Many atheists have long intended on promulgating the atheist symbol; an all encompassing atheism symbol. Let us consider the obstacles to their goal and then review some of the proposed symbols.
It does seem rather odd to first claim that the only thing that atheists have in common is a lack of belief in god(s) and then claim that all can come under one atheist symbol roof. Perhaps they mean that atheism symbol to refer back to the, supposed, only tie that binds: the lack of belief in god(s).
the "atheist" movement keeps shooting itself in the foot by failing to reach a consensus regarding the meaning of "atheism."
Of course, the first hurdle is that atheists do not agree that they should reach a consensus regarding the meaning of "atheism." Consider some examples of the various sects of atheism and in the meanwhile think of what the atheist symbol would look like-what would be the atheism symbol?
There is the positive affirmation of God's non-existence sect; those who actually affirm that they know that God does not exist-known as strong atheism, positive atheism, explicit atheism or critical atheism.
There is the sect that does not believe in God because God's existence has not been proven or because there is no evidence-known as weak atheism, negative atheism or implicit atheism.
There are the various socio-political-cultural terms such as Naturalist (Naturalism), Materialist (Materialism), Rationalist (Rationalism), Humanist (Humanism), Skeptic (Skepticism), Bright, Freethinker, Philosophical Skepticism, Universism, Ethical Culturalists, etc.
There is also the militant atheist or activist atheist, the Christopher Hitchens inspired anti-theist and the, Bill Maher coined term, apatheist.
There are also the ones, such as Michael Newdow, who claim that atheism is a religion (and then attempt to remove "Under God" and "In God we trust" from the public square and replace them with the god of atheism-nothing).
I have defined these various groups here and here.
All of the above sects correlate in various ways. Although, some atheists seems to attempt to excommunicate one another or seek to keep atheists within their particular cult/sects. For example, American Atheists' webmaster wrote,
Atheists are NOT "secular humanists", "freethinkers", "rationalists" or "ethical culturalists"…Often, people who are Atheists find it useful to masquerade behind such labels.1
Moreover, while Sam Harris argues that there should be no such word as "atheism" American Atheists counter-argue that they have fought long and hard for the acceptance of atheism and thus, the term should not be gotten rid of. Keep in mind that Sam Harris is the atheist Buddhist mystic who does not like the labels "atheist," "Buddhist" or "mystic."
Thus, as far as atheist symbols go; atheists appear to only succeed in creating symbols for their own particular groups and not in creating an atheism symbol in general.
Atheist Symbols - Atheism Symbols
Quite often images of the universe are used as atheism symbols. Having employed such images myself I believe that the reasons for doing so are, at least, twofold:
1) One simply does not know what else to use. 2) It is actually very indicative of the atheist(s) worldview(s).
As Carl Sagan so famously, un-scientifically and un-philosophically stated it,
The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.
Understand that for the atheist the Cosmos takes that place of God and the pre-Big Bang scenario serves as a supernatural realm (see posts of cosmology here and here). The atheist supernatural realm is the unobservable, un-reproducible-experimented upon. It is the omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresent realm of limitless possibility which created the Cosmos. On this view we note that, apparently:
It is ignorant and superstitious to believe that God made everything out of nothing. It is rational and scientific to believe that nothing made everything out of nothing.
It is ignorant and superstitious to believe that God is eternal. It is rational and scientific to believe that matter is eternal.
God is an effect and must have had a cause. Matter is the uncaused first cause.
If God made everything, then who made God? Matter made everything and nothing made matter.
Thus, the universe serves as an atheist symbol or atheism symbol in general.
Some atheist symbols have actually become very popular and have gone quite a ways in becoming an atheism symbol.
American Atheists American Atheists' atheism symbol:
American Atheists explain that "An international symbol for Atheism has long been needed" and that they selected a "contemporary scientific symbol" since "only through the use of scientific analysis and free, open inquiry can humankind reach out for a better life" which is, of course, an un-scientific assertion. They sought to recognize "the new atomic era" and thus chose "the atomic whirl." As above, it should be noted that the atom serves the same purpose as an atheist symbol: to represent the omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresent realm of limitless possibility: the eternal atom. Of course, the "the new atomic era" also means the deaths of millions of people from the making of atomic bombs and the pollution which remains there from.
