A logo for the godless: an impossible assignment?

Norwegianity has put out a request to design an appropriate logo for all of us godless heathen bloggers. There's a certain religious deathcult that uses an instrument of torture as its immediately recognizable logo—it's very simple, clean, easy to draw, and they've made it their own. You see one of those things on a website or on a necklace and you instantly know to a very rough approximation the predilections of the owner. Why can't we have something like that?

You might be thinking the very idea is ridiculous, since freethinkers are such a diverse group, but you know, Christians also encompass a very wide spectrum of beliefs on so many issues, and that hasn't stopped them. It would be great to see somebody with some graphic talent come up with something we could all use.

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There is a tradition of using the pansy (pensée) as a symbol, but it isn't exactly easy to render. The Invisible Pink Unicorn is cool, I think, but really just mocks silly beliefs. American Atheists has a trademarked symbol, a stylized atom, which really ought to be the symbol for Scientism or something, and I'd rather see a symbol that isn't specific to just atheism. I ran across one site with a simple idea, which might work; I'd have to think about it. It's an asterisk, which looks a tiny bit like a pansy, and has that open wildcard vibe to it.

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Anyway, the kind of thing I would be looking for is something simple, fairly abstract, easy to render, and that wouldn't antagonize deists, agnostics, or atheists. It should be positive: no crucifixes with a slash through them, for instance. It shouldn't be weird—no flying spaghetti monsters, please—it shouldn't be ugly, it shouldn't be in-your-face and gloating, it should be unobtrusive. It ought to be the kind of symbol that if it were done up as a piece of jewelry, it would be tasteful. Remember, even if you do come up with a nice logo, the hard part is going to be getting a critical mass of unbelievers to adopt it and build a recognizable association with it (and be warned, no matter how gorgeous and elegant and clever an idea you come up with, there will be a solid cadre of the godless who will resolutely refuse to have anything to do with it, on general principles and intrinsic cussedness…which is OK.)

Talk about it in the comments, doodle up stuff and send it to me, and if there is any response at all, I'll put up a gallery of ideas later. If we've got something good, I'll use it on my site, maybe Mark will join in, and we can get the ball rolling.


We've already got lots of suggestions in the comments. Here are some that are easy to render with html:

Book Antiqua : * ∞ Ω ○ π ∅ ⊛ ☉ ☈ ♮ σ α Φ

Bookman Old Style : * ∞ Ω ○ π ∅ ⊛ ☉ ☈ ♮ σ α Φ

Century Schoolbook : * ∞ Ω ○ π ∅ ⊛ ☉ ☈ ♮ σ α Φ

Goudy Old Style : * ∞ Ω ○ π ∅ ⊛ ☉ ☈ ♮ σ α Φ

Lucida Grande : * ∞ Ω ○ π ∅ ⊛ ☉ ☈ ♮ σ α Φ

Times New Roman : * ∞ Ω ○ π ∅ ⊛ ☉ ☈ ♮ σ α Φ

There are also suggestions for combinations (an asterisk inside a circle, for instance—the default renders as a 6-lobed asterisk, unfortunately), or others that would need a professional artist to do—a spiral or a nautilus shell or a torch, for instance. We've also got one suggestion for an upraised middle finger, which is rather sweet, but since it's from a Christian we have to ignore it. Keep 'em coming!


And now a suggestion from Carl:

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No fair! Carl could draw a swirly dog turd for us, and it would look good.


Two more suggestions from Manxome One:

Attached are what popped into my head upon reading your post about a godless logo.

The first is a stylized lowercase a with a period ( A, period!), which happens to look somewhat like a question mark on its side.

The second is the same idea, only the a is a highlighted portion of a stylized infinity symbol.

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Here are some nice renderings of the asterisk in a circle idea from Lucas:

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There's something I like about this. They remind me of echinoderms!

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Oh, how I would love to subvert this stupid story you can find in every cheap beach trinket store along the Washington coast.


And another design from Nick:

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More suggestions have come in overnight. I've added alpha and phi to the line of text symbols above, and here are some more graphical ideas:

John Pieret sends us a pansy:

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Node_3 submits a rough draft of a galaxy:

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A natural symbol:

i-fccbc660c1a40dab8882239a44787be0-the_natural.gif

Here's an interesting design:

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Just for laughs (no way is this appropriate!), here's a
cute suggestion:

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What next? Hank Fox has a few suggestions in the comments. I'm going to be a bit elitist and say I don't like the idea of a poll; clicking a button doesn't require much thought or commitment, and is also easily abused. What I propose is to let the discussion here go on a few more days, and then I'll pull out the ones that get the most interest (the asterisk, the circle, the natural symbol, pi, something with DNA, the empty set are all strong contenders right now), and I'll ask their defenders to send me a summary of their support. I'll put up one more post on it, and ask for comments yay or nay, and I think what I'll do is weight the ones from people with weblogs who'd put the symbol in some prominent place more heavily. That's what we need to get this to work, is people who will use the symbol.


Another volley of entries…from GodfreyTemple:

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Pencils with erasers:

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And how about atheos?

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More like this

How about the sign for infinity? Is someone already using that? It can be superimposed over--or placed under--a big letter "A".

My suggestion: a perfect circle.

It can be interpreted as zero, or just a line surrounding nothingness, which is really the only thing atheists have in common.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

You know, that * is probably the best. It's on the keyboard. Ω - Capital Omega is another good choice. It's the symbol for Ohms (resistence). And the last letter in the Greek alphabet. And something could be made up regarding that "alpha and omega" quote. Easy to craft, and noticable. An * might not bring to mind any reason for the symbology.

I second the idea: a perfect circle. Isn't that the message we all would like to project anyway--harmony, an ideal, a humanistic culture that values life and respect (achieved without religion)?

I second the idea: a perfect circle.

Me too. I was going to suggest a stickman, but I like the circle idea a lot better.

Doesn't the military give dead athiests a helium atom on their grave marker? The atom cartoon is certainly recognised as a very secular sign.

The most appropriate symbol would be a blank space (" "! and it's the biggest key on the keyboard!), but it wouldn't exactly be obvious. A simple circle is next best, but the weakness is that it is also visually relatively uninteresting. and Ω are good, too. One worry is that we don't want to use something that would be interpreted as us claiming to be the ultimate or the best or the greatest (even if it is true!), and those do lend themselves to that interpretation. At least * is nicely neutral in that regard.

If you want a logo to express simply what you often express at length in words, I suggest the following:

In the background a few very simple silouettes of some easily recognized religious symbols (cross, star of David, crescent-and-star of Islam, at least). In the foreground : a big middle finger.

Since the theme seems to be not so much "rationality and clear thought" as "we hate religion and want to insult it at every opportunity," this should be the perfect logo.

And, yeah, that's not tasteful, and that *is* in-your-face gloating... but pretty much every time I read about religion on this blog, it's in a belligerent tone, in-your-face-gloating, and frequently not tasteful, so I guess I think the logo fits. Ultimately, it's not clear how any not-negative symbol can really represent atheism. Some like to claim that atheism is its own religion -- which them might be amenable to a symbol -- but of course atheists reject that, saying that really it's just a lack of religion. Given that atheism is a lack of religion, it's hard to see how to symbolize that without including rejection.

If, on the other hand, you want a symbol for rationality and free thought-- well, that's not the same as atheism, since lots of the religious are also rational and freethinkers, despite how often all crowd on this blog likes to assert that that is semantically impossible. (Hint: when you assert that all Christians are not capable of free thought, the reaction is very similar to how you feel when certain Christians assert that atheists are incapable of having any moral sensibility.)

If you want a symbol for rationality, as opposed to rejecting religion, how about as stylized brain with a lightbulb over it? Scales might make a good symbol (weighing the evidence), but the notion of justice has already taken that one.

How about one of the less-known Platonic Solids? An 8-sider (whatever the heck they're called) or a 12-sider. Not as trivail to render as a 2d cross, but still very simple and stylized. Plato may not be the scion of rationality and free thought, but that era in ancient Greece is where at least Western Civiliztaion got the notion that the Universe (or, at the time, the World) *could* be understand from natural principles, without necessary reference to theology.

-Rob

How about a double helix? It's fairly simple-looking, and I think it would make a pretty pendant, ring, or earrings...

I like the circle or the Omega. Actually, I like the Omega better, because it's not closed. Maybe an open circle...

I vote for PI.
PI is universal.
The asterisk could easily be interpreted as a splat of some alien birdshit that had fallen on some alian bovine in the neighboring galaxy.

MYOB'
.

Pathetic. Like them.

I like the asterisk, though I'm not sure of the verbal link between "pansy" and pensée. Are pansies called pansies in other languages?

I think, for maximum identification with pansies, a five-pointed asterisk works best, but it would be a better resemblance if it was up-side-down.

Visually uninteresting? I do have a fondness for minimialism, it's true - but a cross isn't interesting either, and the less ornate a version is, the more common it is. (The Russian Tribar Cross has never been particularly popular.)

Infinity signs can't be properly balanced on the horizontal - their center of mass keeps trying to slide as far down as possible, so when the symbol is attached off-center it becomes a symbol eight and even when perfectly on-center tends to spin.

Perfect circles have the added advantage of being something that we can conceive of but that don't actually exist in reality - they're only symbols, with no reality.

The omega is fine, but it calls to mind Christian thinking, at least to me. Circles do have the advantage of being very easy to draw - they're even better than crosses or the vesica piscis.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Thank you for your considerate, polite, and helpful contribution, Rob. Perhaps you could use the digitus impudicus as your personal symbol, but no, that's not what I'm interested in. You might also look up the specific term "freethought": it refers to all belief that rejects organized religion, and includes deists as well as agnostics and atheists.

The asterisk could easily be interpreted as a splat of some alien birdshit that had fallen on some alian bovine in the neighboring galaxy.

You're trying to argue for *, aren't you? That interpretation would win me over.&pi: is an interesting idea, since it does tie in to the circle proposal, too.

the circle and the open circle are signs of zen...which is non-theirstic

By joe in oklahoma (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I just sent these via email, not sure if they'll render here. Some stuff I found browsing in the Unicode sets.

â = earth (for earthling: sorry about the cross).
â = sun, also apropos.
â¼ = sun (a variant)
⯠= large circle.
ã· - no comment
â = comet: where did we come from anyway?

I ran across another website a while ago that addressed this same question, and the last suggestion offered was the empty set symbol in math, which I think would make a perfect logo for atheism.

The empty set is just that--empty, which is exactly what atheism is. Atheism is not a positive belief, but a lack of a certain belief.

By Saint Gasoline (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I like the five-lobed asterisk that Intrepid (at the link) suggested, for all his/her reasons. I also like the perfect circle, for the reasons given above. If you join them (asterisk within circle), it is a simple graphic yet unique.

BTW, the keyboard asterisk may or may not be five-lobed; I think it depends on the font. A six-lobed asterisk (as found on my keyboard) reminds me too much of Mike Douglas and the '60s. I remember my bathtub being covered in anti-slip six-lobed asterisks. Definitely let's go with five lobes.

So, a five-lobed asterisk in a circle. How about that?

the circle and the open circle are signs of zen...which is non-theirstic

Well then, the stickman it is. Okay, thanks for all your ideas everybody.

I like the asterisk, but that's not, like he claims, Times New Roman. The Times New Roman one has six arms, which kind of ruins the pansy link. Near as I can tell, that's Century.
Not sure how widely that particular font is supported, and most other fonts I have either have the six arms, or produce very ugly five-armed asterisks.

Yeah, it has to be bold Times New Roman to get the 5-lobed asterisk. Arial Bold works, too, but who wants to use Arial?

Others with the 5-lobed asterisk: Book Antiqua (interestingly cocked), Bookman Old Style, Century Schoolbook, Comic Sans (ick!), Cooper Black, Copperplate, Goudy Old Style, Lucida Grande, Palatino...many, but not all, of the serif fonts render the bold asterisk with 5 lobes.

Oh, and barely had I posted that before I thought of the symbol for the empty set â, actually inspired by the Danish/Norwegian letter Ã. The biggest con is that it looks a bit like a sign stating that something is forbidden. No, I think I would prefer the circle after all.

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I like the asterisk. A lot.

(But one caution about it: Make sure to specify that it is THIS five-armed symbol, and not the six-armed one. Inevitably, some wit will compare the six-armed version to Kurt Vonnegut's illo of an asshole.)

The asterisk will need an identifying name, a word (possibly even a nonsense syllable) that's easier to say than "asterisk." How about calling it the "mentis" (Latin for "mind")?

(Once you get the symbol you want, how about copyrighting it just for the hell of it, and then when the godders start stealing it to have their stupid fish eating it, seriously sue the shit out of them.)

Also, how about a Latin motto somewhere along the way? Something like "Free minds" (Solvo mens? Mens solvo?) or "Free thought" (Solvo sententia?) or "At last, freedom" (Tandem licentia?).

Finally, if a large number decides to accept a unifying symbol, let's be in-your-fucking-face about it. Show up at public meetings wearing it. Flaunt it every day. Talk about it. Call attention to it. Push it. March with it. Make it Cool. Get it onto college campuses, and into high schools. Hold public events. Give away t-shirts with the mentis and the motto on it. Put up posters. Billboards. Get testimonials. Hold midnight vigils at city hall. Get on TV. (Some sort of well-defined message would be good, at this point.)

I have this fun image of starting an underground movement. Get the thing known by making up a shitload of stickers of various sizes, which could be placed, guerrilla-style, on every Christian billboard, poster and city bus advertisement - anywhere off church grounds (I think this is important) - everywhere in the country. Every public Ten Commandments monument and hilltop cross in the country should have a mentis stuck on it.

OR! -- Have a "Mentis Watch" website showing all the unlikely and interesting and devilish places they appear. With pics of the mentis and of the person who "discovered" it.

I want to see photos of the mentis taken from every Christian and anti-evolution theme park in the nation. I want to see it on the hats of college students mugging for the camera from the midst of an anti-abortion rally. I want to see it Photoshopped onto the Popemobile. I want to see it stuck inside the cover of every Gideon's Bible in Texas. I want to see it stuck to the back of Pat Robertson's thousand-dollar-suited ass. When Billy Graham dies and is buried, I want to know that a tiny mentis is adhered to his coffin somewhere.

Heh: I've joked for years about the Secret Atheist Handshake: I'm thinking that when two people wearing or displaying the mentis meet, they should both grin hugely and give a mutual "thumbs up" sign.

We need a movement, a brotherhood, a band of like-minded men and women working together toward a world less mired in goddiness. Because, really, we actually are in a war. They declared it, but we and our children (and civilization, really) are the victims. And they're eating us alive. It's time to recognize the facts ... and fight.

It can be a fun fight, or a grim fight, but there damn well oughta be a fight.

(Big grin, thumbs up.)

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Thank you for your considerate, polite, and helpful contribution, Rob.

Likewise, in very much the same vein, thank you for your invariably considerate and polite contributions to the whole discussion as to how science might interact with those who might have some vestiges of religion.

-Rob

I think the empty set symbol would be perfect for atheism, myself. However, my opinion doesn't matter that much, as I'm a Taoist. *shrugs*

A simple circle is too much like zero or nothingness, and omega has been appropriated by Christians quite a bit. How about a stylized Fibonacci spiral (like a nautilus), with each chamber a different hue, to suggest the natural origin of both complexity and diversity?

SH

By Scott Hatfield (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about a wide open eye(though I suppose the egyptians already nabbed that one), or a head with the top cut off/spread open/something representing an open mind?

JD: Er, I don't think so. Remember the good old skeptic saying, "there is a difference between an open mind and a hole in the head". Or "keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out".

How about a stylized Fibonacci spiral (like a nautilus), with each chamber a different hue, to suggest the natural origin of both complexity and diversity?

You mean like a fancy curvy stickman, except each stick would be a different color. I like it. I like it a lot.

Somehow, I don't think that using a "pansy" as a symbol is going to produce much resonance with most people.

I quite like the asterix, but think it would only be a matter of time before the theists identify it as a styalised pentagram... See! Those heathens really ARE Satanists... look at their symbol!

