Silly capitalization games

What is the point of an atheist spelling “God” in lowercase? To show that he doesn’t believe in him? But in common punctuational parlance, spelling something in lowercase doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in it. It just means that it’s a common noun rather than a proper noun. So “god”, in accord with punctuational convention, means you’re referring to any one of a number of gods rather than any particular one; whereas “God” signifies reference to the Judeo-Christian God in particular.

I don’t refuse to capitalize things I don’t believe in or like. I capitalize “Narnia” though I know it’s fictional. Likewise “Harry Potter”. I don’t refuse to capitalize “Adolph Hitler”, though I despise his memory. Nor do I spell “Allah” in lowercase, nor “Muhammad”, nor “Martin Luther” for that matter. Heck, I even capitalize “Satan”.  : )

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14 thoughts on “Silly capitalization games

  1. I can’t answer for other atheists, but I personally attempt to utilize the capitalization properly within the context of my writing. So, if I am talking about a god or gods, without specific reference to any particular deity, I use lowercase “g,” as I have done here. If I am talking about the very concept of deity as a whole, I will refer to God with a capital “G,” just as I would capitalize the “M” in “Man” if I were to use that word in reference to something common to all humanity (eg, “it is said that Man is mortal”). If I am referring specifically to any specific god, I try to do so by that god’s name– Serapis, Odin, Susano’o, Ganesh, for example– and thus I capitalize the proper noun. In the case of Christianity, whenever possible, I will utilize the specific name of the particular person of the Trinity about whom I am speaking, in which case I will capitalize the proper noun; however, I will use the word “God” with a capital “G” when I am referring to the concept of deity, as a whole (as I stated earlier).

    Hope that helps!

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  2. I tried looking up instances of atheists not capitalizing the “G” in God as a proper name, but I definitely found more places of atheists pointing out the grammatical rules than atheists refusing to capitalize the g.

    At best, I saw more atheists saying things like, “your god” or “the Judeo-Christian god”, where the word becomes a common noun.

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    • Andrew:

      I wrote the post in response to a specific instance involving someone with whom I am corresponding on his blog, and it was not the first time I had encountered it. I hope you’re right that the majority of atheists don’t do it.

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  3. There is a good English based explanation to this. Capitalization occurs at the beginning of a sentence or for a proper noun, this is to grant title, and refers to a specific concept, thing, place or person. In English “god” is treated as a interchangeable concept, not a specific one. The reason for this is it recognizes that your concept of god is different than that of a Muslim or a Jew. It is treated as blanket term. The reason I personally this is because I’m rarely speaking about a specific god, I generally refer to god only as an kind of academic concept. When I refer to Jesus or Allah, specific concepts of god, I call them that. As a side note, in the case of the Bible, where the words are used interchangeably, it is also appropriate to capitalize god. Also please understand too that how a believer imagines god, your mental understanding of what the word god encapsulates, is vastly different from some like myself, I basically no longer have one. I would imagine most theists concept of god is differ from each others as well. Deuces. – Capt.

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    • I agree that “god” is non-specific and “God” is specific. However, “God” is not necessarily specific to any particular religion. In common usage it refers to the Western notion of a unique, all-powerful, infinite, eternal creator of all that exists. However Jews and Christians may disagree about God’s nature, we agree about this much, and we agree to the same extent with Muslims, although they use a different name to express the same thing. Whether you refer to such a being as “God” or “Allah”, it should be capitalized in either case since it refers to a specific being, whether or not you believe in his existence.

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  4. For a while after I became an atheist, I made a point of not capitalizing the word “god” as a way to show myself that I no longer had to show undue deference to a concept that I think people made up (especially in the way that His pronouns are capitalized in some writings about God). A small act of rebellion, if you will, or of de-programming, and learning to think in a different way than I was taught as a child. Nowadays, however, I just go with the rules of grammar. I’ll capitalize it when it’s a proper noun (e.g. using “God” as a name) and I won’t when it’s not (e.g. when talking about an unspecified god or gods).

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    • Midori:

      I agree that capitalizing pronouns is done as a sign of respect (and not all Christians do it — I for one do not). But capitalizing “God” means nothing more nor less than that it’s a proper noun, which you evidently now agree with.

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      • I never said it was logical. As in the title of your post, it was a silly capitalization game. It was a reaction to the way I was brought up, rebelling by doing the polar opposite of the pronoun capitalization thing, by not only de-capitalizing pronouns but also “god” even when used as a proper noun. But eventually I got over it, and my desire to use proper grammar won out.

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    • One more thing. Sometimes people capitalize “god” even when it is a common noun, e.g. “any Gods”, “a God”, “no Gods”. I’d been thinking about this earlier when I mentioned the capitalized pronouns thing, but I wasn’t entirely sure if people actually do that (the people who capitalize God’s pronouns tend not to be the sort to use “god” as a common noun, after all, unless they’re explicitly referring to some other religion’s god). But, I saw an example just a few minutes ago, so I guess that is a thing that people do.

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