|"Not good enough, Atheists! Not good enough!" (source)|
Although I'm a Canadian and this seems to be an American thing, I'll attempt to interpret things the best I can.
Atheist Holiday Display: "A" Does Not Stand for "Art"
Don’t just say “no.” If unbelievers want to compete in the holiday bazaar of ideas, they’ll need to find better symbols.
I think it's us atheists (unbelievers) who are saying "no" by not participating nicely in the religious symbolism of the season. And apparently, our symbol is not good enough to compete in the holiday bazaar of ideas.
There is so much wrong with this article that I, at first, thought it was some kind of practical joke.
News last week that holiday decorations in Chicago’s Daley Plaza will be joined this year by a light-up “A” for atheism served as a reminder that though the anti-religion camp may claim victory over believers on many fronts, iconography is not one of them.
I suppose any sort of positive feelings the atheist community may have just aren't good enough. You know, of finally being represented in the public square by having overtly atheist symbols displayed alongside overtly religious ones? I guess these are merely invalid marketing devices unless folks like Peter find said symbols sufficiently artistic.
And never mind that atheists would not feel the need to put up displays if religious folk would stop doing likewise on public land. More on that later.
Here are some more confusing extracts.
... the Daley Plaza “A” is the latest aesthetically challenged branding effort by organized unbelief.Branding effort? It's a symbol that's nearly universally recognized in the atheist movement to represent said movement! How much more branding do we need?
I’m not so sure. Public atheists may or may not have an image problem, but they certainly have an aesthetics problem, and considering why this is so might shed some light on the bias a majority of Americans continue to hold against them.Yes, that must be it. If we only got better symbols! Like maybe... uhmm... hmmm... yeah... tricky to come up with one...
Or better benches! Yes, that's the ticket to acceptance, better benches!
But apparently, the real messaging problem here is that atheists, as a group, define themselves as a negative -- as not believing in God! If only people who do not believe in gods would stop forming communities of like-minded people and telling people they do not believe in god! It's such a downer for religious people!
Yet to present atheism merely as a big “no” sends a signal of opposition rather than the inclusion the Out Campaign claims to seek, creating the perception that those who loudly self-identify as non-believers do so mainly to tell others what to believe. Employing symbols that make them seem just as smug and self-satisfied as the public religious displays they abhor, atheists too often come off as startlingly incurious and un-self-aware for supposedly enlightened souls.Wow. What can I say about this? Atheism means no belief in gods. And the message here is not telling people what to believe, it's merely showing people that we exists! Why would he even think we're attempting to foist any sorts of dogma onto others?
He dost protest too much. Can you say religious projection? Perhaps those who set up religious displays are doing so in hopes to tell others what to believe, maybe not. And when it comes to public religious displays atheists abhor, in many cases the atheist groups are setting up their religious symbols to counter the religious ones on public land. If the religious symbols come down, so would the atheist ones.
“If the government is going to open up a public forum to religion, then it has to permit the nonreligious — nearly 20% of our nation today — to express our point of view as well,” commented FFRF Co-President Dan BarkerBut things get really weird towards the middle of the piece. There he muses that the Scarlet-A really came from Action Comics!
The Dawkins Foundation’s “A” is a case in point. The Out Campaign grandly calls it the “Scarlet Letter” to suggest that atheists are like Hester Prynne, wronged by the hypocrisy of an overwhelmingly religious society. The letter itself bears a stronger resemblance to a more recent cultural touchstone, however. Surely there are a few among Dawkins’s acolytes who are sufficiently comic book literate that they recognized their “A” looks torn directly from the pages of Action Comics?I don't know if this is an attempt to belittle the symbol further or give it some kind of boost. Honestly, the piece then falls completely into a bunny hole when he draws bizarre comparisons between Super Man, from Action Comics, and the Christ... or the anti-Christ. Who's to say? It's like the moving carpet scene at the casino in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
While the case has been made that Superman is either a Christ figure or the anti-Christ, he also served a fully secular function. As the son of an advanced civilization, he was perhaps first of all a symbol of the mid-century hope that science would bring true salvation.What the hell? He goes on to say that the American Atheists symbol actually comes from a cartoon character. At this point I'm hoping I won't run into theories about chem trails.
A closer look at the Florida courthouse bench suggests that the American Atheists, too, owe something to comic book aesthetics. As Gordon Haber noticed last July, the “A” symbol used in that case, depicted as the nucleus of an atom, “calls to mind not atheism but the scientism of mid-century America, the era of Reddy Killowatt and ‘better living through chemistry.’” It was also the symbol of The Atom, a forgotten superhero who could shrink to the size of a molecule or expand to that of a planet. His alter ego was a physicist: a representative of all that humanity could know about the universe and its godless laws.Surely this is a joke. Or else Manseau has not cared to do any research whatsoever and is simply making this stuff up out of his butt as he goes along. From the American Atheists website (found in less than 1 minute with Google):
An international symbol for Atheism has long been needed. When American Atheists was formed in 1963, a contemporary scientific symbol was chosen; this acknowledges that only through the use of scientific analysis and free, open inquiry can humankind reach out for a better life.No mention of comic book characters. You know, if it weren't so strange it actually would be a little insulting. And then he hits a sort of conclusion based on the utter nonsense he fabricated previously.
If this fixation on the typography and symbolism of fifty-year-old comic books smacks of arrested development, well, it is tempting to say, “if the Scarlet Letter fits…”AAAAAAAAARRRGHGR!!! Nooooooo!
We then slide into talking about how Tim Minchin portrays a positive image of Atheism with his beautiful song "White Wine in the Sun".
At least I like Tim Minchin, so some pain is alleviated.
I agree this is a nice portrayal of what some atheists do and care about, but it doesn't convey atheism as such. Is Manseau suggesting we wait until summer and then set up some some white wine in Daley Plaza? Somehow I think the scarlet-A is a much more effective for that venue!
So, too, the song serves as a reminder that, like it or not, we live in a world that has been shaped by the strange story being told in churches this month. Without some better stories of their own, the sponsors of Daley Plaza’s atheist “A” will need a miracle if they want their message to be heard.If people like Manseau feel the need to write articles like these then I think the message is being heard loud and clear, thank you. No strange stories required.
This essay was made possible through a program of the Social Science Research Council with support of the John Templeton Foundation. Visit Reverberations for more information.Templeton Foundation? Well, that explains everything.