The Gnu Atheist symbol

October 11, 2010 • 2:21 pm

We all know—and some of us wear proudly—the red script “A” for “atheist.”  But here’s a Gnu one: the symbol of Gnu Atheism, apparently invented by Aratina Cage, Molly Award winner and commenter on this site, too.

I declare it official.

And let’s not forget that “gnu” is the older name for “wildebeest,” which comes in two species: black and blue. Both are famed for their godlessness and tenacity.

128 thoughts on “The Gnu Atheist symbol

  1. I’ll freely admit that I don’t especially care for this whole ‘Gnu Atheism’ meme. Not because I don’t agree with the idea of outspoken atheists, you understand, but rather because gnu are herd animals, something which I decidedly am not.

    1. But don’t you see? We’re not ‘gnu atheists’ because we cherish outspokenness. Far from it. It’s coz we do suffer from herd mentality and can never brook dissent or even individualism. At least that’s how the rest see us anyway.

    2. I like the Gnu pun, but I still don’t see what’s so “new” about “New Atheism”, except perhaps its increasing profile. Rational people have been calling BS on religion for centuries.

      1. Agreed, the only thing new about us is that there’s more of us than in the past – we’re the newmerous atheists.

  2. I know it’s not supposed to be serious, but that’s still a poorly designed logo. I think the same of the Zapfino “A” that has become so popular thanks to Dawkins (love the guy…but his designer just isn’t very good).

    1. You or anyone else are welcome to make a better one or tell me what I can do to make this one better. As it is, it’s just a red “A” in Pump Demi Bold font with wildebeest-like horns. I am kind of curious as to what you mean by “poorly designed” and interested in how to make a well designed logo.

          1. I used photoshop, but programs don’t really matter. Almost any program will do, though vector based programs like illustrator are preferred for logo or typography design.

          1. It’s just an ‘A’ in a photoshop font (sorry I forget which one!) on which I placed the horns from your original figure and then upped the contrast to make it black – although any color would do. The tail gives it a more fluid, joined-up writing feel – as well as fitting in with the animal theme (and annoying religious people who will think it signifies the devil!)

        1. Oh, Yes! A tee shirt! Someone could make a few bucks for research by selling tee shirts and mugs with the Gnu on Cafe Press.

  3. Too cute. I want something FIERCE!!!

    Dangerous Gnu. Glowering Gnu.

    Plus, someone’s bound to think that it’s a marriage between someone from University of Texas and Auburn or Alabama.

    Heh. I was just thinking about the impossibility of herding cats…if ever there was a demonstration of it, here it is.

  4. Meh. It should have some element of classical design to suggest the self-referential fact that GNUs aren’t GNU. With black in mind, how about:


  5. No thanks! I don’t care to hide behind Gnu.

    Lets have a lapel pin that spells out “Atheist” or a button that says “Faith is a vice” (maybe with an “A” on it also). Then, the pious might know what we mean. Even though I’ve never worn pins/buttons before, I now sport “A” and sculpted FSM lapel pins all the time; however, I’ve seen no indication that anyone knows what they mean.

    1. I wear the scarlet A in both pin, button, and shirt forms. I’ve had similar numbers of people know what it was (and respond with some kind of high-five equivalent) and not know but ask. OK… it’s only been about three of each kind, but it’s not nothing!

      1. You’re doing better than I. I’ve had the “A” over 2 1/2 years with only 1 person asking about it–otherwise, nothing that I was sure of. Anyway, I’d rather the pious see something that would have a chance of sticking with them because they’ve not heard it before and it challenges the irrational root of their nonsense. To get what I want, I’d have to have a button made and I’ve haven’t done that.

  6. Prof. Coyne,

    Is the symbol evolving?

    Is this the result of natural selection or drift or some other effect?

    Can you identify the survival benefit of the new symbol’s features, such as its horns or its bright color?

    The new symbol is not adopting protective coloration or indeed any form of camouflage. Is natural selection driving it away from accommodation?

            1. I asked one in a prayer, Its word to me was that you would understand.

              So I don’t understand why you don’t??? Surely you won’t suggest that my prayer wasn’t worthy of your respect?

            2. I don’t care if it has anything to do with gnu’s. I loved seeing that lion get bull horned 8 ft threw the air. It’s not something I see everyday.

