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. Anna

    For people who so fervently claim there is no God, they sure do get bent out of shape when He's brought up..

    July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Brandie

      Good point!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      yeah, if you just stopped trying to shove it in our faces we wouldnt get so 'bent out of shape'

      July 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  2. Jason K

    Dear Athiests, if you don't like it don't read the sign. Should we change every street named "Church Rd." in the country because it offends you too? The 1st ammendment protects both the families' free speech AND religious rights. If the state of NY as a thank you wants to name a road this, they are more than welcome. If it were 7 Satanists that died and wanted the road "7 rotting in hell" you'd have no problem with it. Go pick on the buddhists or hindis for a change and let the Judeo-Christians have a f-in break from your CONSTANT INCESSANT B!TCHING!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Andrew

      Your christian privilage* tm is showing.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Ben

      What a wonderfully Christian statement.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  3. Richard Cheese

    Keep your mythology to yourself.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • JoePub

      Boo Hoo, I cry over street names. BTW, may I call you Dick Cheese?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  4. Dan

    This is a secular nation? are you kidding me? ONE NATION UNDER GOD! that's all I have to say.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Andrew

      That was a relic of the cold war, inst-tuted in the 1950s because they thought "commies could never pledge under god!"

      So yes, your point is rather moot, as this is a secular nation with freedom of religion. Under god is just us being stupid.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • rainlady9

      One Nation under God was added by Pres. Eisenhower in response to the Godless Communists in 1954. It's time to remove it, and put God back where He belongs – in His Churches and the Hearts of those who worship HIm.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • OU812IC

      Well then that statement right there ends the whole argument
      ONE NATION UNDER GOD
      Nation= The State
      God= The Church
      Then there is no separation
      Make the richest corporation in the world start paying their fair share of the taxes, but then again since they are both one and the same they would just be paying themselves

      July 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  5. RaKa

    Atheist bullies at it again. Love it.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • OU812IC

      Not true
      And if you say it again i'll kick the hell out of you or is it i'll pound the heaven in to you

      July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Andrew

      How is "we remember the 7-911" compared to "7 in heaven" bullying? The former message is both inclusive and clear, the latter only appeals to abrahamic religions. Why is it bullying to want the former compared to the latter? I'm quite confused.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  6. John

    He does reveal himself. In his word. His word would not exist if he hadn't communicated with humanity. He will not interfere with our free will though. The choice is yours. The truth is that in every human being there is an emptiness that can only be filled by God. You can disbelieve all you want but it will never change the truth. The word of God is timeless. It has spoken to generation after generation. The truth is in there.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Kooth

      The proof is WHERE, John? Timeless? The "word" is hardly 2000 years old. How about the "emptyness" felt by the billions of people who lived before that "word" arrived?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  7. SophieCat

    Oh for God's sake – how can you "protest" a street sign with a word on it?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  8. HeyAtheistsHaven'tYouHeard? TheDebateIsOver

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCXvVcWFrGQ&w=640&h=390]

    July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • ProudAtheist

      So Atheiest don't exists? The bible is a work of fiction that is used to spread fear. The devil was invented because they had to have something to make you fear if you don't believe in Nothing.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  9. Jerrys1953

    Let's see, we have to ban the song from the Green Mile, "heaven, I'm in heaven" and the country song, "Heavens Just a Sin Away", and "Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton, and other classic songs. Funny noone ever wants to ban the use of the word "hell".......if they did I could no longer buy my Helluva Good cheeses. LOL

    July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Michael

      If the Green Mile was produced by the federal government, I would agree with you. Since it was not, your argument was a complete waste of your time.

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

      His argument is in no way a waste of time! What if the memorial sponsored by the City government played anyone of those songs he just mentioned at that memorial? Especially the Eric Clapton song then Atheist could in fact protest the use of that song at a government sponsored event. So quick to go against the grain that you take very little time to think about what you're saying. Rebel without a clue!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  10. TOM

    "Bronstein calls the sign a violation of the separation of church and state, arguing that the word “heaven” is a clear reference to Christianity."

