Chinese Hell Notes
by Chris Shappell
from Money Talks, July 12, 1996

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  • Even before the development of money, people have been looking for ways to provide financially for the dead. The ancient Egyptians buried their pharaohs with untold riches. The Greeks buried their dead with a coin to pay the mythological figure, Charon, to ferry the soul across the River Styx into eternity. But it was the Chinese who found that money makes the world -- even the after-world -- go round!

    The Chinese view of the after-life is of a world not much different from our own. It's a pleasant place, but one where people must still work and provide for themselves. The Chinese also have a strong belief in the family, and feel that the relatives who remain behind in this world must help provide financial support for their departed loved ones.

    How can money be sent from this world to the after-world? Not even Western Union, nor our beloved Post Office, could deliver that kind of package. If, as some believe, incense reaches the after-world when it's burned -- the same should be true of paper money ... it reaches the dead when it's burned.

    Any good survivor who's strapped for cash is faced with a dilemma: if he burns real money, there's obviously less money to provide for his living family. But if he doesn't care for his ancestors, then he's a disrespectful son. What's the solution? How about imitation paper money? "Hell money."

    Hell notes are truly the money of the dead. They're printed by private individuals, backed by fictitious banks. Values range from a few dollars, or Yuan, to several thousand, but the purchaser of the notes probably didn't pay more than a dollar or two for an entire stack. Hell notes are valueless. Only the dead can use them as money.

    Technology now enters the picture. Seeing the burning of perhaps millions of these notes as a waste of natural resources, Chinese officials are urging mourners to use a single blank check written to the deceased. One bank in Taiwan even offers imitation credit cards, ones that can't be used in this world -- issued only to the dead.

    And why, for heaven sakes, is it called "hell money"? It seems that 19th century Christian missionaries to China observed the practice and told the Chinese that since their relatives were not baptized, they were spending the after-life in hell.

    from Money Talks © American Numismatic Association 818 N. Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903 (719) 632-2646 org

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    Who Doubt
    by Conrad Goeringer
    from AANEWS by American Atheists

    On July 11, 1997, USA Today noted in its front page "USA Snapshots" section that, "Despite the scientific advances of the past 80 years, about the same percentage of physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in a god as did in 1916." That finding was reported in a survey from the journal Nature.

    But what's interesting is that in 1916, 41.5 percent of respondents in the science group professed no belief in a deity, while 45.3 percent reported the same in 1996. The percentage expressing "Doubt or agnosticism" declined from 16.7 percent in 1916 surveys, to 15.4 percent in 1996. The combined total of respondents in the scientific sample who expressed "no belief" or "doubts" thus was 60.7 percent.

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    Atheist Community
    of Austin founded

    Date: Mon, 16 Dec 1996 21:32:20 -0500
    Subject: Atheist Community of Austin founded


    On December 15th, 1996, twenty-one Austin area atheists gathered at the Hot Jumbo Bagelry in Austin for our weekly Sunday meeting to establish our group as the:


    Our little ceremony included a brief speech, comments from each member, the reading of our Declaration of Intent (see below), the signing of our Declaration and a toast. The ACA is an independent effort and not affiliated with any other organization.

    Our group was started in May by Kellen Von Houser. We now have about 30 plus different members showing up during a month. Our twice monthly newsletter, Austin Atheist Update, goes to 50 people. We work with the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin and the Humanists of Austin as projects arise, such as the Giving Thanks for Freethought week proclamation signed by the Mayor of Austin.

    It is a rare event when a new group of atheists organizes. We are glad to join the handful of atheists across the country who enjoy the rare benefit of knowing and socializing with an atheist group. We would appreciate it if you would pass this announcement along to any atheists, agnostics, free thinkers, nontheists, skeptics, and rationalists who might be interested.

    For the time being, you can contact myself, Howard Thompson ( or Kellen Von Houser ( as interim co-coordinators for the group.

    Enjoy reality, Howard Thompson; Kellen Von Houser

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