Atheists hate hero Firemen…maybe

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.


  1. As a Christian I’m not thrilled with the implication that dying a heroic death sends you to Heaven. That’s just bad theology. Most ironically, to say that someone is definitely in Heaven is as judgmental as saying they are in Hell (though the people who freak out if you even ask if Gandhi is in Heaven never seem to grasp that, but that’s another topic).

    Having said that, I would never bother to complain about such a trivial issue. Secular people make all sorts of references to Heaven. These atheists amuse me by their being so thin-skinned.

  2. I actually don’t care one way or the other.

    But ask yourself how you’d feel if it was about “Seven Reincarnated and Closer to Nirvana”, and you might be able to tell why some atheists are annoyed.

    • But that’s where you’re wrong. I wouldn’t be offended. I would not advocate for the removal of the sign, and I would speak out against anyone, Christian or otherwise, who would demand its removal.

      I do not advocate for suppression of religious expression just because I disagree with the particular religious system. Atheists however, seem to have that problem.

  3. “As long as it’s within the standards used to allow other monuments, there isn’t a problem, now is there.”

    Good. Then we’ll spend out tax money by putting up monuments to every religion tax payers have.

    That won’t be a waste of funds at all…

  4. “In God we trust, is the legal national motto”

    It’s the national motto. It isn’t legal or constitutional though.

    I much prefer E Pluribus Unum. It doesn’t arbitrarily divide the citizens.

    • It is legal, and it has been ruled constitutional since its adoption

      • Ruled constitutional by biased judges who want their religion to trump the constitution. And they were afraid of the godless soviets.

        Them having ruled it constitutional doesn’t make it so.

        • Can we then conclude that when things like prayer in school and at graduations are ruled unconstitutional, that those decisions are rooted in biased activist judges.

          Just because its ruled unconstitutional doesn’t make it so.

  5. Two things:

    1. I don’t think it’s proper for a government office to endorse any specific religion or non-religion. It unnecessarily puts a strain on those that are not of a Christian background. If it were privately funded (even if it is put in a public area), that would be a different subject. People should be able to freely express their religion, but this is not the government’s role.

    2. Having said that, I don’t actually care. Do I think this is improper? Yes. Is it a big enough deal to warrant protests? No.

    • So, Oscar, does the fact that the community dubbed the group with the name, and that it was not a government ‘tip of the hat’ to the fireman, make a difference to you?

    • And should the community’s name for the fireman prevent them from any public recognition?

      • Yeah, honestly, after thinking about it a bit, I think I want to amend what I said. Granted, I don’t know the full story, but this does seem rather intertwined with the community and is not a blatant promotion of religion by a government agency. Bear in mind, however, the predominant reason why I don’t really mind this is simply because it is so founded within the community already.

  6. The two atheists contacted for comment were contacted by Fox news and the Brooklyn Paper and not because there is some organized movement to oppose the naming of the street. The Fox news article concedes as much when the councilors are confused as to why there is even a story about this as no one protested or raised their voice during the public consultation process.

    I disagree with the atheists they quoted, but neither of these individuals have made a big stink about the placement of the sign. They were contacted for comment in an effort to create a news story. How many atheists did they contact in order to find people who wanted to stir the pot?
    Come on, John. Atheists Hate Hero Firemen? Get bent. I see no problem with the sign and neither does likely 90% of the atheists you will encounter. If I have any complaint, it is the same as Neil’s. Just because they did a heroic deed does not get them into heaven in Christian theological terms. I won’t begrudge the families that hope though….

    • George, you of all people should have been able to recognize when the titles say “xyz…maybe” that its a satirical title. Of course I don’t think for a second that Atheists, in general, or even these particular Atheists hate the firemen.

      The other examples of this are:

      New law unfair to convicted drug dealers…maybe
      Dems oppose Herman Cain because they’re racist…maybe
      Bin Laden killed…maybe

      You were the last person I would have guessed would be ticked off at the title.

  7. I’m feeling oversensitive today John….and I’m concerned that some people who read this blog don’t see that title as a joke. You didn’t specifically disavow that sentiment or even discuss it in the body of the post either. But sorry for throwing around baseless accusations…..maybe.

  8. yes, living in a free society does mean that from time to time, you will be offended

    and it’s time for religious sensibilities to stop being coddled.

    those who died were heroic and their deeds should be remembered as a sacrifice, it undermines the meaningfulness of their deaths by saying now they are being rewarded in heaven so it’s okay that they are dead

    • Its a common understanding of the population at large that heaven is attained by doing good things. Giving ones life for another is seen as a great good.

      The idea of “going to heaven” is almost devoid of religious fabric it is used so flippantly. I would almost say people say it as a reaction, and not a religious philosophical assessment of reality.

      • I am inclined to agree with your response assessment in most situations, but not in the context of events that are as emotionally loaded as 9/11 or specifically 9/11, given that it was the inciting incident of the Christian/Islamic Crusades 2.0.

        Putting an ice cream brownie sundae on par with 9/11 fatalities, isn’t an equivalent secular wash.

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