Saturday, 24 November 2007

To "A" or not to "A"?

Ever since the Out Campaign was launched, I have debated with myself over whether I want to display the scarlet A on this blog.

On the one hand, I am technically an atheist: my worldview lacks a positive belief in a god.

On the other hand, that is well down there in the list of the most important things about my Humanism - below things like "Treat others with respect" and "Seek the truth and avoid cheap knock-offs".

But on the other hand, "Atheist" is a more recognizable brand for my beliefs than my preferred label, "Humanist".

On the other hand (yes, I know, too many hands - I'm a linguist, not a biologist!), it's not my job to make it easier for people to pigeonhole me.

So I've waffled and pondered, and finally come up with a compromise that suits me. It sort of expresses the fact that I'm a Humanist who agrees with much of what the wider community of Atheists stands for. And, when it comes down to it, I really do think that one thing we (Humanists, Atheists, whatever) need is to simply be counted - let people know how common we are.

So here is my compromise:

The A is copyright-free, and although the BHA owns the copyright to the Happy Human, they seem to be happy for people to use and adapt it. So I'm comfortable that I can do the above without legal trouble. But what about community trouble - my fellow Humanist and Atheist bloggers and web-users in general?

What do you think? Do you use the A? Do you avoid it? Is my compromise helpful or am I just playing the unherdable cat, dividing what should be a unified effort into separate factions?


  1. I avoid the A, despite being a firm atheist.

    If I had to choose a defining aspect of myself it would be my strong belief in the importance of individual liberty - and I don't see that as a strict atheist vs. theist issue. Categorising myself in simplistic terms just seems like a good way of alienating people I might otherwise find on my side.

    If I were you, I'd just stick with the happy human symbol.

  2. Better yet, wait until I get my "P-campaign" going. ;)

    I have some particular issues about the "A-campaign" that really irks me. (But you might know I'm not a big fan of modernistic labels.)

    Summarised in too few words: I don't really see the point in de-stigmatising a label. I see the point in de-stigmatising what the label points to. And this is best done through relationships rather than pigeon-holes.

    Um... anyway. There's where my P-campaign needs to get started. Hopefully within two weeks. Shall I make it scarlet as well?

    Ah, I'm a dreamer. It's probably a silly idea, but it's worth a try. (Apologies for not giving any more info just yet.)

  3. Generally, I like to promote the Happy Human - it's a pretty symbol that I can draw myself (sort of - my drawing skills are appalling), and it represents a worldview that is more complete than simple "atheism".

    On the other hand, the prominent people promoting the scarlet A - Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, etc - are not "simple atheists". They have excellent, ethical, non-theistic approaches to the world. They just tend to use the "atheist" label (probably because it's more well-known) rather than "humanist". So I want to show support for their efforts too.

    Hugo, I look forward to learning more about this mysterious "P-campaign". Do keep me posted.

  4. I think the 'A' is unnecessary.

    Besides, the red letter 'A', especially when stylized like that, stands for 'Anarchist'.


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