In God We Rust, Holy Hats, Pregame Prayer

September 5, 2018


I’m an atheist and have to go to a bat mitzvah Saturday. I don’t really want to wear a yarmulke. What should I do if I’m offered?
Paul K.

I once struggled with this question (and wrote about it.) My delightful in-laws are Jewish and I happily attend Jewish holidays and rites like bat mitzvahs. I don’t want to miss these events OR offend anyone by refusing to sport the headwear – though yarmulkes fit nicely over my bald spot.

So I just say no thank you when offered. When someone persists or insists, I say, “I’m sorry, but I’m an atheist and I don’t wear religious symbols.” Of course this includes crosses, stars with crescent moons, yins & yangs, and Thor’s hammers – though I might consider Thor’s multi-tool if he’d had one. (Why wouldn’t a god have a nice multi-tool, now that I think of it?)

I’m always prepared to leave the event if my lack of religious piety so offends someone so that I get disinvited. If that ever happens, I hope I can exit graciously. People have a right to set a dress code at their event – even a religious dress code. But I have a right to decline the code and leave, if need be. No offense, though.


How do you feel about In God We Trust being on US currency?
Sally H.

Someone very dear and close to me blots out the “T” in Trust so it reads “In God We Rust” on all his cash money. I agree.

Religious statements have no business being on the currency of a secular democracy. So I’ll ask a few of my own questions about In God We Trust.

Why only one god?

This phrase promotes monotheism over polytheism and pantheism. Explain to American Shintos, Buddhists, Hindus, pagans, etc. why there is no “s” at the end of God. Hmmm?

If it has to be just one god, then which one?

Are we talking about the old white guy with the beard? Ra? Venus? Walter Payton? Gimme a hint…

Doesn’t this beg the question?

Of course this assumes the existence of any god, which, I don’t have to tell you, is one god too many in downtown Atheist City. How about a little evidence before you go typing all over the money.

Who is this “We?”

There are easily 30 million Americans who do not believe in any god. Add to those the non-monotheist believers who politely asked about the missing “s” and We becomes only most of us. We? Not me.

Are you sure you want god so close to all that wild action?

What about all the devout believers who aren’t exactly thrilled about their holy father gracing the very medium on which porn stars are procured, cocaine is snorted, and losing bets on the Chicago Cubs are proffered. Cold cash buys a lot of ungodly good times. C’mon God, papa needs a 7!

You played football at DePauw University. Did your teams pray before games? Just wondering how you handled that….
R. McDougal

They prayed.

I didn’t kneel. I didn’t pray. I didn’t like it.

Someone probably prayed before each of the 80 or so games I played in during high school and college. Most of the time the prayers were pretty benign and focused on us players not getting hurt badly. I don’t remember a lot of Jesus stuff being said, but there may have been some of that.

It always seemed like it wasn’t a big enough offense to me to do anything about it. Maybe I didn’t want to rock the boat. Football is a team sport in a big way, and players must trust and depend on each other.

So what do you do about team prayers?

The believers seem to like to pray before going into battle or risking injury. I guess I wouldn’t necessarily take that away from them.

If I had to set a policy, I’d say tell the players we’re going to have a pre-game minute of silence during which you may pray, chant (to yourself), mouth the words to Deutschland Uber Alles –whatever gets you up for the game.

After that minute, we become a team again.