In _____ we trust

January 28, 2015 • 6:13 pm

UPDATE:  Reader Robin has already submitted a Ceiling-Cat-defaced bill, shown below. Perhaps there should be a contest for the most creative effacement of God. . .

Ceiling cat bill


I found this suggestion for a U.S. currency stamp (and its placement) at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster:



You could do it with Ceiling Cat, too!

Now I don’t know if this is legal or not, so I’m giving no advice here.  Some say that because the law prohibits only marks on bills that render them unfit for circulation, it’s okay, as the bills are still “fit.” On the other hand, I’ve heard that these marks do indeed make them unfit, since they supposedly won’t be accepted by vending machines that scan bills.

Who knows? All I know is that the slogan “In God we Trust”, which Eisenhower made the legal motto of the U.S. in 1956, is starting to irk me. Not only do I not trust God, but I strongly doubt there’s anyone up there to trust.


63 thoughts on “In _____ we trust

  1. God ought to live down in the center of the Earth instead of “up there” because the center offers the fastest transit route for telepathic and telekinetic communication.

    1. Lets think about this for a moment. An omniscient god would know everything that happens, everywhere. Therefore instantaneous communication with the whole universe and the speed of light holds no limitations on such a god, if such a god existed, which it doesn’t.

    2. You know, that makes more sense than the normal level of theistic mouth-exudation.
      It would also explain another mystery : it suggests that god’s senses or powers of intervention are electromagnetic in nature. That would explain the inactivity of god, even to her most heinous of followers : the liquid metal of the conductive outer core acts as effective shielding between surface and god.
      Scientific theology ! Not all that sophisticated, is it? Just ignore the 800 kilo gorilla in the room.

      1. This is exactly the way I picture god. That you and I envision god this way is so unlikely to be a coincidence that it must be true. The simplest way I can understand it is that we both received the information about god from god electromagnetically at precisely the moment when the liquid metal shield was down, maybe for routine eternal theistic maintenance. And I’m pretty sure the gorilla is our guardian angel. After all, what else could he be (my gorilla is male)?

  2. “… since they supposedly won’t be accepted by vending machines that scan bills.”

    Who knew that vending machines have such arrogant theistic privilege?

  3. It so happens that I used a “science” one dollar bill (c.f., your previous bill defacement post) just today in a vending machine and it worked fine.

    1. That doesn’t surprise me. with thoroughly different currencies on this side of the Pond, ours have no problems dealing with pretty tattered and battered notes, from 4 issuing banks, all of whom change designs on about 1 decade periods. And when I’ve been on the Plains of Englandshire I’ve seen vending machines that accept Euros too – with their myriad of detailed designs.
      A stamped-on addition would have to be treated as a dirt or scuff mark on the note – enough other points and it’ll be accepted.
      Costs … hardly prohibitive. Depending on the bars you frequent, they’d cost the equivalent of 3-4 pints of beer or a half-way decent bottle of wine.

  4. Wikipedia reminds us that “President Theodore Roosevelt took issue with using the motto on coinage which he considered to be a sacrilege using God’s name on money”

    They also note that in the sci-fi horror film “They Live” “Special sunglasses allow the wearers to see simple hidden messages instead of the signs they see without them. Advertising is seen as “OBEY”, “CONSUME” and “MARRY AND REPRODUCE”. Dollar bills are all marked “THIS IS YOUR GOD””.

  5. Whether it’s defacing currency or not may be open to disagreement, but putting a Spaghetti Monster sticker over the G-word it is definitely not sacrilege since its presence has been upheld as “ceremonial deism.” And how can you sacralize a ceremonial deity? That’s even less real than an imaginary one.

  6. The phrase, In God We Trust, was added to the currency as part of the national rhetoric in the midst of the Cold War and the Joe McCarthy period. Part of the propaganda war against “atheistic communism.” The Pledge of Allegiance was altered in this period by adding “under God.”

