September 15, 2006

I propose a simple flame representing the agonizing fires of hell in which they'll burn

News that Nevada's Office of Veteran's Services has approved a Wiccan symbol for memorial plaques got me looking again at the list of nationally approved religious symbols for military tombstones.

The collection raises lots of questions: What is the Church of World Messianity? Does anyone still follow Eckiankar [sic]? Why no Scientology? Could a goat really carry a flag? Why do Muslims get two symbols and who holds the copyright to the second one?

But the funniest thing is that dorky atheist symbol. I don't call myself an atheist, but I'm sympathetic enough to want a cool logo for it. This one — apparently created by those Madeline Murray O'Hare wackos back in the 50s — is, shall we say, dated. As one commenter has noted, "itís too much an icon of the Atomic Age, evoking an Absolute Power of science. It says nothing of uncertainty, which is exactly what we must be willing to face if we are not to be tempted by the comforting embrace of belief." Plus it bespeaks a certain amount of hubris (ha!), given how that whole atomic energy/weapon stuff turned out.

Alternates have been proposed, but most face the dreaded, "can it be made into jewelry" problem, which is one thing that doomed the Invisible Pink Unicorn, which is entertaining but perhaps too adequately conveys how obnoxious capital-A Atheists can be. My favorite suggestion: *. In addition to the reasons proposed, it has just the right connotation of "whatever." Maybe it should be the ignostic symbol.

On a related note: Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Also, your favorite kinda looks like Kurt Vonnegut's asshole (http://www.vonnegutsasshole.blogspot.com/), which might be appropriate for this purpose. (Sorry, I don't know how to make hyperlinks.)

Symbols are for babies.

If pressed I like the old dogtag options, P, C, J, and NP. When I die in a trench in Manchuria and they drag my wasted bones back to Arlington to rest with my ancestors I want "NP" on my headstone. It stands for "No Preference" and, to me, has always implied an inviolable "whatever" attitude that spills over to suggest the others are just labels donned like baseball caps. But I suppose then they could also put anything else on my stone because, hey, I have no preference, man.

(I believe the other original choices were Parsi, Cao-Dai, and Juche)

So what's the recognized wiccan symbol in NV? The pentagram? An Ankh? A black cat?

The empty brackets null set would make a nice athiest symbol { }. The brackets are simple, symmetrical, and do not resemble a traffic sign. They would also make nice earrings, and possibly cufflinks.

I'm okay with the secular humanist symbol, myself, '70s-retro though it is. I like its enthusiasm! It looks like it's saying, "Yay! for people!"

For completeness, another symbol that should be mentioned here is the FSM logo. It's not precisely atheistic either, and what it actually does mean is still being figured out (a sort of neo-Deism, which embraces atheism as well as near-universal religious tolerance, appears to be emerging among what passes for theologians among the Pastafarians.)

Another longshot possibility I've considered is drawn as follows: imagine a white grid of 5x5 squares (with the grid lines not visible). Color in (in black) the top right square, the bottom left square, and the three squares on the diagonal between them. Then color in all the squares below (and right of) the diagonal, except leave the 2nd square from the bottom, 2nd square from the right, white.

What the heck is it? It's the first five steps of Wolfram's Rule 110 cellular automaton starting from a single black square, which demonstrates that simple rules can generate complex stuff -- with no supernatural kick-start required.

It's jewelry-ready, and though it's not symmetrical (unless hung askew/inverted from the blank square), if it flips over it just becomes Rule 124 which is just as good.

Way too obscure for now, but give Wolfram's "A New Science, Kind Of" another decade to spawn some memes that can survive in the general public.

Rose's Lime, I don't know for sure what Nevada chose, but the most common Wiccan symbol is an upright (one point pointing straight upward) pentagram (five pointed star) inscribed within a circle.

I have to ask Deborah -- if worn as earrings, would the brackets still be interpreted as empty?!

Walt - good question. I guess it would depend on who was wearing the earrings. Actually, I had pictured the earings as dangling - an empty bracket set hanging from each ear.

I drafted the grid of 5 x 5 squares as you described. I think it would make an excellent silk scarf.

Wot? No Church of God with Signs Following?


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