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Taking the Name, in vain or in earnest

Thought of one. I’m aware that there is an area of controversy surrounding the capitalization of words in English pertaining to the Divine (What- or Whoever you may think Him, Her or It might be).

Most Christians write “God” and “the Supreme Being.” (Quakers write “the Divine Light.”) Entities worshipped by other religions are referred to as “gods” by Christians. Scientists also refer to the “gods” of various cultures and civilizations.

Modern Pagans write, for example, “the Mother Goddess” and “the Horned God,” or “the Green Man.” Islamic writers write “Allah (blessed be He),” Hindu writers sometimes write “the God” when they are referring to a member of the class of Entities that they worship. Atheists mostly insist on writing “god/goddess/gods,” although I am an exception; I think that usage is nothing more than defiant.

Any time I am asked, I say that it is customary in English to capitalize the name of God and all pronouns referring to Him, no matter what religion the writer happens to profess or not profess. It is no longer a question of respect, but of proper English capitalization.

Commenters, what is your view?

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I think it's a pretty silly practice actually, though I can see why people of a particular religion might see sense in it. I don't mind "God' so much because it's something like a proper noun, like "Allah" or "Zeus" or "Satan," but the capitalization of the aitch in "Him" I consider a terrible practice.

So: I will write "God" when I am referring to "God," but not when I am referring to a god, or even the god (of cinematography, etc.). I always write "him" with a lowercase aitch, and I always aim to be clear about whom my "him" refers to, just as I would if my "him" didn't refer to God.

The only time I see reason to capitalize the aitch in "him" is when I am quoting scripture (which I have never done). Unless you are writing or quoting religious text, why would you capitalize the aitch? There's no reason to make a special, funky grammatical rule for the Christian god (or any other). There just ain't no sense in it.

Jun-Dai September 24, 2004, 12:37pm

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Capitalizing the word/name "God" when referring to the Judeo-Christian God is customary. I've seen the same practice used in other religions. Christian fundamentalists tend to expect all pronouns referring to Him to be capitalized. However I know of people who are Christian--and more liberal--who don't see the point in capitalizing Him, His, or He, when speaking about the Lord.

In my opinion, it's a matter of a)personal preference and b) respect for different faiths. The capitalization of God and His associated pronouns is a done in the press, for instance, as a matter of courtesy.

C76 September 26, 2004, 5:49pm

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