Are Atheists Right to Complain About ‘Seven In Heaven Way’? June 20, 2011

Are Atheists Right to Complain About ‘Seven In Heaven Way’?

One of the hardest things about being an atheist is standing up for what’s right even when it’s unpopular. And there’s nothing more unpopular than trying to take away an honor reserved for seven firefighters who died on 9/11.

The problem is: To honor those firefighters who were assigned to Engine 202 and Ladder 101 firehouse, who were among the first to arrive on the scene after the Twin Towers were first hit, and who died as a result of their actions, a new street sign is now going up outside the firehouse:

Seven In Heaven Way.

You can imagine the emotions present when they put this sign up:

Teary-eyed widows, dozens of uniform-clad firemen and civic leaders paid respects outside the firehouse at the intersection, explaining the men were killed while pulling victims from burning rubble.

“They are heroes and should be rewarded in a place like heaven,” said Tom Miskel of Community Board 6, which unanimously supported the name change in December 2009.

They are heroes, yes.

Let’s get the truth out of the way because it’s uncomfortable for most people: To say they’re getting an eternal reward for what they did is a lie. They died and they got no reward for their sacrifice.

Still, their actions ought to inspire us — these seven firefighters put their lives on the line to save complete strangers. It’s a selfless act that no one should ever have to make but they did it. They should be memorialized.

But is this the right way to do it?

Cue the atheists to rain on the parade:

“It’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists,” said David Silverman of American Atheists. “It links Christianity and heroism.”

Local atheists also insisted that public signs should be non-sectarian. “It falls under the umbrella of Church and state,” added Ken Bronstein of NYC Atheists.

“It crosses the line,” Bronstein said.


I don’t know whether to blame Ken and Dave for giving such blunt, not-politically-correct responses… or the newspaper for using excerpts from what may have been longer, better comments.

On the American Atheists website, Dave Silverman explains his thinking a little more thoroughly… but it still doesn’t help his cause:

Named “Seven in Heaven Way”, the street uses the tragedy of [9/11] to legitimize Christianity by asserting that Heaven is a real place, and that all these heroes are actually there. Now, I am not sure if all seven of the named firefighters were Christian, or if they were “good Christians”, but that’s not relevant. What’s important to remember here is that these men died in a religious attack against ALL of America. The Muslim extremists attacked the Constitution, not just the Towers and the Pentagon.

Breaking our own laws undermines us, even if it’s only the name of a street. As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we will see preachers and their politicians trying to make Christianity the victim, and to vilifying anyone who screams foul.


These heroes died FOR our Constitution, and breaking the Constitution in their memory should make any patriot shudder. Call it “Seven Heroes Way”. Call it “Remember Seven Way”. But leave Christianity out of it — it wasn’t involved.

I don’t think the street-sign-supporters reading that are going to change their minds…

Even though Dave and Ken are absolutely right, they’re coming off looking like ungrateful jackasses.

Speaking of jackasses, John Del Signore at Gothamist explained the atheists’ comments this way in a poor attempt at humor:

… how many heroes has atheism produced? Christians have Joan of Arc, big George the dragon slayer, Kirk Cameron. Atheists have Mao Zedong and Bill Maher — not exactly hero material, so you get why they’re a little jealous.

This has nothing to do with jealousy. Atheists give their lives in defense of our country all the time.

What should be done here? First, let’s answer some questions.

Were all the firefighters Christians? Did they all believe in Heaven?

According to The Brooklyn Paper, “It is unclear whether the firemen were all were religious, although most either attended Catholic school or had weddings at churches.”

If even one of those firefighters wasn’t religious (or only played the part to please family members), this sign does that person’s memory a disservice. Let’s honor what they did, not some supernatural location they might have believed in. That’s what they’ve done in other similar situations:

In Brooklyn, most street dedications — Ed Rogowsky Way in Park Slope, for example — pay respect by simply noting the honoree’s name, although petitioners get more creative when groups of honorees are involved.

In Red Hook, “Red Hook Happy Hookers Hook and Ladder” and “Red Hook Heroes Run” street dedications honor fallen firefighters without throwing God into the mix.

Does it even matter if they were all religious?

No. Even if they were all Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christians, we should honor them for their sacrifice and not their religious beliefs. At the very least, tax-payers should not be footing the bill to promote the concept of Heaven.

Was it a nickname that they were known by?

It may have been:

City Councilmember Sara González shepherded the street sign change through the city council, and we asked her spokesman Mike Schweinsburg if it’s appropriate to use city resources for a sign with religious overtones. “The seven heroes have long been known as the ‘Seven in Heaven,’ ” Schweinsburg tells us. “That’s something that we didn’t have any hand in, it is the way the community and their families chose to remember them. So if that is their desire then we are happy to continue to remember them in the way that their family and fellow firefighters prefer to call them.

Even if that was their nickname, it’s not the only way for the government to honor them. Schweinsburg acts like they had no other choice.

What about Seven Heroes Way? Or Seven Sacrifices Way? Or anything else that honors them without causing legal problems?

Again, this was probably a decision made by someone who didn’t really give a second thought to the word “Heaven.” But the line has to get drawn somewhere, and if they had simply called it “Seven Heroes Way,” no one would be complaining.

It doesn’t look like it’s going to change, though. Caitlin Dickson at The Atlantic Wire points out we’d probably lose a legal challenge:

Victor Kovner, a First Amendment lawyer weighed in on the debate, telling the Brooklyn Paper, “the area of religion is so complex and nuanced that you could argue nearly anything. But a [legal] challenge in this case would be far-fetched.”

Even if we could win, it may not be a strategic thing to take on. The risk is huge and the benefit is minimal. The headlines would incorrectly portray atheists as ungrateful for the sacrifices made on 9/11, not as people appreciative but merely concerned about church/state separation.

The atheists are right, no doubt about that. But in the world of PR, they’ve already lost this battle.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Zach

    Of course we already lost. We don’t get on our knees for Jeebus, so we must support mass murderers in Asia.

  • This is one of those battles that we will simply have to forfeit and just move on. We can’t win ’em all, and sometimes we have to lose some of them, perhaps for a greater good (credibility, positive reaction from others, etc.). The cost is minimal.

    We need to let it go, I’m afraid.

  • fett101

    I wonder if the Muslim extremists could have a “Nineteen in heaven way”.

  • you are being silly

    *facepalm indeed. C’mon people, let’s choose our battles!

  • Kristi Evans Morris

    A sticky wicket. Yea… um.

  • I personally don’t think it’s a battle worth fighting. “Heaven” could be interpreted as being used symbolically, which I object to no more than NASA naming space missions after Greek gods.

  • Meanwhile, some fundamentalists are bound to be upset because it implies heroic actions earn a place in heaven without the need for proper beliefs.

  • “… how many heroes has atheism produced?”

    Oh, I dunno…how about Robert G. Ingersoll, an abolitionist, prominent political figure, and Civil War veteran? He didn’t believe in a god.

    What about Pat Tillman?

    This bullshit is infuriating. Seriously.

  • Nicole

    I think that if these men and families believed in a heaven, then let them have the sign. It’s just a stupid sign. Do we have to raise a stink over every little religious thing?

  • Jon Peterson

    So let me get this straight (assuming based on the presence of the Richards Way sign)… they didn’t rename the street… they just put up a sign that people can use as a representative memorial?

    I don’t disagree that the endorsement of Heaven by the state is wrong, but frankly… I just don’t think this is a battle worth caring about. It’s too insignificant. It affects too few people’s lives… and fighting it will only leave the atheist movement open to slander insinuating that we’re attacking the firefighters, and not the specific phrasing of the sign.

    Frankly, I’m of the strong opinion that in order to bring about positive changes for secular citizens, we first need to gain acceptance… and to do that, we need to pick our battles properly. Contest the monument on the state capitol. Contest the music festivals paid for by the government. Contest the repeated assertion by our government officials that they cannot do the job we’re paying them to do without the intervention of a god.

    But don’t contest the little street sign that utilizes a phrase the families of the lost have been using to refer to the loved ones they grieve. It’s improper, but it’s small enough and personal enough that it’s better to just let that one slide rather than open ourselves up to be painted as hateful monsters.

    Obviously, this is my opinion. I do not attempt to present it as anything else.

  • I was more offended by the story John Del Signore at Gothamist wrote than I was the sign itself. Although, I would not have commemorated in such a manner as claiming they’re in an invisible fairy tale land I still am glad they got some sort of commemoration.
    Great entry. Very spot on with how I feel and probably how many others feel about this matter.

  • @Nicole: No, and that’s my point as well. Nobody is being victimized here — just people finding offense, who have no say in the matter, as it’s none of their business. Unless one of the families of one of the Seven raises an issue with the matter (which is not bloody likely), then it’s out of our hands. We need to let this one go.

    @Jon: Agreed. Whole-heartedly.

  • adam

    who cares if it looks like we are attacking the firefighters. they did their JOB which they were paid for. they did not turn water into beer. enough with the hero worship.

  • Alex


    It’s just a stupid sign. Do we have to raise a stink over every little religious thing?

    Not raising a stink got us into this mess to begin with. Being silent equates to our approval.

  • NotYou007

    I was 17 when I joined my local Vol. fire department. The department consisted of both volunteers and career firefighters and I will tell you this. I did a lot of growing up once I joined and it had nothing to do with Jesus or god.

    Nobody ever said grace before we ate and religion was never mentioned around the firehouse, ever.

    I was hazed and everyone that came after was hazed as well. I didn’t even know bestiality existed until I was forced to watch a tape of it.

    Firefighters might appear to be good Christians but trust me. They are some of the most foul people around. Maybe hazing doesn’t take place as much as it did 20 years ago but firefighters can be complete dickheads towards one another. We might be viewed as heroes while on scene but once back in house it all changes.

    I don’t regret my days of being a firefighter but being a firefighter doesn’t make you an instant hero, a lot of them are huge assholes behind closed doors.

  • mthrnite

    Careful, they’ll brand us as “uppity”. I think we can afford to let this slide. I know the “winners” don’t budge an inch, but they’re generally dicks because of it. A lot of good PR doesn’t hold a candle to just a little bad PR, so we need to pick our battles I’m afraid.

  • Spherical Basterd

    I try not to get to ‘up in arms’ about the public stuff. My disbelief came in small steps. To expect the majority who are believers in the ‘Woo’ to see things my way is a gross violation of the fact that you cannot make anyone do anything, the best you can do is influence them.

    If something makes people feel better and come together for a cause, hopefully for the better, then it’s best to sit it out. On the other hand, if the cause is blattently wrong then it’s time to speak up.

    In my tiny mind, this is harmless.

    “The good change the world incrementally through small deeds, while the evil change it suddenly through destruction”.

  • Stephanie

    The whole argument against is pedantic. Unless one of the firefighters was a known skeptic/agnostic/atheist just let it go. There’s a difference between sticking up for your beliefs and trolling.

  • it’s a brave, hopeless battle for atheists to stand up to the complex/mixture of the police and theocratic state. expect violent resistance and hatred for saying these things.

  • I look at it this way, first, a little reference off

    World English Dictionary
    4. a place or state of joy and happiness

    This is how I define “heaven” for myself, and extending it to the seven, they died protecting the place they lived and loved which in turn would give them a that state of joy and happiness.

    So, no, I wouldn’t say to do ANYTHING about that sign.

  • You know, there’s nothing you can do that won’t offend someone. If you just say “hello”, someone will be offended. If you don’t say hello, someone else will be offended. No doubt someone is offended that you are breathing.

    So if we give up fighting for what is right because people are offended that we do so, we might as well give up the whole damn battle for our rights, turn the world over to the religious nuts, and watch them burn it.

  • The religious want to control how you give birth, how you raise your children, how those children live when they grow up, and even how and when they die. It shouldn’t surprise anyone here that they want to have the final say in where they go after they die. That’s the whole POINT of their religion.

  • Chris aka "Happy Cat"

    My two cents: Let grieving families have the sign. This particular case is a tiny fish in a big ocean.

    I think Hemant’s reasons for why the sign is wrong are solid. So is the general consensus that we need to pick our battles. Just engaging in this skirmish could result in some nasty PR that would give the fear-mongers against atheists fuel to flame us. Plus, i really don’t want to hurt the families. Sorry.

  • chade

    Seriously?! Of the entire history of Christian people, from which he obviously chose other historical figures, Del Signore picks Kirk Cameron as an example of a heroic Christian to look up to?! *facepalm*

  • Atheists have Saint George of Carlin, slayer of dogma.

    At least he’s one of my personal heroes.

  • Bones

    Just let it go.

  • Alphonsus

    Agreed. Let’s pick our battles, and fighting against ANY kind of tribute to those who died on 911 is just gonna make us look like jerks. I guess it doesn’t hurt to point out that this is wrong but we are choosing to look the other way, but there is no way to win this battle.

  • Michael

    Anyone proposing a religious sign is taking advantage of the seven dead workers. A firefighter who dies only for the promotion of a “Christian Nation” is a misguided fool and we don’t need to waste any money remembering them.

  • Charles Black

    The sign isn’t worth fighting over, lets move onto more important goals such as keeping religion & government separate to name one important goal & improving the public image of the non-religious.

  • PJB863

    The most profound tidbit of wisdom I was ever taught: “Choose your battles wisely.”

  • It rhymes. It’s catchy. It’s short. Let it be.

    Choose your battles.

  • KPL

    I was way more offended by the Gothamist article than the renaming of the street.

  • Kent Schlorff

    Honestly, that sign probably does more for the grieving families than any of us will ever know. Quite frankly, let it be. I know we’re trying to secularize the world, but the only way we can do that is by convincing people we’re not evil. Honestly, robbing these families of this memorial, or trying to alter it, is evil. The sign is in memory of their loved ones, not ours. Let them have it.
    Also, their concept of Heaven is not necessarily Christian-ized. Belief in a supernatural realm is possible without the influence of Christianity. It’s symbolic speech, nothing more, and certainly nothing insulting or caustic.

  • loopsyel

    It was very interesting to see a lot of the comments here. I’m certainly among the “choose your battles” crowd in this instance.

    In the culture war ahead, we’ve got a factually-based leg up on the competition. We can afford to not step on certain toes, our own included.

    How the battles are chosen by our public face and de-facto leadership is of some concern. Someone decided to issue those statements, and not everyone is pleased. This suggests an obscure line in the sand that needs to be negotiated. I suspect that the line is not too far off from this incident.

    How can we make it clearer?

  • Dark Jaguar

    I dunno… I’ve seen plenty of streets named after fictional characters. The only argument to me is “were they all christian?”, but then you bring up that that was their nick name. If they all seemed to like that, changing it seems disrespectful of their memory.

    I am against “under god” in the pledge, on our money, and all the references in public official’s prayers, but I think a street sign with the word heaven on it rests about where a military tombstone shaped like a cross (duly given only to Christians), which is, just leave it be. The intent is clearly not meant to imply that heaven exists, or that it’s even state sanctioned. It’s just to honor the memory of a team that had that nick name. Anything you make up just reeks of censorship and insult.

    I’ve seen a huge number of “Zeus Streets” in google maps, and even one Allah Avenue, one Shiva Drive, and whatever else I was too lazy or ignorant to search for. Granted, Christianity is the majority religion in the U.S. with the greatest influence and thus it falls on it to behave itself more than minority religions. There’s also a bunch of Darwin Roads in there, so there’s some balance. Interestingly, there’s only 4 Jesus streets and no God streets. Probably doesn’t roll off the tongue or something…

    Mainly, it comes down to one thing for me. What is the name referring to? If it was actually referring to heaven, there might be a point (then we’d also be going after those other roads I mentioned). Instead, it’s referring to a group of fire fighters. The double meaning is also there, of course, but that’s what they were called in life. I’d say let it be.

  • Neon Genesis

    Is that Christian loon actually claiming dragons are real and that Kirk Cameron is a hero?

  • Rich Samuels

    Let’s face it. If it had been six or eight fire fighters who had died heaven wouldn’t have had a look in.

  • cortex

    If that’s the name people know this group by, then they should use it. It’s not much of a memorial if you use a name that no one is familiar with.

    Suggesting less “offensive” alternatives comes off the same way as when my parents complained that my favorite bands used so much “bad” language. This phrase has an intangible meaning to the people involved. Plus, it rhymes better this way.

    And this is NYC we’re talking about. Forget about it.

  • preston

    Who cares? let them believe. i’m an atheist, but shit, if this upsets you then you should maybe you should be a whiney catholic.

  • rien

    You should fight things like this.

    If you allow it for the one, you have to allow it for the other.

    If we want to argue that the high-jackers were deranged lunatics and murderers, a key point is to point out that they weren’t following any god’s commands and they didn’t receive any divine rewards.

