Pharyngula

Come out!

A while back, I floated the idea of a logo for the godless. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea, and a lot of good design ideas came out of it … maybe too many good ideas. And being a mob of atheists, there was absolutely no consensus on what was the best symbol to use. Finally, I didn’t want to impose a logo on anyone, so I just let it drop to see if anyone would simply start using one of the suggested designs, that maybe a consensus might coalesce. I saw a few of the logos on scattered sites, but there wasn’t much of a spontaneous response, and alas, every single site used a different logo. Typical atheists.

Now, though, there is one possible option: the RDF has started the Out Campaign, an effort to get atheists to publicly and proudly declare their status. It has a slightly different meaning — it’s not exactly a symbol of atheism, but more a symbol of the willingness to come out about your disbelief — but it’s nice, it’s simple, it’s clean. It’s a simple red Zapfino “A”, the scarlet letter.

i-eaff83066109de60ef54f315a27253df-scarlet_A.png

Go ahead, use it. I’ve got one on the sidebar to testify to my openness about my ideas of the nature of the universe, we should all spread it far and wide. I’ll even make it easy for you: you can use this code to put one on your website, if you’re one of us loud and proud atheists.

<div style="text-align:center"><a href="http://outcampaign.org/"><img src="http://pharyngula.org/images/scarlet_A.png" border="0" alt="image" width="143" height="122" /></a></div>

One weird thing about this development, though, is that it sure
brings out the whiners and concern trolls. I’m a little bit surprised at the response at the Dawkins site, with far too many rushing to complain. You’ll see two kinds of negative reactions.

  • The nay-sayers who complain that this is too much like Christianity, it’s a uniform, it’s Dawkins trying to enforce conformity. How ridiculous. It’s a freakin’ t-shirt or bumper sticker, not the High Holy Cathedral of the Sacred Letter A. You can wear it or you can skip it. You can use it to wipe the sweat off after a workout. You might wear it to a barbecue at the park. Wear it while you’re doing the dishes. It’s casual wear. It’s a nice shirt that sends a straightforward message about your willingness to be unafraid, nothing more, with no other deep significance. It will not be part of the dress code.

  • The shrinking violets who complain that it’s too bold, it’s too in-your-face, it’ll make us a target. Talk about missing the point: yes, it’s supposed to be bold. You are supposed to be bold. Begging for a tiny little delicate bit of subtle embroidery on a shirt pocket means this movement is not for you. Don’t wear the shirt. Don’t put the bumper sticker on your car. Don’t say a word — it’s easy to pass as a Christian or a Muslim, you know.

    Just don’t try to claim that you’re helping.

The Myers family ordered a few t-shirts, and my car will have the bumper sticker on it. We aren’t afraid. Especially not to make such a trivial commitment.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    July 28, 2007

    Complaint from “fr*aming” people in 5. . . 4. . . 3. . .

    You know, a red letter would work pretty well with my moody color scheme.

  2. #2 MAJeff
    July 28, 2007

    OK, but this is my last closet.

  3. #3 tacitus
    July 28, 2007

    It’s a good idea, but the text below the “A” should be something more than RichardDawkins.net. That just makes it look like a promotion for his web site.

    Either it should be the outcampaign.org URL, or better still, the slogan “STAND OUT”, maybe with the campaign’s URL on the back.

  4. #4 Divalent
    July 28, 2007

    I’ll pass. I’m not one for message t-shirts that advertise things, and the addition of the richarddawkins.net in pretty bold letters (and it’s also on the sleeve!) makes it more than just a personal statement of your lack belief in the magic man.

    Instead it seems to say “I’m a RichardDawkins.net brand atheist”, whatever that is. Actually, to most people you would just be claiming some affinity for RichardDawkins.net, since the meaning of the “A” is obscure.

    Not that the red “A” is a bad symbol. If it was pocket sized and located where the pocket would be, and if it didn’t have the ad …

  5. #5 Dave Carlson
    July 28, 2007

    I don’t dislike Richard Dawkins, but I really don’t feel like spending money to advertise for his website. Other than that, I think the t-shirt is pretty cool.

