This is not a particularly deep thread, but it seems to me that the prevalence of 'Atheism' with a capital 'A' is growing. 'Atheism' is a common noun, not a proper noun, so in English it should not normally be capitalized (unless it is at the beginning of a sentence). However, for a time I used to hear people referring to 'Big A Atheism' implying additional values ascribed to the term beyond mere lack of belief.
For those who capitalize, is this just just an odd typing habit, or are you implying something by writing 'Atheism' instead of 'atheism'? If the latter, what is your intended meaning?
For the record, I doesn't matter to me that people use one over the other; it's just a point of curiosity as to why. Personally, I prefer it as a common noun indicating nothing more than one very simple statement of disbelief in deities.
Does this mean the 'A' is something that puts you or your position on equal standing with theists in the realm of philosophy (in the broadest sense of the term), or just that when you apply the term 'atheist' to yourself, it holds the same sort of specificity that proper nouns hold?
Are you suggesting that capitalising the name of a group is more about respect? Because if so I have to point out that respect is nothing to do with it. It is an issue of grammar and only grammar
Honestly Kris this is such an interesting question. I had to work out when I actually capitalise and when I don't. Is it a noun or a proper noun? I think if I'm comparing atheism to a specific religion, like Islam or Christianity, I capitalise Atheism too. But if I'm referring generally to atheists, I don't (except I probably have in some post or another). I don't seem to have the same dichotomy with 'theism', however, which I don't appear to have the urge to capitalise. How odd.
I think I'll make a personal grammar rule now, and lose the capitalisation.
In terms of grammar, it seems the most reasonable practice for anyone not intentionally assigning purpose to the 'A'. The case for 'agnostic' is a bit more entertaining. Given the sense in which it is used, it makes sense that it is a common noun, but 'Gnostic' as a noun is typically capitalized because it usually refers specifically to the Gnostics of early Christianity.
I started off using a capital but I would get pulled up for it in forums.. I dont seem to have a rhythm for the word yet. Im beginning to use lower case now but I alaway have to stop & think about it.
I will often capitalize the “A” especially if I am implying the philosophy of life that ensues from being an Atheist rather than just “atheism” as a lack of belief in “gods”. Strictly speaking I am aware of the grammatical offence but I will overlook it in this case even if sometimes poor grammar is a bugbear of mine. I am conscious of doing it and even make an effort to do so in posts where I use word “god”. I even have a red “A” tattooed on my upper arm.
"grammar is a bugbear of mine."
Oh No .. My grama must bug yo a lit then *% ...
No really - I get gramma anxiety around you peopl ...
Capitalizing Atheism will just feed into those theists who want to say "See, Atheism is just another religion."
I capitalize the word "Atheist" when I am referring to myself.
I agree it should probably be "atheism" and "atheists" or "atheist"
But I will settle for just getting people to form the plural properly; I still see the occasional "why are atheist [sic] doing X" type of sentence even though the worst violator got his sorry ass banned (for other reasons) months ago.
I capitalize Atheism as a sort of protest because I detest the fact that Christians have taken the English word for deity and made us capitalize it - I do not capitalize the word 'god' because I do not consider it a proper noun.
Of course their claim is that when you talk about pagan gods, you use "gods" but "God" is a synonym for Yahweh. It's a reverse of the way some brand name becomes synonymous with the general class of product, such as "kleenex: (to mean paper tissue for the schnozz, regardless of brand) or "xerox" as a verb to mean photocopy. People even drop the capitalization when doing this so the reversal is even more precise.
Instead of taking a specific word and applying it to a general class of thing, they've taken the general name and capitalized it and applied it to theirs. If they did the former (treating doG like Kleenex) we might see sentences such as "Yahweh is the one true yahweh, all other yahwehs like the Greek yahwehs are false. I worship Yahweh." (Note I capitalized the specific but not the general.) And if we did the latter (treating facial tissues like we mistreat doG) , we'd see people talking about a box of "I want genuine name-brand Facial Tissue, not just any old facial tissue like Puffs."
My means of fighting back against this are a little more direct than yours, Heather; rather than trying to get revenge in a tit-for-tat way, I simply refuse to capitalize "god" in my every day writing (though I perforce had to do so for this discussion), unless I spell it doG or I use a construction like "thank noGod I got my taxes done."