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. Muneef

    Quran verses;

    The Big Bang Theory Confirmed*
    [21:30] Do the unbelievers not realize that the heaven and the earth used to be one solid mass that we exploded into existence? And from water we made all living things. Would they believe?

    [21:31] And we placed on earth stabilizers, lest it tumbles with them, and we placed straight roads therein, that they may be guided.

    [21:32] And we rendered the sky a guarded ceiling. Yet, they are totally oblivious to all the portents therein.

    [21:33] And He is the One who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon; each floating in its own orbit.

    [21:34] We never decreed immortality for anyone before you; should you die, are they immortal?

    [21:35] Every soul will taste death, after we put you to the test through adversity and prosperity, then to us you ultimately return. 

    All Messengers Ridiculed

    [21:36] When those who disbelieve see you, they ridicule you: "Is this the one who challenges your gods?" Meanwhile, they remain totally heedless of the message from the Most Gracious.

    [21:37] The human being is impatient by nature. I will inevitably show you My signs; do not be in such a hurry.

    [21:38] They challenge: "Where is that (retribution), if you are truthful?"

    [21:39] If only those who disbelieve could envision themselves when they try to ward off the fire – off their faces and their backs! No one will help them then.

    [21:40] Indeed, it will come to them suddenly, and they will be utterly stunned. They can neither avoid it, nor can they receive any respite.

    [21:41] Messengers before you have been ridiculed, and, consequently, those who ridiculed them incurred the retribution for their ridiculing.

    Priorities Confused
    [21:42] Say, "Who can protect you from the Most Gracious during the night or during the day?" Indeed, they are totally oblivious to the message of their Lord.

    [21:43] Do they have gods who can protect them from us? They cannot even help themselves. Nor can they accompany one another when they are summoned to face us.

    [21:44] We have provided for these people and their ancestors, up until an old age. Do they not see that every day on earth brings them closer to the end? Can they reverse this process?

    [21:45] Say, "I am warning you in accordance with divine inspiration." However, the deaf cannot hear the call, when they are warned.

    [21:46] When a sample of your Lord's retribution afflicts them, they readily say, "We were indeed wicked."

    [21:47] We will establish the scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection. No soul will suffer the least injustice. Even the equivalent of a mustard seed will be accounted for. We are the most efficient reckoners.
    Verse 21:30 translation of the Arabic word for the big bang as per Arabic-English Dictionary is; (to unsew,un-st-itch,rip open,tear,rend,slit open). 

    -Another translation of verse 21:30
    Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? (30)

    -Another translation of verse 21:44
    Nay, but We gave these and their fathers ease until life grew long for them. See they not how we visit the land, reducing it of its outlying parts? Can they then be the victors? (44).


    July 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Marduk


      All theist's are mistaken because they do not know what else to lean on. Be a Man of the Universe.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Muneef

      You said; All theist's are mistaken because they do not know what else to lean on. Be a Man of the Universe.

      My say; Am a Man of the Universe in belief of God and not in disbelief...Atheists are not being mistaken,they rather attack believers on belief blogs with nothing to lean on...

      Feel that I wish I can help them to realize the truth but seem they want to attack rejecting any mention of the Holy Book asking for a proof...!? What other proof there would be if not the Holy Books...!!

      I wish they are believers but pretend being Atheist for some balancing reasons then that is fine and may we support but to do that because they believe so, well then that means for their own favor a Rod might be good for them that they might be saved...

      The difference here that we believers are trying to lead them to the straight Righteous path while they are trying to mislead us from it...

      July 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • joshua

      @muneef, so you call your self a God. If that was the case wouldn't we all be rasing our selfs from the dead. I belive Christianity is the only way to heaven the Bible says that when Jesus says he is the truth, the way and the life no man come unto the Father except thru me. If big bang happened where did this matter comes from, only God can create matter.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • frank

      "a Rod might be good for them that they might be saved..."

      July 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Muneef


      Where on earth I said I was God nut head? Besides I know that God has created all including the Big Bang,it is him who gives the order for things to be and become....

