenty of people can think they’re sober enough to drive when they’re not. Killing someone by drinking and driving is most certainly an accident. It’s a very preventable, stupid accident, but I’ll bet no one meant to do it.
          That’s why car accidents are called accidents, even when someone was obviously at fault. 
          Something like that deserves to be on local news, not national news. If they have to report on all drunk driving accidents in the country just to be fair, it would take up a lot of time. We all know there are lots of drunk driving accidents, so it’s only worth it to spend time on it if it’s something nearby, if there’s something different about a particular case, or if there’s a big change in drunk driving statistics. Otherwise, it’s sad, but it’s not news.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Accident implies two things: lack of intent and non predictability.

            The only car collisions that are intentional are demolition derbies, movie scenes and insurance fraud.  Since in the cases we’re talking about, a collision is never the intent, I think the predictability is the real issue.

            The problem with referring to collisions as ‘accidents’ is that we give them the air of not being avoidable, when in fact they are.  In my not at all humble opinion, there really is no such things as a ‘drunk driving accident’.  One is not ‘sober enough to drive’.  One is either sober, or not.

            Lastly, the reason they’re called ‘accidents’ is very close to the reason people don’t think twice about using a cross to memorialize someone of unknown religious belief.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_collision#Terminology 

      • Kodie

        How many people were murdered over the weekend, one at a time, by one murderer each? 

  • Guest

    Wow! I was just ranting about this to my husband when I saw your blog post!

    I told my husband that what he did, whether he realized it or not, was damn insulting unless he asked each and every one of the victims’ families whether or not it was appropriate to represent their lives with a cross. 

    The shooter erased their futures, but if any of those victims weren’t christian, Greg symbolically erased the lives they had.

    • 3lemenope

      The shooter erased their futures, but if any of those victims weren’t christian, Greg symbolically erased the lives they had.

      I think that’s a bit strong. A person is not the sum of their religious opinions and practices.

      • Guest

        Depending on the person, their religious beliefs or beliefs regarding religion can shape their entire outlook on life, and therefore how they live. That is significantly more involved in who they were as a person than liking swimming or enjoying books. Again, it goes back to asking the families how to best represent the victims.

        • 3lemenope

          I agree it is a topic that is worth some care and sensitivity on the part of memorialists because religious opinions can play a significant role in one’s life. I just object to the notion that a person is somehow retroactively obliterated if someone uses a commemorative symbol for them that they themselves would not have chosen. The full measure of a life is not so easily erased.

          • Guest

            It’s symbolic, like I said. The victims will forever remain in the memories of their loved ones, in pictures and videos, and in their acts that had lasting impact. No random person could actually erase someone’s life. To thousands (or more) strangers, however, they will simply be remembered as white christian crosses with their name on them because some guy who never knew them or met them decided to represent their lives with a symbol of his own religion.

            • 3lemenope

              I think, upon rereading, that I was reacting more to the rhetoric than the point, and for that I apologize. It is a fair point that such memorials bear witness not just to those that knew the memorialized, but also complete strangers, often long after all living memory of the person has left the world. For a memorial to bear fair witness to such strangers, it has to be accurate in at least these broad strokes.

              I will say, however, that I’m not entirely sold on the argument that a cross grave-marker is an indubitably Christian symbol these days. I know I personally have always read it more as a neutral respectful symbol of death (unless someone has gone out of their way to “Jesus” it up), and I know I’m not the only one.

              • Isilzha

                I see a cross as two things–a symbol of xianity, a religion I despise; and a symbol of grotesque torture and execution, something else I find deeply abhorrent and offensive.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Indeed, when I think of Columbine, I automatically remember pictures of thirteen crosses lined up in a row.

      • Isilzha

         The point is that when someone puts up a symbol that does NOT at all represent a victim then they are NOT speaking for or representing the victim.  They are instead using the victims for their OWN purposes and THAT matters. 

    • LesterBallard

      If they weren’t Christian, according to this guy’s beliefs, the victims are in Hell. And remember, just believing in “god” is not enough. You have to be a true blue, 100% FDA approved Christian. Which is whatever this guy says it is.

