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Even in writing this question, I have been deeply embarrassed : should I capitalize some words ?

Although not a believer myself, I wish to perturb nobody, whatever his / her faith could be : my position is "as long as they are happy with their creed, and don't try to convert anyone by force, should they have gained enough power for it, it's all the best for everyone, why should I bother ?".

The problem arises when I have to address several persons of different or unknown creeds : some have specific names, some others resent as a blasphemy to even mention a name. And I heard that there are 700 different Christian denominations in the USA alone, and how many rules apply, with all the non-Christian others ? And lately, that the word used by Muslims should not be used by any non-Muslim ...

In the USA, "in God we trust" is written even on more or less dirty banknotes ; in the UK, you utter the word only in church or for taking an oath. In French "Dieu sait où il est !" means "Nobody knows where he is is", it's absolutely innocent, an atheist could say that, just a way of speaking. Try to translate this word by word ! Some eyebrows would raise.

Have you a global, general solution ? Thank you.

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marked as duplicate by KitFox Oct 14 '13 at 18:43

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The global, general solution is: Don't discuss sensitive issues with people who might take offense at you about them. If you must do so for some reason, don't blame English grammar or vocabulary for getting you in trouble -- you're strictly on your own. Study polytheistic cultures to see how religious groups managed to get along with one another, in those periods when they were. –  John Lawler Oct 14 '13 at 18:31
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Even those few people who don't believe in Father Christmas usually have the courtesy to capitalise the appellation. And unbelief doesn't mean you're not going to be proved wrong sometime. –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 14 '13 at 18:48

1 Answer 1

In English, you capitalize the word "god" if referring to a supreme being (regardless of personal belief). For example, it is proper to write:

Christians say a prayer to God before meals.

Muslims pray to God five times a day.

When referring to gods in general, the word is not capitalized.

The Romans believed in a god named Jupiter.

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Right, I knew that ; but before for instance an orthodox Jew, the most you can say (from what I heard) is The Name. –  ex-user2728 Oct 14 '13 at 18:44
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HaShem in Hebrew; it's a euphemism for the True Name, which is not to be spoken. –  John Lawler Oct 15 '13 at 0:00

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