    I think both actions violate the First Amendment and its anti-establishment clause. The phrases should be removed.

    1. I would think that FFRF should be working on both these issue for the reason you state. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson would be appalled at both of these violations of separation. If we are under g*d lets demand they prove which one. How the hell do we know which one to trust?

      1. Amazing:

        Dixit Judge, speaking of the motto: “…ceremonial or secular purposes and no religious effect or endorsement.”

        … oh.

        “In God we trust” is no religious endorsement? Really?? Really???

        I suppose “that Judge is an asshat” is not a statement disparaging the Judge’s capabilities, either. The more you know…

      2. PS. “the principle found in the Declaration of Independence that our freedoms come from God”

        Does the Declaration of Independence normally have such legal status in the U.S.?


        1. No. The Declaration is of historical interest only. Any force of law it might have originally had was superseded by the Articles of Confederation, which were ratified in 1781. Less than a decade after that, on March 4, 1789, the Constitution was ratified; it has been the supreme law of the land ever since.

          …with the usual caveats about “just a goddamned piece of paper” and so on. For that matter, I seem to recall that the Soviet Union itself had a rather lovely constitution of its own that nobody paid any attention to. As always, the question is whether a nation is of laws or of men, with the latter “winning” increasingly of late in the States.



          1. Do I correctly understand that there was at least one President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation? (One can reasonably infer how the Confederate States of America got its name, eh?)

            By what warrant does the United States ignore and not historically and legally and officially acknowledge these pre-George Washington presidents? Just because someone says so?

          2. Do I correctly understand that there was at least one President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation?

            No, that’s not correct.

            The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788; George Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789 as the first president. The Second Continental Congress chose Washington as the commander-in-chief of the revolutionary army in 1775, and ratification of the Articles of Confederation took place between late 1777 and early 1781. The war itself lasted from 1775 through 1783, so this period was as chaotic as things could get.

            Under the Articles of Confederation, there was not only no president, but no executive at all, no judiciary, and not even any taxation. It was this dysfunctional level of weakness that drove the ex-colonists to the adoption of the Constitution.



          3. For sure it was chaotic then. However chaotic it was, there either was, or was not, a President of the U.S. then.

   says that there were eight prior presidents, the first being a John Hanson, each serving a one-year term.

            That’s either true, or not true. Of what were they presidents, if not The United States of America? By what title were these gentlemen addressed, if not “President of the United States”? That these humans existed one surely can grant. Or not?

            What was the country’s name prior to 1789 – The Confederated States of America?

            I really don’t care one way or the other. I just want to know “the Truth,” on a basis other than because someone “says so.”

          4. Various people banged the gavel at the Continental Congresses. Such presiding officials would have been considered presidents of the Congress, but not of the United States.

          5. I had never heart of that Web site before you referred to it. But truthful it ain’t. If you look at the page on presidential eligibility, you’ll see they go into full-on “Birther” mode, questioning whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii or, presumably, is secretly gay Muslim married and a Kenyan.

            Hanson was the first elected president of the Continental Congress, a position roughly comparable to the role that the modern Vice President plays in the Senate — or, perhaps, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Hanson was the president of that body, not of the nation.

            Notice that emphasis I placed on, “elected”? The picture is much murkier than the Tea Partiers would have you believe. The Wikipedia article has full details, but there was lots of overlap between the ratification of the Articles, election of legislative leaders, acceptance by the people elected, and so on.


            The truth is that there was no executive branch and thus no national President before the Constitution, and that that title is used for many offices in and out of government other than the Presidency.

            And the truth also is that those who would have you believe that somebody other than Washington was the first President is almost guaranteed to be promoting a Southern Secessionist and invariably racist agenda of the KKK flavor.



          6. Okie-Dokie. At least one more question; when do you hold that the United States of America first began to exist?

          7. In Congress, July 4, 1776, with a unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.

            (With the caveat that even then communications made it such that things such as this occurred over a span of time, with an exact date officially agreed upon for official and practical purposes — much the same way that legislatures today will stop a clock a minute before midnight so they can complete their business the “same day,” even if that’s several hours into the next day.)



