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. Tom J

    I really hate it when atheists try to force their religion down everyones throats.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  2. Paul

    Is this really the battle they want to pick? It's not referencing any specific religion. Everyone can have a different opinion of heaven and what it is, doesn't need to be a religious reference. I would urge these Atheists to use their common sense and let it be.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  3. John

    Yeah I know all about Evolution. How does it prove that God doesn't exist? It does not. Oh, and it hasn't even come close to proving that all species had a common ancestor. Look it up. All evolution can prove is that there have been changes and adaptations in some species over time. That's pretty much it Lux. Evolution has done nothing to disprove God.

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

      Ever hear of Greek mythology? People needed a reason to understand why everything existed, so they created gods – multiple gods – and do you still today think that those god's actually existed, or continue to exist, with everything thing we know today? Do you think the sun comes out every day because Apollo made it so, or that you fall in love because Eros shot an arrow at you? Ummm...no. It's called "myth"ology for a reason.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  4. DrJStrangepork

    This is where political correctness gets to the point of dumb. What is next, getting rid of intersection signs because they look like crosses? This is a small thing. If someone is excluded because they are atheist come get me and I'll yell, scream and throw a fit with ya.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Breanan

    September 11 2001 is forever stamped into my memory. This sign is a dedication to the firefighters that gave their lives to save people! Atheist or not, show some respect and appreciation for our firefighters! The sign should stay.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  6. Brandon

    just like there are christian freaks, there are atheist freaks also. both are annoying, both are offensive, and both are ignorant.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  7. PTP

    Just to clarify for all the atheist here.
    There is one God who created all this.
    You will be judged based on your belief (or lack of) and your actions.
    There is a eternal Heaven and Hell.
    Contact me if your serious and want more information.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Lisa

      You said it perfectly. Thanks

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      There is one God who created all this. – why?
      You will be judged based on your belief (or lack of) and your actions. – why?
      There is a eternal Heaven and Hell – why?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • DrJStrangepork

      Then explain why your religion is right and ancient greeks were wrong.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • OU812IC

      DEAD serious or just somewhat serious

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

      I Would LOVE more information!

      Where did you get your information? If its the bible then nevermind.....

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

      I thought God forgives, not judges? Oh, I forgot, he forgives Christians because it suits them, but everyone else is going to hell.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  8. OU812IC

    It's their right to protest
    It is no different than if they put up a sign saying Satan's Parkway or Hell's Highway, Guess who would and who always throws tizzie fits in the Media, the wonderful honest, loving, giving, the largest corrupt coporation in the world called the Catholics

    July 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  9. TMS

    So what about my rights in believing in God – where does that fall into this. Why should a sign be changed, especially a sign in tribute – don't you have better things to worry about! Don't go down that street if you don't like it! Just ridiculous – you have the freedom to NOT believe in anything so don't but others do!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • OU812IC

      No see it's called Heaven Way. You can't go DOWN it. You can only go up it. They would have to name it something else if you could down it

      July 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Lux

      So, you'd be okay if a sign was erected on your street in tribute and praise of Allah?

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

      You have a right to believe in God. No one is trying to take away anyone's right to believe in anything. But, our country was founded upon the separation of church and state. I don't want the government telling me what to believe. I believe in God, but I don't want the government to have any part in my faith or religion. While I don't agree with atheists idea of faith, I do believe our government should steer clear of religion. I don't want them telling me to be Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish... on and on. It should be kept separate.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • JD

      you can keep your right to believe, however, it should not be presented publicly as such. Seperation of church and state.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  10. Chelles

    If they can throw a fit about that..i'm going to sue because I want every Santa Clause and Easter bunny removed from society. I will go sign picketing...start marches...and write letters. Maybe I can make some money too. 🙂

    July 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  11. Ken

    As long as courts continue to humor morons like this batch, they will keep up with the frivolous lawsuits. Separation of church and state was meant to keep the church from running the country as it pretty much did in some European countries. It was not meant to argue crap like street signs. I am not religious in the slightest and yet...I feel absolutely no threat from this sign, nor do I feel a threat because someone in a school wished their students Merry Christmas or any of the other reasons these crackheads crawl out of the woodwork with.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  12. Dave

    As yet another atheist chiming in on this topic, I agree that this is not a battle worth fighting. It's just a street sign, not a public park or building. If it makes some people happy to have it, fine. Let them have it. We should spend our efforts fighting against the many more significant church/state separation issues. For example, in many states atheists cannot legally be elected to public office.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'For example, in many states atheists cannot legally be elected to public office'
      i am not sure that is correct. They might not get enough support to be elected because they are atheists but i am not sure they are actually banned.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  13. Mike - Brooklyn/L.A.

    I am an athiest as well, If the 7 local firefighters who died all believed in Christianity, then I have no problem with the sign. Get over it guys. It's just a sign. I also do not refuse to say "under God" when I recite The Pledge of Allegiance. Out of respect to our country, I go with tradition. It's not gonna kill me to utter the words even if I do not believe them.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • doug

      The seven firefighters all believing in Christianity has nothing to do with it. They're not here to read the sign. This sign is for other people and it uses government funds and government property to promote a Christian ideal.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      what tradition? it was added in the 50's, the traditional thing would be to say it without it

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • R in Ohio

      A very wise and open minded response. I applaud you for your honest common courtesy for others. While I personally wouldn't want a house on Aetheist Avenue, I myself as a Christian would not challenge someone's right to name a street. Everyone needs to respect other's belief systems. Great post Mike!!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Michael

      precedent

      July 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  14. meandmybigmouth

    Petty much!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  15. Lance

    What? Just because some faction does not want something put up all of society must bow down and obey? Sorry, no. If you do not like it, do not go look at it.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Bob

      I love how people stretch the meaning of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"
      A street sign hardly applies. Idiots !

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  16. SHRIKE

    "Christianity- The belief that some jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat of his flesh, drink of his blood, and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master. So he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a sinful woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree!..... Yup, makes perfect sense!!!!"

    July 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  17. Anthony Weiner

    Christianity is of the devil.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  18. John

    Why do all atheists say the same thing "you have no evidence whatsoever". There is TONS of evidence if you just go out and so some research. There is plenty of evidence that God exists, there is plenty of evidence that Jesus existed and exists. The Scriptures are accurate, the New Testament is historically verifiable and there is plenty of eyewitness evidence. The Word of God has survived the test of time. Jesus has had more of an impact on humanity than all the "great" men and women who have ever lived. Everyone in their heart knows that there is something greater out there.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Lux

      It's called scientific evidence...oh, and a thing called evolution. How any educated individual can believe otherwise just blows my mind.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Laughing

      Please provide this evidence please, oh and the bible is still in question so can not be used, what else you got? A feeling?, an eyewitness account from 2,000 years ago?

      Just so we're on the same page. I can go to a natural history museum and look at some dino bones, I can also get a telescope and look at space, or better yet use hubble to date how old the universe is (I'll give you a hint, it's longer than 6,000 years)

      July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • doug

      If you actually believe any of what you just wrote then you're not qualified to be part of this debate.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Matt

      "The Scriptures are accurate, the New Testament is historically verifiable and there is plenty of eyewitness " Well I'm convinced, where do I go to get baptized?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • the real john

      evolution is a string of fairy tales more unfathomable than noahs ark. yeah sure, giraffe necks are long because they couldnt reach trees and kept dying of starvation. Scientists find out every ten years they are wrong, thats the only thing they agree on. i dont trust em any further that i can evolve from.. uh.. nothing.

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

      And how many years will it take you to realize you're wrong?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Bob

      Lux, it's call the "Theory of Evolution" for a reason.

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

      So the evidence is "because the bible says its true"? The Koran, The Book of Morman, etc, also say what they contain is true. For that matter, I believe the National Enquirer says their stories are true. By extension, the bible which was written mostly in the bronze age by a bunch of drunk monks, must also be true.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "yeah sure, giraffe necks are long because they couldnt reach trees and kept dying of starvation."
      lol, the fact you think this is what evolution suggests is just priceless. I think you are confusing it with an Africa folk tale.

      'Bob – Lux, it's call the "Theory of Evolution" for a reason.'
      yes because that is how ideas are worded in scientific circles, such as the theory of relativity. In a scientific context 'theory' does not mean 'guess'

      July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  19. masshacks

    Bronstein? Typical shyster trying to make a buck

    July 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  20. JimmyT

    Isn't atheism a religion unto itself?

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

      No. Does that answer your stupid question?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Laughing

      Short answer: No

      Longer answer: Seriously, are you stupid? you might want to look at, hmmmmm I don't know, a million other posts that outline exactly WHY atheism is not a religion. If you want I can give you an even longer answer than this though doubtful its going to help.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • the real john

      of course it is. they just wont admit it because its ridiculous. any dictionary on the planet can tell you that what athiests do and believe in can be identified as a religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ the real john

      Please, enlighten me, give specific examples on how atheism is a religion, really, I'm fascinated to know. To date it doesn't fit any definition, unless you have one I don't know about?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Tom J

      Of course it is. It's a belief system based on a deep-seated, unprovable concept that there are no deities and no afterlife. The members of which proselytize constantly to convert members of other religions to their beliefs, even going as far as using court orders to prevent others from practicing their religions. They also tend to target christianity almost exclusively, and leave other polytheistic religions alone.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ Tom J

      Thanks for answer, I get so tired typing the same stuff again and again, it's refreshing to just show you your backward thinking instead of trying to cover all the bases and hoping you'll get the point. Let's get started eh?

      "Of course it is. It's a belief system based on a deep-seated, unprovable concept that there are no deities and no afterlife." – Ok, so far so good, though you're substi.tuting belief system to mean religion, that's your first mistake. I also BELIEVE the sun will set and rise tomorrow, I would clas.sify everyone who agrees with me to be in the religion of "the sun'll come up tomorrow" would you?

      "The members of which proselytize constantly to convert members of other religions to their beliefs," Oh, so many loaded words, where to start? Maybe members...., ok members of what exactly? There's not church, there's no cohesive group, I guess you might say that an adherrent to atheism is a member, but the group is so nebulous its hard to say that and then go on to say we all consta.ntly proselytize to convert to our beliefs. Most atheists don't, we sometimes like to debate and asks question, maybe get the other person to start thikning, but proseltyzing is a loaded word that's really reserved for christians, muslims, buddhists and so on because they go house to house, village to village and try to force people to join them. Atheists ask for them to simply crtical.ly look at the bible and see how it logically doesn't make sense.

      "even going as far as using court orders to prevent others from practicing their religions." Evidence? Proof? When are you able to not pract.ice your religion? Now, when someone uses a court order to tell a gay person he's sub-human, an abomination, now that's a religion using a court order to further their gains. – But that's not atheism, I'll give you a guess who it is though

      "They also tend to target christianity almost exclusively, and leave other polytheistic religions alone." You do realize that christians are the most vocal about their beliefs and defend it was the most fervor. I see a bunch of different references to zeus, odin, thor, ect... that show just how much respect atheists have for any religion.

      So the only quasi argument you have is that atheism is a belief system, which is true, but you equate belief system and religion, which is not true.

      Hope I helped clear some stuff up!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:58 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.