I think a torch would make a great Freethought symbol because of its associations with the past, present, and future:
- Freethinkers have been burned at the stake for their pursuit of knowledge
- The enlightenment was the light that bought an end to the dark ages
- We freethinkers are carrying the torch of knowledge from generation to generation - standing on the shoulders of giants, if you will.

And so on.

I played around with an idea for a torch symbol here (http://www.freethought.net) but, as you'll see, I'm no graphic artist!

I like the astronomy Sun symbol â (or CIRCLED DOT OPERATOR as it's called in the MacOS Character Palette). It's appropriate given that we are all star dust anyway :-)

There is also a CIRCLED ASTERISK OPERATOR, â , if you want to use an asterisk. It's rendered a bit small here.

Ian

R

That's my suggestion. The mathematical symbol for the set of Real Numbers, symbolizing acceptance of what is real. (It has been argued the real world prefers complex numbers to reals - but using that argument for symbolism is too obscure.)

It's not as easy to draw as the cross or the circle, but it comes close.

I really truly like the empty set symbol best, but my friend Oystein in Norway, who is altogether too interested in me already, will wonder why I've suddenly taken to wearing his initial around my neck. No.

Next most I like the asterisk, but in a circle. And not a lobed one... I can't imagine getting a guy to wear flowers unless he's, you know, a hippie. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I think I would like it better if the asterisk "arms" were straight or flared.

How about an asterisk in a circle and square, reminiscent of Da Vinci's famous human proportion diagram?

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about a circle containing a gene'ish symbol, drawn like a sideways infinity with the ends cut off (touching the top and bottom of the circle). It has a yin-yang flavour, and the circle benefits mentioned above. Believe me, it looks a lot better than this sounds.

I drew a lousy version with Paint, and put it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:601-Symbol.jpg

Maybe a real artist could do it well.

How about an asterisk in a circle and square, reminiscent of Da Vinci's famous human proportion diagram?

A stick man in a da-Vinci-style circle and square would be a great symbol for humanists. I don't think it quite sums up atheism, after all.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I have to say I don't really like any of the symbols I've seen proposed (I didn't read all the comments though). They're all either too simple, too complex, too over-used, with too many different meanings (pi or the asterisk for example. I mean... those things are used all the time!). Regardless of all the hidden meanings and symbolisms one could come up with certain symbols, the very fact that they're used a lot disqualifies them as a symbol one might want to use for anything. The symbol has to be (HAS TO BE) unique and recognizable, otherwise it will go into oblivion very very soon.

As for what I propose... well... I don't know... I'll get back to you on that. lol. I admit I can criticize a lot, but have no good ideas of my own :P

Along the lines of R, how about this interesting unicode character: ? It's the symbol for "thunderstorm".

There are already a bunch of religions symbols richly represented in the character set -- more examples here.

I very much like the nautilus idea (for more than a few reasons...) but I fear it's not easy to render, and the kind of detail you're talking about wouldn't scale well.

The "gene'ish" symbol is interesting...another that would need a pro to clean it up.

I have to say I don't really like any of the symbols I've seen proposed (I didn't read all the comments though). They're all either too simple, too complex, too over-used, with too many different meanings (pi or the asterisk for example. I mean... those things are used all the time!). Regardless of all the hidden meanings and symbolisms one could come up with certain symbols, the very fact that they're used a lot disqualifies them as a symbol one might want to use for anything. The symbol has to be (HAS TO BE) unique and recognizable, otherwise it will go into oblivion very very soon.

As for what I propose... well... I don't know... I'll get back to you on that. lol. I admit I can criticize a lot, but have no good ideas of my own :P

I vote for the perfect circle. Null set isn't symmetrical, and it reminds me of a no-smoking sign. I also like Scott Hatfield's idea about the nautilus; I already have a Fibonacci/nautilus T-shirt.

Hank, "solvo" means "I free", as in the verb. It'd be under "free" in an English-Latin dictionary, I guess, but the word you're looking for is "liber". "Free minds" would be "mentes liberae".
"Mind" is just "mens", BTW. "Mentis" is the genitive singular, meaning "of the mind".

Interestingly, "mens" is also Dutch for "human".

A stick man in a da-Vinci-style circle and square would be a great symbol for humanists. I don't think it quite sums up atheism, after all.

Really? Why not? The asterisk or stick man can stand for the self or for humans, the circle for the world or totality or all those nifty things the circle proponents are saying, and the square for reality, truth, science, etc. (except for that weird fringe Christian sect Mom got sucked into one time).

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

No symbols for me thanks. The symbol of not believing in god is lack of a symbol. I love designs, and can see wearing or bearing any number of them, but I can't see belonging to a "I'm not a stamp collector" club.

that weird fringe Christian sect

Sorry, I was referring to "four square."

This is hard. How do you come up with a "holy symbol" that basically means "not a holy symbol?" Wow.

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm for the circle. I'd rather be mistaken for a practitioner of Zen than most other belief systems anyway.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm all for the Fibonacci spiral, just as a simple curve. It can be easily drawn by anyone (so long as mathematicians don't get picky), can be stylized easily in many ways, and demonstrates the generation of order from simple rules. Parallels to the mortal coil being all there is are obvious.

I quite like the asterix, but think it would only be a matter of time before the theists identify it as a styalised pentagram... See! Those heathens really ARE Satanists... look at their symbol!

Hard core theists have always insisted atheists are satanists. In their universe, we support satan by definition. That connection to satanism, valid or not, is far stronger and more widely recognized than any tenuous resemblance between a pentacle and 5-lobe asterix. Pareidolia will ensure any symbol we choose will be similarly close to something negative.

Whatever symbol we choose, we must continue to say: There's no reason to believe Satan exists. Satan is nothing more than a scaremongering tactic - an idea that exists to enable the unscrupulous to exploit the unwary. There is no reason to believe a 5-lobe asterisk as our symbol will change the amount of energy we need to expend countering the 'satanist' strawman.

I like the owl idea. Then I can stick "O RLY?" under it.

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Asterisk. Asterisk. Asterisk. (Mentis, Mentis, Mentis.)

Beautiful. Simple. Non-sciency, non-mathy (think about the broader population-set you want to "get" it).

IT HAS THE HUGE ADVANTAGE THAT IT DOESN'T ALREADY MEAN SOMETHING.

If we adopt a symbol already full of meaning, we have to tweak it away from people who already "own" it. Just more opposition to deal with.

With the simple, clean, elegant asterisk (ahem, mentis) we can build the meaning into it as we go. We can give it its own name, OUR name (did I say "mentis" already?), fer chrissake.

And again, regarding that broader population-set, the asterisk is friendly, familiar, non-mysterious, and contains no hint of "nyah-nyah, we know something you don't know, and we're not telling you!"

Asterisk. (Um ... Mentis.)

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A simple rising sun, or a torch, or a lantern. Something with an "enlightenment" connotation. Maybe a trilobite or a fossilized fish (from the darwin fish wars).

I like the section mark (not sure if it has a more proper name) rotated at 45 degrees to represent the galaxy and the breadth of thought that gets along just fine without any gods. §

There's a great Gnostic (secular) symbol for the unity of the cosmos. It's easier to draw than to describe, but here goes:

1) Imagine a map compass with four letters--N, E, S, W--equidistant from a center point.

2) Now draw four fairly small circles around those letters and lighty mark the center point.

3) Now take away the compass leaving four equal-sized circles.

4) Now draw eight line segments from the outer borders of each circle (two segments per circle), converging at the center point.

The finished product looks sort of like a Maltese Cross if you squint your eyes, or a comic strip explosion with four circles being pushed forward, but doesn't resemble the Roman execution device.

I guess the most obvious and appropriate symbol is some sort of light, lamp or lantern.

I like the lowercase sigma: Ï

It's a symbol for deviation from the norm, and also implies that we are happy with the sum of knowledge so far. And it's a nice glyph.

I'd suggest a silouette of the men who made rational atheism possible.

A rational person today can look at the world around them and come to the conclusion that no supernatural being is necessary to explain their existence. Several thinkers and experimenters make that possible. Copernicus established that the earth is not the center of the universe. Darwin provided an explanation of how complex plants and humans came to inhabit the earth. Watson and Crick described the mechanism for inheriting the complexity built up by natural selection.

There might be others who deserve to be in the logo, possibly someone like Hubble who helped us understand the enormity of the universe. Maybe Schrödinger for giving us the uncertainty principle.

You could have an outline for car bumpers and a nice relief for jewelry.

By jscarry@johnsc… (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

But Hank, then the other kids on the playground will call it the "non-praying mentis" to which we can retort that we have but one, ahem, @$$ to risk. heh.

Jeffw, I thought of that "light" thing but my artist fiance already had a design in the finals for the Brights logo. Plus all that light, sun, torch, candle, etc. imagery is way too pagan, even Christian, for me.

I think a circle in a square is stylish, adequately meaningful in the direction we want, really easy to draw, render, and wear, and sufficiently distinct from existing symbology.

OK, that's my final answer, circle-in-square. See 3D rendering in "gold" here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sightrays/281738279/

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I think a circle in a square could imply believing a thing obviously contrary to the facts--i.e. trying to stuff a round peg in a square hole. I'm against that one.

You mean a square peg in a round hole. And that's really reaching.

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

It was the question of why, every time I do a story about the Church, they won't be interviewed. Why are they different from all other institutions we do stories on?

"Why do they always manage to move the air date at least a month back with the legal department?

"That was the big question: What are you hiding? Why should I give you all the questions I'm going to ask before you've even decided if you're going to be interviewed? And that's the kind of thing the Church typically does. It's not allowing you to be a journalist.

"I guess it's similar to the way they obey canon law versus civil law. It's kind of like they make their own rules for everything."

*********************

Source: http://torontosun.com/Entertainment/Movies/2006/10/27/2144887-sun.html

Thought that this may be just one more nail in the coffin for protecting religion. Dawkins and Harris are right to get ticked because we are so scared to challenge religion ---especially when it serves as an incubator for evils such as these because people are told to check their brains at the door and not question.

The movie that this review is about is very frank about how far up the chain of command the blame goes. I did read this:

Neither does the longtime segment-producer for CNN, CBS and ABC spare newly installed Pope Benedict, who, before he took office, presided over high-level Vatican committees looking into priestly abuse. Ultimately, the committee of bishops washed their hands of the whole sordid mess, not only prompting lawsuits from victims but also prompting President George W. Bush to grant the pontiff immunity from prosecution here.

Source: http://www.examiner.com/a-367187~_Evil__mastermind.html

Please reread the last sentence of that quote. Can anyone back that up? Can anyone explain to me how that happened??

Conservatives are always about PROTECTING THE CHILDREN--- from the evil OUT THERE--- but not the assholes that are in their midst. Why??

By anonymous (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

It was the question of why, every time I do a story about the Church, they won't be interviewed. Why are they different from all other institutions we do stories on?

"Why do they always manage to move the air date at least a month back with the legal department?

"That was the big question: What are you hiding? Why should I give you all the questions I'm going to ask before you've even decided if you're going to be interviewed? And that's the kind of thing the Church typically does. It's not allowing you to be a journalist.

"I guess it's similar to the way they obey canon law versus civil law. It's kind of like they make their own rules for everything."

*********************

Source: http://torontosun.com/Entertainment/Movies/2006/10/27/2144887-sun.html

Thought that this may be just one more nail in the coffin for protecting religion. Dawkins and Harris are right to get ticked because we are so scared to challenge religion ---especially when it serves as an incubator for evils such as these because people are told to check their brains at the door and not question.

The movie that this review is about is very frank about how far up the chain of command the blame goes. I did read this:

Neither does the longtime segment-producer for CNN, CBS and ABC spare newly installed Pope Benedict, who, before he took office, presided over high-level Vatican committees looking into priestly abuse. Ultimately, the committee of bishops washed their hands of the whole sordid mess, not only prompting lawsuits from victims but also prompting President George W. Bush to grant the pontiff immunity from prosecution here.

Source: http://www.examiner.com/a-367187~_Evil__mastermind.html

Please reread the last sentence of that quote. Can anyone back that up? Can anyone explain to me how that happened??

Conservatives are always about PROTECTING THE CHILDREN--- from the evil OUT THERE--- but not the assholes that are in their midst. Why??

By anonymous (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Hahaha! I love "non-praying mentis"!

Just another little linkage that will help disseminate it and make it stick permanently in people's minds.

I'm surprised no one has suggested the logo from Ghostbusters....

By Jeff Chamberlain (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I've been partial to the musical symbol for natural since I came across it as a suggestion on this topic, e.g. the image at http://www.dolmetsch.com/natural.gif

Alternately, the inverted exclamation could work, too, ¡ , interpreted as stylized head and body, yet symbolizing a surety of our position against the grain of the rest of humanity!

I like the five-pointed asterisk, but I'd dub an atheist version of it a pentarisk or better yet, a pentisk. An option combining the above would be a "pentisk" made of exclamation points (Times New Roman Bold) with the common point in the center. It has the advantage of looking star-like, maybe atomish.

By minusRusty (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Sigma also stands for "standard deviation", and we're about nothing if not the standardization of deviance!

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

If it's going to be something we can wear around our necks, then the dot-within-circle thing wouldn't work so well, nor would the "pentisk" minusRusty suggested. It would have to be continuous. I still like the circle best, but the natural sign is pretty cool too.

Sigma, riiight. I can see stringing one on a chain, and being asked by everyone at work whether it's a 6, a 9, or a Q.

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ok I came up with something. How about something like this?
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/81/FTS.jpg (I thought it'd be smaller)

as far as I know nobody is using it for any other purposes/no other meaning, it's relatively simple and easy to draw, and If I wore necklaces or jewelry or something, I'd buy something like that.

You can come up with a bunch of meanings for it too... I originally came up with it to be kind of like a camera shutter, symbolizing that we use technology and stuff to look at the world, you could say the inside thing looks like a galaxy, you could say the whole thing looks like a planet, etc.

Hasn't this already been done by The Brights?

To some of us, 'bright' is too elitist. Yes, even hard core atheists who really think atheism is better think 'bright' is too elitist. Some dislike it on other grounds< . I like the symbol, but not the name.

I thought the question mark was already in use by the Unitarians? As in the apocryphal threat to "leave a burning question mark on a lawn", variously attributed to folk singer U. Utah Philips and to Lenny Bruce.

I personally favor the nautilus. Don't see that its difficulty to draw by hand is much of an impediment nowadays - we've most all got access to printer gear. It could be added to the UniCode standard (unless it's there already but it's so big who would know?).

Something everyone needs to consider with their suggestions: how easy is it going to be to explain? That's a problem with completely novel abstract designs: they aren't going to have easy referents, like the circle or the asterisk or sigma or anything based on more common symbols.

PZ, exactly. It's why I like your asterisk (mentis!) suggestion.

I'd like to see the capital Greek letter Delta. â is solid and simple. â can be stylized as a triangle or written calligraphic stroke that makes it clearly a letter.

Most importantly, â is the symbol for change. The universe is full of change. Skeptics are open to change. â says that we are trying to bring about change.

Gavin

That's why I don't like the asterisk. It doesn't refer to anything besides "looks a bit like a pansy."

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

The empty set is like a circle, just with a rising slash through it.

I like those associations!

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I like those associations!

So will Oystein. My fiance, not so much, maybe.

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

"looks a bit like a pansy."

Um, ok. And what does "pansy" mean? Because if it means men acting like women, you do know there's nothing wrong with that...right? GAH! I've had it with this whole "masculine" = "not-feminine" bullshit.

That's why I don't like the asterisk. It doesn't refer to anything...

That's a strong point in its favor. We build the meaning into a symbol that has no pre-existing meaning. You use anything with a strong meaning already built into it, you have to overcome that meaning, EVERY time you use it.

The asterisk has the paradoxical advantage that it doesn't mean anything special, but it IS instantly recognizable to everybody who sees it.

If you use any of these symbols with strong associations already attached, you might as well use the Toyota logo, or Tony Tiger.

Because you'll be explaining it EVERY time you try to get somebody's attention with it. "No, it's NOT Tony Tiger! It's the symbol of unbelief! You know -- like tigers don't have any religion. Get it?"

I'd like to see the capital Greek letter Delta

it's yet another symbol that has been heavily co-opted by the xians as representing the holy trinity. However, there is an interestng history to it:

http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/28/281.html

also note the symbol representing dialectical materialism presented in the text.

