Ask Richard: Why Should I Capitalize the Word “God”? March 17, 2011

Ask Richard: Why Should I Capitalize the Word “God”?

Hi Richard,

I have a quick and simple question for you. Since you do not believe in god, why do you capitalize “God” in your texts? I share many of the same beliefs/ideals as you, therefore not seeing a reason to capitalize the word “god”.

Just Curious

Dear Just Curious,

I don’t know if there’s a customary etiquette among atheists for handling this, but for myself, it depends on the person to whom I’m writing, and the entity to which I’m referring. For instance, if I’m writing to a Christian, and I’m referring to the Judeo-Christian deity in which they believe, I’ll capitalize “God,” because that is the customary way in English-speaking countries to refer to that particular supreme being. I do that just for clarity, to differentiate it from thousands of other supreme beings.

However, if I refer again to “God” in the same or next sentence with the pronoun “he,” I don’t capitalize “he” because that is not necessary for clarity, and that might seem to imply that I agree with their god’s reality or Jesus’ divinity or something like that. A Christian might find that little detail irritating, but I’m not doing it to try to irritate them. Instead, I’m always trying to find a way to have polite discourse yet still practice integrity and honesty. I’d be willing to reconsider it if someone could explain how writing “He” would be appropriate for my position.

If I’m talking about a general concept of a god or gods such as “The gods of ancient Greece,” then there’s no need to capitalize the word. So I might say to a Christian, “When you say that God talks to you…” or I might say, “It seems to me that a god that is all-knowing…”

It can get a bit complicated the way I’m choosing to handle it, but I try to be mindful about little issues like that. I’m open to others’ suggestions and solutions.

On rare occasion I’ve seen atheists very pointedly use the lower-case “god” when writing to a Christian about their specific “God,” and it seemed obvious it was a way to add a sneer to their tone, resembling a playground taunt. I don’t do things like that, because I’m more interested in respectful dialogue working toward mutual understanding than in merely expressing disdain or contempt. Any child can do that. I suppose there might be some grownup reason to deliberately use the lower case “god” when referring to the proper name of the Judeo-Christian “God,” but I’m not sure what that reason would be. I’d be interested.


You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

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  • Oh, this is an easy one…. Just as I do not capitalize “easter bunny” or “abominable snowman”, I do not capitalize god… never.

    OK – Maybe not “never” as you see in my name, but capitalizing the first letter in any word in an online name like that, such as “PayMyBills” is a personal standard I have used for years. So the capital “G” in NoYourGod has as much meaning as the capital N and Y. I will also capitalize the G if god is the first word of a sentence, such as ‘”God damn it!’ exclaimed the owner of a newly stubbed toe.”

  • I don’t capitalize it, either. And I know I’m being nasty, but I just can’t help myself. (For me, this mostly comes up on Facebook.)

  • Asthon

    I grew up in Christianity always capitalizing the “G”. I think that for a person that didn’t grow up religious, then maybe it feels more natural not to capitalize that and it may not be sneering at all.

  • I see it this way, if the person you’re speaking with is such a petulant child to throw a fit over not capitalizing the g in god, then they need to have a SERIOUS look at themselves and why I would call them mentally the equivalent of a 5 year old.

    Besides, I don’t believe in their god (or any of the numerous ones throughout history) so why should I be showing any signs of “respect” to a being that to me is purely mythology

  • Ben

    I only capitalise it when I am using it as a name. That’s just a question of grammar.

    If I write “your god” it’s a noun, not a name, so it’s lower case. But if I – for example – am comparing God and Zeus, I am using the word as a name.

  • Miko

    Linguistic conventions can affect the way that we think and as such should not be given undue deference. In the same sense that feminists are correct to point out that using “he” in gender-ambiguous cases is improper even if it is traditional, atheists should be willing to discuss altering traditional capitalization standards for “God.” In this case, “God” is not a proper name and so the capitalization is not just the standard rule for proper nouns. Instead, the noun is being elevated by Judeo-Christian biases. If historically precedent suggested that, say, the word Flour should always be capitalized, I’m sure that we wouldn’t preserve that distinction for that reason alone.

    That said, the current capitalization standard is useful for distinguishing between the Judeo-Christian god and other gods. If you believe that deliberately not capitalizing this word is an important consciousness-raising tactic, then I’d support your decision to do this. But personally I wouldn’t bother.

  • HP

    AFAIK, capital letters do not possess any sort of magical powers.

    It irritates me when atheists plays these sorts of linguistic/semantic games, because it always seems to concede that there is some sort Arcane Name Magic to be avoided.

    Language — and especially written language — is always arbitrary and conventional. In English, God is always capitalized when referring to the monotheistic Abrahamic god, just like Godhead is capitalized when referring to the Buddhist concept. Likewise, “a devil,” but “the Devil.” German capitalizes all nouns, Romance languages very few, and English is in the middle somewhere. Arbitrary and conventional.

  • “God” functions as one of the names of that particular god (see what I did there?) so you capitalize it just as you would “Yahweh” or “Zeus.”

    I agree with you on the “he/He” business. No to that.

  • Sarah2

    In thinking of why TO capitalize God, it’s the same reason one capitalizes things like Hamlet-they exist in the realm of literature and ideas. No, the word “god” itself is not a proper name, but in the Bible it is used as a proper name and takes on that role. I can see the arguments against that too, so no angrily refuting it or citing Russellian linguistic philosophy to argue that there are few true proper names (I’m in a philosophy of language class). Just a casual thought.

  • KeithLM

    Due to the fact that the Christian god is often referred to just as “God”, rather than Jehova or Yahweh or some other name, then I look it as the supposed diety’s name, and therefore capitalize it. Just as I would when writing about Thor or Zeus or FSM.

  • I capitalize it. It’s the name of a character in a work of fiction. Garfield, God, Harry Potter, etc.

    I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in the English language.

  • SaneSue

    I’m on the lowercase boat, too. Maybe I’m being a brat, but I don’t capitalize it.