    1. This seems the most appropriate part of the thread in which to drop this. I wanted to see how quickly the new logo idea might be spreading, so I did a google image search on “Gnu Atheism” and had a brief flush of utterly unearned pride: the first human face that comes up is my own gravatar. Darwin trails me in second place, followed at even greater distance by Ophelia as number three, and I don’t see Jerry at all, not even after Hitchens and Tim Skellett. Completely accidental, of course, and does not shake my atheism in the slightest. Just wanted to crow.

  7. I love it. It is the Jacobi-Cage logo. Or should it be the Hamilton-Aratina logo, for friendlies?

    The whole thing pisses off the Other faction. Some of them flounce off in a huff if one even uses the word.

      1. I am deeply offended. Your frivolous disrespect for the feelings of others is not helping. In fact, you’re making the baby Carl Sagan cry. Don’t you feel guilty?

  8. What an honor from the head Gnu himself! I’m glad you like it. Of course, I started out making it by shamelessly trying to replicate Dawkins’ “A” because I wanted to give it horns, but while flipping through the fonts trying to find the one used by Dawkins (which I don’t have), I ran across the Pump Demi Bold LET “A” and thought it went well with the horns.

    It was only when I had it almost finished that I noticed it kind of looked like a gnu’s behind, and I decided I liked it that way because it adds another layer of meaning to the symbol: we often hear our detractors whine about how we are all a**holes. 😀

    1. Maybe you could add a raised tail, to enhance the symbolism.

      But I don’t understand why the gnu’s digestive system is so straight that you can see out his mouth on the other side.

      Perhaps it’s just because he’s braying vigorously.

  9. I wonder if the GNU and the Free Software Foundation would approve this usurpation of their naming scheme and mascot!

  10. I think it’s terrific. I think the thick, rounded font makes it look very muscular, in keeping with the fetching muscularity of gnu atheists and of actual gnus.

    There’s serendipitous symbolism in the whole wildebeest thing too. Although the popular perception of them is hapless prey item, no creature knows better than a lion how tough and ornery they really are.

    I’m half tempted to say “Bring on Lewis’s fleabag pussycat Aslan”, but that sad old beast is too tired and arthritic to bear being tossed about on the sniny horns of the gnus.

        1. Uh, no…I apologize. I was apparently reading ‘masculinity’ for ‘muscularity.’ And I’m not even a po-mo feminist…Wish I could go back and just delete that…Every time I try to be too glib, I end up with egg on my face, sigh.

  11. How would I go about stealing the logo and making it my icon for wordpress? Would I have to arm wrestle aratina or something?

    1. My response to you is tied up in moderation, but you can save the image by right-clicking on it and choosing save, and then you can modify it as you like. I’ll put up the direct links on my blog, too.

      1. I don’t know how to get the logo onto wordpress. I just get signed on automatically to my word press sights, and the logo I have appears.

        I know you have some computer super powers, because I witnessed you making DM disappear on Debunking Christianity. (‘Twas awesome!)

        1. Yeah, that was fun. John Loftus is a great guy!

          So, where exactly do you want this logo on your blog? I’m not too familiar with WordPress blogs but will try and help you any way I can. You can find my public email address in my Blogger profile if you want to ask me privately.

        2. I was hoping to make it my avatar like Ophelia’s butterfly, but I was unsuccessful. It shows up if you hover over my square and then click on it, but I guess I have to be a tan piece of quilt until I can figure out these ‘durn newfangled computer thingies.

          1. Let’s see.

            1. Go here (you might have to log in):

            2. Click on the email address you use for commenting on this blog. If it is not there, you need to add it by clicking “add a new email” and following the instructions they give you.

            3. With the correct email selected (it has a blue border around it), click on the Gnu A image toward the bottom of the screen.

            4. Click the “Confirm” button.

            That should do it.

          2. Also, click on “Check this avatar” under the email address after you follow those steps to see if the image shows up correctly for the differently rated sites. If it does, you can refresh this blog and your avatar should appear here, too.

  12. By the way I guess everyone gnu that a Gnu is the symbol of the Free Software Foundation. Gnu is Not Unix (recursive acronym)×276.jpg

    Since RMS is an atheist I am sure he doesn’t mind you using it as a symbol too. But how about everyone starts getting rid of proprietary operating systems like Windows and OSX and running GNU/Linux instead to show Gnu solidarity.

