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Religious Tolerance logo

About references to gods and goddesses:

About religious punctuation: Should:
- names of deities be capitalized?
- the word "God" be capitalized?
- pronouns referring to God be capitalized?

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  • The individual names of deities are traditionally capitalized, just as a human person's name is capitalized. Example: Artemis, Baal, Cybele, Diana, Eagentci, Fergus, Gendenwitha ... Thor, Uranus, Vāc, Wotan, Xerxes, Yahweh, Zeus, etc. Stewart and Janet Farrar have jointly written books listing and describing 1,000 Goddesses and 1,000 Gods who have been worshiped by different cultures. 3,4

  • The words "Goddess," "God," "Goddesses" and "gods" are themselves sometimes capitalized, sometimes not:
    • Within a monotheistic religion, like Judaism, Islam and Sikhism, "God" typically refers to "The God." There is only one in each of these religions, although their personalities, activities, attributes, and expectations of humans are very different when one compares different religions. Since the word "God" or "Goddess" refers to a single deity, it is also capitalized.

    • Within polytheistic religions like the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Pagan religions, references to the names of individual Gods and Goddesses are capitalized. But in references to all the deities, like "Greek gods," the word "god" is usually written in lower case. However, in a reference to the functions and area of authority of a single deity, like "Hera, Goddess of marriage," the word God or Goddess is usually capitalized.

    • Most Christians have believed in the Trinity since the writings of Tertullian in the early 3rd century. This is a belief in a single Godhead composed of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They capitalize the words "God," "Son," and "Holy Spirit" because they refer to individual persons within the single Godhead.

    • Most of the followers of Wicca -- a neo-Pagan religion based largely on ancient Celtic beliefs, traditions and seasonal days of observance and celeration -- believe in "The God" and "The Goddess"

 



  • There is no universally accepted practice for whether to capitalize pronouns referring to God. A search on Google for:

capitalize references to God

returned about 388,000 results.

  • Many followers of a monotheistic religion capitalize the word "God" and when referring to their deitiy, and use "god" in lower case when referring multiple deities of other religions. For example:
    • Christians capitalize "God." when refering to their deity. Since the early 3rd century, Christians have viewed God as three persons within a single Godhead: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because of their belief in a single Godhead, referneces to the "Trinity" are also capitalized.

    • Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as Mormons, regard themselves as the Chrisitian denomination with the fullness of truth. They believe in a Godhead, consisting of the Father and Son who are separate beings with "tangible bodies of flesh and bones." The third component of the Godhead is the Holy Spirit which is "a personage of spirit." According to the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 130 states:

      "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us."

      They believe that this was the teaching of the early Christian church, but was abandoned when the last origianal Apostles died.

    • Muslims are strongly monotheistic. They capitalize references to "Allah," an Arabic term, which is translated to "God" in English.

    • In Judaism, references to the Jewish deity are capitalized. Some believers refrain from speaking the name of God. Instead, God is referred to as Master, Lord, or sometimes "HaShem," which means "the Name." Some believers refrain from writing "God" and substitute "G-d" instead.

    • Wicca is a bitheistic religion. Its followers refer to their main deities as two separate entities, the "God and Goddess," or "Lord and Lady." In the Wicca traditions derived from Gerald Gardner's original teachings, the two deities were considered equal and opposite cosmic forces. In some types of traditional Witchcraft the Horned God is given precedence over the Goddess. Within Dianic Wicca, a feminist branch the reverse is true. 2

1

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. "Woods Guide to Capitalizing Theological Terms," Shadow Mountain Community Church at: http://www.shadowmountain.org/ This is a PDF file.
  2. "Wiccan views of divinity," Wikipedia, as on 2016-APR-04, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/

  3. book cover Stewart Farrar & Janet Farrar, "The Witches' Goddess," Phoenix Publishing, (1987) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

  4. book cover Stewart Farrar & Janet Farrar, "The Witches' God," Phoenix Publishing, (1989) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-NOV-30
Latest update : 2016-NOV-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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