    It’s a belief in heaven that can lead an otherwise compassionate man to kill an abortion doctor and smile while he’s heading towards the execution chamber.

    They have no more evidence that these firemen are now in heaven than they have to suggest the high-jackers are not.

    These ideas should always be challenged, whether or not they are ‘kind of a nice gesture’. Otherwise you’ll never get rid of religion, since it has coated itself in silly rituals like this, ones we’ve been indoctrinated to accept because they ‘give people comfort’.

    Besides, like said by others here, these people and/or their loved ones might not all have been Christians. If someone dragged out the corpse of a loved one of mine to promote their ridiculous cult, I’d be pretty annoyed by that.

  • JenniferT

    Dark Jaguar said:

    The double meaning is also there, of course, but that’s what they were called in life.

    I think when it says “The seven heroes have long been known as the ‘Seven in Heaven’”, it means since their deaths, not that they were known as that in life. It wouldn’t make sense for those seven specific firefighters even to have a collective nickname in life.

  • All the place names and street signs I know of are either named literally after a famous person or event or given a poetic name.

    This is clearly a poetic name – and the right thing to do is to acknowledge is as such and say “Oh what a nice poetic notion”.

    I can assure you there are no fairies on the hill where I live – but I’m not going to complain.

    Leave the religious nuts to make a fundamentalist point-scoring exercise out of this – at which point we can shake our heads at their failure to see the horrific irony of that as we remember that they will always have the higher body count on this one.

  • Anne

    I, personally, think there are bigger battles to be fought. “Seven in heaven” rhymes, and heaven could easily be used metaphorically. Besides, 9/11 is such a turbocharged event with so many emotions and so much pain… grieving families are not the people that atheists should be targeting right now. It will make atheists come across as petty and insensitive.

    There are so many bigger battles to be fought… no one group of people can fight them all. Fight the big ones, drop the small ones. And I think this is a relatively small one.

  • Claudia

    I definitely come down on the “pick your battles” side of things. I understand the idea of acting purely on principle, but I also think there has to be some cost-benefit analysis.
    Benefit: A small probability of winning the case and getting one small government endorsed local religious message removed. You also get to feel that you stand on principle, no matter how unpopular.

    Cost: A fair amount of legal fees towards a case that is unlikely to go anyway and the very high probability of very bad PR for your movement as you are inevitably seen as trying to prevent the honoring of 9/11 heroes based on your political cause.

    Costs vastly outweigh benefits here, even without knowing that “seven-in-heaven” was a nickname to start with. The only people who could bring a case against this without instantly losing “hearts and minds” would be a surviving family of one of those seven who objected on the grounds that their hero wasn’t religious (or was of a religion that didn’t include heaven as a concept).

  • The sign indicates how little Christians know about their own faith.

    People don’t get to heaven for being good or selfless – they get to heaven if they accept Jesus as their savior – even if they are assholes. On the other hand, being good does not help you at all if you don’t accept Jesus.

    Luckily, the firefighters were Christians (assumably). Otherwise, they may find themselves in the same heaven as the guys who caused their death – and that of 3.000 other innocent people.

  • Benny

    Why not use this and try to get a street named ‘No heaven Lane’? If it’s good one way and not the other then it’s clearly in violation of the constitution.

  • Chip

    We should know better than to go after this. Leave it alone, let it rest…

  • ckitching

    Choose your battles.

    That’s well and good, but you don’t get to choose other people’s battles. Regardless, it doesn’t matter. Even in cases where we should obviously be right, we’ll be painted as the villain (such as the Ten Commandments idols Christians want placed in courthouses).

    I’d be hesitant to endorse that sign, though. The supporters of the hijackers said the very same thing about the hijackers.

  • SeekerLancer

    If the firefighter’s families had a problem with the word “Heaven” I would understand this being an issue but they don’t and if this is how they choose to honor them it’s their business. It’s not like this is the only street in America with a non-secular name. The fucking town I live in is named after a biblical location. Who cares?

    This is one Christian parade that doesn’t need raining on. It’s not infringing on my rights in any way and it makes us look like assholes for caring about something so lame.

  • Douglas Kirk

    I think what’s been done is what we should have done, stating we don’t agree with it while not challenging it. I just wish Dave Silverman would have said something more like this:

    “We don’t agree with it. It’s the wrong way to memorialize people and it is a violation of the first amendment. We greatly appreciate the sacrifice and look upon the memory of these men as heroes, but there is neither need nor justification for supporting religious notions in these men’s memorial. It is wrong and illegal to do so.

    That being said, we will not legally challenge this action (even though it is challengable) out of respect for the memory of these heroes. Instead, we ask the community to either not use tax dollars to pay for the sign and upkeep or to put up a different sign.”

  • Stogoe

    Did none of these firefighters’ friends and families play (or even hear about or see in a movie) “Seven Minutes in Heaven” as teens? Cause that’s what this nickname conjures up for me, two teenagers necking in a closet while their friends listen at the door.

  • arizela

    So they mentioned a fictional place in a place name. *shrug* I have a street in my town named after a video game location. Considering that the reference to Heaven is commonly understood by the community to mean those firefighters rather than a religious prayer or endorsement of one particular religion over another, I don’t see the problem myself. Just about every religion out there believes in some form of Heaven or afterlife or enlightenment, and it’s often used as a colloquial term just meaning good. “That pint of ice cream was heavenly.” I don’t see this as an endorsement of a particular faith and therefore it’s not a church/state issue.

  • Dmitri

    The first two things I thought of were the game “Seven Minutes in Heaven” and… ‘What? They waited nearly 10 years to make a memorial??’

    While I see the merits of “pick your battles,” and “don’t be a dick,” I have to say I sometimes agree with some who are on the other side of those sentiments. Standing for separation of church and state is meaningless if we say “Well, we’ll let this one slide.” A saying my grandmother used to say comes to mind, although she used it in a different context: Silence means consent. And as far as not being a dick, well, those who are wrong tend to be offended when those who are right point out their wrongness. Standing up for what is right, very often means stepping on toes. You can’t upset the status quo without, well, upsetting them.

  • JW

    Although I agree with Hemant on his reasons as to why this memorial is wrong, the fact is that it’s just what comes out of a community/culture dominated by Christian ideas. Maybe someday that won’t be the case. I’m not advocating majoritarianism however, just saying that’s how it happens. I think the best situation for this would be that in the case that a member of the families dissented from the design due to it’s religious promotion in the name of their family member’s actions, then we should absolutely back them the whole way. If not, it’s simply not our business to bother interfering. Again, not because it’s not wrong, but because the scale is too small and there’s no one speaking out for being wronged to support except the taxpayers, and of course they’re being fleeced out of money for much larger religious programs.

  • Sometimes we cut off our noses to spite our faces. Fighting this battle only makes us look petty. In the grand scheme of things, that sign is a small thing. Let’s fight the big battles.

  • My first response, upon reading the name of the street, was “why did they name a street after an adolescent sex game?”

  • John

    David Silverman does not look like a jack-ass. He’s 100 percent correct, and we need to support him.

  • @John, I wholeheartedly agree. It is david Silvermans JOB to be look like a bad guy to the believers out there. The least we can to is stand up for him whilst he takes one for the team.

  • Humble servant of the almighty Lord

    Let the firefighters have the street, they are an inspiration and only giving credit where it is due because Christ is so loving enough to save them a spot in heaven where we as being sinful humans do not deserve to go, the separation of church and state has nothing to do with this case and the firefighters deserve to get this street and name it whatever they please.

  • Blacksheep

    Let’s get the truth out of the way because it’s uncomfortable for most people: To say they’re getting an eternal reward for what they did is a lie. They died and they got no reward for their sacrifice.

    You’re right! It is a lie. Heaven is not a reward for good deeds, it’s a gift from God.
    if they are in heaven, it’s a reward for Jesus’ sacrifice, not theirs.

  • Blacksheep

    … but to bitch about this is, well, bitchy. Show a little heart. It rhymes, and it’s nice. period.

  • Blacksheep

    “… how many heroes has atheism produced?”

    Oh, I dunno…how about Robert G. Ingersoll, an abolitionist, prominent political figure, and Civil War veteran? He didn’t believe in a god.

    What about Pat Tillman?

    This bullshit is infuriating. Seriously.

    Two guys?

