One cannot understand English without having a basic knowledge of Christianity; so pervasive is that religion on our culture. Christianity's hold on European civilization has been totalitarian.
I am in favour of a secularization of North America that is so profound that when people swear they do not use religious references.
How many Atheists, when they have an orgasm exclaim "god!" What spoils the mood more: when you say it or when your partner says it?
And why do we use "fuck" as a swear-word. The Atheist comic George Carlin often wondered, why does a word describing the act of procreation merit being turned into a pejorative?
Towards an Atheist Newspeak.
A reason why Christianity dominates the English language and culture is because the theists imposed habits of thinking, altered the meanings of words to suit their world-view and made it as difficult as possible for anyone to think outside the box they built for us. The successful struggle against these efforts is called "The Enlightenment."
Secularists have ended the domination of Christianity - people now enjoy freedom of thought, at least in most countries. The time is overdue for us Atheists to take English over - to make it more likely that people will think secular thoughts and less likely to entertain obscurantist ideas.
Here are two ways we can do this :
1) stop using words that have religious or mystical meanings. The objective is that the words will die out from lack of use;
2) Co-opt the words. change their meaning permanently so that whenever someone uses a given word it can only have a secular interpretation.
In his novel 1984, George Orwell described how a totalitarian government used language to condition people's thinking.
That language can be shaped, controlled and purposively modified is not only an idea that totalitarians can implement- it is a fact that should be appreciated by anyone desiring liberty. We Atheists are partisans in a culture war and the English language is a battlefield we must control.
I therefore submit the following list as an example of words and expressions we should use in place of the current obscurantist terms:
This seems like such a good idea someone must have already proposed it. If you can find out who please let me know. As you can tell by these first four examples, I could use some assistance.
My god - my word
bless you - you are so good looking (Seinfeld)
Jesus! - Darwin!
holy shit - blue screen!
If it didn't sound like a poor attempt to emulate cartoon villains of the '80s, I would consider "blast" or "curses" good substitutes for exclamations like "damnit". Unfortunately, all the attempts I make to stifle usage of words I shout out generally result in a tourettes-like outburst--usually ending in "pants" for some reason. (Example: "Mutherfukerpants!" While definitely more secular, it is not a replacement I would recommend.) That is a failing in myself for not engineering my expletives to be more viral. The use of "Frak" from Battlestar Galactica comes to mind.
Would it be too ambitious to hope for a complete replacement of American taboo-words? Possibly not, but it would require some imagination and some good marketing.
" Holy Hell! " is an old standby, sticks within the linguistic confines but is none the less adorably blasphemous..."Jesus H Tap dancing christ" gives the same touch. Assimov turned me on to "Great Galaxy man" in foundation, and lately I've been experimenting with throwing obscure cultural references into the jesus christ madlib...levar freaking burton, mugsy bogues, rodney mullen,
I've been struggling with this as well, both regarding the English and the Swedish language. The latter is especially tricky since our most common swearwords are deeply entwined with Christianity, followed by the more harsher words for the sexual organs. But we don't bless people when they sneeze at least. We say "Prosit". When it comes to English I just tend to avoid swearing since I otherwise sound like I'm auditioning for a Tarantino movie.
I say cheese n' rice, instead of jesus christ. Also this has nothing to do with religious meanings, but I spoonerize a lot of phrases, one of my favorite is I have to shake a tit, or I have to shake a tower.
I have trouble with wanting so badly to secularize language...I guess if your question is how do you change your own speech, that is fine, no one could argue that. However if the goal is to secularize society at-large, isn't that presuming to know better than others for something as trivial as a swear word?
Excellent question. I wish I could have replied sooner but life is complicated and my time management skills are lacking.
I think I do address this somewhat but your question affords me an opportunity to expand on it.
I originally posted, "That language can be shaped, controlled and purposively modified is not only an idea that totalitarians can implement- it is a fact that should be appreciated by anyone desiring liberty."
Everyone's speech affects everyone else's speech. If one or only a few people use a word that word dies out. Consider it a political economy of language. Why should I promote the use of words or promote the meanings of words that I don't like or agree with?
I am advocating that Atheists be more conscious or thoughtful of the words they use so that by the sum of our individual decisions we deliberately undervalue or "short-sell" to use stock market parlance, the obscurantist vocabulary.
It is not "presuming to know better" to make such decisions.
Well, maybe it is. When I telephone canvassed for Obama was I presuming to know better than those who voted for McCain? (Volunteer, unpaid work.) Yes, I was. I'm not even American but as a free person, a Canadian, living in an open society I have the right to exercise my freedoms by selling my opinions to others even to the point of telling Americans who to vote for.
Atheists do know better. But maybe we don't. So what? We have a right to our opinions. We have a right to convince others to join us. Words are tools; they are weapons. Why enable our adversaries (not our enemies) by conceding to them control of our language, which inevitably means control of our thoughts.
Either we control the English language or the ReverendFalwells and his allies the Osamas and the DaliLamas will control it. And you don't want that.
I do not want to stop at swear words - I want to secularize everything. As long as this is accomplished within the boundaries of a society that promotes freedom of expression and freedom of association - then it's good.