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Atheism:

Atheist symbols

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Read a news feed of current topics, maintained by American Atheists

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Background:

Adrian Barnett notes:

"A subject that often crops up on atheist newsgroups is "What is the atheist's symbol?"
After all, Christians have their cross, Jews have their star, Muslims have their crescent moon and so on. What can Atheists have?"

The Darwin fish is seen fairly often -- either as shown or with the name Darwin in its body. This has the potential disadvantage of being mistaken as a symbol for belief in evolution. Also, it may be regarded as a cynical attack on a common Christian symbol: the Ichthus (fish):

Another potential Atheist symbol would be similar to the logo of the band Bad Religion. It consists of a black cross on a white background inside a red circle with a diagonal red slash. We don't show it here because it is copyrighted. It can variously be interpreted as "no Christians here" or "Christianity forbidden." This has the disadvantage of being an explicitly anti-Christian symbol instead of a pro-Atheist logo.

The following are some suggestions that Atheists have promoted:

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American Atheists' symbol:

When American Atheists (AA) was founded in 1963, they chose the atomic symbol as seen in the center of the above graphic as their logo. The use of the atomic symbol flowed from their belief that human progress can best be achieved through the scientific method and rational, open inquiry.

Some of the features of this symbol:

bulletThe lower part of the symbol is broken or open ended. This refers to the incompleteness that is inherent in the science. As AA's web site says: "Not all of the answers are in."
bulletThe incomplete vertical electron orbit forms the letter "A" which represents Atheism.
bulletThe letter "A" in the center of the symbol does not represent Atheism. It stands for the first letter of the name of the country where an AA affiliate group is located -- America in this case. 1

Unfortunately, many people associate this symbol with danger, nuclear waste, hazardous radiation, nuclear bombs, etc. It has not found general acceptance.

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A logo based on the mathematical "empty set" symbol:

Wayne Otero has suggested this stylized version of the "empty set" symbol It is used in set theory -- a branch of mathematics. The empty set is the unique set that contains no elements. For example, among triangles, the empty set would be a set of all four-sided triangles. Another empty set is composed of all integers greater than 8 but less than 9. The term "null set" is occasionally used in place of "empty set;" however its use is not recommended because it is ambiguous.

The empty set symbol was derived from the letter "" in the Danish and Norwegian alphabet. An alternate symbol is "{ }."

The Wikipedia entry on the empty set states that:

"An empty set is not the same as nothing; it is a set with nothing inside it, and a set is something. This often causes difficulty among those who first encounter it. It may be helpful to think of a set as a bag containing its elements; an empty bag may be empty, but the bag itself certainly exists." 6

There is a close analogy between the empty set and an Atheist's concept of God. A consensus exists among Theists, Agnostics, Atheists, Theists, Polytheists, Henotheists, etc. that God certainly exists as a concept. There are tens of thousands of faith groups in the world who believe that they know without qualification that God exists; further they "know" his/her/its/their attributes. Unfortunately they cannot agree on what God's attributes are. If they had been able to agree, there would be tens of millions of people, and their descendents, whose lives would have been spared during religious wars and holocausts.

Atheists:

bulletIn general are unaware of the existence of God, and
bulletStrong Atheists are firm in their belief that no God exists.

Thus the concept of an empty set fits very well with the Atheists' concepts of God: God exists only as an empty concept. A full scale copy of the symbol is online. 8

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The Invisible Pink Unicorn:

The Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) web site recommends this symbol to represent Atheism. They write:

"It is a fusion between the mathematical void symbol and the stylized representation of an unicorn. The void symbol (empty set ) is an allusion to nothingness and in this case meaning 'no faith' or 'no god'. The unicorn is a reference to a kind of story that atheists often tell to make their point. In this case one of the first stories to circulate the Internet newsgroups: The Invisible Pink Unicorn." 2

According to Wikipedia:

"The Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) is the goddess of a satiric parody religion aimed at theistic beliefs, which takes the form of a unicorn that is paradoxically both invisible and pink. These attributes serve to satirize the apparent contradictions in properties which some attribute to a theistic God."

"The IPU is commonly used to highlight the perceived fallacious or arbitrary nature of supernatural beliefs by, for example, replacing the word "God" in any theistic statement with "Invisible Pink Unicorn". A quote from the alt.atheism FAQ sums up this use of the Invisible Pink Unicorn:"

"The point of this silliness is to prod the theist into remembering that their preaching is likely to be viewed by atheists as having all the credibility and seriousness of [the atheists'] preaching about the IPU." 3,4

The Invisible Pink Unicorn's web site sells T-shirts displaying this logo. 5 Ring of Fire Enterprises sells inexpensive car emblems and gold and silver finished lapel prints and pendants. 6 These products provide a mechanism by which Atheists can recognize each other without offending Theists.

Some Atheists postulate the existence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It serves some of the same functions as the IPU. It doesn't exist either. However, it does not seem amenable to representation as an elegant logo. It is a rather repulsive mess.

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Two more atheist logos based on the empty set symbol:

  Adrian Barnett notes that a simple black donut symbol was suggested "some time ago on alt.atheism, IIRC." He also suggests an alternate version containing the words (shown clockwise from the twelve o'clock position: AGNOSTIC, HUMANIST, RATIONALIST, FREETHINKER, SECULAR, INFIDEL, NONBELIEVER, ATHEIST, HERETIC, and GODLESS. 9

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Additional symbols:

See: "One more symbol for atheism" at: http://www.helsinki.fi/

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References used:

  1. "The American Atheists symbol," American Atheists, at: http://www.atheists.org/
  2. Invisible Pink Unicorn's web site is at: http://www.invisiblepinkunicorn.com/
  3. "Invisible Pink Unicorn," Wikipedia, downloaded on 2007-MAR-05, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  4. Michelle Malkin, "Welcome to alt.atheism!," 2000-SEP-30, at: http://web.archive.org/
  5. Invisible Pink Unicorn's T-Shirts can be reached at: https://www.spreadshirt.com/
  6. "Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU)," Ring of Fire Enterprises, at: http://www.rof.com/
  7. "Empty Set," Wikipedia, 2007-SEP-27, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  8. A larger version of the image is online at  http://religioustolerance.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to aww it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  9. Adrian Barnett, "Atheist Symbol Suggestion," at: http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/

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Site navigation:

 Home > Religions of the world > Atheism > here

or Home > Christianity > Christian personalities > God > Atheism > here

or Home > Religious information > God > Atheism > here

or Home > Spirituality > God > Atheism > here

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Copyright 2007, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-SEP-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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