Some time ago I became interested in the idea of a symbol which I could adopt to represent my complete and utter lack of belief in a supreme being. After some googling I decided that I didn't particularly like or relate to the existing symbols out there, and set about creating my own— which I readily admit did not require a great degree of talent on my part.
The Athterisk is basically just an asterisk, but specifically it is an asterisk with five lobes. I can't take credit for the name, which was a brilliant suggestion offered by a friend. The Athterisk has many traits which I think make it an excellent symbol for the godless:
It is rotationally symmetrical, thereby privileging no single direction.
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.
An asterisk is commonly employed to draw attention to things, so it is kind of anti-complacent. It is a reminder that there is always more information to be had.
An 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. As a placeholder it occupies a space which might otherwise be filled by bogus ideas.
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 also looks a bit like a little person reaching out for a hug. Very humanist.
Five is a very human/natural number— five fingers, five toes, five senses, five major appendages. And from the Pixies song: if man is five, then the devil is six, and god is seven
The Athterisk is rotationally symmetrical (almost), and can be constructed from a continuous curve (comprised of ten cubic segments, or cubits )— If you are have an unbelievably steady hand the whole thing can be drawn in one fluid movement, a bit like the pattern from a spirograph.
Ultimately any symbol has to be able to survive being restyled to work best given a visual context, so with this design I am merely attempting to provide a relatively neutral starting point for others to develop.
A starting point for my own design was the Times New Roman bold asterisk, which some people prefer (and is a little more decorative).
Times New Roman bold asterisk
Another reason that an athterisk might be useful is to combine with existing symbols to create a more nuanced symbolism. Many (if not most) atheists will identify on some level with a religious heritage, via their families and communities, and may feel that it is unnecessarily harsh to completely disassociate themselves from such identification.
For example, someone who was raised Catholic might feel that culturally their religion is important to their identity whilst wishing to disavow the supernatural aspects of it. This of course raises the question of whether it is acceptable to call oneself Christian or Muslim or whatever if one does not actually believe in supreme beings. Church leaders would probably (on the whole) say that you can't have one without the other, but no small number of their parishioners might disagree with this point of view.
An asterisk has the power to extend or disclaim the ostensible meaning of an an existing symbol. The aesthetics of combining such symbols is a little problematic though, so something along the following lines is just a rough idea (if anyone has any better suggestions on this please leave a comment here ).
These say: "I'm sort of <insert religion> BUT..."
Some people have used the atheisk in tattoo designs. See the community gallery here (and feel free to submit your own images).
Many others have tackled the problem before me of course, but since atheism is defined as the absence of a belief in gods it can be quite tricky trying to find something that can be imbued with the basic idea on non-belief without being too specific about exactly what it is a person doesn't believe. So people will tend to pick whatever symbol matches their sensibilities. Here are some nice renderings, accompanied by some gentle trash-talk to remind you that the Athterisk is best :)
This is the [trademarked] symbol of the American Atheists, which I had never seen before, and if you visit their about page you can see a full-color version which might give you some idea of why I went to the trouble of reproducing it in black-and-white. It’s all science-y and stuff, and IMHO conveys completely the wrong message [“We will suppress the believers by harnessing the LIMITLESS POWER of the ATOM!” ].
The Darwin Fish
This is a popular variant on the Jesus fish, and although the gag works for me it seems an inappropriate symbol for atheism in general. Still great for fans of evolution though [except maybe the Christian ones] and because it’s self explanatory I’d kind of like to see a few more of these on the back of cars. The actual DARWIN text is optional since the joke still works with the little feet.
Flying Spaghetti Monster
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years you're probably aware of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Like the Darwin Fish, this is a great humorous take on religious affiliation, but not really suitable as a symbol for atheism in general.
The Invisible Pink Unicorn
The Invisible Pink Unicorn symbol is probably the most popular alternative I know of, and the most likely symbol you'll encounter in the wild. Cute, and not quite as jokey as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but still a little too hip. Also the fragmented design is a limiting factor in any physical reproduction.
Out Campaign "Scarlet Letter"
Richard Dawkins has created The Out Campaign, which uses a scarlet letter "A" (for atheist). Quite nice I think, but still not quite what I'm looking for since it represents a particular movement rather than the underlying philosophy. PZ Myers has since added this logo to the sidebar on his most excellent blog.
Some time ago the aforementioned PZ Myers posted something of a challenge, to find "A Logo for the Godless". This sparked an enormously long stream of suggestions and debate, but out of it came many interesting ideas.
The Affinity symbol was suggested by Godfrey Temple on this post by the aforementioned PZ, exploring the [im]possibility of selecting a logo for the godless. It's comprised of an uppercase lambda (Λ) overlayed with an infinity symbol (∞). While elegant, and loaded with interesting references, I think it looks a little too secret society/lodge/fraternity for me.
The Magnifying Glass
PeterM at Effing the Ineffable suggests this stylized magnifying glass. I quite like this one because it is simple and elegant, but suspect it already has other meanings (it doesn't actually look like a magnifying glass to me, more like a male/female symbol).
Yet more (mostly unknown, mostly terrible) symbols can be seen here.