Since this entry has become my main source of visitors over the past few years I decided it was time that the Athterisk got its own domain. Visit http://athterisk.org for more up to date information and designs. You can also post comments, questions, pictures there.
Was thinking today about religious symbols [brought to mind by the paraphernalia that people stick to / dangle inside their cars] and it occurred to me that I had no idea whether there was any kind of widely recognized symbol associated with atheism. I decided I must find out immediately [before I forgot all about it and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls instead]. A google search turned up surprisingly little, but the following seemed the most prevalent:
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!” ].
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.
It seems my original question is answered; there is no widely recognized symbol for atheism – or if there is, Google is being strangely coy with me tonight.
And so, for the record, even though it’s pointless, no one really cares, etc etc etc, here is my humble submission(s):
This is, of course, a [bold] Times New Roman asterisk, but I think it has many traits which would render it an ideal symbol for the godless:
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, and easy to describe. If someone asked “what’s an atheist symbol?” you could describe it over the phone (why you would ever need to answer this question over the phone is hair).
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 looks a bit like a little person reaching out for a hug. Very humanist.
- Five is a very human/natural number– 5 fingers, 5 toes, 5 senses, 5 major appendages. And from the Pixies song: “if man is 5, then the devil is 6, and god is 7″
UPDATE: Sunday, October 29, 2006 – 8:15 PM
Here’s an alternate version created from scratch for a slightly more “robust” symbol, less styled (and less proprietary) than the TNR asterisk above. Clicking on the symbol will open an SVG version which you can view at high resolution or open in a drawing program like Adobe Illustrator.
This one really is rotationally symmetrical (almost!), and constructed from a continuous curve (made of ten cubic segments)– the whole thing can be drawn in one fluid movement, a bit like the pattern from a spirograph. I prefer it because it is simpler and there is more harmony (?) and tension in this design.
Ultimately any symbol has to be able to survive being restyled to work best given a visual context, so with this second design I am merely attempting to provide a more neutral starting point.
BTW All designs from this page are free to copy and reuse however you see fit, although only for the last two can I guarantee that there are no copyright or trademark issues.