Picking and choosing the right fight - Uproar Over "7 in Heaven Way"

Many have heard about the new street name honoring firefighters lost on 9/11 named "Seven In Heaven Way". The atheist community has come out denouncing this sign, saying it violates separation of church and state because essentially the city is recognizing the existence of heaven which is a Christian creation.


9/11 is an incredibly touchy subject and tensions on all sides when it comes to this day are understandably razor thin to begin with.


So my question is this; Is this a good fight for the atheist community? Is this a good stand to take? Should we be more concerned with laws that affect our day to day lives or changes in texts books and the like?  When we are trying to make our movement heard, trying to show the public we are a people of reason, is this the type of press we want? Is this a fight worth fighting or is it only adding to the negative stereotypes already out there that atheists can be just as fanaticle as the faithful?


The full article from the Washington Post is as follows:

Heaven ignites atheist uproar
By Jordan Sekulow

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. (Mario Tama - GETTY IMAGES)

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.

By Jordan Sekulow  |  10:45 AM ET, 06/23/2011

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No, this is the wrong way to go about it.  Much more effective would be spreading the evidence that the plane crashes could not possibly take the towers down, especially in the demolition style in which they fell.  Finding the true perpetrators of this tragedy is far more important than bickering over a street sign.
How on earth someone who holds a rational position like atheism could ever believe in such nonsense is beyond me.

My sarcasm-dar is on the fritz.

Free inquiry and scientific examination have pointed to nothing but the well known order of events, which have also been corroborated by every eye witness, whether they intend to go along with the 'official' story or not.  The conspiracy theories have all been vague, half-baked conjecture about how people can't see things that move fast (not true), how the government was looking for a new war (possibly true, but you'd be hard pressed to find such a large body of 'true patriots' as to commit such a variety of acts and then, in good conscience, remain silent about it).  The only basis for any argument against this order of events that I have been able to find is the honest belief, admitted or not, that the arab muslim hijackers and planners of this attack are in some way sub-human and were not actually capable of pulling it off: This is self evidently not the case.  Popular mechanics still has an extensive rebuttal to every argument ever made by conspiracy theorists up on their website; I highly recommend you read it.

However for those on the fence about their beliefs, and you see this type of uproar, would that draw you to atheism or shy you away. We're getting this type of publicity whether we like it or not. I feel strongly how we are perceived in the public, although may not matter to me personally, matters to those who have yet decided to come out.

Well IMO the idiots who came up with that name are responsible for the consequences of their decision. Of course, the vast majority of people will only see the atheists as being the idiots in this situation. Personally I'm glad they're making a stink so at least people can see that there is an alternate point of view.


On the other hand, the statements that were made, or at least the ones that were quoted, don't make the atheists look too good, but of course they wouldn't in this piece of tripe. "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." lolwut!? Statements like this aren't good for my blood pressure.

Why should we not think that at least one or more of the fire fighters was not a non believer? How are they being honored?

I have also heard from a number of Xians that a number of stated believers won't be going to heaven, so what number of these fire fighters is that? I'm just saying.

"Why should we not think that at least one or more of the fire fighters was not a non believer? How are they being honored?"  That's the 1st thing that occurred to me too.

Sorry, but I don't think this is the right fight. We must go after certain obvious violations of the separation of church and state, like a government building having a nativity scene, but this is, I think, taking it too far.


Not that I think anything's sacred, but a) this a street name. The HORROR! b) It's still too soon (from 9/11) & c) there are bigger fish to fry; greater issues to tackle. In the grand scheme of things, this means absolutely nothing. This really does seem to me like picking a fight just for the sake of picking a fight.

Wrong fight. There are way bigger fish to fry. Atheist look ridiculous offering any protest against this street sign.

Really I think that there are more important issues to be concentrated on. Complaining about such a thing as this, which in reality affect nothing in anybody’s day to day lives, could alienate people against the cause. This could then in turn affect their thinking on a mass of other, more important issues.

If you dont believe the people speaking out didnt consider the controversy in pushing agenda your naive. There are plenty of street names everywhere and other little things like this that go overlooked all the time.


There are issues that hold alot more weight and will yeild more positive results. This is a lose lose scenario for atheists.


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