On the Christian Broadcasting Network's "Bring It On" question and answer segment posted on YouTube today, televangelist Pat Robertson had some advice for a woman who was fretting about her grandchildren wearing t-shirts with skulls and peace signs on them.
His co-host, Terry Meeuswen, thought that peace signs were part of the drug culture, but Robertson insisted that, "It's an upside down, broken cross and the skulls are symbols of death. That's more Halloween stuff than Christmas. I don't think they ought to be wearing that kind of thing." His advice was that the grandmother should suggest that the kids wear sometime prettier.
The modern peace symbol is, in fact, a satanic symbol called the "Cross Of Nero" (Nero was a Roman emporer who was infamous for his ruthless persecution and murder of Christians). The symbol is an inverted, broken Christian cross in a circle and is supposed to signify the defeat of Christianity (see Bob Larson's book, Satanism, p.109). This represents how peace in the modern world is a false, antichristian peace.
The peace sign was actually the commissioned work of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, completed on February 21, 1958, by British commercial artist Gerald Holtom. The Straight Dope, a website devoted to fighting ignorance, notes:
After doodling around with several versions of the Christian cross set in a circle, Holtom hit on the crow's-foot idea. This had a couple things going for it. First, it was a combination of the semaphore signals for N and D, standing for Nuclear Disarmament. N is two flags held in an upside-down V, and D is one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. Second, the crow's-foot has an ancient history as a symbol of death and despair — it looks like somebody spreading his hands in a gesture of defeat. The symbol is shown in a 1955 tome called The Book of Signs by Rudolph Koch, a German calligrapher, although it's unclear whether Holtom saw it there. The circle, finally, can mean "eternity," "the unborn child," and so on. From there it's easy to cook up a suitably apocalyptic interpretation of the symbol as a whole.
During the heyday of the peace movement, other interpretations of the symbol were also offered. A national Republican newsletter noted that it looked a lot like an emblem used by the Nazis during World War II — an apparent coincidence. Another interpretation, widely promoted by the John Birch Society and other right-wing groups, was that the symbol was really the "broken cross," sign of the Antichrist. One Bircher wrote that the broken cross had originally been devised by the Roman emperor Nero, who had Saint Peter crucified on it upside down. In the Middle Ages the symbol allegedly was used to signify the devil. I haven't discovered any good evidence for either of these contentions.
Right-wingers, you'll remember, also distributed bumper stickers featuring the peace symbol with the slogan, "Footprint of the American Chicken," showing that their sense of humor was no less acute then than now.