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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. Je$u$ $ave$

    How about "Allah's Grace Blvd." for all the Muslim Americans that lost there lives that day. Oddly enough, the atheists would oppose it on the same grounds... but you'd find a lot of christians who would suddenly agree with the atheists.

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

      Exactly – it's OK if it's their religion – and they are just amazingly incredulous that you can't see their point because Jesus is the right religion in their eyes. Sheesh.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Yeahok643

      I guarantee you not one "real" Christian would have a tantrum! I am a Christian and I really would not care if it said Allah. More power to them. They also blew up the world trade in the name of "Allah", but we will leave that one out... not to offend the muslims... GOD Forbid!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  2. James Kimble

    Isn't it amazing that this is "shoving it down their throats"... ? Really pathetic. Crybabies over every issue they can dream up.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  3. Vic of New York

    First of all, those who choose to believe in "gods", "saviours", heaven, or hell are welcome to. Frankly from my persective, Christianity, Islam, Judaism... it's all the same childish stuff: hoping for some greater power to show us the way. The problem with ALL religions are the nuts who are willing to kill and/or die for their particular hallucination.

    That said, the Atheists seem a bit defensive. After all our currency reads "In God we trust". The founders intended the state to be agnostic, not secular. I would simply rally for a sign that says "Seven in Space Way" or "Seven Recycled Way" – Now that's closer to the truth.

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

      Seven in Heaven sounds a little bit more clever, IMO.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  4. Trey

    Leave it. It's not hurting anyone.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Bemis29

    The argument is not about what the sign says but rather on the location of the sign...being on property paid by tax payers.
    Christians are such a pathetic bunch of hypocrites. If a street sign that praised Allah were to be erected they would be in total outrage.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  6. ed

    What are those stupid videos? There is not and never will be proof of the existence of God because there is none.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • da proof be in da pudding. has you is a eated da pudding? has you? has you eats it? ;)

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

      July 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  7. Je$u$ $ave$

    How about "We Remember Bldg. 7 – 911"

    July 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Ktjsmommy

      Sorry that athiests offend Christians so much. I tell you all of those athiests continuing to come to my door to peddle their religion.....OH! wait those are Christians. The people complaining about athiests are these the same Christians calling for Casey Anthonys life because a jury didn't make a decision they saw fit?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Je$u$ $ave$

      Real "forgive and rejoice" kind of people.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  8. scoobers

    haha I love how atheists always claim theyre so sick of Christians shoving their beliefs down other people's throat yet here they are doing the exact same. There is free exercise OF religion, not free exercise FROM religion. If you all want to preach in the street, fine with me, but stop acting like you're "Holier than thou" when you all are just as big of hypocrites.

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

      Umm Scoobers, you are indeed not getting it. We are not shoving our beliefs down your throat, we are telling you to take your beliefs and keep it to yourself.

      I will put up a sign calling it "Zeus Way" ... what do you think about that?

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

      We are actually holier than thou, because you are stupid, and believe in something without facts and evidence to back it up. You are actually beneath me. Without question.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • scoobers

      Carry – go ahead and put up that sign, it doesn't threaten me at all. Unlike you all, I actually have tolerance. You seem to be very offended at the thought or reference to God, somebody a little threatened when someone questions their oh so precious belief? I personally am not, I actually like watching debates between Christians and atheists.

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

      Not offended at all. It's just an obvious case of keeping whatever mythology you believe in to yourself. Why should it matter to you? If you believe, great! Just don't force it onto other people.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Je$u$ $ave$

      I want "Loki Avenue" in my town.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  9. Wes

    ok... got to comment on this one. Speaking as a Christian who also happens to be a liberal, these Atheists are down right annoying. The only way I would support them on this would be if one of the firefighters was an Atheist or some religion that does not believe in heaven. This sign is to memorialize the firefighters... not to make a statement, religious or otherwise. If these guys have their way we are going to end up just like France... and who wants that?

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

      Dear Wes,
      And if the sign said "Zeus" or "Allah" or "Satan"? This is so obvious I can't believe we're even debating it.
      Keep your religious beliefs to yourself!

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

      Take the word heaven out and there is no problem – these Christians sure are annoying. So you have no problem with having a Beelzebub Ave. sign outside your house because I want to honer a firefighter who was a Devil worshiper?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  10. nwi

    CNN just reports this stuff to work people up, and so athiests can brand christians and christians can brand athiests as shallow and stupid. CNN-I think my neighbor is a jerk, can you make my ire national news?

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

    Atheism: the new way to force your beliefs down someone's throat.

    Unless this person lost a love one on that day, he should sit back, collect his donations, and have a nice tall glass of STFU.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  12. Carrey

    My high IQ turned me into an atheist (I truly believe this):

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=402381

    July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Right

      I think you've mixed up "I.Q." and "ego", my good sir.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • AC

      Have you and your IQ ever considered that atheism is no more than yet another belief system? Reason and Faith don't share any common turf, so it's very difficult to compare them.

      Perhaps your lack of faith is no different than my Deuteranopia–simply a disability. Only difference would be, mine makes me more unique.

