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. freetime1

    If it had read two in heaven, two in hell, two just dead and one in valhalla then it would have been way cool. Thing is only the two just dead would be true, because the other places are just dumb man made ideas. There is no god or gods.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  2. AAA

    Take the sign down. Sounds discriminatory to other religions. Use universal language for such messaging – math. 7-911 is perfect.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Dee

    Here is the question I want to pose to Christian's and other persons of any other faith: What exactly about an atheist asking that their tax dollars not be spent on a public street sign that has a religious reference on it is offensive? I have a hard time understanding the idea that by asking this, it somehow makes a logical step that it means an atheist is trying to impose their non-theistic views on religious people. If the sign hadn't had the reference in the first place, would this be an issue? Please, I desperately want to hear a logical argument why a religious person cannot see that this is offensive to atheistic people.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • AlienShark

      maybe the families of the heroes that died like the sign. What is it to you anyway. I haven't heard any of the families or friends complaining so who are you...oh thats right, your just another person trying to inflict your opinion on everyone else.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Libra Lisa

      Well said Dee. I totally agree. Your comment makes a lot sense to me.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Libra Lisa

      I guess Sharky here is the only one allowed to have an opinion Dee. Sorry Sharky, Dee is right on, perhaps read her comment again?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • AtheistInAnaheim

      AlienShark- You've got it backwards. It's you and those who believe like who that are imposing your beliefs on others. I have no problem commemorating the heroes of 9/11. But why does that have to be done with a religious reference on a public street using public funds? To your last point, people are complaining. Read the other posts here.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      Well put, Dee. A government sign paid for by taxpayer dollars is no place for theists to advertise their particular brand of religion. Imagine the outcry if there was a road sign named "There is no Sky Fairy Boulevard" or "Religion Poisons Everything Avenue". Let's see how well that goes over...

      July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • greg

      Well SHARK I guess you didn't read. They are not complaining about the words, they are complaining about using public money on the sign. I may not believe in your god, but I do believe in everyone that lost their lives on 9/11. Those people will always be in my heart and I would say with most others on here also. It will be the 10th anniversary soon, hard to believe it has been that long.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  4. Andy

    So.... based on these comments.... the Declaration of Independance should not be on public display, nor presented to the public in any fassion... for it states... "...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. ..." Obviously, this should not be put into any public place, as it would impy that there is a Creator (by whatever name you give), and by extrapolation, there would be a hereafter (Heaven, Valhala, or simply 'place where the Creator lives').

    July 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Michael

      My creator is my mother. I do not object to having my mother mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. If you do, then by all means object to it.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Dee

      you're forgetting the word before Creator: their, meaning a personal inflection, it does not say "the"

      July 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  5. JP

    First, heaven is not exclusively a Christian concept. Jews and Muslims, among others, also believe in the existance of a heaven.

    Second, this is an abuse of the 1st amendment and dilutes its meaning and purpose. I think that some of society's problems are rooted in a lack of community expression. Why does every city or street must looks the same? It is a breath of fresh air to me sometimes to travel through a small town that isn't franchised to death. It is crap like this, that discourages everyone to go on a limb to make something special. In this case, it isn't really all that special anyway and I'd probably drive by it 10 times before I would notice it.

    The only thing in this case is very unspecial people who have nothing better to do except make a big poopy stink about a very little thing. It isn't like they are naming out all the steets to name them from Genesis to Revelation in sequential order or something and even if they did, so what?

    July 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • AtheistInAnaheim

      Would you agree that "heaven" is a religious reference? Forget about what religion it is attributed to. The fact that it is promoting religion on a public sign using public funds is the issue. This is not a small issue either in my opinion. Why should some religious beliefs be promoted over those who don't believe. Believe what you want, but don't force your opinions upon me.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • greg

      Then who decides what is a small thing and what is a large thing. If this street sign is ok then what isn't ok. What amount of public funds are ok to use and what would be to much.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  6. peoplesuck

    but they still can't get "in God we trust" off of money lol

    July 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Michael

      I just inspected my Visa debit card again and still I have found no mention of God.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • freetime1

      In god we trust is a lie. One we all do not even believe in a god or gods. Two lot of people that do believe do not trust they fear lol.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  7. Anna

    I am an atheist and I find nothing wrong with the sign. I have seen people complain about crosses that line the highway. The sign is not physically hurting anyone. I dont believe in heaven or hell but i do believe in freedom of speech. If they were trying to teach religion in school I would be fighting against it.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      Thank you, Anna! From one Atheist to another, I say very well said!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Greg

      My thoughts exactly. Im an atheist and protesting this is just dumb.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • 2bits

      It's still wrong.

