Illustration: Detecting Counterfeits

It’s time now for another widely used illustration from the halls of fundamentalism…

When an aspiring agent of the U.S. Treasury is going to learn how to detect counterfeit money, how do you imagine that they are taught to tell the fake stuff from the real stuff? Do they look at counterfeit bills? Do they learn about color-shifting  inks, watermarks, ultraviolet glows, and fiber quality? Certainly not! Their training consists of one thing and one thing only: endless hours of touching, ogling, and sniffing real money. For if a person knows what the genuine article looks like then they’ll never accept a counterfeit.

With this story the fundamentalist proves once and for all that it’s not necessary to ever study another point of view other than the one held by other like-minded fundamentalists. Indeed studying other religions, sects, or factions could be extremely dangerous and cause evil questioning. Only the very strongest fundies may risk exposing themselves to such ideas and then only for purposes of maligning, mockery, and misquotation.

If your beliefs cannot hold their own in the vast arena of ideas, are they really worth having? Thankfully for fundamentalists, they’ll never have to find out. They’ll be safely hiding from the world, sniffing their money.

34 thoughts on “Illustration: Detecting Counterfeits”

  1. Yeah, that illustration sounds quite familiar. I’ve never heard it carried to that logical conclusion, but from the context in which I heard it, that conclusion was probably implied.

    I do wonder about the poor kids who are sheltered throughout their elementary and secondary school years, who are then shipped off to an approved indie fundy college; what will they do when they encounter the “real world”? When they encounter myriads of ‘counterfeit ideas’, how do they respond?

  2. As an employee of a large bank, and having been a supervisor of tellers at the same bank, I find that this tends to be the STUPIDEST example people use. Tellers do not handle “tons” of money to get the feel right – they are to look for the clues listed in the picture above – and, most of the time, it’s pretty easy to see the difference between real and fake.

    1. I heard this illustration…not much but I did hear it. I can even remember the exact occasion, I think just because of the impact it had on me. It made a lot of sense. But this post and your and Josh’s comments have opened my eyes…WOW. For one thing, I certainly had no idea that the premise of the illustration was not even TRUE. 😯

    2. You must spend too much time studying counterfeits yourself. Go to and see for yourself. From this website:
      “How To Detect Counterfeit Money
      The public has a role in maintaining the integrity of U.S. currency. You can help guard against the threat from counterfeiters by becoming more familiar with United States currency.
      Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities. ”

      So it seems the illustration still holds true.

  3. Well, as one of those poor kids who was sheltered throughout my elementary and secondary school years, I have some perspective on that. Thankfully, I was not shipped off to an “indie fundy college” as you put it. My sister went to Hyles Anderson, but I decided not to go to any Christian college.

    The thing is, once I entered the “real world”, I quickly adapted and realized the fundamentalist perspective was not the only one. I think I’ve done quite well adjusting to “secular” life, and am thriving now. There are still some things ingrained in me that are hard to shake, but for the most part, I think I managed to catch up nicely to the rest of the world.

  4. When I saw “The Message” Bible did it look so wrong to me because I’d only been handling my KJV for so many years, or because it smelled vaguely like the few NIV’s I had secretly peeked at from time to time?

  5. A more accurate illustration would be someone is being trained to spot fake bills, but they have been given fakes to study while being told they are real! Now that’s a problem, wouldn’t you say?

  6. From the link:

    “Please Note: There is no financial remuneration for the return of the counterfeit bill, but you will have pride in doing the “right thing” to help combat counterfeiting.”

    A sermon in itself! lol . . .

  7. For some reason, I feel as if I’ve head this illustration several times as of late. But not sure it was in fundy circles…I don’t remember.
    I too was sheltered, per say, as a child. Not only from other ideas, but from basic media. I didn’t even know who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were! That aside, I, like Ben, have done some adjusting. Haven’t gone off to college yet, but being in the work force has exposed me to some of the “real world.” Takes some adjusting, and still am working on it. Still catching up too.
    Gotta love hiding inside a shell your entire life.

  8. “When I saw “The Message” Bible did it look so wrong to me because I’d only been handling my KJV for so many years, or because it smelled vaguely like the few NIV’s I had secretly peeked at from time to time?”

    Yes, sniff out that apostasy! Contend for that Old Time Religion!

    And remember: Jesus spoke in red.


  9. As a former fundy and current Treasury employee myself, I wrestled with the implications of this popular illustration for a years. For this reason, I offer a hearty Amen! to your point that “If your beliefs cannot hold their own in the vast arena of ideas, are they really worth having?” and your characterization that “Only the very strongest fundies may risk exposing themselves to such ideas and then only for purposes of maligning, mockery, and misquotation.”

    I’ve seen it all too often, and even lived it myself for a while.

  10. I’ve never heard of this example being used in SUPPORT of fundy-ism.

    Most “discernment ministries” absolutely wallow in (what they *deem* to be error) to the vast exclusion of anything real or true. So they’re spending large quantities of time studying the counterfeit bills.

  11. This is a really old illustration. When it was first used there were no color shifting inks or security threads or other high tech stuff used in bills. Some illustrations become obsolete. This one has. But I think it made a good point in its day.

  12. I heard this illustration a few years ago and the term “counterfeit” is still going strong in fundy circles. My youth pastor actually gave out real dollar bills and told us after the message that they were fakes that he borrowed from his banker friend… Everyone in the service up to this point believed they were holding REAL bills but we had all
    been fooled by a counterfeit….. however, my youth Pastor confided in me after the service that the bills were in fact REAL US dollars.
    The entire illustration was a lie. We were double counterfeited….. Pesky old Satan

  13. I heard this illustration many times and accept it for what it means–focus on what you believe, not on what you don’t believe. I graduated from a fundy college after growing up fundy, and I’ve never had any problem dealing with lots of people from any and all other walks of life in my extremely secular job.

