Ceremonial De-Deism

I turned on my engraver, and I scratched a bit of metal
And repeated this procedure many times
Now I’m looking at a little pile of atheistic money—
Godless nickels, godless quarters, godless dimes
If you want a godless penny, I’ve got some, but not too many
And I don’t have any dollar coins so far
Now you might well find it funny, scratching “God” off all my money
But you know? I like them better as they are.

So I saw the “atheists are hypocrites if they spend money, cos it says ‘In God We Trust’ on it” argument one too many times. And I’ve decided that from now on, whenever I see that argument made, I’m going to de-god another big batch of coins. I already have a marker I use on bills, but paper money only stays in circulation for maybe a couple of years, whereas coins stick around for decades. And yes, I just got done de-godding a big batch this morning, while waiting for a battery to charge so I could do my next task.

I’ve also decided that any and all donations to this site (there’s a donate button down there on the right) will be converted to coins and de-godded. Then comes the fun part–getting them into circulation. Coins tend to stick around in mason jars or cracked mugs until you get fed up and decide to roll them up and bring them to the bank–or worse, to a coin-star machine (why would anyone use those?). Godless money, on the other hand, I am very motivated to get into circulation. So I’ll be an atheist benefactor, topping off parking meters, pre-loading washing machines at the local laundromats (hey, people who use laundromats are generally people who could use some help–I remember those days well), throwing a handful of quarters into the buskers’ guitar cases, loading up the UNICEF boxes at halloween… and, yes, spending them myself–I’m only a part-time altruist; I do need to eat. But now, each quarter (or, if any of you are extremely generous, I’ll have the chance to wear out my engraver on some dollar coins!) spent will have two purposes–helping a particular individual, and spreading godless money.

Does this seem a tad obsessive? Not at all; it is the tiniest fraction of the effort used to put God on all that money in the first place. You want obsessive, try looking at the members of Congress who continue to affirm a motto that is in no danger of ever being recognized as the violation of the first amendment that it is. If this is simply ceremonial deism, then I am doing precisely nothing to these coins.

Call it ceremonial de-deism.


  1. Randomfactor says

    I carry a couple of silver certificate dollar bills in my wallet for the inevitable “all the money in your pocket has god on it.”

  2. Johnny Vector says

    Why you… You… You godless atheist you!!

    Hah! I showed you! That’s 200 quarters you have to de-scribe now! Take that!

  3. eric says

    I like it. Be sure to point out that un-unbelievers should have no problem with it because it’s only ceremonial crossing out.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Ooh! You showed me, indeed Johnny! And while I will happily de-god 200 quarters for you, might I ask if you would mind 50 Dollar coins instead? I’ll do it either way, of course!

    And thank you!

  5. Cuttlefish says

    I live lots of places. Or at least, I have been accused of living in at least three countries–but I am a united statesian.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    Happy to oblige! And yes, you may use dollar coins. Also I didn’t account for the PayPal cut, so it’s not quite as much as I said. Also also, I demand (on pain of me being a sad panda) that you give as many of them as possible (defined as “at least one”) to buskers. All the street performers I know would be amused if they noticed God had been removed from their coins. (Mostly I know magicians and clowns; magicians do seem to lean toward atheism. Or maybe I only hang out with the atheistest ones.)

  7. Cuttlefish says

    I was specifically thinking of the buskers when I asked if I could do dollars. It’s always a nice surprise, when you think someone just threw in quarters, to find dollars instead!

  8. says

    I don’t own an engraver, but I have tried just scratching “God” off the coins with a nail or screwdriver. It’s pretty hard to get the word totally off that way. The new quarters are the easiest. I’m sure it doesn’t look as good or as intentional as if I had a real engraving tool.

    Markita Lynda #5: I’ve always marked my bills with a marker, but I love the idea of using a hole-punch. It’s so much more obvious that way. Maybe I’ll switch over to that from now on. I wonder if that affects how long they stay in circulation?

  9. Linda Grilli Calhoun says

    My standard answer to that statement is, “I’ll give up using money when you give up using modern medicine.” L

  10. baal says

    I usually take my iron to the bills before I make the modification. Yeah, my wife looks at me funny too for doing it (the ironing not the de-godding).

