Invisible Pink Unicorn

Invisible Pink Unicorn

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. [cite book |last=Angeles |first=Peter A. |title=Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy |publisher=Harper Perennial, New York |year=1992 | isbn=0-06-461026-8] These attributes satirize the contradictions in properties that some attribute to a theistic deity;cite book |last=Maartens |first=Willie |url= |title=Mapping Reality: A Critical Perspective on Science and Religion |publisher=iUniverse |date=2006-06-01 |isbn=0-595-40044-2] this makes her a common rhetorical illustration used by atheists and other religious skeptics.

The IPU is commonly used to argue that supernatural beliefs are arbitrary by, for example, replacing the word "God" in any theistic statement with "Invisible Pink Unicorn". [cite book |last=Narciso |first=Dianna |url= |title=Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism |publisher=Media Creations |date=2004-03-01 | isbn=1-932560-74-2] 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." [cite web |url= |title=alt.atheism FAQ |author=Malkin, Michelle |date=September 30, 2000 |publisher=Internet Archive |accessdate=2005-02-11]

It has become popular on atheist websites and online discussion forums to feign belief in the Invisible Pink Unicorn both for the sake of humor and to point out what they perceive as a logical flaw of theistic belief. These professions of faith intend to demonstrate the difficulty of refuting avowals of belief in phenomena outside human perception. [cite book |url= |title=A Call to Sanity| isbn=1-4120-3096-X |publisher=Trafford Publishing |author=Jason Scott Yeldell |date=2004-11-03 |pages=263] [cite web |url= |title=A Call to Sanity Web Forum |author=Jason Scott Yeldell |year=2005 |publisher=A Call to Sanity]


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, 1990cite web
title='Proof' of God's Existence
format=Usenet post
quote=how about refuting the existence of invisible pink unicorns?
] 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. 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 sockscite web
title=The Invisible Pink Unicorn
author= [ Alex Tufty Ashman]
] . 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.Fact|date=February 2007 The first of these HPs was Natalie Overstreet, who popularized the above quotation in her Usenet sig. [cite newsgroup
author=Natalie Overstreet
title=Veracity of Christianity

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." [cite news
title=Camp: "It's Beyond Belief"
first=Michael D.
publisher=The Enquirer
] 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."cite book
authorlink=Richard Dawkins
title=The God Delusion
edition=Trade paperback
publisher=Bantam Press
chapter=The God hypothesis: the poverty of agnosticism

By 2007, the IPU had gained underground ubiquity as a symbol of atheism.cite journal
title=Female Bonding
journal=Phoenix New Times


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.

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 "", Carl Sagan uses the example of an invisible dragon breathing heatless fire that someone claims lives in his garage. [cite book |url= |title=The Dragon In My Garage |first=Carl |last=Sagan |work=The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In the Dark |isbn=0-345-40946-9] 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?

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"). Some of these debates are quite elaborate and tortuous, satirizing the disputatiousness and intricacy of many religions' theological debates.

Similar to the Abrahamic devil, the Invisible Pink Unicorn is said to have an "opponent" in the Purple Oyster. [cite web |url= |title= Fall & Redemption Of The Purple Oyster |work=Satire & Humour: The Invisible Pink Unicorn |author=Catherine Leah Palmer]

"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 [cite web| title=The Revelation of St. Bryce the Long-Winded (Partial) |author=Simon |url=]


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 featured on T-shirts, coffee cups, and other paraphernalia. 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. [See for example [] ] 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

* Church of the SubGenius
* Conversational intolerance
* Discordianism
* Fideism
* Flying Spaghetti Monster
* Out Campaign
* Religious satire
* Theological noncognitivism


External links

* [ Earliest known mention on usenet: 1990-07-17]
* [ Invisible Pink Unicorn logo]

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