A Penny Saved…

This freakishly old penny from 1792 (which never even went into circulation) was just sold for $1,150,000:

The best part? The inscription:

Todd Imhof at Heritage Auctions told ABC that unlike today’s legal tender which bears the inscription, “In God We Trust,” the copper-silver penny reads “Liberty Parent of Science & Industry.”

“At the time, industry and science reflected an enlightenment mindset,” Imhof said. “People believed freedom of thought and industrial growth would bind and unify the new country, not religion or God.”

You know, in case you needed even *more* evidence that the Founding Fathers weren’t trying to create a “Christian nation”…

(Thanks to Marguerite for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Just one example of many from early American coinage that Christianity was likely the furthest thing from the Founding Fathers minds…

  • Matt

    Are you suggesting that big banks/the federal reserve “banks” on turning people into sheep by reinforcing religion? :) never…

    • ortcutt

       The mottos on coinage and notes aren’t the choice of commercial banks or the Federal Reserve.  Coins are designed by the U.S. Mint and Notes are designed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Both are part of the Treasury Department.  Coins have carried the motto since 1938 and notes since the 1960s.  The motto was adopted by Congressional action, so Congress and the American people who voted for them are to blame, not any banks.

  • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

    Judging by the portrait, the founding fathers were into rock n roll, too!

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

       Yeah, Lady Liberty looks a little like Ronnie James Dio.

      • Annie

        Or Medusa.

  • ortcutt

    Don’t show this to David Barton, Glenn Beck or Kirk Cameron.  Their heads would explode. 

    • Oz Tilson

       if this would make those minds explode and thus be gone, I would like to reveal it to them immediately!

  • Ndonnan

    Someone may possibly have thought that,but then again it never went into production because the founding fathers realised it was under God that the country was unified,as history has shown.What wise forfathers they were

    • Collin

      Then why not do something novel and study what actually went into production?  I don’t know, perhaps the Federalist Papers, the founding father’s own writings, the constitution?  Doesn’t anyone read anything anymore?

      • Fentwin

        “Doesn’t anyone read anything anymore?”

        Nah, Many people just pull an idea out of the air, one that makes them feel good and that becomes their reality. Then they pontificate about their grand discovery in a smug, self satisfied, pedantic tone (e.g. “what wise forefathers they were (sic)) .

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      No, actually, according to the article,

      The U.S. Mint determined the penny was too large and heavy for practical use.

      The penny that did go into circulation had the motto “We Are One”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugio_Cent 

      It wasn’t until 1861 that anyone mentioned putting ‘God’ on US coins.

      • ortcutt

        At the bottom, the Fugio Cent bears an even better motto, “Mind your business”.  That 1787 Cent predated the US Mint.  The Mint was established by the Coinage Act of 1792.  The Cent that the Mint issued in 1792 looks identical to the one that was sold at auction.  It just doesn’t have the silver center.  The Cent, Half Disme and Disme in that initial year all bore the motto “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry”. 

    • bismarket

      Awwwww, let us at least have the forfathers, you got Jeesuus why’d ya need them as well?

    • ortcutt

      Many of the coins issued in 1792 carried the motto “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry” and none of them bore Christian mottos, so your theory is false.  The early motto was later just shortened to just “Liberty”.

    • Fsq

      Wow. Just….well….wow.

      Yes, the instant answer that because it didn’t go into circulation = Jebus and God…..typical delusional christian thinking….

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Given that the most influential of this country’s founders were atheists (sometimes called Deists, but there’s really very little difference), I doubt very much that many imagined the country unified under any gods. There are many documents from the time, however, which state, with absolute clarity, the common secular principles that the founders did understand to be common factors uniting all Americans.

  • I_Claudia

    So an antique penny has a Native American on it and Enligthenment values written as well, while our modern money has an unbroken chain of white men and an exclusionary sectarian message.

    Remind me again which one is modern?

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I think that is a representation of the goddess Liberty, not a native American. So is some sense, the coin is theistic! (But we know what happens to the gods of religions that are no longer observed… they become symbols on coins and corporate logos).