  • walter

    Any smart warrior will pick his/her battles… besides it is more important to wage war against “ceremonial deism” promoted by SCOTUS and performed by the elected officials. Seven Heaven is a nice exercise in imagination and brings small measure of consolation to those who suffered actual loss of those loved ones. No need to add insult to injury. There is no reason for atheist to be petty. Let’s focus all our energy on what actually threatens our secular republic. 🙂

  • Julien

    It’s all well and good to pick your battles, but I reckon “Seven Heroes Way” has a better flow to it than “Seven in Heaven Way”. The latter sounds like the seven firefighters were blocking heaven’s path and died as a result, which I don’t think was the intended message.

  • Help Me I’m in Hell Street

    “Seven in Heaven Way” is a bad name for a street. Not for the reason given, but because it’s confusing-sounding to have a street name begin with a number.

    Somehow it also sounds like “Seven in Heaven’s Way” to me. Maybe it’s that roads don’t usually have prepositions in their names. “Heroes Way” sounds better: not just the road name “Heroes” but also suggesting “the path, manner, or method of the heroes.”

  • Dark Jaguar

    Finding out that it was their nickname after death, not before, does change things for me. Now it does seem presumptuous. As for why it wasn’t obvious to me, I watched movies with names like “Blade Runner”, about some guy who didn’t run with a single blade. I never bothered thinking about WHY they were called that. Yeah, a different name suddenly becomes more appropriate now.

    Also yes, it’s long and confusing sounding, which from a purely utilitarian perspective means it’s a bad pick for a street name.

    That said, I still don’t think naming a street Allah Avenue or Heaven Way is a violation of the 1st amendment, because it’s clearly just poetic, not advocating a religion like the ten commandments in a court house would. To me it’s like saying a government funded museum with some paintings of Jesus in it, mixed with numerous other paintings of different subjects, is a violation of the first amendment, which I would find silly since it’s clearly about the art, not promoting the religious views of the artist. (On the other hand, a government funded museum with a prayer written on the door would be another story.)

  • I think it’s worthwhile to have a skirmish over this issue, but not a battle.

    Don’t bring in any lawyers, but do write a letter to the editor suggesting the name Heroes Way as less problematic.

    Not many minds will be changed, but it also wouldn’t take much effort.

    Not a battle, just a skirmish.

  • Medic7046

    First of all I am a Christian. I have read the article and the various responses on this site. I wanted to ask this from sensible people and I believe I have found them. Ken bronstein say its not right. But it also not right to say they can’t have the sign as it is stated? Religion is a belief, according to our constitution we have that freedom. I don’t see where having this sign on the street in front of the fire house where these 7 fireman were stationed is pushing religion on anyone.

  • Morrie

    I sorta have a hard time seeing why this is important. Compared to other issues this seems petty, and as atheists we’re asking to be misunderstood by complaining.

    We’re forgetting that vocabulary and slang has adopted these words to have secular meaning. Heaven has come to generally mean “A perfect personal afterlife.” Similar to how people use the word “Eden,” to mean an untainted paradise.

  • tigersfan6884

    heaven is not a mutually exclusive ideal of christianity, it is a concept that is found in many different cultures and religions.

  • downtown dave

    The timeliness of this protest is no different than the Westboro Baptist Church protesting a funeral.

  • “Seven in Heaven” clearly promotes the Evangelical Christian afterlife myth; consider these other very possible street signs representing other worldviews:

    “Seven Reincarnated” — Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Scientology, Wicca, Kabbalistic Judaism

    “Seven Transformed” – Daoism, Confucianism

    “Seven Ancestors” – Shamanism, Shinto

    “Seven Memories” – Atheism, Secular Humanism

  • Kathleeng4

    Sad comment on our priorities…i tried to think of the opposite (visual and internal idea) of the hell of being burned and crushed to death while in the act of doing for another. The opposite word for that nightmarish hell would be heaven. Our language is not big enough for the neurotic occupation some have with applying every “ism” with nutral political correctness. The word and concept of heaven existed long before Chrstianity, so don’t get those panties in a bunch.

    And while I am at it, it is getting very weary…old…hearing about  the mentally ill men who blew up the towers in religious terms. They were sick people, suffering from influences and propaganda from other sick people…historical facts…repeated often in the past. 

    Go be part of the fix it…go feed a lonely one in a nursing home, forgotten by thier family; go get some clean white socks for the homeless, and place them in thier hands as you look into thier eyes; go create heaven on Earth and contribute to the begining of the end of this socio-cultural-political-economic-religious nightmare.

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