Heaven ignites atheist uproar

Mario Tama GETTY IMAGES NEW YORK, NY – MAY 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) carries a wreath with New … Continued

Mario Tama


NEW YORK, NY – MAY 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) carries a wreath with New York Police Department officer Stephanie Moses (4th L), New York FIre Department firefighter Joseph Lapointe (5th R) and Port Authority Police Department officer John Adorno (4th R) during a wreath laying ceremony at Ground Zero on May 5, 2011 in New York City.

New York City has chosen to honor the memory of seven fallen heroes – firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 – by naming the street that their fire station is on “Seven in Heaven Way.” Should this be a constitutional crisis?

As this street sign honoring the fire fighters’ sacrifice made its way through the approval process, no one complained. But now, after the sign’s unveiling, a group called New York City Atheists has threatened to file a lawsuit if it is not removed.

The group’s president declared, “We’ve concluded as atheists there is no heaven.” Another atheist leader added, incorrectly, that, “Heaven is a specifically Christian place.”

Because he has “concluded” that there is no heaven, the rest of us cannot recognize the ultimate sacrifice these brave first responders gave for our liberty with an honorary street sign that mentions the word “heaven” without handling a lawsuit?

Thankfully, the atheists have little chance of succeeding in court. As the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently stated, reaffirming Supreme Court precedent, mere “hurt feelings” do not give one standing to sue. America is replete with religious references in the naming of our cities, parks, and streets.

The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, chimed in by repeating the same tired arguments against the mention of anything with religious meaning by the government. Silverman said, “The attacks on 9/11 were an attack on America. They were an attack on our Constitution and breaking that Constitution to honor these firefighters is the wrong thing to do.” I challenge Silverman to cite any Supreme Court precedent to backup his claim that using “heaven” on a city sign violates our Constitution.

In America, heaven has come to symbolize the memory of those we love, our family members, and those who have made great sacrifices. Memorializing these heroic individuals in this way is not an act of religious divisiveness, but patriotic honor.

Publically attacking this tribute to seven American heroes, only to make a point that you do not believe in heaven, is insulting and outrageous.

  • sux123

    The street name may not be unconstitutional, but it is pretty tacky.

  • Rongoklunk

    I/m with Silverman, as far as we know there are no gods, no heaven and the only afterlife is death. Sekulow has a big ax to grind – superstition is his bread and butter. Bring down religion and you bring down the hucksters who keep us believing in fairies.
    The more educated Europeans have long realized that gods don’t exist, but Americans prefer to lie to their children because they can’t bring themselves to tell their kids that death is simply death. What a shame.

  • ost123

    Religious people would be highly offended if a public street got named, “There Is No God Road” or “No Religion Parkway” –in memory of say, John Lennon.

    So have a little respect for your fellow Americans. –Don’t be hypocrites!

  • JKJ88

    I have a Christian belief but feel very strongly that when you mix religion with government, you utlimately weaken both. With that said, I find it ironic but the Christians and the Athiests actually have a lot in common with each other. They both have strong beliefs that they feel are absolute truth and neither are shy about expressing those views, yet neither can absolutely 100% prove the existence or non existence of God. I find myself liking the Agnostics more and more since they are the only group willing to admit that they don’t really know the answers to life’s greatest mystery. Because of that they are nowhere near as annoying as the Christians, Muslims, Athiests, et al. To all the Christians, Muslims, Athiests, and other absolutists out there, enjoy and cherish your beliefs just don’t impose them on the rest of us. Live and let live folks, and stop being so damn sensitive. Especially about stuff as insignificant as a street sign.

  • DaveHarris

    Regardless of whether there’s a heaven or not, it’s theologically presumptive to assume that someone went to heaven just because he was a firefighter who died during 9/11. In the Catholic faith at least, one heroic act does not cancel out one’s sins. That requires a priest, or at least someone acting like one and saying the appropriate holy words, and that has to happen before the alleged soul flees the body. If you’re going to believe this stuff, at least be consistent..

  • semond612

    Shall we change the names of St. Louis, St. Paul, St. Petersburg, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, Corpus Christi, etc.? I object to names using offensive terms for Native Americans and presidents I don’t like. Many things are offensive to many people; that doesn’t make them intrinsically wrong. Get a life, and put that energy into doing something productive. Atheists have a right to their beliefs as much as religious people do, but they would improve their image if they would engage in activities other than complaining all the time!

  • CLLP

    Why are atheists so touchy?

  • nedf104

    How does implying that these heroes are in someplace that does not in fact exist honor them. To honor them is fine, but to attempt to do so by asserting they are in some land of make believe is mockery and THAT is what is insulting to them and outrageous.

  • Cossackathon

    This is rather ironic because, according to the most fervent Christians I know, the seven most likely are not in heaven. After all, the attack was clearly instigated by God himself to punish America for its tolerance of homosexuality.

  • pirate1

    The second generation of the Sekulows follows in the family tradition of cramming religion down your throat regardless of your wishes and beliefs. He would not have a job if he didn’t go into the family business of oppression and suppression. And the Post gives him a platform. I am not an atheist but I detest these ACLJ idiots who give belief a bad name.

  • spamsux1

    These bigoted atheists are offensive. The word “heaven” in no way materially affects their intolerant lives.
    The pettiness of some of them is astonishing.

  • TopTurtle

    I might agree with you on questioning the necessity of this challenge, but I don’t see how the atheists in the story are bigoted. They’re not trying to stop anyone from holding or expressing religious beliefs. They just don’t want the city to do so.

  • TopTurtle

    I’m not aware of any atheists who say that the non-existence of gods is an absolute truth. The ones I know and am aware of just say that there’s no evidence for gods, the idea is somewhat ridiculous, and the existence of gods is hugely improbable.

  • WmarkW

    No one really thinks NYC is attempting to make a serious theological statement here. Naming this street does not imply that the city believes the seven had each accepted Jesus as his savior, avoided dying in a state of mortal sin, or is living on a planet orbiting Kolob.

    It’s just a metaphor for having lived virtuously and deserving a reward for having died to make the world better for those of us still here.

  • JKJ88

    Some of the ones I know do go that far. Like with all things though, and I guess the same is true with regard to believers and non believers, in that your mileage may vary. Just like there are people who believe in God but do not wear it on their sleeve or feel the need to constantly impose that belief on others. Wouldn’t it be great if more people were like that? I do agree with you that the idea of the existence of gods are improbable based on what we humans actually know and can quantify with solid evidence as we define it. However, the larger question still remains, do we humans know all that there is to know? That is also hugely improbable as well, IMO. Peace.

  • spamsux1

    Turtle, the article says: “As the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently stated, reaffirming Supreme Court precedent, mere “hurt feelings” do not give one standing to sue. America is replete with religious references in the naming of our cities, parks, and streets.”

  • TopTurtle


    That still doesn’t demonstrate that the atheists in the story are bigoted. Disagreement on what constitutes a violationg of the 1st amendment is not bigotry.

  • TopTurtle

    Doesn’t it set off alarm bells when your interpretation of the separation of church and state requires you to argue that heaven is not a religious idea?

  • laboo

    I’d pick a different fight myself, but hey, that’s what courts are for. And I don’t see it as an entirely frivolous issue at all. Imagine if the situation were reversed and we were talking about a suggested street name in Riyadh — I don’t need to elaborate further. I bet you wouldn’t consider that version of this story frivolous in the slightest. We’d see some Onward Christian Soldiers then, yew betcha.

  • gonnagle

    It would be a concern if any of those so ‘honoured’ were atheist or belonged to a faith tradition that didn’t believe in heaven. Personally I think the name just sounds stupid.