By John Del Signore I gothamist.com
Atheists are complaining about a new street sign in Red Hook that commemorates firefighters who died on 9/11. On Saturday, a group of Red Hook firefighters, community members, and local politicians, gathered near the Engine 202 and Ladder 101 firehouse to rename part of Richards Street "Seven in Heaven Way." "They are heroes and should be rewarded in a place like heaven,” Tom Miskel of Community Board 6 tells the Brooklyn Paper. Atheists, of course, are making a big stink.
"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." A valid point, but 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.
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.
"Is it appropriate? There are any number of streets named after religious figures, like Sister Mary Franciscus Way [in Sunset Park]? Should we not honor these people because the community chooses to call them the Seven in Heaven? Yes, it is absolutely appropriate to spend city funds to honor heroes, however they're known." And you know, "Seven In Existential Annihilation Way" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.