An essay by – Heather Spoonheim

The habitual capitalization of the word ‘god’ is evidence of one of the most insidious mind-games ever perpetrated by the cult of Yahweh. To understand why, one must first understand that language, as a social construct, is recursive. That is to say that in as much as language is a construct of society, society itself is a construct of language. As an example, consider how the evolution of civilization has been shaped by the concept of democracy while, over the same period, the evolution of the concept of democracy has been shaped by civilization. The modern concept of democracy has greatly diverged from that of Plato, yet his dissertations on the concept have had as much influence the evolution of society as the evolution of society has had on the concept itself.

The same can be said of the habitual capitalization of the word ‘god’. In practice, secular society habitually capitalizes the word ‘god’ when the word is used in reference to the concept of a singular, supreme being. Even my damn word processor is suggesting that I capitalize ‘supreme being’ in the last sentence. The young developing minds of the greatest writers of the next generation are being indoctrinated to this construct before they are even able to grasp its fallacy.

The only rational argument on behalf of the existence of gods is that man has consistently been, and will likely always be, able to refashion a definition for the god-concept that that escapes falsification. This argument applies equally to any pantheon of gods that mankind might want to imagine and therefore firmly establishes the fallacy of any and all single god conceptualizations. Not only is every concept of a single god invalid but also, by definition, self-refuting. Propagating the social construct of capitalizing the word god is, by extension, a propagation of this fallacy, a corruption of reason, and a tool of cult indoctrination directed against young impressionable minds.

Furthermore, the officially recognized rules of grammar do not actually specify capitalization of the word god for all uses that imply a singular, supreme being. Officially, the word is only to be capitalized when used in reference to Yahweh, and that is absolutely repugnant to the concept of secular society. Not only is the word god supposed to be capitalized only when it refers to Yahweh, but also the pronouns ‘he’, ‘his’ and ‘him’ when used in reference to Yahweh. This is much different than the capitalization of the proper name ‘Yahweh’ itself because that rule is equally and generically applied to all mythological and fictional beings. The other rules, however, constitute nothing other than a mandated cultural bias towards the cult of Yahweh, and serve to corrupt the very nature of our thoughts.

Interestingly, many cults of Yahweh have a prohibition against vocalizing his name. This doctrine was likely born out of an instinct for survival after the siege of Jerusalem, but it has become a social construct that is no less annoying than when it was employed as a literary tool in the Harry Potter series. In both cases, however, it proved to be very efficient in evoking a sense of mystery in adolescent minds. To those indoctrinated to the cult of Yahweh, this adds a layer of mystery that amplifies the superstitions that the cult holds regarding any investigation into the origins of Yahweh.

Our society has been tricked into pandering to the delusions of the Yahweh cult by allowing them to write their very own deity into our language. This construct obfuscates the difference between the mythological Yahweh and our social construct of the god-concept itself. The Yahweh cult should be, for the sake of intellectual honestly, required to name their mythological deity before any rational conversation of the mythology takes place. By engaging them in conversations about ‘god’ without requiring that explicit declaration, we only facilitate the isolation of their mighty Yahweh from his roots in the polytheistic Semitic pantheon.

It may still be argued that there is some abstract virtue in recognizing, through capitalization, the reverence with which monotheists regard the single god concept, but I suggest that such recognition is not virtuous at all and serves only to reinforce their delusions. Although direct confrontation of an individual’s delusions may only exacerbate the underlying emotional turmoil that spawned them, it might be considered equally cruel to actually engage their delusions by assuming the context of their reality. Eliminating the habitual capitalization of the word god is a powerful, yet subtle way of reducing the reinforcement of the god delusion.

I have been an affirmed Atheist for 18 years and it has taken me all of that time to recognize the depravity of this particular mind-game as perpetrated by the cult of Yahweh. I hope that this little rant will serve to help other Atheists recognize the value of finally adopting a truly secular set of capitalization practices. To show your support, I hope that you will not only adopt these rules in your own writing, but also consider taking up the practice of capitalizing the word Atheist when it is employed in any manner other than as an adjective.

Views: 66

Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on March 30, 2011 at 11:55am

Interesting thoughts. However, a few points. First of all, Plato never advocated for democracy. In his work The Republic he advocated an alternative to the Athenian democracy where there would be a Philosopher King, the single most erudite man would rule alone. This is a side comment that has little to do with what you really meant but I have read too much Plato to let that slip by unnoticed.


I would argue that the capitalization of G in God when referring to Yahweh is less like a pronoun and more like a job title. In the Judeo-Christian theology Yahweh is God in the same way that Barack Obama is President. When speaking generally about an unspecified president the P can remain un-capitalized but when used in a specific case (i.e. President Barack Obama) capitalization is required. This is true for all job titles. In someone is a CFO, Admin Assistant, or a Director of Human Resources their title is always capitalized. Bear in mind that God is also a translation from the Hebrew El, making it a proper name as well--taken from the head of the Canaanite pantheon. As Yahweh is the singular deity in Judeo-Christianity, God serves both as a defacto proper name and job title, both of which require capitalization.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 30, 2011 at 12:11pm

I didn't actually assert that Plato advocated democracy, only that he describe and developed an idea about it.


