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. josh

    It must be nice to have that kind of time on your hands to tackle lame issues. i mean really? please don't clog the courts with this stupidity.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Pete

      How discriminatory does a government sponsored act have to be before there is a protest?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  2. John

    If my God didn't exist, I would not exist. I don't believe that everything came from nothing. There is something infinite and it's God.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Pete

      Just because you don't believe it doesn't make it true – mathematically, something will indeed be generated from nothing. Go read a physics book.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """If my God didn't exist, I would not exist."""

      I see your logic. If Sarah Palin didn't exist, my disdain for her would not exist.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  3. OU812IC

    We have a new street sign in our town
    Purgatory Way.
    We thought it would be fitting to add another sign below it reading Go Down At Own Risk

    July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Todd

      Ooooh, that could be taken in so many different ways

      July 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  4. bdgfn

    This guy is an idiot. Heaven is NOT a reference only to Christianity. This is from the Webster's online dictionary:

    heav·en noun \ˈhe-vən\
    Definition of HEAVEN
    1: the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome : firmament —usually used in plural
    2a often capitalized : the dwelling place of the Deity and the blessed dead b : a spiritual state of everlasting communion with God
    3capitalized : god 1
    4: a place or condition of utmost happiness
    5Christian Science : a state of thought in which sin is absent and the harmony of divine Mind is manifest

    The word heaven has several different definitions. Only in the small, limited mind of those who oppose anything and everything does it solely describe a religious reference.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      oh please try to argue that this use of the word heaven was not in reference to christian heaven. we all know it was but go ahead and try.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  5. Mark

    How disrespectful can this particular group of atheists be? These people died serving their city and this is how they're treated? It's called free speech. The word "Heaven" isn't shoving religion/beliefs down anyone's throat. Taking formal action against the city is. Why waste the cities limited resources fighting frivolous legal battles. If the New York City Atheists want to do something positive they should use their resources to feed the homeless, help children in need, or go out and serve in some other positive, meaningful, and selfless way that is for the greater good. I challenge them to drop this foolish law suit and serve their community. Kenneth Bronstein I am calling you out. Do you have the balls to do good or will you keep this crap up?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Pete

      I guess they're less disprespectful than the Xtians that put the sign up. If you can bend your little mind around it, imagine how assaulted secularists are by religious mumbo jumbo. Go believe in your magical beings on your own time, but don't spend tax dollars on it.

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

    The sign should remain, and if they want to, the athesists should position for their own "Godless Blvd." or something similar.

    I hate the crap-disturber mentality of atheists who make issue out of things that don't affect them. The WORSE case for them, is to utter the word "heaven" when giving directions, or writing it as part of an address when mailing something.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  7. John

    Yes, Satan does exist. He's real. I don't know what he looks like because I've never personally seen him.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      no one has because he doesnt exist.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  8. Chip

    You do realize atheist are a religion unto themselves, they believe in nothing eccept themselves. So lets erase all signs of atheist.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Skeptical Analysis

      Atheism is not a religion. It is a personal relationship with reality...

      July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Pete

      Technically, it's an anti-religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  9. someone from NYC

    These men became known as the "7 in Heaven" , and that is how they should be remembered, because that is how their friends, family, community, colleagues, and organization has remembered them. Bringing suit is beyond petty and wasteful in this instance because there is no shoving of belief or value down anyone's throat, simply the desire to convey the idea that these men made a great sacrifice in cause of protecting their fellow citizens. It is a ceremonial re-naming, and the street is still known by its previous name, right? If this they choose to call it "Richard St." or whatever the whole of it is, and not "7 in Heaven Way". No one will hold it against them, but holding the reverse against others is inherently disrespectful and foolish. Atheists are like every other religious group (yes I consider them a religious group of sorts because they have a belief system and groups that push their agenda(s) like every other organized religion has since time immemorial). Tolerance is the key to everything and by pursuing such an outlandish complaint that many people would say doesn't really matter does NOTHING to advance the cause of atheists achieving parity and acceptance in society. Please think before you start chasing headlines! When you start banning names and phrases from societal use in a codified manner, then you have to ask yourself how much freedom and liberty will be sacrificed pursuing any agenda. Leave it up to the community to decide and don't start trying to decide for the community because you don't respect their point of view.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  10. Oberle

    But Atheists can put up bill boards where ever they want...

    July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Todd

      But they don't. and in case you forgot, Camping put up all those doomsday bilboards. Surely, you remember those.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • MJp

      they're talking gov't sanctioned signage. try to follow along.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Huh?

      Yes, they DO....all the time

      July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      So, what about all those signs on buses in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, plus some billboards on California roadways telling people to stop believing in God and renounce their faith? Those were put up by Atheist organizations.

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

      No, atheists can NOT put up billboards wherever they want as companies like CBS and Clear Channel repeatedly reject those signs as "possibly offensive" or because they don't believe in the message as a company. If they came right out and said "we don't want to promote belief or non-belief of any religion because it's not our part" then that would be fine. But it doesn't happen- drive through Minnesota heading west and you'll see dozens and dozens of these billboards (Owned by both companies) that promote Pro-life agendas and have Christian mantras.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • AFGuy77

      EXACTLY...non-partial unless it applies to them.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      but when atheists are allowed to put up billboards they are private organizations, not government sanctioned signs. The comparison is silly.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Tom J

      Of course atheists put up billboards:

      https://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/26/atheist-billboard-christmas-is-a-myth/

      July 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  11. sensitive bunch

    Atheism is the nonbelief, disbelief, unbelief, skpticism, doubt of religion. Or if you want to spin it another way, Athieism believes that god does not exist so it is in fact a religion, because it takes a belief to not believe in something.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • KK Denver

      Ridiculous

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

      you are in idiot

      July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • jdurand

      I don't know about if it is a religion, but atheism is a faith, because the existence of God can not be proven or disproven.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      its doesnt take faith to think the idea of a spell casting super being controlling eveything is stupid.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • jdurand

      Since you can't prove God doesn't exist, you're relying on faith that He doesn't just like I am relying on faith that He does.

      Plain and simple.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I no more have to prove god doesnt exist than i have to prove dragons, elves, trolls, unicorns or any other mythical creature dont exist. Its just another fairytale.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • bostongraf

      You are mistaken. It is not that I have any position that I actually believe is correct. It is entirely that you are presenting a position, and I am stating that it is wrong. I would be happy to believe any system that actually makes sense, but as it stands, I see no reason to believe any of the religions that have been put forth...

      Honestly, you state the same thing. You do not believe in the muslim religion, or hindu, etc...

      You are also an atheist. You simply deny one less god than I do.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @CedarRapids – People like you used to believe the world was flat because they couldn't see the curve.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """it takes a belief to not believe in something"""

      I applaud this with one hand clapping.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Clyde M

      I don't believe in unicorns, either. So not believing in unicorns is a religion by your definition?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • jdurand

      Cedar Rapids... since you can't present proof one way or the other about the existence of God, you have faith that what you believe is true.

      Belittle it however you want, it doesn't make what I say any less accurate.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  12. f106dart

    so.... they gonna sue the various states because of names like Corpus Christi, San Francisco, Mount of the Holy Cross (in Colorado).... ?

    Morons.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  13. John

    In that case, let's throw all of ancient history out since apparently the amount of time an eyewitness account can remain valid expires. What does that mean "the bible is still in question so it can't be used"? Did I say the universe was 6000 years old? No, it's more like billions of years old. So what's your point?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  14. Nick

    Had the sign said "seven in the Roman Catholic heave" or "seven in the Jewish heaven", I could understand the fuss. But the term heaven as used in the sign is non-religious and is mean as a conceptual spiritual idea only.

    Atheist seem to want to pick a fight with everything that is slightly religious or spiritual.

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

      Now see, that's where ignorant assumptions lead to signs like the one there now. Jews do not have a "heaven" in their belief system. Most other religions don't either.

      Even more to the point: were all 7 firefighters Christians who believed in heaven??

      July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Pete

      There is no Jewish concept of heaven.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  15. James Olson

    I disagree that the concept of Heaven is necessarily a religious one. One doesn't have to believe in God (or any other religion) in order to believe in Heaven or an afterlife.

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

      The heaven concept is a religious one. Deal with that fact.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • James Olson

      As I already stated, I disagree.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Todd

      Fine. Prove the existance of heaven. Use scientific, reproduceable, observable methods. Do NOT use the bible or faith.

      Good luck.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • olcranky

      while belief in some sort of afterlife (including reincarnation) is not an inherently religious belief; Heaven as a specific place in the afterlife, however, is an inherently religious idea

      July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Huh?

