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.”
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I consider myself an athiest, but really don't agree with this challenge. It's a very small tribute to some important people, whether you believe in heaven or not.
So for those wanting to use this as a claim of how "athiests" are ruining the country, please stop and think.
I'm with you on all counts – I don't approve of the sign, really, but it's really not that big of a deal either. It bothers me more how people are so eager to think that atheists are trying to shove their beliefs down the throats of the faithful, when it's so obviously the other way around.
Oh will you please use your heads. Disagreeing with the name of a street is like finding unpleasantness in Angel Food Cake. Name it something else in your biased mind and enjoy it anyway.
They won't let me rename my street after allah.
Good one Rob! I see you are an atheist like me. Let's get out there and act like big stupid jerks and scream loud and compare religious figures to fairy tales. HE HE!!! Let's do it!
What is the difference between Santa Claus and your mythical sky prince?
These Atheists are acting like Christians.
NYC should clear things up and tell everyone that the word heaven merely rhymes with 7.
I want an Atheist to tell me they've NEVER used the word heaven in reference to something other than the divine place so that I can tell them they are Fu.ck.ing liars.
e.g. "This chocolate cake is heaven." or "This vacation has been heaven."
Wow, Gabby, that was a powerful intellectual argument (insert sarcasm here). So if an atheist utters the word "heaven" in a FIGURATIVE sense, then this means that he/she actually believes in heaven, and is therefore a liar??
Your remark clearly demonstrates the irrational and illogical mentality required to believe in adult fairy tales (religion). Congrats!
The entire comment was meant to be sarcastic.
You're telling me that the City of New York, when in court, can say "oh heaven? That's figuratively speaking." thus making it non-Christian. I hope they take that logic into consideration when being sued.
I'm an Atheist, but I completely disagree with the "New York Atheists." Just because I don't believe in a god, doesn't mean I will protest others right to have faith and celebrate their faith however they choose.
Is it OK for them to celebrate with your tax dollars? That's the real issue.
If you're so secure that there is no God, then why moan and groan about something this trivial? Most atheists think that those of us who believe in a God are believing in a concocted myth no different than say, Mickey Mouse. Please at least protest all things Mickey Mouse too. It gives you a little more credibility and it makes you look less insecure. The fact is, there is a God and that scares you. Otherwise we wouldn't see you freaking out. It's not like all those atheist signs around London or New York scare me. I don't need you to believe what I believe in order to validate it, and that is because it's true. I feel the same way about some of those "right wing evangelicals" too. Even they don't know what to do about a graceful God. I know it's a little hard to believe the creator of the universe actually loves us, but please settle down folks. You're loved. You are. Just accept it.
Christina – you need to look up the word, "fact", since you obviously have no idea what it means.
Congratulations, you just proved the Atheists point by trying to shove your religion down our throats. LOVE IT.
Those athiests are always upset with my satan signs also.
This is ridiculous...just one more thing to b1tch about to make themselves known. I wonder what they want the street to be named instead "in honor of 7 burned corpses laying in the ground way"?
If you actually read the article they proposed an alternative.
The article actually says they offered up an alternative.. read much?
I am an Atheist. There is no heaven. But if people of faith want to honour these firemen, who may also have been people of faith, where is the harm? Atheists must accept the right of people of faith to demonstrate expressions of faith in public ways. Atheists must show tolerance and acceptance for beliefs other than their own. Otherwise atheists sink to the level of those religious proseltizers who are intolerant.
A street sign is not an urgent public policy issue. Atheists should learn where to pick their battles. This is not one of them.
It still crosses a line in many respects. Just like many lawmakers will actually refer to our currency to defend their position on the supposed xtianity of the US, small incidents like these amount to tacit approval. Government expressions or endorsements of religion are either OK or they are not. Then there's the clearly narrow window in which the sign is phrased. Let's hope that it was at least verified that the 7 victims were actually xtians, but if not would "Valient 7 in Valhallah" be acceptible?