    I’m not up to doing coins though the lasting years part is compelling.

  11. pipenta says

    I have a dremel. Need a clamp.

    Don’t need to remove it all. A simple strike-through will make the point nicely.

  12. Cuttlefish says

    A clamp is not all that necessary–I did not use one. It would make things neater, but would also make things take more time. I’m ok with sloppy.

    I am, though, a bit concerned that I might have problems with the newer dollar coins, with “in god we trust” on the edges, not on the faces.

    I will, of course, report.

  13. davidhart says

    Well, feel free to use my $10 chip-in (minus paypal fees) for dollar coins.

    Of course, I come from a land where we do not have any gods directly mentioned on our cash, but our coins contain a picture of the Queen with a set of initials some of which stand for the Latin for ‘Defender of the faith’. Still annoying, but at least it only presumes to speak for the Queen herself, rather than all the citizens. Plus probably most people don’t even know what it means, so there is no great fuss about it.

  14. Johnny Vector says

    Okay now, initials that stand for a Latin phrase meaning “defender of the faith”. That I could happily consider true ceremonial deism. If only because the mouth-breathers who use “In God we Trust” as a hammer to beat atheists with would be unlikely to know what it means.

  15. Some other Aaron says

    There was a recent Politifact entry on that:

    Supposedly having it on the edges was not prominent enough for its “non-religious” “ceremonial” message so it got moved back to the front.

    I have a stack of them here. The 2000 Sacagawea has the national establishment of religion on the front and nothing on the edge, and there’s a 2009 one that has the year and “E Pluribus Unum” on the edge but the motto on the front. George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison have it on the edge, while Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce have it on the front.

    So I guess just ask for the new dollar coins or the new new new ones instead of the new new ones and you should be fine.

  16. davidhart says

    Actually, I was wrong above. I forgot about the ‘DG’ in the initialism – which stands for the Latin for ‘by the grace of God’. So it kind of does presume to speak for us all – or at least, it presumes that God actually exists, not just that the Queen is the defender of the belief that God exists.

    Which is slightly worse, but still not as nakedly theocratic as ‘In God We Trust’.

  17. davidhart says

    Of course, the thing to say to anyone who calls an atheist a hypocrite for using money with ‘In God We Trust’ on it, is “Well, why aren’t you campaigning for the motto to be taken off the money so that atheists can use it without any issue? Or do you think that atheists ought to be legally barred from using cash?”.

    Some of them probably do think that, but at least making it clear like that will mean they are compelled to admit it.

  18. janeymack says

    I have a stamp that I use on the bills. It says, “E Pluribis Unum
    Federal Endorsement of a Deity or Religion Violates the U.S. Constitution.” With a bit of practice, I figured out how to position the stamp just right so that the “E Pluribis Unum” part precisely covers the offending phrase. And yes, I bought the stamp after hearing the ‘atheists are hypocrites…” crap one too many times. The ‘thunk’ of the stamp gives me a certain sense of satisfaction (although the way I cackle while stamping may alarm the children…)

  19. davidhart says

    Not that I don’t approve in principle, Janeymack, but I hope your stamp actually says ‘E Pluribus Unum’. Wouldn’t want the atheists to be seen to slip up on the spelling:-)


  20. crowepps says

    I don’t get the magical aura that’s supposed to be imparted to money by “In God We Trust”. Money containing that motto is eagerly accepted by casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, by prostitutes, by drug dealers, by doctors ripping off Medicare, and by every con artist and shyster in the country.

    If the motto is supposed to reflect the attitude and morals of the bearer, the god in question must be Mammon.

  21. thisisaturingtest says

    The whole “atheists are hypocrites for using money that says ‘In God We Trust'”is ridiculous just on its face. “Hypocrisy” is pretending to virtues or principles one does not possess; and, since pretense implies a choice to do otherwise, you can’t be a hypocrite if you’re not given a choice.

  22. janeymack says

    Davidhart, that’ll teach me to hit “submit” without previewing first! The stamp does, in fact, say ‘Pluribus.’ Blasted ‘i’ and ‘u’ keys right next together…

    You made me laugh, btw. Usually I’m the pedant in the room. :)


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