Exterminator feels that we atheists don’t need a symbol, or a badge, or some graphic designation of our lack of belief. I agree. So do other bloggers. What is atheism but a negative position that is contrary to popular beliefs? But we live in a shorthand, graphic intensive world. Everything is built for speed, quick communication, and quick consumption. Religion is the only institution still lumbering along on 2000 year old thinking, but one thing it does well, it knows how to symbolize. You don’t need to read St. Augustine, or any other arcane theology, to understand what you’re dealing with when you see this. So I don’t think it’s inappropriate to have a shorthand designation for atheism, even though we don’t really need one.
The problem is that every time someone comes up with one that looks promising, it seems to have its shortcomings. You’ll have seen the various permutations of the “atheist symbol”, so I don’t need to explain. Suffice it to say that the phrases “herding cats” and “agreeing on a common Atheist symbol” seem to be synonymous.
Personally, however, I really like the Exterminator’s suggestion, so I have replaced my Dawkins “A” with his new creation, the “No Blowhards” symbol, or the “No Old Pharts Who Think They’re God” symbol, or perhaps simply the “NO GOD” symbol, depending on your frame of reference. As a symbol, it has just enough of its tongue firmly implanted in its cheek to not be taken too seriously, while at the same time being instantly recognizable for what it is (assuming a passing exposure to the arts, including the works of Michelangelo). So, without even asking for his permission, I’ve taken the liberty to steal it, in a conscious effort to violate one of the Ten Commandments. (I think he’ll be proud.) I placed it over in my left hand widget column, with a link back to his post creating the graphic, (in order to atone for my sin in some small way).
And you thought I stopped drinking.
But I’m on the blogroll, as well as the aforementioned bandwagon.
Methinks the meaning of an atheist symbol gets undermined by the, frankly, much deeper personal significance of religious symbols. No atheist symbol will ever rally the troops quite like a crucifix or the Star of David does for Christians and Jews.
Those symbols have existed for centuries and they have come to mean something in the grand scheme of people’s struggles on this earth. The cross speaks to peoples’ suffering and brings solace to a Christian. The Star of David has profound historical meaning for the struggle of the Jewish people.
I reckon that to most atheists, symbols don’t seem so magical. If anything, as you stated, we use them tongue in cheek– as a way to poke a little fun– but they can’t have any real meaning to us beyond the idea of maybe stepping out of the closet.
I suppose I have mixed feelings on the issue… you’ll find Dawkins’ “Scarlet A” prominently displayed at “the meme pool” after all!
Hey, that No Blowhards symbol looks great.
By the way, I am proud of you for breaking one of the Ten Commandments, but I hope you were also taking the Lord’s name in vain while you did it. No points for coveting thy neighbor’s ass, though.
Actually Ext., I think if you are gay and covet thy neighbor’s ass it counts double.
Of course atheists need a symbol! And non-parachutists need a symbol! And non-doctors need a symbol! And non-salesmen need a symbol! My goodness, if I had a symbol for everything I’m not, I’d be so loaded down with symbols I couldn’t walk!
Actually, reading OrneryPest’s post, how about a parachute as the symbol for aheism? After all, the mind is like a parachute; if only works when it is open.
Unfortunately, many, many, many people with whom I am forced (through job, neighborhood, shopping) appear to be in total, steamlined free fall.
There is one profound difference between being someone who is not “a believer” from, not a parachutist, salesman, coin-collector, etc. “Not a believer” speaks to a world view, and it’s one that is NOT SHARED by at least 80% of all other people on earth – and most of them are deeply concerned about this difference and would prefer that people like us don’t mention it. None of the other “not a *” has these problems (if you care to call it a problem. I think “benefit” might be a better word). On the other hand, I can name a few things that I might be tempted to wear a t-shirt proclaiming. How about “Not a polluter”, “Not a Yankees fan”, “Not one of the 24% who still support Bush”, There are things I am NOT that could be worth mentioning. I would guess my default view of the universe might well be one of them.
In the same boat as you, Billy, liberal, disabled vet.
It has always interested me in how powerful symbols really are as people see them. The symbol often seems more important than what is symbolised.
The American flag and the pledge. Liberty and justice for all? Really? Oh, as long as officialdom isn’t inconvenienced by it, your skin color and wallet meet several requirements…
But take actual issue with this civic prayer and symbol and you are beyond the pale.
Look at fraternal symbols, masonry, etc.
“What is atheism but a negative position that is contrary to popular beliefs?”
Contrary, perhaps, but not negative. View the principles at American Atheists (www.atheist.org) for example. Or humanist principles. Our morality is little different from the best instincts of religions; we are simply not burdened and crippled by irrational beliefs in the supernatural. If you want a symbol, define one along those lines. Atheists are not simply “Not Godists” or “Anti Godism” (one d or two?) and to sum up our beliefs that way does us no justice.
Anti-Godness puts us in an impossible position in argument. We can’t disprove gods; they cannot prove gods. But move the argument to behaviors in the real world, and we can argue on at least equal ground.
I’ve been wearing a black rubber wristband since 2003 that says “I did not vote 4 Bush”. Does that count?
Which is essentially what we all do on these blogs, probably 90% of the time.
I think when theists make claims of Atheism being a religion or just another faith, they are trying to “argue on at least equal ground” by reducing a logical position to merely another belief. I refuse to grant that. They are not equally faith based decisions. There are reasons why we laugh at people who say they believe in leprechauns, unicorns, and fairies, and it’s the same reason why god belief is laughable, despite having to prove leprechauns, unicorns, fairies or gods don’t exist.
Hey SI, can steal the blowhard logo. I too sport the A on my blog and quite frankly, I feel like I’m advertising Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Let me know. I’ll check back here for an answer. Peace.
As the originator of the blowhard logo (although not its name; that’s Mojoey’s), I encourage you to go ahead and steal it.
Actually, Spartacus, for the record, it’s the “No Blowhards” logo. But feel free to call it whatever you want. Unlike the Dawkins crowd and their “A” (copyright c. 2,000 BCE), I’m not marketing mine (although a link back to my post would be nice).
By the way, every time I read your name, I want to shout: “No, I’m Spartacus!”
Dammit, phillychief, you made my desk fairy disappear. She was really cute too. I think she may even have liked me. Well, her wings quivered a bit when I smiled at her. Not really sure what that means.