      Quinn. That is not what the first amendment states. It's separate of church and state and supporting ANY religion is the same as supporting A religion. Wrong.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • AtheistInAnaheim

      Do you agree that signs of this nature should be erected using public funds? That in and of itself is a fiscal harm to everyone that pays taxes, whether or not they agree with what the sign says.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  8. Dan in Seattle

    So what is worse, Athiests publicising their Non-Belief? or believers publicising belief? When society gets to the point of erasing all religion from view.

    Indeed, our Nation was founded on a belief in God and freedom of religion whether some like it or not....Or try to change history to suit their own current beliefs.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • the real john

      do NOT even mention that atheism is a religion, they will get upset all over again and try to rename los angeles to losnothingles. and i dont feel like buying new maps.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Tappy

      One Nation, under God! Can they not understand what this means?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Tappy – One Nation, under God! Can they not understand what this means?'

      yes, it means you can quote something added in the 50's, well done

      July 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • inga

      The noble notion of "this country was founded on religious freedom" doesn't hold water if you were native american and forced to give up your traditional spiritual ceremonies and assimilate to the white man's culture and christianity. How bigoted to believe we "saved" them from their pagan ways.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • masshacks

      Hey inga- sounds like you weren't even born here so beat it.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • greg

      to the real john: who uses maps any more

      July 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  9. Free Thinker Seeking Reason

    Keeping America SECULAR = Keeping America FREE

    FREE from government endorsed favoritism of any particular religion.

    FREE from the idea of theocracy that our country's founders abandoned.

    FREE from the blatant child abuse that is immoral religious indoctrination of children.

    FREE from the absurd supersti-tion that some sky fairy is watching over you and affecting your fate.

    FREE from the multi-tude of modern mass delusional social disorders derived from ancient bronze age mythologies.

    FREE from the shockingly substantial influence of religious special interest groups that fight the progress of science and secular education in teaching our people the difference between reality and fiction.

    FREE from the manipulative forces of both major political parties that actively promote the maintenance of keeping the American people undereducated and under the thumb of religious control.

    Please, in honor of all those who fought and died for our country, both here and abroad, keep church and state SEPARATE now, as our country was originally founded and envisioned by its creators, or forever lose the reason for having fought at all.

    YES to freedom of speech. NO to keeping the masses ignorant.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • AlienShark

      blah blah blah, no one cares what you think. honor my balls by sucking on some eggs.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      @ AlienShark
      Really, "blah, blah, blah"? How long did you have to take to compose that reply?

      Seriously, if you have any rational response, let's hear it. Otherwise, you're just making the case that ignorance begets ignorance, blissful or otherwise.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  10. the real john

    It seems the athiests are at it again. You can no longer go to the "john" since it refers to a biblical name. While this makes me happy, as my name is john, i will now have to get used to saying "i am going to the "sasquatch"

    July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • scott

      Please use reasonable arguments to argue your side. So far your arguments have been irrational and weak.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • AtheistInAnaheim

      Your analogy is ridiculous. Has there ever been a lawsuit filed for referring to the name John? I haven't checked, but I would say probably not. The issue is the public reference to religion at the expense of everybody who does not share your religious beliefs. You can go to the "john" and I couldn't care less.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • masshacks

      You're right john. These people are so miserable and need to push there stupid agenda onto the majority of people.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • AtheistInAnaheim

      What "agenda" is that masshacks? Why should your views be promoted publicy over anyone elses?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  11. AZ1962

    you are God and you dont need a sign. when will people let go of old ways and see the truth? 911 hurt America and we should honor all that died that day, but posting signs is not the way. The world is changing and there is no devil or heaven! these things were made up to keep you in line...

