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While googling about whether "atheist" should be capitalized, and skimming past posts by people blogging about atheism rather than about English grammar, I came across http://uwf.edu/writelab/reviews/capitalization/

It says

[Capitalize] Religions and religious terms

Examples:

Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddha, the Bible, Christian, the Ten Commandments, Baptist church, Mt. Zion Methodist Church

NOTE: Do not capitalize the following:

Examples:

church, communion, atheist, agnostic, spirituality

but I don't recall hearing of such a prescription before. Wouldn't most of the examples listed be capitalized because they're proper nouns? Are there good examples of words being capitalized solely because they're religious terms?

I'm mainly interested in modern English, rather than days of past where a lot more words were capitalized than they are nowadays.

Somewhat related: When should the word "God" be capitalized? - use "God" when referring to the name of the god of Judaism and Christianity (a proper noun), but "god" when referring to the general concept of a deity (common noun).

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I can't think of any capitalized religious terms that aren't also proper nouns, so unless anyone can think of any then I guess the answer to your question is "no". –  tinyd Jan 7 '13 at 11:53
    
With regards to "church" in your examples, the Baptist church isn't capitalised while the Methodist Church is. Is that a typo, or are there rules to it that I'm not aware of? –  Mr Lister Jan 7 '13 at 12:06
    
I always thought one only needed to capitalize god if one believed in "God"... Like some people I know write g-d to "not take the name of the lord in vain" or something –  mplungjan Jan 7 '13 at 12:25
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@mplungjan God is only capitalised if you're referring to a known single entity as recognised by a particular religion eg Judaism. If referring to any god, it's not capitalised. –  spiceyokooko Jan 7 '13 at 13:09
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@MrLister: I'm no expert, but I believe it hinges on whether or not the word "church" is part of the denomination's official name. For example, the Methodist Church is a denomination. Baptists are a denomination, but that denomination isn't officially known as "The Baptist Church". A Baptist equivalent to "Methodist Church" would be "Southern Baptist Convention". –  J.R. Jan 7 '13 at 15:35

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Should words be capitalized for being religious terms?

Not necessarily. It depends on whether they’re considered proper names.

For example, church, communion, atheist, agnostic, and spirituality are not proper names because they’re not recognised entities.

In contrast, the Church of England is a proper name because it refers to an institution and should therefore be capitalised. However the church is not capitalised when you’re simply referring to a building rather than to the institution itself.

Holy Communion should be capitalised as a proper name; however, communion used as a general term should not be, because it isn’t a proper name.

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Nor are alb, mitre, ferraiolo, cinture, tunicle, maniple, biretta, cassock, pallium, camauro, surplice, zuchetto, crosier, soutane, cope, mozetta, greca, manto, diocese, episcopate, bishropic, primate, cardinal, rector, vicar, parson, prelate, curate, tithe, chancel, glebe, benefice, advowson. –  tchrist Jan 7 '13 at 13:20

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