The following is a series of emails I recently exchanged with a disgruntled reader about a subject to which I have given a lot of thought. This is, however, the first time I've been called out on this usage -- and I'd be interested to hear other opinions.
Elspeth D. is NOT the real name of the reader.
God is a proper noun and should be capitalized. Please show respect.
I disagree. God is not always a proper noun. To quote from one source:
1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 ¶ I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 ¶ Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
What if I wanted to say that the Hindus worship a many-armed god?
Would you consider that disrespectful?
I tend to avoid the capitalized God, precisely because I'm generally
not referring to the god of any particular religion.
I don't know what writing of mine you're referring to but would be happy to discuss it further if I knew the context.
The first two examples that you gave of the word God are a proper nouns; the others are not.
I found the instances in the Elizabeth Goodweather books. I can't quote an example from memory. However, I have just received "Old Wounds" through interlibary loan and will take note if I see God with a little g but if you tend not to capitalize God that is, of course, your choice.
I lived in the Smokies in East Tennessee years ago and you descriptions of the presence of nature brings back vivid memories. I don't think I'll ever set foot in Asheville again if those descriptions are on the money.
Thank you for your response. Keep up the good work.
Like me, Elizabeth is not a believer -- so when she says 'Oh my god,'
or 'for god's sake,' it's strictly a matter of habit; she isn't
invoking a personal deity. And I chose to use lower case to suggest
this, feeling that was more respectful than taking the Lord's name in
Re Asheville -- it's a diverse, artsy, gay-friendly city with lots of
excellent restaurants and a generally good feel to it. I probably
exaggerate the young people panhandling --but it does happen. And
there is drumming in a public square. And mountain music on Fridays
in the summer. There are also tent revivals and a fellow walking
around with a big wooden cross. For the most part, everyone gets along
nicely. I live a hour north, in a very rural county and don't spend
much time in Asheville -- but when I do, I always feel safe.
My county borders on east TN -- in fact, we used to own a farm there,
just outside Greenville -- such a beautiful place, one might say . . .
I surprise myself, engaging in this conversation. Elizabeth, believer
or no, is using the name of someone's god in vain. How would you
structure the following: "for Allah's sake." Would Allah get the
I'm not concerned with safety in Asheville. It appears that mountain
town has been taken over by outsiders and I would not like the changes.
I'm sure Asheville can bear the disappointment of not seeing me but I
think I could bear to see it.
I'm off to another job. Have a nice weekend.
Oh, but there are so many beliefs, Elspeth -- how to respect them all? Allah would get the big A just as Jehovah would get the big J,
since they are both proper names. The word god, on the other hand,
isn't limited to one religion and isn't, to my way of thinking, a proper
name -- more of a title. But as long as we're talking about respect, Orthodox Jews would say
that one shouldn't write out the deity's name, in any event, and they
would use G_d instead of God -- which is where the word Jehovah
came from in the first place -- a combination of the consonants of Yahweh
and the vowels of Adonai. But I am waxing pedantic -- have a pleasant weekend! Vicki
I enjoyed exchanging views with Elspeth and appreciated
her civil tone. I doubt she reads my blog but should she stumble
on it, I hope she'll forgive my using our exchange.