Symbols of Disbelief (Atheism/Freethought Symbols)

Atheism throughout history has, understandably, been a pretty private affair. In recent years, however, the rise of the atheist/agnostic “freethought” movement has brought active disbelief into the public arena, creating not just a camaraderie of unbelievers, but a sometimes actively anti-religious movement.

A number of atheist, pro-science, and related emblems have been proffered as symbols for nonbelievers, but none have any real consensus so far. I’ve compiled a brief, by no means exclusive list of some of the more popular emblems below.

Early symbols

atheism symbolOne of the earliest symbols is not a symbol of disbelief per se. The Humanist movement’s “happy human,” designed by Denis Barrington in 1965 for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The little figure symbolized the humanist philosophy of people over religious dogma, and while popular with atheists, is not an explicitly atheist symbol.

atheism symbolThe earliest explicitly atheist symbol I’m aware of is the open-atom logo of the American Atheists, designed in the early sixties to place an emphasis on scientific curiosity and empirical thinking. While adopted early, it is not popular overall as it is trademarked by the organization.

The “evolve fish,” aka, the “Darwin fish,” a satirical jab at the ubiquitous “Jesus fish,” is one of several popular recent symbols:

atheism symbol

The “invisible pink unicorn” symbol was intentionally designed as an atheist identification symbol. The image alludes to a common argument against belief, contained within the mathematical symbol for an ‘empty set.’  The first mention of the IPU appeared in the mid-nineties on Usenet, from author Steve Eley:

 

atheism symbol“Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorn is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can’t see them.”

 

atheism symbolSo far, the real contender has been the “flying spaghetti monster,” which began as a variation of the “IPU” argument, but proved irresistible once reports of “miraculous appearances” of the parody deity began to roll in. FSM merchandise is abundant, and includes car medallions, t-shirts, posters, and more.

Other noteworthy images include the atheist ” Scarlet A” symbol, designed by Richard Dawkins for the “OUT” campaign, which encourages Atheists to be more outspoken:

atheism symbol

The circle/A emblem, somewhat resembling the Anarchist “A” symbol:

atheism symbol

The empty set (circle/slash) with or without cross (aka the “Bad Religion” logo), ghost, or other object representing religion:

atheism symbol

I any case, the issue is far from settled, at least as far as consensus goes.

 

Some of the recent debates:

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Atheists symbols | Greengovtv
September 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm

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The Occultist April 21, 2016 at 11:16 pm

Solipsism and Moral Relativism are 2 of the most dangerous ideologies there are. I am seeing a lot of both from Atheists and Religionists alike. I find it odd that Atheists reject religion yet I’ll bet you follow the religions of Money and Man’s Authority. And yes they are both religions. Neither is inherent in nature and both are man made. There is no authority other than that of Truth!

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Cas June 17, 2015 at 4:26 am

Good Gallifrey, I will never stop laughing over the hypocrisy of militant atheists.
Yes, as atheists we do see a fair share of bigotry from theists. But you bitch about how the militant theists try to convert you and treat you like shit, and then what do you do? You turn around and treat all religious people the exact same way, regardless of whether they’re bigoted towards atheism or not.
And then you wonder why there’s such negative opinions about atheism amongst religious people. Here’s a hint: being bigoted and rude towards people who haven’t done anything to you is a great way to make them bigoted towards you really quickly.
I understand that religious people tend to have negative opinions about atheism more often than not. But being bigoted towards all theists doesn’t prove anything other than you’re just as much of a douche as the militant theists you bitch about.
Seriously, grow up.

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Nathan knight October 3, 2015 at 8:07 pm

No. I never have believed in any religion. Nor have I ever opposed theism on anyone or told them what they should and shouldn’t believe in. Heck. My whole family is Christians lol, I just really wanted to laugh at your “doctor who” reference and saythay I am going to begin to say that from now on. Haha

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Andy Stout February 15, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Attention Christians and “believers”: You can’t have it both ways. Belief without evidence, i.e., faith, is anti-science. What makes religions so dangerous is that they endorse—indeed celebrate—faith. But there is nothing noble or wonderful about believing in unicorns, trolls and gods. Doing so is the essence of irrationality for it flies in the face of reason.

So when I hear god-believers gleefully announce that there is no contradiction involved in supporting irrational beliefs and science, I want to scream. Indeed, science and religion can coexist, but so do pests and pesticide, right and wrong, good and bad.

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Michael February 27, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Andy Stout, can you scientifically prove your mother ever loved you?

“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see. ” to quote someone of great faith. And by that definition, surely you can find faith in something. Faith in the scientific method, faith this is real and not a dream, faith in what your college professor told you, faith in a moral code that says it’s wrong to kill babies nursing at their mother’s breast, faith there was a bang and something came from nothing. Even the most brilliant scientist cannot scientifically prove everything from nothing, he must cross that line of faith.

Faith and reason go together. Faith without reason is nonsense, like “Flying Spaghetti Monster”. Reason depends on faith that there are laws of logic, which like love, cannot be observed therefore confidence in them is faith.

When we deconstruct things they stop working.