    Regardless of what you believe, this is a violation of the separation of church and state! Not much else to say!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Ryan

      Maybe the Leader of the New York Atheist should be educated on the word Heaven considering the the word isn't a reference to Christianity. Heaven is in multiple religions and the term was also in Greek mythology.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  11. HeyAtheistsHaven'tYouHeard? TheDebateIsOver

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byN38dyZb-k&w=640&h=390]

    July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  12. Gromit801

    I'm an atheist, but won't challenge this one. I mean come on, what next, demand the cities like St. Paul or Sacramento or Los Angeles change their names? If the families of the firefighters are ok with is, then let it go. Use the old street name in your address if you need to.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • ProudAtheist

      Agreed. I don't consider the sign as being something shoved down one's throat as so many christians try to do with their religion. But imagine if it was a muslim slanted sign ... those same christians would be fighting to have it taken down saying it wasn't christian. You know why muslims don't like christians ... because muslims believe in a god, christians 3 (papa, sonny and holy casper)

      July 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      I also agree. Also with the point about an Islam-oriented sign.

      I think it's great that we're flexing our muscles, but we need to focus. Keeping creationism out of classrooms would be a more worthy topic.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  13. Mark

    Response to Wendy..

    Founding fathers didnt create the pledge..Learn your history...
    It was written in 1892.

    Also if you read their papers and writings, they did not want this to be a judao/christian nation at all...we are not ment to be a theocracy. So please get facts straight.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  14. bill

    all atheist suck

    July 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • OU812IC

      Only the gay ones

      July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • ProudAtheist

      and all christians are killers because the god they believe in being perfect and superior has killed millions of people and by its own words promoted incest. Shall I also include what so many priest have been convicted of doing and say all christians are that as well?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Lilly

      No, the gay ones are actually quite good. They are predictable.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • well

      Sorry, proud. Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao blew the Christians into the weeds in the slaughter everyone game. All by themselves, they really carried the flag for you Atheists.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  15. Ryan

    This is why atheists can be annoying. I myself prescribe to no religion and believe that organized religion is actually detrimental to society in that is has cause more deaths and war than anything else. However, I do believe that their is a higher power and people should be able to believe what they want in this country and the world. They are right in that the country is secular. Meaning they are allowed to be atheists, Alex is allowed to be Jewish, Mike is allowed to Christian, and Joe is allowed to be Muslim. This does not however mean that there can't be God anywhere or not God any where. It means that you can believe and worship as you wish without persecution, not try to get rid of other peoples beliefs and religion and disrespect fallen fire fighters. And as a side note: I wouldn't want to be we the group of people who disrespect fallen NYFD members cause it is there friends that will be helping you in a fire.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Athla

      High Five from the Agnostic

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

      And keep it out of the government, please.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Thinker...

      Ryan...after reading..."This is why atheists can be annoying. I myself prescribe to no religion and believe that organized religion is actually detrimental to society in that is has cause more deaths and war than anything else. However, I do believe that their is a higher power and people should be able to believe what they want in this country and the world"....I stopped. You have as much right to call an Atheist, such as myself; 'annoying' as I do for calling you insane for believing that a magical man/woman in the sky actually exists. As an Atheist, I think this issue is drawing negative attention to our views of the world but I certainly don't blame them for bringing up the topic. As a 'believer' you do not see how this supposed 'secular' country is leaning more and more towards an archaic way of thinking. If you want to believe in a magical fairy tale, that is fine but it should stay out of my Government. For all those responding, do not come at me with that stupid line that this country was founded on 'Reglion' or 'Religious Freedom.' This country was more founded on the 'Freedom FROM Religion.' Take a look at our founding fathers and find out how many of them were actually atheists, it might surprise you. Remember, there was a time the church ruled this world and this time period was commonly referred to as 'The Dark Ages.'

      July 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  16. OU812IC

    Separation of Church and State= No such thing
    The only truth to that statement is they both want to Separate us from our money
    One by Taxes, The other by Fear

    July 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • JC

      You are one uneducated idiot. You cannot run a government without taxes.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • OU812IC

      @JC
      And what politician teet are you sucking on right now

      July 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  17. Jay

    It's called separation between state and church... that's an illegal sign. Doesn't matter what religious views you have, it shouldn't be there.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Ryan

      I guess we should rename San Diego then. Grow up and learn to be tolerant.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • JC

      Intolerant ignorant.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  18. Connie

    Wow, I guess we better start renaming the thousands of cities with the word 'saint' in the name.
    So the word heaven means something to some people. Get a life!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jen B

      Let the people in the district put it to a vote whether they want the street that way or not, and then abide by the descision. As someone mentioned before we already have many Christian references, as well as ones from other religions, incorporated into our municiple names. What's next changing the city of Los Angeles' name?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  19. pazke

    Dear New York City Atheists: Please stop dragging the term "atheist" through the mud. It's getting to the point where I'm embarassed to tell people I'm atheist. There is a street a few blocks from me called Valhalla Drive. Are you going to come protest that, too? There are so many more important battles to be fought, like praying in schools and refusing to teach evolution. Let this one go. Really. Let it go.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • BrightSpot

      amen.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • OU812IC

      Valhalla Drive
      Yes been on it. It is the one up in Wine Country

      July 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • tom

      Agree. completely. From one athiest to another.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • some guy

      well said

      July 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Huh?

      Yes, you have much more important battles to fight like HELPING the enemy and making sure kids have no clue who they are, where they come from, or where they're going...great post genius

      July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • the real john

      now you know what it feels like to the believer who gets pummeled every time some freak pastor steals millions or claims the end of the world. not every believer is an idiotic like these so called pastors as im sure not every athiest is on a 'mission' like these guys.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • the real john

      by the way, when i was in public school they taught evolution and never about creation (or alien implantation or any other theory). they taught evolution as fact and that was that.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Matt

      You Norse Paganists, trying to push your religion on everyone! You got us to name the days of our week after your gods! Now you have us naming our streets after your paradise and trying to convince us vikings are cool! Almost the entire fantasy genre plays along to your game! The big summer movie Thor was just a ploy to corrupt our youth! By Odin's eye, we'll bring Ragnorok to you!

      July 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Wesley B

      Amen.

      I'm an agnostic atheist and I'm sick of these jackwads fighting the wrong battles, dragging the word atheism through the mud, and then leaving the rest of us with a worse public image and harder uphill battle to fight when confronting the REAL abuses of government/religious intrusion. I'm sick of the aggressive "You KNOW it's a myth" ads and attacking honorary street signs commemorating people who died nobly during one of our nation's worst ever tragedies. And it all seems to be coming out of New York.

      There ARE real battles to be fought. Stop making it harder for the rest of us to fight them.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  20. inga

    The irony is that if more christians lived their lives as examples of their faith, full of love and grace, we probably get along better with each other regardless of our beliefs. @masshacks, inga is not scandinavian, it stands for "in Georgia", a place where my ancestors, the Cherokee, once lived. Before you get started on your hate spewing intolerance, I believe in God but mine would not have condoned coming to a new land to gain freedom, then go on to take it away from so many others. Maybe atheists look back in our history and see what we are capable of. Try living a life that would make someone want to be like you, not being a bully.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Huh?

      Every thing you just said has absolutely nothing to do with God and why people believe in Him. If you don't like America, that's cool. But rejecting God and selling your soul because you hate politics is just plain foolish.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • george busch

      The thing with christians is they always find a way to justify their actions and beliefs. The bible is so loosely written that they can literally intrepit it any way they want. So you have not just one flavor of christianlty, but thousands. Like being monogomous – there's a belief for that. Like having many women – there's a belief for that. Like being white – there's a belief for that. And then you have the extremeists like Jim Jones, Heavans Gate, Charles Manson, John Hagee and a host of TV gimme-your-money-doms that preach hate and fear to keep you faithful.

      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.