    July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  12. fasteddie

    I'm an atheist and I think this is a ridiculous battle to fight. Atheists should save their resources to pick fights whose outcome matters.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • JoeG

      I am not an atheist, but am a strong proponent of separation of church and state. I too believe this is too far. This one is getting really petty, and is not a battle worth starting let alone fighting.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Greg

      Im an atheist, and I agree, this is petty.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • AtheistInAnaheim

      I think this is an argument worth pursuing. Just because some Atheists are content to remain silent while the vocal majority imposes their will on the rest of us doesn't mean this issue is not an important one.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  13. LesMiserables`

    I don't believe there is a god but I find no problem with people who do. This sign doesn't violate anyone's rights and it is in memory of seven who lost their lives. It is a memorial name.

    Bad atheists give good atheists a bad rap.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  14. SARAH

    Did you all you Christians know that Eve wasn't Adam's first wife?????

    July 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Or that their god impregnated another mans wife

      July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      god was a single parent who gave his kid up for adoption

      July 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • bronco56

      It's not mentioned because it was never a part of the Genesis text. It is actually a story that arose afterwards, but does not have a biblical foundation.

      The first time she was ever mentoned as Adam's first wife was in The Alphabet of Ben-Sira which was not even written until close to 1000 CE. Long after the Bible (and Torah) compilation to explain the two creation stories in Genesis.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • bronco56

      But I'm sure you knew that

      July 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Blaqb0x

      I would have been more impressed if God impregnated Joseph.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  15. John

    I won't. He will. Atheists don't believe because they don't want to. Bottom line. You know there is a God.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • John Gault

      No John, actually we don't. But it's good that you're so sure based on no evidence.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      no, we dont believe because the idea of a magical being casting spells and controlling the universe is a ridiculous one.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Punjab83

      I don't know personally if there is a god... I hope there is one, but a silly book with some outrageous stories (and that's all they are) in it doesn't make me believe there is a god. Separation of church and state my friend, they should change to sign, it is pretty simple.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Joe

      @John Gault. For an atheist, you must not be the brightest. Religion is faith, not evidence. I guess you prosecute in Florida.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  16. TCM

    Atheists need to have the fear of God put into them....

    July 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • VoxVerum

      Why would they fear something that they don't believe in?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • SARAH

      ewwwww, we're so scared!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • John Gault

      Uhh, we've been around a long time and so far no fear. What's your man waiting for?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

      Tiresome religious zealots need to have the fear of irrelevance put into them...

      July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • P Man

      I will be waiting on the corner of 1st and Denny way. You bring God and I will bring Science. Lets see which one will be taking the HOV lane.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Punjab83

      There's that fear thing again with religion... what happened to a higher being who loves us all? You fundamentalist Christians would probably get a better following if you stopped your shenanigans. I like how spell check made me capitalize christians lol

      July 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      Why? We don't fear the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, either. How about promoting personal responsibility and modern evolved secular morality? That might actually prove a lot more useful that invoking somebody's imaginary friend.

      If you can get people to think for themselves rather than load them with mentally abusive baggage, perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised by the results. Feel free to try it sometime.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • masshacks

      TCM, this is why this country is rotting away. People have no values anymore.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  17. AZ1962

    away with religious references and the mosque...no room for either!! both are out dated...based on lies!! wake up people

    July 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  18. Dan

    I am sorry, but this is just pathetic. If Atheists are THAT offended by this sign, then they should stay home and lock their door. This PC cr*p is going too far...

    July 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • P Man

      Agreed. This is just another bout of the PC crowd trying to ram their social engineering agenda down our throats. Makes them no better than the group they claim to be organizing against.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • masshacks

      This is what happens when the government bends over back for the minority. the majority gets overruled.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Letmeout

    It's funny, if there is no heaven then there should be no hell, but here we are living in it.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Popso

      Good call...

      July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  20. the real john

    its just been reported that deviled eggs wii NOT be showing up on tables across america. The athiests have won the battle. Next on the chopping block, count chocula. Vampires are demons, which means there are angels.. what a minute! dont take the angel food cakes pleaaseeee...

    July 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Michael

      Please do not confuse private or corporate life with government policy.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:40 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.