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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. speedro

    I detest religion but I gotta say this is a little over the top. Take a chill pill, as it were.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Prettygreenbird

      Agreed!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  2. Serena

    Only Christians don't believe in heaven. This Bronstein guy is an idiot. Muslms, Jews also believe in Heaven and together they make up half the worlds population. I wonder who is financing him, lawsuits cost money.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Nadine

      True, but atheists don't believe in heaven.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  3. Cathoryn

    It's the Origin, Stupid.
    1. Christians think God is the Creator, (therefore don't need to look for the origin.)
    2. Atheists don't believe there is a God & might not care about our origin.
    3. Physicists search for the origin.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  4. Kooswah

    The reply to the aetheist community should be...if you don't like the name of the sign, don't look at it. Why should a vast minority determine what a vast majority wants?

    July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Josh

      Because the majority are worshiping fairy tales.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  5. John

    “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.”

    If that's the case then Kenneth can hand over all his paper money to me, for "In God We Trust" in on it. 😉 I would be more than happy to relieve him of that burden...LOL

    July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Josh

      "In God we trust" was added during the cold war, as was adding god into the pledge, in order to try t make the US seem morally superior to the "godless" Soviet Union.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • RG

      We are NOT a secular nation. We are a nation founded with religious FREEDOM! That means, even Christians are free to express their religion. If you don't like it....DON"T LOOK!!!! This is just ridiculous.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Francis Bellamy

      As a proud socialist, I wrote the pledge without any reference to make believe characters. Take the time to check out my salute that went along with the pledge.....

      July 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Nadine

      RG: who told you we were not a secular nation? We certainly are!!!! That's why marriages are civil unions when conducted in City Hall and people aren't "baptized" in the Mayor's office. In the past, most nations did NOT make these distinctions. It would be a puny "freedom" indeed if people don't have the freedom to thumb their nose at the notion of a supreme being. I think you are attempting to rewrite history to suit your ideology - but the courts won't support you.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  6. Nadine

    I'm all in favor of doing away with Christian symbolism in our civic locations, but honestly, this seems not only trivial but potentially very offensive to people - like those cuckoo Christians who demonstrate at the burials of soldiers killed in action. Some people just feel the need to stir it up, get attention, troll, nomatter what the consequences. And the consequence of this are to make people think those so-called "atheists" are nothing more than publicity hounds and not sincere principled people.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  7. Alan

    What else would you expect from an Atheists. God still loves Ken so much that his son died for him.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Periyar

    All $$ bills have the verbiage "In god we trust" Why don't Atheists oppose that ?

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

      We do.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Steve*

      They do, and rightfully so.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Nadine

      I think principled atheists probably DO oppose it. But that would be a much better campaign to undertake, rather than this silly and trivial one.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Periyar

      stop using the $$ bills

      July 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Say what?

    "I don't want my tax dollars funding religion!" Is quite a hilarious argument. The average street sign costs about $50. The road will still be publicly funded, regardless of what its name is, making this a moot point. So if there are millions of tax payers in NYC and the sign costs $50, your "tax dollars" are actually "tax penny fractions." Ouch, I hope your wallet can handle that.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  10. Alan

    What else would you expect from an Atheists. God still loves Ken.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  11. IronMaiden

    Got a problem with that sign? Don't look up. Simple as that.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Cowboy

      Couldn't agree more.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Nadine

      No logic in that. Got a problem with atheists taking down the sign? Don't read about it.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  12. Ken

    I suppose their next logical step will be to demand that the Apollo Theater in New York be re-named, since Apollo was the Greek god of light...

    July 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Michael

      The government does not own the Apollo Theater. Please try to stay on topic.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Ken

      Hi Michael! In case you are unaware, the Apollo Theater is officially recognized and protected by the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It must really stick in your craw that the US government officially recognizes places named after Greek gods without first demanding the name be changed to something secular...

      July 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • the real john

      oops. ken busted you

      July 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • KBinMN

      the real john – Not only is he busted on that and the planets but who do you think he himeself is named after. LOL

      July 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  13. Cowboy

    Seems like we lose a little more freedom everyday. Frankly I find athiests and their whining more offensive than a sign with the word Heaven on it, and besides isn't Heaven a fictional place to them anyway?