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Jamie March 21, 2015 at 4:42 am

Faith by definition is believing in something based on no evidence, not the belief in something that hasn’t been observed. Nobody has ever directly observed an atom yet there is enough evidence to show that atoms exist. Science can be defined as any inquiry into nature capable of empirically based hypothesis testing, and so faith doesn’t even come into it because it is based on evidence.

The scientific method requires no faith. There is sufficient evidence to show that this is all real (I think therefore I am) You don’t have to believe what your professor told you- if you don’t believe something then test it and if you can prove the current theories to be wrong then well done. A moral code that says it is wrong to kill babies nursing at their mother’s breast isn’t something that is objective and universal. For instance what if time travel was possible and due to the circumstances it was possible to go back in time only once and kill Adolf Hitler but when he was a baby and nursing at his mother’s breast? Would it then be ok to kill that baby? This is an ethical issue that requires discussion and debate to establish what is right or wrong and therefore requires no faith. Everything from nothing is based on the assumption that there was at one point “nothing”. If you’re saying that everything HAD to have a beginning then try applying that logic to a creator. You’ll be left with an infinite regression- who created God, and who created them and so on.

Faith and reason do not go together and there are no “laws” of logic because logic is based on a set of principles. And to conclude, if you think that love cannot be observed then you must either have a very sad life or you live somewhere in North Korea. Hint: look up altruism in the dictionary.

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becca April 10, 2015 at 9:12 am
Ian November 22, 2015 at 12:28 am

I disagree with your definition of faith. Speaking from a Christian perspective, my faith is based on evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Now, whether this evidence is actually compelling is probably a discussion well outside the scope of these comments. Still, whether compelling or not, the witnesses to Christ’s ministry based their testimony on what they had experienced, and what they had seen. Modern Christians claim to carry on that heritage by calling back to their stories.

For this reason, I think a better definition of faith is “relational trust.” It’s the idea that God has done something great in the past, is doing something great now, and will do so again. This doesn’t require “belief” in anything that is in conflict with scientific observation. I have heard some counter by saying that Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the conviction of things not seen,” and that therefore faith is “blind belief.” But the writer of Hebrews is not talking about “faith” in the non-provable things of the past, but in the hope and relational trust in the Being which has promised us a future in Christ.

Personally, I reasonably know that the universe is very old, was begun with the event called the Big Bang, and that life has developed through natural selection along the evolutionary path we see today. My faith, in turn, is based on my estimation of the evidence regarding the historicity of the gospel accounts and what they describe.

Now, I’m not going to go into the details of analyzing that evidence (I do a bit more on my blog, but honestly, there are many others who have done a much more thorough job in their scholarly works) in this limited comment. I only wanted to present the idea that faith does not mean believing in the unprovable, or believing in spite of evidence. Instead, it is the reasonable future hope based on evidence found in prior observation or direct experience.

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Anonymous April 1, 2016 at 6:01 am

To Andy Stout and aactually everybody.-
Please check out Quantum Physics. I think all of you will find that there is something for everybody. To your question of faith: Every hypothesis starts with a belief. The belief that their plans/ideas will work. Faith is a question of beliefs, beliefs start with ideas. Ideas result from analyzation and philosophical thinking. Besides isn’t the whole idea of Atheism just a flip side of the coin. So in the world of Metaphysics there and Quantum Physics for that matter there is talk of something called the Union of Opposites. This means that if Theism is as faith then so is Atheism. You have faith that there is nothing beyond your perception. You have faith that your mind is omnipotent enough to conceive every possible thing in existence. You have faith that you can see all there is to see. You have faith that humanity must be the only sentient, intelligent superior race of beings there ever was or will be. I could go on but I think you get my point. So lastly, as an Atheist you believe that you are the only correct one. That humanity has all the answers. It sounds like what you BELIEVE, requires FAITH.

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NTLS June 22, 2014 at 7:39 am

I still see many references to atheists claiming the ‘science’ throne as their own and condemning those with faith (particularly Christians as they usually dare not take on Islam) as irrational mystics.

I happen to have faith and be a scientist. I do not believe in creationism – many of the Bible stories are, in fact, just stories. The teachings of Jesus are there to remind us to lead good lives and be kind to one another. I acknowledge, by the way that there are many atheists who tolerate those with faith, just as I acknowledge that there are many kooky religion enthusiasts who take their Holy scripture way too literally. We just need to understand each other’s perspective.

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The Black Cube March 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Atheists should research the black cube aka Saturn to find out how to escape this prison planet. Hint – It has nothing to do with any religion but a certain man who walked this earth 2000 years ago ;)

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nobody special January 15, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I feel the need to say that not all christians disregard science, I personally believe in evolution, and the big bang, and all of theese other theories, along with most other christians. Christianity and science can coexist. Also to say that we are motivated to do good by fear of hell is just plain ignorance, yes maby there are a few poeple who are like that but don’t judge a group as a whole by the actions of one, just as I know there are atheists who don’t judge theists as scum and regard themselves as higher beings, which from what i;m reading there seems to be a few of.

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Michael February 27, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Friend, you are somebody special and as one of faith you should know that you are created in the image of God.

Disconnecting biblical truth from your worldview will lead you to theories that frankly define you as “nobody special”.

For God so loved you, he gave his only begotten Son.

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