What about a question mark? (?) It suggests skepticism, which is an important part of free thought. We question authority, question dogma, question assumptions, question hypotheses, etc. Science is also about asking questions, where all knowledge is provisional. Some might associate ? more with agnosticism, which leaves questions open, while atheism has answers, but it can be applied more broadly to all freethinkers. Picture it hanging around someone's neck. It's a common and simple symbol, instantly recognizable, and inoffensive.

And extremist freethinkers can burn question marks on front lawns. :)

By John Hynes (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Right, an existing, understandable cobmination of symbols is just more practical. People can take it seriously and it doesn't have that "made up," glossy ad-agency flavor to it.

Oh, and I'll see your circle pendant and raise you a square: http://www.mexicana.co.uk/html/images/thumbs/pen9y037.jpg

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I don't get to vote, since I'm a pagan (by the way, the penticle? The Satanists stole it from us. I'd expect rationalists to know that the penticle isn't really a Satanist symbol), but if I did, I'd vote for the sigma.

Reason? It's a pierced circle. (One might go for a hand-written sigma that doesn't quite connect... it would look something like this.) It's a circle with an escape--so you lose the circle's infinite recursion connotations. I don't remember now why that seemed like such a good idea--I took a break from writing this to make the picture... ah, well.

The problem with coming up with a symbol out of whole cloth, of course, is that this isn't how really compelling symbols come to be. Symbols arise over time and practice; for every one that endures, thousands just never work out.

I'd say the Omega symbol isn't the best choice, given it does have some meaning in Christian beliefs ("I am the Alpha and the Omega").

The asterisk is the universal wildcard in most computer use, which could fit but I've seen used a bit in clothing lines. Plus, it's similar to the Cingular mascot, which is just creepy. ;)

Pi is more likely to get you identified as a math-major than an atheist.

I dunno. I don't have any good suggestions.

The problem with coming up with a symbol out of whole cloth, of course, is that this isn't how really compelling symbols come to be. Symbols arise over time and practice; for every one that endures, thousands just never work out.

Lytefoot wins the thread. (clap, clap) :)

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Or are humanists distinct from atheists in some way?

Oh, God, yes. Humanists believe in a whole set of doctrines that aren't implied in the least by disbelief in deities. I'm an atheist, and I'm about as staunch a nonhumanist as you can find.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

After following the Happy Human link and reading up on the Humanists, it seems as though this matter has already been settled.

well, naturalism.org uses a leaf as a symbol.

I was thinking about suggesting natural log, "ln", but it seems like it might be better to propose "e". It's a conversation starter, but can be as quickly explained as a Jesus "t" if one likes.

By Michael Fox (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I rather like the "a period" graphic by Manxome One put up just now by PZ.

How many of you don't already display [the fish with legs], in one of the many versions?

I don't. I think it's horrid. It has nothing at all to do with atheism, no matter how much it has to do with science. Evolution is a fact, not a standpoint. You might as well stick a globe on your trunk lid to show you believe the earth is round, or declare on an engraved plaque around your neck that 1 + 1 = 2.

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

No, that's the symbol for "not a creationist".

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Maybe not letters, we want it to be universal.
Like the null sign.
I was looking at the HTML list of symbols and saw the mathmatical intregal sign (streched out s), I liked it. It has a lot of attached meanings to it, including: rational thought, summation, and integration. It would also be easy to render.

hi, my first comment, love your blog :)

i'm very proud to be godless

a lot of people like the perfect circle idea

i was thinking of adding some circular lines inside the circle to make what might almost be an upside down peace symbol

i couldn't really draw it on my computer, so i drew it on some paper and took a video, you can download it here to see what i'm thinking

https://backup.filesanywhere.com/v.asp?v=%8Cjk%89%5Cb%B3w%B1

there is some similarity to a cross, but it's more uplifted maybe?

it could also resemble a tree growing

or maybe seeds or cell division

and from the perspective of the individual wearing it it could look like a properly orientated peace symbol

just my thoughts :)

s

Odd. The idea of an atheist logo seems to be no different than how I complain that believers parade around their religion with symbols, etc. I also think "Brights" was an ill-suited name and even polled non-believers' impression of the term - they and I stand by the word atheist.

Sorry to be blunt, but this post sort of creeped me out. :-(

Caledonian: "Humanists believe in a whole set of doctrines that aren't implied in the least by disbelief in deities. I'm an atheist, and I'm about as staunch a nonhumanist as you can find."

This is true!

By Scott Hatfield (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm curious to know what you have against humanism, Caledonian, but I'm afraid to ask. (I self-identify as atheist, not humanist.)

I certainly think it's legitimate for atheists to have a symbol, Observer. After all, organizations and companies, no matter how religious or secular, have symbols showing belonging/unity/affiliation. I doubt any godless logo will actually catch on, but it's still cool to discuss. I agree that "atheist" is a better term than "Bright." I know some bright Christians.

I'm not getting the infinity connection at all. There's nothing infinite about my life unless it's the ability of the godly to inflict pain on me and others.

It's hard to argue with those who think that any kind of symbol is anathema to atheism but my hope was to figure out some way of letting the proud, however few, of us display something to say: I'm not one of you.

That and I'm tired of being described in exclusively negative terms (godless, atheist, unbeliever -- all terms defined by "without god"). Anyhow, I wrote a post about this if you want more on the idea behind all this sudden need for a symbol.

Here's something to consider regarding any asterisk shape:
It could also be said to resemble a bug on your windshield.
In other words, its wearer has come up against something overwhelming and has been stopped dead by it. Religious followers could have a field day making fun of it.

I like the "mentis" bit. I just hope the religious don't "steal" the symbol and make it a praying mentis :P

How about the "schwa?"

Boiled down very little, it means naught or nothing, which fairly well sums up the atheist position on god(s), & it would make an easily balanced piece of jewelry.
o
o

Well, Hank's enthusiasm is infectious, I'm liking the asterisk (excuse me, mentis) more and more. It lacks the artificiality and solemnity and pretentiousness of certain other symbols. You could be as reverent or irreverent as you want with it ("What's it mean?" "What doesn't it mean?"). And it's easy to draw. I thought we might first want to turn it upside down to make it our own, but it started looking to plant-like at that point. Sure you'd have the pansy connection, but I like it being nonspecific, 'cause this isn't about botany.

Of course, I still have misgivings about "pansy", what with it being a common insult I used when I was younger.

I really, really, really like the idea of using the musical "natural" symbol suggested by minusRusty. It already means what we want it to mean: "natural". It is elegant and simple, and unlike the circle (which I also rather like) it isn't already commonly used in jewelry and graphics.

In fact, if anyone out there knows how to make jewelry, and would make a "natural" pendant, let me know! I'll buy it, and be a club of one until someone else chooses to display it as well!

With my great artistic skills I've tried to give form to some of the ideas here, what do you think?

Nice hubcaps. :)

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I like the natural symbol too, or any symbol having to do with nature, such as a leaf, shell, etc. Everyone can relate to nature, it has very few negative connotations, and softens the harsh, cold image of atheism. You can't go wrong allying yourself with mother nature.

I'm for the Infinity symbol, in the sense that it means "no limits", in the universal sense. I wouldn't want a symbol to be too "humanist" either - while I tend to think humanistically at times, at other times I think people are the problem, not the solution, so I tend not to link atheism and humanism.

I had a go at doing an "alternative fish" a while ago: one that shows just what happens to fish in Japan: they become sashimi!

It seems to me that most powerful symbols have some sort of historical basis -- either as a secret sign that oppressed groups can use to designate "safe houses" in times of persecution (e.g., the vesica pescis turned on its side was used this way by Christions under Roman persecution) or as a battle standard in religious wars (e.g. the simple cross as worn by crusaders). Powerful symbols don't come about because a group of people say, "Hey, let's come up with a symbol!" (It's not just religious symbols -- the anarchist-A, beloved of disaffected college students, was born in the bloody chaos of the Spanish Civil War.)

Right now, there are places in the world where freethought is a capital crime. Do you think there are no freethinkers in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan? Of course there are. But they live an underground existence and lead double lives. My guess is that there exists today a powerful symbol for freethought, but it's a secret. And as long as the theocrats retain power, it needs to remain a secret. When the last theocracy is overthrown, we'll find our symbol, scrawled on a doorpost or in a stack of papers left in an empty, ransacked house.

...I should add: not that nature isn't nasty! But the image of it isn't.

You know, I really liked my Omega idea... but the more I think about it wearing a necklace with one the more I think it would get confused for a lucky horseshoe.

That's a pretty big stumbling block.

Put me in the Mentis camp.

I'm curious to know what you have against humanism, Caledonian, but I'm afraid to ask.

And yet you did, by implication! Shiny!

Let's start by taking a look at Wikipedia's definition of humanism, just to clarify what we're talking about.

Humanism is a broad category of active ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity

We're meat that talks.

and worth of all people

Meat. Talking. About sums it up.

based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appeal to universal human qualities--particularly rationalism

Rationalism is far from a universal human quality; in fact, I would say it is a quintessentially inhuman property.

Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth and morality through human means

Human means are frail and poorly suited to a search for truth.

in support of human interests

Obsolete and self-limiting. Humans are at best a necessary but unpleasant stage in a probabilistic progression towards something more interesting and reasonable. I consider myself a human by birth, not by choice.

As for what I do believe in, these actually come closest:

In Life's name and for Life's sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so -- till the Universe's end.

Belief makes no difference to the truth.

Neither doctrine is particularly benign toward human existence.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about the inclusivity of the ampersand - "&"?

By Toggernut (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

You know, I really liked my Omega idea... but the more I think about it wearing a necklace with one the more I think it would get confused for a lucky horseshoe.

That's a pretty big stumbling block.

...

Put me in the Mentis camp.

Nick, that top concept is classy. I'm just not sure what it has to do with atheism.

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Is the bottom one a pair of chromatids?

J: I certainly think it's legitimate for atheists to have a symbol, Observer. After all, organizations and companies, no matter how religious or secular, have symbols showing belonging/unity/affiliation. I doubt any godless logo will actually catch on, but it's still cool to discuss. I agree that "atheist" is a better term than "Bright." I know some bright Christians.

One can join American Atheists and display a sticker as one would a World Wildlife Fund or a Sierra Club sticker and show their support. But a general logo or symbol to shout out "I'm an atheist/freethinker" or what have you is no different than wearing a cross by outward appearances. Would I see someone wearing an atheist pendant and think, "Gee there's an atheist over there! Yay!"? What does that achieve? It would seem cultish to believers, or paganish, like wearing runic symbols. The absence of symbols forces someone to talk to me--not immediately compartmentalize me--to find out what I think.

Sure, the idea is fun to bat around, I'm not trying to be a wet rag here, but I'm sensitive to creating things that further compartmentalizes us. I use to have a Sun sticker on my car and people thought I was pagan (It's the Sun, it's up for grabs by everybody-just means I like nature, for Pete's sake!)

Mark, I'm not bothered by being called an atheist or godless, though I understand your point. But it is what it is and most religious people I encounter, no matter what we call ourselves, once they hear you don't believe in God, you're an atheist. If someone asks me, "Do you believe in God?" I try not to say "No," but instead immediately say "I believe that..." because I find once they hear "No" they don't ask further questions, so I have to somewhat force it on them.

**I meant to say before that I unofficially polled BELIEVERS about the term "Brights" and they thought it sounded elitist and pointless as I do. No disrespect to the idea's creators.

I knew there would be people who would automatically reject the whole idea. That's fine, I think that's in the spirit of atheism, too -- we reject any attempt to dictate what we should believe about the world, and atheists tend not to be joiners.

I'm thinking about this in a much more limited way. It's a scheme to easily declare one's sentiments on a web page. It's more comparable to putting a "Get Firefox" badge on your site -- it's saying that you think this is cool and useful and reflects your particular ethos about whatever, but it doesn't mean you get together with Firefox users to have rituals and sing-alongs and pretend you're all good buddies because you like the same software.

I just noticed that the Church of Freethought recommends using a lightning bolt as a symbol for freethinkers. They have some discussion about it here: http://www.churchoffreethought.org/ (look under "about us" and then "logo").

From an aesthetic standpoint I'm not too crazy about the lightning bolt, though. I like the empty set symbol, but that could also be taken to have negative connotations. If I had to vote at this point, I think I'd go with the asterisk.

The only quibble with the "circle in a square" design that I have is that there used to be this absolutely odious Canadian Christian tv show called Circle Square. Apparently it's still in reruns, but fortunately I haven't seen any. Even just looking at the gold design reinvigourated the trauma for me...that's enough!

By Interrobang (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Lightning bolts bother me, too — not that we should worry about others interpretations (they'll find something negative, no matter what), but I see that and think...SS.

Hmm, don't like the asterisk. I think it would look too hippy/flowery. The circle is OK but plain. I think the natural symbol is an intriguing idea, though, and it's not already in heavy circulation by other groups/cults/religions.

My first thought was a sun with a few stylized rays. Next thought was something fractal - sums up the idea of pattern building out of something simple, and can easily be scaled up or down. A chambered nautilus would be nice as well. I don't like the asterisk, because to me that indicates "more to be included but I don't have time for it now". Also it's often used in comics to indicate bemusement or inability to articulate thoughts. And stop it with the mentis, too close to Mentos. :)

Heh, OK, Interrobang. I didn't see that on a preliminary Google. Good catch. Too bad for me, eh? :)

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Love the "infinity a" from Manxome One. So far, the best for me, and far better than anything I can think of!

How about the natural symbol in a circle?

I really like § (section symbol) for its resemblance to a spiral galaxy. It is simple, clean, easy to render.

My second favorite of those mentioned is the musical natural symbol.

The torch symbol has been used by several groups - including, I believe, the United Methodist Church.

kosmos

While I'm on the subject, I'm a bit bemused by the "natural" sign idea. Really, what it means in music is "cancel, until further notice, the preceding orders to make this note sharp or flat." If anything, the sign means NOT SHARP. Is that really what we want?

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I think our wants for this need some defining:

Do we want to informally adopt a keyboard symbol that anyone with a standard font set can reproduce? (in which case, may I recommend the Helvetica asterisk; it's five lobed, understatedly modern and widely available on most [all?] computer platforms)

Or, do we want a copyrightable symbol. We can develop a drawing and make graphics files of it widely available. The next question, though, is whom would the copyright be registered to? Who would defend it? There's legal stuff that have to be considered (by someone with more knowledge about these things than I).

Or we can make a drawing and CC it, but I don't know if any case law has shown that to be defensible or not.

Speaking of what speedwell said, the natural sign is also "not accidental." Hmm. But I do like the natural sign in terms of aesthetics.

The empty set certainly has some things going for it. It's recognized, it has an existing meaning that naturally leads into a representation of atheism, it's simple, and it can easily be displayed on computers.

I think the Scandinavian fellow is simply going to have to be inappropriately flattered.

Realistically, we may have to have *all* of the symbols.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

For something very simple, clean, and easy to draw, I suggest an equilateral triangle (delta) with an inscribed circle. Since the triangle is a symbol for god and the circle implies zero, ==> Godless.

A triforce?

Hey, aren't we always trying to explain to creationist kooks that natural selection is not "accidental"? As for usually meaning "not sharp", well hell, it's still CALLED the "natural" symbol, right?

This is going to sound dumb, but try to visualize this... something reminiscent of a lightbulb, but stylized so that the outline of the bulb is actually a question mark. Inside, where the 'filament' would be, is the letter 'a'. Maybe with some rays of light eminating from the bulb. If there were 5 'rays' that would also be reminiscent of an asterisk. If someone out there with more artistic talent than me could flesh that out I bet it could look pretty spiffy. The soundbite explanation for the image would be, 'questioning and nonbelief are bright ideas'.

... Okay, after rereading what I just wrote, I almost deleted this comment before posting because it sounds too goofy. But I'm going to let it stand; maybe someone else can work with the idea. In any event, in mind of what PZ said about using this like an icon graphic on a web page, I think people should consider images that are visually more complicated than just a keyboard symbol.

Please, no triangles. Either they look like pyramids (inviting New Age/pagan/Masonic associations) or bring to mind the gay rights symbol. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter, but we are trying to come up with something new here, right?