    July 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • pazke

      I find it offensive that all atheists get lumped into the same category as these yahoos in New York. I couldn't care less what they name the street. Just as long as no one forces my children to pray in school, I'm good.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Nadine

      "Amen" to that Pazk!! When important issues such as forced school prayer plague our country, why do atheists waste their time on this nonsense?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  14. BrewtownPsych

    don't spend my money on religious messages. really basic actually. i know your response is to call names like "they are being whiners" etc. (like the way a 5 year old reasons, literally) but it's just a simple fact. If you can argue with something by just calling somebody a whiner then you really just prove you have nothing to say on the matter and should keep things to yourself.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • abq_tim

      Here you go...

      If the 7 dead believed in heaven then it is perfectly fine because that is part of their soul. The sign is about honoring the 7 dead. I hate how these $#(ts dishonor their memory by using that memory as soapbox to push their own agenda...just disgusting.

      Enough said...you whiner

      July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • scoobers

      So you'd rather waste more taxpayer money by taking it down? Ya that makes sense.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Kooswah

      If you are an aetheist, then why does the word "Heaven" have any religious meaning to you...it's just another word that has religious meaning to people who believe in Heaven. Get a life

      July 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • wesang

      would you rather it be called 'depths of hell' lane- to honor your supreme ruler? that's a sign i'm sure you'd want to look at daily- just ignore the damn sign. Go out there and actually work to change things that are important just "in case" your theory of heaven being a fantasy is wrong and you need some extra points in order to get in 😉

      July 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  15. abq_tim

    If the 7 dead believed in heaven then it is perfectly fine because that is part of their soul. The sign is about honoring the 7 dead. I hate how these $#(ts dishonor their memory by using that memory as soapbox to push their own agenda...just disgusting.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  16. KBinMN

    Shhhh – don't tell anyone but all the planets are named after GODS.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Michael

      And the US Government named them too, right?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • KBinMN

      No but they get printed in public school textbooks, talked about in class, etc. You do see the conspiracy.

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

      We also talk about holy wars and countries that do have governments based on religion in school. Teaching and preaching are two different things.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • KBinMN

      A street sign is not preaching.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  17. Matthew

    A street sign is "shoving beliefs down your throat"? That's funny!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • KBinMN

      Sure. One look and people start speaking in tongues, donating to charity and doing all sorts of other weird stuff.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • zubeda

      you are right. we need to educate them that religion is not based on any evidence.Religion is stupid.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  18. mike2

    Sounds like these Athiests really need to find a hobby.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • george busch

      We got one, harrassing christians who like to harrass athiests.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  19. Dave Davis

    Ladies and gents: People of past generations who lived good lives, achieved great feats, and have been buried with a heroes honor, these are the people who, by and large, built this country. Their beliefs and values are now being reviled by big media, academia, and to some degree, even by our own government. Christians and people of Christian values are the ones who really built this country. And the good old USA has lasted for over 225 years. Good foundation, huh? Well, you liberals take this countryaway from us and go on and build your secular glory-land and we'll see if it lasts 225 years. Go ahead and try it without God.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • scoobers

      It's already happening and isn't it a coincidence that our nation has been deteriorating? Me thinks not.....God bless!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Meg

      America is supposed to be a secular glory-land.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • J-Pap

      And you learned that at sunday school? Christians built the U.S.?? I suppose you believe there's a paradise in the clouds where you live forever...(this just in...) You do!!

      Case closed.

      Don't spend taxes on any religion. Keep church and state separate and you won't offend anyone.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • jesuswillbrb

      "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."

      Letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Deckard

      Not sure how to break this to you, but this nation was founded as a "secular glory-land" to escape state-sponsored religion. In fact, I would argue that's one reason why it has lasted so long, not because of the personal religious choices of its citizens. Perhaps the atheist group is focusing too much energy on this minor infraction, but their point is on the mark.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  20. kyrunner

    ever notice its the atheists who are the biggest to whine cry and belly ache when comes to anything Religious yet its been atheists who caused all the wars such as hitler, stalin, castro,, mao... and have to include the Godless who ushered in the crusades being they didnt believe in God either, they just used God as opportunity to bankroll off the war treasure chest which history shows. Therefore, atheism is evil LOL

    July 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Michael

      The Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades each were far bloodier than any of those dictators combined.

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

      logically unsound at the extreme. hitler and stalin had moustaches - therefore moustaches must be evil! they didn't do what they did in the name of atheism. sheesh, pretty basic. hitler was a roman catholic by the way. not that it matters to your point, but look it up.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • ReviseMuch

      Your a clueless in life, Hitler was a Catholic Mao was a Buddahist and so on. The Crusades. . . Yep you are an uneducated idiot.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • WordsAreTricky

      I bet you haven't read any of Hitler's writings. Her was not an atheist and German Christians also supported him.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:55 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.