by John Richards
To capitalize or not to capitalize, that is the question…
Historically, when there were lots of deities, they all had individual names. There was Zeus, Thor, Cloaca, Anubis and so on. This was ‘polytheism’.
So, what happened? Commercial mergers and takeovers, that’s what!
It dawned on the religious business entrepreneurs that they could earn more if the god they were selling could address all the needs of their flock rather than only being necessary during a drought or sickness or whatever special curative power their god was supposed to have. They invented monotheism.
But what to call this all-powerful deity?
Obviously they couldn’t use any of the old god’s names because people knew what those gods could and couldn’t do. And they knew how difficult it was to introduce a new name which had no reputation attached to it… It was an early marketing problem: how to launch a novel branded product! Back then they couldn’t mount a campaign with a slick advert that they could relentlessly bombard the public with because the technology simply didn’t exist.
Then, someone hit upon the perfect solution: let’s call the new omnipotent god, ‘God’!
That person probably faced opposition from negative critics who moaned something like, “That’s just silly, like calling your dog, ‘Dog’!”
In fact it was a stroke of genius. In one fell swoop it demoted all the other gods to an inferior state of not having an uppercase initial, not being a proper noun, which implied that they were not proper gods.
So they carried the theme on to the pronouns He and Him. That made it clear who they were referring to, and it gave followers a reason to demand that the capital should be used or else disrespect was being shown and a punishment was indicated.
Simple but effective, eh?
That’s why I don’t give god a capital letter. I don’t want to fall into their trap of making god appear special. Instead, I try to remember to put ‘your’ in front of ‘god’ in order to make it clear that they have chosen to believe in this particular non-evidential creator deity and not any of the others.