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

         That’s certainly not a standard depiction of a Greco-Roman goddess in the art of any century.   She looks like the love-child of George Washington and a Native lass.

        • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          It is pretty scary. But it also looks very much like other images of Liberty found on coins from around that time. The Greek nose and wild, windblown hair are recurring themes.

  • Fsq

    I give it half a day before RWLaw comes on and says that back then, according to scripture, history and the law, liberty actually meant god.

    • Rwlawoffice

      Wrong. But I will tell you that all of the atheist attempts to revise history about the foundation of our country is just that, a revision.

       As an example, let me quote to you from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  This was the law that set out the requirements for new territories to become part of the union and was passed by the same founding fathers that passed the constitution:

      Here is article 3- Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to a good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

      So the same people who new scholars and atheists claim were not Christian (when they clearly were) and who did not think that religion was important, in fact thought just the opposite.   They claimed that religion was essential to good government.

      Also, Ben Franklin, the one who  is claimed to be a deist wrote this, “I have lived Sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs the affairs of men and that is a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an Empire cannot rise without his Aid?”

      Just a couple of examples of how important religion and the Christian God  was to the founding fathers, despite the attempts to change history now. 

        

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Age of Reason deists like Jefferson, Franklin, and many others were what we’d call atheists today. When they referred to “God” or “Providence” or “the Creator” they were referring to the initial cause of the Universe, nothing else. They did so because they were born just before science advanced to the point that it became clear no cause as such was required, and no intelligent design. It is quite certain, knowing what we do of these men from their writings, that all would be atheists today.

        These men believed in none of the fundamental aspects of Christianity or any other religion. They openly denied that Jesus was a deity. They acknowledged no gods that could be prayed to or that played any role in human or natural existence.

        You can always pick through the vast writings of these people, and find things that can be taken out of context. View their actual beliefs through the body of their work, however, and there is no doubt that God played no role in their perception of the world, or in their philosophies of governance (outside of the oft-stated need to keep religion entirely separate).

        • Rwlawoffice

          Ben Franklin’s comment was referencing the quotes by Jesus in Matt. 10:31 or Luke 12:7. He was referring to the Christian God.  He was not referring to an abstract God.  If you want a detailed outline of his beliefs, you should look at a letter he wrote to Ezra Stiles when he was 84.  You can find it here:

            http://www.questioningchristian.com/2004/11/benjamin_frankl.html

          Suffice it to say that to claim that if they were born today they would be atheists, is pure speculation without any evidence and an attempt to rewrite history.

          As for Jefferson, he probably would be called a diest, although there are writings that refer to the Christian God. Not the least of which is the Declaration of Independence that refers to  a creator, which from his Christian background and teachings must refer to God.

          As for the “many others” I do not know who you are referring to but as I have posted before, to a man, all of the founding fathers identified themselves as Christians of many different denominations. Not one said they were atheists or agnostic nor did their writings or actions show they were. For example, when they were writing the constitution, they opened every day with prayer to the Christian God. Now I have heard the argument that in that time they could not identify themselves as atheists but they really were and I ask for the proof that they lied when they made their identifications.

          Finally, I will quote from a letter that John Adams wrote to his wife, “Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.”. George Washington wrote, “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” So to argue that these men did not view religion or a belief in God as essential to good government is simply wrong.  What they wanted was the freedom to worship as they chose, not that worhsip or religion wasn’t important to good government or the cause of freedom.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            You have a highly distorted view of early American history, and this is not the forum for correcting it.

            Suffice to say, the most influential of this country’s founders were deistic atheists, and most made it clear they were NOT Christian, and for the most part found much of Christianity despicable. They were, after all, highly intelligent men, so you’d expect most to be atheists.

            The Bible was considered an important piece of our culture at the time, and these men quoted it selectively in the same way that they quoted dozens of other classical works. It doesn’t mean they believed it had any special merit beyond that, any more than they believed everything found in other culturally influential fiction.

            • Rwlawoffice

              You are basing your position on what these gentlemen  would have been in a different time. That is pure speculation and goes against all of the evidence.  Their writings, their speeches and their lives showed they  not only were devoutly religious but were Christian. If you have evidence otherwise please present it. 

              • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                The Big Guys, like Jefferson and Franklin, stated, in no uncertain terms, that they were not Christian, and did not believe in the divinity of Jesus.

                Sorry, but you’re very mistaken about what a Christian is if you think somebody who doesn’t believe Jesus was divine, and doesn’t believe there is a god that takes any interest in how humans conduct themselves qualifies as such.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Assuming that Jefferson was a deist even though he attended his Anglican church regularly, he was one of over 100 founding fathers.  Some other big guys like Washington and Adams   would no doubt be considered very devout Christian. So at most it is a distortion to say that based upon Jefferson being a possible deist that the founding fathers were not Christian. 

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Attending church doesn’t mark a person as a Christian. Plenty of atheists do so today for social reasons. 200 years ago, churches were the centers of community life, and nearly everyone attended.

                  Adams was certainly a deist (atheist). It’s a little less certain what Washington’s beliefs were, although there’s good evidence he was deist, as well. There’s no evidence he was Christian, however.

                  Some of the founders were Christian, of course. But very few of the most influential ones were.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  I enjoy our discussions C, but if you think that that the founding fathers were not Christian and specifically, Washington and Adams, you really need to read some of the writings  of the founding fathers.  Despite what the current skeptics would have you believe that is not the truth and is nothing more than a modern twist to support what they want history to have been.   

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  These were highly intelligent men, products of the thinking that defined the Age of Reason. To suggest that they would be Christian is actually rather insulting to them.

                  I have read extensively from the personal writings of many of the most important founders. What distinguishes most when it comes to their comments on religion is their overt anti-Christianity. While praise for some of the messages of Jesus (the man) is common, so to is explicit denial of the divinity of that man, as well as contempt for any organized Christian churches.

                • Rwlawoffice

                   I do agree that hey had complaints about  organized religion.  That is for sure.

          • Fsq

            You are giving links to obvious apologist biases. And you expect us to take that seriously? Jesus butt-sniffing Christ, crack a fucking history book…..NOT one given to you from “Focus on the Family” and learn something.

            How did you ever pass the bar? Pity the state that has you on the legal roster. Or pity any of your clients. 

            • Onamission5

              “Jesus butt-sniffing Christ, crack a fucking history book”

              Made me make disruptive out loud happy sounds.

            • Rwlawoffice

              Before you attack the source, why don’t you present evidence that it is wrong.  

              • Fsq

                That’s like telling a guy selling alchemy to first prove it is wrong….Jesus Ass-Wiping Christ you are THICK.

          • newavocation

            Maybe we need to always take what any historical figure says with a grain of salt. I read somewhere that Emerson once was reciting one of his older sermons and had to pause and say “wait I no longer believe this”

      • Fsq

        You know what is really fascinating to me? It is that you have allowed me to live in your brain rent free. That just makes me smile.

        As for your recidivist version of history and our founding fathers, well, it is par for the course with bible-thumpers. You read the bible and decide to read one section as absolute truth, then turn around say another is metaphor, yet give no justification (or very flawed) for the choices. It is as if each christian sect has their own “Bible for Dummies” handbook. And this follows true when reading history; you decide to just wave a wand, make it magically delicious, and VOILA…..”Christian origins and history” of the good ol’ god-fearin’ USA.

        But really, i enjoy the fact you are allowing me free rent-free range in your brain, as well as getting you to go against your so called “turn the other cheek” policy. It is fascinating and amusing to no end. Cheers!

        • Rwlawoffice

          Trust me the only thing I think about you is sadness and amusement. As a Christian I love you even though you have shown yourself to be immature, foul mouthed, and ignorant.

          And you misunderstand the “turn the other cheek” teaching.  It doesn’t mean that we can’t defend ourselves and more specifically defend our faith.  Wen you try to get to me with your childish insults it doesn’t bother me but when you say those things about Christ I will call you on them and point out your vulgarity for what it is- the final resort of a small mind who has nothing productive to add to a conversation.    