Maybe a real artist could do it well.

Nick: Thanks for doing an artistic version of my encircled gene. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/upload/2006/10/dnalogo.gif

But I think the top version is too busy.

I think we need a name for it (whichever symbol) that has a positive frame. I have never liked "atheist", since I feel strange defining myself as NOT something foolish.

To me the real value of the symbol is too establish the concept that it is OK (safe, reasonable, respectable) to live without blind faith in the supernatural.

So how about "Xeno" (yeah, it works well with my symbol), or maybe "Xeneme" (combined with "meme"). Wearing a Xeno lapel pin at a church meeting you could respond to negativity with "What, are you Xenophobic?"

Isn't any symbol that causes people to stop and ask us "Hey, what's that mean?" so we can answer "It means I'm an atheist" suitable for the task at hand? It might not only be necessary that we have many different symbols, but actually desirable.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

As the person who dropped "Pi" in a circle, I have to say I love Nick's design (it's gorgeous), but M one's "a." says it the best to me. The only objection I have is it looks very commercial (and that's not necessarily bad). The best part is this great response regardless of whether we find a symbol.

I really like the DNA one, and I think it can be related to Freethought in general, altough the materialistic overtones are pretty unavoidable.

Huh. How did RO manage to edit his post?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I've always thought that it should simply be a circle, too. Circle of life, and all that.

...

...

Whew! I LOVE the two that Nick did!

BUT ... I think I'm more swayed by the "easily reproduced using existing font sets" comment.

If you wanted to put the mentis on your blog, you could do it all by yourself, no download needed. If you wanted to create bumper stickers, you could do it more easily with a common symbol.

And again, each of those math/science symbols that already have meanings attached, we'd be working uphill in their adoption -- every time it was displayed, it would have to be explained. All of them already have names, too, and any new name (hint: "mentis") would have an uphill fight there too.

The absence of symbols forces someone to talk to me--not immediately compartmentalize me--to find out what I think.

Excellent point. (However, one could simply decline to display it.)

I've often thought that individuals can be more effective and visible in some ways as individuals than they are as members of groups. However, not all individuals are as courageous or well-spoken or prolific as, for instance, PZ.

Moreover, our enemies exist both as individuals and as members of large groups - with their identifying symbols as rallying markers. I'd take both paths, myself: Join a group, and continue to be my own individual self.

All things considered, I'm in favor of a symbol.

Sure some people will take it as some sort of cult. Screw 'em.

...

...

PZ, I have a suggestion: After comments on this post begin to slow down, have someone set up a voting page (Brent Rasmussen, maybe?) with the most elegant or interesting or most popular suggested choices. The visual symbol, and a brief statement of derivation.

Pick those that get the most votes. The top three to five, maybe? And then get the champions of those particular symbols to give bulleted arguments as to why they favor their choice. And possibly ways to use the symbol.

I'd be glad to champion the asterisk/mentis and talk about its use in a kick-ass fun, subversive, in-your-face campaign (as I did briefly in my earliest comment here).

...

...

We ain't gonna be able to compete unless we can come up with some fancy schmancy stained glass windows.

I'm surprised no one has suggest using the Greek alpha (α) yet - after all it's the first letter of the Greek alphabet as opposed to the suggestion omega which is the last letter (and who wants a symbol that's last on the list?). All the other Greek symbols mentioned (pi, delta, sigma) seem rather obscure how they relate to atheism/agnosticism which, by the way, begins with the letter "a" making alpha a better fit.

With respect to alpha being part of the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega..." I say perfect; an important aspect of humanism is the belief that humans are responsible, and only responsible, for their own actions so in that respect we are all the alpha of ourselves - "I am the alpha" is rather like a philosophical "the buck stops here."

Plus it kind of looks like a sideways jelly-fish or an octopus - something we all know PZ would approve.

Alpha looks like the Christian fish.

Oh, and Kurt, I'm totally picturing what you're saying... I do think that with the added rays it would probably be too busy though. Just the questionmark bulb with the a filament would be enough i think.

DNA is cool, DNA is great, everyone has DNA, but what does DNA have to do with atheism?

By speedwell (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I like irony. So I would use pi for our symbol. An irrational number for a rational society grounded in the certainty of mathmatics.

I also would like some sort of stylized DNA symbol.

I suggest Phi-

The Golden Means, the proportions of anatomy,the spiral of the nautilus, the ratio of twigs to branches...

Phi covers it all. IF there were an IntelDesig at work, it'd use Phi.

By SpringheelJ (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

speedwell wrote:

DNA is cool, DNA is great, everyone has DNA, but what does DNA have to do with atheism?

I will answer your question with another question: What do
rainbows have to do with gay and lesbian legal issues?

Not much on the surface, but yet this is has been an
extremly effective publicity move for homosexual political
groups...find something that has lots of good feelings and
associations that you want transferred to the person, place,
thing, or idea you actually want to push....It's the same
thing with those round Bush bumperstickers you see all over the
place that have the flag attached to a big "W"....the positive feelings
and associations with the flag are transferred over to good ol'boy
"double-youuuu"....

I think a eye-catching, beautiful DNA design would be perfect
for an atheist symbol for the same reason the "rainbow=gay" strategy was...it's naturally occuring thing that everyone has or can recognize, as you said, and has a (I believe) a overall favorable collection of impressions (DNA= life, high technology, knowledge) and therfore your opponents will be loathe to critisize or try to tear it down once it is associated with you.

By Dark Matter (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I (again) suggest Phi as the symbol. As an artist, I've long been aware of its dictation of form in nature as well as in man's greater works.

As a SYMBOL- it is simple and elegant, suggesting the form of a person surrounded by the sphere of the world.

It also resembles the Chinese character for 'center'.

Phi describes many forms in nature as well as in art and architecture.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Greek_Letter_Phi.svg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Fibonacci_spiral.svg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Vitruvian.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:ParthenonGoldenRatio.png

Adolf Zeising, whose main interests were mathematics and philosophy, found the golden ratio expressed in the arrangement of branches along the stems of plants, and of veins in leaves. He extended his research to the skeletons of animals and the branchings of their veins and nerves, to the proportions of chemical compounds and the geometry of crystals, as well as the use of proportion in artistic endeavors. In these phenomena he saw the golden ratio operating as a universal law.[26] Zeising wrote in 1854:

[A universal law] in which is contained the ground-principle of all formative striving for beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art, and which permeates, as a paramount spiritual ideal, all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical; which finds its fullest realization, however, in the human form.[27]

By SpringheelJ (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about a simple spiral galaxy?

It's:

- Simple
- Versatile (easy to make into a logo, jewelry, draw, etc)
- Evocative of science
- Reverent (conveys awe of science and the universe)
- Symmetrical (visually appealing)

M one's "a." says it the best to me. The only objection I have is it looks very commercial (and that's not necessarily bad).

Unfortunately, this is the commercial thing it looks like (at least that's what it brings to mind for me).

I do like the idea of "a." but I think it works better in a more typical font. Like maybe courier or some other old-school typewriter-looking font.

A logo has its uses, so I'm all for this.

The pansy is too complicated, so it can be saved for alternate naturalistic flower-of-the-month type embellishments.

I like the Invisible Pink Unicorn, but that viewpoint is an acquired taste.

The asterix doesn't feel right to me. It is a wildcard in computer use, but it is also used to point to comments. Too indefinite or too hesitant for my taste.

I would rather have a positive symbol. ! or¡ are such from natural language, # ('square'; QED) or ∴ (therefore) are such form math. The problem may be that not everyone think of it as a near certainty, large probability or large plausibility, of course.

Of course ∅ or 0 are easy negative symbols.

A last set of positive possibilities is universals. Λ would symbolize the physical universe (as in the current &#923-CDM cosmology we have).

But here and overall I prefer ∀ (for all) since it reminds of A for atheist, it symbolises that it applies for all things and connotes that it is for all people.

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Take two of the "a, period" designs, stand the second one up so that it resembles a question mark and shares the period with the first "a".

Maybe rotate the whole thing so that it resembles a pair of eyes.

Better yet, for a nice symmetrical design, have four "a, periods" radiating off a single period at 90 degree angles.

Whatever symbol is chosen, I am strongly of the opinion that it must be EXTREMELY SIMPLE to describe and recognize. Some tests to apply:

Can you draw it on paper in less than two seconds? If not, it's out.

If you caught a split-second glimpse of the symbol, could you reproduce it accurately? If not, it's out.

(Obviously, by these standards, colour is also out.)

The problem with a symbol like a key, a book, or a galaxy is that there's too much detail. To draw a recognizable key you have to draw a particular key; if you drew it again by hand it would be unlikely to have exactly the same shape. A big factor in why the Christian cross and Jewish star are such powerful and enduring symbols is that they are so simple that you'd only have to see them once, even for a second, and you'd still be able to easily describe and reproduce the symbol perfectly years later.

All that said, my personal preference is for the natural sign. It's simple, meaningful, and beautiful!

The perfect circle is the only other candidate that is geometrically simple enough, and I don't prefer symbols that suggest we don't believe anything (the circle or the null set) or we don't know what we believe (the question mark). Atheism is not empty. We do believe in something. We believe in observation and natural explanations. We believe in the scientific method.

What about a key? Has someone suggested that already? Is that too snotty?

Or, how about a book or scroll or something bringing to mind study?

Hmm. Is there some what to illustrate the scientific method as a symbol? Something that speaks to the self-correcting nature of science vs. the written-in-stone nature of religion?

"Something that speaks to the self-correcting nature of science vs. the written-in-stone nature of religion?"

That would be the σ suggested above. It is a symbol for standard deviation (positive square root of variance) and is used to express uncertainty or confidence intervals for measurements.

It is also used for a quality model, six sigma. (It has many more uses.)

Actually, that is a good idea, selfcorrection, deviation 'from dogma', uncertainty, confidence and quality, all in one symbol.

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

Huge comment list, but I'd recommend the fish hook symbol. It operates as an upside down question mark and is ridiculously easy not only to render, but to personalize. In addition, the fish hook is easily recognizable as a powerful symbol all over the world, one with connotations to philosophy and thought.

I have to say, though, this is not as exceptional an idea as the sand dollar.

Here's a few images of a Maori symbol called the Koru. I think it may be what you're getting at.

koru

another koru

trilaterally symmetric koru

If I had to choose from what I've read I'd take the sand dollar. The trilaterally symmetric koru reminds me of a fossil I read about once. Might have been something like an archaeocyath (?). Who can say? I do know that trilateral symmetry is exceedingly rare in nature, which might explain how I remembered this fossil.

I forgot to mention my thoughts on the asterisk.

The asterisk already has a rather negative meaning: it means "watch out for the fine print." It connotes deception or at least deviousness. Putting an asterisk next to something suggests that it isn't to be trusted.

Also, it's too complex a shape. It's downright difficult to draw a five-pointed asterisk with the proposed bulbous shape. It cannot be described in few words and reproduced accurately. Perhaps a simpler asterisk made of five straight lines might be feasible, but the suspicious connotation remains too serious a drawback.

The natural sign has just the right connotation: unbiased. Neither sharp nor flat: natural.

A bit out of left field...and perhaps burdened by too much astrological association, but how about:

http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/41a/41a36.html

The symbol for the planet Uranus. Here is the description from symbols.com:

"Before the French Revolution it was taken for granted that there existed a higher class of human beings, the aristocracy, appointed by God to rule over the lower classes. The discovery of this planet came as a shock, and not only for astronomers and astrologers (the latter did not recover until the twentieth century in the West). Even today, astrologers in India refuse to acknowledge the existence of the three outer planets.

As a result Uranus has come to symbolize total and sudden change or upheaval, unpredictability, modern science, anarchy and the destruction of the established order."

...plus, I really like it visually.

"DNA is cool, DNA is great, everyone has DNA, but what does DNA have to do with atheism?"

As I understand, atheism isn't the only thing to be included.

But even if it was just atheism, DNA represents living beings. If the focus is on living beings, that implies no focus on beings of another kind; superior, supernatural beings. That means no gods.

Finding a symbol for Earthly intellects would be more direct, but it seems a little ridiculous to take a stylized brain as a symbol.

...

...

The asterisk already has a rather negative meaning: it means "watch out for the fine print." It connotes deception or at least deviousness.

Huh?? Deception? Deviousness?

I always see the asterisk as the sign of something more, a pointer to added depth. A juicy little bit extra, a tidbit the author thought was important enough to include.

I can't even imagine seeing it as deceptive or devious. That's so byzantine.

...

...

Must chime in another vote for the musical natural symbol.

Not reading music very quickly, I always liked encountering it, because it meant I didn't have to go way back in 'history' to the staves to find out what note to play.

The connotation of naturalism appeals as well as the simplicity of the symbol.

Might be unevenly weighted for a pendant or the like, though.

While my last beater car was alive, I used a simple atom symbol in the back window, for my part. Sure helped me feel better in proximity of a church which would often put up sin-based or anti-evolutionary propaganda on its signs.

DNA is cool, DNA is great, everyone has DNA, but what does DNA have to do with atheism?

Many religions claim humans were designed, or at least the god-intended outcome of evolution. DNA contains substantial evidence against these claims. The conflicts between evolution and many religions often lead people toward atheism, as many popular religions have little or no compatibility with evolution. DNA is a symbol of evolution (despite the fact that Darwin's theories predated knowledge of DNA, and even widespread knowledge of genes).

Most atheists - especially more the widely read atheists - accept evolution, and some promote education about evolution quite aggressively. If Dawkins wrote about evolution only in the context of writing primarily about atheism, he would never have acquired the reputation necessary to give an atheism promoting work like _The God Delusion_ any chance of wide readership. In the minds of most ordinary people, the two notions most strongly associated with atheism are probably satanism and evolution. Choosing DNA as a symbol would leverage and strengthen the evolution connection.

I'm not sure I see the point in having a symbol for godless heathen bloggers, since that's an outgroup, not a affirmatively defined group. How about a symbol for some affirmative value, like rationalism or sciencephilia? Why let a bunch of religious people define anyone by who they AREN'T, as if who they are is so incredibly important that we are all lumped into a single category of our own as people who aren't them?

Also, the symbol for Uranus looks like Star Trek's Enterprise! How geeky is THAT? :)

Some thoughts (I haven't read all 191 comments, so sorry if this is a repeat.

1. A model of the solar system, or something Galileo-related?
2. Something in the general shape of the periodic table.
3. Something in the general shape of a Nethanderal skull, or maybe a fossil.
4. A dna helix
5. Euler's identity.

By Paul Gowder (not verified) on 28 Oct 2006 #permalink

I like node_3's idea -- a spiral galaxy. In fact, that's what I was thinking of even before I read node_3's comment! Make it stylized, two graceful arcs in a 180-degree-symmetrical arrangement; it should evoke the world-renowned "galaxy" form, and if it's done right, it'll also evoke other natural forces (hurricanes, maelstroms, water swirling down a drain, etc).

I don't know about it as a symbol for atheism (though I like it better that the others suggested so far), but I definitely do like the DNA in a circle. The top one for me. I could see that as nice lapel pin.

Hmmm... Christians (and others) have rules against worshipping idols, i.e. representations of their god(s). (They break that rule all the time but that's not the point.) It seems to me that people who value science effectively worship all symbols. Symbols represent ideas, which all of us value. Getting everybody to agree on one symbol seems futile.

But in the spirit of the thread... Shouldn't we consider a symbol that is so universal that it would be recognized by scientific beings on other worlds? Like maybe a diagram of a hydrogen atom?

I like the *. It's easy to draw. It's got five points, which is fine for a Discordian atheist like me. It also ties in the FSM and IPU crowds.

Additionally, it reminds of Nietzsche's star.

If not the *, then the double helix. I've always loved that. So simple, so brilliant.

A couple of your ideas look like these: http://www.aleph.se/andart/archives/2006/10/warning_signs_for_tomorrow…

Too many people here like the asterisk / pansy design. I think it looks too much like a turbine - these folks obviously didn't study fluid dynamics!

The Brights & Humanists already have symbols. Any more, & the field is getting cluttered.

But I'm going to put the Darwin tetrapod on the car.