  6. #6 Chayanov
    July 28, 2007

    Lots of whining going on at Dawkins’ site. Clearly the thought about visibly standing out from the theists makes some of those posters rather uncomfortable. A t-shirt with a red A on it is a lot less over-the-top than all the pagans I know who wear clothes, accessories, and visible tattoos with pentagrams, Thor’s hammers, and goddess figures on a daily basis.

  7. #7 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    July 28, 2007

    It’s a nice shirt that sends a straightforward message about your willingness to be unafraid, nothing more, with no other deep significance.

    A shirt that said “THERE IS NO GOD” on the back and “OUTSPOKEN ATHEIST” on the front would do that. This shirt gives you the chance to safely get away before the outspoken theists find out who Richard Dawkins is. :)

  8. #8 BT Murtagh
    July 28, 2007

    I’ll add myself as one with the negative reactions that
    1) It’s not in-your-face enough, as the A could stand for Anything, and
    2) While I like Richard Dawkins I don’t feel the need to advertise his site particularly, especially since it is now distinct from the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

    I may add the scarlet A logo to my site, but the t-shirt doesn’t work for me. It’s not like I don’t have a drawer full of atheism-oriented t-shirts already, anyway.

  9. #9 Rien
    July 28, 2007

    Meh. Boring. Why doesn’t it say “Atheist” instead of richarddawkins.net? Or is that too much out for most people?

  10. #10 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 28, 2007

    I decided to decorate my copy just a tad.

  11. And while we’re on the subject of scarlet “A”s, I knew I’d seen something very similar to that logo before …

    http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2441028

    (I know, I know … different font. Makes the Dawkins shirt look like a cheap knock-off, though.)

  12. #12 Tatarize
    July 29, 2007

    You stupid ass cats. Go that way! Herding is a real pain the ass. The Dawkins has spoken. Do as you are told!

  13. #13 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 29, 2007

    I, for one, am proud to display this on my blog. I am not concerned that people won’t know what it means. I’ll know what it means, and other atheists will know what it means.

    The key is to raise alarum through the Christian sites, and soon it will be as recognizable as a pentagram, as a symbol of fear and loathing. The Richarddawkins.net thing is okay, too, as his book really raised the level of conversation (to a din, sure, but raised) for atheism over the last year or so.

  14. #14 Louis
    July 29, 2007

    Ahhhhh! Fear the T Shirt of Division!

    1) If you don’t want to wear the T shirt with a big A on it, don’t. It really isn’t compulsory. There is no stigam for being a non-A wearer or an A wearer. Again just like with the “bright” thing, the motivation behind the label is what’s important, reservations can be dealt with in the manner suggested below (and boy do I have reservations).

    2) The point is not about herd behaviour (although as others have mentioned grouping is a natual part of human behaviour, for some people it might have this added benefit) the point is that a) atheists are, in some parts of the world, thought of by many as second class citiziens (or not even citizens at all). Openly acknowledging one’s atheism is one way (by no means the only or even the best) to show that atheists are not some shadowy minority group, but real people (i.e. neighbours, friends, family) who are just as “normal” as everyone else except that they lack god belief. It’s a stage on the road to acceptance and making the whole “problem” a non-issue, it’s not the whole journey, and b) there is a general, social stigma against discussing religion rationally and submitting it to the same scrutiny that other ideas recieve (this is by no means universal, just very common). Openly acknowledging one’s atheism in some overt fashion is one way (by no means the only or even the best) to generate discussion and to break this social “taboo”. If this “taboo” is broken to a greater extent then we incrementally move away from pre-Enlightenment magical thinking as a society. Social change happens at the level of dinner party conversation, discussions between friends and in articles etc. Gradually the point gets through. Will it destroy religion? Is it meant to? No in both cases.