        2. The DoI doesn’t say “that our freedoms come from God”
          It says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
          Who/what is the Creator? Shiva? Zeus? God? Odin? Nature? The FF could have written “God” instead of “Creator” but deliberately chose not to.

          Remember that when the DoI was written, every European nation (the audience for the DoI) was ruled by monarchs who claimed that their right to rule over other men came was divinely ordained. This was a direct refutation of that claim, using their own authority against them.
          It’s like an atheist quoting the Bible to rebut a theist – the atheist doesn’t believe in the Bible, but as the theist does, the atheist can point out that the theist is doing it wrong, based on his own rules.

          1. But just before that: “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”

            I’m not sure I agree with your reading. Do we have any minutes from the committee meetings?


    2. You have to modify “currency” to “paper currency” for your statement to true. Yes, the Eisenhower commie scare ramped up the issue & resulted in modifications of the pledge & paper currency in the environment of McCarthy. But the battles with the goddy-woddies were staged and waged long ago. The old buffalo nickel (of which I have one), was the last piece of American coinage to hold out against this stupidity, which began right before the Civil War.

  7. From the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Department of the Treasury website:

    “Defacement of Currency

    “Defacement of currency is a violation of Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code. Under this provision, currency defacement is generally defined as follows: Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

    “Defacement of currency in such a way that it is made unfit for circulation comes under the jurisdiction of the United States Secret Service. The United States Secret Service web address is”

    It’s certainly not clear to me whether stamping or handwriting a note on a piece of currency renders it “unfit for circulation.”

    If it is indeed legal to do this sort of thing then I think it should be encouraged, and I, for one, intend to pursue determining it’s legality to those ends.

    1. I looked up the same text. From a plain reading of it, it seems to be a secret service call as to whether to prosecute. Given their size and mission scope, I doubt very much they’re going to bother with minor stamps. However, I can also imagine this being a matter of degree: if you (or multiple people) stamp a bill so much that you start to occlude the bill, they might start to care. I guess the most extreme “stamping” would be painting both sides black, and I can certainly imagine they might consider that ‘unfit for reissue.’

    2. When banks hide dye charges in sacks of cash they hand over to bank robbers, isn’t the point to render the stolen currency (and the robbers) unfit for circulation? Yet somehow they get away with it.

      1. No, their goal is to keep the bills in legal circulation. They would clearly rather have them undyed in their bank than dyed and in someone’s car.

        The law isn’t entirely consistent on this issue though, you have a point there. For example, its illegal to booby trap your home to catch burglars, but that is essentially what a dye pack is – a booby trap. I think the anti-booby trap laws however are due to people building lethal or physically harmful traps. If you booby trapped your house windows with dye packs, someone triggered them, and the case went to court, it would be interesting to see how the courts would rule on that one.

    3. It’s certainly not clear to me whether stamping or handwriting a note on a piece of currency renders it “unfit for circulation.”

      At the risk of snatching the bread from the mouths of lawyers’ babes, if the corrected notes are accepted by an automated vending machine, then isn’t that the question answered?

    4. As I read that, the key phrase is “with intent to render such items unfit to be reissued”.

      No such intent is present in the case of filling in your favorite ceremonial deity for the word “God”. Quite the opposite, the hope is that the bill will be fit to be used again and again, as the motive of someone doing this to a bill is for it to circulate widely and be seen. Destroying the bill is the furthest thing from the intent.

      1. Yes, you’re correct. I thought that as well after I had posted my original comment so I’m glad you made it more explicit: anyone so marking a bill would definitely want it to continue circulating (at least I would).

  8. For years I’ve been using a black marker to line out the “In”, “God”, and “Trust” on every bill that passes through my wallet. I leave only the “We” to make a statement about the divisive motto.

