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adreamofautumn's avatar

If you're not religious do you still capitalize the word god?

Asked by adreamofautumn (3983points) June 7th, 2009

If you do…do you ever wonder why you do? Is it instinct? Does it look more correct? Do you make a point not to? I’m just curious.

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55 Answers

Lonestarwildman's avatar

I believe in God,but do not like nor participate in organized relgions.I dont have any problems with those who believe salvation can only be gained through religion,but I like to believe in God in my own way.I capitalize the word God as a show of respect.

Resonantscythe's avatar

I thought there was some rule that to be grammatically correct you capitalize when meaning the one God from a religion and using the lowercase when mentioning one from a religion that has multiple gods. Also you’re supposed to capitalize names and since the God major religions worship is usually nameless or they’re not supposed to say the name, the word God is treated as such.

Personally speaking, I feel the same as Lonestar

casheroo's avatar

not usually.

ragingloli's avatar

On the internet, usually not. Sure capitalisation is supposed to make clear whether I mean the christian god or not, but i trust that the context itself will make that clear.

SirBailey's avatar

Proper literary format has nothing to do with respect. Do you not capitalize the first initials of, ex. Adolf Hitler because you don’t respect him?

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t. Unless of course someone/thing actually has the name God—like my friends cat.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@SirBailey has it correct. I capitalize God and Christianity like I capitalize Zeus, Mithra, Set, FSM, Beezlebub, and other proper names not out of respect or belief, but because that is the correct way. There used to be a poet that went by the name e.e. cummings, and I always found it annoying that the letters weren’t capped like is proper. Ah, poets, what a funny bunch.

DarkScribe's avatar

It is a proper noun when being used to discuss a particular god. So if discussing the Bible, you will capitalise the word God. If discussing gods like the Roman or Greek gods, there is no need.

Aethelwine's avatar

I hardly ever write the word, so no. I do capitalize Santa though.

oratio's avatar

I sometimes forget. God is also a name, so according to the rules it should be capitalized. In my language we don’t capitalize as much as in English, so I sometimes forget, but in the case of names it’s the same.

Imboden's avatar

It’s simple; just treat it as a name.
If you’re talking about someone named God, then it is capitalized.
If you’re talking about someone who is a god, then you do not.

ferinstance…

“God is just one of many gods that people put their faith into.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@ragingloli – Is there a difference between the Christian God and the Muslim God? If there’s only one, why do some people think Allah is someone else?

ragingloli's avatar

@mattbrowne if i want to talk about the christian god and the muslim god at the same time, i usually call the latter “allah”, or “yahweh” if i mean the jewish one.
i think people perceive allah as a different god because his personality is different from the NT god, and much closer to the jewish original.

oratio's avatar

@mattbrowne I would say that some Christians seems to want to make it as they are different gods for their own reasons, and the “refusal” by Arab speaking people to call God anything else than Allah, since it is – as I gather – considered a more true denotation for God. It seems that it can only be in singular. Christian arabs, as well as many middle eastern Jews seem to refer to God as Allah(as well as Elohim).

AstroChuck's avatar

As it is used as a name, yes. Just as you would write I spoke to Mom as opposed to if you were not using mom as a name. Then you would put I spoke with my mom. It you are referring to a god, then no.
The question should be do you write He or Him when referring to God, or just he or him?

oratio's avatar

@AstroChuck Should we attribute a gender to God?

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Ditto what @evelyns_pet_zebra says. ant the thing with e.e cummings drives me nuts

AstroChuck's avatar

@oratio- Of course. We know God is male. No woman could fuck things up that badly.

DarkScribe's avatar

@oratio Should we attribute a gender to God?

Well God apparently doesn’t like pussies, is that allergy or fear of competition?

oratio's avatar

@AstroChuck I have an answer to that, but it’s not suitable for a six year old.
@DarkScribe I have an answer to that, but it’s not suitable anywhere.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ragingloli and @oratio – Well, my concept of God is a very abstract one. I believe God is the creator of the universe and responsible for all its attributes and rules. What you are describing are human interpretations and symbols. Jesus being the son of God has a symbolic meaning to me, because biologically he is the son of Maria and whoever his biological father was (not Joseph obviously). God sending the prophet Muhammad is another interpretation of God’s ‘work’. But God as such – in its most abstract form – is only one and always the ‘very same’ so to speak at least the way I believe in Him.