By Richard Harris, FCD (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

Somebody is going to have to help me with the terminology here. What do you call those diagrams that show how species differentiate? You start off with a diagonal line, rising toward the right, and then branches arise from this line off to the left. I keep thinking the word cladogram. Anyway, to me those diagrams are a reminder of how silly it is to introduce the notion of 'god' into the cosmic equation. And they look elegant, too. How about a simple cladogram? Another suggestion: the letter Z from the Latin alphabet. My reason, this quotation from Lear: "Thou whoreson zed! Thou unnecessary letter!" It is unnecessary (and irrational and silly) to posit the existence of a 'god'; ergo, 'god' is a whoreson zed. Say it loud and say it proud!

Cladogram I like!!! Don't like the "a", because the connection to the meaning would be lost in most other languages.

My vote as a maths geek is of course for the "null" symbol. However, I'd note that the middle one of the asterisk ideas is extremely suggestive. Note how the positioning of the lobes gives the impression of a circle in the middle that does not in fact exist? Wonderful metaphor for our position on God.

By Corkscrew (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about some kind of rendition of a tesseract?

I like the asterisk/mentis idea - symbolises wild card search - I could be presuaded to go with the double helix though - however as most science is maths based in one form or and other how about a simple zero ?

Atheism is not empty. We do believe in something. We believe in observation and natural explanations. We believe in the scientific method.

No, atheists do not - that is to say, while many, many atheists do believe those things, believing in those things is not inevitably a part of atheism. Atheists reject a belief that the vast majority of human beings accept unthinkingly - that is the sole thing that unites them.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

Concerning the musical natural symbol, it has always reminded me of the Nazi SS symbol. Maybe it's just me. I hope so.

Something using the greek?

άθεοÏ

A big alpha:

ά

With the rest of the word inside the alpha in a block:

θε
οÏ

But use one of the simpler fonts.

Scientific Pantheist's use the seashell/galaxy spiral design ...it is beautiful, simple and based upon natural form.

The asterisk is nice visually, but quite cryptic. The assocation of open-endedness (the "wildcard") only applies to the fraction of the world familiar with Unix-derived pathname syntax. What is that? 0.5%? 0.05%?

And friends, anything based on math is even worse. I love math. I do math all day. But math is even less popular than atheism. Most people's first association with mathematics is "I'm glad I don't have to do it anymore". And after that, the second assoication is the is the idea of logic completely divorced from reality and from anything of human importance. This is exactly the opposite of what atheists should communicate.

What disgusts people about atheism is the feeling that it is purely negative. It seems to take away everything people associate with meaning in life, and offer nothing to replace that lost meaning. The deepest human instinct is to believe in some kind of meaning.

Therefore, apostles of atheism should emphasize its positive spirit. I would say this is its traditional Enlightenment values -- the celebration of the value and power of human reason, and the way reason can enlarge the scope of our symapathy to humanity at large. In other words, sell atheism as a way of appreciating man and man's power of thought. Atheism is pro-thought, pro-human, not anti-religion.

So what's the icon for this? Something that suggests man, reason, and value. Three suggestions:

1) a stylized image of a shining light bulb, maybe in a circle. Light suggests illumination and truth. But a light bulb is a technological invention, so this suggests light and illumination that comes not from the sky, but from the idea of men. Also, the light bulb is already established as "having an idea", so it suggests that atheism is what you can get when you stop to think. It also goes with the idea of atheists calling themselves "brights" instead of "atheists", which is a great idea.

2) a stylized image of the Leonardo's image Vetruvius man -- the figure of a man, inside a square inside a circle. The geometry suggests logic. The man suggests man. Its also redolent with positive Renaissance associations with the power of man and invention. It's a bit eurocentric, but it's a great image with the right meanings.

3) it would be great if there some way, in any symbol, to incorporate visual elements of other dominant religion symbols. A bit of a cross, a bit of a crescent, a bit of a Jewish cross, a bit of something else. This could be very subtle, even just the image of the filament inside a light bulb image. Why? To emphasize that atheism is for all of humanity. Every religious tradition has included atheists who where within it, from it, if not of it. Atheism can be part of a universal message of value and meaning, the value of human reason and of humanity itself.

What disgusts people about atheism is the feeling that it is purely negative. It seems to take away everything people associate with meaning in life, and offer nothing to replace that lost meaning.

Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that allows the wheel to function.

We mold clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.

We fashion wood for a house,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes it livable.

We work with the substantial,
but the emptiness is what we use.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

Hmmm, I understand the argument against the 'Darwin Fish' ("No, that's the symbol for "not a creationist").

But I think it means: "There is not a creator."

Same argument would apply to the DNA symbol, which I like (and which is available in a variety of forms including jewelry already.

====
A typographical solution would be simpler.
I like the 'section' symbol except for its name in this use.
=====

Anything doable with HTML or a visual pun on HTML coding, maybe?
NOTE: there are two suggestions for Seekrit Hidden Symbols here. They are only visible to those who know how to View Source (grin):

One: <\a>
Two: <\>

======
Or maybe a suggestion of the wave/particle/quantum foam? Not sure what the web page will look like once it's gone through the mangle; these were from a Mac keyboard

¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'

This includes several of the other suggestions, but tries to convey the notion of everything arising out of nothing, as it seems to do.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

There is an ongoing discussion at Richard Dawkin's website about this very thing: creating a symbol. In a recent post there, I've recommended that everyone check out this effort.

I'm enthusiastic about several of the ideas you've received so far. I do so hope that you follow through on this!

My favorites so far are the pi-in-a-circle, and the sideways 'A'/question-mark. I don't understand those based on an asterisk, that is, what an asterisk as to do with godlessness. I'll be looking for an explanation.

Others caught my eye as well. The word "pansy" has another connotation to homophobes, and the even tho' a given symbol with a pansy doesn't, it's sure to activate the word in viewers' minds (at least for those who could recognize it as a pansy in the first place: many wouldn't, which is an additional problem with a pansy symbol). Pansies are out of the running in my mind.

Thanks, P.Z., for doing this!

I've been leaning toward the asterisk-- simple, easily typed (if not necessarily written), but a few things were niggling me. When I see and asterisk, the first thing I do is look for a footnote. This is a long-ingrained habit! This might not happen for an asterisk necklace; but on a website or a written document, I think people's first instinct is to look for some footnoted comment. Also, how successful would the effort be to make the distinction in people's minds between the five- and six-lobed versions? Some people would not perceive the difference (seeing just "an asterisk" which most people draw with six lobes-- three lines-- instead of a five-lined shape), while others would intentionally distort it in attempt to trivialize it. Of course they'd do that anyway, but why make it easy?

So when someone upthread linked to a picture of Phi-- well I really loved it. Especially the lowercase. Though not as easily found in a font as the asterisk, every modern computer that I've worked on had a Greek character set. And the lowercase is so easy and attractive to draw: I can imagine scribbling it in the corner of a page and doodling it during meetings and spraypainting it on buildings (who, me? OK, no vandalism). So I've changed my mind: phi! phi! phi! (but couldn't we still call it mentis?)

Hi!

Its said that the pencil is sharper than the sword, and it was that sentence I putted focus on when I drawed The Banner of Enlightenment. The pencils alone symbolizes knowledge and the power of words instead of violence. The laurel wreath is a symbol for victory and together with the pencils it brings to life a symbol of the victory of knowledge, words and rational thinking. The somewhat overdimensioned rubbers at the back of the pencils is a symbol for anti-dogmatism: the courage to change if one learn he or she is wrong. In other words the banner of Enlightenment symbolize the victory of Enlightenment. So, I give to you The Banner of Enlightenment in hope that it will continue to serve our struggle.

http://home.bip.net/2be/farg2.png

As far as that cute suggestion.... well.
How about a design that alludes to the famous god finger thingie... but instead is a baby's hand resting inside a mom's?

Sort of a "Where did I come from? I came from my parents." kind of thing. Simple.

My wife and I have a Fibinacci spiral on our wedding rings. It represents the mahematical basis for life and has the destinction of being one of the oldest human symbols ever devised. Spirals have been found on cave walls thathave been dated to at least a 150 thousand years. Life, knwledge and evolution, all rolle dinto an infinite symbol, easy to draw or scratch onto a cave wall.

i like the circle idea but i think Darby Crash got there first

SpringheelJ suggested phi, and there's a variation of the lowercase version of it with the "slash" at an angle that looks like the upper stroke on the exclamation mark in Times New Roman. A modification of that, to make it unique, would be to actually have it an (angled/italicized) exclamation mark (i.e., add the lower point), or possibly vary it with a stylized question mark. I like the lowercase phi for its symbolism for philosophy, its inclusion of the circle, its reference for the empty set, etc. (It's times like this I wish I were an artist and could render what I'm actually thinking. :-( But I like Lucas' renderings. )

By minusRusty (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

SpringheelJ suggested phi, and there's a variation of the lowercase version of it with the "slash" at an angle that looks like the upper stroke on the exclamation mark in Times New Roman. A modification of that, to make it unique, would be to actually have it an (angled/italicized) exclamation mark (i.e., add the lower point), or possibly vary it with a stylized question mark. I like the lowercase phi for its symbolism for philosophy, its inclusion of the circle, its reference for the empty set, etc. (It's times like this I wish I were an artist and could render what I'm actually thinking. :-( But I like Lucas' renderings. )

By minusRusty (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I say we go with the asterisk, and then every time a Believer uses an asterisk, we insist that he is denying God.

There's no reason we would have to stick with one symbol. You see a fish (without feet) on a car: Christian. A lamb: Christian. A cross: Christian. A cross with a dead guy: Christian.

I say we take every symbol that has not been coerced by a religion already, and seal up the rights before they do.

Hey, you can't write the word 'God' without 'O'. So every time a believer uses 'O', can say they're denying God!

Unless they're Jewish. And pretentious. In which case we have a bit of a problem.

But you still can't spell 'kosher' with 'O'. Ha ah!

By Caledonian (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

Wow, I'm still amazed and perplexed at the enthusiasm for a symbol and why I can't relate to this enthusiasm. It didn't help my idea that non-atheists would see it as "cultish," or worse, the hackneyed "atheism is a religion," when I read Algal's comment:

Therefore, apostles of atheism should emphasize its positive spirit. .

I'm not against using religous language - it's part of our culture - I just thought it ironic used in this instance.

That being said, of all those designs up there, I like the lightbulb best. Simple, yet one could read into it many ways: questions answered by light (knowledge), atheism (enlightened thinking), manmade invention that sheds light (science, Prometheus-type association), atheists are "questioners"...oh, I could go on. (The lowercase "a" keeps it from looking like the Scarlet Letter A as well.)

How about just the Earth? After all, it's what we believe in and care about. No heaven, no hell, just Earth. We could make a couple versions, one for each hemisphere, and show it as a circle with the outlines of the continents.

PZ, you can count me as voting, in this order, for the phi, the circle, and the DNA (yes, y'all convinced me!).

By speedwell (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I give you the Affinity (my silly name for it).

It has all of the sedate respectibility of a solid serif type-face which renders a very recognizable "A" for Atheism and elegantly includes the concept of the infinite. However, if one were so inclined, one could also see shades of the FSM or at a stretch it could almost seem to be the sort of glyph you'd find on a piece of cyclopean masonry deep below the ocean where things lie eternally... But I digress.

It's a clear easy-to-read and recognize symbol with a minimum of baggage, none of it negative or misleading.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

The random quote when I revisited this article this morning was:

I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.
George Carlin

J Wrote:

"Alpha looks like the Christian fish."

Then we can tell the Christians it's what their fish looks like after it hits the wall of reality.

Seriuosly, why not do a variation of their symbols? The Christians have been stealing ideas, holidays and symbols from other beliefs for centuries as a way to win over the masses. Surely turn-about is fair play.

I also like Infophile's idea of using the Earth but why not go bigger and use a galaxy symbol - unfortunately I think most people would mistake us for Whirlpool salespeople.

Double Helix?

By G. Tingey (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ixnay on the thunderbolt symbol (â). I think some Aryan supremists use it and one of the Nazi units used it. I may be wrong.

Frankly, it says 'Zeus' or 'Thor' to me anyway.

The Greek omega (Ω) is used by Christians. Always in conjunction with the alpha (A), but still...

I'll try to check on the thunderbolt.

Godrey's affinity symbol is nice, I like the DNA ideas and the pi in a circle.

After more research, I think the obstacles to an asterisk are insurmountable. Pop the word into Google and start counting how many different ways its already trademarked.

Again, this symbol would be less an affirmation of who we are (we're atheists, we don't need no steekin' symbol) so much as branding for political purposes. In that light, since most of our grievances with government are tied to science, the DNA and pi and affinity symbols are all spot on. Each provides our "cause" with the luster of science or math, which gives us equal standing with the religious blowhards.

Or am I the only one who thinks that Archimedes and Euclid were not big fans of their indigenous gods?

While I'm still casting my lot for Uranus, I really...really like GodfreyTemple's "Affinity" symbol.

I like the asterisk, combined with the sanddollar idea. It's one I could use happily on all my sites and correspondence.

(Besides, I just love sand dollars.)

How about a simple flame or spark inside a box, circle, or oval? The prometheus metaphor is good one for atheism.

The affinity does look very nice, but I can't think of a good reason for their to be an infinity in there. Can anyone come up with some good excuses?

Some of the recent designs are getting too elaborate and missing the point. Imagine that you're alone in Cathedral at Notre Dame, with a nice can of Krylon. You've got 2 minutes. What recognizable symbol are you going to scrawl on the wall? That's what we need.

Of course, you also need something to be proud of, so when you're in Notre Dame and you see some punk pull out a can of spray paint, you can wave it in his face and tell him he's bringing shame to the name of atheists with his vandalism.

I still like the asterisk. ♮ and φ are growing on me, though.

A DNA spiral is nice, but I've had to draw those a few times, and it's harder than it looks...and if you know anything about it, you start nitpicking the proportions.

Caledonian, nice Tao Te Ching quote. I'm impressed.

I originally liked the circle best, but it's not recognizable as a symbol of anything. Currently my top three are sigma, natural sign, and null set, not in any particular order.

I can't draw a five-lobed asterisk, but I can draw a cross. Am I just really artistically untalented, or is it actually somewhat difficult to draw a five-lobed asterisk?

Godfrey's Affinity, only flatten out the infinity symbol into something nearing a double helix somehow, and then harmonize it stylistically with the rest of the "A".

By minusRusty (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I think to a certain extent there is some confusion here - does atheism = scientific background? We appear to be assuming that every atheist will understand the DNA spiral or the symbol for infinity - should we be looking for a symbol with more universal appeal? I think the mentis is not viable - it is used too universally. Maybe the Xeno but with a double spiral?


"Alpha looks like the Christian fish."


Then we can tell the Christians it's what their fish looks like after it hits the wall of reality.

I'm sick of xians co-opting everything. It's NOT their fish, damnit!

they co-opted the original meaning for their own usage from the vesica pisces:

http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/symbols/bldefsvesica.htm

If you want to include non-atheist freethinkers, I think Ï is the way to go. My personal choice (as an atheist) is for the empty set, but I don't like the Ã. Instead, I'd propose something involving the set brackets: {} . Something along the lines of {Ï}, perhaps?

I often enjoy asking xians why they have a picture of a vagina stuck on the bumper of their car.

It gets even better if they ask what I mean by that, and i get to explain to them how their symobolism they love so much is all co-opted from "pagans".

I don't like the idea of a poll; clicking a button doesn't require much thought or commitment, and is also easily abused.

Damn! I spent all night last night preparing poll-pounding perl programs ...
(joking - I wouldn't do that.)

The empty set has the advantage of representing the number of religious doctrines we accept...

By Caledonian (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about chat Xeno as (x), or (xx+xy) to be less sexist?

The key problems with the bracket form of the empty set are that it's harder to draw, and it can't easily be worn as a pendant. It is far easier to represent with a keyboard, though, I'll grant that.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm in love with the â®, myself. I think I'd wear it even if it doesn't 'win' the discussion.

Five years ago, and then again this past year, Atheist Alliance International (AAI) has tried to come up with a universal atheist symbol.

We tried to stay away from "a" or "A" as English is not a universal language. However, we were not opposed to Greek, for historical reasons. Also, we did not want anything that was negative, such as a red circle and cross bar (meaning "no") over anything, such as over a crucifix.