American Atheists further explain that since "not all of the answers are in" the "open orbital forms an 'A' to represent Atheism" and the actual letter "'A' signifies American."
While this atheism symbols is very popular it fails on, at least, two accounts:
1) It is supposed to be "An internationalsymbol for Atheism" and yet, the letter "'A' signifies American." Perhaps, the "A" will be changed into an "I" for international. 2) While the open orbit represents Atheism "not all of the answers are in" and yet, it is presupposed that when all the answers are in, if there be such a time, all the answers will point to atheism. This is a "faith" based belief that seeks to affirm atheism by appealing to some unknown and unobserved future time when, surely, atheism will be vindicated.
While the American Atheists were hard at work intelligently designing the "international symbol for Atheism" the Atheist Alliance International was hard a work designing the "international symbol of freethought" ("While" is a literary device since the symbols were designed some 44 years apart).
It may be quite apropos as it does remind a Trekie of the symbol of "Star Fleet" (if you do not know what a Trekie is then you are not a Trekie):
Apparently, atheism proper needs its own international atheism symbol and also each sect needs its own international fill in the blank symbol.
Richard Dawkins and the Out Campaign
Obviously, this "A" refers to atheism and yet, has been correlated with "the scarlet letter" in reference to the "A" that was placed on the front of the clothing of adulterers in Puritan communities in places such as Boston. The claim is that just as adultery, and hence the adulterer, were stigmatized atheists have been stigmatized. Thus, as an atheism symbol the "A" is meant to represent the breaking of taboo, coming out of the atheist closet, and taking pride in being an atheist. This is certainly an odd correlation and yet, all the odder due to the fact that it is, in a way, quite apropos.
Adultery in a bad thing. Atheism is claimed to be a good thing.
Adulterers should rightly feel bad and repent. Atheists are urged to feel good and rebel.
Adultery is destructive to trust, the family and society. Atheism is said to be constructive.
Adultery is conducive to shame. Atheism is conducive to pride.
Yet, on the other hand: adultery has had its own coming out of the closet as nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be avoided, nothing to repent about but just another bio-function unconnected to ethics.
Thus, perhaps the correlation is quite accurate in many respects such as the fact that Richard Dawkins' Out Campaign is inspired by the New Atheist movement the purpose of which, being a militant-activist-atheist movement, is not merely to come out of the closet but to then proceed to kick in the neighbors' door and shove atheism down their throats.
In public schools sex ed is taught from an atheistic point of view which sees sex as merely a bio-function completely unrelated to ethics. The purpose is to attempt to teach how to keep children, so the amorality de jour goes; are gonna do it anyway, from getting and spreading disease.
There is another correlation to be noted: Richard Dawkins' Out Campaign is likened to the urges to come out of the closet of the homosexual movement. Note the reference to the homosexual movement. Thus, the emphasis is not merely to homosexuals but to the movement. Likewise, there are, on the one hand, the friendly atheists next door and, on the other hand, the militant-activist-atheist movement.
The correlation is that the homosexual movement is incredibly powerful in that it becomes a worldview through which all things are judged. Consider questions such as:
What is the appropriate political party to support, the politician for whom to vote, the bill and law for which to vote? What is the correct theology, holy book, religion? Who is truly tolerant, moral, ethical, diverse? What is to be supported in society, pop-culture, and promulgated by Hollywood?
According to the homosexual movement the answer to all of these questions and more, indeed all, is whichever accepts homosexuality ("accepts" generally meaning not only ignore or does not condemn but actively supports and endorses). Likewise, atheists judge all things via their particular, and peculiar, chosen worldviews.
Richard Dawkins' Out Campaign atheist symbol has been co-opted and augmented for various purposes. For example, yours truly has employed the "A" in making images for Atheism is Dead (True Freethinker's predesessor) and for Atheism is Dead's project "Answering Atheism":
Atheism Analyzed has co-opted it in this atheist friendly form:
He is Risen has this form:
And surely, there are other such examples.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorns
As atheism symbols the The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorns(which I wrote about here). are examples of both; atheism as anti-theism mockery and a demonstration of the general atheist lack of knowledge with regards to scientific and philosophical natural theology.
