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"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them." — [[Steve Eley]]
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"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power.FUCK We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them." — [[Steve Eley]]
 
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Revision as of 07:10, 29 June 2008

A depiction of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, in the style of a heraldic animal springing.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) is the goddess of a satiric parody religion aimed at theistic beliefs, which takes the form of a unicorn that is paradoxically both invisible and pink.[1] These attributes satirize the contradictions in properties that some attribute to a theistic deity;[2] this makes her a common rhetorical illustration used by atheists and other religious skeptics.

The IPU is commonly used to mock supernatural beliefs as arbitrary by, for example, replacing the word god in any theistic statement with Invisible Pink Unicorn.[3] A quotation from the alt.atheism FAQ sums up this use of the Invisible Pink Unicorn: "The point of this silliness is to prod the theist into remembering that their preaching is likely to be viewed by atheists as having all the credibility and seriousness of [the atheists'] preaching about the IPU."[4]

It has become popular, especially on atheist websites and online discussion forums, to feign belief in the Invisible Pink Unicorn both for the sake of humor and as a form of critique or satire of theistic belief. These professions of faith intend to demonstrate the difficulty of refuting avowals of belief in phenomena outside human perception.[5][6]

History

The IPU seems to have become notable primarily through online culture: in addition to alt.atheism, where IPU still frequently comes up in discussions, there are now a number of web sites dedicated to her. The earliest known written reference to the IPU was on July 7, 1990[7] on the Usenet discussion group alt.atheism. Other sources concerning IPU state that she was "revealed to us" on alt.atheism.

The concept was further developed by a group of college students from 1994 to 1995 on the ISCA Telnet-based BBS. The students created a manifesto that detailed a nonsensical, yet internally consistent, religion based on a multitude of invisible pink unicorns. It is from this document that the most famous quotation concerning IPUs originated:

"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power.FUCK We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them." — Steve Eley

Eley's manifesto also spelled out the more whimsical articles of faith concerning IPUs, such as a fondness for raisin bread (which symbolizes the expanding universe) and the association with lost socks[8]. Eley dubbed himself the "Chief Advocate and Spokesguy" of the religion, naming a succession of other High Priests and Priestesses (HPs), in accordance with a stated theory that the one who writes the gospels is the one with all the real power in any religion, and is never the one martyred.[citation needed] The first of these HPs was Natalie Overstreet, who popularized the above quotation in her Usenet sig.[9]

Another member of the ISCA board, Wes Schrader, attempted to carry out a religious schism by founding a "Cult of the Very Stealthy Maroon Pegasus". His revolution was largely unsuccessful.[citation needed]

In 1996 a similar concept—a unicorn that no one can see—was adapted as a teaching device at Camp Quest, the first free-thought summer camp for kids established in the United States, by Dr. L. Wilson. As reported years later in the July 21, 2006 Cincinnati Enquirer, "Campers must try to prove that imaginary unicorns—as a metaphor for God—don't exist."[10] Richard Dawkins alluded to unicorns in this connection in his 2006 book The God Delusion, writing that "Russell's teapot, of course, stands for an infinite number of things whose existence is conceivable and cannot be disproved. [...] A philosophical favorite is the invisible, intangible, inaudible unicorn."[11]

By 2007, the IPU had gained underground ubiquity as a symbol of atheism.[12]

Dogma

This image features a pink unicorn but it has an alpha channel that makes the unicorn transparent, thus approximating the appearance of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Blank images have been humorously presented as depictions of the Invisible Pink Unicorn in order to highlight her invisibility.[13]

It is common when discussing the Invisible Pink Unicorn to point out that because she is invisible, no one can prove that she does not exist (or indeed that she is not pink). This is a parody of similar theistic claims about God—that God, as creator of the universe, is not subject to its laws and thus not materially detecting him tells us nothing about his existence or lack thereof. (It has likewise been said that trying to find God is like using a metal detector to search for unicorns in one's sock drawer.) The Invisible Pink Unicorn is an illustration which attempts to demonstrate the absurdity of citing attributes and a lack of evidence as proof of a deity's existence. Her two defining attributes, invisibility and color (pink), are inconsistent and contradictory; this is part of the satire. The paradox of something being invisible yet having visible characteristics (e.g., color) is reflected in some East Asian cultures, wherein an "invisible red string" is said to connect people who have a shared or linked destiny.[2]

The IPU and similar ideas have been used as teaching devices in the past. In his essay The Dragon in my Garage from his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In the Dark, Carl Sagan uses the example of an invisible dragon breathing heatless fire that someone claims lives in his garage.[14] The supposed dragon cannot be seen or heard or sensed in any way, nor does it leave footprints. We have no reason to believe this purported dragon exists. This raises the question: How does the claimant know that this is a dragon, rather than, for instance, a cat? For that matter, how can we know that the IPU is pink and has one horn instead of three horns, or none at all? This observation is suggested in the title of a book by Judith Hayes—In God We Trust: But Which One?