  • Liz

    Other than the fact that I sometimes forget to capitalize stuff in informal comments I usually capitalize ‘God’ in the same way I capitalize ‘Harry Potter’. I see God as a proper noun, as a name. If I were to say ‘her god’ or ‘the Christian god’, I wouldn’t capitalize. Much like ‘Grandpa’ a proper noun and a common noun.

  • Kat

    You could explain it through simple English grammar rules, I believe.

    When a person is using a word like “mom” or “dad” in a place where the individual’s name would make sense to insert instead, I believe the word is supposed to be capitalized.

    For example, if you are telling your sister that your mom called, you would write:

    “Did you know that Mom just called?”

    as opposed to:

    “Did you know that mom just called.”

    You see that in this place you could exchange “Mom” for “Jane”, and the sentence would still make sense.

    However, the sentence, “Did you know that our mom just called?” does not make sense if you insert “Jane” for “mom”. So in this case you don’t capitalize “mom”.

    I think you could legitimately apply this logic to whether you write “God” or “god”.

  • Miko

    @HP: If you capitalize “Arcane Name Magic,” then the Arcanenamemagicalists win.

  • I don’t capitalize doctor since there are plenty of types of doctors unless I’m specifying an actual doctor’s name. Same goes for god, there are thousands of them, so I don’t treat it as a proper name or noun.

    So I only capitalize it when it’s used along with their actual name, like Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, Krishna and the many countless others.

  • I agree with HP, atheists aren’t ceding anything important by using capitalization.

    In all-atheist contexts, I guess it’s fine, but, if you’re talking to Christians, it seems like a needless insult. I always capitalize God and (depending on context) He/Him on my blog since I’m focused on crosstalk between atheists and Christians. Why raise people’s hackles with my spelling when I want to discomfit them with my ideas? The Christian commenters offer me the same courtesy, I suppose, by referring to my atheism instead of my ‘delusion.’

    Controversial ideas can be expressed politely, and the debates are better for it.

  • wind_walker

    I capitalize Buddha, Zeus, Anu, etc- but I generally can’t bring myself to capitalize “god”. The capitalized version irks me. I don’t mind capitalizing Jesus or Jahweh (or Yahweh) etc- but I’m just not cool with Christians cornering the market on the word “god”. If one of my Christian friends gets angsty with me about it, I simply explain that their deity figures do have names, and maybe they should try using them instead of trying to force their religion upon the English language.

  • David Woodward

    Seems like a small irritation that need not be a major issue. Kind of like getting stressed because someone squeezed the tooth paste in the middle of the tube.

  • I capitalize “God” for the same reasons I capitalize “Jesus” and “Mary”; they’re proper names. It’s just simple grammar. I have no respect for religious beliefs, nor does the Christian God hold any significance for me or my life. It’s just, as Hemant said, a way to differentiate between the Christian “God” and the overall term for a higher power, “god”.

  • wind_walker

    (Of course, I never use the word “god” to refer to their deity in the first place, so the whole debate doesn’t come up often. Using Yahweh or Jehovah seems to work fine- and most Christians I’ve spoken to seem to be cool with it, with some saying it can be an even more respectful way to go about it.)

  • walkamungus

    When writing about literature (oh so many years ago now), I followed the capitalization used by the author or poet, resulting in many uses of “God” and “He.” To me this makes sense for literary analysis.

    I don’t know for sure, since I was more into Milton and Donne, but e.e. cummings and bell hooks were probably small-g god people.

  • Meh, I don’t capitalize it, as usually I’m using it impersonally, like ‘this god you speak of’. If I know I’m speaking to a Christian, I use Yahweh. Might be a little pissy, yeah, won’t deny that. 😉

  • The Other Tom

    The grammar rule I was taught as a child was that when referring to the abrahamic god, you always use a capital G to show respect, while when referring to other gods, you don’t. I always thought this was BS so I don’t do it.

    I buy the “it’s a proper noun and you capitalize proper nouns” argument as being grammatically legitimate, except that I don’t buy that it’s a proper noun. The christian god’s name is Jehovah or Yahweh, they use the word “god” as a substitute because for some strange religious reason I don’t quite understand they don’t want to say the name. It’s like saying “car” when you mean “Toyota”. It wouldn’t make “car” a proper noun.

    I also don’t agree that we’re not conceding anything by using the capital letter. As stupid as it sounds, I have seen people argue that when I use the capital letter that’s proof that I know there really is a god and that I’m lying when I say I don’t believe and I’m just saying I can be an atheist because I think it means I can sin without societal disapproval. So I won’t give them the ammo, I use the lower case g.

  • Jeff Dale

    The use of “God” as a name skews the debate. It’s a loaded word, no matter what our intent in using it. When Xians hear “God” or even “god” in a sentence, their conception of God is reinforced; it resonates with their “inside” perspective, instead of challenging that perspective. I tend to say something like “your deity” or “the deity you worship” since that sets the context right. It’s just another mythological character, like all the other deities, spirits, ghosts, monsters, etc., we find in stories and view from an “outside” perspective.

    For the same reason, I tend to avoid saying “believe in X” and instead say something like “believe that X exists.” “Believe in” seems to presuppose the existence of the thing believed in; Xians may hear it the same way as “trusting in.” We can’t place our trust in something if we don’t first believe that it exists, so “believe in” confuses the issue. “Believe that” sets the context right, since that’s what we’re really arguing about.

  • Cyphern

    I, for one, don’t capitalize “god”. But then again, i don’t capitalize “i” either (unless it starts a sentence).

  • Sam

    I agree with Richard. I see no reason NOT to capitalize the word “god” when using it as a proper name. I freely capitalize Santa Claus and Peter Rabbit, although not elf or easter bunny, although I don’t believe in them, either.

  • SWare

    It’s such a tiny detail but still we can’t help but to have given it thought. I do not capitalize it either. I could attribute it to the fact a title gets capitalized and it is a title I’ve yet to find a worthy bearer for.

  • Edmond

    Sorry, “God” is NOT his name. His name is Jehovah, or Yahweh, or Elohim, or whatever alias the theist of the day prefers. “God” is only his JOB DESCRIPTION, and it doesn’t get capitalized.