The atomic whirl with the broken loop at the bottom and an "A" for the nucleus is copyrighted by American Atheists and refers only to their group.

The Happy Humanist refers to humanism, not atheism.

The pansy comes from the French "penser" meaning "to think." It is used by freethought groups such as Freedom From Religion Foundation (USA) and the French National Federation of Freethinkers.

August

August Berkshire
Vice President
Atheist Alliance International

http://img74.imageshack.us/img74/3451/phinl9.jpg

(please use the above image freely)

I still support the idea for Phi.
Unlike DNA (et al) it covers far more than science or math.

Minusrusty suggests the lowercase- yet I still think the upper is more clear and simple.

By SpringheelJ (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

The natural sign is too angular.

The Affinity symbol is very good, I like it best. It is simplistic, but still seems meaningful. Moreover, it is unique enough not to get mistaken for something else.

What's wrong with angular?

I still love the natural symbol (and no, I don't think it looks like an SS symbol!), but I think the Phi is neat too. I'd vote for the uppercase Phi rather than lowercase, though.

Hey, thanks for the interest, this is the liveliest discussion I've seen anywhere on the subject.

I take the point about the slightly feminine styling of the Times New Roman (bold) asterisk, so have created a second more neutral version from scratch, which can be seen in an updated version of that page. Also available as SVG so feel free to tweak as you see fit.

http://intepid.com/2005-05-25/00.39/

A good artist could round off the natural symbol, and make lot of variations of it to select from. I would think it's more widely recognized than the greek symbols, and it's musical associations make it more "human".

Ping is right about the nature of successful symbols, and that nature should be considered when designing one. Consider that symbols, no matter what their other uses, are made to be chalked upon a wall. If you can't quickly render them with a piece of chalk they just aren't effective. It's good if they have some associative meaning, but it is not necessary. Consider these effective symbols (off the top of my head):

> Peace Semaphore aka Peace Symbol: A combination of "N" and "D" (Nuclear Disarmament), as done with semaphore flags, within a circle. Simple and easy to draw. Later the meaning broadened to "peace", indicating that direct meaning is not necessary for success.

> Christian Fish: Two lines, simple as can be, elegant. Was used as an underground pointer. Has "Fisher of men" association.

> Nazi Swastika: Strong, angular. Simple to draw on shop windows.

> Christian Cross.

> Star of David.

> Ying Yang: (see S. Korean Flag) Associations are unity, opposites making a whole.

> Black Hand (Sicilian Mafia): Could be traced around a hand, or made with a slap of an inked hand (before fingerprint technology).

> Kilroy: So simple to draw it ended up all over Europe in the wake of the Allied advance.

Other factors I'd require of a suitable symbol is that it be language independent--that eliminates all those A's, folks, and punctuation marks are also language dependent--and that it have the potential for longevity.

For example, take the light bulb offering: That shape is already obsolete since it is being replaced with compact fluorescents, LEDs and more. Soon enough the shape will not have instant meaning. This is a problem with any human-made device--technology changes.

By Billygoat (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

An atheist that is not a humanist is probably as ignorant in social sciences and history than your average religious fundie, and probably thinks it is all about "reason and logic", so immaculately perfect yet just mysteriously... "given". Pretty dumb.

You are right about the A's I guess, it is best to avoid an english language symbol. That being the case, I feel that the natural symbol is the one that speaks to me the most.

Now that we're on the simplicity of symbols, I'll plug the Nautilus spiral again. A spiral is one of the easiest things to draw. They were one of the first real shapes I was ever able to put to paper.

I just realized that you asked for a "logo" rather than a symbol. I see them as different. A logo is a design used to represent a company or organization. It is usually trademarked and otherwise protected by that organization. It can be elaborate and colorful (whatever the designer desires) since it is to be printed or otherwise mechanically reproduced.

A symbol is usually not tied to any particular organization, but generally represents an idea and is used by many groups or individuals sharing that idea. It is more a matter of personal expression or propaganda.

Note that my previous comments were about symbols, not logos, since I believe that is what is desired.

By billygoat (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I love the "Natural" symbol (taken from music notation) a lot also, but it would serve best as a symbol for Naturalism (rather than godlessness alone).

If some naturalist org picked it up, I'd gladly use it next to any symbol we might come up with for atheism.

My other favorite, Pi, is also only indirectly related to godlessness.

And as I agree with someone's point that any symbol using the letter 'A' is English based, I am currently without a favorite, at this particular nanosecond.

I'm still confused about the "asterisk" symbol... is its only connection to godlessness the pansy?

I really like that "Affinity" one. It isn't too confusing and it isn't offensive. I don't really care about having to have the symbol easily typed out on a keyboard either, it's not like graphics are out of reach for many people.

Here it is again:
http://img164.imageshack.us/img164/889/ii23hl.gif

By Taylor Murphy (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I would say the A is latin-based, rather than just English. Using babel fish quickly gives me a tiny bit of support for this assertation. Still too limited, though.

Impish-- there are 10 reasons for the 5-lobed asterisk (some dubious) on the original page, and I would add another major one, which somehow I missed in my initial rundown.

Five is a very human/natural number. 5 fingers, 5 toes, 5 senses, 5 major appendages.

From the Pixies song: "if man is 5, then the devil is 6, and god is 7"

I like the natural symbol. Since it's also called "sharp" that's cool too.

Though I'd rather not be known as an octothorp. However, I bet PZ would like that handle.

I've been thinking about it, and I have chosen my favorites in this order: Fibonacci Spiral (nautilus curve), Natural symbol, and affinity. The spiral is great because it is found everywhere in nature, yet is quite simplistic and easy to draw. Its an old and easily recognised symbol, and I think it would be a good choice.

Damn. Just thought of a disadvantage of the natural symbol: 69.

errr... wait. Maybe that's an advantage!

By minusRusty (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I don't generally like symbols for stuff like this, but doing something with the natural sign would be neat, I think. Of course, there are supernaturalistic atheists (many Buddhists come to mind), so it isn't quite suitable.

Hank Fox: The asterix does have a very common meaning - as the multiplication operator in many programming languages. (And a few other computing uses.)

Phi is used to represent philosophy fairly often, for what that's worth ...

Maybe it should just be an animated pic rotating through all the suggested symbols. Since there is no one true symbol :)

I'm also still with the nautilus; it can be made somewhat complex by adding in the chambers in something like letterhead or jewelry, but the spiral itself can be done in a few seconds with a spray can and be obviously the same symbol. The musical sign is ok, but is for me too tied to a specific definition, and it is awfully pointy and angry looking.

jeffw:

A good artist could round off the natural symbol, and make lot of variations of it to select from. I would think it's more widely recognized than the greek symbols, and it's musical associations make it more "human".

***

Rounding off the natural symbol would kind of bring it back to that galaxy/hurricane shape, I think. Not bad.

Other than the issue of using an English character, I'll jump on the Affinty bandwagon. (Damn, that wasn't very freethinking of me...)

How about a skull-shaped dome with an infinity symbol inside. As in, "I can imagine the infinity of the universe" with a hint of "God is all in your head" and a tip of the skull-bone to pirates.

By a skull-shaped dome I mean one drawn in a little at the bottom, omega-like, rather than spreading.

The affinity does look very nice, but I can't think of a good reason for their to be an infinity in there. Can anyone come up with some good excuses?
Posted by: Amos | October 29, 2006 02:02 PM

My first thought was in reference a universe with infinite possibilities. As time has gone on I've begun to see it more as being open to those possibilities as opposed to being mentally corralled by any specific brand of universe-defining/limiting dogma.

The Affinity is easily recognized and easily reproduced. It includes an A, yes, but that brings back the Alpha in capital form - or if you prefer - it can be seen as a combination of the Greek Lambda (lots of lovely things in Wikipedia), and Infinity (supporting warm fuzzies supplied above). No, you can't find it on a keyboard, but it's esoteric and familiar all at once.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

I very much like the Fibonacci or nautiloid spiral, or indeed any spiral expanding as it moves outward and signifying an openness and questing into the nature of reality.

The trouble with * is that it means "look to the bottom of the page for a footnote." I acknowledge that it would be fun to put an asterisk on religious advertising with a note at the bottom saying, "Your mileage may vary," but it's not the primary message I'd want to convey with my symbol: "Look elsewhere." Besides, the Freelance Editors had that as the name of their newsletter for years until they realized no one could index it.

GodfreyTemple, on Affinity, can you stylize the infinity symbol to better harmonize with the character portion? Specifically, make the upper left through lower right portions of the loop weighted, and the counterstroke (upper right to lower left) thinned a bit. (Something on the order of: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/media/inourtime_infinity…)

With the strokes the way they are, it looks like two symbols, and personally, I'd like to see it as an integrated "character". (I.e., as if it had been done with strokes from a calligraphy pen. The single-width line of the infinity seems to break the harmony of the line weights of the nominal character.)

By minusRusty (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

(* But keep the break in place. *)

By minusRusty (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

There was a thread about this at IIDB a year ago: An atheist symbol we can ALL go by, and it contained these symbols:

The IPU symbol
The empty-set symbol
An invisible dragon in a garage
A question-mark lightbulb
A hand with a cross as a raised middle finger
Holy Ghostbusters
Lightning bolt in a circle
Sunrise (looks a bit like a speedometer)
Circle with a ^ in its lower half
Stylized Leonardo da Vinci "Vitruvian Man"
Stylized spiral galaxy
A with the central dash turned into the infinity symbol

By Loren Petrich (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

how about � or if you prefer a lowercase å.

...

...

Echoing something from MarkP about the asterisk (mentis) which he has in a couple of beautifully elegant realizations on his site:

http://intepid.com/2005-05-25/00.39/

I quote Mark:

It is rotationally symmetrical, thereby privileging no single direction [actually it's not quite rotationally symmetrical, see newer version below].

The odd number of arms means that no one is in direct opposition to any other, discouraging overly simplistic binary interpretations [good/bad, love/fear etc].

As a typographic element, it alludes to the significance of writing without being [too] language-specific. It is easy to reproduce.

The asterisk is commonly employed to draw attention to things, so it is kind of anti-complacent.

The asterisk is commonly used as a "wildcard", capable of representing a multiplicity of real things, and so it evokes the unknown without invoking the unknowable.

It can be seen as a stylized representation of the Big Bang -- currently the most workable theory to describe the origin of the cosmos.

It looks a bit like a little person reaching out for a hug. Very humanist. It's kind of gooey and organic, avoiding the negative connotations sometimes associated with "hard" scientific thinking.

It also looks a bit like a flower, and apparently the pansy [a flower!] is considered a symbol of free thought. Marvel at how some of these pictures of pansies are vaguely asterisk shaped!

...

I'll add that the asterisk/mentis also has the huge advantage that it is universally recognized, but at the same time comes with no freight. Unlike many of the suggestions here, no strong existing associations are tied to this symbol, so it's totally open to having new meaning attached. There's no uphill battle to pry the old meaning out of people's heads before they're willing to accept a new meaning for it.

Whatever symbol gets most widely accepted here, it MUST HAVE ITS OWN NAME. All this talk about "the natural symbol" etc. is leaving me cold. It has to be called something shorter and catchier than "natural symbol." Can't be a phrase - has to be a word. (Like "mentis," for instance - from the Latin for "mind.")

...

...

And did I mention it should be called a "mentis" ?

I did? A dozen times? Well, but still ...

I took too darn many years of piano lessons to let someone call a natural symbol a "sharp." It isn't.

By speedwell (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

GodfreyTemple, on Affinity, can you stylize the infinity symbol to better harmonize with the character portion?..
Posted by: minusRusty | October 29, 2006 11:09 PM

Something like this?

Also, since I was in Illustrator I've made a Fibonacci spiral for everyone to stare at. I'm not putting it forward as my idea, but I know there was interest and everybody likes something to react to.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 29 Oct 2006 #permalink

Those of us who are Mac users will recognize that as very similar to one of pictures Apple provides for personalizing user Accounts. (Displayed at login and by the Fast User Switch menu. It's chosen in the "Accounts" panel of the System Preferences.)

I think this Apple picture is actually of a rock garden raked into concentric circles, but from the oblique angle shown it looks like (and could be) a spiral.

Oddly enough this is the picture I've used for my own user account since almost forever.

How about a tilde and an upside down E?
That could be translated as "There is no...".
(One could even merge it so that the middle line in the E becomes the tilde)

Guaranteed to be able to be painted on any cathedral in well under two minutes and could be used as a .sig, at least in the old days:
>~~<'
(It's supposed to represent the Feynman diagram of gluon radiation in my limited artistic way.)

Galileo's Vitruvian Man?

Really, Leonardo da Vinci's figure keeps coming up in coments since I mentioned it. The archetypal weight of a couple of basic shapes is undoubted. They're easy to draw, immediate to recognize, and everyone thinks they know what they represent. :)

By speedwell (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

Phi.

I don't know why, but that appeals to me more than any of the others. I prefer the uppercase version, but lowercase is good too.

Node_3's galaxy looks somewhat disturbingly like the lens implant I just got in my left eye to repair a cataract.

By Faithful Reader (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

how about the drawing of an "eye" not the wide open front view the side view. two angled lines joined by a curved line as used in many drawings for experiments. It has the following advantages.

1) very easy to draw
2) very easy to recognize
3) the evolution of the eye was one of the central problems in the theory of evolution.
4) if this symbol is rotated 90 degrees its an "A" for atheism.

Sorry to come so late to the discussion.
I like the idea of of a simple logo. What about an X.
As a biologist, I see it as a symbol of THE eureka moment of the 20th century- the moment that the X-ray diffraction pattern a DNA crystal was first seen. It's the point in time when physics and mathematics were used to show the chemical naure of biology- the unification of the sciences. Given the association with Franklin, it also has a degree of sexual equality references.
X stands for unknown, but it carries the meaning that it is an unknown that can be solved for. This is the main difference between the atheist and the theist- seeing the frontier between the known and the unknown and seeing not a fixed landmark but an arbitrary line that we can, or even must, move.
It has been used as a stand in for christ, as in Xmas, so I don't know how people would feel about that. This could be a plus, as an appropriation of the cross, an X is similar, but clearly different. It also has graphical relationships to the asterisk, another popular choice in this thread.
Finally, the X, especially in a circle has been used in comic books for the X-men- a modern allegory of the outcast trying to get a seat at the table, which is what this threat seems to be about. The thing is, if someone makes that connection, the wearer of the symbol can point out that, yes, we are all mutants. We have more bases in our genome than the error rate of replication- statistically we all carry mutations unique to ourselves. In this way it is a symbol of the uniqueness of the individual.

Please, no asterisk! Everytime I see it proposed, all I can think of is the 60s-70s TV show, "The Dating Game", that used it heavily. It would be seen by many as frivolous and laughable.

Obviously my HTML skills are lacking. Yes, like this.

By minusRusty (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

I sketched up a cross between mentis and happy human: HappyAsterisk . You can substitute the keyboard * for it, like + subs for a cross, and in large sizes you can put a smile in it, too. Who doesn't like a smile?

mwdavis:

Finally, the X, especially in a circle...

I agree with mwdavis, and believe this makes a great case for Xeno (would PZ prefer "Zeno").

"One thing we all have in common is uniqueness."

(x)

The asterisk seems frivolous to me too. As for Humanizing it, Cingular's logo is already there. As a device for emphasis and calling attention, I think that sort of thing favors a group bent on proselytization.

Heavy linkage to science and maths (as in many examples) is also leaving me cold. While there's nothing wrong with DNA, Nautilus shells, Null sets and suchlike - not every atheist is a scientist or neccesarily approaches atheism from a biology, physics or math mindset. So I can see why it gets suggested over and over to go with something more humanist like DaVinci's Vitruvian man - even if man being the measure of the universe isn't quite right either.

