God, god, a god, Unicorn, unicorn, a unicorn.  A terminology question
Posted: 04 August 2012 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2012-08-04

This has long puzzled me.  Why to atheists capitalize the G in god?  Why do they refer to ‘god’ instead of ‘a god’.    If I do not believe any unicorns exist I would not capitalize the U in unicorn.  Further, if I did not believe any unicorns exist, but wanted to refer to belief in them,  I would not say I don’t believe in ‘unicorn’, I would say, I don’t believe in ‘a unicorn’.  Why don’t atheists treat the god terminology same as they would any other imaginary being.  ie, leprechauns,  devils etc?  I probably haven’t made myself clear on this, perhaps someone who gets my question could restate it.  Thanks.

Is this common usage just carelessness or an indication that these atheists retain a remnant of faith?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

I capitalize it for the same reason why I capitalize “Zeus,” or “Santa.” It’s out of respect..for the grammar rules.  grin

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15354
Joined  2006-02-14

God is a personal name, like “Mickey Mouse” or “Santa Claus”. As such it should be capitalized. That is, unless it comes in the context of a description, like “the Greek gods”.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2012-08-04

Fair enough on the capitalization, thanks.  What about belief ‘in God’ versus belief in ‘a God’?  Which is preferable, ‘I don’t believe in Neptune”? or I don’t believe in a Neptune?  I don’t believe in Thor or I don’t believe in a Thor?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2012-08-04

Yeah,  Santa.  This relieves me, I would obviously say I don’t believe in Santa even though he does not exist.  I don’t have to say a Santa to be really clear.  Thanks all.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5550
Joined  2010-06-16

While I respect grammar, I disrespect the concept of a god more so I do not capitalize that word.  If I were typing a sentence including that, rather than someone having a belief in “a god” I’d probably say “any god” since there are many fairytales about that concept.  I suppose that if many cultures had their own different sets of stories about the others, I’d probably say “any zeus” or “any thor”.

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15354
Joined  2006-02-14
skeppy - 04 August 2012 12:19 PM

Fair enough on the capitalization, thanks.  What about belief ‘in God’ versus belief in ‘a God’?  Which is preferable, ‘I don’t believe in Neptune”? or I don’t believe in a Neptune?  I don’t believe in Thor or I don’t believe in a Thor?

I think if it’s “a god” then it’s no longer a proper name; it’s something like ‘one of the supernatural beings that the Greeks thought made the weather’.

You can say, “I don’t believe in gods”, or “I don’t believe in Neptune, Zeus, ...”

You can also say, “I don’t believe in God”, where “God” is this person who the Christians and Jews (and arguably the Moslems, though they tend to call him “Allah”) thought created the world and is all powerful, etc.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3091
Joined  2011-08-15

Doug and George are right of course. Under the rules of English grammar a proper noun should be capitalized when referring to a SPECIFIC god or entity, such as Yawyeh or Allah or even God if referring to the God of the Bible and I only type these correctly as an illustration. Most posters here usually don’t to either show heir derision of the supernatural or really don’t give a crap about grammar rules as no one’s going to grade their postings for grammatical errors, (most would get a C or lower including me) but these reflections aren’t meant to be a peer reviewed formal paper. So AFAIC big case or lower case, unless you want to practice using correct grammar take your pick. You can even OMG, comma splice.  Here’s the rule:


http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/capital.asp


Cap’t Jack

 Signature 

One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

Thomas Paine

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 04:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  34
Joined  2008-09-29

I’m not an atheist because I don’t believe in God; I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in any gods.  So I don’t capitalize “god” unless I’m referring to the Christian god, which in English is God.

I do notice that it’s fairly common among atheists to describe their position as not believing in God, which I think is due in large part to their being primarily surrounded by Christians.  It is also often a Christian view that if you don’t believe in God, regardless of what other deity you do believe in, that you are atheist, so this has muddied the waters as well.  If most of us were located in an Islamic country, I imagine atheism would be described by many atheists and theists alike as not believing in Allah, as that is the one most likely to come up in argument.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2012 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  704
Joined  2012-04-25

I do think there’s subtle psychology involved in using “God”, as in “I don’t believe in God”, and it goes beyond mere grammar IN SOME CONTEXTS.  The sentence “I don’t believe in God” can be unpacked psychologically into “There is a god, your Christian god who we refer to as God. God is a he and He exists BUT I don’t believe in Him”.  In this forum where it’s mostly so-called non-believers, posters don’t have to go through all the trouble of saying “a god” etc.  But if this was a religious forum and I was posting I’d definitely make sure to always use little g god and I’d always refer to her as a she.  In essense by using God the Father talk, in the context of religious folks, I do think we’re subtly buying into their psychological crutch.  And that’s why actually even in CI I try to always say just “god” and refer to her as a she.  Kinda gets me, us, into the habit of not giving in to their psychological framework, and breaks it down as well.  Basically calling god a she really pulls the psychological rug out from underneath them.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2012 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01

I stopped capitalizing god when I stopped talking to him/her/it.

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2012 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5550
Joined  2010-06-16

Cuthbert, I understand and agree with your reasoning, and have only one suggestion.  To avoid buying into their concept even more, when you are talking about “god”, rather than using “she”, you might want to use the pronoun, “it”.  LOL

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2012 10:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRank
Total Posts:  37
Joined  2012-07-13

I usually don’t capitalize ‘god’.

 Signature 

It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.  Edmund Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 August 2012 01:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6010
Joined  2009-02-26
Occam. - 06 August 2012 10:17 AM

Cuthbert, I understand and agree with your reasoning, and have only one suggestion.  To avoid buying into their concept even more, when you are talking about “god”, rather than using “she”, you might want to use the pronoun, “it”.  LOL

Occam

I have used the word both ways; God (monotheism) or god(s), by any other name.

[ Edited: 07 August 2012 01:21 AM by Write4U ]
 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 August 2012 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  704
Joined  2012-04-25
Occam. - 06 August 2012 10:17 AM

Cuthbert, I understand and agree with your reasoning, and have only one suggestion.  To avoid buying into their concept even more, when you are talking about “god”, rather than using “she”, you might want to use the pronoun, “it”.  LOL

Occam

  Yep, that works too.  I guess I take one look at these old white evangelist men and can almost smell the misogyny in their personalities.  So it makes it that much more fun to think god’s a gal, maybe even a big black momma, who’s gonna open a can of whoop-ass when the day comes!

Profile