The The Flying Spaghetti Monster is represented both in various images and in various symbols such as these:
Likewise with the Invisible Pink Unicorns as exampled here:
The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorns are atheism symbols that are meant to show that anyone can come up with any silly idea about the supernatural yet, these do not pass the scientifically and philosophically based test of natural theology. Since I will be elucidating this in the, relatively, near future I will leave it at that, for now.
The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo's painting The Creation of Adam has also been a favorite target of atheism as anti-theism mockery. While depicting God in an utterly unbiblical manner this painting actually expresses much biblical truth that I pointed out in an essay reviewing the work of art.
The image has been manipulated in various ways such as the following:
Yours truly further manipulated the manipulation by creating a mock cover of the opposite of "The Wedge" document which I entitled "The Wedgie" document (written about here).
And our old fallacious friend The Flying Spaghetti Monster is back in God replacing form:
Apparently, the Brights are attempting to get into the atheist symbols ring as light bulbs are becoming an increasingly popular atheism symbol.
I would advice caution with a light bulb as an atheist symbol because one is instantly tempted to make reference to dim bulbs.
In like manner another atheist symbol that is gaining popularity is the candle:
I would imagine that what is in mind is the tile of Carl Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (fascinatingly reviewed by Prof. Richard Lewontin here and here):
However, I would, again, advice caution with a candle as an atheism symbol since it makes me want to say, "Indeed, atheism and the 'science' upon which it claims to rely do, in fact, hearken back to quaint Victorian Era concepts of abiogenesis, flies from meat, rats from laundry, cells are gelatinous blobs, universes from nothing or eternal uncaused matter, etc." Plus, the candle does not hold a candle to the light bulb.
As atheist symbols representing the atheism as anti-theism mockery sect various mockeries of the Jesus fish have been intelligently designed. The Jesus fish is, in reality, the "Ichthus" which is a multi meaning symbol:
1) "Ichthus" is Greek for "fish" and makes an acrostic for Iesous Khristos Theou huios soter - Jesus Christ God's son savior. 2) It was a symbols that was used when Christian were oppressed. Upon attempting to enter a, by necessity, secret Christian meeting the doorman would draw the Ichthus and the person attempting to enter would add the remainder of the loop in order to transform the fish into the symbol for eternity.
Many, many such Ichthus mockeries turned atheism symbols have been produces such as:
Atheism as Anarchy
Indicative of atheism as anarchy, at least with regards to atheism symbols, are those atheists who use the symbol for anarchy as an atheism symbol. This makes sense in, at least, two ways:
1) Both words begin with an "A" and so the well known anarchy symbol easily translates as an atheism symbol 2) It is actually quite accurate to conclude that if atheism as God does not exist is true then anarchy is the accurate depiction of the world. Either anything goes or mob rules only as quelled by the iron fist of a fitter mob.
The Arizona Atheist is an example of atheism as anarchy:
Is it clear what is anarchy? If you have $0.25 and I want it, I shoot you in the face with a bazooka, I take your coin and-and nothing! I go spend it and enjoy my purchase. Or I do not purchase anything but simply shoot the shopkeeper in the face with a bazooka and go about my merry way. Thus, the anarchy symbol as an atheist symbol should only be encouraged.
Miscellaneous Atheism Symbols
Of course, there are many, many more atheism symbols with more being intelligently designed everyday-it seems.
This one is interesting; the eternal atheist symbol-how is that for certainty?:
How about this one? Perhaps a mockery of the Alpha and Omega?:
This one is supposed to be an asterisk denoting something to the likes of "Sure but_" and is sometimes places after images of crosses, etc.:
I think that the hidden upside down pentagram is a nice touch:
Overall, it is interesting to watch atheists attempt to find some tie that binds be it the virtually dead lack of belief in god(s) definition of atheism or, as we have been reviewing, various atheist symbols.
1. THE WEBMASTER, "Atheism - What It Is, and What It Isn't,"American Atheists
Yet, Dan Barker's The Freedom From Religion Foundation disagrees,
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