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Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign
July 6th, 2011
04:47 PM ET

Atheists challenge ‘Heaven’ on New York City street sign

By Samantha Stamler, CNN

New York (CNN) - A new street sign that reads “Seven in Heaven Way,” and that was recently unveiled in Brooklyn, New York, to commemorate seven local firefighters who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 attacks has drawn the ire of some atheists, who say they’re prepared to go to court to have the sign taken down.

New York City Atheists, a group that opposes the public use of religious references, is challenging the new sign, which was erected in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

“We’re supposed to be a secular nation - there really should not be any religious symbolism or signage in public places,” said Kenneth Bronstein, President of New York City Atheists. “We feel that any and all people who died in 9-11 should be remembered and honored. That’s not the problem.”

Bronstein calls the sign a violation of the separation of church and state, arguing that the word “heaven” is a clear reference to Christianity.

Bronstein has contacted the city with his complaint and has proposed an alternative street name: “We Remember the 7-911.”

Groups dedicated to honoring 9/11 victims did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Bronstein’s campaign.

But some New Yorkers told CNN New York affiliate WPIX that they disagree with the New York City Atheists.

"That's nonsense,” said Anbriena Insausti, who lives in Manhattan. “The families should honor their loved ones anyway they want."

Bronstein says the group is prepared to sue the city over the sign and what it says are other unconstitutional government endorsements of religion.

“This is not a matter of faltering patriotism or public ignorance, but rather an effort to promote secularism,” he said. “We want [the sign] to be neutral. Anyone can believe whatever they want to believe.”

“We’ll die for the right to believe,” he continued. “Just don’t shove it down our throat.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • New York

soundoff (3,096 Responses)
  1. Jacqui

    I do believe that the atheists have a right to their belief. However, we (the majority) also have a right to what we believe and will not be rail-roaded by them. It's just as disgusting to us when we feel that they want us to conform to their way of thinking.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Bad Religion

      R-Tard, Atheists don't want you to conform to their way of thinking like Christians do. Also what does majority have to do with anything? I remember a time when Hitler and his followers held the majority of a country. How did that turn out? They thought they were in the right and they acted on it. It had a negative effect on THE ENTIRE WORLD. Atheists only debate the idea of a supreme being or god. They're not telling you that you have to think or act like them, rather that their beliefs are based on rationality, thought, and debate.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  2. jon

    christians can go to h*** for all I care.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  3. kellan

    screw christians

    July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Crys

    It's intolerate Atheists like that who give all Atheists a bad name. Stop shoving your secular humanism down everybody's throats. You're trying to tell people what to believe, how they should live, and what signs can be posted around town. Essentially, you're no different than fundementalist Christians who act the same way and you are being equally extremist. Even your rationality appears to be nothing more than whiny and trivial.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  5. sonofgadfly

    I guess "Seven Heroes Way" would have been wholly inappropriate.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  6. josh

    I love the last line, “We’ll die for the right to believe,”. I thought athieism is the lack of belief in anything. They should be happy that they have their own holiday, does April 1st ring a bell? They need to stop making life hell for everyone else just because they want to take God out of everything. The more we take God of of things, the worse it's gonna get!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • BC the Christian

      cosign!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • ArcFire213

      Haha, yeah. God's doing a GREAT job of keeping things together. Riiiiight.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Liz

      The last I checked the ones on the planet making life hell for everyone are the ones who are big into following (a) God. Does the Middle East ring a bell?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "I thought athieism is the lack of belief in anything"

      You thought wrong.
      It is the lack of belief in the divine, nothing more and nothing less.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  7. GeneK

    “The families should honor their loved ones anyway they want."

    If the families or some other private source paid for the signs and all the city is doing is letting them have it there, no problem. There are lots of street signs in NYC that have been paid for by various merchant and civic groups. If city funds are paying for it, then the atheists are right.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  8. DJC

    These "atheists" really need to STFU and/or get a good beating! Go find something else to do other than protest something that says "heaven" that's really there to honor firefighter who died in 9/11. Nothing but a bunch of worthless uses of oxygen!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Liz

      Can we beat you back with your Bibles?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Stevie7

      How Christian of you

      July 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Denvercherub

      I'm guessing you're from the south

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  9. Charles

    Atheists are idiots.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • ArcFire213

      But believing in an invisible and all-powerful space-daddy makes everyone else so much smarter? Please.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  10. jon

    Those atheist can go to H*** for all I care!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • maybeagnosticmaybenot

      If you are a Christian and post things like this, you not doing your Christly duty. Your sole purpose is to bring others to Christ. Posting hate filled generalities will only drive someone further away from Christ. When you stand before God, do you think he's going to high five you and say, "good job on the boards, you got those athiest's good."?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Liz

      Oh, listen to you. Jesus would be so proud!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Tyson

    That sign isn't forcing anyone to believe or think a certain way at all! It drives me nuts when people say Christianity os being forced on this country when it's not even close to the truth. How come these groups don't deal with any other religions at all! I've never heard of attacks by atheist on muslim or Hinduism! At the end of the day life is hard enough why make it worse by ignorance and hate! If this world would really listen to what Jesus taught where would we be!!! God bless you all who dont believe in Christ but conduct yourselves with class! And God bless those who don't as well

    July 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  12. Ace

    I am an Atheist, however I fear that nit picking things like this does not help our cause. In fact it may reduce us to the same level as the religious wackos and preachers ruining this country.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Mike

      What cause does an atheist have? Forcing their beliefs on others? How is that any different than organized religion? It is still a belief that people are trying to sell me on . . . for the most part I don't care what other people believe it's only when they start telling me what I should believe in or what I should not believe in . . . go get bent . . . I'm of free will and I will believe what I want to believe in and I will not fall in line with the masses of fools pleading desperately for their beliefs to be adhered to so that they can feel validated about who they are. Never mind that the fools no absolutely NOTHING one way or the other!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Zach

      I agree with you on this one. I'm Atheist too and it doesn't mean I'm not full of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness. All very Christian things mind you...But I gotta be honest...I could care less about this sign. It doesn't affect me....umm...at ALL!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • jonmannon

      Agreed.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Wade

      You are already at the same level. You are wackos. You're just too caught up in your pretentious psuedo "I'm so much smarter than the unwashed masses" psycho-babble to be able to realize it.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Brad

      I, too, am an atheist, and I agree with you 100%.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Liz

      Well said. That's the first thing I thought of when I read this story. But seeing as centuries of people have been shoving their religious beliefs down our throats, I don't think we have to defend ourselves to them just yet.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  13. Sara

    Since the signs are government property, there should be no religious reference.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • chongno

      and why is that? This is a common misunderstanding of the law. It does not say religion and government can not intermingle. It says there can be no "official Church" of the USA. What church is this sign making the official church? First presbyterian of memphis? Name it. And "Christian" or "Heaven believers" is not a Church. You and many others misunderstand the law

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  14. n8

    "Just don't shove it down our throat."

    Yet you can shove your views down everyone elses throats.

    We have alot of rights in this country. The right to not be offended is not one of them. Your freedom of speech does not trump mine. Many of this country's foundations were based on God and the Bible.....yes, Christianity. Only in recent history have we started to think of ourselves as a secular nation. Most polls would show us as a Christian nation, based on the religous breakdown of the US.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • wildchildjuls

      AMEN!!!!!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • NJ Bob

      You may not use my tax money to support your religion. The sign must go. Why is this such a hard lesson for theists to learn???

      July 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Joshua

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli – Thanks. If I tossed up a "Praise the Devil" sign in front of my house, you bet everyone will come screaming that they're offended. Don't try to play that card, it won't work.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Nate

      There is no 'right to not be offended.' People take offense to everything nowadays. As an atheist, the sigh doesn't bother me so much. Yes, I would like it removed, but for now, in order to maintain civility between both atheists and believers, calling each other out on extremist comments helps neither side. Let's understand that there is a separation of church and state and that it should be respected along with the views of both Christians and atheists. So please don't go blaring that you have the right to not be offended, because we as atheists are often offended by Christian rhetoric and the such.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Wade

      @NJ Bob – you may not use MY tax money to support the forced eradication of all religious references, or for legal costs fighting ridiculous legal claims made by atheist groups. Have a nice day.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Nate

      @Wade
      You clearly do not understand the law separating church and state. If anything OUR tax money should be used to prevent situations like this. They not only cause unnecessary conflict, but tax dollars as well.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Outsider76

      While I agree with the sentiment that nobody has the right not to be offended, I disagree with your statement:

      "Only in recent history have we started to think of ourselves as a secular nation."

      Some nonsecular references were only made long after the birth of the US as a nation:

      1.) The phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
      2.) "In God We Trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956.
      3.) The phrase "In God We Trust" has appeared on paper currency only since 1957.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  15. Gomer

    Haters will hate. It is what they do.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      You want to know about haters? Go tell someone who is religious that you are an atheist.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Gomer

      Or go tell an atheist that you are religious. Funny how this works.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Liz

      Hardly, Gomer. 9 times out of 10, if a religious person goes up to an atheist and says, "I believe in God", the response they'll get is, "Ok, Awesome. Good for you." The other way around, however, the response would likely be, "MAY YOU BE SAVED FROM DAMNATION NO MATTER HOW MISDIRECTED YOU ARE, CHILD! PRAISE JESUS!"

      July 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  16. maybeagnosticmaybenot

    Imagine, if you can, that one of those seven and his family were athiest. That family would be offended that they were just lumped in with no consideration to there beliefs (or lack there of). Even christian's can't agree on most things. Imagine if a Catholic mayor used public funds to higher the pope to read last rights for 7 protestants. that is the purpose of separation of church and state. If you want state sponsored Christianity get you @$$ back on the mayflower and call yourself an Anglican.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Victor

      LOL, just to be clear, one does not "higher" (sic) the Pope.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • chongno

      and again.. that would make "Catholicism" the "official Church". Which is against our laws. This case however does no such thing. What church does this sign make as the "official church" of the USA? Every church that believes in heaven? That is not a singular church. And where does your logic end? If the USA wants to support not killing animals does that mean we cant make that law because certain religions don't believe that way? Where is your line between Church and State? The law is pretty clear- no "Official Church" of the USA. Your interpretation has no clarity

      July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Stevie7

      @chogno – you may want to go back and read the establishment clause. There's no mention of an 'official church' – the wording is far broader.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  17. Starnexus

    Screw atheists.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • maybeagnosticmaybenot

      Now that shows true Christian values. Your sure changed my mind. I'm going to pray for salvation right now.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      He never said he was Christian. You are getting overly assertive in your implications.

      Also, when did athiests become a religion? If they have no belief in any higher power, how come they feel the need to mess with other people. They are starting to mobilize as groups and attack people as groups and think they are higher than anyone on this planet. Hmmm, kind of sounds like they think of themselves as gods. Try to tell me that atheism isn't turning into a religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Sam

      Same thought here – screw atheists

      July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • maybeagnosticmaybenot

      I find it amusing that thiests call athiesm a religion, as if that is a bad thing.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Victor

      Who said Starnexus is a Christian?

      This story is about intollerant nit-pickers seemingly bent on ruining everyone's happiness. The normal response is to insult everyone associated with that group. 98 atheists are cool, two behave badly (wanting to destroy a memento to fallen heroes) and one guy on the internet says "to heck with all atheists".

      Tolerance begins with our every comment.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  18. J.D.

