Atheists are complaining about a new street sign in Red Hook that commemorates firefighters who died on 9/11.[...] “It’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists,” said David Silverman of American Atheists tells the Brooklyn Paper. “It links Christianity and heroism.”
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.
I think the City Councilmember’s defense of the street’s renaming is valid and proper. But I am more concerned with the Atheist’s protest that “It’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists”. This objection seems to be representative of the majority of Atheists I encounter on issues where religion and politics may intersect. And I think it is a rather presumptuous and borderline pompous objection.
The Atheist objectors complaint: “It’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists”, presumes heaven does not exist, and by extension, presumes Christianity (or any religion which may affirm a heaven-like aspect of an afterlife) is false. That’s what bothers me the most. It demands the government also adopt the presumption of atheism. ‘We think your God doesn’t really exist’ is not a good enough reason to expunge religious expression from the public eye.
Living in a free society means sometimes you might get offended.