Should “God” Get a Capital G?

So I was reading this post by Galen Broaddus concerning the grammar of capitalizing the word “god” and “bible,” and predictably it spawned a pretty spirited set of comments. Mr. Broaddus’s point was that capitalizing these words at times is proper, when the words are used as proper nouns. Normally, such points of grammar and style aren’t terribly controversial – except when talking about these two particular words. Invariably, any conversation which might point out current grammar rules ends up getting dragged into the realm of whether these words ought to be capitalized at all.

In my opinion, that misses an even better point.
Out of all the ways to challenge Christian privilege, is not hitting a shift key or not writing a big “g” or “b” really worth all this mess? Do people who think that every time they write “god” or “bible” that they’re actually forcing Christians to consider their stance on divine entities? Or is the principle of the matter getting inflated, an important thing only in each person’s mind?

Case in point, I habitually capitalize the word “Bible” on this blog. It’s not because I wish to fawn over people and curry favor with them by hitting one of two keys on my keyboard. Rather, it’s an inside joke that only I get, because one is also supposed to capitalize titles of fiction. The joke is secret and forgettable because I don’t also put “Bible” in quotation marks, underline it, or put it in italics. Well, that and it’s only funny to people who are easily entertained (like I am).

Some good reasons why god and bible shouldn’t be capitalized.
Capitalizing these words can lead to some confusing statements. One could write, “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in God” and be completely correct. Similarly, “My Bible will save my soul, but your Bible will consign everyone to Hell.” These statements are nonsense, despite being grammatically fine. They’re fine because one is referring to proper nouns, despite those proper nouns being fungible (a very fancy way of saying non-distinct and interchangeable).

Not capitalizing these words also means that writers are at least recognizing that one can use them in different ways. It opens up the English language into thinking about these terms in new and interesting ways. One good example is referring to a highly praised text as a bible, highlighting the notion that people read it and believe it without even understanding it. A lot of complexity can be packed into new word use, and I think it can provide great critical value.

But there are still reasons why they should get capitalized.
One example is that some people still use these words as proper nouns, and so that’s how they can express themselves. Despite not everyone agreeing on the actual idea, it accurately conveys what they mean. This actually does have a value in conversation, because it’s more precise.

Moreover, capitalization doesn’t change the thoughts behind some uses. Even for people who refuse to capitalize “god” unless it’s at the start of a sentence or in a title, one is challenging the same concept as shift key hitting Christians. At best, not capitalizing these words might just be seen as petulant. That’s not always a good thing, especially when it might cost someone the ability to be persuasive.

As always, the right answer lies in how people want to express themselves.
Grammar itself is a sort of compact English writers have with each other. Technically these rules are not binding or enforceable. We only give them force because otherwise Wede bee writeing Things lyke Wee were in Olde Englande. Seriously, read anything from the 16th or 17th centuries in their original form, and be amazed that people get yelled at for writing “ur” and “b4.”

The point is that hidden meanings behind a capital letter are often going to remain hidden or misunderstood. Not everyone is going to see it as a protest of Christian privilege. Others aren’t going to see people respecting their deity by hitting a shift key. Word choice matters more than arguing about capitalizing words, because a skilled person can still criticize Christians while capitalizing their two favorite things.

14 thoughts on “Should “God” Get a Capital G?

  1. When I write God, I mean the deistic deity. When I write god, it covers the multitude of gods humans have imagined into existence.
    I think those who reduce the debate to whether I capitalize deity or not are concentrating on none issues

    Liked by 3 people

    • Christian is classified as a proper noun in American English, so it gets a capital letter. Even that could be debatable, considering how many different denominations there are. But right now, it gets a capital letter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There is no god, God. There is the god, Yhwh, the god, Baal, the god, Ahura Mazda, the god, Olódùmarè…

    The gods all have names. Excluding, of course, The Owner of All Infernal Names 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m an atheist and I think the weirdest bit is when the pronouns get capitalized. “I’m doing His will.” Like what’s that about? Could I start using capitalized pronouns for anyone I think is important? “I just saw Joe Pesci’s new movie and I think He did a great job.”

