Plea for an atheist symbol


A plea for an atheist symbol bearing a positive meaning with its proper values and without any connection rooted on foreing values.

1. Le symbole

The symbol is a powerful means of communication. The word conveys an idea, a concept, sometimes with some meanings, but always aims at a precise and concise object of knowledge. A picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. It accumulates a set of ideas which by their association no longer transmit a signifier but a description, a situation and cause several ideas to emerge simultaneously in consciousness. The symbol rises to a higher level by linking under a simple spelling, a distillate, a concentrate, no longer identifying concepts, but an event-based globality, a story under a simple hat. The symbol allows the projection of many qualities that drape the person over a simple spelling. The symbol is powerful because it appeals to the feelings and emotions that it includes in what it represents. It acts as a landmark, as a means of identification and belonging. It mobilizes action, it speaks directly to the individual, who is incorporated into it and dissolves in it.

The simplest, most frequent symbol and one that seems to be the most universally used is the cross or the 'X'. The cross identifies a place, whether on a document or on a territory, it fixes and determines space and time. Geometrically, the cross results from the intersection of two converging lines, usually perpendicular. The cross can appear either vertically or on the side. In mathematical symbolism, depending on its orientation, it represents the additive function or the multiplicative function.

Another frequently used symbol is the circle. It represents absence, emptiness, the wheel or rotation, nullity. Buddhism illustrates emptiness or the cycle of deaths and rebirths by the calligraphy of the circle. Esotericism is fond of the triangle, it can be found in Christian and Masonic symbolism and on US greenbacks. Architecture built the Pentagon in the US and geography associates the hexagon with France .

The symbol is present everywhere and advertising would not be possible without it. All trademarks, commercial and social organizations have a logo that wants to communicate their identity, their purpose. This is to say the importance of the symbol as a powerful representative of human concepts and organizations.

1.1. The cross

The Latin cross identifies the Catholic religion as much as its adherents. It refers to the crucifixion of its founder on a cross. It represents everything that touches Christendom directly or indirectly. It serves as a standard. It is present in any place celebrating worship. It serves as much as an object of its own or as an ornament. It accompanies and identifies groups. It marks the territory. It calls for recollection and prayer. It covers churches and tombs. It is omnipresent in the world of Christianity and comes in various variations according to the history and evolution of religions, according to cult, Orthodox, Greek, Russian or other. Associations claiming to be Christian incorporate the cross into their own iconography. It is also found on the flag of many nations of Christian culture, on the coats of arms. It is used as an ornament on the medals: Occitan cross, of Lorraine, of Saint-André, of Malta, of Victoria, of Saint-Georges, etc.

The symbolism of the cross is very old. The Egyptians had their version with a buckle instead of the upper post, the ankh. There is a symmetrical shape with a small segment extending at right angles to the end of each arm imitating the wheel, the swastika. It was found at the Paleolithic site of Mezine in Ukraine, dating from 10,000 BC. It was used in the Greco-Roman era. It was taken over by the German National Socialist Party, giving it an eminently negative symbolism.

1.2 The religions

All religions and beliefs, however diverse they may be, have strong symbols that clearly distinguish them from one another. For example, in the Christian world, the Latin cross is the symbol par excellence. The sign of the cross executed virtually by a gesture of the hand or traced on the forehead is one of its most ancient rites and today evokes the gallows on which its founder would have been suspended. The last letter of the Greek alphabet omega designates god. At the time of Christ, the "tav", mark on the forehead, could be represented by the signs + or X. Many other symbols are used like the vine, the tree of life, the living water, the fish for its acronym ICHTHUS, the ship, the chariot and the star. This is only the Christian example, but the use of the symbol is omnipresent in all religions, beliefs and sects.