    I reserve capitalization for REAL proper nouns. Words like “he” and “him” and even “lord” do NOT qualify. I won’t acknowledge the theist attempt to hijack the English language for the glorification of their myths.

  • Parse

    I know some a few people do it to help reinforce their ‘deconversion.’ Before, they’d always need to use capital letters when referring to ‘him’, so intentionally using lowercase is a way to show (to both themselves and to others) that they’ve broken free from their religious brainwashing. Most of the time, though, I see people using lowercase to refer to Jehovah to antagonize those who insist on capitalizing God. I admit that I do it sometimes to annoy people, but only to those who (a) are preaching at me, and (b) capitalize anything and everything that refers to their god. Not just when talking about ‘Him’, but ‘His Will be done’ or ‘His Suffering’ or ‘His Book’ or ‘His Left Foot.’

    Generally speaking, if I’m referring to the god of the Bible, I try to use ‘Jehovah’, but if someone is talking about ‘God’ it should get capitalized, just like ‘Zeus’ and ‘Odin’.

  • CanadianNihilist

    I don’t capitalize god, christians, alla ect. Sometimes spellchecker gets them when I’m not careful though.

  • Kristi

    I capitalize the word god as a proper noun, but thats just the same as I would anyone elses name. If I am referring to Allah, I capitalize that as well. When referring to godS as in plural form or speaking of A god (not by name) then I use lowercase. This is just my grammar perfectionist disability they ingrained in me in college… it has nothing to do with my beliefs (or lack of) At times I am even just too lazy to capitalize ANY words when I type.

  • Josh Evolved

    To me god shouldn’t be capitalized simply because it isn’t a name. Since the Christian god has a literal name- Yahweh or Jehovah – it makes no sense to capitalize god.

    To me capitalizing god only serves to lessen other religions gods and I want no part of that; I treat all religions equally and don’t take a noun and turn it into a proper noun just to appease someones ego.

    That is why when I discuss religion I typically just use the standard name – Zeus, Yahweh, Allah, Ahura Mazda etc. I hardly ever use god on its own, usually I hyphenate it like this: god-concept, because after all that is what all religious gods are, just concepts of what is unknowable. At the same time it annoys me when people capitalize atheist, unless at the beginning of a sentence.

    This may seem petty but I am particular about word usage, to misuse words can create confusion, like using apple when what you really meant to use was pear.

    Words may only be abstract concepts, but they still have rules that should be followed otherwise we end up in linguistic chaos.

  • Phoebe

    I agree with Edmond. “God” is not really the Christian god’s name. They use that, some of them unknowingly, to promote the idea that their god is the only god.

  • TheBlackCat

    I use the uppercase God more for clarity than anything. When speaking to members of an abrahamic religion, God is commonly understood to mean their god, while god is a generic name for a class of supposed beings. So it isn’t really an issue of grammar or respect, I just prefer to avoid wasting time clarifying myself later.

  • S-Y

    Titles, like names, also get capitalized, and while “God” isn’t a name, it’s almost like a nickname. Thus I keep “God” as capitalized when referring directly to any deity in a monotheistic context, just as one would capitalize “American”, “Chief Executive Officer”, or any name of a religion. Of course, when not put in a monotheistic context, or when used as a common noun, it is in lowercase. (i.e. “My friend worships the Judeo-Christian god.” as opposed to “One nation under God.” )

    That said, there are important points to be made in the above posts. There is no one god, so capitalizing “god” is pretty much akin to capitalizing “cheeseburger” or “drink”. However, the way “god” is used as a proper noun makes it seem more grammatically correct when it is used as one. You know when someone says “God bless you”, they are referring to their god, just as, say, someone in another religion would capitalize the word “path” if applicable, referring to it as a proper noun even if “path” is not the actual name of the Path.

    On a related note, capitalizing “atheist” is almost always improper in the general sense. You wouldn’t capitalize “monotheist” or “polytheist”, so there’s no reason to capitalize “atheist” as the word really doesn’t mean much of anything on its own. That said, a lot of people use the word “atheism” to refer to the movement, which could possibly be capitalized in that case if we accept the definition.

  • L.Long

    GOD is not a name – it is a job description.
    So I write it as g0d, using the zero to indicate it total intellectual content.

  • TychaBrahe

    Refusing to capitalize “God” when it is used as a particular deity’s title or pseudo-nickname, as S-Y helpfully identifies it, suggests one of three things:

    1. You’re ignorant and don’t know that titles require capitalization;

    2. You’re careless, and made a typo; or

    3. You’re being petulant for the express purpose of annoying the faithful.

    None of these possible attributes contribute positively to the discussion.

  • Marty

    While it may not contribute positively to the discussion, I refuse to capitalize the word god unless it is at the beginning of a sentence. I typically refuse to capitalize any name of any specific god, name of a religion, or the name of any deity. Yes I am trying to be both petulant and annoying.

  • David W

    Surely the proper name of that particular deity is YHWH or Jehovah?


  • Dave B

    I avoid using “God” as a proper noun. If you talk to two Christians, it’s likely that they each believe in a different god. Perhaps one of these gods talks directly to Pope Ratzinger daily, while the other one hasn’t interacted with the world since setting off the big bang. Using the word “God” to refer to both of these beings as if they were they same character is confusing.

  • Vas

    Alright so God is not the christian god’s proper or true name, but it is a common name he goes by around these parts. My friend Chuck is not really named Chuck, but I give him a cap anyway. But then again I’m not an english major so what the hell do I know.

    Why do some capitalize christian? Is this proper? What about doctor, landscape architect or trash-man, do those get caps? How about nihilist? It seems like if christian gets a cap, nihilist should get one too.
    I think it is alright to give fictional characters a caps, like Donkey, (from Shrek) sure that may be his real name but like I said I’ll give a nickname or a even a fake name a cap as well. Where are all the articles about charlie sheen?

  • Don Rose

    I always use lower case, and often change the spelling to “gawd”, or use quotation marks “god”. It is an accurate way to express my complete lack of respect for the entire concept of “gods”.

    It’s time to stop babying, and enabling the nonsense. I can’t listen to religious babble, and pretend that it’s okay. It’s NOT. It’s primitive, childish, delusional, harmful, and not only a waste of time….. but actually sets the human race back hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

  • I don’t worship a deity. I hold no reverence for gods. However, when referring to the god of Abraham that the Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in the a capital G is appropriate as it is the name that they use for their god. I prefer to use “gods” or “your god” otherwise.

  • Vas

    Oh this is rich…
    I like number 6 in particular.

  • NotYou007

    I’m in the lower case camp these days too. I might slip up now and then but I don’t do it to piss off people or be a dickish atheist. I just see no point in doing so.

    What is funny though during a conversation with a christian I did type out God and they typed. See, you do believe in a God. All because I did use a capital G. That was their proof I was not an atheist.

    I’ll be a dick and stick with god.

  • Ron in Houston

    Don’t feel bad Richard, I don’t believe in ronald reagan either.

  • That’s the only grammar rule I don’t follow. I show no respect, at all, for stupid fairy tales.

  • Margy


    Thanks for the link! Number 6 is my favorite, too!

  • Vas

    Wow, after a bit of looking, it seems there are different rules for christian writing, they have…

    wait for it…

    A Christian Writer’s Manual of Style!

    There are net articles about “christian capitalization”, (who knew) it’s viewed as an act of devotion and worship to a “Holy God”. Christians seem keen on pronoun, (god pronoun that is) capitalization as well and some even say That God Pronouns should be all caps. Also you might want to cap words before and after HIS name. Apparently this shows How God Spreads like a virus and infects everything around HIM.

  • Emily

    The standard is that the name of any fictional character is capitalized. “God” is capitalized for the same reason that “Harry Potter,” or “Minnie Mouse” is capitalized.

    Capitalizing Minnie Mouse’s name does not make her more or less plausible as an entity. It only shows that the writer understands and appropriately uses a convention of written English.

  • Anthony

    Easy! Basic english. You capitalise the name of things so that their god is called God! This is the same as i am a person named Anthony!

  • Zac

    This isn’t a question of belief, it’s a question of English principles. If it is a formal title, such as when you’re referring specifically to the Judeo-Christian god, then yes, you do capitalise it, same way you would capitalise Zeus. Not doing so simply to spite people is stupid and childish.

  • Secular Stu

    Far better to use the phrases “a god”, “any gods”, or even “the Christian god”/”the Abrahamic god”. The first two force you to be mindful and take a general case against the concept of gods. By this I mean the difference between “If you look at what a god said to Moses…” versus “If a god is benevolent, why would…”. The former sounds forced, the latter is perfectly unobjectionable to any reasonable person.

    That using such terms is favorable to the atheist does not make it uncivil or impolite. The Christian may choose to take offense, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You would just have to listen to your own conscience and be sincerely snark-free. (It would be similar to someone saying “Queen Amidala” and another person saying “don’t you mean ‘Her Royal Highness Queen Amidala’?”. That second person can sod off.)

    This phrasing serves as a subtle reminder that 1) there are and have been many reported “gods” throughout history and 2) that arguments that support “a god” don’t automatically support “the Christian god”.

  • Michael

    You’d capitalize it for the same reason you’d capitalize the name of an antagonist in a novel. It’s a proper noun. Using the capitalized version does not imply reverence or belief. It’s simply using english etiquette.

  • Sherry

    It’s a situational thing for me too.
    Depends on the audience, the context….

  • I would like to know what Richard, Michael Newdow, and the Supreme Court think! Is “In god we trust” and “One nation under god” okay? If the supreme court is serious about its position that the phrases are secular, it would be hypocritical to use a proper noun unique to Yahweh (and to the exclusion of Allah or Zeus).

    Also, I once heard the story that early teletypes used ALL CAPS, a travesty that degrades online experience to this day, because of GOD. Even though technicians at the time knew that monospace lowercase was far easier to read than uppercase (and the machines at the time could not handle mixed case), they made their choice because they did not want to risk insulting the creator!

  • Liz

    @jeff dale, i agree with your second statement. I also say, “I don’t believe in a god.” as opposed to “I don’t believe in God”

  • Meyli

    UGH… can we lean towards our (partial) German roots and just capitalize all nouns?!
    This is so tedious!

  • Wow. What a lot of responses. I have to go with KeithLM and his assessment of “God” being used as a name, and thus as a proper noun. Oh, and for the same reason I do capitalize “Easter.” And “Bunny,” if he’s of the Easter or Energizer persuasion.

  • Kristi

    @Vas: Thanks for that link! I could not help myself… I had to comment… I gave them some serious ridicule about promoting improper grammar and how this will effect their younger students future educational skills. Not that it will matter… but I had to anyway 🙂

  • Peter Mahoney

    Semantics are important since language use and structure reflects our inner thoughts/understandings.

    I describe my atheism as “I don’t believe in any gods” rather than “I don’t believe in God”.

    I think that “I don’t believe in God” would suggest I am being contrary to The Creator, as if he/she/it is real, and is the one true God but I rebel against Him.

    Conversely, “I don’t believe in any gods” puts theists a bit off their stance since they have to concede that they don’t believe in most gods either, and it shifts the focus to why they believe the judeo-christian god but not the thousands of other gods.

    I do not just do this to ‘score points’ in a discussion. Rather, I honestly think that getting theists to realize that they reject most gods makes them more likely to be understanding of the atheist perspective.

  • DDM

    I always type it lowercase. I don’t respect such a vile being, and I show that lack of respect by typing its name in lowercase.

  • AxeGrrl

    I simply avoid the issue altogether by almost always using indefinite articles ~ ‘a god’ or ‘a deity’ instead…..

    That, or I put quotes around a capitalized ‘God’ (which, in hindsight, seems a little more passive aggressive than not capitalizing the word at all 🙂

  • I capitalize it if is being used as a proper noun. If “God” is being used as the object’s name, as opposed to its description, I use “God” not “god”. I also capitalize Santa Claus, Allah, and Vishnu, as they are proper nouns. It is simply a matter of grammar.
    If I am using as a common noun, I use “god”.
    I would say “the Easter bunny” (Easter by itself is a proper noun), but if I were to say “Hey Easter Bunny, gimme some chocolate!” I would treat it as a proper noun, as I am using it as a proper noun.

    A non-mythical example: If I am referring to a a doctor whose name I do not know, and I am using their title as their name, I write “Doctor”. If I say something like “Find a doctor” I use “doctor”.

  • Apparently, Christians don’t care what is proper, they would prefer ALL CAPS.

  • Jake

    I personally don’t capitalize god, and refer to it as “it,” because where does god actually prove it’s male? They just wrote some book about it that way initially, and modern religion can be all about changing the inferences of the past if they want to.

    This is when I’m thinking of god as the “it,” which is this concept. When you’re explicitly naming something as God, proper nouns apply.

    (just my 2.36 cents)

  • aerie

    I follow what I learned in 3 yrs of HS AP English in a progressive & well-funded NC school system during mid 80s (I got lucky for once).[run-on sentence] I admittedly have a bias (recovering grammar webnazi)…atheism caused my empathy & self-awareness to grow and mellowed me to a large degree (eww, that sounds like cheezy fundy selling point).[run-on sentence #2]

    *I’ll surely be pwnd with a mistake or misspell in this comment.

  • Michael S

    I always spell it like this gOd. The same w/ jEsus or any other pretend deity.

  • Chris

    who wants to comment on the g-d behavior of some christians? Apparently god is too special to even name…
    ..and it pained me to not capitalize such things when I began (petulantly at first I admit)-there are so many reasons to not capitalize any of it- and only one to- the *rules* tell you to do so. And who wrote those rules? Christians perhaps?… As a medical cannabis patient and union employee!! 😉 I am done following rules others wrote for their benefit and will continue to push things when and if I can.

  • Jeff Dale

    @Peter Mahoney:

    I think that “I don’t believe in God” would suggest I am being contrary to The Creator, as if he/she/it is real, and is the one true God but I rebel against Him.
    Conversely, “I don’t believe in any gods” puts theists a bit off their stance since they have to concede that they don’t believe in most gods either, and it shifts the focus to why they believe the judeo-christian god but not the thousands of other gods.

    Well said! Framing matters, and there’s no reason why atheists should cater to Xians’ privileged frame. Better to help Xians see outside their frame. (If we don’t help them do it, who will?)

  • Jim H

    @beetle re teletypes: the way I heard that story, CAPS were chosen as the single case because one pointy-haired type complained about not being able to render the name of the deity…

    And by the way: if I remember the tradition correctly, Yahweh or YHWH or Jehovah is not the name of the god, but merely represents the name of the god. Please correct me if that’s wrong.

  • I capitalize the name of the god, if I’m using it (ie: Allah, Jehovah, YHWH, Yahweh, Zeus, Odin, the Flying Spaghetti Monster), but I never capitalize the word “god.” I do, however, refrain from using the word “god” to stand in for where a name could suffice. I tend to use “your/her/his/their god/deity” a lot, though. I find that people don’t get as offended that way, and while I like to make people think, I haven’t found that offending or irritating them is the best way to obtain that reaction.

    All in all, though, I don’t have a problem with the lower-case-in-all-cases folks. It takes all types to make a social movement happen.

  • Robster

    I can’t even capatilise the word “bible” either. To do so would seem to engender the object with some sort of respect when in fact it’s nothing more than a pile of fabricated nonsense and the god thing is a total failure too.

  • Jeff Dale


    Good point. Consistent with what I said above, I just try to avoid “Bible”/”bible” altogether. “The Xian holy book” works.

  • I think the fact that the word is “god” is irrelevant.

    If you’re using it as a proper noun (e.g. “then God said X”), then you should capitalise it as you would any other proper noun (e.g. “then Richard said X”).

    If you’re using it as a regular noun (e.g. “a god”), then you should apply the same rules of capitalisation to it as you would apply to any other regular noun (e.g. “a house”).

    Capitalising words like “he” and “his” unnecessarily, as is often seen in religious writing, is simply grammatically incorrect.

  • aerie

    From Jeff Dale:

    “Better to help Xians see outside their frame. (If we don’t help them do it, who will?)”

    Excellent point! My choices:
    ‘gawd’ ‘Buybull’ ‘Jayzus’ (both capped for spite)

  • Drakk


    I usually capitalise “Bible”. It’s the name of the book, like “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

    I prefer to think of its name being “the Bible”. As in, this object is a book called “the Bible”, not this object is a Bible.

    As for god, never capitalise. If I mean the Christian one I’ll say Yahweh or Jehovah. Same wth Zeus, Apollo, Thor, Allah or suchlike.

  • Christophe Thill

    “God” is not a name. It’s a job description. Why talk about “God” ? Just say “a god”.

  • Greg

    I use a lower case ‘g’ for god – however, I don’t involve myself in many scriptural discussions, and when I do, I’ll use Yahweh. What I’m interested in (discussion-wise) tend to be the proofs of god(s).

    However, I think there is a good reason for using a lower case ‘g’. Many Christians seem to usurp the term god as a result of the capitalisation, and behave as though whenever the word ‘god’ is used, it must be theirs that is being talked about.

    It’s a position of power, if you think about it. The general descriptor is the word ‘god’, but all the other religions have to use different words (Allah etc.) when referring to their own. Of course, because their god is the real one, they just use the general descriptor.

    I do, however, try to use ‘a god’ or ‘your god’, or ‘gods’ or any other formulation I can use to show I am talking about gods in general, and am not being specific to just their particular one. If I then forget the ‘a’ or ‘your’ later on, at least the point has been made earlier that I am both not singling out their god, and also am not granting it any greater weight than any other proposed god.

    I have to say, however, that I never thought ‘God’ was capitalised because it was his name – it isn’t, as has been pointed out in these comments – but rather to grant importance to it. It’s the same reason words like ‘He’ and ‘Lord’ are capitalised by Christians, and the Bible. It’s to show the deference of that god’s worshippers, not because it is called ‘He’ or ‘Lord’

  • Jerry Priori

    I don’t capitalize the “G” in god. I think the capitalization shows undue concession and undeserved respect for the concept. If we’re going to break the spell that religion has cast, there’s no need to perpetuate its hold on language.

  • Peter Mahoney

    I always capitalize the “H” when I type “Jesus H. Christ”.


  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Oh this is rich…
    I like number 6 in particular.

    If there ever was a God, he probably died of embarrassment over things like this a long time ago.

    A non-mythical example: If I am referring to a doctor whose name I do not know, and I am using their title as their name, I write “Doctor”. If I say something like “Find a doctor” I use “doctor”.

    But of course if you are talking about The Doctor then you must capitalize both ‘the’ and ‘doctor’ and any words used to describe him, as in “The Doctor is my Time Lord and Savior.”

  • Douglas Kirk

    I’m a non-capitalizer even though I’d grown up always capitalizing. I figure if I’m using the actual name of a god (Buddha, Yahweh, even Allah even though it just means god) I’ll capitalize, but not if I’m just using the word god.

    The christian god has no many different iterations and forms with some completely incompatible with one another; so I can’t honestly consider the christian god a single entity.

    I also don’t capitalize a religion’s name unless I’m referring to an adherent of that religion. Like, I’m not a fan of hinduism, but I don’t have anything against Hindus. In general, I follow the rule that if it’s about a person or some other specific entity, even fictional, capitalize. If it’s not, like god isn’t, don’t.

  • stogoe

    Any child can do that. I suppose there might be some grownup reason to deliberately use the lower case “god” when referring to the proper name of the Judeo-Christian “God,” but I’m not sure what that reason would be.

    This is a petty, unhelpful sneer, and you need to recognize that, you smug bastard.

    It is always the demand of the oppressors that the oppressed be polite, that they behave in the manner that the oppressors prefer, to bow and scrape and never dare to rock the boat with impassioned words. Your demands for politeness are a demand that we submit to your authority.

    Na. Ga. Ha. Pa. I will not relinquish mockery and derision as tools, and neither should you. Politeness is not a panacea.

  • stogoe

    The former sounds forced, the latter is perfectly unobjectionable to any reasonable person.

    See, I’d go with “If you look at what the Christian god said to Moses…” or even “If you look at what Yahweh said to Moses…” They sound less forced to me.

    I also agree with Christophe Thill: god is a job description, not a name. Like janitor, or slayer of worlds.

  • walkamungus

    The Holy Observer seems to be Christian satire. The capitalization rules aren’t as funny as this one, about athletes pointing at the heavens:

  • Matt H.

    I do it because it’s proper grammar and adds clarity. The upper case “G” clearly denotes a proper noun. There are some cases when this distinction is important to communicate. To do otherwise is, in my opinion, either ignorant or purposefully petulant.

  • jemand

    I pretty much invariably use the phrase “your god” lower case, because it specifies which god in reference with the human believing in it (and, basically creating it, to my mind), instead of using any god name at all. So the lower case makes sense, and it remains quite specific.

    Because, honestly, even people who both consider themselves Christians can differ so much in their conceptions of the being they worship, I figure it looks like different gods, to me.

    So I just use “your god.”

  • J. J. Ramsey

    stogoe: “god is a job description, not a name.”

    The word “mom” is a job description, not a name. However, it often gets used as a proper noun and is capitalized when used as such, as Kat pointed out above.

  • The convention in English grammar is to capitalize names — including the names of fictional characters and mythological figures.

    Therefore, when I’m referring to a specific god, such as the god believed in by Christians who is referred to with the name “God,” I capitalize it. Just like I capitalize Juliet, or Hercules.

    When I’m referring to the general concept of a god or gods, though, I don’t capitalize it.

    So: “If you believe the Bible, God is a vengeful, petty, bloodthirsty narcissist, more concerned with whether people follow his largely random and irrelevant rules than with serious ethical questions.”

    But: “The god believed in by believers of the Bible is a vengeful, petty, bloodthirsty narcissist, more concerned with whether people follow his largely random and irrelevant rules than with serious ethical questions.”

    And I never capitalize “him,” “he,” or “his” when referring to God. I don’t do it with any other fictional character — why should I do it with this one?

  • L.Long

    When talking about g0d in general, and knowing that the true name of g0d is totally unknown. Then I use all caps S/He/IT as the real name of g0d. I would not want S/He?IT pissed cuz I got the gender (also unknown) wrong so I use them all.

  • Richard Wade


    This is a petty, unhelpful sneer, and you need to recognize that, you smug bastard.

    You object to my remark as a “petty, unhelpful sneer.” Then you immediately defend the use of derision and mockery as useful tools in a struggle against oppressive authority. So, it’s not okay for me to do, but it is okay for you?

    It is always the demand of the oppressors that the oppressed be polite, that they behave in the manner that the oppressors prefer, to bow and scrape and never dare to rock the boat with impassioned words. Your demands for politeness are a demand that we submit to your authority.

    I’m your “oppressor”? Do I have power and authority over you? I’m not “demanding” that you be polite, I’m suggesting it. I’m not trying to take away your power, I’m making a case for the power of respectful dialogue. You say that politeness is not a panacea. I agree. Antagonism isn’t either. I’m talking about skillful means toward positive change, and I’m saying that polite dialogue is one of those skills.

    You seem to speak in terms of struggle. I speak in terms of persuasion.

    Both my remark and your remark are examples of how unnecessary antagonism is not effective in persuasion. You found my remark to be petty and unhelpful, so I failed to persuade to you to consider the advantages of basic courtesy. I agree that it was contrary to what I’m suggesting, and I apologize for that. Then you called me a smug bastard and an oppressor. That has not persuaded me to adopt your methods either.

    Antagonism is for people who are interested only in expressing themselves. Politeness is for people who want to actually persuade others to consider a different point of view. Antagonism immediately gets people to stop listening, so if you’re interested in persuasion, it’s counterproductive.

    Impassioned words can be very persuasive. I’m not saying that you should relinquish them. I’m saying use them skillfully. They can be more persuasive if they don’t include unnecessary insults which close the minds and ears of those you are passionately trying to reach. Mockery and even derision can also be useful tools, but they should be used very carefully and mindfully, not just for pleasing oneself. If they immediately render your opponents deaf, then you’re only heard by those who already agree with you. As far as changing the minds of those who disagree with you, you might as well be shouting into the wilderness.

    stogoe, we actually are on the same side.

  • Lana

    Huh. Interesting explanation. I don’t capitalize god, because I don’t consider it a proper noun. However, I do capitalize “Christ,” and “Heavenly Father,” though I don’t capitalize “christians” or “mormons,” likely for the same reason I don’t capitalize “atheists” or “lesbians.”

  • aerie

    Richard, I respectfully disagree but only halfway. You wrote: “You seem to speak in terms of struggle. I speak in terms of persuasion.”

    It’s a job for us all. Your job is to reach those who require polite persuasion to gain a different perspective, and dialogue is what gets them thinking. Those who who struggle need an emotional ouchie to jar them out of that reactionary maze. That’s what jerked back my reason and rationality back to attention. If it did that to me, it’ll do it for another. So it becomes my job.

    The intentional abuse of their sacred words *is* silly, childish & petty. So is thinking that words could be sacred. Wtf does that even mean? Repetitive exposure to our abuse & mockery of their sacred words *desensitizes* their emotional reaction to it.

    And maybe, she’ll see how her godly brothers/sisters in Christ act abominably. while declaring moral authority. Willful ignorance + pride = smug. To say I was embarrassed by them is an understatement. It surprised me a bit too. The idea that lack of god belief = lacking morality blew my mind. Never heard that one before. Something so either or to us. I don’t think in black/white, either/terms. Reality lives in between those absolutes.

    They need to learn that it’s a personal & moral responsibility to self-examine & gain the ability to view other people’s differences no matter how morally offensive they might be. Reality is offensive. Summon some integrity & deal. We must put ourselves in their shoes as honestly as we can. That is what builds empathy and morality. There’s your moral center.

  • This can all be avoided by using one of the deity’s proper names: Yahweh or Jehovah.

    Personally, I don’t like to feed into the theist assumption that their god is the only god that matters, so I don’t refer to their deity as “God.” When I speak of deities, I talk about them in general terms, typically in the plural form with no gender attached. IMO, talking about a god is very different from talking about “God.” The latter just feeds into many Christians’ sense of self-importance. If I have to refer to the popular god of Western culture, the phrase “biblical deity” or one of the proper names works fine for me!

  • Richard Wade

    I’m thinking carefully about what you’re saying. I only understand about the first half of it, but I’m reading it several times and I’m willing to open-mindedly consider what I do understand because you are being polite.

    Because you’re not deliberately being annoying or insulting, I’m willing to try to understand and consider your thoughts rather than simply dismissing it all out of hand.

    If you say that an emotional ouchie (I’m interpreting that as mockery or derision) was what helped you to become more reasonable and rational, then I must consider that it can sometimes be useful. I’ve just never personally seen it work, and I’ve seen a great deal of the opposite occur, backfiring terribly. But okay, your experience is something to consider.

    The irony is that you have only been able to persuade me of the possible usefulness of such methods by NOT employing them here.

  • Raye

    Like most people above, I capitalize “god” in certain situations because it is grammatically accurate.

    “I don’t see any evidence for God’s existence,” but “I don’t see any evidence for your god’s existence.” “He” will never be a proper pronoun, though.

  • On a related note, in respect to our Jewish friends, I sometimes write “the Hebrew Bible” (as Bible scholars do) where a Christian would write “the Old Testament”.

    I also prefer to avoid capital-G “God” because it blurs distinctions between the characters of Jehovah, Yahweh, and Allah. When responding to monotheists, I often say “your god”.

  • Jason

    I agree with Phoebe:

    I agree with Edmond. “God” is not really the Christian god’s name. They use that, some of them unknowingly, to promote the idea that their god is the only god.

  • I agree with Jason:

    I agree with Phoebe:

    I agree with Edmond. “God” is not really the Christian god’s name. They use that, some of them unknowingly, to promote the idea that their god is the only god.

    The god pronoun capitalization is extremely annoying. Anyone bitching about it is either arrogant or ignorant of their own god. If it is a pronoun you treat it as one.

  • Nick Andrew

    I don’t have any fixed rules, which is to say that my own usage may be inconsistent, but I am mindful of some principles here.

    The first is the Judeo-Christians have overloaded the class of deities with the name of one instance of that class. This does them a favor in that they’re always talking about “God” as if there was only ever one. That’s very inclusive of all manner of sky-fairy belief. I’m always thinking “which god? There are so many to choose from!”

    So I usually refer to their god by its name – Jehovah, or Yahweh if I feel like evoking even more barbarism.

    Also I feel no need to show respect to their god. That’s certainly why they capitalize “He”. Religion has had the benefit of undeserved respect for millennia. Christians expect it. So I’m happy to take them out of their comfort zone in the occasional instances where I may use “god” as a name rather than as a class of entities.

    Next, in some contexts such as discussing biblical literature, I will refer to “the god” in places where use of a name isn’t necessary. Naming this imaginary entity unduly anthropomorphizes it. I’m happy for it to remain “the god”.

    On the other hand, there is a case for capitalization. If I’m lampooning Christians, “God” is appropriate, and so is “Jeebus”.

  • Nick Andrew

    Oh, and there is no shortage of suitable adjectives. Soon after a discussion of biblical stories, I think the use of “tin-pot despot deity” would be entirely appropriate and sufficiently specific.

    It’s not about being a dick. It’s about taking them out of their default mode of “everybody loves Jesus; how could you not love Jesus? God is LOVE.” God is not love. Wups, capitalized – but at the beginning of a sentence. To the extent the biblical stories are true, Jehovah is a murderous petty tyrant. Christians seem to have a cognitive block when reading the bible; many of them can’t comprehend that somebody could read the bible and not think it full of rainbows and unicorn farts.

    Ooh look, I didn’t capitalize “bible”. This can be the subject of another post!

  • Nick Andrew

    I couldn’t get a job as a god; I don’t have the necessary super powers (nor the apparent insanity). So I don’t think it’s a job description; it’s an attribute – and, as the Christians would have it, unique to only one entity.

    Of course atheists know of many gods, not all purportedly as powerful as Jehovah.

    Some biblical translations refer to “the LORD” by capitalizing the whole word. Now that’s a job description.

  • aerie


    So noted.

    Perhaps being from the south, I’ve grown disgusted at the oppressive amount of ignorance and uber-religiosity I’m forced to deal with on a daily basis. Where the question, “what church do you go to?” seems appropriate for someone they’ve just met. Where you get a discount on Sunday lunch if you bring in your weekly church bulletin. Where I can’t pick up a bottle of my favorite moscato with my groceries because it’s after 6pm on a Sunday. Where the high school hands each graduate a Gideon bible to go along with their new diploma.

    I no longer have the patience for polite persuasion. It’s impossible to have respectful dialogue with reactionary people who allow their emotions to rule their world.

    Do I get a bit snarky and exact my petty revenge by mocking their idiotic comments and abusing there sacred words? Yes.

    Does it keep me from climbing up in their church bell-tower and opening fire? I like to think so.

  • aerie


    I like your idea of using “the god” to quote the Buybull. I think “a god” would work the same. Down here in the south we all him “the Lawd”.

  • Nick Andrew


    I’d use “a god” if I wasn’t talking about some specific god, but the bible usually is talking about Jehovah specifically, hence “the god”.
    Of course I shouldn’t encourage them in the idea that it’s “the only god”. Would “this god” help?

  • I capitalize God when writing about the Judeo Christian diety for the same reason I capitalize Abraham Lincoln or Rumplestiltskin. Because they are proper names, regardless of whether they belong to real beings. Likewise, if I was referring to the Muslim deity I would capitalize Allah.

  • JustMe

    I agree – Superman is a fictional character, and we usually capitalize his name too.

    Real person or fictional, both “God” and “Superman” are the names of people, and should be capitalized. Pronouns such as ‘he’, of course are not.

    I think Richard has it dead on here. Intentionally using lowercase just to antagonize the delusional serves no purpose.

  • NaraTaree

    I was raised Christian and I was always taught to capitalize the Big G. Even now I do capitalize it for the mere reason that it is his name, the same reason you capitalize Jesus or Moses. God was always his name to me and it was what I referred to him as. I do the same with Harry Potter and any other character from a book. That is how it is written in society and you don’t have to make a point to lowercase it, it just makes you look ignorant and spiteful. God is the name of the character from the book the Bible and people would get pissy if you called Spock spock.

  • ZAR

    You know, a friend of mine who is not really a Christian actually made a woman angry when he told her the Grammar rules, and I’ve often become frustrated with Atheists who spell it as god for their own stubborn use of it.

    First off, yes I am a Christian. No I am not offended that Atheists spell god in lower case G because it disrespects my god. I just think ( and I am being brutally honest here) that it shows them to be in a way illiterate and incapable of grasping simple English, and if they proceed to tell me that they are logical and rational, they have already failed to convince me of their vast superior Reasoning skills.

    To all, the Grammar rule is simple. All Proper Nouns are CAPITALISED in English. Plus, for those who remind us that gods is not gods name, keep this in mind:

    Suppose I tell you I have a friend named John. Now suppose he usually goes by the nickname “Rock”. The word rock is not a proper noun, but if I say “ I met rock at the movies” I am actually breaking English Grammar rules because Rock here is used as if it is my friend Johns Name. While his actual name is John, not Rock, the word Rock is treated as if it is his name because that’s how its used. It refers to the same person. The fact that I am not calling him by his real name is not reason to leave the otherwise lower case rock in the sentence. I don’t think anyone really questions that logic. Yet somehow we reverse it with God? Because God is not his actual name its now proper grammar to spell it god?

    That’s daft nonsense.

    If I call the blog owner here “God” the capital G goes on. In fact, there are instances when the non-Abrahamic gods are called simply “God” in English translations and the G is capped. Pick up a Translation of the Iliad. When Zeus is referred to as “God” the G is capped. It doesn’t matter that his name is Zeus and not God, because you replace Zeus with God, God is now his name.

    That’s actually why God is capitalised in English. Now, the He, His, ect, my be capitalised out of extra reverence and need not be observed, but, there is no excuse for leaving god in lower case when its used as a name.

    I also find it disingenuous to say something lie ‘Which god? It could be Odin or Zeus or Thor” when its clear its “The Christian god”.

    From my end of the debate, leaving God in lower case when its used as a name is not simply insulting, it reveals the actual ignorance of those who maintain the practice of the very language they are utilising and utterly abolishes in my mind the claim that they are logical, rational, intelligent persons who because they use Reason and Science are my superiors.

    If they can’t bring themselves to capitalise G in God because somehow they think God doesn’t exist, then they are simply emotionally driven Children whose arguments are based on self congratulatory tosh.

    By the way, Easter Bunny should also be capitalised as it too is a name.

  • Symphath74

    I was unable to read all the posts, so if I’m being repetitive, please forgive. I am an anti-theist, and I cannot bring myself to capitalize the word god because he doesn’t exist, but not only that, I find the fictional stories and what god stands for repugnant. So, maybe there is contempt there; however, it is simply a personal choice that I am very passionate about to the extent that I would find it immoral to give respect and emphasis to such a word. I’m certainly not trying to offend others even though, I’m sure that I do, regretfully. Again, it’s a very personal choice for me and I do not feel that I am being childish by recognizing my own feelings as I do Not have malicious intent, intent to offend nor hurt others, when I do not capitalize the word as I am being true to myself. It actually makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up to even try to type it with a capital G. 

  • I always find a way to never write capitalised “God”. I will always write “a god” or “your god” or any trick like that. This way I’m never bored with questioning myself about capitilizing their god or not.

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