    1. Thank you for your post. I was wondering if anyone else was similar to me. I didn’t go to a fundy college because I didn’t go to college until I was 38, but I was reared in a fundamental church by a mother who protected me because she was 44 when I was born, and she wanted me to grow up without the scars that come from much of the “open-mindedness” of the world. We simply read the scriptures and lived in the REAL WORLD every day. It left me well-balanced: after all, every personality trait, every sin, and every heresy common to humanity is dealt with in the Bible – different clothes and transportation, but human nature hasn’t changed.

  14. AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I used this illustration last Sunday. Fundamentalism is like a virus that you get in your blood and you can’t shake it. It keeps popping up like Hepatitis C.

    I am trying to change honestly but this stuff goes down hard.

  15. I do agree, somewhat, with what the illustration is trying to say (I have no idea how true it is or used to be, since I know nothing about counterfeiting money or how to detect it). Yes, we as Christian should know more about our Bible then about false religions and ideas. It can indeed be dangerous to study TOO FAR into false ideas/religions because even the most well-meaning Christian can be sucked in (personal experience, I have a friend who got involved in witchcraft because she got too deeply into studying it).

    But, even if treasury agents were/are trained only by looking at the real thing, they are trained in order to detect fakes, not to sit in a room looking only at real bills for the rest of their career. Christians should spend more time studying their Bible then another other system or false religion, but if they never come into contact with these other ideas, what good does all that study do? How are they reaching the world around them?

    1. Well said. Some of my personal satisfaction through the years has come from listening to the voices contrary to my personal beliefs and knowing that by choice, I am still anchored in truth.

  16. I did grow up hearing the similar illustration of the greenhouse: that seedlings (children) should be grown in a greenhouse (away from the world) before they were transported to the outside garden (into the world). No one before my botanist husband ever pointed out to me that plants grown in a greenhouse typically cannot survive in the wild. 🙄

    1. Your husband is a wise man. As a gardener, I try to harden off my young plants quite early because of this truth: however, none of these analogies hold up indefinitely. You can plant tomatoes inside and transplant them, but you can plant them directly into the soil. The second method requires much more weeding and cultivation early on to produce a strong, healthy plant. Beans will do better planted directly and cultivated. The analogy looses strength. The first few years of a child’s life requires protection from a myriad of physical dangers, and logic says that emotion, mental, and spiritual protection is more than a good idea.

  17. Don’t you people have anything better to do than attack other people’s beliefs. Committed Christians do not deserve the blanket label as fundamentalists. There are extremists in every belief or faith – even the secular ones. The very fact your blog post exists almost entirely to propagate your exclusive beliefs AGAINST others is a type of fundamentalism as well. Why not spend your time propagating a website dedicated to helping the wider world and alleviating some of the evils and sufferings around you? What do you stand FOR that is of benefit to your neighbor rather than nit-picking other people’s beliefs and stating what you are AGAINST? What on earth is the point of trawling through sermons to pick them apart – where’s the honour in that? Step out your front door and do something worthwhile for society. Society needs a saviour, not websites full of sceptics.

  18. Is it possible that most of these posts miss the point of the illustration. Studying real dollar bills to recognize fake ones, says nothing about the existence (or validity) or other currencies. It is about the genuine and the fake US currency.
    The real application of this illustration and the way I have heard it used is all about telling true Christianity from counterfeit. The Apostle John wrote a whole letter on that. Shouldn’t we be concerned that we are the ‘real deal’?
    Remember that an ‘illustration’ sheds light on something – it doesn’t prove anything.

  19. The post uses the illustration to make a point that isn’t supported by the illustration. Like Derek Simpson says, the illustration of real vs. counterfeit only applies to determining if what you’re analyzing, (whether currency, belief, worldview, etc) is the same as what you already hold to be true or accept as true. This illustration has nothing to do with looking outside your own viewpoint or “currency” and appreciating the Yen, Pound, or Frank.

    I’m a conservative. I’m a Christian. I homeschool my kids. You know what I’m teaching them about? Buddhism. Islam. Taoism. Evolution. Creationism. I don’t want my kids to believe like me only because it is all they’ve ever known. I think that any idea held in a vacuum isn’t really an idea because it hasn’t been tested. Those that don’t want their kids to know anything about the world are not doing their kids any favors. I want my kids to be prepared for the world, figure out what they choose to believe, and then go live THEIR life. Not live my life version 2.0.

    Anyone think I’m crazy?


    1. You’re not only crazy, you’re a BAD Fundy! Bad, bad, bad! Now get off the couch before you make me get my newspaper. 😛

    2. Nope. You are not crazy. I think you are as wise as my mother was. She never tried to hide anything that came our way. We read and we discussed. It was always easy for me to talk to her about anything because of her open, honest response to life and ideas. Blessings on you and yours. Thanks for the post.

  20. I have heard this illustration used, but it was only used to demonstrate that as Christians, we compare other teachings with God’s word(not KJV only). As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is God’s Holy word. I am not a fundy, and they are certainly not always right, because they are humans, but feel free to hate fundies, or anyone else serious about following God’s word.

  21. Mr Martin, no one is condoning hate here. What exactly was said in these responses to Darrell’s posts do you deem hateful?

    I don’t like fundamentalism because the beliefs are wrong and the people are decidedly unlike the Christ they say they follow. I don’t hate those who proudly claim the title of fundamentalist. A fundy would probably disagree with my statement though.

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