home
RSS
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. devilsadvocate

    Look at it from a different view point. I am sure those saying the sign should stay would be up in arms if another street was called 'Devils way'

    July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Artist

      Now that could be a street I could live on

      July 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Aaron

      ain't that the truth!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  2. frogger

    It's so funny to me...if atheists really don't believe God exists, then why do they care if some of us do? They should be the last ones to care. It's amazing to me how much time, money, effort, etc., these folks expend to fight against Someone who supposedly doesn't exist!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Jeff

      Do you really care if Allah exists? Or is it what those who believe in Allah and what THEY DO in his name that gets you caring?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • John

      Actually, he says at the end that they DON'T care what others believe. But the sign is not in your living room - it's in a public place. I see his point, although I personally would not put up such a fight.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Aaron

      We DON'T care if you do believe. That's the point that you people miss every time. We don't care what you believe and we don't care what the next person believes and we'd appreciate it if you didn't care that we choose not to believe. But please, don't shove your beliefs down our throats all the time. Christians go haywire the instant a non-believer puts up a sign or a billboard. They organize against it, they put up their own sign to offset it. They fight to have it removed. Or they deface it. But the instant we mention that we'd prefer not to have YOUR belief displayed prominently in a public way, many times in government properties, the old "separation of church and state" gets thrown out the window because that's crazy! Let these people honor these guys however they want! Sure, just don't do it with public funding and don't do it on public property funded by tax dollars. It's all extremely simple. Some might say "do unto others as you would have them do to you."

      July 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • JC

      Wow i agree with the above post this has nothing to do with a faith war over who can get the most converts. This sign isn't about whether one side can convince the other there is or isn't a god it is entirely to do with what the state can and cannot do.

      In addition subsitute everything you just said and replace it with Christian or any other faith. Why spend so much money, time and effort trying to tell people that Jesus was the son of God? Why bother going to sub saharan Africa and south east Asia trying to explain to them the holy trinity or joseph smith or whatever Christian denomination you belong to.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  3. K. Wagner

    I am not a religious person and I am tired of all the crying from the FEW. First off, we are a democracy where the majority rules and our country will continue to be in trouble until we remember this. Lets stop changing things for the FEW that it offends. It doesn't offend me cause that is peoples beliefs, it offends me because the FEW want to take it down. Quit crying about these things! This country was founded by christians.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jeff

      And founded by slave owners too. For eff sakes people, stop complaining about me wanting to own a few slaves. Isn't my argument that we were founded by slave owners convincing enough?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Aaron

      It was founded by people who were escaping a tyranical king who wouldn't allow religious freedom, not by "christians" per se. Just people, many of whom were christians. That was their point...don't shove your religion down my throat. These people were willing to get on a boat and move to a new world to escape it. unfortunately, if you have a difference of an opinion in this country now, you are forced to suck it up and accept overzealous religious people as the majority and let it go.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Mark Bernadiner

    I lived in USSR and we all were atheists, but, unlike these idiots, we were smart atheists. There punks have nothing to do, but demonstrate how stupid they are. America is Christian country with Judeo-Christian legal system, and she must stay as such forever. American atheism is close to fascism and works along with islamism to destroy America.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jeff

      You seem like a very wise man Mark. Wondering if you might enlighten me and explain what makes our legal system "Judeo-Christian".

      As for "American atheism" working along with Islam, you nailed it! You always see those two groups working together.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Rick

      American evangelical christianity is closer to fascism than athiests could ever be

      July 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Artist

      Do you read what you post????

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Frank

      Our legal system and our republican form of government have their roots in Rome which was pagan at the time. Christianity or Judaism has nothing to do with either.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  5. James Taylor

    These guys are idiots...seriously? over the word "heaven"? lol

    July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Jeff

    I'm not sure how anyone can believe in the Christian god. So irrational if you ask me. Just look around and you see evidence of the real god, Allah. Only through him can we be saved. Just open your eyes Christians and accept him into your heart.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • AllahSux

      stfu... allah is a POS and anyone who worships a murderous religion such as islam should be shot on sight.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Jimi

      allah didn't die for your sins. JESUS did and is your only way to HEAVEN. Don"t believe the hype. All these other religions are false and so are their so-called gods. It's all part of Satan's plan to distract us from the real truth.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jeff

      "should be shot on sight" My point exactly. After all, what would Jesus do, right?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Lucy

      Jeff: Allah is Satan who is trying hard to deceive the people of the world - to the point of killing you if you won't believe in him. Guess you've been had!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jeff

      "allah didn't die for your sins. JESUS did and is your only way to HEAVEN. Don"t believe the hype. All these other religions are false and so are their so-called gods. It's all part of Satan's plan to distract us from the real truth."

      compelling argument. Let me try....

      jesus didn't die for your sins. xyz did and is your only way to HEAVEN. Don"t believe the hype. All these other religions are false and so are their so-called gods. It's all part of Satan's plan to distract us from the real truth.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Drew

      Right because nobody died in the Crusades right?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Allah = God.
      It's the same deity folks – the schism comes from which prophet you believe.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  7. MOBADTHANGOOD

    If I put "heaven" on my street name will it keep the stinking atheists away. Please!