      • advancedatheist

        If they weren’t Christian, according to this guy’s beliefs, the victims are in Hell. 

        If they went to hell, at least they know now that their earthly lives had meaning.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

       It really doesn’t matter *what* religion the victims were when they were alive….
      because soon enough Mitt Romney’s Mormon church will *posthumously* baptize them into MORMONISM!
      (Just like the Mormon/LDS church has done with Jews killed in the Holocaust!)

  • http://twitter.com/bEx_x3d BeximusPrime

    Situations like this posit an interesting dilemma. How do we start to change our visual language to be inclusive yet still instantaneously recognizable.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      I was just thinking that. What else would someone put up?
      Really though, you could put up flowers or heart shaped wreathes or ribbons…
      I think people just automatically think of putting up crosses, and unless they find something wrong with Christianity like we do, it would never even cross their minds that that might not be the best idea.

      • amycas

         That is a text book case of “privilege.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/shanine.m Shanine Buller

        People could plant 12 tree’s

        • cipher

           How do we know they were Druids? ;-)

      • stop2wonder

        “I think people just automatically think of putting up crosses, and unless they find something wrong with Christianity like we do, it would never even cross their minds that that might not be the best idea.”

        That’s the point exactly.  That’s the Christian privilege at work; it’s so ingrained into our culture to assume Christian that nobody stops to think about it and just bowls ahead forward without concern or thought for those who aren’t.  Well, they need to start thinking.

        • Kodie

          I think it is odd, because on one hand, you got people who go ahead and assume everyone’s Christian, while on the other hand, you have people who (a) presume they’re in the minority, and (b) keep witnessing to people as if nobody but them had found Jesus. Could be people like this guy who erected the crosses is covering their asses for them in case they weren’t. I don’t know that he or someone like him would even care if they weren’t Christian, or if notified someone wasn’t, apologize and give the person a different marker.  He’s Christianizing them to represent something to the rest of us, and how dare we complain about it, can’t you see 12 people were murdered!!!!! See how insensitive we are to bring this up at a time like this? That is Christian privilege, untouchable.

          • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

            The crosses serve three purposes for Greg.
            1.  honor the dead.  Yes using the cross shows the Christian privilege prevalent in our society.
            2.  Evangelize for Christianity to show the public that pretty much everybody is Christian and by peer pressure, everybody should continue to be Christian.
            3.  Ease his own mind that if they were Christian, and if his beliefs are true that God only sends Christians to heaven, then they were going to heaven.  The double whammy of being killed in this way and then burning in Hell for all eternity for having incorrect beliefs is hard for most Christians to stomach. They must therefore assume and think of the victims as Christians if they are to care at all about them.

  • http://atheiststation.wordpress.com/ katey123

    Interesting topic and situation as it is probably not something that the people that put out the crosses thought of. Probably a better alternative would be to put out wreaths or something like that. 

  • http://flyingdingo.com/ Rick Roberts

    People live in their stupid little bubbles. They know nothing of a wider world.

  • Steve

    The cross actually has a much broader historical context than just Jesus’ crucifixion.  The cross represents horrific death. It was a grisly form of death perpetrated by the Romans, often against innocent people. Don’t these 12 crosses accurately represent such an event? The horrific deaths of 12 people who were innocent and received unjustifiable punishment?

    • Tom

      Is the object to memorialise the person, as defined by their entire life, or just the horrific death in the last few minutes of it?

      When I’m gone, if I’m remembered at all, I want to be remembered for how I lived, not how I died.

      • Tom

        Come to think of it, I’d have considerably less contempt for an awful lot of Christian denominations if they took a similar approach to how they portray their alleged saviour.

    • Glasofruix

      Yeah so using a torture device to make people remember their dead is a great way to show respect, why don’t we try the same with guillotines?

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        If Jesus had been put down in 18th century France, priests would be walking around with little guillotines around their necks, and graveyards would be littered with them.

    • cipher

      According to Christians, none of us ever receives “unjustifiable punishment”. We’re born deserving it.

  • Ibis3

    I can’t quite grasp how someone can look at that string of crosses and think “neutral grave markers” and not “I’m claiming these personality-less dead people as part of my religious tribe”.

    • Onamission5

      I am going to assume that someone who views a cross as religiously neutral is someone who has not been obliged as a child to sit quietly and witness adults bragging on tales of deathbed conversions they extracted from the vulnerable while unsuspecting family members rested in another room, or bragging on how they got their sister’s young child to convert to Jesus behind her back, or has not as an adult had to deal with their parents agreeing to not take a grandchild to church, and then instead forcing that grandchild to do morning devotions (an hour of on the knees prayer) then read the bible out loud over breakfast, and has not had to admonish their own parents as to why that was even worse than going with him to church behind her back.

      Me, I view it as insideous and sneaky, and completely insensitive to the beliefs, character and life of the deceased. I view it in the same way I would view someone planting a US flag in someone’s name without knowing that person’s nationality, without asking permission from the family, and then claiming the US flag is neutral. Maybe that someone was an American who would appreciate the sentiment, but you don’t know unless you ask.

      • Isilzha

        When my cousin was in HS she went to Montana (or some place similar), to some Reservation, and brought christ to the heathen Native Americans.  EVERYONE praised her endlessly for her ‘selflessness’ and a bunch of other nauseating things.  When I pointed out how patronizing it was to think that people on a Reservation had actually never heard of the bible, christ or xianity, I was severely reprimanded by everyone. 

        That was just one example of many, many examples of the hypocrisy I saw when growing up.  When xians did something bad to promote their religion it was praised, but if that action was done by someone of another religion TO them, well, they were working for the Devil himself!  I really don’t think that people who haven’t be raised in some of the nastier xian sects (ie, Southern Baptist) really appreciate this point. 

  • Matt notmylastname

    I served with Johnathan Blunk (one of the victims) in the Navy. Same department. It irks me to see this kind of stuff. I believe he was religious, and I would never say anything to our Navy community (we’re in the middle of organizing different funds/stuff to help his wife and kids), but it is still sick to see the presumption of this person. I’m all for the vigil. If people want to pray, then pray. But let the dead rest, -don’t label them. 

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    Forget whether or not this is offensive to the memory of the individuals who died in this tragic shooting – it’s an example of Christian privilege. “Oh, we need to commemorate those who died? Let’s use our own symbol!” If this should be condemned, it’s not because it disrespects the deceased (possibly) but because it’s another unnecessary encroachment of religion into the very sensitive matter of death.

    • AxeGrrl

      If this should be condemned, it’s not because it disrespects the deceased (possibly) but because it’s another unnecessary encroachment of religion into the very sensitive matter of death.

      It should be condemned for both reasons, imo.

    • Rwlawoffice

       Since when does religion have no role in death? Religion,  I would venture to say almost every one, if not all religions deal with death and what happens after we die.  It is exactly at times like these that religion and people’s faith play a huge part in what is happening and how they cope. Like every tragedy that occurs, when you speak to people some time after the event, most people of faith will say that it was their faith and the faith of others that brought them through their time of trouble. I realize you reject that, but my point is religion being involved in death and grieving is clearly not an unnecessary encroachment.

      That being said, not knowing if the victims are Christian, if the point of the crosses was to memorialize them, then I would agree it is presumptive. If however, it is to show a symbol of the love that Christ has for these victims, whether they were Christian or not, than it is fitting.

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        Congratulations on beating up that straw man. Maybe you could try addressing things that I’ve said now.

        • Rwlawoffice

           “but because it’s another unnecessary encroachment of religion into the very sensitive matter of death.”

          Thought I addressed it directly. If I missed the point you were trying to make, then please explain.

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            Well, for one, I never said that religion has no role in death. This is, however, an unnecessary encroachment of religion into the matter of death, i.e. it isn’t necessary in this case, just as it isn’t necessary in other situations. Try to read charitably for a change.

            • Rwlawoffice

               If faith plays a major role in how people of faith deal with death, then I honestly cannot see how religion is unnecessarily encroaching into the matter of death.  We must be having a miscommunication.

              • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

                No, I think you’re just blinded by your own privilege, too.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

        I agree that religion has always had a huge role when it comes to death. The problem is that there are many different beliefs with different views about death. Many people find it comforting to turn to their religion when someone dies, but it’s insensitive to turn to your own religion when someone you don’t know dies and mask their death with your beliefs.

      • Patterrssonn

        If they’re not christian then, thanks to Jesus, they’re at the moment embarking on their new career as pain puppets. Hard to see the cross as representing Jesus’s love in that context.

        • Rwlawoffice

           Whether you accept what Jesus has done for you or not is no reflection of his love for you. 

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            That sound almost like unconditional love.

          • Patterrssonn

            Still kind of find it hard to see torturing someone for eternity as an expression of love. Guess that’s why I never made a good Christian.

      • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

        The Christians I know say (over and over) that Christ will show no love for those that were not accepting him as their savior at the time that they died.  These Christians only say that Christ gives the opportunity for people to accept the gift. If they don’t accept it, then they burn.   The cross being used as a marker could then be a reminder to those families (that believe such things) that their loved ones may possibly be burning in hell if they didn’t have their beliefs correctly in order at the time they died.  I think it is a sick and twisted religion.

        • Rwlawoffice

          ” You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Romans 1:6-8Christ loves you and died for you  even if you reject Him. However, you are correct that if you don’t accept that gift you will not be saved.

          • amycas

             Wow, I’ve never had anyone recite Bible verses to me. If it said it in Romans, then it must be true. Congratulations, you converted me!

            /sarcasm (since apparently we need to make it explicit now)

  • Mike

    I wonder if this organization put up a cross when George Tiller was gunned down while serving as an usher at his church.  Oh wait, he’s not a real christian ’cause he did abortions.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I am in the camp that considers the crosses inappropriate symbols in this case, but more than that, what I really find inappropriate is a memorial from strangers. There is strong evidence that we only feel a close tie to a small number of people- a few tens to a few hundreds at most. I’d like to think that when I’m dead, I’ll be memorialized is some way by the people who knew me best, and cared about me the most. Not by crass displays by people who did not know me, did not know what I believed, have no real motive for their displays.

    The people killed in this tragedy were victims. They weren’t heroes. We don’t need to know every detail of their life. We don’t need to memorialize them in any way. They all have loved ones to do that. All of this postmortem attention seems to me a terrible invasion of privacy- of the victims and of their families, and that makes this cross display all the more offensive.

    • Isilzha

      Why do you think they don’t have a motive in creating these displays for strangers?  It’s not really about the victims, it’s about THEM.  They are USING the tragedy and the victims to get some recognition for themselves.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Yes, it often seems that way. I’m sorry these people are dead. They didn’t deserve what happened. But neither do thousands of other people who die every day. I’m really creeped out by mass memorializing of people who die under unusual circumstances- be it an airplane crashing into a building or a crazed gunman in a theater.

        All of these people deserve better than to be “remembered” by people who never knew them.

        • Isilzha

          I do understand the drive to create permanent memorials, but not the informal ones that usually spring up near the site.  It seems that most of the people are no better than lookie-loos who want to gawk at the aftermath and the victims’ families.  Others are just trying to make a show of their ‘goodness’ and try to get some attention for themselves (even if the attention is just from their friends and family). 

          • Thackerie

             On the other hand, those informal road side memorials do remind us to drive more carefully in locations where a fatal incident has already occurred. And, if the family and friends of the person(s) who died gain some peace or comfort from putting up these displays, why should I be such a mean-hearted jerk as to deny them?

            • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              If they are on private property, and they were put up by family or friends, fine. The memorial under question here was not put up by friends, but by strangers. In my opinion, they have no right to memorialize these people, because they have no memories of them! What they are doing is insulting. Certainly, if I was represented by one of those crosses, and could observe from beyond the grave, I’d be insulted. As would my family.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                What came to mind for me is ‘ghost bikes’- a bike painted white left to memorialize a cyclist who dies, usually in a traffic collision.  I think they’re usually put up by family/friends, but I don’t see that as terribly relevant.  I don’t have to know someone personally to feel a connection.  That other cyclist might be as different from me as night and day, but we have a shared experience.  Maybe it would be rude of me to assume the family wouldn’t mind, and I certainly think it would be prudent to ask their permission before putting up a memorial.

                I have added to several memorials, and participated in memorial rides for several cyclists I never met.  The families involved have expressed sincere appreciation for the mass sympathy, and in some cases empathy.

                Having said that, sure, if someone mis-represented someone I know, either by adding or removing religion, or something similar, I’d set the record straight.

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Yes, but you’re talking about a tradition within a small community. That’s very different from a “memorial” to twelve random people with nothing obvious in common except an interest in seeing a particular movie on opening night.

                  Why does society as a whole find it necessary to remember these people?

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I’m kind of thinking out loud trying to decide if I agree with you or not :-)  I think I do, with exceptions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

    Aside from the crosses being a somewhat tacky and empty gesture, most people would agree that they represent a fairly universal marker in the western hemisphere. Its not as though little tomb stones would be more appropriate. To be offended by this is to be on the hunt for a fight. This is not a permanent memorial, or a characterization of all the people affected. This does not define the victims, now, or in perpetuity. They are a collection of white sticks meant to signify a recent tragedy, and they hold only as much power as we choose to give them. The victims families can take them down if they choose, ignore them, or take comfort in the human solidarity being offered. 

    • Onamission5

      A cross is a universal symbol in the west, yes– of christianity. It is not a generic marker, it is not religiously neutral, and the person who planted those religious symbols in the names of the victims has, to the best of my knowledge, no way to know if a cross accurately represents any of the victims, let alone all of them. Imagine the uproar if someone planted twelve pagan stars or twelve *insert non-majority religious symbol here* with the names of the victims on them, and you might understand why planting a cross could offend.

      Pointing that out is not, as you claim, “looking for a fight.” It is being accurate.

      • Kodie

        We don’t have a national custom for dealing with death because nationally famous murder victims are a recent phenomenon. Normally, in the past, you could count on your community to perform the customary ritual, and that includes crosses, usually. I don’t think this is a huge deal because it’s a step that I believe we’ll grow out of. There’s nothing to do about it now. People react to death in their own ways and that often remains religious, and most predominantly, Christian. I don’t live there, I don’t know them, it’s not their fault, and there’s nothing I can or should do. If I don’t “care” the right way, I’m a monster, and I’m not saying I don’t care, but we don’t have a national custom for dealing with death, except the socially conscious one of verbalizing some form of regret and acknowledgement, whether sincerely (for the most part) or so you don’t seem like such an asshole. For someone, that’s a cross for each victim. For me, it’s wondering how our society stigmatizes mental illness to the point where people who need help are detached and sometimes become dangerous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CV6VV7XRHANZGISUTPTA3Z2TXU GeorgeG

    As always in these tragedies we quickly discount what happened to those who were wounded but not killed. The dead suffered only briefly. Not so the wounded. Some victims may have gotten off lightly but others will spend decades horribly disabled, disfigured, or in constant pain. Forty years of suffering compared to four minutes, if that much. Think about it.

    • Isilzha

      Oh, no…some group will remember to trot a couple of them out for the camera on the anniversary.

  • Isilzha

    How horrible that xians keep doing this.  Maybe I should actually include in my will that if I happen to die from some public tragedy that my estate will sue anyone who puts up a cross to represent me!  I absolutely ABHOR xianity and REFUSE for any symbol of it to represent me while I’m alive or dead.  I also want to refuse to allow any xian to use me in the name of their nasty religion. 

  • Isilzha

    How horrible that xians keep doing this.  Maybe I should actually include in my will that if I happen to die from some public tragedy that my estate will sue anyone who puts up a cross to represent me!  I absolutely ABHOR xianity and REFUSE for any symbol of it to represent me while I’m alive or dead.  I also want to refuse to allow any xian to use me in the name of their nasty religion. 

  • digibud

    As an atheist who never thought twice about “coming out” 45 years ago I would not be at all bothered by somebody putting up a cross in memory of a loved one being killed, or saying a Muslim prayer, or burning incense, or whatever.  These are people who are expressing their care and concern from their perspective. I would not like it if the county put up crosses. I would not like it if an “official” city wide remembrance were Christian (or Muslim or whatever) but I don’t personally think it is in any way disrespectful for a person to express their own sorrow and compassion from the perspective of their faith, however misguided that faith may be. Were I asked to say a few words, they would not include thanks to God or expressions of how they were now in a better place or any of that drivel, and some might take offense that I would NOT express Christian thoughts, but again, we each respond to these tragedies from our own world view and if that expression is loving and sincere, it’s good by me. 

    • Isilzha

      If people want to put up a small memorial of 12 crosses on their home or church property then there’s not much that can be done except express outrage and disgust.  But this guy put those crosses on a hill across from the town center.  It’s essentially become a public display and he’s saying that he has the right to speak for all the victims.  I also don’t see much real sorrow and compassion in acts like this since it seems like people who do this are seeking attention for themselves and not really doing anything good for the victims or their families.  In fact, if the families find it offensive to having their loved one remembered with a cross then this is one more thing they have to face when dealing with this tragedy. 

  • Marco Conti

    I am sort of in the middle with these displays. Beside being a Christian symbol, the cross has a great advantage in respect to other death markers: It’s easy to build. 

    Two sticks and a string will get you a quick marker that in our society is seen for the most part as an indicator some died or is buried in this spot.

    I wish there was an equally clear and easy to make marker, but I can’t think of one. In this case, 12 wreaths would be very expensive and time consuming to make (although, not so much if you can gather a few very bushy branches).

    However, while I am also against these displays and wished people did not feel the need to build them, I can accept an article like this one purely for the sake of a discussion. I would not try to go any further in conveying my opinion or take any action.

    • Isilzha

      Well, if I die on top of some mountain and they need to mark my grave, I suppose two sticks tied together will be OK.  However, that the crosses are easy to build is just NOT an adequate excuse or reason to use them.  They ARE a xian religious symbol no matter how anyone tries to spin it.  Besides, if you’re actually trying to HONOR the victims of a tragedy then it’s respectful to put a bit of time and care in the construction of the markers.

      OR…why make the two boards look like a fraking CROSS?  Why not have one board to stick in the ground and them nail the other board right on top of it leaving NO space.  Then the boards could still be painted white and perhaps the victims name could be stenciled on the board running across the top.  Though I could see the xians getting made about that since the two boards put together would look LESS like a cross.  I’m sure they’d get into a right good snit over it.

      • Glasofruix

        If i die on a top of a mountain i’d like to be hauled near the closests bear cave.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Don’t worry, the bears–or the nearest local equivalent–will find you anyway and bring you home for a family treat.

          • Glasofruix

            Then unless the bear is a panda the two sticks cross should be skipped.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Ants FTW.

      • Thackerie

         Or the two boards could be made into an X instead of a t.

        In my case, that would stand for eX-christian. Or, simply, eXpired.

  • James

    Hemant, I see what you are saying here. I live very close to Aurora and I probably know someone who knows someone who was involved. However, this is striking pretty close to home (literally) and I don’t think this is the time to complain about crosses.

    I dislike religion as much as everyone else here but worrying about these people’s religious affiliation is a bit too much. Let’s just keep them in our thoughts and work towards making our communities safer.

     

    • Blitzgal

      Is it time to say that any of the victims who were not Christian are in Hell right now?  Because that’s what Jerry Newcombe said on his radio program yesterday.   It’s all part of a spectrum of presumptive actions by religious people, and Hemant is right to point them out.

    • Guest

      If my husband or daughter were memorialized in this way I would be hurt beyond words in an already fragile and unforgiving place. If all it takes to prevent possible harm like that is to simply ask the families if a cross is an appropriate way to memorialize their loved one, then ask. This is about making sure the families’ grieving process is as painless as possible, with the community at large a secondary concern.

  • Joseph Smith

    This seems to be just in bad taste as far as being upset about it.  I think if the victims family is upset about it, then we get behind them, if not, just leave it alone.  I would want my memorial marker to be a newly planted tree, that way it will have the ability to give back to the community via Oxygen, shade, and fruit (if someone plants a fruit tree).

  • Pete084

    The cross may be a generic grave symbol to Americanss, as witnessed in military cemetaries but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has long used a more neutral shape onto which a religious symbol can be carverved, or not!