    Vending machines don’t seem to care.

  9. Regardless of the laws pertaining to defacing money, printing the phrase on U.S. currency is patently unconstitutional, so I will enthusiastically engage in civil disobedience for the sake of a greater cause. I black out the entire phrase with a Sharpie; I fed 40 such “reconstitutionalized” $1.00 bills into the bill taker at the local grocery store recently without any problem.

  10. On the back of the $2, it’s in such fine print (center, bottom) as to almost not be there. Like a footnote. And with a green pen, it’s not noticeable.

  11. Various thoughts….

    My personal favorite: proofreader’s caret inserting “NO” in front of “GOD.”

    Hole punch removing “GOD.”

    A tiny sticker of Muhammad to place on top of “GOD.”

    A drop of used motor oil to cover up “GOD.”

    Gold leaf to cover up “GOD.”

    Should be good for starters….


  12. Magicians have been writing on currency for years, as have I. The defacing means to alter the bill so that it appears to be worth more than it was originally meant to be. For example, changing on one to appear as if it was a ten.

    Stamp or write away. Freedom of speech is wonderful.

    1. So do people who count cash (not banks!). I frequently find a scribbled “50” or some such noted on a bill.
      Apparently, you can also drill holes in coins (to make jewelery).
      There are souvenir machines that flatten pennies. I think that might actually be illegal but it isn’t worth the gov.’s time chasing down penny defacers.

  13. A note about Australia, where the currency has no reference to gods…

    It’s illegal to deface currency here, but the wording of the relevant Act looks ambiguous to me. I think it’s usually taken to mean that any deliberate and noticeable mark is illegal.

    And I think that’s a good thing. I’m thinking of the people who have to handle currency, all the time, who instinctively no exactly what a $20 note looks like, and who know that all $20 notes will look exactly the same. If people were allowed to mark them, they’d be marked in thousands, of unpredictably different ways. It would drive salespeople, bankers and charity workers nuts.

    I suspect it would be worse in the US, where (unlike Australia, and I think most other countries), the notes aren’t colour-coded, and you have to look for much smaller visual cues.

    1. I don’t know about Australia, but in the States many of the marks you find on paper currency are put there by sales clerks, bank tellers, and other people who handle quantities of cash as part of their job and find it convenient to mark stacks of bills as they count them.

      1. I suppose that’s another thing. I suspect US notes could be discreetly marked with, say, a pencil. Australian notes are polymer, and largely devoid of white space. In order to mark them at all, you’d need to really mark them.

        Maybe the cases aren’t at all comparable.

    2. “I suspect it would be worse in the US, where (unlike Australia, and I think most other countries), the notes aren’t colour-coded, and you have to look for much smaller visual cues.”

      …such as large, prominent numbers. 😉

    1. It depends on what you mean by “far enough”. Escaping from Earth’s gravity still leaves you deep in the Sun’s gravity well, which is itself embedded deep in that of the Milky Way, the Local Group, the Laniakea supercluster, and so on. You’d need to go hundreds of millions of lightyears out into the intergalactic void to find a place where no direction is up.

      1. Yes, this is technically correct if you’re going to define up as away from whatever the predominant gravitational force is. Even in the intergalactic void, this would then be defined as away from you, but I think “toward” and “away” makes a hell of a lot more sense even within the solar system. No one would say they’re going up as they leave Earth and are still going up as they go down toward the moon, but they still may indeed be going “up” relative to Earth.

        Hell, we don’t even need to invoke space now that we know the planet is round. Up is an entirely different direction depending where you’re standing and the time of day. And if Hell is down, then the only place that makes sense for that is inside of the Earth since “below the Earth” as viewed from space doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. This would also be an entirely different direction depending on the position from which you’re observing the Earth.

        I suppose sophisticated theologians would dismiss these conjectures as silly. There is no where there, it’s a metaphor! (We don’t know what it’s a metaphor for, but it’s something…)

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