    I knew an atheist one time years ago.
    He died a few years back.
    I went to see him at the funeral home.
    There he was.
    All dressed up and no place to go.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Aaron

      whoa! did you come up with that one yourself? hilarious stuff.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  8. Rocky

    Amen. This nation was founded on Biblical principles. Those who are against religion can go to Saudi Arabia and ask them not to practice their faith.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Rick

      We have freedom of speech, whether we are against religion or not.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  9. checkurfacts

    Sjd – You are mistaken, the nation was founded by Puritans. Which has no bearing on the separation of church and state. Religion and politics should never mix.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • JC

      Wow this nation was founded by puritans? Really we started at plymouth rock? I guess the United States was founded in 1620 and not 1776? Think before you post. Not to mention the fact that Jamestown in VA was colonized in 1607. The fact the English speaking people arrived on the east coast does not mean the United States began. This also is not a "puritan" country simply because puritans landed in New England first no moreso than the US is officially Episcopalian or Church of England because members of that faith landed in VA in 1607... 13 years before the Puritans ever got on a ship.

      "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion"
      -John Adams from the Treaty of Tripoli during his Presidency.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • KAK

      Actually, the country was not founded by Puritans. . .they showed up over 150 years later to escape religious persecution in Europe. The original settlers were trying to find a passage to China to expand and hasten trade between the two continents. Most died, and it took many decades for more ships to arrive and establish a viable colony that could survive and be self-sufficient using the European model. Also, Native American Indians already had nations all over North and South America that weren't founded on Christianity, so they have you trumped by several thousand more years.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  10. Whatever

    Sad pieces of offal.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  11. sokumina

    Honestly there are worst things than a street sign. Pick your battles people. Protest child abuse, the economy, human trafficking... maintain a perspective

    July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Frank

      Seriously. I'm a non-theist also and I think this is a stupid move by the New York Atheists. A street name is not an establishment of religion by any stretch of the imagination. Thsi just makes atheists seem like hysterical whiners

      July 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  12. mance lotter

    separation of church and state means the gov't can't impose a religion on people (think about the historical context). if you think a sign is imposing, then you are severely intellectually challenged. "Oh no, a sign says 'Heaven', now I MUST believe in God, go to Church, read the Bible, get baptized. Oh man, I wish I hadn't read that sign."

    July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • JC

      And if it said something to the extent of "The prophet, blessings upon his name, embraces these 7 heroes for eternity in paradise" there would be no outcry? The state cannot make the distinction between one faith and another that is the entire point. Just because it sounds normal and not extreme to you does not mean it doesn't violate the establishment clause. The establishment clause exists for this very reason, so that we do not have to make a distinction between whether something is a little religious or "alot" religious, any amount of religiosity is too much according to the establishment clause.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  13. phoenix

    atheists are good sub humans praise the lord.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Yo

      No. We are also children of God. That means you must love us too.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Rational Thinker

      You belive in invisible fairies and you think I'm crazy?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Chris

    hmm .. and just think... the sign wouldn't even exist if it weren't for some 'radical religious folks'....

    Personally, I think a more 'honorable' street sign would be 'Seven Heroes' Way. If we are going to honor or commemorate a group of folks, let's do it based on their actions here on Earth instead of based on a speculative 'afterlife' location.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  15. Drew

    After reading through these comments I see that the majority of the Atheists posting disagree with what the NYC Atheist group is doing, yet the many of the Religious people posting on here are directly hatred towards all of Atheism. These remarks and persecution towards the Atheists are the least Christian-like thing, and are the fuel for fanatics to keep trying to battle little things like a street sign. As an Atheist that used to lived in the religious south, I felt alone and hated because of all of the constant reminders that the majority around me thinks that I'm a terrible person for not believing what they believe. In Nashville, a secular group put up a billboard sign saying "Don't believe in God? You aren't alone." An outreach for fellow non-believers was met with nasty phone calls and death threats. Responses like that are what pushes any group of people to become more cynical and aggressive. In a perfect world, we'd all be able to live in peace with one another, unfortunately that is not the case, and never will be because of this vicious cycle.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • jc

      Oh please! Go bs somewhere else.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Drew

      Care to explain my bs?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • JC

      Seems like its become the norm. I found atheists were becoming more accepted around the 2006sh era leading up to the 2008 election simply because a large amount of the country had started to disapprove with Bush and with that came a disapproval of evangelical christians. However since the end of the 2008 election everything got muddled together into one large hate group. I hate muslims, atheists, radical reverand wright atheist-christian preachers, communists, leftists, europeans, and the chinese who take our jobs and kim jong ill too. Its like the whole group listed above has been lumped into the same category inexplicably as "not me" without distinguishing the differences. I do find it disturbing that so many cannot say "i disagree with taking the sign down because X, Y and Z" without also including "God damn atheists are bad people, not trusted, i hate you, go get out of my country, etc etc etc.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • JC

      oh and im a different JC by the way.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  16. DBIZ

    Doesn't the legal tender this country issues: In God We Trust?