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t understand how god is a name. If I don’t believe in Yahweh, Allah, Zeus I still capitalize them because they are proper nouns, but god/God is not a proper noun, it is a noun. Just because some religion decided to redefine a word, by trying to make it a proper noun, so only their god is the true god, doesn’t make it so.

Imboden's avatar

“God” is a name just as much as someone can name their kid “Moxie Crimefighter”. Just because you don’t believe in a specific faith, doesn’t mean something can’t be a proper name. This has nothing to do with faith or lack thereof – if it’s someone’s name, it’s capitalized.

mattbrowne's avatar

@tinyfaery – Allah is a proper noun?

Ivan's avatar

“God” is a proper name; it refers to one particular being who we call God. Lowercase “god” is a noun that refers to any supernatural being which we might call a “god.”

For instance, I might say “God is a god.”

Jeruba's avatar

Yes, every bit as much as I capitalize the names of Amon-Ra, Krishna, Odin, Ishtar, and Satan, and for the same reason. Treating names properly according to the rules of English has nothing to do with religious conviction. Aside from poetry and other expressive literature that may depart from the conventions for the sake of effect, we vary capitalization to express an opinion only in very informal writing.

Lonestarwildman's avatar

Its a free country I can capitalize whoever I want,I will not go to jail if I dont capitalize a proper noun.

Lonestarwildman's avatar

I respect Muslims but dont like the taliban because they mis-reprisent the Muslims and all of Islam

Lonestarwildman's avatar

I dont like satan

Jeruba's avatar

@Lonestarwildman, you have about ten minutes to edit a response you have posted (while the ‘Edit this reponse’ link still shows beneath your post). So if you have additional thoughts or want to make a change, you can still add them rather than creating a new post. Often when we make a significant addition (especially after someone has given us a GA) we mark it as [Edit].

El_Cadejo's avatar

Only if its the first word in a sentence :P

hearkat's avatar

I don’t.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Proper grammar, regardless of belief, dictates that gods as a general term or god (singular) referring to a generic deity is not capitalised. God in terms of the Christian God is capitalised by convention. It is not an insult not to capitalise it, it is just poor grammar.

Cardinal's avatar

I don’t believe in Obama, but still capitalize his name.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Cardinal its a bit different. Obama is a tangible being.

essieness's avatar

I don’t because I don’t believe in god as something that would qualify as a proper noun. God is an undefinable entity.

AstroChuck's avatar

It’s still a name regardless of whether or not you believe. I don’t believe in Adam and Eve but I wouldn’t refer to them as adam and eve.

mattbrowne's avatar

@uberbatman – What about phrases like

‘philosophies like Marxism’

Marxism is an abstract and not a tangible thing. The same applies to God.

hearkat's avatar

@AstroChuck: It’s not a name unless you are referring specifically to what Christians believe to be the supreme being. Otherwise, ‘god’ is an arbitrary concept. As others have pointed out, pretty much all other religions have specific proper names for their deities.

When I use the word ‘god’ in writing, I am usually discussing the concept of a deity – even when I refer specifically to the Christian god. By putting a descriptive adjective ahead of it (e.g. “Christian god”, “Muslim god”, “your/their/his god”, etc.) it clarifies which theoretical being I am referring to.

My personal belief is that there is something at work that is greater than our comprehension and is thus unnameable. I don’t like the idea of conceptualizing it as a being, because that actually seems to humanize it – which is arrogant, since being human is inherently imperfect, while an omniscient, eternal loving force is inherently perfect.

mattbrowne's avatar

@AstroChuck – Adam and Eve are a metaphor. They stand for the origin of homo sapiens or even a in a broader sense the origin of the two genders and the invention of sex. This happened about 1.5 billion years ago and we now know Adam is a rib of Eve. The default is female but at some point during a pregnancy the Y chromosome triggers gene expressions pumping testosterone into the circulating blood of the baby wiring the male brain.

In a broader sense you can view Adam and Eve as a symbol for speciation, an evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. Leaving the ‘paradise’ (because of climate change in Africa 2–3 million years ago) can be interpreted as speciation pressure.