There are humorous mock-serious debates amongst her "followers" concerning her other attributes, such as whether she is completely invisible, or invisible to most, but visible to those who have faith in her (bearing similarities to The Emperor's New Clothes).[citation needed] Some of these debates are quite elaborate and tortuous, satirizing the disputatiousness and intricacy of many religions' theological debates.[citation needed] Despite this, over time some agreement has developed regarding her attributes, with the most humorous and incongruous generally gaining the greatest consensus. For example, it is more or less agreed that she is partial to ham and pineapple pizza, although some vegetarians dissent, arguing that because IPU is vegetarian, it must be pineapple and mushrooms. Pineapple, anyway, is agreed upon, as is the fact that she despises pepperoni. Another point of agreement is that IPU "raptures" socks, which accounts for their otherwise inexplicable tendency to disappear. Socks raptured from one's laundry are allegedly a "sign" of favor from IPU—or it could be disfavor, depending on who is asked, or perhaps upon which socks are raptured.

Similar to the Abrahamic devil, the Invisible Pink Unicorn is said to have an "opponent" in the Purple Oyster.[15]

"For I did see my unworthiness in Her sight, for I was a sinner, destined forever to spend existence in the presence of the unholy Purple Oyster, waxing his shell and massaging his most wretched and slimy feet. For lo, the Purple Oyster doth truly have feet, and the legs thereof, and the toes thereof, giving him dominion over all the clams of the seas, and allowing him to go unto the children of men, and tempt them unto destruction." — The Revelation of St. Bryce the Long-Winded (Partial), Chapter One, Verses 9 to 11[16]

Iconography

File:Uri.svg
The Invisible Pink Unicorn logo, which is sometimes used to represent atheism

Adumbrations of Invisible Pink Unicorn commonly show either a fading pink unicorn, or simply nothing. Images representing "sightings" of her, showing an unremarkable image of a place where the invisible being supposedly was "seen", are also commonly presented as part of the joke. There is an Invisible Pink Unicorn logo that was created by frequenters of alt.atheism and adopted by others, and it is possible to purchase T-shirts, coffee cups, and other paraphernalia featuring the logo. One website selling these items describes them as a subtle means for atheists to recognize one another without giving offense to non-atheists; this suggests that she has become a kind of emblem or mascot for atheists, particularly those who frequent online venues.

Epithets to the name of the Invisible Pink Unicorn in jocular discourse usually follow in brackets: Blessed Be Her Holy Hooves, Peace Be Unto Her, or May Her Hooves Never Be Shod, which in turn are often shortened to bbhhh, pbuh, or mhhnbs respectively.[17] These epithets recall, and are intended to satirize, the religious practice of adjoining epithets to the names of prophets, most famously Muhammad. (See peace be upon him and Islam and veneration for Muhammad.)

See also

References

  1. ^ Angeles, Peter A. (1992). Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy. Harper Perennial, New York. ISBN 0-06-461026-8. 
  2. ^ a b Maartens, Willie (2006-06-01). Mapping Reality: A Critical Perspective on Science and Religion. iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-40044-2.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Narciso, Dianna (2004-03-01). Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism. Media Creations. ISBN 1-932560-74-2.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Malkin, Michelle (September 30, 2000). "alt.atheism FAQ". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2005-02-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Jason Scott Yeldell (2004-11-03). A Call to Sanity. Trafford Publishing. p. 263. ISBN 1-4120-3096-X.  Check date values in: |date= (help); External link in |title= (help)
  6. ^ Jason Scott Yeldell (2005). "A Call to Sanity Web Forum". A Call to Sanity. 
  7. ^ Gibson, Scott (1990-07-17). "'Proof' of God's Existence" (Usenet post). Retrieved 2007-04-10. how about refuting the existence of invisible pink unicorns? 
  8. ^ Alex Tufty Ashman (2007-02-08). "The Invisible Pink Unicorn". BBC. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  9. ^ Natalie Overstreet (1994-07-19). "Veracity of Christianity". Newsgrouptalk.origins. 30h7po$33c@bmerha64.bnr.ca.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Clark, Michael D. (2006-07-21). "Camp: "It's Beyond Belief"". The Enquirer. Retrieved 2006-08-16.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2006). "The God hypothesis: the poverty of agnosticism". [[The God Delusion]] (Trade paperback ed.). Kent: Bantam Press. pp. 52–53. ISBN 9780593058251. Retrieved 2007-07-20.  URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  12. ^ Wallace, Niamh. "Female Bonding". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  13. ^ Portrait of the Invisible Pink Unicorn
  14. ^ Sagan, Carl. The Dragon In My Garage. The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In the Dark. ISBN 0-345-40946-9. 
  15. ^ Catherine Leah Palmer. "Fall & Redemption Of The Purple Oyster". Satire & Humour: The Invisible Pink Unicorn. 
  16. ^ "[[Saint|St]]".  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help); URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  17. ^ See for example [1]

External links