    .unless any of the 7 fire fighters were atheists no issue with the heaven being used to remember them.....it's how the fallen would want to be remembered....unfortunately in this politically correct society the atheists will prevail.....

    July 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Aaron

      It does say in god we trust...but it shouldn't. Maybe you are missing the point...it's not what these firefighters would have wanted...it's that public tax dollars are used in a public place using this religiously slanted view. No one has a problem with how heroic these guys were or any disrespect to their families or anything else. I realize it's a difficult concept to understand, but separation of church and state means exactly that. Separation.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  17. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Some people are just dumber than a street sign and it's time people put a stop to those who are just attention getters and this guy is just wasted space on this planet.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  18. Buddy R

    Atheists are the least respected people in the US. Precisely because of such moronic actions as opposing the sign in question. They won't be happy until they impose their anti-theistic religion on everyone. Of course not all atheists behave like that. I'm referring to the Dawkinites-the anti-theist denomination of atheism.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Rick

      less resepected than congress?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Alyson

      As a Christian, I don't push my faith on anyone, but am constantly accused of doing just that. How is this group any better, forcing their lack of faith on everyone?

      Why is it that only those of strong faith are accused of being intolerant, especially when it's the Christian faith? Intolerance goes all ways, and until those that do not have a strong faith can begin showing tolerance... they have no right to expect it.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  19. AJ

    PS... Lucy... you need to study the bible, not what's in it. No one who ever met Jesus wrote a single book of the new testament. Saying Jesus rising from the dead is a "fact" is no more absolute then someone saying they saw Elvis at 7-11.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Buddy R

      You are quite ignorant of the Bible as 99.99999% of atheists are. Paul met Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus obviously met Jesus. Jude, the brother of Jesus obviously met Jesus. Mark met Jesus. Odds are Luke met Jesus but in any event, he traveled with Paul who had met Jesus.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • phearis

      I would be more inclined to believe someone saw Elvis at 7/11. You do know that the whole Christian bible is made up of stories taken from period books and other other religions stories. Right?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Buddy R

      Oh, I left out John. He met Jesus.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Buddy R

      @phearis: Atheists are quite hypociritcal. They make statements of all kinds of things being facts that they can't prove and yet condemn others for having faith.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • study

      actuall matthew and john each wrote a book in the new testatment both of them followed Jesus around for three years, and John even saw Jesus crucified on the cross

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Lucy

      AJ: I have studied the Bible from every which way. I was a seeker and examined every single religion, cult and belief. I only became a Christian after discovering that science, archeology, history, prophecy and power only proves the Bible! I challenge you to actually read it!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • goz

      Lucy, how absurd your statement. The bible is a fabtasy written by men and will only be proven when your god stops playing games and appears again as a buring bush.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Drew

      Buddy- are you serious? If you did more research on top of reading the bible you'd see that you are absolutely incorrect. If you actually read your own bible you'd realize that Paul did not meet Jesus, do you not remember that his name used to be Saul? All bible stories aside, do some research on when the gospels were written and you'll find that the first gospel wasn't written until after 70 C.E. The others followed after that, and the stories are borrowed from the previous one.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  20. Sjd

    no we are not suppose to be a secular nation. We are a Christian nation since this country was founded.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • phearis

      And you are a total moron Sjd.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • FIST

      You're ignorant. We're not a Christian nation now...never have been. Can you hear me with your head buried in the sand?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • AJ

      I suppose you are going to make the claim that everyone who founded the country was a "Christian"? You realize several of the founding fathers were athiest/agnostic right?
      Please cite any passage that says "we are supposed to be a Christian nation"?
      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" – if it were supposed to be "Christian" it would simply say so.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • red-eye

      Poor SJD .... we never were a 'Christian' Nation.... we are a nation that has christians.. and jews .. and muslims.. and buddhists, and wiccans ... but they can't all go around naming streets from their respective scripture ...

      July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • goz

      You are wrong. I present an argument. Read this: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/04/davis.jefferson.other.words/

      July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Kent

      I completely agree with you Sjd. This nation was founded on Christian beliefs. My Great, great, great, great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War to free this nation and was a Baptist minister from Virginia. So I have a hard time caring about being politically correct for these other so called religions pushing their views on our Christian nation.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • mance lotter

      AJ – big difference between being a Christian nation and having an Christian government.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Jose

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Mark Bernadiner

      Red-Eye: muslims have been enemies of US from the beginning and still do. Secondly, for your information, islam is not a religion, but a fascist cult and must be banned in the US and eliminated around the world.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Rick

      mark: islam is not a religion? to those who follow it it is. banned from the u.s.? perhaps you have an issue with the first amendment

      July 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • goz

      Mark Bernadiner is unamerican. He makes statements which are filled with hate and the opposite of what is the foundation of our republic. He is the facist.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • JC

      "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion"
      -John Adams in the Treaty of Tripoli

      Began in works in 1796. In 1797 it was ratified by the US Senate and signed into United States Law. The vote in the US Senate was UNANIMOUS.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47
Advertisement
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.