A short street in southwest Brooklyn has given some militant atheists the opportunity to prove once again that being angry against God turns one against man, as well.
Richards Street has been renamed “Seven in Heaven Way” in honor of the seven local firefighters killed on 9/11. Colloquially, the group has been known as the “Seven in Heaven” for years, so the moniker struck the right tone, memorializing the sacrifice of these men in the very words of their friends, neighbors, and families. The name is a little campy, perhaps, not very highbrow, but it’s a charming example of the fierce and well-deserved pride in one’s neighbors and neighborhood that Chesterton lionized in The Napoleon of Notting Hill – an increasingly rare commodity.
Cue the protests of the wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth crowd. The word “heaven,” in case you didn’t know, is offensively religious, and thus cannot be emblazoned on a publicly funded noun. (I wish I could say the protesters were biblically literate enough to protest that “seven” is an offensively perfect number and should be similarly verboten.) Dave Silverman of American Atheists implores the city to respect the constitution by avoiding the H-word: “Call it ‘Seven Heroes Way’. Call it ‘Remember Seven Way’. But leave Christianity out of it – it wasn’t involved.”
Such a delirious allergy to all things vaguely associated with Christianity deserves little comment, as the phenomenon is both widespread and frequently addressed in these pages. What’s particularly outrageous about this event is the protesters’ casual willingness to brush aside a real, colloquial name with flesh-and-blood ties of love behind it in favor of a bland, neutered, ideologically sanitized version of the same.
Apparently the humanists don’t have much of an ear for what humans really love. People in mourning and people remembering loved ones don’t want generalized statements of universal applicability – that’s why renaming Richards St. Freedom Way or Sacrifice Way or Prosocial Genetic Behavior Way or even Seven Heroes Way wouldn’t appeal. They want the specific character of their loved ones to be forever remembered in the way their friends and families knew them – in this case, as the “Seven in Heaven.”
No one can really get upset at the evangelical atheists for railing against religion – after all, they can’t help it. What’s really strange about them is how easily they rail again natural, human goods as well. It’s almost as if there were a connection between religion and being human.