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
If you really think that Heaven is a Christian creation, then you have a lot to learn about religious history. The origins of Heaven can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks, where the underworld consisted of a paradise fit for only the heroes. Jews believed in Heaven long before the Christians, and the Egyptians long before the Jews. The name Heaven itself may be a more recent idea, but the concept has been around nearly as long as humanity itself.
Heaven has also become a bit of a tautology now. I have my Music Heaven, my Food Heaven, and so on. Of course, I'm using Heaven to mean "perfect place", not "the Christian idea of a place above where good little Christians go and Jesus and God reside". And I have doubts that the latter is what the people who came up with the street-name meant, too.
And you've way over-analyzed it. This will tell "almost atheists" and "fence-walkers" absolutely nothing. The chances of this name meaning anything to anyone are slim-to-none. Again... it's a frickin' street name. In the grand scheme of things, they mean f**k-all.
Why haven't I seen you profess your ire at all the other religious-themed street-names, town-names, and even city-names? How come you aren't angered by Hell, Michigan?
Again... there are bigger fish to fry. This is the wrong fight. Let it go.
So what? So Jews won't assume it means their Heaven? Buddhists won't think it refers to Nirvana?
Did the Christians who agreed with this assume it meant their Heaven? Of course they did!
But so what? Why do we care? It's a frickin' street sign.
No matter what the atheist community does, there will always be some type of backlash. Now, if one of those firefighters was an atheist, and had at one time spoke up about it, or has family that is offended, then there would be something to say. As far as I've ever seen, and only what I've read and heard about, many of these firefighters were religious, and had family that would go to church or observe some kind of belief. If the A. community goes after this, should they also go after places and streets called St. Peters, or Miracle Road? Heck, how about entire towns, like Hell, Michigan? Perhaps they should attack other beliefs and superstitiously named places like Witches Lane in New Jersey, or Garden of the Gods in Colorado. I'm sure that some non-believer or one with a different belief will live there, or at least visit, and never become offended. If every theist suddenly dropped dead (or, umm, whisked away to heaven) all non-believers would start naming roads after made up gods and myths, just because they were, at least, part of culture for so long.
Of course, I'd like to see more streets and locals named Carl Sagan trail, Isaac Asimov Mall and perhaps a George Carlin Highway.
Hell no. I wish those kinds of atheists would shut the hell up. There are much better battles to pick. Silverman - BOOOOO.
To is credit though, it is very difficult to explain to a theist why you don't believe what they believe without it sounding like you are saying they are ignorant.
Its a street sign.
Do you really care if you drive on jesus way?
Save your energy for something worth fighting.
Can't we reach a compromise and call it 711 street? the numbers match up and can easily be seen to imply seven in heaven and eleven in hell, and I think the imagery is appropriate: something flashy, too-brightly lit and full of cheap junk, open for all eternety, and depending on the mindset of those entering, either an eternal paradise (such as stoners with the munchies) or a place of eternal suffering (the employees view).
Otherwise, just call it 'seven dead and still not coming back to tell us what it's like being dead' street and get the whole argument out of the way.
I wouldn't touch the issue. There's no way to win it and it makes us look petty. Which is exactly what this is. It isn't worth the whining to end up looking like fools.