          • Fsq

            I don’t like you. And so what if I am a potty mouth. Words. Just words. YOU choose to give them power, not me. And yes, I am living in your head rent free..

            You say you see sadness in me. Wow. Talk about inversion. Project elsewhere. You want to use your myths to dictate sexual freedoms, women’s rights to control their bodies, tell LGBT people they are second class citizens and then support a church that knowingly allows pedophile priests to fuck little kids with impunity and I am the one with sadness and issues? Sorry. Reverse that and you are onto something.

            You go turn the other cheek and pray, I’ll flash you my ass and tell you to go away.

            You are the prime example of how it is impossible to polish a turd.

            • Rwlawoffice

              Anyone as hostile and as angry as you must have been hurt at some point in their life and for that I am saddened for you. 

              You deceive yourself when you say that words don’t effect you.  All we have ever had is words, yet you show me hostility and anger even when I have never attacked you personally. You get very upset when someone tells you that by failing to accept Christ as your savior you are going to hell, even though you don’t believe in it. If words didn’t effect you that comment would not bother you. If words didn’t mean anything you would not feel the need to try and mock or invoke a response by being vulgar or calling Christ names. You certainly belief that words have power, you just are trying to justify the ones you use and for being crude.  Just as a child would do.

              Now, tell me when I have ever supported or defended a pedophile priest? I haven’t and I won’t. If you think that my opposition to same sex marriage means that I think that LGBT individuals are second class citizens then you are mistaken and projecting.  And if you think that protecting the life of the unborn is controlling a woman’s body than so bit it. I will  protect the life of the unborn all day long.

      • Onamission5

        Someone needs to read the Treaty of Tripoli.

        (hint, it’s not me)

        • Rwlawoffice

          I have, in detail.  Where does it say that our founding fathers were not religious men and more specifically were not Christians?

          • Onamission5
            • Rwlawoffice

              Right, we are not a Theocracy.  My question was where does it say in this document that the founding fathers were nor Christians 

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’m at the point where the personal beliefs of the founding fathers matters to me as much as the authenticity of Jesus.  Even if the gospels are based on a single historical person, it doesn’t change my belief in the supernatural.  Even if all the founding fathers were evangelicals, it wouldn’t change my view on what it means to be a secular nation, or that we should be a secular nation.

      (which, just because if I don’t say it someone will assume otherwise, doesn’t mean a hard atheist nation.  I don’t want the government telling me there is no god any more than I want the government saying there is.  It’s not something the government needs to do anything about.  Religion can do just fine without government support.)

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        You are, of course, correct in many respects. It is easy to treat the views of the founding fathers, and the Constitution (a highly flawed document that is now killing the U.S.) as sacred, which is a truly obscene word. A society evolves, and to lock it into ancient patterns for the sake of blind conservatism is as ultimately fatal to a secular society as it has proven to be to every religion that ever existed.

        So while we should not generally place too much weight on the views of the founders when it comes to defining our modern society, it is perfectly proper to correct outright historical errors made by those who attempt to do just that. If someone is going to use the views of the founders to make some argument, the least they can do is make sure they accurately present those views!

  • Tom

    Neat, now can we get this auction winner to drop that kind of money on something less material like, lets say, the Secular Student Alliance?

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

       Maybe the SSA could ask him if they could use an image of his coin in their ads.  that would be cool.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Having found Roman coins lying just below the surface dust at several locations in the Golan Heights, I have a hard time thinking of a penny from 1792 as “freakishly old”.

  • Pastorpink20

    What is on the back?

  • Jay Whitney

    Incorrect.  This coin was not authorized by the founding fathers nor was it even created at a US Mint.  It was made in the basement of John Harper, who was not a founding father.

    It’s lovely how people take a meaningless relic to support some position.  I have Jimmy Hoffa’s pinkie ring, ergo, he’s still alive.  One falsehood and one false conclusion.  Nice job.

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

       I’m a lifelong collector. You are wrong. It was a pattern coin authorized by the U.S. Mint. It’s a Silver Center cent.
      It was designed by Chief Coiner Henry Voigt. The Silver Center cents were the first coins struck on the grounds of the U.S. Mint.


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