I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thoughts? Comments?

So, I used to have a "Darwin fish" logo on my car (s). I finally stopped because they kept getting stolen. I suspect it wasn't fellow atheists snatching the symbols, but Christians who were offended by the insult to their faith.

And, in fairness, the Darwin Fish has some drawbacks as an atheist symbol. First and foremost, it is a direct parody of a Christian symbol, and I'm not an atheist only of Christianity. I don't believe in Islam, Buddhism, Scientology, or Ch'thuluism, either. Second, it equates Darwinism with atheism, which is unfair to both. Darwin's theory of natural selection is a tightly targeted scientific theory that helps us understand the order of the biological world. By itself, it makes no commentary at all on any religious belief. It is difficult to reconcile it with a literal interpretation of the bible, but, on the other hand, so does all geology and astronomy. The Bible as scientific truth fell apart long before Darwin. And, as far as atheism goes, there is nothing about atheism that requires an understanding or agreement with Darwin. Atheists predate Darwin by thousands of years. The Soviets were officially atheists, but they were also Lamarkians, rejecting Darwin. While I am an atheist who believes in natural selection, the two are still distinct and separate ideas.

Searching for atheist tee shirts online, I found a lot of "in your face, Jesus!" type shirts. But, I wasn't happy. I wanted something that said, positively, "I am an atheist, and I'm happy about it," without it being an attack or an insult on anyone else. The logo above is what I've come up with.

Anyone have any thoughts or comments? Do you like it? Does it seem positive? If you were a christian, would it enrage you to the point that you'd vandalize my car?


Loren Eaton said...

James, I have something I've been meaning to tell you: We apprehenders of your Darwin fish are actually a league. Well, really a small social club, truth be told. We smuggled a GPS transponder onto your car and were planning to melt down said fishies and make them into a giant Cthulhu fish that will ride on your roof. It's brought us a rare solidarity of purpose, but we're still a few dozen short. How about you put off this whole t-shirt thing until we're reached our goal?

James Maxey said...

Loren, I aways suspected it was a plot. I tried wrapping my car in tin foil to throw off the signal, but it messed with my reception of NPR. Alas, you will get no more Darwin fish from me. As much as I might desire a roof-cthulhu, with gas edging back up to the $3 mark, I can't afford the extra wind resistance. Of course, stripping my car of the Darwin fish did reduce weight, thereby increasing my fuel efficiency. For this, my friend, I am sincerely grateful.

Loren Eaton said...

Ah, but I'm afraid you're forgetting some of the unique advantages of the Cthulhu fish. Being a genuine specimen from the dim depths of Carcosa (and, as such, not conforming to Euclidean geometry), it will actually bend the world around you. Or the Carcosan ones do. We didn't want to pay shipping for the genuine article, so we're making it ourselves. C'mon, give it a try! We're mostly sure it will work.

James Maxey said...

My true fear of a roof-Cthulhu is that it might reduce me to gibbering madness, where I would wander around the streets mindlessly blathering about comic strips, god, cats, and the military industrial complex. My terror comes from the suspicion that no one would notice any difference. Who needs this kind of stress?

Mr. Cavin said...

Actually it always ruffles my feathers just a little when the fish-with-legs icon is taken to mean atheism. I understand that while most say "Darwin" in the body of the fish, there are some which go so far as to actually say "atheist", somewhat confusing the issue.

But the original sentiment is very much just a blow to specific Christian factions protesting curricula excluding creation from why class. Go fish! But this was never intended to indicate a disbelief in all theology. Certainly Stephen Jay Gould, a devout Catholic, had one on his own limo, right?

I find it barely excusable, then, when those targeted fundies--who never really allow other points of view into heaven anyway--assume that evolution equates atheism. But nobody else really has that excuse. Other Christians need to understand that it is a celebration of God's infinite diversity and the perpetual forward motion He has perfected in the cycle of worldly life.

Of course, the problem with co-opting a specifically religious symbol is that it is heretical. And that pissed off the bumper vandals, I guess, without them having to be all that clear on the proper argument.

As to the above: It's okay, but I don't love "legion" because the word--especially with the star--makes the whole thing look a little comic booky. I say you return to your simple declarative label: faith-based atheist. Plenty of places for stars in there, too, if you must.

Sean said...

The whole league thing is too communist. They dont need any more exuses to tie atheists to communism.

James Maxey said...

Cavin, I was going for comic booky. I want to create the impression that atheists can be a bunch of do-gooders. I may even start wearing a cape.

Sean,if baseball and Superman's friends can survive the lable of "league," I suspect atheists can do okay under it. I'm willing to bet in a word association game, "Justice" would be triggered by "league" at a much higher rate than "communist." Also, the logo is red white and blue and has a star.It doesn't trigger even a little American iconography?

Steven R. Stewart said...

As the son of a Christian pastor, I can tell you that almost ANYTHING that contradicts the Christian faith (or even their perception of the Christian faith) can offend even the nicest, most well-meaning Christian people. Sure, the new design is not a direct parody of the Ichthys, but some might object to the American iconography being applied to something that contradicts their view of the USA as a Christian nation.

I would say being in-your-face about any religious or anti-religious beliefs is not the way to go, so bravo on not being intentionally confrontational about the whole thing. But that said, you're never going to make any religious organization/group even OKAY with your particular set of beliefs. (If you do somehow manage it, tell me how!)

Julia said...

James, I like your proposed sign. The red, white and blue is particularly appealing for the message your are trying to convey here.

I enjoy reading your posts...keep blogging!

James Maxey said...

Julia, I promise to keep blogging as long as my fingers hold out, or until this whole "internet" fad blows over.

Steven, my strategy for acceptance is simply to be "out" and not be a monster. Gays have made tremendous leaps in acceptance simply by refusing to hide their sexual identities. Sure, plenty of people still hate them--maybe even a majority--but there's no denying it is much more acceptable today to be gay than it was twenty or thirty years ago. I think the same is true of atheism. I still meet a lot of closeted atheists who fear the reaction of friends and family if they allow their inner most thoughts to be known. But, as more people openly identify as atheists, fair-minded people are going to be able to see that we're not soulless, amoral monsters. We're neighbors and, yeah, we're Americans. There is no place I'd rather live openly as an atheist than right here in the USA. Time and time again, my right to believe as I choose has been upheld. Soldiers have died so that I might have the freedoms I currently enjoy. I will gladly wave my flag, both as American and Atheist, seeing no contradiction between the two.