    That sign is freedom of speech. And it doesn't establish a religion. And it allows the freedom of expressing religion. And Congress made no law restricting any of that. The atheists are not prepared to sue. They've already lost based on the law. Why does every breath drawn in America must end a Supreme Court descision?

    July 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Cole

      It's a public street sign. It's not some kind of memorial/memory on the private side of things. Your argument doesn't apply here. Also, suppose that the ones that were killed were of another faith. If the 7 heroes that we lost were Muslim, and the sign said, "Seven with Allah," what say you then?

      I think the name is wrong, and have little doubt that the group would win a court case, but it isn't something I'd pursue – Surely there are better efforts to be made elsewhere.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jeff

      That is a sign paid for by the US government on public property. Allowing this to continue would be endorsing a religion. Now if one of those families bought some land with a road bordering it and put a sign out there saying that or anything else, nobody can say anything about it. The ACLU would defend them as they will probably step in and help these aethiests if the problem continues. People should be angry with their government for doing this, especially when they are stubborn and won't takeit down. They will lose the case if the law of the United States is used as the rule, and they will incur a lot of court costs for it that in turn cost the taxpayers. That is what people should be upset about. They could have just not done it in the first place, they had to know it would cause problems.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      I think you have more things to worry about. Like your own salvation and building a relationship with Jesus. You see the 'signs' on the streets, but I'm pretty sure you don't see the 'signs' of the times. Things are happening in this world that are explained in the Bible. Open your eyes and do a little research and maybe you'll see that the book of Revelation is unraveling before your eyes.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Victor

      Actually the sign is paid for by city money, not the US Government.

      Also, the street sign is above it. This sign is piggybacked onto city property. This is done all the time by groups that are religious and non-religious. A local synagog has wires attached to local streetlight poles to establish the boundaries of their Holy place. Is this establishing Judaism as a religion?

      The city is an homage to fallen heroes. Nothing more.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Wade

      @Jeff – quit pretending that the atheists are a bunch of do-gooders just looking out for all of us. They're not. They have an agenda to remove religion from the consciousness of America and they're not going to stop until they do so. Starting with government is just an easier target. These are not rational people. They believe they are so much smarter than all the ignorant people that believe in religion and they know what is best for us.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Artist

      Truth-wake up buddy
      .
      Signs of the times??? lol Through generalization, anybody can predict the future. Here is my prediction,
      .
      She will fall one day and another rise up. They praise her and worship her but their prayers will go unanswered. The beast will have a plate of armor made out of gold, tail of a bird and claws of lion. The beast will devour the old man and the wh ore he worships.

      I have said it, when the catholic church falls I will have predicted it. Now I just need to create a bunch of nonsense and rules for my followers to submit to.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @theTruth72
      Revelation is coming true?
      Did a 7 headed dragon eat your baby?
      Perhaps a swarm of armour clad locusts with the face of a man, the hair of a woman, the mouth of a lion and the tail of a scorpion came to ruin your picnic?

      It's been the "end times" for 2000 years now. Check 1 John 2:18 “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”

      Did you give all your money to Harold Camping or something?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  19. James

    So much for the Atheists being the open and accepting ones...........as usual we see the atheists being no different from the religious people they rail against.....not accepting of others views, no room in their world for anything that doesn't fit their viewpoint. And yet they want everyone to thing that they are the smart ones.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • wildchildjuls

      AMEN!!!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Steve

      I was going to comment but I think yours says it best.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • puzzled

      I'm an Atheist, I'm not offended but I do have question.

      The guys who crashed the planes believed they were going straight to the top ranks of heaven (riches, virgins etc.). Depending on your flavor of belief couldn't this sign be seen as a celebration of some of the bad guys' actions ? And please don't just knock the teachings of some rabid offshoot of Islam without an absolute validation that your chosen branch of religion is 100% accurate.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  20. Joe

    And we'll die for your right not to believe. Just don't shove it down our throats.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:13 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.