    As an outside observer it can be amusing/annoying to read the world views of Americans.

    • David McNerney

      I’m just thinking about this – and asking the question: is there more to a cross than just the Jesus thing?

      For starters, as has been pointed out, it is a generic method of execution.  The Romans executed many people this way, and it wasn’t just the Romans.

      But when you think about it: if you are making a sign, you nail it to a vertical post.  If you write someone’s name you write on a long board.  To make a sign for their name, you nail it to a post, giving you a cross shape (even a T-shape is more difficult) – and really the most common reason for doing this, is because they are dead or missing.

      I can’t really think of a more natural way to make a name sign for someone – unless you just write it on a rock.

      Of course, the people making these crosses are not unaware of the equivocation that they are engaging in  - and seem happy to use it as means to turn a tragedy into a marketing opportunity.

  • Glasofruix

    I’m sure the families of the victims are delighted by the display of the torture devices…

    • Sam Deeks

      Good point Glasofruix. Bizarre isn’t it? 
      I don’t like belief systems, I don’t like religion, I don’t like crosses, I don’t like violent movies. I don’t like guns and even more I don’t like people shooting other people.  I’d like to say that this person’s intention was good – and maybe it was. The problem, of course, is that when intentions are borne out of the unconsciousness of belief systems then it turns out more destructive than good. What’s the solution? That all people develop an awareness of the limitation of unconscious belief systems and their tendency to impose what YOU think is good for people over what they want for themselves. However, since that awareness and respect for others seems to be anathema to belief, don’t expect it any time soon. When we DO have that enlightened awareness there won’t be any place for faiths and their insane monopoly on ‘rightness’. 

  • Gordon Murphy

    I would be fucking SPEWING if someone erected a cross or ANY religious symbol in my name and honor.  GTFO. 

    • JJ Tavares

      You would not be doing anything. You would be dead.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    Here in VA I see a lot of roadside crosses and plastic flowers at fatal accident sites.   Perhaps this is one of those things like opening the window after someone dies- nobody remembers the original belief behind the practice.  It would be interesting to ask Zanis if he believes the spirits of the dead are hanging around the theater.

  • JJ Tavares

     Yes, your post is insenstive and opportunistic. Guess you are not that friendly after all. Which atheist symbol? Atheism is not a religion…

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ Cpeterson

      We do recognize atheist symbols. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t a religion. Most symbols represent non-religious concepts.

    • Guest

      Atheist symbols? How about something as simple as memorializing a picture of the victims? That would be far more representative of the victims and their lives than the same cross for each victim. There are lots of better ways to memorialize someone than something so… generic.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      The post is insensitive, but Greg Zanis is not being insensitive by assuming that all the victims are Christian? How would a Jewish family feel about a cross memorializing their deceased loved one?

  • conflicted

    It’s presumptuous, yes. It’s hamfisted, yes. It’s oblivious, yes.

    But, to a christian in this country, it might very well be a sincere gesture meant to help the community deal with a tragedy. To them, every soul is a sacred part of god (or some such pablum) and they might sincerely hope all the victims are happily entering heaven.

    I know about the westboros of the world, but I think most xians mean well and are doing their best to make sense of this. If we came up with a nice, secular memorial and erected it, we would likely offend those whose faith was omitted. Nothing is going to please everyone. But communities try to pull together in the face of such pointless violence and this is how Christians do it. Are they stepping on the toes of the rest of us? A bit, I suppose, but maybe this isn’t just about us. Sadly, it isn’t just about the victims, either, but I am reluctant to condemn the perpetrator(s) because I know I’ve said some stupid shit in my life while trying to be sympathetic and comforting. They are a little too quick to make blanket statements like “this is a Christian nation”, but, let’s face it, the majority of the community probably found comfort in this display.

  • Va.Carper

    I personally found the Crosses to be not appropriate for several reasons.  One, it mixes the sacred with the profane.  The Cross is a holy symbol which is used for a personal statement of grief in this case.  Also it seems for attention of some sort.  Two, it seems to indicate that somehow the Cross is a universal symbol for the Dead and for Mourning.  It is not.  Three, this assumes that everyone is a Christian of a particular sect.  Orthodox Christians have different ideas about Crosses….  And of course, it assumes that everyone is Christian or would appreciate a Cross or their family would appreciate a Cross.

