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Atheist Symbols, Why Not?

May 16, 2009

Something I don’t understand is this aversion many atheists’ have towards an atheist symbol. While I don’t think there will ever be a consensus among atheists for a single symbol, I don’t see a problem with trying. I also don’t see a problem with multiple symbols, atheists are varied and while one subgroup may be of an anti-religious, another may be more pro-science, and multiple symbols can help differentiate that.

Western atheism is a subculture, there can be no denying that. It’s a rallying point for an oppressed people and that is an important thing. Aside from that, atheism already has a well used symbol. A word like “atheist” or “atheism” is a symbol for an abstract concept. When you’re calling yourself an atheist you’re already using symbology, so just get over it and find an image you like or choose none.

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18 Comments
  1. May 16, 2009 3:28 am

    Atheism has become a bit of a sub-culture recently, but it’s made up largely of people who hate sub-cultures, or at least pretend to. Sure, we can try to pick a symbol, but we’ll never succeed in actually coming up with anything that everyone can agree on. There’ll always be some people criticizing the use of whatever representation we choose. For example, even the label of “atheist…” I know of at least two people who do not believe in god but still refuse to call themselves atheists, for reasons I cannot guess.

    That said, I like the idea of the “out” campaign, and I do think it’s a worthwhile goal to at least attempt to form some sort of movement, even if it’s full of disagreement.

    • May 21, 2009 5:54 pm

      I know of several people who are atheists, but don’t identify as such.

      Many people are atheists they just don’t want to, don’t like to, or couldn’t be bothered to use the term “atheist”.

  2. May 16, 2009 4:21 am

    We often hear the debate of “Is Atheism a Religion” or, recently, “Is Atheism a Worldview”. I think it is, in a qualified sense of course. And I think a symbol points to that. I think that some of those averse to the symbol, don’t want to think of themselves as a “sub-culture”. But I agree with you, it is as much a sub-culture as Christianity. Just as there are a huge variety of Christians, so a huge variety of Atheists. But the do have enough overlapping features in common to be sub-culture. IMO

  3. May 16, 2009 5:58 am

    herding cats, my dear, herding cats.

  4. Mark permalink
    May 17, 2009 7:35 pm

    I’ve always been partial to the Atom symbol, but just as Personal Failure indicated, getting atheists to agree is like herding cats.

    • May 17, 2009 8:43 pm

      I like the atom symbol as well. I think that atheists can be herded into small groups, we just need the leadership of said groups to work together.

  5. PStryder permalink
    May 20, 2009 9:53 pm

    We already have the Darwin fish, the IPU, the FSM, the atom, etc.

    • May 21, 2009 10:34 am

      That’s my point, we have plenty to choose from. I’m not suggesting we make more, just that we accept that there are those who want a symbol.

      • PStryder permalink
        May 21, 2009 10:56 am

        Actually, the only reason I like the Darwin fish, the IPU, and the FSM is because they irritate believers.

        I REALLY like one of the Darwin fish that reads EVOLVE eating the Xtian fish. heh heh

  6. mediation209 permalink
    May 21, 2009 1:47 pm

    Our favorite symbologist, Robert Langdon (“Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown), suggests that reverse image calligraphy is something very impossible to do. If anyone is capable of writing something in that calligraphy it suggests the person must be a very high up Illuminati or at least a very capable intellect. Do we accept symbols as having greater significance simply because of the thought delivered in their creation?

  7. May 21, 2009 5:04 pm

    I’m all for atheist symbols, I currently prefer the out campaign’s A, simple and getting a lot of recognition.

    Saw several people at a science conference wearing the A lapel pins (got one of my own now), turned out they were from the Australian Skeptics Society. It gave me an opportunity to say Hi to some fellow atheists.

    This is just one example of where having a recognised symbol can be beneficial.

  8. godlessgirl permalink
    May 22, 2009 8:03 pm

    I have tentatively adopted a symbol for my atheism, as I tend to like representative symbols for ideas and identities (what can I say, I used to be big into icthus fishes, menorot, and crosses).

    The symbol I chose is the “Athterisk” (though I just call it the atheist asterisk, because I don’t like the forced tongue-tie of that nonsense word)
    http://athterisk.org/

    It’s open enough to stand for many things, it isn’t a “negative” symbol (anti-christian or the like), culture-specific, scientific (atheism isn’t science, so the atom symbol doesn’t work for me), or like any other symbol i’ve seen before (e.g. the Red A is just like the Scarlet Letter for adultery).

    Since atheism is unorganized, I doubt there will be one symbol that wins out internationally.

  9. Michael permalink
    May 27, 2009 9:19 pm

    I display the Evolve fish on my car, for the same reason as PStryder… to iritate the believers. But I akso feel that displaying too many symbols lowers us to their level. When I want someone to know that I’m an Atheist… I just come out and tell them. Let them deal with it. As a matter-of-fact, I just made it very clear to my own brother this week…………. In case he didn’t already know.

  10. Ben permalink
    May 31, 2009 8:28 pm

    we shouldn’t need symbols…once we adopt them we become branded, tarred with the same brush, imagining that we are greater than the sum of our parts….it’s a slippery slope

  11. faithisstupid permalink
    June 26, 2009 1:35 pm

    I like the out campaign’s symbol of the scarlet A from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

  12. August 6, 2009 5:07 am

    I am still working on a symbol for people who don’t believe in goblins. I will get to this next.

  13. win39 permalink
    October 30, 2009 4:32 pm

    Why not the universal symbol for infinity, the figure 8 on its side. It would symbolize the attachment to the natural world and lack of superstition in contrast to the religions which have fixed beginnings and end days.

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