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When should the word “God” be capitalized?

I thought god is a common noun, but many people capitalize it when it is not the first letter of a sentence or a title.

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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt, Steve Melnikoff, kiamlaluno, nohat Mar 2 '11 at 0:54

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It is worth noting that, in the Bible, not only is the word God capitalized, but also all pronouns that refer to God (e.g. "God loves His children"). –  Kosmonaut Mar 1 '11 at 0:54
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Also titles for God. e.g. "King of Kings," "Lord of Lords," "Alpha and Omega," "Creator," "Prince of Peace," "Holy One..." –  advs89 Mar 1 '11 at 1:02
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Also note that the Bible does use "god" the common noun. (e.g., "You shall have no other gods besides Me.") –  Dan Mar 1 '11 at 4:07

4 Answers 4

Answer:

It (and some pronouns), when referring to the creator of the universe, is a proper noun and is capitalized (just like "Bob" or "Joe" would be).

When being used as a common noun, it is referring to the concept of a god (or god as a "type," if you will) and is not capitalized (just like "human" or "dog" would be)

Examples:

The following are all correct:

I pray to God three times a day.

I pray to a god three times a day.

I pray to Him three times a day.

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The pronouns (He, Him, etc.) are usually capitalized out of respect. –  advs89 Mar 1 '11 at 0:18
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The He and Him? It's just considered respectful. I'm not Jewish but I think they, in writing at least, never write out "God." It's always "G-d." That, too, is just a sign of respect. –  advs89 Mar 1 '11 at 0:22
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No. In the Bible, for instance, "God" refers to the Christian god. The one who Christians believe created the universe. You can use either form of the word. (just like I did in my second sentence of this comment) When you refer to a specific instance of a god, it's capitalized. When you refer to the class of beings known as a god, it's not. –  advs89 Mar 1 '11 at 0:32
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Victor - a religious person probably won't feel the need to qualify it in the way you describe; as far as they are concerned they are writing about (in the case of monotheistic religions) the one true God, so why would they need to further qualify that? –  RobM Mar 2 '11 at 8:37
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@Victor - You're missing my point. Try this: go tell a deeply religious person that there are other gods beside the one(s) they believe in. Make sure you tell them that in the same way you just said it here, then let me know how you get on, and if you start to see what I'm trying to say yet. Or if that sounds like hard work, re-read my comment and pay close attention to the as far as they are concerned part of my statement and think about what that might mean. –  RobM Mar 4 '11 at 18:31

When you are referring to the creator of the universe of some religions, you write God; when you are referring to a superhuman being (or a deity) of some other religions, you write god.

The difference is that in monotheistic religions there is only one god, and God often becomes (as in Christianity) a proper noun; in non monotheistic religions (e.g. Hinduism), there isn't a single god, and God is not the name of one of the gods (it is god Vishnu, not God Vishnu).

This is similar to what happen with Moon, used when referring to the natural satellite of planet Earth, and moon, used to refer to the natural satellite of any planet (e.g., Jupiter moons); the same happens with Sun, which is the star around which planet Earth orbits, and sun, which is used to refer any star similar to the Sun (with or without planets).

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+1 Not sure why you got some negative rep there... appears totally undeserved to me (unless the edit was major). –  CJM Mar 1 '11 at 13:11
    
At first I wrote only the first sentence, thinking that differentiating between *the* creator and *a* deity would be enough to explain the difference; I then expanded my answer, as it was evident my answer was not clear. –  kiamlaluno Mar 1 '11 at 13:21
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Unlike God, moon and sun retain the definite article even when they are capitalized: the Moon, the Sun. –  Jason Orendorff Apr 1 '11 at 19:14

Only religious writings and publications, and material written by the devout, would capitalize pronouns and possessives when in reference to the Christian god. Secular writing is not enjoined to follow the practice. Capitalization of "God" generally serves as a marker for the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity. Secular writers will usually capitalize "God" out of convention, but not necessarily respect for said deity or the adherents of same.

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"Secular writers will usually capitalize "God" out of convention, but not necessarily respect for said deity or the adherents of same." Yes, but respect is the origin of the convention. –  advs89 Mar 1 '11 at 0:35

It depends on whether you subscribe to a monotheistic universe (where you use a capital letter, since there is only one God), or a polytheistic universe (where you use a lower case letter since there are many gods), or an atheistic universe (where you probably use a lower case letter, but don't believe that 'god' exists and avoid the term whenever possible).

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I dunno. I capitalize Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, even though I don’t expect to meet them. Even imaginary people have names, and we capitalize them anyway. If a kid calls his imaginary friend Billy, I’m not going to call him billy just because I don’t believe he’s there. I feel a Harvey joke coming on. :) –  tchrist May 25 '12 at 3:07

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