      July 8, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Muneef


      Think the Bible said some thing like that about sparing the rod and not spoiling the child.

      July 8, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  2. This is why the US is broke and wh you should invest in Pfizer


    July 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  3. Patrish

    As a borderline atheist, I'm indifferent to the sign. There is an old saying... pick your battle, and this is a poor battle to pick. Of course I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I won't get excited over a sign that said This way to Hell Avenue...

    July 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Ground Keeper

      (throws "half" of his poop at Patrish)

      July 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  4. Joe Blow

    Such hateful little Christians you are.

    All for changing the sign, and as for the "Land of the Free" crap, take a long hard look at your "free" country.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  5. Alan

    This is what I call Atheist Fundamentalism. It's just as extreme as the extremes of religion that I'm sure this group is opposed to. And it makes all atheists look bad. Noone should pay them any attention.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Changing a street sign is extreme? Is anyone being killed as a result? Are Atheists going around flying planes into buildings or starting wars because they say God willed it?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      You better believe that a lot of people are going to object to their tax dollars being spent to prop up religion, whichever one that may be. And no, Atheism is NOT a religion, BTW. Anyone who thinks that doesn't know the first thing about what Atheism is.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  6. steve88

    hmmm, i get the whole govt cant promote religion bit, but really, unless one of the 7 who died would have cared about a (religious) tribute, then why should I? ionno, even as an atheist, this seems a bit silly to be drawn to ire by something which people atleast meant well...

    July 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  7. DrDiomedes

    Should we change the name of Saint Louis, Missouri to Louie Missouri? Or Santa Claus to to Sanity Clause? Where do we draw the line? ... just wondering.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Ground Keeper

      No, the atheists wants to change the name Saint Louis, Missouri to It Doesnt Matter, Anyway. And Santa Claus to Mr Void.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      I'm an atheist, and i dont want to change the names ...

      July 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  8. Bart

    I am an atheist and even I have to say that I am offended.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Ground Keeper

      (throws his poop at Bart)

      July 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      Well, as an Atheist, I'm offended that my tax dollars are being used to favor government endorsement of the irrational belief of a particular religion. If the government is needed to prop up a religion, then it's probably not a religion worth propping up. Let the private sector pay for this sort of propaganda, but NOT the public dime, please.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  9. Aidan

    I'm an atheist myself, but even I think this is a waste of time. There are more important battles to wage than the naming of a street sign.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Ground Keeper

      (throws his poop at Aidan)

      July 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  10. the real john

    and toby, those men who flew into the towers were also drinking and sleeping with women before the attack. something their religion STRONGLY prohibits. i dont think they were who you think they were.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Can you cite your source?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Buddy R

      Atheist tyrants such as Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and a dozen lesser known atheists have been responsible for the deaths of more than 250 million people in the past 100 years. Far, far more than all other religions combined for all of recorded history.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      Buddy R - the did this because they were Totalitarian Commies, not atheists. There you go again, looking like a moron. You really should be more careful ... here's a napkin, wipe your drool

      July 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Spiffy

      They might have been atheists but they didn't do what they did in the name of atheism as opposed to most religious mass murders.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Ralph

      The difference being, Buddy R, that none of those tyrants killed their people in the name of or because of atheism, they were evil men who happened to be atheists.

      Using your logic, we should blame World Wars I and II on Christianity since the main antagonists were Christians. Let's tack on the death of 100 million Native Americans at the hands of European colonizers and their descendants for good measure since they just happened to be Christians too. It's nonsense logic you're using.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Buddy R

      @DrDiomedes: Nah, you are the one posting moronic things. The nations were officially atheist, they indoctrinated the children in public schools to hate religion and to make fun of religions people, they burned churches and Bibles, they killed religious people, ect. What they did was BECAUSE they were atheists AND IN THE NAME OF ATHEISM. Atheists are such hypocrites. Let someone who claims to be a religious person commit some crime and the morons condemn the entire religion even though the religion taught that commission of such acts was a sin.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      @ Buddy R - touche mi amigo. But note that Europe is also quite irreligous, especially northern countries. But they don't fit your model. Commies teach atheism in school because the state is numeral uno over there ...