Other difficulties I have with X and * are their current ubiquity. Asterisks get a lot of use, and I worry about overloading an already heavily used symbol. X is quite popular in it's own way, but I don't know if we're really the rebels here. Atheism, to me, is less about the unknown and more about knowing that easy answers are no way to approach a difficult question. Even if the answers we seek are complex and or elusive. I would question who in the Theist/Atheist gambit is the subversive. Nevermind what popular wisdom might say.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

My first vote still goes to the natural symbol, but second and third choices would be Affinity (which is really neat, and I like that it's 100% original) and the uppercase Phi. All three of these are easy to draw, elegant, and (some more than others) easy to explain. I think it is crucial that there be a quick 'n' easy soundbite explanation of what the symbol means, and the connection to godlessness (or anti-supernatural) should not be obscure.

For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I don't like the idea of using the Fibonacci spiral (as beautiful as I find the shape itself). It strikes me as...too 'abstract', maybe, or too geeky, or too hard to connect to godlessness, or something. I agree with GodfreyTemple and someone else (I forget who, above) who say that using a symbol that is highly 'science-y' might alienate godless types who may not also be science or math types. It'd be nice to have a symbol that doesn't alienate people *before* they even know what it means!

My vote is for a an ABSTRACTED PROMETHAN FLAME. Fire is a phenomenon of NATURE, it radiates ENERGY, and spreads LIGHT. It represents humanity's attainment of something the gods wanted to keep to themselves.

It's also the perfect foil to the crucifix. They've exalted an instrument of torture into their emblem, then why not answer with an emblem that echoes their torture, the ghoulish result of their auto de fe? Why not render homage to the books they've burned? The hell they created?

By Jabber Wonk (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

To go back to the motto (I am not a Latin scholar), how about Sententia Licens?
According to (my interpretation from)an on-line Latin-English dictionary, that would mean Freethought.

My new vote, adjusted for that A's and math isn't good choices:

1. The natural.

Now I think of it as a safeguard for a baseline. (I don't know of any specific science/technical symbol for that.)

2. The Möbius strip, stylized. Onesided, WYSIWYG - no dualism there. Unbounded. Simple, but not too simple - it has a twist. :-) ( http://mathworld.wolfram.com/MoebiusStrip.html )

Not too associated with math. It was one of Escher's favourite motifs too.

(The math graph with a surface between two opposing arrows may be too off. Also better not make it as the similar Klein bottle - people will remark that it will hold no water. ;-)

3. The neutral (clef), the one which look like the QED square.

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_musical_symbols#Clefs )

mwdavis:
FWIW, the X also looks like music's "double sharp". ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_musical_symbols#Accidentals_and_key… )

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

I don't like to make negative votes here, but since people remark that the symbol may lead to a a good explanation, I would like to note that I don't yet get the asterisk, pi and phi and how they lead to such an explanation.

And if phi has had prior use (for philosophy) it should be out anyway IMO. Similarly, why Leonardo's man, when the Humanist symbol is a stylized person? (Without the circle IIRC.)

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

I really like the asterisk/mentis idea!

Torbjörn - Hank Fox has a thorough explanation about asterisk/mentis further up the thread which you might want to read. Hank and his quotes from Mark explain it very well.

By Paguroidea (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

Just a thought that the "infinity" symbol in Affinity (the second version, especially if it were stylized a bit more in that direction) could be taken as a Mobius strip as well.

By minusRusty (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

I have a suggestion that fits all the relevant criteria: the looking glass.

It's iconic. It's easy to draw - the spray paint version is just a circle and a line. It has a positive rather than negative connotation. I'm thinking of the sherlock holmes metaphor - those who wield the looking glass are closely examining the evidence in the world and the universe rather than taking answers on faith and authority. They are People of Science rather than People of the Book.

Just a thought that the "infinity" symbol in Affinity (the second version, especially if it were stylized a bit more in that direction) could be taken as a Mobius strip as well.Posted by: minusRusty | October 30, 2006 09:20 PM

If memory serves, that's Eschers favorite type of mobius, seen here, which amused me even though I would be suprised if a theist thought to bring this particular aspect of a mobuis up. ;)

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

I've been thinking about Billygoat's (and others') comments about what makes a successful symbol. There have been a number of symbols suggested that I think are nice aesthetically, but the connections to godlessness or freethinking are tenuous at best. The thing about the 'Jesus fish' symbol that makes it work is how it connects to the description of Jesus as a 'fisher of men'. So, are there any pithy quotes about godlessness that lend themselves to a simple, tangible image? I can't think of any off-hand, but I'm not that familiar with the literature.

The images that do come to mind for me, when I think about atheism and freethought, are 'mind' or 'thought', and 'freedom' or 'unfettered'. Unfortunately those are a bit abstract for turning into a pictogram of some sort. However, 'mind' does correlate strongly with 'brain' (especially for the godless), and a sillouette or outline of the human brain is an easily recognizable symbol for this. I haven't quite figured out how to incorporate the notion of 'freedom' into that image, though. The word 'unfettered' could be symbolized by open shackles, perhaps; but combining that with the brain image doesn't mesh well aesthetically.

I was also thinking about logic symbols like the implication sign to symbolize 'reason', but the truth is that there are many religious people who are smart and can use logic just fine--but they just start the process with some very faulty assumptions. But then I saw C.W's razor idea above, and it hit me that Occam's razor is exactly the difference between the religious and nonbelievers. Occam's razor is both necessary and sufficient to deal with most if not all of the theological arguments for the existence of god.

I'm not sure how to best depict this visually, but I think it ought to be a barber's straight-razor instead of the safety blade. In fact, the image I have in my mind is of Occam's razor carving a god-shaped hole out of PZ's brain! Now, I don't think that will work for the stated purposes of this thread, but that image is so vivid that I suspect it's going to pop into my mind every time I think about godlessness from now on.

(For a kinder, gentler image, I'll still go with my earlier 'lightbulb' graphic.)

Strawman Narrative: "The Affinity logo, a stylized A using a double loop for the crossbar, is a logo meant to be used to identify association to inclusive godlessness, atheistic and agnostic.

"The letter A traces its history to the earliest alphabets (e.g. the Phoenician [A], symbolizing an ox) through bronze-age alphabets (e.g. the Greek [alpha]) all the way down to modern alphabets like modern Roman, where its form has changed very little over a great length of time.

"The double loop can be understood either as a symbol for infinity (the univeral and boundless wonder about the nature of the universe), or as a Möbius Strip (a seemingly two-sided object really only having one side and one edge), as both of the above, or even as an attempted wrangling-in of sometimes conflicting viewpoints. (c.f. Atheist/Agnostic semantic holy wars!)

"But mostly, the Affinity is meant to provide a sense of inclusiveness and group identity to a very diversified group of people who often have just one thing in common in a world of a thousand religions and a billion religious beliefs: Godlessness."

Ripe it up as you will, folks! ;-)

And PZ, I'm not sure where you stand as far as "agnostics" go, but I assume you'd like to include all the godless under the logo, no? I know I'd rather be more inclusive than to stump strictly for True Atheism(TM) (IfYouKnowWhatIMean).

-Rusty

By minusRusty (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

Kurt: "In fact, the image I have in my mind is of Occam's razor carving a god-shaped hole out of PZ's brain!"

Uh, that would leave you with an intact brain then, wouldn't it, Kurt? But you also specified PZ's brain, soooooo..... I'm confused! ;-)

By minusRusty (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

AustinAtheist, I think the Rosicrucians use something that looks a lot like that (though they use it with a cross).

By speedwell (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

Paguroidea:

Mm, I read his comments.

If you read my own comments you see that contrary to Hank, that find no prior meaning in it (but later a big bang and the wildcard I also noted), I find it being hesitant or deflective as it is used to point away to footnotes. (This also makes it potentially confusing to use IMO. But that is a small matter, there are of course workarounds.)

The problem was that I don't see a big bang in it since it isn't an explosion but an expansion of spacetime - I would rather use the reduced-dimensional funnel that cosmologists use when depicting it. But on this second reading I can see that laymen may see this as a "representation", so perhaps that is the explanation I need. (But then I would prefer sharply pointed asterisks.)

Thanks!

Kurt:
"or 'unfettered'. Unfortunately those are a bit abstract for turning into a pictogram of some sort."

A chain link broken?

(I like your barber's razor BTW - it is indeed one telling symbol.)

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

AustinAtheist, I think the Rosicrucians use something that looks a lot like that (though they use it with a cross).

By speedwell (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

More thoughts on this: A logo/symbol/icon should not only be fairly "simple", but also artistically adaptable, yet still recognizable as having meaning, even if that meaning isn't immediately known.

Walking down the street with a t-shirt on that has an asterisk won't really pique anybody's interest, and distinguishing between a five-lobed or six-lobed or seven-lobed version gets a little esoteric.

I'm leaning more and more towards Affinity because of its near familiarity, yet also its genuine uniqueness from a standard "A" and broad artistic adaptability.

(Sorry; I just wanted to get this posted so that maybe I can sleep for the rest of the night. *sigh*)

By minusRusty (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

Dammit. Then I go back to bed, and immediately start to think about combined symbols: Affinity with the natural sign superscribed to it: "A-Natural"...

Must.Take.Ambien...

By minusRusty (not verified) on 30 Oct 2006 #permalink

How about the "$" sign?

The atheist Ayn Rand found it quite appropriate.

In the alternative...a MUSHROOM CLOUD.

(This has the added benefit of honoring the atheistic scientists who have provided the politicians all the weapons of mass destructin they will ever need.)

Personally I don't need anything other than Occam's razor to be an atheist. All the other traditional atheist arguments are redundant, IMHO. In the immortal Douglas Adams' words, "God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining."

What's "Cut the Crap" in latin, by the way?

Too bad razors have a few negative connotations too. Just ask your local angsty teen representative.

T. Larsson: "Also better not make it as the similar Klein bottle - people will remark that it will hold no water. ;-)"

Actually, I think there've been Klein-bottle coffee cups, initially designed for some math conference.

I am not getting through to any of the Imageshack links. PZ, could you perhaps collect the various sketches/icons in a new post?

By David Harmon (not verified) on 31 Oct 2006 #permalink

Here are my contributions to the aforementioned IIDB thread:

An invisible dragon in a garage
Carl Sagan mentioned it in The Demon-Haunted World as an example of an irrefutable but implausible hypothesis.

A question-mark lightbulb
A cartoon version of it
Because someone's asking questions eventually led to her deconversion.

Holy Ghostbusters
From the "Ghostbusters" movie logo.

A collection of atheist symbols

Stylized Vitruvian Man (SVG)
Stylized Vitruvian Man (GIF)

SVG is Scalable Vector Graphics, a graphics format that Firefox and Opera now support, and which other browsers can support with plug-ins.

By Loren Petrich (not verified) on 31 Oct 2006 #permalink

I had to wait a while before I was sufficiently uninspired, especially after Wilkins' suggestion.

In looking at some of the suggestions, I kept thinking that the word atheist isn't capitalized. So I imagined how I might stylize a lower case a.

I've been having my Maya students build klein bottles (immersed in 3 dimensions) as an early modeling exercise, so it was easy enough for me to visualize what the combination might look like. Naturally, it's a scarlet letter.

Being boundary free, non-orientable, and one-sided are traits I associate with atheism. Drawing a cross section of the profile is even more recognizable as a lower case a, while also incorporating that infinity loop.

Art direction from any fontographers is welcome.

minusRusty:

Kurt: "In fact, the image I have in my mind is of Occam's razor carving a god-shaped hole out of PZ's brain!"Uh, that would leave you with an intact brain then, wouldn't it, Kurt? But you also specified PZ's brain, soooooo..... I'm confused! ;-)

I'm mixing up my imagery a little, but I assure you that no violence toward PZ is intended (because, after all, Occam's razor delivers only the kindest cut...). I just thought PZ's brain is emblematic of a brain on godlessness, and the god-shaped hole was a reference to this post. :)

One afterthought regarding Occam's razor...

How about if we have a straight razor partially openned, and positioned with the hinge pointing up, so it forms an 'A'? The blade could be etched with the word 'Occam' and the handle could have any number of phrases or designs on it. I'm not enough of an artist to sketch this out, but here is a photo of a razor to give the general shape.

This wouldn't work for a symbol you could 'draw in the sand', but it might make a nice web graphic or T-shirt design. Also has a little bit of a militant edge to it--might even get you checked over by airport security!

Ken Cope: Your Scarlet Letter isn't showing in the link for some reason. (I get a big red X.)

Kurt: Gotcha re. god-shaped holes. ;-) That's probably the only hole in PZ's head he's glad he has 'got'.

By minusRusty (not verified) on 31 Oct 2006 #permalink

Okay, I did a little sketch of an Occam's razor 'A'.

The image could also be made more abstract, to emphasize the 'A' and have the 'razor' recede into the background, so that it would look like a stylized A and the fact that it was a razor wouldn't immediately come into view. The main thing, geometrically speaking, is that the 'handle' is longer than the 'blade', so when you stand it on end you get something like a 3-4-5 right triangle. The blade side starts out skinny and then widens halfway down, which gives you the cross-bar of the letter A. Once you have those two features, everything else is pretty flexible, so I could envision this being turned into jewelry and even spray-painted as graffiti.

This one is starting to grow on me.

I've been mulling over the point of having a symbol in the first place. And it occurs to me that symbols are both externally and internally facing. This got me thinking about my opinions of other symbols. And it got me thinking that although Occam's razor delivers the kindest cut imaginable... It's still a razor. Baggage. And after spending years deriding Christians for carrying about a Roman execution device, somehow I don't think it's the right thing to do.

It may prove difficult trying to maintain the higher ground of reason when we've painted a razor-blade shaped target on ourselves. You know they'll fixate. Take the easy shot. It's the MO of any brain-dead visceral shyster.

So I come back again and again to the process that led me to the Affinity (the best of four designs I posted for IIDB's thread on this topic). I was looking for something that wasn't loaded with easily negative baggage. I was looking for something that was sharp, iconic and easily recognizable. I wanted respectability and elegance. A feeling of permanence and establishment. Now of the four I began with, only the Affinity survived my background in logo design and predilection for chaos symbols.

So I find myself thinking again about a symbol that can offer a big enough umbrella for all of us, and doesn't dig us any holes that will distract our opponents in debate from the topics at hand.

So whatever your priorities and preferences in looking at a symbol to represent your atheism, think about not only how you feel about it, but also how it communicates to the non-atheists we interact with. What does it do to either with or against their preconceived notions of Atheism? I only ask because I think that half the time the symbols we're considering are a bit ivory-tower. And while I like the ivory tower, it's never been a good communicator.

I fully expect to catch some flak for seeming to suggest we dumb-down our symbology, but I'm a designer, and I need my pictures to talk, and to say things that help.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 01 Nov 2006 #permalink

People keep mentioning flames, but a flame alone is too widely used. How about this shape ('scuse bad drawing) - reminiscent of an 'A' as well as a flame.

Of course, it needs severe polishing by someone who can actually be trusted with a graphics package. May I suggest that the flame be done in two colours (inner and outer) with the inner being light enough that it looks on first sight like empty space? Then some kind of golden bar could be slapped across it.

(My vote is still with the null sign, but I think this has potential)

By Corkscrew (not verified) on 02 Nov 2006 #permalink

How about the "$" sign? The atheist Ayn Rand found it quite appropriate.

And the Christian Adolf Hitler found the swastika to be an appropriate symbol. Does that mean that non-insane Christians should also think it's a useful symbol? Does it, in fact, say anything at all about Christians?

Oh, wait, you're still a fucking moron.

I'm opposed to the use of scientific symbols, including the atom, dna, and pi, to represent atheism. It implies that atheists have rejected god because we can't measure it in the lab. Not all atheists are scientists. I happen to have a degree in science, but that's not what made me an atheist. Representing atheism by science leaves out all those atheists who arrived at their lack of faith by philosophical or other means.

I kind of like the asterisk.

By Frumious B (not verified) on 02 Nov 2006 #permalink

I would go with the stylized galaxy. With a bit of refinement and experimentation, it has the potential to become the most beautiful and original symbol of the lot.

The aesterix would be a problem because many brands use them (Wallpaper among them, although they're symbol is a little differnt) and it reminds me of girls that had just got their nails done at the salon.

The galaxy symbol is also great because it's a constant reminder that we're inhibiting a small planet in what really is a larger 'world',which in turn is only a small part of the universe, which in turn is only just this one universe (wheather you believe in serial universes or a megaverse, or both).

People don't think about the galaxy and imagine that it ends there.