    Posted from a GNU/Linux system. It’s a brave gnu world and I gnu you would understand.

  13. All this gnu-for-new business has me wondering if I’m the only person who actually pronounces the g in gnu. Surely it’s meant to be pronounced; I scarcely think the first European to write down this African word thought to himself, “Hey, I think I’ll spell it with a silent g in front just for kicks.” There must have been something audible there to motivate that spelling. (And apparently gnu derives from !nu, where ! represents a click.)

    1. I always assumed that you were supposed to pronounce the g in gnu.

      But then I’m an Australian, so “new” and “gnu” could never rhyme for me anyway. (We pronounce new as “nyoo” rather than “noo”. Also Mountain Dew as “Mountain Jew” rather than “Mountain Doo”.)

      That clicky etymology is way cool. I had no idea.

      1. Oh, and there’s that gag with the punchline that you have to “paddle your own gnu”. You have to pronounce the g for that to be (barely) identifiable as a joke.

      2. According to (and backed up by Oxford Dictionaries Online), “gnu” rhymes with “new” in both the American and Australian accents (“noo” and “nyoo”), while the Free Software Foundation distinguishes its acronym by pronouncing “GNU” with a hard “g”.

        1. Really? Then that ancient joke about the parental corporal punishment of wildebeest calves is even dumber.

          You are, of course, correct in pointing out that “nyoo” rhymes with “noo”. What I meant to say was that they’re not entirely homophonous (if indeed homophonous is a real word and not one I just made up).

          1. Ah, homophonous. Yes, that is what I should have written. According to the online dictionaries I consulted, “gnu” is a homophone of “new” in both versions of English–“gnu” can be said either way. For instance, the pronunciations of “new” and “gnu” are both listed as /n(y)o͞o/ in the Oxford dictionary.

            1. ORLY? They’re homophonous too? Wow. The English language really is a pronunciation free-for-all these days.

          2. Has anyone done the joke about the dyslexic who held up a bank with a Wildebeest yet ? just throwing it in.

        2. I don’t doubt that many (perhaps most) people today treat the g as silent, and modern dictionaries are correct to record this fact of actual usage. That still leaves unanswered the question of why it’s silent, and what the heck it’s doing there if it was meant to be silent in the first place (which I don’t believe it was).

  14. The interesting thing about this logo is that the letter A was originally written the other way up and represented a bull’s head with horns. So what we have here is A being given a new (gnu) pair of horns to replace the original set! I think this is very funny, but I am odd, I know.

    “I’m a gnu, a-g-nother gnu, I wish I could g-nash my teeth at you!”

      1. Come on, how about an acknowledgment of the writers, the immortal Flanders and Swann.

        They also penned the Hippopotamus song, and – my favourite – the The Slow Train.

        1. Caught out again! Yes, I am a philistine. (Pardon the etymology.) But your contribution led to an interesting Google safari; and I actually do know “Have Some Madeira M’Dear.” 😀

          1. ah yesss!! how could I forget that one.

            I even remember performing it at a drunken diplomatic party. The Korean hosts were quite baffled. “Humour transfers between cultures with great difficulty.” or something..

        2. I’m with the Flanders and Swann crowd (I will never forget how much I laughed the first time I heard the “Happy Song” – I think I had trouble breathing afterwards) and I’m also very much on board with the logo (makes me think of Monty Python or Basil Fawlty, can’t quite put my finger on why yet). Maybe it could go viral with Facebook – just looked and there’s a Gnu Atheism page already liked by 9 (!) people with a photoshopped PZ with horns.

          Biggest problem I can see is that Donald Swann was a pretty devout Christian…

  15. Crikey, a tail! This is why you shouldn’t make logos by committee! What’s next, droppings?

    Seriously, can someone make a high-res A with the horns and make it available to everyone?

        1. I can’t speak for anyone else involved in the whole gnu atheist meme, but I did not create that Gnu Atheist symbol to make money, so if someone wants to put it on a lapel pin or a shirt or a mug or anything else and sell it or give it away, that is fine by me.

          I also think Sputnik’s latest version is a great improvement over the original, so I hope Sputnik will agree to that, too.

      1. @Sputnik I think that’s great! It’s replaced my old scarlet A. Thank you (I assumed that was ok as it was in reply to “Seriously, can someone make a high-res A with the horns and make it available to everyone?”)

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