      How come we don't hear about groups upset about historical reference to the Apollo program, the Mercury program, the C-130 Hercules, the use of the word "siren?" Those aren't worth getting upset over, but something presumably Christian (by the way, Heaven is not unique to Judeo-Christian religions) has to go?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Carrey

      Umm, I'm a woman, and a Ph.D. physicist, and a professor, not a "sir". I use rational thought as the basis for how I get through the world so I no more believe in god (or give it a second thought, really) than I do Zeus or the Easter bunny (my poor children will figure that one out shortly).

      I don't care what you believe in – just keep it to yourself.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  13. ed

    TAKE IT DOWN – No tax dollars are allowed to go to religion by law, this is a public street. And I don't want to hear Catholics saying it's OK because you would be the first to complain if they wanted a street named Atheist Ave. or praise Allah Blvd.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Hmm

      Heaven is an ambiguous term; Allah and Atheism are not. It could mean many things depending on how one looks at it.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  14. Say ByeBye ToAtheism. It's OFFICIALLY DEAD!

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

    July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  15. Say ByeBye ToAtheism. It's OFFICIALLY DEAD!

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

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

      If atheists can't trust their own minds, what makes you think that believers can trust their own? Then you have to ask yourself whose case, the atheist's or the believer's, relies most upon what is 'felt' and what requires 'faith'? It's precisely because we cannot trust our minds that atheists dismiss claims of communication with God, and descriptions of being in 'His presence'.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  16. Dan

    The atheists are trying to shove atheism down Christians' throat! What will these atheists say to God on Judgement Day? They're forgetting the portion of the wording in the 1st amendment, not to prohibit the free exercise of religion.

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

      likely nothing to be honest... and that is the point. Not sure why they care about a sign... other than to complain about something.

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

      The point they are trying to make is it concentrates on ONE religion. If you are going to do that then you need one for ALL religions. Many religions dont have a "heaven" How about a Reincarnation Ave.?
      Or how about you choose a way to honor them without dealing with religion at all

      July 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Kendra

      People who believe in a god/a religion can't think for themselves and you proved it by asking "what atheists are going to do on judgement day?"...think...come on...you'll get it...if not, please ask some one that can think for themselves to explain what a stupid question it really is...

      July 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Sue

      For all the times that Christians have knocked on doors, evangelized their sick beliefs every which way, or otherwise pushed their offensive bigoted, racist, se-xist religion on the world, maybe we should start pushing back much harder. So Christians, take your ridiculous bible and your stupid old man in the sky stories and shove them sideways up an orifice on the back side of your body. And get your sorry backside off my doorstep. Never come back.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  17. Joe Vigliano

    “We’ll die for the right to believe,” he continued.

    Then what?

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

      Then keep it to yourself. Difficult concept, I know.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  18. Yeahok643

    How is a street sign with the word "heaven" shoving anything down anyone's throat? The Atheists, religious bigots and GLBT should all unite and form an even better group. IWLTCAFE. Idiots who love to complain about f***ing everything!

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

      Heaven is a christian thing. Jannah is Muslim (I may have spelled that wrong). Christians just don't understand that they should keep their religion to themselves. Atheists don't demand that Christians stop believing, but Christians believe everyone should believe THEIR way. They are the real bigots.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Yeahok643

      I am a Christian... and I don't give two craps about what you or anyone else believes... that is not my problem... and your comment doesnt even respond to mine.. so thanks for your thoughts.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  19. Umberto G.

    My biggest concern is that all these groups fight for something they believe in (and I accept that) but their efforts are directed at making this an aseptic society, where nothing has color, form, weight or event depth. Our society is full of contradictions, compromises, nonsense, but – and stay with me for a second – this is what makes us what we are, this is what gives it the flavor, the sound and the color of who we are. On any average day you will upset someone, one way or another (at least someone tinks so) but we can not live with that fear, the fear of expressing ourselves, of being who we are. During the Cold War New Yorkers dedicated the corner of 67th and 3rd in Manhattan to Sacharov/Bonner, two of the most famous dissidents in Soviet times. Funny, when you think that the Soviet Consulate was on that street. So what, for crying out loud. Someone put up a street sign that meant something to someone. At my Church years ago they wanted to change the words on the restroom doors and use non-gender wording. C'mon...really? We have to worry about what we write on the toilet doors? Are we all so insecure that feel the need to adapt realty surroinding us to make us feel more comfortable, more welcome????? This is going nowhere but drive us INSANE!!! Security comes from within, not without.

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

      Thanks for putting that into words... I agree 🙂

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • TheNumber

      I agree with you, Umberto. I am fortunate enough to live in a place where there is a very diverse population. I love it. I am an Atheist and I am also a Republican (seems like we have to qualify everything these days or be labeled a liberal.)

      I personally don't need to attack someone of faith – I am very secure in my own beliefs. Those Atheists who feel the need to lash out and attack Christians should take a look at their own insecurities.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  20. Corvus1

    This isn't a church/state separation issue. This is a "get the he ll over yourselves" issue.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:17 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.