The authors of the bible ask the same questions as we do today. Where do we come from? Where will we go? They were looking for answers as we are today. There’s more to the bible if you take the effort to read between the lines. You don’t have to believe in God to recognize some of the wisdom documented in the bible.

Jeruba's avatar

@hearkat, > “specifically what Christians believe”
How about Jews and the Judaeo-Christian tradition? The Old and New Testaments are talking about the same God, yet there are no Christians in the Old Testament. I have heard people who follow other religions speak of God also. I think they are all referring to an ineffable supreme divinity that may or may not have certain characteristics. The characteristics may be the subject of endless debate, but the idea of a capital-G God is a constant.

Without believing in God myself, I can say that any God who is God would be amazed to hear himself referred to as a “Christian” God.

It is a name if I am referring to a being that has a name, whether or not it is the object of faith of a particular group. I can invent out of my own fantasy a divinity called Ihieh and the people who worship him, or a character called Jeruba and a fictitious history for her, and I will write their names with an initial capital letter because that is how it’s done in English.

adreamofautumn's avatar

Thanks everyone for your answers, I just find myself wondering about it frequently, mainly for the exact reasons stated by @tinyfaery which was…is God a NAME or something else (I don’t know what to say here as “something else”, would “career choice be inappropriate?!) I just didn’t know if common consensus was that “god” is a proper name or not.

AstroChuck's avatar

@adreamofautumn- Regardless of whether it’s a proper name or an occupation or whatever, if there is no article preceeding it then it must be capitalized (or capitalised for our non-American friends).

hearkat's avatar

@Jeruba: It’s been a few decades since Bible School, but didn’t the Hebrews have a name for their god: Yahweh?

fundevogel's avatar

@hearkat I’m pretty sure Jews aren’t allowed to speak any of the names they have for God. I believe when they use “Yaweh” it translates to something like “lord”, making it an honorific, though they certainly do use it like it were a name.

Shalom Auslander talks a bit about it in his book Foreskin’s Lament.

augustlan's avatar

Jews aren’t even allowed to write the name of God, it is written as G-d sometimes. To answer the original question, I usually do capitalize it. Both because I consider it a proper name, and also out of respect for those who do believe.

Jeruba's avatar

@hearkat, the use of certain other names and titles for God is part of the religious custom and practice of the Jews. I was not referring to anyone’s religious practice but to the book itself, the Bible. Here is how it begins (this is KJV, but every translation I checked says “God”):

[1] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
[2] And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
[3] And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
[4] And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
[5] And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

It goes on like that. The being named is “God,” not “Yahweh.” There are no Christians in this picture. My point is that these books that are called the Old Testament are pre-Christian, that is, Jewish, but the God is one and the same, or at least a lot of people’s beliefs hinge on that point. There is no such thing as a “Christian” God as distinct from the God of the entire Bible.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jeruba and @hearkat The name the Jews had for God is now lost. Stating the name of God was punishable by death, and scribes washed their hands seven times before writing it. The pronunciation is lost, because some scribe somewhere put alternate pronunciations so no one would ever speak it. Now, the word still only describes said characteristics of God, being both Elohim and Adonai.

AstroChuck's avatar

@augustlan- It is written as G-d (actually the Hebrew script equivalent of dG) because vowels are omitted when writing in Hebrew.

augustlan's avatar

@AstroChuck Really? Hmm. Learn something new everyday! Thanks.

hearkat's avatar

I don’t consider a book that has been retranslated and reinterpreted several times over by men with agendas to be an authority on anything, anyway.

I personally prefer not to capitalize the word, and to qualify which religious figure I am referring to by using adjectives.

mram50's avatar

I don’t capitalize god unless it is the first word of a sentence as i do not recognize “God” as in the supreme anything. God to me is just yet another fairy tale as werewolves, dragons, unicorns and other non existent entities. I cannot give false respect to something I don’t believe in.
When people ask me asinine questions like :How do you think we got here? My answer: The same way the damned fly got in my hospital room on the 9th floor.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mram50 Its not a sign of respect, it is proper grammar. Would you capitalise Zeus? Would you capitalise the name of a fictional character in a book? Both are imaginary, but are proper nouns and therefore should be capitalised.

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