      July 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Ground Keeper

    Atheists makes no sense at all. If it was up to them, this whole country would be confusing, because all the streets and roads would have one name "Void Street". Their "belief" of "non-belief" would eventually turn us into monkeys, because their would be no "reason" to reason with anything and anyone. So let me begin the process, (throws his poop at the atheists).

    July 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Michael

      Congratulations. In your effort to condemn atheism, you've demonstrated to us the dangers of religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Spiffy

      How is asking the government to respect our beliefs a bad thing? And how is Atheism turning you into a monkey?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  12. David

    Christianity is just an abuse of occult power by the elites to control society nothing else, there is nothing spiritual about it, if you want truth seek more ancient sources.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Buddy R

      You are not telling the truth about Christianity, but atheists and truth quite often don't go together. I know Jesus Christ lives because I am filled with the Spirit of Christ. 🙂 The anti-theism denomination of atheism is one big hate filled, deceptive religion that seeks to actively oppress people of other faiths.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      Oops, Buddy R. You've showed your cards and made yourself look silly. Be careful next time ...

      July 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Patrish

      It's about control. Say and believe as 'we' do and you will be accept, if you don't then you won't fit in (with us). We just like to pretend thee is a God, and as it makes us feel better to think there is some great power in control of the universe. So handy to say 'it's GOD will' .

      July 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  13. Jerry

    These people deserve to be shot for this

    July 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Kind of extreme don't you think?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      Uhh, exactly which people would that be?

      Regardless of the answer, inciting outright violence is well over the line, for either side of this discussion. You're asking for a court-ordered arrest warrant when you make such statements, even if online or in jest. Please, keep it non-violent and civil, as if you were in a public debate in the middle of city park with a thousand people staring at you.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  14. Crystal g

    So when did land of the free decide that everyone can be free except CHRISTIANS? Where are the rights of the christians....everytime the athiests put up a billboard the Christians need to excercise their rights to have it removed! We don't want to look at your crap either! Being athiest doesn't mean you have to be ugly...why don't you spend more time feeding the hungry or saving animals instead of making it your personal mission to harrass the people that love God! Does it say in your athiest manual that he who removes the most words, signs, objects, an phrases that contain anything religious wins? What's all thework for anyway....what reward comes out of it for you...the feel of power ad control? A pat on the back from other athiests? WHAT do you win after all the mean things you do and all the court time you spend? After all when you die its black nothingness, right? Get a life!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Bad Religion

      Atheists don't need a manual like christians need the bible. They are free-thinking, rational beings who don't need to be brainwashed by a book that was written by ORDINARY PEOPLE hundreds of years ago claiming to be the word of god.

      Also we all evolved from filthy, ancient, monkey-men.

      OO OO AHH AHH!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Maya

      Oh please, go cry me a river. You can't even be president in this country without professing Christ as your savior. The only people that feel sorry for American Christians are American Christians themselves. You know, there are plenty of countries where Christians really are oppressed. With your frivolous, ridiculous claims to discrimination, you are denigrating those who have real problems.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • adam

      Well that's just silly. Billboards are privately owned. And there is always an uproar from Christians any place Atheists advertise on a bill board; but I've never heard of Atheists suing to have a Christian billboard removed. The street sign is funded and maintained by tax dollars and should remain secular. I mean would you want your tax dollars to fund a street sign that reads "Devil's Drive", "Buddha's Bypass" or "Allah's Scenic Route"? That would not be freedom of religion which, as an atheist, I am all for; that would be government promotion of religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Chris G

      You remember what it was like before you were born? Was it inky, black, nothingness? Did you feel any particular pain, or hunger, in that state? Were you happy or unhappy?

      Because technically, then, you were dead – nonexistent. The same type of nonexistence as when your life is over.

