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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. oneone

    How does anyone know they went to heaven? According to the bible, Jesus sends most people to hell.

    2 Thessalonians, 8-9:In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • bill

      we should name it after the unknown atheist "Burt"

      July 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  2. Burt

    Maybe we should name it JESUS STREET and the NYCA would all have heart attacks. Problem solved.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Michael

      Actually I'd think it was named after Jesus Alou who played for the Mets for a season in the 70s. But then I'd wonder why him and not Nolan Ryan, who played for a world champion team.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Burt

      Okay.... JESUS CHRIST STREET. That's what we'll name it. Then when all the NYCA's have heart attacks we'll change it back to Seven In Heaven. Problem solved.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Skeeve

      Now, this is just WAY to stupid... "there really should not be any religious symbolism or signage in public places", well then I suggest we start by renaming all Marys, then rename "Our lady of Grace baseball filed" (it in the lower Manhattan), and Jerome avenue (same area), and without thinking too much rename Church avenue ( that's on the west side) and immediately proceed renaming St.John Pl and St Mark Avenue (both are in Brooklyn near Prospect park). Since NO religious signage is allowed City of Valhalla (in Westchester county) will be gone, promptly followed by Los Angeles and SAn Diego.... Come on. You could be secular however much you want pretending that culture in general isn't full of religious references is just way to idiotic. Heaven is clear reference to Christianity? Hmm, how about Light, or Earth, I seem to remember that both words are used right at the beginning of the Genesis....

      Yes, amazingly enough, another atheist

      July 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  3. KEB

    Dear atheists, This is a pointless, stupid fight. Pick your battles, or no one will ever take you seriously. It's a freaking street sign. Really not that big of a deal.

    Signed, an atheist-leaning agnostic who is laughing at you.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Ryan

      How about "Dear NYCA,"...I don't have anything to do with this and these kinds of things are remarkably rare for Atheists.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • c-span

      Agree with KEB. This is really kind of a dumb argument to have. If the street sign read "Apollo drive" or "Anubis crt" you'd probably discard it and go about your day. If it really bothered you so much, there's ten million street signs in this country you can get to work on....
      -fellow atheist

      July 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  4. Billy

    These jerks give atheists a bad name.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  5. Reemo

    Atheists have gotten awfully nit-picky these days. What's next, no more saying "Bless you" after someone sneezes?

    July 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  6. bill

    these atheists are becoming real tight a**es. Thy should understand that it is enough already. They keep it up and you'll find otherwise non-reloigious believes closing ranks with the various religions.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Ryan

      No you won't. But as an Atheist I do find things like this obnoxious.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  7. Jimmyjam048

    @wgage. I clearly defined Atheist not Atheism. However, they both have the same root (and the same definition in Latin and Greek). They both mean "with out God" .So after 30- 40 centuries you want to change the definition to make yourself look good on the Internet? The word "magic" was never mentioned in the definition of Atheist or Atheism. Nice try but an epic fail Regardless. Want to try again?

    July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Jeff

    I'm an atheist and I don't care about the sign. This group is a fringe group that makes the rest of us look bad.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  9. DanK

    What if the street name was "Hog Heaven" would you be offended by that too? I propose they change the name of the street where the WTC mosque is being built to "Hog Heaven". Then the M's & the A's wold be mad. Maybe PETA too, who knows. Jack pot!

    July 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  10. Christ Follower

    100% agree with Dave Davis' comment above. You remove GOD and America looses it's greatness!!! We're currently witnessing the repercussions of the atheists agenda! Our Country is falling apart and our children are being born into a generation of hopelessness. FYI – We are NOT a secular Country. The USA was founded on Christianity! The AWESOME Revelation ~ CHRIST prevails... and NO agenda can stop Him!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Golyadkin

      You don't actually know anything about our founding, do you? None of the Founding Fathers were Christians. Thomas Jefferson was the one that invented the phrase "separation of church and state." Look at some of the laws passed back then, such as the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and you'll see we are very much NOT a Christian nation. We are a secular nation. You are free to believe what you like, but the government is not. The government must remain non religious. Read the 1st Amendment.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Michael

      Life must be pretty interesting when you ignore facts and history. That's the only reasonable explanation I can think of when I read your rant.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Paco the Avenger

      You can say the US was founded as a christian nation all you want, but it won't make it true. If you want to be precise, we're in the mess we are in BECAUSE of religious people. Or at least people who claim to be followers of Christ. If the world was atheist, the chances of 9/11 happening would've been close to 0.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      They're coming to take me away, ha ha! They're coming to take me away, ho ho! Hee hee! Haw haw!

      July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Next Generation

      i just wishing that this godless generation that currently runs America can hurry up and become old and useless so that we the youth of america can finally get to running this country like our grandfathers and their fathers did, all that this generation has done for this country is go to a senseless war, raise up our national debt substantially, and take us to the near brink of economic collapse.. its such a shame

      July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Non Sequitur

      Most of the Founding Fathers were NOT Christians, they were Deists who did not believe in the least that the bible was true. They were Freethinkers who relied on their reason, not their faith. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment was their guiding compass, not the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Jim

      I can remember when it use to be the Jewish agenda foiling Christian America. Gotta have some outside enemy to explain your own failures, I suppose.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Free

      Next Generation
      "all that this generation has done for this country is go to a senseless war, raise up our national debt substantially, and take us to the near brink of economic collapse.. its such a shame"

      You realize, of course, that you are tarring the Bush Jr. administrations with that brush as well, right?

      July 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      Idiot

      July 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  11. Sir Craig

    As an atheist, I find "battles" like this one an embarrassment. It ranks up there with the "under God" and the "In God We Trust" nonsense. These sayings have essentially lost any impact they may once have had and are useless in any kind of conversion away from secular thought. So the sign says "Seven in Heaven"—big whoop. I ignore it like I ignore all the other ones, and if someone wants to have an actual rational discussion about secular versus religious, let me know.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Ryan

      I agree, they don't offend me at all. Atheism IS growing, but it's growing organically, we don't need nonsense like this shoved down people's throats.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  12. Burt

    Wow. Those NYCA are really a bunch of creepy people. I'm glad they enjoy hanging out together because no one else wants to be around them. Freaking jerks.

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

    Heaven.......why are they afraid of it? it's not hurting anybody....or is it? When the shoe is on the other foot........

    July 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  14. Larry

    Ok. First, I am an atheist, not a satanist. But c'mon. I have absolutely no problem with the street sign. Let them honor the firefighters however they want. Some things are way more important than my personal beliefs. Unfortunately, the fanatics make everyone, believers and non-believers alike, look stupid.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Ryan

      I'm an Atheist too and couldn't care less if a street sign has "heaven" in it. You can remove all religious stuff from every public place and you will still have people like "Christ Follower".

      July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  15. Bill

    I am not religious but I do believe in heaven. I have no choice because some people are turning this earth into hell. Maybe they should change the sign with one that says, Circle Jerky Road. Christian want mind and the none believers can now start attacking crosses on churches or the one that hangs around my neck.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  16. Biggfootyowie

    Why are atheists such cry babies?

    July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  17. JeramieH

    As an atheist, let me say... Guys, we're turning into _them_

    July 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Kyle

      I am a staunch atheist, but whoever filed this lawsuit is ridiculous. Comparing them to a normal atheist is like comparing the Westboro Baptist church to your standard Christian.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Jeff S

      I'm with both of you on this. Why are we bickering over personal beliefs. I could care less if the street name contains Heaven. It has no baring on my personal beliefs. I wish people no matter what their religious beliefs or lack of them would not worry about things like this. The sign doesn't push someone else's beliefs on another person in the way passing laws to make everyone conform to one personals moral standards does.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Ryan

      I don't bicker about it, these people are almost as bad as the religious weirdos. I'm an Atheist and actually own and read the Qur'an, King James Bible and Jewish and Hindu texts (as literature). I don't have a problem with anybody as long as they leave me alone.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  18. Andy

    What if they were atheists, would the sign say 'This is proof there is no god'? Of course not. How many atheists are memorialized publicly in a way that promotes their religious beliefs? None. How many atheists see a tragedy as a wonderful opportunity to force their religion on others?

    July 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Free

      Had some of them been atheists, how many would argue that their deeds have earned them a place in Heaven? People are just assuming that these guys have made it in, but a honest believer who accepts that justification comes from faith alone cannot know for certain where these guy's souls supposedly went, right? All they are doing is erecting a testament to hypocrisy.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  19. Michael

    Correct me if I am wrong but I don't think Christianity has a copyright on the word Heaven. I'm pretty sure other religions use that word and although it references a place connected to a religion I don't see why atheists have a problem with it. Its okay not to believe in something if they wish but they shouldn't infringe other's right to do so. If they get that sign taken down it is just mean spirited.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Matt

      Exactly,

      heaven is an idea used by many peoples and religions. These kinds of Atheists are waging a war against "religion", but really against Christianity. Whenever I hear them talking about religion, it's just Christianity. They cover up their veil of hate with "good intentions" and "political correctness" but they're really starting a movement against God and his followers. It was predicted long ago but people these days are just to ignorant and blind to see it happening. Maybe if they actually knew Jesus and his teachings they wouldn't be so against something so amazing.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Whizerd

      Ok, I'll correct you., since you are wrong. Heaven, is a word for a place of bliss and such, derived from the religion of Christianity. If there wasnt Christianity, there would be no 'Heaven". So yes, they have a copyright on Heaven. They also have a copyright on Satanism.
      All I can say is, anyone that thinks there is a monotheistic god for everything, needs severe therapy. Dont give me that "it says so in the Bible" BS! If there wasnt a Bible, where would your so-called God be then?
      Brainwashing...nothing more, nothing less.
      As for this sign? Leave it be. Atheists should just let Christians live in their own misery. This sign is hurting noone, although I have to agree that if anyone is forcing a religion down someone's throat, Its Christians, for sure. When all Christianity is, is a really good joke that has a 2000 year punchline, severely affecting good people's brains, with foolishness. Thats all it is. Something for the weak to cling to, instead of looking inside themselves and seeing the truth.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Whizerd

      And Christianity would never exist, without Paganism as a base. Christians stole almost everything, worded it different, and took it as their own. Period.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  20. Edd

    How does this group feel about all the churches that are currently in place?

    July 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      The churches are located on private property—big difference. Street signs are public property, maintained by city offices and paid for with taxes.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Ryan

      Still, it's obnoxious; it's just a stupid sign.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      Correct Sir Craig. But the religousists will never see that, brother. Its a one way street to them. The funny thing is, many of those who defend this wasting of our tax dollars for religious propaganda are the same right-wingers who complain about government spending.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Whizerd

      Brainwash stations...
      If there was one god, everyone would believe in the same way..always. Since he is supposed to be that powerful. PFFT!

      July 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
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