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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. Choconet

    ATHIEST Your views are dismal and finite and they just don't hold up. I really don't know what bible you've been reading that insights fear in its readers, but its not the bible. In fact, the bible states hundreds of time to "fear not" because God is in control. Sure we are to have a reverential (respectful) fear of God just as you should have a respectful fear of your own earthly father. Oh but that’s right you and people like you respect nothing and think you should not “fear” anyone, but you yourselves are full of fear of everything (the unknown). The bible and every other religious book guarantees us that the life we live here on earth is just a journey, but we go on to live for an eternity with our creator. Its full of good news and not wracked full of fear. What does your book say? “Enjoy this life while you can because this is your only shot and after this it’s DONE!” Too dismal and void of hope, nothing but darkness and that's nothing to look forward to.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • IamGOD

      blah blah blah... another dummy who doesn't even have a decent understanding of his bible...

      July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  2. J. Mike

    Two excellent quotes:

    It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something which he does not at all believe exists. –Mohandas Gandhi

    If there were no God, there would be no atheists. –G.K. Chesterton

    July 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Michael

      The funny thing is you can prove Atheists exist, but you can't prove the magic invisible wizard...... How convenient it is to hide behind something that doesn't need evidence, magic and invisibility are the only things that you can use to cast 'possibility'....pathetic.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • IamGOD

      ohhh dummy.. so according to your logic...If there were no fairies, there would be no afairists ? since there are afairists then there must be fairies!! HURRRRAY!!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """If there were no God, there would be no atheists. –G.K. Chesterton"""

      "If there were no Easter Bunny, there would be no Cadbury chocolate eggs." – J D WIlliams

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • J. Mike

      @ Michael – Have you ever seen wind? No you haven't because it is composed of invisible gases. Yet you know wind exists because you see it's effects. You see the trees sway and the leafs blow. You can feel the wind on your face. You can't see it, but you know it is there. By your logic, the wind doesn't exist, after all it is invisible.

      @IamGod – Your fail to grasp the sarcasm in the quotes. Because there are Athiests, then God must exist. After all why would you waste so much time fighting against something that can't exist. So I will leave you with this: You think you are too intelligent to believe in God. I am not like you. –Napoleon Bonaparte

      July 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • J. Mike

      @ Jeff – Excellent Sir!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  3. Aaron

    Isn't he trying to "shove" his secular beliefs down our throat? He's the one that said "anyone can believe whatever they want to believe."

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

    Mr Bronstein, "heaven" is NOT a reference to Christianity, it is also a reference to Judaism, Islam....etc etc.
    Another retard looking for attention.

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

    RIP to the 7 but I agree...

    Religion should not be forced on the Nation. Period.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  6. Joe S.

    Has anyone else noticed the irony?
    the terrorists were promised 7 virgins when they went to heaven, and they are trying to name this street "7 in heaven"???

    religious statements are easily interpreted to fit the beliefs of the individual. keep religion off of signs. as stated below, 7 heros way is a fine tribute.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  7. boom

    I hate this country, I wish I could move.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Then hit the track, Jack.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  8. Hey remember the movie Porkys? that was so funny huh

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsyhpZxKa3I&w=640&h=390]

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • IamGOD

      RATINGS DISABLED.. haha !!! we all know why... dummy...

      July 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  9. IamGOD

    Sorry everyone! But there is no heaven...

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • evensteven

      Sure there is! But it's in the mind . . .

      July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  10. kimbereliz

    Alright now I am seriously SMH at this whole situation. Why must other atheists be so spiteful? I understand Christianity has quite a grip on this nation, and it is a somewhat unfair society for anyone who isn't Christian (not just us atheists), but seriously? Let's learn to pick our battles a little more wisely next time. There are bigger fish to fry. Leave these seven families (and other supporters) alone. sheesh

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Timothy C

      I am an atheist but I disagree with this. If the firefighters were Christians themselves, and died doing their jobs, then I don't see anything wrong with the name of the street. Same would be true if seven Muslim firefighters died in the line of duty and they wanted to name the street "7 with Allah Way". Atheism does not mean that one should disrespect those who choose to believe in god(s).

      July 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • DJ

      I consider myself an athiest and I totally agree with kimbereliz. This would be a ridiculous lawsuit. It is always the extremists in any group that seem to cause the trouble. Athiesm is based on common sense, unfortunately the folks considering this lawsuit and not exhibiting much of it.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • becky

      I am happy to see these watchdogs stand up for what they believe. Christians would have a steeple on every house if someone didn't tell them NO.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  11. Theyre ShallowMinded

    How shallow-minded these atheists are. They are wanting to fight to take down a sign that includes the word *Heaven* because they feel it is one-sided and makes reference to Christianity. Yet, the other side to that coin is that they feel it's actually right to win by not having any reference to Christianity therefore, to win a war called We vs.Them on the very same principle (they want it up, we want it down)! No judge should allow these heathens to destroy the foundation of those who believe in religious rights. If atheists don't want to see that they can simply look the other way and not see it. After all, no one is forcing them to see it. They literally go out of their way to see things and then make the excuse that they are offended by it. That's how they operate. Well, we simply can't have that in this country. Leave the sign up and erect MANY MORE! For parity, they can place their own signs honoring people without reference to religious bearings and that way everyone would be served. But to want something torn down like this when so many believe in it, is unthinkable and very wrong. What's next? They sue to take down churches, synagogues, seminaries, and similar religious structures just because they are offended by them? When will this madness of theirs stop! They need to be taught a lesson - Keep the Heaven Sign Up and Rule Against Their Shallow Way of Thinking Once and For All!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Dondie