      Todd....all of your scientists are mere DUST compared to the vastness and complexity of GOD'S universe.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Todd – See the post near the top of the page, as defined by Webster's dictionary:

      Definition of HEAVEN
      1: the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome : firmament —usually used in plural
      4: a place or condition of utmost happiness

      There, I left out the nasty, offensive, religious bits for your poor little self.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  16. Mike

    Nope, atheism is not a religion, but rather, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. This nation was founded on secular principles by secular (and religious) men, but it's clear all knew to draw a line in the sand when it came to promoting one belief system over the other-hence the separation of church and state. And even though some atheists are irreligious, some are spiritual in other ways. You will not find an atheist of either sort asking for courthouses or street signs to say "There Is No God Lane" or "Justice Through Darwinism, Not Deity". All we ask for is if you are religious, to practice it privately.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • sensitive bunch

      Just to let you know, a true atheist is not spiritual in ANY way. Atheists don't believe in spirits.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Todd

      Maybe not s-bunch, but they do drink them.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Mike

      Agreed Todd...we do believe in drinking spirits! And SB- spiritual can be a belief in spirits or the sense of a communal existence with nature...which is frankly, what I believe. So perhaps a misnomer- maybe it should be Naturalism or Earthy-ism....?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Wesley B

      @ senstivebunch
      That's not true. The ONLY thing that defines a "true" atheist is a lack of a belief in a god or gods.
      Period.
      That's it.
      Atheists can (and some do) believe in all sorts of other things, ranging from spirits to souls to reincarnation to even afterlives (though not ones run by a god being). A theism literally mean "without theism" and implies NOTHING else about the beliefs the atheist does or does not hold.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Todd

    It is rather stupid, especially since even if heaven does exist, there is no guarantee they made it there (and that's assuming their stories are true)

    July 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • SecularLeft Pinhead

      God does NOT believe in Atheists...........the pinheads in New York need some saving.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Todd

      and He told you that himself? Wow, you must be special.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  18. Shane

    I do believe the most elaborate deception Satan has ever pulled off, was convincing intelligent people, that he doesn't exist. I have personally witnessed EVIL people dying of natural causes, moments before death takes them, start to scream, and try to crawl out of their beds crying out that they were on fire. Some will say brain overload, or phantom pain. Personally that was all the proof I needed that there is a Hell, and these people were headed there. So don't believe. Keep slamming God. Not religion, But GOD. I will agree that is your right. But at the moment of death, it is too late to change your mind. Take the sign down, or leave it up. Doesn't really matter. BUT know, in the back of your "intelligent", "logical" mind. That one day we all stand to Judgement. And HE does see all. Or maybe there is no HE. And this was all a waste.

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

      Does Satan exist? Where is he? What does he look like? And who is his fashion designer?

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

      If it were proven without a doubt that your god does not exist, would you be the same person you are now? If you say Yes, then any argument that god is necessary to keep people from being evil is undermined. If you say "I don't know" then we should be better off to steer clear of you. If you're good just to stay in your gods grace, then that's not being good for being good's sake- that's just sucking up.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • the real john

      todd. yes he exist, yes hes on earth, he looks like everyone else, his designer is prolly that guy that just got busted for making hitler remarks. i suggest you stay away from both.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Todd

      I don't know about God, but some of his followers suck eggs. You have the child f***ers in the catholic church, the teabaggers who want all gay people rounded up and put in camps, and the muslims who fly into buildings.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • george busch

      I do believe that your beliefs are childish and without basis. Where is the proof of God. A book full of proverbs and fairy-tales. That book has more contradictions than it has facts. There is no Satan. There is no God. There was a man named Jesus, he died a long time ago. We all die and people say great things about us when we die. Sometimes they even write books about us.

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

      The Flying Spaghetti Moster knows all! All hail his holy noodleness. May his wonderous meatsause drench us in his loving spindly arms.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      ' I have personally witnessed EVIL people dying of natural causes, moments before death takes them, start to scream, and try to crawl out of their beds crying out that they were on fire.'
      oh bs

      July 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "I do believe the most elaborate deception Satan has ever pulled off, was convincing intelligent people, that he doesn't exist."

      If that were true then the most egregious failure god has had is failing to convince them he does.
      If there is a god, then he knows EXACTLY what it would take to convince me of his existence, yet he does not do it. And if I die and face him he will know EXACTLY what was in my heart and mind and EXACTLY why I didn't believe. I'm not worried about it, though, because I wouldn't want to follow a god that punished me for the "crime" of rational thinking and failing to believe in unsupported claims without empirical evidence. And quite frankly, it shocks me how many people not only respect, but literally worship, a being that demands that from them.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """I do believe the most elaborate deception Satan has ever pulled off, was convincing intelligent people, that he doesn't exist."""

      Your mythology sure has a problem with intelligent people. Your god made us stupid and tried to keep us stupid. Your satan helped us get "knowledge" and is trying to get those of us who actually think and question into hell.

      So we're really wasting our breath when we try to reason with you, aren't we?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  19. Sarah

    Would anyone miss Mr. Bronstein if he just disappeared.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  20. FU

    Agreed, cut that sign down...

    July 7, 2011 at 4:02 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.