    As far as the big G, I think because people believe that he is a person, a proper noun, the big G is fine to use to talk about the Judeo-Christian god. I could put my faith in Zeus, Ra, God… They’re all “people,” so I think the capital letter is fine (whether or not you believe they’re works of fiction).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My parents had a cat that was named – rather unimaginatively – Cat.

    I see no joke in writing the Bible with capital letters. The names of works of fiction are capitalized, but so are the names of scientific researches. The Bible is an obvious work of fiction as it is not a scientific research. No scientific method was ever used in creating it.

    God is not the name of the Hebrew god. He has several names mentioned in the Bible none of wich actually is “God”. There are at least 12 different names attributed for the Hebrew god in the pages of the Bible, some of wich are direct loans from the Cananite pantheon and some that are obvious pseudonyms.

    The bear was a god to the ancestors of my people. But one was not to call the bear by it’s true name (Karhu), rather it was talked about in pseudonyms like “the forest apple”, or “honey paw”, or “the troll” and such. It was typical to my ancestors, as it has been for many a different superstitious and religious cultures around the globe, that one does not name the god by it’s true name, as that equals invoking the particular god (and you really do not want to invoke such a powerfull and unpredictable god as the bear for nothing). Much the same applied to the god of the ancient Hebrews, hence they came up with a bunch of pseudonyms such as El, the lord, or father. Wich happens to be the way the ancient Cananites called the head of their pantheon. What a coincidence? Sebaot, the lord of hosts, an obvious war god was invoked in the Biblical stories, when his special kind of help was needed, but somehow the war god has been seen as the same god as the El, Baali and a bunch of others.

    Moses came up with the utmost pseudonym of all, YHWH – “I who am”, that has been later interpreted as a hint that just perhaps other gods do not exist. Yet, after this revelation about the pseudo-name, the god of Moses does single combat with Baal Pteor and wins. If Moses thought his god was the sole god entity in the universe, whith whom did this god of his wrestle with on mount Pteor? A demon? Was the demon unaware, that it had no chance against the sole creator god entity in the universe (as alledged later), who hath made the galaxies? What a nincompoop for a son of a god, since all demons are former angels, referred to in the Bible as sons of the god of the Hebrews, are they not?

    Should pseudonymes be capitalized? Perhaps they should be, but I prefer not to capitalize the name of a single god as if it was the only one. The fact, that many people believe this is the only god, does not make it any sort of fact and as such deserves no respect when it obviously tries to undermine the beliefs of a far more larger group of people. All those who are not Christian or Jew. To me all the gods suggested by men are equally characters of a fairytale and capitalizing the pseudo-name of one, would be an admission, that I thought it was somehow special among all the suggested gods, when I have absolutely no reason to think it is.

    Writing god with a capital letter is not due to his name being God, or even his pseudonym being God, but rather from the assumption that there are no other gods, because he specifically forbids the Hebrews from worshipping the other gods, and due to an attempt to revere this particular god among other suggested gods to be the sole actual god. In that way such could be considered even offensive to the believers of other gods.

    It is by far more easier to refer to these god concepts according to what about them is considered. For example, Thor and Donner are reflections of the same thunder god concept of the Germanic people, like Zeus and Juppiter are of the same concept in the Mediterranean, only under different name, but when we are talking about them we must acknowledge the difference in the backround culture of the people who worshipped them. Because the people are important not gods. Thus it would be idiotic just to refer to the Thunder God. Therefore, as we have these different names for them we are able to use them to identify on what specific cultural idea about a specific god concept we are referring to. If we had no idea what the Romans or the Vikings used for their thunder gods, we would need to speak about them in terms like the thunder god of Vikings, or the thunder god of the Romans, rather than a thunder god in general.

    The fact, that western civilization has a history of calling their god simply God, mostly because they were blisfully ignorant for centuries of other people being equally genuinely faithfull to their respective gods, does not mean, that we should continue this confusing and misleading tradition any more than we should contiunue any other misleading, or confusing traditions just for the sake of tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.