As a former Christian, I’m used to capitalizing the word God when speaking about the Christian god, Yahweh. Hell, I even spent two years of my life spelling it G-d so I wouldn’t offend the guy with a vowel. Since I’m still detoxing from religion, I’m not quite sure how to frame references to the Christian god. Do I capitalize God as if it’s a name? What about referencing other gods? Should I perhaps start using “Yahweh” in order to differentiate between deities? Yikes, this is getting silly.

I want people to understand what I’m writing about and the context that comes with the word. If I say “God”, most people know what I’m referencing and the religion/beliefs that go along with it.

If I just do “god”, then it’s more ambiguous which deity/tradition I’m speaking about, but it keeps me from giving respect to something I don’t believe exists–and thus is not a proper noun.

If I use Yahweh, well… I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just not far enough away from my knee-rattling fear of blasphemy to feel comfortable using “the Name” yet.

I’m sure other non-theist bloggers out there have come up with a solution to my little dilemma. Any opinions or ideas? For now, I’m going to toss them all on the wall to see which one sticks.

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17 thoughts on “god vs. God”

reasonWeekly · April 10, 2009 at 2:23 am

Devoid of any supernatural guidance as I am, I only have plain old English to base this on. It's a pretty subtle difference, that between God and god, so it's understandable that it creates some difficulty. God (proper noun) happens to be the name of a god (common noun). When I refer to the Judeo-Christian god by his name, I use God. When I refer to a god, including the one I just mentioned, without saying his name, I use god. Fair enough?

reasonWeekly · April 10, 2009 at 2:23 am

Devoid of any supernatural guidance as I am, I only have plain old English to base this on. It's a pretty subtle difference, that between God and god, so it's understandable that it creates some difficulty. God (proper noun) happens to be the name of a god (common noun). When I refer to the Judeo-Christian god by his name, I use God. When I refer to a god, including the one I just mentioned, without saying his name, I use god. Fair enough?

godlessgirl · April 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I suppose I don't like that "God" is considered a name for that Yahweh fella. I just don't dig that he has a corner on the market 😉 But of course, in general the God/god difference you describe is probably the best thing no matter what my opinions. It's so widely understood, that I might as well make sense instead of being stubborn.

godlessgirl · April 10, 2009 at 5:02 am

I suppose I don't like that "God" is considered a name for that Yahweh fella. I just don't dig that he has a corner on the market 😉 But of course, in general the God/god difference you describe is probably the best thing no matter what my opinions. It's so widely understood, that I might as well make sense instead of being stubborn.

askegg · April 15, 2009 at 5:45 am

Good question.

I have starting using "bible" and "god" as opposed to their capitalised versions. Partly because I do not think they really require capitals and partly because it annoys people.

I think you might be right – we should promote Yahweh instead of the general place holder of "god". Many arguments rely on an uncaused cause, an undesigned designer, or a inherently moral deity from which we derive ours. Of course, all these arguments are very poor by themselves, but fail completely when you ask "which god is responsible".

Promoting the use of Yahweh (or should that be "yahweh"?) we highlight Christians are promoting a single god above all others for no obvious or discernible reasons.

askegg · April 15, 2009 at 5:45 am

Good question.

I have starting using "bible" and "god" as opposed to their capitalised versions. Partly because I do not think they really require capitals and partly because it annoys people.

I think you might be right – we should promote Yahweh instead of the general place holder of "god". Many arguments rely on an uncaused cause, an undesigned designer, or a inherently moral deity from which we derive ours. Of course, all these arguments are very poor by themselves, but fail completely when you ask "which god is responsible".

Promoting the use of Yahweh (or should that be "yahweh"?) we highlight Christians are promoting a single god above all others for no obvious or discernible reasons.

Stephen Moore · April 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

I tend to use the miniscule g, and spell it god. It's usually fairly clear from the context that it's referring to the Judeo-Christian god. If I want to be precise then I write "the god of Abraham".

I don't use Yehweh simply becasue I've not developed the habit. I do like the idea of promoting it's use with reference to the god of Abraham. It desacrilises (sp?) the name and avoids the deference that is usually demanded to write it as YHVH, or even as God (or that absudity, G-d) if YHVH is seen as still being blasphemous. Yehweh is simply the name of just another conception of a deity, like Zeus, Jupiter, Aten or Shiva.

Stephen Moore · April 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

I tend to use the miniscule g, and spell it god. It's usually fairly clear from the context that it's referring to the Judeo-Christian god. If I want to be precise then I write "the god of Abraham".

I don't use Yehweh simply becasue I've not developed the habit. I do like the idea of promoting it's use with reference to the god of Abraham. It desacrilises (sp?) the name and avoids the deference that is usually demanded to write it as YHVH, or even as God (or that absudity, G-d) if YHVH is seen as still being blasphemous. Yehweh is simply the name of just another conception of a deity, like Zeus, Jupiter, Aten or Shiva.

greengeekgirl · December 28, 2010 at 5:57 am

I always use “God” and “Him,” “He,” et cetera, because my husband tells me that is the proper and respectful way to refer to God, even if you don’t believe in Him. (He’s also an atheist, but he’s extremely concerned about us not coming off as assholes any more than necessary.) I defer to his idea, largely because he has a degree in philosophy with a focus in religion and theology, so I figured if anybody would know, he would know. 😉 And I suppose God, being a fictional character, should get the same capital-letter rights as any other fictional character; I capitalize Tyler Durden, I can capitalize God.

If I’m talking about a “god” generally and not the Christian one, or multiple gods, I use the lowercase.

    Godless Girl · December 28, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I suppose it’s the “Him,” “He,” stuff that doesn’t fit at all for me. I say God now and haven’t had trepidation about it for a while, but capitalizing pronouns gives the Christian god more prominence than any other in a way that I don’t think “God” does. Sometimes I say Yahweh, but since his nickname is God, I still capitalize it. But if I don’t capitalize “Him” for, say, Thor, then why capitalize it for Yahweh?

    Ehhh, it doesn’t matter much anyway. We’re kind of slaves to tradition, culture, and language anyway.

edluzardo · December 28, 2010 at 6:23 am

Hi godlessgirl! Well i tend to use “god” just as a way to not give respect to something i don’t believe in (it also piss people off LOL). If there’s any doubt on what god am i refering to, i just say “Yahweh”, and that should be enough..

P.S.: i just recently started to read your blog, i like it. Greetings from Venezuela!

    Godless Girl · December 28, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Hello, long distance reader! A pleasure to have you.

TheSecretAtheist · December 28, 2010 at 8:54 am

I’m just now coming out of this Christianity stuff, as well, but I still capitalize the G in God when referring to the Judeo-Christian god. I don’t really like capitalizing the personal pronouns, though. I would probably switch to Yahweh, but that is a whole three letters longer!

I will also probably continue to capitalize “Bible” since it is considered to be the proper name of the Christian scriptures.

Of course, right now I have to be really careful if I change my practices just in case I slip up in my church situation or around Christian friends who don’t know that I am now an unbeliever.

    Godless Girl · December 28, 2010 at 9:55 am

    You must be working in a fairly strict environment if the capitalization of words would make people freak out, right?

Theagnosticswife · December 28, 2010 at 9:45 am

I’ve been pondering this as well. I tend to use God when speaking directly about the Christian God. Then god when I’m referencing a god in general. I no longer capatalize he, or him.

    Unknown Atheist · December 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    This is also what I generally do by reflex: God about the Christian God, god about other various gods, and no capitalizing for he or him (except for comic effect sometimes). But when I can avoid capitalizing God I do — by saying Christian god, their god, etc.

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