How about, "Super 7 in Sto'Vo'Kor"?
notwithstanding everything the atheists here appear in the worst light. here is a splendid, radiant tribute - and they grab hold of a word? do they suppose that word serves any purpose except to consecrate the tribute?
if they can find a way to exclude it and retain the spirit of the tribute, all the better. if they can't, let them find the reverence to leave the sign's erectors to their peace.
Oh come on...seriously are you going to take that stance. If that is the case, what if it were called "7 who went to Allah". Would you overlook that too since it's just a word to grab on to? Would you not take notice and just keep going about your routine? Are you that open minded? If so, I really do applaud you and your ability to allow others to think/believe their own thoughts.
I am sure that the kin of a hero deserve every honor they ask for. To write it in Arabic would be the least we can do. I would also provide for them for life, and in full view of the public. Out of my own pocket, if I had to.
If you say God doesn't exist, then what are you dummies complaining about? Pure ignorance!!!
Who paid for the sign? I think it's a safe bet that tax dollars were used. That's why it matters. The government has no business promoting any religion.An atheist is going to be ticked off that they helped pay for this, just as a Muslim should be ticked off if they help pay for a local governments nativity scene.
I can't wait for the time when Muslim Firefighters die and a sign "Seven near Allah" is put up – let's see if the same folks who support this sign and say its no big deal will defend that sign.
hahaha yeah there would be public outrage.
you are quite unfair, meseems. a hero is a hero - even the dimmest of us knows it. when it happens their kin will get any sign they like - even one in Arabic.
the money in his pocket says "in god we trust" and he sees that everyday.. doesnt stop him from spending it now, does it? truely sad.
That's left on for historic reasons not any implied endorsement by the U.S. Mint. How many people are going to try to use that lame argument.
Do atheists have much of a choice? Isn't that exactly the kind of evidence of having religion "shoved down their throats" that people don't see as confrontational? I think you just proved a point – for the secularists.
Actually I use mostly debit card. That is the way things are moving now, and that is for the better, and for more reasons than that insignificant little phrase.
Why are they going after a street sign? Why not go after our monetary system? Every legal tender I have clearly sates "IN GOD WE TRUST". I bet it just burns their buns every time they have to hold a dollar bill! It's a street sign honoring those that died. Go back to banning nativity scenes at christmas. It's summer. We don't want to hear you guys for another five months.
It think it's perfectly suited that God be on our money. It shows who owns who in my atheist opinion.
These "atheists" need to get a real life and support a real cause that has real meaning. Their grinding their secularism axe on the rest of us is as offensive as they say this sign is. Get over it!
They're right, and I'd be willing to bet you some cash that it comes down.
Separation of church and state isn't a cause that has "real meaning"? Tell that to our founding fathers. Tell that to the troops that have died over the last ten years.
I think it's funny they think a little 2 foot by 6 inch sign is shoving god down their throats.
I think it's funny that people can't see that this clearly crosses the line between church and state. Who paid for the sign? Is heaven a religious concept?
Atheists are complaining about Heaven....................? They like Hell better.........................?
Since neither place exists, your argument is specious, at best.
I'm Richard Dawkins, a leading atheist who hates religion and I fully support this. I want atheists to go out there and act like jerks just like me!!
Just like what we do. How Funny.
Interesting how you never hear atheists complaining about all the place names with "Devil" or "Hell" in them. Just want a little attention?
Ironically, it's the Christians that do that....
dont give them any ideas, i like my devils food cakes.
I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy...but that doesn't mean that I am going to protest if someone names a street after one of them.
How about they change it to "Athiests in hell way"
But those three fictious characters don't influence our laws, Christianity tries and does. We are a secular nation and we should uphold that.
Those aren't actually religious figures, are they?
Why is it that christians always want people who disagree with them to go to their mythical place of torture?
Could it be that they are simply intolerant?