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. rob

    As fellow atheists, they should use their f'ing brain and realize it doesn't matter what so ever if the word heaven is on a street sign. Unneeded conflict.

    July 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • SmarterthanU

      I couldn't agree more. Of all the separation of church and state matters foist upon those of us who don't believe in the 5000 year old myth, this sign is a non issue. If it makes the families feel better that their loved ones are looking down on them, attending parties with them, visiting on holidays, who cares.

      July 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  2. Kctiede

    I think this is a good balance. We have people that are free to exercise their religion but we also have groups that want to make sure it's not affecting our country slant. It is groups such as this that will want to stop a street being named after the Koran or Allah.

    July 13, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  3. Kctiede

    I take Heaven to be whatever one wants it to be. My heaven is a place without any religion. I think the person that chose the street name like the rhyming thing.

    July 13, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  4. bobby

    where do all you get your standerd for what is right and what is wrong ??? I can do what i want call it rude call it mean call it fair under what rule?

    July 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  5. Dave

    Seven in Heaven does not mention which Heaven, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.
    Maybe they can fight about that. Another Crusade perhaps.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  6. THE-Tally-Whacker!


    July 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  7. Robert

    This is another example of how intolerant and narrow-minded athiests are

    July 11, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Pete

      Yes, we're all so narrow minded with our belief in facts, science, and proof.

      July 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Amused

      Would you feel the same way about this if the sign read "Glory to Allah for seven souls" ? OH ! that's different you say! I knew you would say that and would still not comprehend the problem! So, WHO is really showing intolerance here? Hmm? Atheists have had religion crammed down their throats for years now, and you still think that YOUR choosen religion is the only religion that matters! Am I right? If you want to see what INTOLERANCE looks like, just look in the mirror!

      July 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jim

      Not all atheists are narrow-minded just like not all theists are narrow-minded. Great bumper-sticker-war material but not helpful at all.

      And far from all atheists come to that conclusion based on reason or science either. More bumper-sticker-war stuff but not helpful at all either.

      July 13, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • SmarterthanU

      Au contrair, douchbag. Narrowmindedness on such matters are reserved for you Christian yahoos.

      July 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • jofro

      And Atheist yahoos i guess are feeling left out and want to join the Christian yahoos rite?

      July 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Robert

      Scientists are not athiests, there are more christian scientists than athiest scientists. So science has nothing to do with athiesm. Athiesm is an ideology and a belief system as much as christianity is. Only difference is Christianity gives hope and athiesm does not. Science is our understanding of the physical dimension of the universe and we keep growing in it, it does not in any way disprove the existence of God. Its just the narrow-minded beliefs of the athiests who think they are using science to disprove God. Its again their ignorance. Science is the study of nature and is helpful if studied with an open mind without the influence of the belief system called atheism, which is intolerant and narrow-minded and arrogant

      July 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  8. Edvard

    It is better to believe in a Person and his ideals than making a religion out of it.Religion results in fanaticism and hatred. Reword Atheism into "A-nothing" cause why disagree with something when there is really nothing to disagree with.Real God unbelievers
    lives as if there is no God at all,unknown and should not affect them in anyway.Theism is still theo or God,so if you don't believe in God remove "-theist" in your self description.If it "God"word irritates you,then there is someone,something out there exists or else it shouldn't if that existing phenomena isn't really there.Cause I am not irritated by it/god in anyway cause if it doesn't exist I wouldn't be bothered by it.Why waste somebody's time or freedom to just to be -why not do something that will contribute to the peace and harmony while you are alive and make this world a better place to live for those coming after you die?

    July 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Brian

      Wow, just wow. when you add an "a" to the beginning of a word it means "not" i.e. amoral = not moral, atheist = not a believer in a god.

      July 12, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Jim

      Language is an amazing thing....

      July 13, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  9. mandy

    Stupid. Just plain stupid. These atheists don't even know that the devil is working through them how sad. But remember the Bible does say EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus is LORD! we just have a choice ...do it now or do it later...I guess their choosing later.

    July 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Scott

      No, it would just be a sign if it said "7 Heros..."

      July 11, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Brian

      psh later. I choose never.

      July 12, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Amused

      "These atheists don't even know that the devil is working through them how sad" The devil ????? Are you serious ?????
      And I suppose you wonder why people don't take you seriously? Well, you see I don't believe in your devil anymore than I believe in your god! The whole notion just makes me giggle! If you want to PRETEND to pity someone, PITY YOURSELF, for you are the one with the delusion, not me!

      July 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Bianca

      Way to go Mandy, and yes it is written EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL CONFESS!!! To all the "atheists" if you dont believe their is a God, then why do you all get scared and crazy when someone speaks His name. Even the word "HEAVEN" has you all irrate......

      July 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

    Everybody will be scøøped up into my loving antlers just as søøn as I figure out how to do that.

    July 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  11. samuraisleeps

    also i put in a vote for atheist highway....or atheist avenue....or i dont believe in anything i cant punch in the throat avenue.....

    July 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  12. samuraisleeps

    this is not a religious matter. seriously atheist guy...quit this madness.... its just a sign.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  13. Joe Blow from Idaho

    We've really gone to the absurd when a simple street sign is equated to state establishment of a religion.