1.3 The atheist

The atheist rejects the widely held belief in a mystical being, a supreme entity, a superior god outside the natural world. The atheist is the Renaissance and Enlightenment man, born in the 16th century and completed in the 18th century. The Enlightenment places man at the center of the universe where the individual asserts his right to happiness through material progress and he frees himself through reason, freeing himself from the constraints of history, from the yoke of traditional beliefs and not verified. He is the Greek philosopher rejecting the abstruse ideas of Socrates and Plato, deemed heretical by their peers, and on which Christian theology has built its ideology. Instead, the atheist welcomes Parmenides, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Diogenes, Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius. The etymology of the word atheist comes in: "a" indicating deprivation and "theos" for god, meaning without god. Thus defined, the atheist is not in relation to himself, by what he really is, but in function of and in opposition to another definition, theism. The atheist is opposed to belief and is anchored in the material and concrete world as his senses make it known to him. Atheism is the formal and unconditional rejection of Truths, theisms and the like which are, by their nature or property, absurdities incompatible with sensible reality.

The atheist still does not have an identity symbol to do this. Many atheist associations have given themselves a logo based on an image such as the flame, the lantern, the lighthouse. They are all icons or illuminating images in the dark, symbolically wanting by the light, to drive out the darkness of belief. Flame and light have other corresponding meanings as well and the atheist needs a distinctive symbol.

1.4 The long time

If we consider the history of Western civilization, we see that throughout the Middle Ages it was pastoral and patriarchal, all organized around religious authority, localized and represented by the church. The church is a building reserved for worship, usually on an elevation with a tower reaching as high as possible towards the heavens where the gods would reside. It is usually in the center of the village, inside the fortifications, and around which the inhabitants crowd safely. Its tower houses bells intended to alert the inhabitants, either of an enemy attack, or to signal important events such as the birth or death of the inhabitants or, more important, to signal times of prayers or events related to worship. At that time, life beat to the rhythm of long time, the ringing of bells, backed by a vision of a world determined by biblical history.

Six hundred years later, Muslims have borrowed the tradition and still do the same. From the top of a minaret of the mosque, at least five times a day, the muezzin launches with his powerful voice, today via electronic amplification, the call to prayer. The Jew does this with the help of a horn. The Orientals also use, according to tradition, a gong or a big bell. In the West, the bell tower is and remains throughout the period preceding the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and even afterwards, the ancestral reference to the center of the world, a mythical center and a functional geographical center.

1.5 The short time

During the Renaissance, the barbarians having disappeared or assimilated, the city walls becoming useless, the populations changed from agricultural to urban. Commercial exchanges are becoming more and more numerous and merchants are establishing their premises in cities that are growing and becoming more and more important. Exchanges, sales and negotiations, increasing in number and frequency, are carried out according to agendas where time becomes more and more critical and it appears necessary to measure it and to establish it on reliable bases. The ringing of the bells has become inappropriate as life now moves with the rapid step of time.

The measurement of time has long been known and hydraulic clocks are quite common in monasteries and cathedrals. However, no way to do this correctly over long periods of time existed before the 14th century when the first mechanical clocks appeared. It is in Milan, in 1336, that a clock is installed on a steeple of the city and has the particularity of striking the twenty-four hours of the day with a number of strokes corresponding to the hour of the moment. The clocks do not have a dial and they will be equipped with one in the 15th century, with a single hand, that of the hours. The mechanisms of these clocks did not ensure the reliability of the measurement and it was not until 1657, after Foucault had noticed the regularity of the pendulum's movement, that Christiann Huygens and Salomon Coster built the first clock equipped with this mechanism as a regulator. Clocks then became common necessities marking daily activity. It colonized the bell towers, relegating the bell to its only sound role and when it has no place there, it builds its own tower, its campanile. Following the development of exploding astronomical knowledge, clocks become more complex and come to follow the movement of the lunations and even more faithfully reproduce the movement of the planets.

Nowadays everyone has an electronic watch on their wrist which not only indicates the time, but also physiological, ergonomic and spatial positioning (GPS) functions where the latter is only possible through the use of ultra precise atomic clocks. Notice what may be a forgotten ancestor of the clock, the world's first mechanical computer, the Antikythera Machine, which dates to about 87 BCE or the Hellenistic period. It was found in the cargo of a shipwreck discovered in the Mediterranean Sea and rebuilt by a Swiss watchmaker with the help of scientists. We are allowed to believe that the Greeks possessed knowledge and technological means which were forgotten and concealed until the Renaissance.

The measurement of time in the course of history is therefore done in two phases. From the beginnings until the Renaissance, human activity was slow, then from that moment it accelerated and since then continues at a rapid pace. The evolution of human activity accompanies the history of time and the development of tools to measure it. There was therefore the long time of the bells followed by the short time characterized by the hour dial.

1.6 The Renaissance and Enlightenment

Of Italian origin, the Renaissance, as its name suggests, is the rediscovery of the ancients and particularly their influence on ideas; it then spread throughout Europe. It was at this time that the printing press appeared, allowing the dissemination of the Bible in popular languages; that the French language officially becomes that of law and administration; that maritime exploration and military innovations are facilitated by the appropriation of foreign inventions; that the cartography of the world changes. Thus is born a synergy sowing the seeds of logic and reason which are diffused in all areas of human activity.

The Renaissance marks the passage of a life dictated by tradition and history, which is called prejudice, where the fate of man is fixed from his birth until his death. The Renaissance is an awakening, a revolution, it marks the end of a guardianship, of slavery, of domination by royal and aristocratic power. Man thus recovers the freedom to choose himself, for himself, establishing democracy, equality for all and later writing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It involves the awakening of reason challenging the unchanging beliefs of previous centuries. The Renaissance marked a paradigm shift in Western history and heralded the next epoch, the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is the banishment of beliefs for the benefit of reason and it is Immanuel Kant who gave the best definition:
The Enlightenment is for man to come out of a minority which is attributable only to him. Minority is the inability to use one's understanding without the tutelage of another.
The Age of Enlightenment is a literary and cultural movement experienced by eighteenth-century Europe, from the death of Louis XIV in 1715 to the revolution of 1789. This humanist movement propelled by the previous period aims to overcome obscurantism and to promote knowledge. Philosophers and intellectuals promote science and oppose superstition, intolerance, and abuse by churches and states. All the Enlightenment philosophers want to free man from their irrational bondage to beliefs, superstitions and religions, dethroning their opposites, the anti-Enlightenment who resist and cling to divine providence, tradition and history.

2. The symbol construction

This transition, the shift from the pastoral society to the city society, coincides with the shift from the use of bells to the use of the clock. It is understandable that the transition from the long time marked by the beating of the bell to the short and rapid time of the clock marks a very important stage, a major change for civilization, a transition highlighted by the paradigm shift that occurred in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

It is from these findings that it appears possible to create an atheist symbol based on these facts, the replacement of secular tradition by the enlightenment of reason. For this, it is necessary to appeal to the strong symbols that appeared at that time.

2.1 Cadran

The clock face will therefore be the first part of the symbol, because it represents timeless time, constantly moving, never stopped, always new, without hands, without references. It is the symbol of life always in motion, in perpetual evolution, without beginning or origin, or defined goal to be reached, that of man who advances and progresses in the knowledge of the universe. Exit the cosmogonies of fixed and penitentiary worlds seen as perfections. The short time of the clock is precise, linear, universal, measurable, active, while that marked by the bells is long, irregular, particular, passive.

2.2 Equality

The second part of the symbol is opposed to the cross, the symbol par excellence of belief. Since this is the intersection of two lines, its antithesis can only be represented by two equidistant parallel lines which will never meet. These two parallel and equidistant lines represent the road on which all advance equally towards happiness. They represent the mathematical equality sign symbolizing the fundamental value that all beings are equal and that reason guides them. There is no longer a hierarchy, a point of reference, a historical marker. All, men and women, enjoy the same status and the same powers, a totally modern concept and opposed to ancestral values. The biblical injunction to grow and multiply, embodied by the plus and X signs is outdated and counterproductive for the limited and closed environment of our planet. Planetary equilibrium in all things is represented by the equal sign.

2.3 The atheist symbol

By superimposing these two symbols we obtain that of the atheist: a handless hour dial bearing the equality symbol in the center.