      Comparatively, I think it was relaxing!

      July 7, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  15. Al


    July 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • adam

      Well if there is such a place...I guess we'll see you there.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Crystal g

      They will

      July 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Al

      Adam; due to people such as yourself, and your disbelief in anything greater than self, I and the rest of the world are already living in hell thanks to you, your clan, and it's mindset.....

      July 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Spiffy

      @AI are you sure you aren't mixing yourself up with Christianity? You love to force feed your beliefs down our throats but as soon as we object to the use of God in government it is a time to start threatening Atheists with eternal pain and misery.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Sorun Ibrahim

      Obvious Troll is obvious, go pray in your little altar or something... and understand your faith before blabbering about it

      July 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      We should ... but we won't 🙂

      July 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • adam

      Al I think you've got it backwards. Besides, I didn't realize you were a Christian; I mean it's not exactly "Christ like" to damn people to hell is it?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • squiggy

      They can't go to hell - they don't believe in it. No heaven, no hell. Unfortunately, there is only truth. And by the time they realize it, it will be too late and Christians won't be here to show them they were wrong.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Adam

      "due to people such as yourself, and your disbelief in anything greater than self, I and the rest of the world are already living in hell thanks to you, your clan, and it's mindset." .. I'm a different Adam than the one you said that too.. but I agree with him. That must REALLY get you knowing that two out of two Adam's on this thread think you're a moron and also share the name of your beloved "first man". What a joke! If earth is hell its not because of Atheists! Take a look in the mirror, MORON!

      July 7, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  16. Chris G

    LOL John, you're right about everything except for our toes being feathers! But your stupidity has not gone unnoticed.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • the real john

      like i said. if you fall for evolution i cant help you. you reallllyy need to study the roots of what evolution is. some people believe in talking snakes, others believe we came from apes, that just so happen to still not have evolved.. somehow.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Chris G

      You know, maybe next time your sick or dying of something terrible, maybe you should pray to god instead of going to the hospital. After all, healthcare is a function of modern biology, which of course springs directly from the study of evolution.

      I try not to suffer fools too much, but to know that ignorant people like you are out there in this country is really sad to me. And you are ignorant. You ignore the science, and science is knowledge. And I don't mean that figuratively, science MEANS knowledge.

      So in the end, you are ignoring knowledge. Not sure how you can defend that.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  17. Dina

    to doug ... the only ones who shoves anything anywhere is your kind of people , quite stupid and ignorant !!! its ok for us take it down becuase they infringe the none existing on us but I cant say keep the sign cuz it infringes even more hate from the lost believers ???????

    July 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  18. Marduk

    God is not a "He" but merely the "Essence of Life". And yes...Christians push their point of view wherever they can for various reasons. It is sad that they do not know the truth or refuse to recognize the truth.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Luke

      Thanks, "Chicken Soup for the Spiritual Soul!"

      July 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Bad Religion

      I wish more people would embrace the "essence of life" idea. Christians are too caught up in being self righteous to treat everyone equally with dignity and respect.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  19. andrewsome

    It would be nice if they would f off and die. Perhaps by crucifixion.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Dina

      andrewsome... i will see you in life at the pearly gates but not for the same reason we will both be going in 2 vast seprate directions!!! ill write you a letter from heaven and send it to hell hopefully it wont burn before it gets in your hands !!!

      July 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Bad Religion


      July 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  20. Luke

    I used to play seven minutes in heaven in middle school. Not once did I think of God or religion in any way. The game was super cool though, and will likely hasten my trip to hell.

    Seriously, as an atheist, I'm offended by how stupid most atheists are. I'm more concerned with doing siq things that I wouldn't be able to do if I believed in God... than getting all anxious over a sign in remembrance of heroes.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Jimmmy

      It's a shame that more atheist's aren't like you. It's jckazz's like this guy who give you all bad names

      July 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • squiggy

      Finally an atheist I can at least have a sane conversation with. Thank you for sharing in such a manner.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:02 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
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.