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

      Good then you won't mind "Athiest Hwy"

      July 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      You know, it might surprise you, but it wouldn't bother me one bit.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      I guess you thought that everyone is as petty as atheists.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Jim


      Not everyone is out looking to be offended so they can complain. It shows how puritanical much of atheism's devotees truly are. Atheist Highway? Who cares? How about Jean-Paul Sarte Way? Or Betrand Russell Alley? Nope, wouldn't bother the vast majority a bit. Take off your radical lenses and live in harmony with the rest of us. If you are threatened by "Seven in Heaven St" then you have way too much time on your hands sir.

      July 13, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Jim

      My apology JB, I meant to address my last post to Scott but put your name in there instead.

      July 13, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  14. Chuck

    I'm agnostic and I still think this is absurd. I'm all for separation of church and state, but this is unnecessary. This is not shoving religion down anybody's throat. This is honoring seven, presumably Christian, heroes that died in the 9/11 attack.

    Unless the firemen in question weren't actually Christian, I don't see the problem.

    July 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  15. Wiggles


    "what, a sign to memorialize our dead heroes that we aren't even related to that mentions their religion's afterlife? DAMN THOSE THEISTS TRYING TO CONVERT ME!"


    July 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • News Flash

      You need to get out more.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Katie K

      Ok, first, please stop shouting! And, really? We're "terrible terrible people"? I don't think the problem in so much this sign – paid for with everyone's taxes – I think it's the fact that we're just really tired of being in the shadows. There are many more of us than you know, partly because we are afraid of the fallout that we typically encounter from the xtian set when we "come out". What's wrong with "we remember the seven – 9/11" or, if that's too long for a sign – "honor the 7 – 9/11". I'm just saying that we all like to feel included even if our beliefs differ, and it's really not that hard to do.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      You are so right, Wiggles. It just goes to show that without religion, there is no limit to evil.

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

      Yea, Howard Camping and his 80 million reasons to be a christian come to mind

      July 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Wriggles

      Everyone hates them? Ok then. You must be from a religion of hate apparently.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Gina

      Oh we're so evil. Yeah right... I don't see anything wrong with the 7-9/11 sign at all. It still recognizes those that died on that tragic day. But I agree with Katie K. Atheists are tired of being in the shadows, we should make ourselves known without fear of retribution from the religious sect. I get that enough at work with Jesus rocks being left in my workplace.

      I'm still a closet atheist at home, the only one that knows about it is my older sister who is agnostic. The work place, only three people know. And one still tries to shove her religion in my face. But we aren't bad people, just misunderstood. I bet you wouldn't even know an atheist if one spoke to you. We're not purple or green spotted, we're normal looking people.

      July 9, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Civiloutside

      "It just goes to show that without religion, there is no limit to evil."

      Seriously? Trying to get a street sign changed is your idea of limitless evil? I think a bit of perspective may be called for here.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Concerned Reader

      @giggles – Wow, nice Christian values there. . . .I guess you missed that day in bible study where it explains that you're not supposed to judge, or hate....hypocrite, maybe this is why we hate you, which is okay, because we're allowed to 😉

      July 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Jim

      methinks "wiggles" is a juvenile trying to stir up trouble by playing the fool and trying to get everyone thinking that there is some "stereotypical hater" in some theistic community....

      July 13, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Jim

      I do love how the ASSumption is that "wiggles" is a Xian....no preudice there.....who knows what "wiggles" believes.....

      July 13, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • kat

      @wiggles, are you serious? what small-minded world do you live in?you probably know several a-theist and don't even know it.almost every a-theist i've talked to, not all, have had a previous religious life, and have chosen knowledge over over sheep-hood. i know i did. wise up, it's a big world full of people different than you, that 's a good thing.

      July 13, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  16. Reality

    Education and learning requires reiteration:

    Only for the those interested in a religious update:

    1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    "New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. "

    2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Ludemann, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% or less of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac ministers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    4. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

    And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The Sunni-Shiite global blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

    5. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

    Current problems:

    The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

    6. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

    "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

    Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

    Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

    Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!



    July 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Floyd

      A lot of 'probably' and 'maybes' and 'possibly' in your novel made up of guesswork and irrational though. I suspect not even your own thoughts. Cut and paste is great, isn't it? Get at grip dude. Oh, the irony.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Katie K

      Wow, what an intelligent, well thought out and researched post. Hope you come back again.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Katie K

      Floyd – are you sure you're not thinking of the "bible"?

      July 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  17. QLorraine

    I agree with ScytheX. This lawsuit is taking things to such an extreme. This group is like P.E.T.A. So extreme that they become absurd. Let them have their sign.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • ExTexan

      Sure it is just an innocent little sign, what next, crosses on public streets, teaching creationism in public schools? Fundamentalist christians will NEVER be satisfied until they cram their beliefs down our throats. Just look at fundamental muslim countries, then imagine the same thing here replacing islam and the koran with christianity and the bible. No thank you, we have to stand up for our rights as non-believers.

      July 11, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  18. John

    It's funny CJ because yesterday I was reading Matthew and that passage about casting pearls before swine really struck me. Good call.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Deckard

      So you also agree with name calling as a means of making your point? Unfortunate, but not surprising.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  19. matt

    man i wish i had the time and money to sue over something like this...

    July 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  20. ScytheX

    I'm not even religious and I think this is absurd. Removing a sign meant to honor those who fell trying to save the lives of others on 9-11 won't be doing anything to your cause but making you look like a bunch of ******.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
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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.