The god of small fonts

I’m intrigued by the fashion among atheists to write “god” in lower-case all the time. I think this is intended to show just how strongly they don’t believe in him, though I notice they still capitalise “Buddha”, “Allah”, “Krishna” and “Flying Spaghetti Monster”. I never felt the need to do this myself back in my own days as an atheist – it seems to have arisen since then.

However, I am concerned that merely writing “god” in lower case could be interpreted as showing that atheists have the slightest smidgen of respect left for their theist opponents, or (even worse) some last lingering vestiges of belief. So here’s my suggestion to the atheist community: in order to show that you really, really don’t believe in “god”, I recommend dropping the font-size a couple of points every time you use the word. Writing “I don’t believe in god” carries so much more persuasive force than “I don’t believe in God”.

In the meantime, from now on I am going to refer to a certain Oxford professor as “richard dawkins”…

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21 Responses to The god of small fonts

  1. Phil Walker says:

    Surely if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. They ought to write “I don’t believe in “. (I hope that shows all right.) But then, that might be taken to suggest that there’s a gap they need to fill. Tricky…

    I call the Oxford-professor-whose-existence-I-disbelieve (what exactly is it he professes?) Dicky Dee. Mind you, that’s liable to cause confusion in some circles, since Dick Dowsett is an OMF bod.

  2. Arkwright says:

    I’m not exactly certain how it goes in English, but isnt only the christian one a God and other gods a god? or are all the other gods Gods too if they dont have a special name? If the first is the case I can see a reasoning to treat the christian god just as any other god until he gets called by some tad more distinquishable name.

  3. John H says:

    To clarify: I don’t have a particular problem with people referring to “the Christian god”. I had in mind more the situation where people continue to use the word “God” as a proper noun, but with a lower-case “g” (as they would for no other proper noun, unless they work for an advertising agency of course ;-)). As in the linked example, which says something like, “the problem for Christians is that god is invisible, and doesn’t exist” (a fascinating statement in its own right).

    It just comes across as a bit affected, and childishly provocative (like a certain type of free software advocate who always has to refer to the market leader as “Micro$oft” or “M$”).

  4. I’ve responded to this post: Australian Atheist.

    I don’t really understand how it is provocative. I don’t find it provocative that you use a capital g. In some ways it provides a useful indication to readers as to how seriously on takes the idea of god (opps did it again).

  5. “on” supposed to read “one”.

  6. Anonymous Reader says:

    Maybe somebody or a few are out there doing this but it would come no where close to justify it as something we atheists “do”. It seems more likely that you are confused by instances of the use of the non-proper noun “god”. While the topic is up with the writing of the word “god”. I have seen Christians who refuse to write “God” but instead write “GOD” because it is supposedly more respectful. I asked for an explaination why it is but was not given anything satisfactory.

  7. i tried to disrespect
    e e cummings once;
    a friend told me
    lower case is
    what he wouldve wanted

  8. John H says:

    Anon: what I had in mind was specifically the context in which people are using the word as a proper noun. So this would be fine:

    “I don’t believe in the god that Christians worship, or any other god”.

    “The Christian god defies all rationality.”

    It just starts to read rather oddly when we start seeing this:

    “I don’t believe in god”. “Christians claim to believe in god but really they know god doesn’t exist”. And so on.

    And I agree that writing GOD in block capitals as a sign of “respect” is rather odd, and it is normally found on the lunatic fringe these days (or in TS Eliot’s “The Rock”…).

  9. J Random Hermeneut says:

    Given his rather high self-christology, I’m surprised we don’t see his name rendered as the ineffable and unpronounceable RCH-RD D-WKNS.

  10. Phil Walker says:

    Ha! The Decagrammaton: I like it.

  11. Tom R says:

    Voltaire used lower-case for “god” – or at least his English translator Theodore Bestemann did – so maybe it started with him. Mind you, Voltaire wrote in French, a language in which i believe the rules for the capitalisation do not correspond exactly to those of the language english (much as in, i believe, the german Language).

    Having observed in the past two weeks how furiously angry atheists can get with whomsoever shall dare tamper with the least jot and tittle of the revealed Word of Phillip Pullman (yes, Chris Weitz, they’re pointing at you), [*] I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Brights observe this tradition of the fathers because it was given by Voltaire himself.

    [*] “How dare Hollywood water down the anti-religious message of ‘The Golden Compass’?! Don’t they REALISE this is a book of world-historical importance that teaches you to think for yourself and not blindly follow some sacred text?!”

  12. Mark says:

    Somewhat of a tangent, but interesting perhaps: We had a specialist in psychology of religion as a colloquium speaker a couple of years ago, and she shared some interesting research that showed that atheists scored higher on measures of anger toward God than those who did not identify as atheists. Think about it.

  13. Tom R says:

    That correlation’s not as tautological as it sounds. I’m a theist, and I get quite angry with God sometimes. Yahweh, that is, not Zeus.

  14. Daisy says:

    In response to God spelled in the lower case … “god” You will find in the New Testament God written in the lower case but it is only written this way when describing Satan. See Ephesians 2 …

  15. D'zy says:

    God in the lower case “god” not so much that it describes Satan but is used in the lower case when referring to Satan. The same goes for Prince it is used in the lower case “prince” when describing the prince of the air … the prince or god of disobedience in Ephesians 2

  16. Brandon says:

    READ NT WRIGHT. He does the same thing. This is not something to make a huge issue.

    It may be annoying because Dawkins may be being intentionally disrespectful, but just because he uses a lower case character when talking about the concept of “god” does not mean anything in itself.

  17. Brandon says:

    this is not something that should be a huge issue… oops 🙂

  18. John H says:

    Brandon: I really wasn’t making a huge issue of it, honest. Was intended to be light-hearted. 🙂

    And I’m aware of NT Wright’s usage of lower-case in “The NT and the People of God”. That was for a specific reason, i.e. his concern that saying “God” would beg the question as to whether the god of the Jews and the god of the Christians could be regarded as the same thing.

    As I said earlier in the thread, it wasn’t use of “god” as a regular noun (“I don’t believe in the Christian god”) that I had in mind, it was using the word as a proper noun but still insisting on using lower case (“Christians say they believe in god, but I don’t believe in god”), in a way the writer would never otherwise do, except perhaps when referring to e.e. cummings or k.d. lang…

  19. Brandon says:

    Got it! 🙂

  20. Jess says:

    Yes why the heck does N.T Wright do it? It really annoys me..b/c I love his writings but it puts me off.. I would dare say it is intention for someone of his Calibre!

  21. ZAR says:

    I’m late to his party but in my own experience, it’s not just a common trend for Atheist to spell god in lower case all the time, but they also become angry and defensive of it.

    You can tell them its bad grammar and they actually think you want them to worship your god because you want them to observe proper grammar rules. I mean that literally.

    I’ve had Atheist become visibly upset or online block my emails for telling hem that in English a word used as if it is a name is a name and therefore should be capitalised.

    I even told them the word god is not capped only for the Christian god, its also capitalised in English translations of the Iliad, and in the Iliad its referring to Zeus. The rule is simple. If you replace a name, like Zeus, with God, then God is effectively the name of the being an is capitalised.

    Its really a basic grammatical rule but they seem to want to intentionally disregard it in order to “prove” they are Atheist.

    Its rather childish and silly if you ask me, but many do it and others defend them saying they are confused or whatnot. I don’t buy that they are confused, I think it is intentional.

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