    I am of a minority religion – a Pagan who follows the Roman Gods.  My afterlife beliefs are different.  My family’s ways of mourning are different.  I won’t go into all of the theology involved with Roman Pagan Dead.  But a Cross is offensive to me and my Dead.

  • T Ricky

    I wouldn’t mind, I don’t think. Typically, when ignorant people do inconsiderate things in an effort to be kind, it’s very hard for me to be offended.

  • rlrose328

    I honestly wouldn’t care if someone put up a cross as a memorial for me after I’m dead.  I’m dead and honestly, I doubt I’ll care at that point.  If my husband (also an atheist) were killed in the manner as those in the cinema, I wouldn’t care (nor would he) if someone put up a cross for him.  It doesn’t represent him.  It’s a symbol of memorial, a known shape of course, but it is irrelevant to our beliefs.  I refuse to give that shape more relevance than it deserves by getting upset about it.

  • Antoaneta

    I have read only two of the comments and they both were negative about placing the crosses in memory of the killed people. Dear brothers and sisters, please read the Bible and pray because willing or not, believing or not, one day you will have to stand in front of the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ and give Him an account for all your thoughts, words and deeds. Everyone goes to God through Jesus Christ. And we should commemorate and pray not only for relatives and friends but for all brothers and sisters who have passed away because we are all one big family in Jesus Christ. Love the Lord and each other – that’s the only thing that God wants from us. May or merciful Lord always bless you and enlighten you to see the truth! 

  • digibud

    Antoaneta, you don’t have a clue as to how ignorant your comment sounds to atheists that don’t share your belief. Try to get one. My post wasn’t particularly negative. I have no personal problem if anyone genuinely wants to remember somebody with a cross or a satanic pentagram or incense or a poem. Dead people are simply dead. Gone. How others remember them is up to them. To me, it’s all about how the living choose to remember the dead and I don’t personally care much how any individual chooses to express their grief. But YOUR post, your coming here to proselytize..THAT I find offensive. Ignorant and offensive.  But that’s the way of religious people. Christians, Muslims and other fundies that are steeped and brainwashed in old fairly tales. Sad and offensive.

    • Antoaneta

      Dear digibud, please do not be offended by any of my words. I do not proselytize – I am just saying the truth. I do not agree with you that I am brainwashed or ignorant etc but your words do not offend me because you only state your opinion. This is a free world and everyone can express their opinion. I think I have done that in a polite way, not qualifying anyone as ignorant so there is no place for offence on your part. I wish you all the best always!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17019037 Timberlyn Michael Pycior

    How can you judge a man who is just trying to show love & care in a way he knows how… Is that so wrong, he never implied they were Christians… But, the simple fact that you could bash a man over the religion he chooses is no better then your assumption that he thinks everyone is Christian… In times of fear & panic people turn to their religions for answers & prayers while hoping that it might help the victims to recover more quickly that were injured & praying for all the victims families in this time of need… 
    I am a Christian myself but I was also raised to embrace all religions because no matter what religion they chose they still show faith to God its just their God goes by a different name… Are you going to bash me to for choosing a religion that is not your own… Not all people that choose religion are radicals in their beliefs… And this hatred of each other is the very reason my our world is constantly in war, because no one can let others be…If you want to point the finger at someone how about you point it everyone that talks about the shooter… Because all your doing is immortalizing that man: every word that is uttered about what he did, every time you talk about his life, every time you look back at how he lived & every time you utter his name… That man savors it like its candy & he is enjoying what he thinks are the fruits of his labor… How about you right about each of the victims fighting for survival; write about their lives & who they were so people can remember them & not the man that will haunt their memories for a life time…

  • Lea

    “what would the reaction have been if someone put up Muslim or atheist symbols in their honor instead?” ~ I’d have been honoured that someone wanted to place their symbol in memory of my loved one, regardless of whether we shared the same faith. 


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