If we were to use the word as a title, such as God Yahweh, then I could see some merit to that instance of capitalization.


If the Hebrews has another god named El, then I'm perfectly fine with capitalizing that proper name, but the word we use for god is not a translation of the name of El in any way - it has only been hijacked for the purpose of validating the cult.

Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on March 30, 2011 at 2:43pm

1) You said, "The modern concept of democracy has greatly diverged from that of Plato, yet his dissertations on the concept have had as much influence the evolution of society as the evolution of society has had on the concept itself." This statement implies that Plato had something to do with the formation and/or development of the concept, which he did not. He advocated for a completely different form of governance. It would have been more apt to refer to a Greek who did have something to do with the Athenian Democracy like Solon.


2) It is, but as both a name and a title it is used once God YHVH is redundant.


3) The Hebrews arguably had a few gods, evidenced by the use of the term Elohim, plural meaning the sons of El. YHVH, for a number of purposes such as pronunciation (no one really knows how to pronounce the tetragrammaton YHVH) had secondary defacto names. Now El literally translates to God and as such it can be both a regular noun and a proper noun, same as its English equivalent. The capitalization wasn't a hijacking of the term for the validation of the cult (you want to talk about using language to assert value judgments that sentence is about as good as it gets). If that were true, Allah would not be capitalized or are they capitalizing Allah so as to hijack in the name of Islam? The fact remains that though "God" is generally not capitalized it is proper grammar to do so when indicating specifically YHVH, as it acts as a defacto name. In Hebrew, YHVH has several other names. In some cases it is ok to use El (e.g. in names like Michael or Daniel or Elizabeth) and in synagogue they use Adonai (literally Lord, capitalized again as it is a title of a specific being acting as a proper name), and in everyday affairs they use HaShem (The Name, again capitalized) in the Hebrew scriptures God calls himself Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (I am who I am). Proof that God and Lord are used as proper names can be found when Jews spell God as G-d and Lord as L-rd so as to not break the third commandment.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 30, 2011 at 2:56pm
1) I will certainly consider using Solon if I ever use democracy in this sort of analogy again, thank you.

2) It is either a name or a title, the concept that it is both is exactly the sort of linguistic hijacking I am pointing out.

3) We can still be much more clear in who we are talking about by explicitly stating the name of El - there is no reason to create a capitonym for Yahweh or El, as we haven't taken the time to do that for any other cults, and nor should we.
Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on March 30, 2011 at 3:36pm

1) You should read about Solon. Interesting guy for sure.


2) It isn't hijacking, it is no different than saying "Mr. President" using the title simultaneously as a name.


3) We haven't created anything, this particular practice of using a non-particular phrase to refer to a specific deity dates to at least the Elohist writers sometime in the 9th century BCE. We don't do that for other religions because no other religion has a requirement like the 3rd commandment.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 30, 2011 at 3:46pm
2) Should I ever become convinced that the mythological Yahweh exists and does in fact answer to the English word 'god' then I will happily address Yahweh as Mr. God in all subsequent correspondence.

3) The English language doesn't go back to the 9th century BCE and so therefore neither does the practice that I have addressed. Furthermore, the length of time that a belief has been held is no measurement of it's validity. Finally, the third commandment in a mythology need not be adopted into our rules of grammar, and in point of fact should not be so adopted by a secular society - which is entirely the point I began with.
Comment by Will Sloan on March 30, 2011 at 4:46pm
Good stuff... this is something I've chewed on myself. I typically capitalize god for what may be a mix of habit from being raised as a Christian and my specific reference (NOT reverence!) to the god of the monotheistic religion. All good points though. What if we just started saying "He Who Must Not Be Named" instead?
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 30, 2011 at 4:57pm
Yes, I will gleefully use and capitalize He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named when referring to Yahweh if that will make his believers happy.  I should point out, though, that the religions of the Abrahamic tradition are not actually 'the' monotheistic religion, but rather just one of the monotheistic religions.  Let's not discriminate against Ashur and Xenu now.
Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on March 30, 2011 at 5:27pm

2) Should you then also refer to all fictional characters with un-capitalized names? Were they real I could imagine that mr. darcy, arthur dent, and charlie brown would all be offended, as I am sure their creators would be (if they weren't all dead that is). All you are doing is trying to bend a grammatical rule based on your displeasure with a particular fictional character.


3) You're right, English doesn't go that far back, but the grammatical distinction between regular nouns and proper names does. Common nouns are usually preceded with an article where as proper nouns are not. The Israelites referred to their god as God, employing the title as the name and signifying the uniqueness of their deity. In English that means the first letter must be capitalized.

Comment by Will Sloan on March 30, 2011 at 5:37pm

Haha! That was a fat finger error. Meant to add a "s" to religion. But yes, let's not discriminate by any means.


Kenneth is really giving you a run for it, huh? :D


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