    3) Alternative images, fonts, graphics and statements are all well and good. I can think of a couple of dozen right now. They aren’t on the market, this is. This suggests four possible courses of action for those who don’t like the shirt because the logo is crappy and hate the concept etc (as opposed to those merely discussing possible alternative logos/designs): a) see point 1) above, b) do something! It’s hardly difficult to design a logo and send it to a cheap T-shirt printer and get your logo on a T-shirt vending site like cafe express (IIR the site correctly). It’s also cheap as chips with the right T-shirt vendor. This approach has 2 advantages: i) the plurality of different symbols/fonts/graphics/logos all pointing in the SAME direction is a good illustration of the diversity of atheists, a good data point AGAINST the false charges of “atheism = just another religion” and “it’s all groupthink”, and ii) it might make you some cash. c) Join in, help or shut the fuck up! It’s quite simple, either make a constructive helpful contribution (criticism is always welcome, everyone sensible learns from well thought out, rational, constructive criticism), don’t join in (after all it isn’t compulsory), or simply go away. Irrational, whiny sniping and bitching from the sidelines helps no one, if it isn’t your thing, great! It isn’t particularly mine either, but at least have the decency to say so sensibly and come up with a decent, rational criticism or alternative. “Waaaaaah I don’t like it” or “Waaaaah Evil Dawkins gets a rake off” don’t count. d) Support this project regardless of the quibbles you have with its design etc because you support the motivations behind it. I fall into d) btw, with a few ideas for b) I might put into practise.

    So rather than an appeal for support of Dawkins’ A campaign (which I support in principle, if not necessarily in concordant artistic tastes!) this is an appeal for rational dissent. The guy is trying to do something constructive, and it is THAT I support, and THAT which everyone should support. Not out of some group mentality or desire to herd but because this guy is actually doing something constructive and rather than whine from our comfy armchairs we should all be out doing something similar, ignoring him, supporting him, or offering constructive and useful criticism above the level of “DO NOT LIKE. WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!”.

    Oh and for those of us who are from the UK, these alternative T-shirts might suit your (and indeed my) tastes better.

    National Secular Society Shop

    Louis

  15. #15 BT Murtagh
    July 29, 2007

    Well, having read a couple humdred comments on the subject here and at RichadDawkins.net, I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to buy one of these to support the Richard Dawkins Foundation, if for no other reason, and besides I can wear it in my less confrontational moods.

    I also like Louis‘s suggestion in #64, and I’ll be designing a few similar-but-different versions with the same basic concept but more precisely to my taste.

  16. #16 forsen
    July 29, 2007

    As Dawkins himself said: “Organising atheists has been compared to herding cats, for the obvious reason that they are intelligent and independent-minded.”

    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2007/04/12/darwins_rottweiler_looks_to_round_up_britains_atheists.html

    I think it’s that very disdain for uniformism and jumping the bandwagon which backfires against this project…

  17. #17 Dahan
    July 29, 2007

    I agree with some of the other posts here. The addition of the richarddawkins.net thing makes it unacceptable to me. I’m happy to stand out, and it’s an OK emblem, I like Dawkins, but I don’t pay to advertise for others.

  18. #18 Todd
    July 29, 2007

    I’m afraid I have to concur with the dissenting view. First, having “RichardDawkins.net” on the T-shirts puts this on the same level as Golden Palace; is the message you’re an atheist or an advertisement for Dawkins?

    As for the use of the letter “A” – it’s so ubiquitous it’s almost meaningless. As several have stated it could be interpreted to mean adulterer (not something I want to be associated with), anarchist (ditto) or an Atlanta Braves fan (ditto). Let’s also not forget that “A” is the symbol used by Atom Ant and Captain America (although he had it on his forehead like Inkidu’s happy face).

    I give Dawkins an “A” for effort but I think it fails in the advertisement A-rena.

  19. #19 Wrought
    July 29, 2007

    I know, just so we don’t get called another “religion” by theists, why don’t we all wear the same clothes, boots, caps so that we can exert a political presence. Oh, and call ourselves the Dawkins’ Youth.

    Or… accept that atheism isn’t a group movement, but a dismissal of bad thinking about the supernatural and the world.

    Hell, I’m not afraid to be an atheist. I’d rather wear a t-shirt saying “Jesus Shags Dinosaurs” than this nonsense.

    It’s just the Bright movement in disguise, anyway. I’m with Christopher Hitchens on this one… the Bright movement is just nonsense.

  20. #20 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 29, 2007

    Thoughts:

    1) If you don’t want to pay to advertise Richard Dawkins’ website, why not make your own shirt with a paintbrush?

    2) This idea actually seems a far cry from the “Bright” deal, because quite plainly, it’s not afraid of the A-word.

    3) We’re not going to see Pharyngula merchandise, are we? I would go out of my way to wear (say) a T-shirt with a zebrafish embryo on the front and the words “GODLESS. LIBERAL. BIOLOGY.” superimposed atop it.

  21. #21 MAJeff
    July 29, 2007

    Below, PZ wrote about atheism and civil rights concerns, and here he brings back the notiono of the closet and visibility as social movement activities. In the earlier post, he made a comparison to gay movements that continues here in the use of closet. I think there are similarities, although weak ones, beyond these.

    One of the things Dawkins and PZ are trying to do here is start a social movement. They would be in the phase directly preceding gay liberation, if we were to draw an analogy. They’re the early folks who decided to push the homophile movement out of the closet and into its first, tentative, public actions. They’re the radicals moving the window and making it easier for others to come out, both by example and by creating social spaces where being out becomes less stigmatized.

    Part of the problem in the movement sense is that the target–religious belief–doesn’t lend itself to civil rights claims, although the state very definitely favors the religious over the non. The openness more closely resembles liberationist action of simply claiming public space as ours to occupy. That was a radical claim for queers to make (still is a lot of the time) and in most parts of society, it’s still a radical claim for atheists to make. (it’s a little reminiscent of those “we are everywhere” buttons. We had some made up for Mpls Pride one year that said “We are everywhere–even Mankato.”

  22. #22 lithopithecus
    July 29, 2007

    instead of the richarddawkins.net advertisment, why not tagline the graceful character with something like,
    “because you can’t be a part-time rationalist”…
    …or something more clever?

  23. #23 Tom
    July 29, 2007

    Originally posted on the Richarddawkins.net forums:

    I want to say I am SICK and TIRED of all the naysayers using piss-poor logic to rationalize their own fears and insecurities about this campaign. These comments about “herd like behavior” are the most hypocritical of all. So, we’re like sheep eh? I ask, what happens when the shepherds group together? You are hypocrites in your own right, being here at RICHARDDAWKINS.net. By your own logic, you and the rest of your wussy ilk have “herded” here because of the “buzz” Dawkins has made for himself. I ask you, what makes it more special to hang around here then at any other forums?

    It’s been said nonconformists are conformists in themselves. It’s the same emotional reaction: one feels vulnerable and looks for security, some in groups, others in themselves. Those here are sociophobes and withdraw into themselves for protection.

    No wonder the rest of the world lives in ignorance with cowards like you

  24. #24 philos
    July 29, 2007

    Would I spend my money to wear a t-shirt that generally stated the planet Yip-yip didn’t exist, that millions of others believe in (and not withstanding all the other people out there that believe in other, separate planets that guide their lives, that also have a high probability of not existing)?

    If there wasn’t such a hostile A and a self-serving direction to this website, and funds going towards a non-for-profit organization in the Promotion of General Science & Reason, YES.

    *** Otherwise, as the shirt exists & if it were free, I’d wear it mowing the lawn or something. ***

    If I was making $$$ hand over fist like Dawkins or promoting a website that employed me (like Josh) because of the shirt, I’d love the t-shirt too.

    The people that buy t-shirts like this are no different than the goth kids at the high-school or the lazy stoners that wear t-shirts with rude/obscene comments- just wanting a reaction and attention. But with only ~150 shirts sold in a day, good luck. Yawn. Nothing changes. Change the world by example and not by being elitist, annoying and confrontational.

    Why invite argument and a punch in the nose arguing with the deluded? Will the RDF pay my medical bills or will Michael Moore take care of that, too?

  25. #25 Sam
    July 29, 2007

    I’d buy it if it said:

    A
    is for atheist.

    But I don’t hang out on dawkins.net nor am I likely to, so I’d feel a bit dishonest, which isn’t really the point.

  26. #26 Paguroidea
    July 29, 2007

    I loved a comment by PZ on the Dawkins thread so I’ll repost it here in case you missed it.

    170. Comment #59485 by pzmyers on July 29, 2007 at 8:14 am
    Here’s a constructive suggestion.

    The point of the Out campaign is to get people to stop being so shy about publicly admitting their disbelief; don’t get hung up on the fact that the RDF is offering a t-shirt to encourage people to open up. If you don’t like the t-shirt, don’t get it — just follow the spirit of the campaign and get out there and make your ideas known.

    If you like the t-shirt the campaign is selling, wear it.

    If you like some other t-shirt that promotes atheism or ridicules religion, wear that.

    Design your own: I had a thread with lots of suggestions for a godless logo. Steal liberally.

    If you want something with more depth than a simple slogan, go talk to people. Stand on a soapbox on a streetcorner. Attend a UU meeting. Organize your own local atheists group.

    Write on a blog. Write a book. Make a youtube video. Sing a godless song.

    Everyone is getting stuck on the shirt, which is just one outlet for getting the message out. Seriously, you don’t have to wear it. But find some way to help the cause instead of carping pointlessly.

    Damned atheists. You can be so self-defeating.

  27. #27 travc
    July 30, 2007

    Don’t particularly like the “RichardDawkins.net” ad aspect. Nothing against Dawkins, but it seems to overspecify the message a bit.

    Though, assuming that there would be no legal crap to deal with (I sincerely hope they haven’t trademarked that), one could always do the same basic idea and vary the font and/or tagline. Pharyngula shirts with a bit red A and a cephalopod would be fun.

  28. #28 slut
    July 31, 2007

    I haven’t read all the comments but I just want to say that my complaint is NOT that it’s too “bold” – on the contrary, it’s that it’s too fucking subtle. I’ll wear one that says “ATHEIST” before I’ll advertise Richard Dawkins website. Nothing against the guy, I admire him greatly, but it’s totally missing the point and actually kind of elevating him in a weird hero-ass-kissing kind of way.

  29. #29 Sinbad
    August 7, 2007

    The fanfare Dawkins offers re the Out Campaign at outcampaign.org is all about “rational thinking,” liberation, “beacons of enlightenment,” and demolishing stereotypes. So how does one accomplish these laudible goals for the good of all humankind? By buying t-shirts. Really. To benefit Dawkins and his organization of course. Dawkins logo included. Major credit cards accepted.

    You can’t make stuff like this up.

  30. #30 Anonymous
    August 11, 2007

    These t-shirts really should say outcampaign.org instead of richarddawkins.net. In case Dawkins is craving for attention he would still get it, as the out campaign is closely linked to him, but at least it wouldn’t look like the shirt wearers are supporting his personality cult instead of the campaign.

    Otherwise I think the shirts are fine. I guess the logo could be better, but the references to the out campaign would explain what it is about.

  31. #31 Anonymous
    August 11, 2007

    …I mean, the Out Campaign isn’t a bad idea. If the shirts did clearly advertise the Out Campaign, then you could wear one of these not only to show you are an atheist (as if that is so special), but to show you support the Out Campaign and more importantly support the atheists who are afraid to come out because of persecution and social pressure. If the shirts had a slightly different design, it would look like you are supporting oppressed atheists, but now it looks like you are just supporting Dawkins.

  32. #32 Jimmy Richards
    August 20, 2007

    I quite like it, and I don’t dislike Dawkins, but I’d rather not advertise his website where ever I go. I think I’ll just be stealing the A and printing my own tshirts, thanks

  33. #33 Peter Magellan
    August 26, 2007

    I’m generally fine with the idea of a scarlet A for atheism – though with certain reservations having to do with its specificity of colour and typography, and its apparently exclusive link (via the t-shirts, at least) to Richard Dawkins’ website.

    However, not all of us want to define ourselves as atheists, which denotes the absence, rather than the presence, of beliefs. With this in mind, I’d like to suggest a symbol that all of us with a rational worldview can use to identify ourselves:

    http://effingtheineffable.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/mag_glass_250x400.png

    More details at http://ma.gnolia.com/julefufiq

  34. #34 Paul
    November 5, 2008

    Dunno about this PZ…it’s a bit like the Scarlet Letter. I think this is a near miss akin to the “Brights” fiasco in reverse.

  35. #35 zoe
    March 14, 2009

    I also noticed its similarity to the anarchist symbol, so its probably not a good thing

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