      Heathens? Is that like infidels? My oh my – the true Christians are out in force. What if these atheists live on this street? They would then have every reason to fight this new name.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Eddie

      I like the idea of suing churches. Preachers could be put in jail for hate speech against our minority gay population for a start.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • John

      The atheists aren't fighting to have their own version of a sign promoting a specific religion or agenda – they're trying to prevent that entirely. In other words, regardless of the religion, they would be opposing it. There is nothing for Christians to be personally offended about. Christians just need to understand the concept of separation of Church and State. The road and sign belong to the state. Thus, you can't have anything on the sign about religion that was printed by the state. It's a pretty simple concept, really.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  12. Suze

    This is just over the top... It's a street sign. Get the hell over it. Even I, who am not part of any one religion or belief, think this is just nuts. It's not like it's hurting them. It's not like it's a giant sign saying "BE CHRISTIAN OR THE VICTIMS OF 9-11 WILL SUFFER MORE!" It's a small sign on the corner of a street remembering the firefighters who died in 9-11. If the firefighters believed in Heaven, or the people who decided upon the street name believed in Heaven, so what? Shouldn't they (the Atheist group) be more concerned about the people who passed away being disrespected (if they did not believe in Heaven) than their own petty arguments? I don't find it disrespectful, so I don't have a problem with it. Actually, I find it a sweet thing to do, and consoling to the families who lost loved ones on that day! Doesn't it just basically say "We will not forget you or your sacrifice"? Really? Throwing a hissy fit about something like a street sign?

    July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • jonathan

      Hope you don't live on that street. If you need to call 911, they might be confused about where to go. It wouldn't matter if all 7 were atheists, because the Christians spend every waking moment wondering how they are going to get there nose in another tent. The Asians is downtown Houston were successful in getting all of the streets in the Houston version of Chinatown named twice. Once with the historical name and again with their Asian name. Every street has two names. The Asians seemingly could not assimilate or accept the American version if they were going to be living and working there, so they added new names with the blessing of the City Council. It is overkill and the new signs are different in color from the old signs. Now the Mexicans are wanting to rename signs in their parts of the city. The problem is that they control large swaths of this city. The gays put up flags in the gay area of town on the day of their yearly parade and the nasty letters hit the local newspaper every year. Its just for one day, but you would think that they decorated the local churches with pride flags the way people react. So this works both ways. Someone will always complain.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • jheron

      Its not about feelings, it about keeping separation of church and state...even with an insignificant thing such as this.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  13. Hawkeye1012

    Little known fact from the picture: "Richards St" was formerly called "Dick Ave".

    July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  14. HS

    Not to mention how inappropriate it is for the city to have determined that the 7 are in heaven. That's for God to know, not some politicians who know nothing about the individuals personal and spiritual history.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Jack

      Did no one tell you? Conservative politicians are all-knowing?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  15. jessie

    Heaven is for real! ( this is no reference to Burpo's claim of visiting) How many aetheists on their death bed will pray? Most, I believe.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Kyle

      How do you know heaven is real?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • IamGOD

      sorry to brake it to you everyone, but there is no heaven...

      July 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Jarod47

      Hey, can't you faithheads spell ? Aetheists ... Athiests ...
      OK then, there is no godd and there is no heven.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Moder8

      People who say that there is definitely a heaven and people who say there definitely is no heaven are equally stupid. Neither of them knows for sure. It is one thing to have faith in something either existing or not existing but to say that you definitely know and the other side is definitely wrong makes you definitely an idiot!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  16. WestboroBaptistChurch

    Ha! look how stupid this guy makes athiests look. At least no Christians groups do stupid stuff like this.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  17. Moder8

    Amen!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Susan Wilson

    I would like to correct the Athiests. We are not a secular nation, we never have been and we never will be. Their complaint is invalid. If they don't like it, I'm sure there's a secular nation that would welcome them.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Kyle

      Actually is you read any of the personal writings of some of our founding fathers, ythey had quite the distain for christianity. The idea that America was founded a Christian nation is only as valid as the observation that most Americans at the time were Christians. The idea was that we would eventually grow out of this and live in the real world, its taking longer than expected.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Nancy

      The founding fathers disagree with you: Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of...." –John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli – 11/4/1796

      July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Moder8

      Susan, the separation of church and state is a very important element to our country. We are the only country to have this. Can you see that if you were not in the majority and another religion passed Christianity that you would see the importance of this. Just because you are in the majority does not mean that your religious views should be pushed on others. With that being said, atheists need to shut up about a stupid sign in Brooklyn. They take it too far and they lose all the reasonable people. The Muslim countries, even the new democracies all have the Muslim religion in their government because that is their majority. This country is better than that and that is why we Christians need to make sure that Christianity is never our official religion. All religions need to be separate and equal. This is one of the big reasons why America is unique and so very special.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  19. Bemis29

    Test

    July 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  20. Anothermuse

    I'm a big fan of seperation of church and state, but also a big fan of common sense. A single street sign isn't "shoving" anything down anyone's throat. Atheists are getting even more annoying than religious zealots.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Michael

      Soooo if it read "7 with A1lah" that wouldn't be shoving anything down people's throats? I am just wondering where you draw the line? At stuff that isn't Christian? since Christianity is widely accepted ?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Moder8

      Amen brotha!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • SusieQ

      I agree. I am an atheist myself and this just goes against common sense. This is not the same thing as having christianity shoved down my throat. No one should be offended by the word "heaven" just because you don't believe in it.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
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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.