I like the infinite symbol too, but I think the galaxy symbol is more beautiful and leaves no pretentions to any sort of God like being. And I think there's something cool about getting people to think about just exactly where we are on a cosmic scale. As opposed to simply contemplating the 'infinite'

GodfreyTemple is starting to sway me toward the Affinity symbol... However, let me post one final image of some Occam's razor 'A's, showing some examples with the 'razorness' de-emphasized. Obviously these could be prettied-up a bit by a professional designer.

I finally got around to reading the entire IIDB thread. (I was disappointed to see that there were already many variations on the lightbulb theme--I guess it's hard to come up with something truely original.) The one comment that struck me was the observation that a consensus vote, no matter the outcome, is not going to make for a successful symbol. What it will take is for someone influential to 'market' the symbol. So I think PZ is right in weighting the final outcome toward the opinions of people who will be able to prominently display and promote the icon.

I must say, I rather like Manxome One's a-infinity symbol. It's simple and versatile. The circle-Pi is good, too (even if it does look a bit like a cattle brand).

The asterisk and pansy don't work for me at all, and Nick's helix ties in too tightly to the evolution-creation debate, and I don't think you want the application to be that narrow.

I haven't read all 800 comments, but so far I like the asterisk the most.

The problem I have with atoms, galaxies, DNA, brains, etc. is that they imply science and rationality, things that are certainly correlated with atheism, but are not defining aspects of it. There are irrational wacko atheists out there. For an example, look no further than Gene Ray, the Time Cube guy. Sam Harris claims to have an open mind on things like telepathy and reincarnation (though he's not a woo-woo New-Ager; he just seems to have a different threshold for deciding when the case against ESP is definitively closed).

The main drawback I can see with the asterisk is that it's also the main footnote symbol, and is thus reminiscent of advertising and "the large print giveth and the small print taketh away". But I can live with that.

I really like the asterisk -- it's elegant.

The science-y ones are cool, but I feel like they would give the impression that we worship science. As it is I hear the "science is faith" BS argument more than I'd like.

Hey,
Sadly, I haven't gotten to read all 800 comments either, but I was thinking about a design: a circle with a line through its centre (like an equator), then two lines perpendicular to that making an "H" in the middle, and finally a small solid circle attached to the outer circumference.

Firstly, it would represent hydrogen, the most plentiful element in the universe; by extension it would also represent science; also it would look a lot like the earth with the moon in orbit around us, suggesting a universal human-ness; and finally, although I realize that the valence shell theory of atomic structure is outdated, it would suggest at our understanding of the world around us (perhaps moreso because we are consciously using an outdated model that we could then explain science's ability to admit its errors).

I'll link a picture when I can get a picture up somewhere.

I got the IPU tattooed on my inner left ankle a few months ago, been thinking about something to go on the right to match up. Looking forward to seeing the outcome of this vote (although I'll wait a bit to make sure it takes off before I get it permanently set on my body). I personally really like the asterisk b/c I hate the stupid sand dollar/jeebus thing myself. I'm against the "A" because it's my initial and I don't want people to think I'm THAT full of myself.

From the ones in the original post the pansy from John Pieret is the most emotionally appealing (tom me at least). Remember: atheists have to counter the image that they are cold, etc.

By jack monday (not verified) on 02 Nov 2006 #permalink

I'm looking forward to PZ's Poll.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 02 Nov 2006 #permalink

Do I have time to squeeze in one more comment before PZ moves on to the next step?

The thing I keep coming back to when I look at the different suggestions is that many of them don't suggest anything about what they're supposed to mean. Math symbols, science symbols, and Greek letters (except alpha), no matter how aesthetically pleasing, just don't convey atheism or freethought to me. The only non-alphabetical symbol that seems to have a historical connection to freethought is the pansy. The other obvious possibilities are the variations on the letter A.

The pansy could work for me. Prior to reading this thread I didn't know what it symbolized, but the explanation is nice and simple. Other people who see it aren't going to know what it means, but that could make for a good conversation openner, which is after all one of its purposes. And it's very non-confrontational.

For symbols in the 'letter A' category, why not consider the obvious choice of the Greek alpha? I really like the atheos graphic the PZ included at the bottom of his post. And for jewelry or other applications where something simpler is needed, just a plain alpha would work fine. Some people have mentioned that it looks too much like a 'jesus fish', but personally I think that's an advantage. Imagine the kinds of conversations you could have with someone who mistakes your alpha for a fish! Plus, it would really irritate a certain type of Xtian who would be afraid that they might be mis-identified as an atheist based on their fish looking too much like an alpha.

For other 'A' options, I like the Affinity symbol, but I'm not quite convinced that the infinity part has any real connection to godlessness. The Occam's razor A, while a bit more aggressive, has a logical connection to godlessness. Maybe people could alternate the razor and the pansy depending on their mood and the locale.

Finally, here is an A in a circle that I thought of after reading BigHeathenMike's comment above. Something like this may have already appeared earlier, I can't remember. To make it look more like a sphere than a circle, you could curve the equator line like this.

Okay, that's all I'm going to say, until the next round.

I like the thought, but it'll be hard to stop it feeling like the Anarchy symbol.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 02 Nov 2006 #permalink

GodfreyTemple:

I like the thought, but it'll be hard to stop it feeling like the Anarchy symbol.

Arg! Well, I guess that kills that particular idea. Definitely too similar.

This is probably too late, but anyway:

Looking at the 5-lobe asterisk symbol reminded me of a curve that's fairly easy to draw - the 5-petal rose or rhodonea curve.

Image here (the one furthest to the right, and slightly rotated so that a lobe points straight upright):

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/images/eps-gif/Rose_850.gif

More info here:

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Rose.html

It would probably look better with a thicker line width, of course. Anyway, one of the reasons that I think this is better than a plain asterisk is that it looks less like a puckered nether orifice (the similarity which was brought up in the comments above).

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 03 Nov 2006 #permalink

Could someone (with better drawing skills than me) create a stylized galaxy that doesn't look like a hurricane? Perhaps rounder with flatter or more arms? If we could make it not look like the hurricane symbol I think a galaxy would be perfect. The cosmos symbol!

Here are problems with some of the others:

The natural symbol: Too punny, "Get it, natural! haha". Too closely associated with music. And not at all aesthetically pleasing. I certainly wouldn't want to wear that pokey thing as a pendant.

Double helix in circle: looks serious, not a pun, looks somewhat mysterious. I LOVE the double-helix in a circle design. I think it's gorgeous. I would have trouble explaining it's connection to atheism to people, but I would be happy to wear it and stick it on my laptop. As such I feel the need to defend it. It is the stuff that make us! It represents the natural bottom-up assembling of life from parts rather than a top-down enforced creation by a supernatural force (to steal an analogy from Shermer).

Asterisk: The first thing I think is "flower power", and I just can't get that out of my mind.

The nautilus curve drawing is not going to be easy to manipulate into a pendant or lapel pin that looks good (unless it's a spiral, in which case there goes the mathematical beauty of it). Although a nautilus shell symbol would be attractive.

A: A is for atheism. Ugh. How un-inspiring. I really don't want to look like one of the letterpeople.

Phi: When I see the uppercase, all I think of is sorority.

Ligthbulb with a: Too complicated, all those unconnected lines make it a difficult symbol to render as a pendant or lapel pin.

?: Can be interpretted as 'clueless'. or 'Duh..?'.

I really think the humble ? sums up everybody's thoughts on this subject but nobody seems to have taken this seriously. Aren't we all questioning and uncertain as opposed to the religious certainty of existance? Embelish it how you want, in a circle or whatever but it is the basis of what you and I think. Question everything and don't take anybody's word for anything.

By Phil Baldwin (not verified) on 03 Nov 2006 #permalink

So do we think Dr. Myers will be doing his follow-up poll on this topic anytime soon? I do hope so...

Let's keep in mind that the majority of associations with any symbol are created by its use, not pre-existant. With a sufficiently powerful social force behind it, any symbol used to represent it will become powerful.

Which is probably why this exercise is futile.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 05 Nov 2006 #permalink

So you have something for visual comparison, here's my attempt to draw a reasonably nice-looking natural, my favourite of the symbols suggested so far:

The natural.

I've already expressed my "vote" above, but now feel the need to express myself about the only symbol that is completely unacceptable to me.

It's the "empty-set" symbol. To me, atheism is not about believing in "nothing," and that's why I can't support any "empty set" symbol. I'm an Athiest, not a nihilist.

I have a positive set of beliefs, and one of them is this "There are no gods." This is a positive statement, in the sense that it is a proposition with its own truth value.

The empty-set symbol would better represent those who identify with a different proposition: "I don't believe in anything," or perhaps "There is nothing to believe in."

This may be a valid point of view, but it's not the point of view of Atheism, per se, and thus is not truly representative.

I think I may have missed the wrap-up on this. Were there any conclusions?

My stylized galaxy, as part of a t-shirt design.
I couldn't resist a challenge.
Lookee.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 29 Nov 2006 #permalink

Yesterday I visited my neighbor's booth at a craft bazaar. He is a silversmith who makes pendants with simple petroglyph-type symbols deeply etched into the metal. After searching for, but failing to find, a symbol among his offerings which captured my slant on life, I committed to design a symbol and my neighbor agreed to craft it.

I proceeded to spend all of last night and tonight researching symbols via the Internet. I found the asterisk at intepid.com, and just finished reading all of the posts to date in this excellent dialogue (whew!).

I narrowed my choices down to two (based simply on my own preference and reasoning):
(1) the "robust" asterisk at the bottom of the intepid.com page (not the Times New Roman version)
(2) a Fibonacci spiral / logarithmic spiral / Golden Spiral.

(A spiral galaxy would have been my third choice, but it simply does not render well as a line drawing, let alone as an etching. You need full color to capture the fuzzy, ethereal nature of the arms. Otherwise, it looks like the symbol for hurricane. Also, since spiral galaxies are often double logarithmic spirals, I believe they are adequately covered by option 2 above.)

I then deliberated between the robust asterisk and the spiral. I realized that, while I am fascinated by the frequent occurrence of logarithmic spirals in nature, some people view that same frequent occurrence as evidence of (gasp!) some kind of external design. I also realized that my "slant on life" entails more than admiring nature and seeking answers to her beguiling questions. In addition, I advocate rational thought, critical thinking, personal responsibility, intellectuality, atheism, and other cool-sounding things that make me feel superior. :-) Therefore, a symbol of the natural world just wasn't broad enough.

So, I decided on the robust asterisk (thank you MarkP!). For me, it will embody atheism, but also much more. It will energize me by reminding me of the vast population of thinkers, such as yourselves, who exist in this world.

My next step is to collaborate with my neighbor to actually make the pendant. I welcome your ideas for the rough shape of the pendant itself, into which the robust asterisk will be deeply etched. The shape I have in mind looks like the end of a canoe paddle (visually pleasing, hangs nicely, no additional meaning on top of the asterisk), but I would love to hear your thoughts on whether a circle, triangle, square, x-agon, etc. demands consideration for some reason.

I will post pictures of the final product. I hope to have it around my neck within a month or two.

I suggest that you get a tattoo to go with the necklace.
"*Dieties not included"

With the footnote, I can actually get to like the idea of the asterisk.

Of course, who you show your footnote to is very much your own business.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 07 Dec 2006 #permalink

"*Deities not included"

I apologize for the typo.

By GodfreyTemple (not verified) on 10 Dec 2006 #permalink

I like several of the ideas, including: phi, circle, natural, DNA and galaxy. I vote against the asterisk idea, it's too whimsical and reminds me of the Cingular logo, as someone has already mentioned. I especially like phi because of the connection to nature, the golden mean and art. I like the lower-case one myself, seems more artistic and less like a fraternity symbol, and could drawn or spray-painted with one continuous stroke. However, since none have been agreed upon and have no readily-recognizable association with freethinking and few of them are available as jewelry, I am adopting the pansy as my symbol for now and am thinking of ordering a pansy necklace that I found on the net. This is mostly for a personal affirmation of my non-belief, not necessarily an in-your-face to theists, most of whom probably wouldn't know of the association to freethinking. Who could object to someone wearing a flower? I'm not too "out" right now, so if someone would happen to mention the freethinking connection, I could look at them innocently, and say, "Really?"

By GodlessPansy (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

i am not sure if this blog is still running but I have created a logo myself but I wasnt sure how to upload it to the site. It is a stylised abstract question mark with the dot dot of the question mark replaced with 2 dots on the side of the curve. It looks really nice but im not sure if a question mark relates with atheism aswell as agnosticism.

BLAR BLAR BLAR, IM GAY

By Fish face (not verified) on 12 Jun 2007 #permalink

I like the double helix suggestion, but I'd keep it to a very simple outline with no surrounding circle. It would be something anyone could draw or an artist could do to perfection. Double helix jewelry would also be very pleasing.

-Mark

By ignored_ethos (not verified) on 29 Jul 2007 #permalink

Although I am in favor of a plain circle, let me point out that IT IS USED IN BUDDHISM. Just do a Google image search for "Buddhist" and "circle", and while most of the images are of circles with "stuff" inside, the whole image of circularity and cycles is something deeply aligned with all forms of Buddhism (including the deity-inclusive ones).

PZ, my gawd, what does it take for one of your post comment threads to die?

This may be the secret to immortality -- just get yourself posterized and you'll live on in the comments forever!

I DEFINITELY like the stylized lowercase a that looks like a sideways question mark.

I know this is an old thread, but I just stumbled in. I agree with you, Brennon. The stylized lowercase "a" that looks like a sideways question mark, is a very basic design, yet it holds alot of meaning. Also, it can be easily drawn/reproduced, tattoo'ed, made into jewelry, etc. I think it's perfect and I plan to start using it.
Thank-you Manxome One!

The courier asterisk (as here: http://i232.photobucket.com/albums/ee213/CascadingBarrels/Picture6.png) is a good version. I like it better than the times asterisk because it's easier to draw... however it could be stylized however and still represent the same thing. It's also rotationally symmetrical which the other one isn't...

I think that several symbols should be used, though. As jewelry or what have you, the asterisk would be good. It could be accompanied in the sticker market though, with perhaps the invisible pink unicorn or any number of other simplistic, stylized symbols...

A late entry, but who knows? :-)

I call my suggestion "only sky", named after the verse of John Lennon's "Imagine" that inspired it.

The symbol is presented here:
http://ensjo.wetpaint.com/page/Only+sky+(EN)

It's a stick-figure styled image (for ease of drawing by hand) of a star, a man and the curvature of the earth. The intention is to convey the idea: "above us, only sky".

It may be "drawn" in ASCII art, like an emoticon: *o|-<(

The infinity one is definetely the best. It shows that even though there is no god every person does have an eternal spirit, even though there is no afterlife in my personal opinion. Good Work!

Well, I've read about half this post...and I see it's been a while since anyone posted, but in regards to complaints about symbols moving around (eg. infinity) if it were a necklace of some sort - you can put a little hook on the end you want to be the top and there shouldn't be any confusion :)

Oh - and a suggestion: a smaller astrik attached to part of the inner side of an open circle. Not so much of a flowery astrik, but I think overall it could be quite cool.

meets the requirements, and since I'm a Lennon fan, goes beyond in my book.

I really like it.

thanks, Sarah.

*o|-<(

heh, except i forgot that the angle brackets designate code on this blog.

i suggest to use a "alpha enclosed in a circle",if the sugestion still holds,...

Hi,why dont we use a stylised version of the hidrogen atom like the one that uses Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen.

It's a clean, easy to draw symbol and the primordial element of the universe because it's the most simple of them all and all the other elements of the periodic table are created from it through nuclear fusion reactions that take place in the interior of the stars.

I put an stylised version of it in the next link:

http://img513.imageshack.us/img513/5251/hidrogeno.png

Hi,why dont we use a stylised version of the hidrogen atom like the one that uses Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen.

It's a clean, easy to draw symbol and the primordial element of the universe because it's the most simple of them all and all the other elements of the periodic table are created from it through nuclear fusion reactions that take place in the interior of the stars.

I put an stylised version of it in the next link:

http://img513.imageshack.us/img513/5251/hidrogeno.png

#393's "Only Sky" above, is head and shoulders above all the rest...it even includes the * symbol.

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