This dial is now the symbol of atheist and atheism. It does not belong to any organization or individual. It is international and anyone who calls themselves an atheist can wear it proudly.

3. Its Attributes

Every symbol comes with attributes and supports. Let us now examine the name, the motto, the color, the flower, the tree, the animal and the flag of which we associate the representative qualities.

3.1 Its name

How to name the atheist symbol if not as its image shows it either by "Equal dial", "Atheist dial" or quite simply the "Dial".

3.2 Its motto

The motto can be in Latin like that of Canada “Ad mare usque ad mare” or in French like that of Quebec “Je me souviens”. Because of the desired internationalization of the symbol, a Latin currency is required. “Sapere aude” is a Latin phrase from Horace (Epistles, I, 2, 40) literally meaning “Dare to know”. This injunction is more commonly translated as "Have the courage to use your own understanding" or "Dare to think for yourself". It is known to be the motto of the Enlightenment according to Immanuel Kant. It would be appropriate here, but not very original, because it is already widely used around the world. The plural of the imperative reflect, ie "Cogitate" which translates to "Reflect", has much the same meaning, and seems more appropriate.

3.3 Its color

The use of a symbol usually results in its transposition on a standard or a flag. Then comes the choice of colors and support. Primary colors are already associated with organizations whose vocation or motives for choosing a representative color are in opposition to atheism. Papal yellow, Islamic green, communist red and royal blue are automatically excluded. We offer lilac (composition: R = 149, G = 118, B = 171). This color is little or not used on national flags or on coats of arms. It is close to the color adopted by feminism, which precisely militates for gender equality.

3.4 Its flower and tree

The palsy flower associated with atheism is already the symbol of an atheist association. The choice of the color lilac leads us to the flower and the shrub of the same name, Syringa vulgaris. With their splendid flowering and exquisite fragrance, lilacs beautify spring. Today there are more than 2000 cultivars with various colors, scents and ports. Lilacs are long-lived shrubs, easy to grow in most regions of Quebec, adapt very well to northern climates. They generally reach good dimensions (3 to 5 m), and some are more compact, dwarf or on a stem.

3.5 Its animal

The animal that can best associate with the atheist is the cat. Independent and autonomous, he has always supported people. The latter owes him his survival against the vermin that ate his crops or spread the plague. Like the atheist, he was tortured, excommunicated, put at the stake, demonized, accused of all wrongs. Like the atheist, the cat has been able to get through atrocities and mistreatment peculiar to ignorance, the self-importance and pettiness of brainwashed people. The species considered is Felis silvestris. Which cat to adopt since there are many breeds. To favor none, we will use the wire frame or the entirely black or lilac image.

3.6 Its flag

The flag of 2 units high by three units wide appears to be modeled on that of Japan. On a lilac background of composition R = 149, G = 118, B = 171, a white dial in the center, with a diameter equal to three-fifths of the height and having inwards a thick border of one hundred and sixtieth of the height. All markers aligned in the center, are separated by 30 degrees each, have their outer end aligned with a centered circle whose diameter is eleven twentieth of the height. The four main markers, oriented at the four cardinal points, one hundred and twentieth thick and one sixteenth in length. Secondary markers three-eightieths long and one hundred and sixtieth the height. The equal sign, horizontal and centered, is a quarter of the height. Each branch, of the same thickness, spaced the same dimension, that is to say a fortieth of the height.

4. Summary

We observed the absence of an atheist symbol and the negative context identifying it. In order to create from scratch a symbol for the occasion, we highlighted the importance of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment as a historical pivotal point in the affirmation of the atheist phenomenon. In doing so we have shown that this pivotal point separated two opposite eras, one associated with theism and the other with atheism. They are differentiated by the measurement of time as much as by the relationships between humans. Thus, we have associated the atheist with the clock of modern times and with its democratic values, hence the dial and the sign of equality.

5. Média

Libres penseurs athées



First publishing: 20 octobre 2019

This document is the subject of a continuous update, the last having taken place on: