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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”.

Thanks!
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.

Richard

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