Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Search for an Atheist Symbol

?

So the other day (actually more like 6 months ago) I was sitting at my computer, procrastinating for something or other, when I had a thought: most religions, political philosophies, etc. have a symbol that represents them, whereas I have never seen a decent symbol for Atheism.

Immediately questions arise of whether or not we even need a symbol. Basically the only thing that all Atheists have in common is the fact that we don't believe in God, and there's a wide range of beliefs in spirituality, morality, utilitarianism, humanism, and so on. Can something as broad as a lack of belief in a deity can be summed up in a symbol? Questions of its utility aside, I find the actual search for a symbol intriguing.

The slideshow on the page is actually a part of that search, since it just shows anything tagged with the word "Atheism" on Photobucket. As a result, some of the images are amusingly anti-atheist, but its a good collection overall.

Another good collection is on this page by "a finnish atheist." It does a really god job outlining the pros and cons of several symbols, as well as the debate about wether or not we need a symbol at all. My favorite serious ones from this site are the simple circle and the "two ellipses". I also like the secular humanist's symbol of an empowered-looking human.

There's a couple of really funny symbols out there, including the Darwin Fish and a new one on me, the "invisible pink unicorn" which looks more like a cross between a bird and a spaceship than a unicorn. I would consider the flying spaghetti monster to be an atheist symbol, or at least a symbol of the ridiculousness of religion.

I just found out about the OUT campaign (say that three times fast) which was started by Richard Dawkins and is encouraging people to come out as atheists, with the goal of empowering atheists and showing our numbers. Their symbol, the scarlet A, is now one of my favorites. I actually kind of like the literary allusion, and the symbol is hip and stands out and makes a statement. Actually, the only problem with it is that it is hip, and thus prone to fading away with fashion. For now, though, its a great way to start conversations and "come out" as an atheist to those around you.


I was also thinking about what I would use, and I came up with the infinity sign. Its symmetrical, it looks good on paper and its easy to draw. Its a good alternative to a zero or a null sign, in that it is kind of the positive opposite of what those things represent. Unfortunately, it also carries a bunch of religious connotations and might be confusing, but hey, so are all the others. I also came across this t-shirt with a cross between an Atheist "A" and an infinity sign, which makes for an interesting and original symbol and is probably now copyrighted.

In all likelihood, we're gonna have to wait for a decent story or event to portray through our symbol, like someone dying on a cross or passing out fish to people. Until then, we're going to have to stick to the story of Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I think I'm ok with that.

14 comments:

ANDON said...

When I first started my search for an Atheist symbol, I was actually at my laptop in a college dorm lounge. I told the two people around me about what I was doing, and one of them enthusiastically started discussing it with me, while the other didn't say much of anything. Later, I would find out that the quiet girl was deeply religious, and actually quite uncomfortable with the discussion. I don't feel terribly bad about that, mostly because I've had plenty of situations in which I'm subjected to beliefs I'm uncomfortable with, such as young-earth-creationism. On the other hand, I wouldn't really wish that on someone else, and doing so evokes the eye-for-an-eye mentality which is both the foundation and the central problem with many people's moral systems. So I guess, on a feeling bad scale from one to ten (feel horrible=10), I'd probably be a 4.

Cirque du Urk said...

noodly appendages!

Zach said...

I have to say that I kind of like the A symbol with the infinity design intertwined.

ANDON said...

I found a new, really awesome symbol! Check it out here, with a full explanation for why a 5-armed asterisk is a great symbol for atheism.

Rob said...

http://i42.tinypic.com/dcoax.jpg

i obviously like this one the best!!!(yes this is me)
-rob

ANDON said...

Amazing Rob! I do believe thats the first Tat I've seen on the blog!

Rawalpindi said...

I agree that we need a symbol. Something that is easy to represent. Something that can be worn on a necklace or affixed to a steeple for all to see. I favour the letter X. It connotes "No" and is sufficiently similar to, and different from, the christian cross to make the point that we don't accept such nonsense. It could also commandeer other usages of the letter X, such as making a mark in a voting box. A bumper sticker could say "Atheist X" or "Proof beats faith X", with the X in a box. Kisses (xxx) would be questionable. Ah, yes. X

Jennifer said...

I am getting more and more vocal about being a happy well rounded atheist. I am tired of feeling like a 2 headed monster when someone I talk to finds out that I don't believe in God. Anyway to make a long story short I'm looking to get a tattoo, that represents me being a morally good Godless human being. I think I'm leaning towards the Humanist symbol. Any other suggestions would be great.

Jennifer said...

I would love for there to be a symbol that represents my belief in evolution rather than creationism. As it stands, I would like to get a tattoo and the best I can find is the Darwin fish. The humanist symbol is a close second. Neither one really makes a great tattoo...

rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rachel said...

I think the plain black circle would make a great symbol, its simple and i love it. i too was thinking of getting a tatto of some sort. only problem is i dont know if the black circle already stands for anything else, or what does it commonly mean? is it widely recognized as an atheist symbol? because ive seen it pop up a few times along with a few others, such as the A in a circle.

henrie said...

Immediately questions arise of whether or not we even need a symbol. Basically the only thing that all Atheists have in common is the fact that we don't believe in God, and there's a wide range of beliefs in spirituality, morality, utilitarianism, humanism, and so on. Can something as broad as a lack of belief in a deity can be summed up in a symbol? Questions of its utility aside, I find the actual search for a symbol intriguing. Youve given yourself the answer already..... a Symbol doesn't work for a Atheist.. But you could express your feelings by creating like a stopsign in traffic with the word Religion in the middle...

henrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
henrie said...

found this:
http://media.photobucket.com/images/atheist%20symbol/