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August,2001

To Symbolize That Which Is Not?
by Cliff Walker

We've received many letters over the years, asking about the various ways one might go about symbolizing atheism. They come mostly from those seeking an atheist equivalent of the Cross or the ubiquitous metallic Jesus Fish (cleverly parodied by Darwinists). The Star of David symbolizes the views of Jews, they write; we atheists need to symbolize our views some way. Even gays and lesbians have the distinctive rainbow triangle. One reader summarized by saying: "it would be nice if I could make my own voice heard."

Until recently, my response was to show why the symbols I've seen won't work, but now I see why we can't symbolize atheism.

The Darwin Amphibians are popular in the North West, where up to 17 percent of us are atheists. But there's my point: the Darwins are an anti-creationism message; they say nothing at all about atheism.

Last month, the Hawaiians successfully routed a sneaky move to put creationism in the public schools -- the very week the School Board's science advisor went on vacation! The story mentions the popularity of the Darwin Amphibians during the large rally to protest this fiasco.

This is why we can't use the Darwins to symbolize atheism: atheists aren't the only people who oppose creationism! Anyone can identify with the Darwin Amphibians because no one connects them to atheism.

Thus, a very successful anti-creationism tool, symbolized in the Darwin Amphibian, contributed to a rousing victory. Theists joined atheists and made a common foe scamper off with its tail between its legs.

Last month, Alabama Judge Roy Moore unveiled a monolith featuring an abridged rendition of the Protestant list of the first stone tablets of the Ten Commandments of the ancient Hebrew religion. It's now on display in the Alabama Judicial Building.

To find out if Moore seeks true Liberty or simply the supremacy of his own religion, Protestant Fundamentalism, some atheists tried to display the logo of the American Atheists group. Of course Moore said no.

Good thing: This is the trademark of a private group, despised by many theists and even a few atheists. Their logo has as much right to be on public property as do Moore's ancient taboos against the Evil Eye.

Trying to symbolize atheism misses the point: Atheism is but a minor aspect of any atheist's identity, saying only what is not.

It's easy to see Christians making religion part of their identity: Christ, even if only a concept, is an object upon which I may center. The cross or the fish or the pigeon would represent what I have added to my humanity. Atheism is not any of this.

Atheism cannot resemble Christianity in this respect: when it comes to religion, atheism is the default human condition. My atheism adds nothing to my humanity, serving only to distinguish me from those who are something that I am not. Atheism speaks not of what I am; rather, of what I am not. It's an absence, not a concept.

If I got a tattoo, I'd get a Screamin' Jay or a Cheech Wizard -- I'd never get one having to do with my atheism. To go that far in pointing out how I differ from others is to give them too much power. There is much more to me than that which is not me.

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    • Notes:

    • Reference: Symbols, Acronyms, and Slogans letter with David and Will
    • Reference: Do Atheists Have A Symbol? letter with Joseph Thornhill (FAQ)
    • Reference: A Symbol To Make My Own Voice Heard? letter from Chris (inspiration for this column)
    • Perspective: To Respond With That Unfazed 'No-I'm-Not' Look! letter with Kay
    • Perspective: License Plate Holder: 'I Am Atheist / I Am America' letter with Peter Hopp
    • Perspective: Any Symbol Must Be Given Its Meaning letter from Randy Cassingham
    • Perspective: Which Symbol For Atheism Was On Your Front Page? Lyra Aitch
    • Perspective: One More Proposed Symbol For Atheism Sampo Syreeni
    • Perspective: A Few Suggestions For Those Who Need a Symbol letter with Darrell
    • Perspective: Symbolizing 'A Thing That Is Not A Thing' Zaphod Beeblebrox
    • Perspective: A Funny-Shaped Cross With a Question Mark? Lenny Blottin

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Copyright ©2001 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon