People are quite stingy lately about anything with religious connotations, so I'm worried that the phrase "thank God" might tick some people off.

Is "thank god" acceptable? Would that offend people of monotheistic faiths? Or would "thank God" be acceptable to atheists/polytheists too?

  • 3
    "Thank God" would probably not have any meaning in polytheistic religions, as there is not just a god. – kiamlaluno Mar 14 '11 at 1:44
  • 1
    I would say that it annoys me that people are offended by "thank God" and it also annoys me that other people would switch to "thank god" in order to appease the first group of people. So I would say yes - "thank god" offends at least one person of a monotheistic faith. I think you're pretty safe saying "thank goodness," though... (a side step, of sorts) – Adam Mar 14 '11 at 16:34
  • @advs -- I hear you. My grandma was both Buddhist and Christian (yes, I realize how strange that -- we held both funerals for her one after another, with the pastor and Buddhist priest present for both), and I used to go to church with her, so I grew up with the importance of genuine religious tolerance hammered into my head. "Thank God" is undoubtedly the historically correct version of the phrase, and I think it's a real shame that we need to go so far to try to purge English of the benign artifacts of the cultures that bore it, but sometimes I need to keep my audience happy... – Rei Miyasaka Mar 15 '11 at 5:22
  • 1
    Related (dupe?): When should the word “God” be capitalized? – RegDwigнt Mar 18 '11 at 16:19
  • 1
    As a monotheist, whenever I see "thank god" or "oh my god" I think "which one?" I'm not sure how common that is...One day I'm actually going to ask and see what happens. That said, if you're going to thank a god, you should probably have an idea of which one you're thanking. Otherwise you aren't really saying anything are you...? If you have a god in mind, stand up for it. Most people will respect honesty like that, and if they don't, they're opinions aren't worth much, IMHO...If you don't have one, just sidestep it with "goodness" or the like. that's all I've got. – kitukwfyer Mar 18 '11 at 16:48

Are you worried about offending atheists/polytheists by being too monotheistic, or about offending monotheists by being blasphemous?

In any case, I think that in most contexts, anyone offended by “thank God” would still be offended by “thank god”, and vice versa. In informal contexts, I’d be surprised if either offended anyone; extremely devout monotheists might perhaps consider them blasphemous. In some official contexts (if you were acting as spokesperson for a school, say), both forms could upset people who have strong feelings about separation of church and state.

“Thank goodness!” is probably an unobjectionable alternative. In case you’re not familiar with this expression, it isn’t a neologistic PC euphemism for “thank God”, it’s a common equivalent phrase which I think most native speakers would be familiar with.

  • Thank goodness should work. I think I'm probably the only one that has this bizarre preconception that it's a feminine phrase. Thanks! – Rei Miyasaka Mar 14 '11 at 2:15
  • @Rei Goodness, you're daft. (Brit style; give it an accent for full effect. ;) ) – Mateen Ulhaq Mar 14 '11 at 5:02
  • 1
    @muntoo I know, eh? :P (Canadian, of course.) – Rei Miyasaka Mar 14 '11 at 13:40
  • 2
    @Rei @tenfour. Hmm. I see "thank goodness" as a completely non-gendered abstract epithet. Am I not understanding your meaning? – jbelacqua Mar 18 '11 at 15:56
  • 2
    @jgbelacqua -- I think we probably just grew up watching certain shows on TV where women used the phrase, so when we subvocalize we tend to hear that voice. I can't remember which show that would be, but that's the feeling I get. – Rei Miyasaka Mar 18 '11 at 20:59

"God" is a proper noun, and for that reason should be capitalized. So the phrase "Thank God" is appropriate. There are so many contextual nuances that it is truly easier to adhere to that standard, unless you are trying to make a very explicit statement.

Even with that standard, you will not please everyone, but at least you are less likely to cause confusion. For example, Christian and Islamic faiths refer to "God" as "God". So do many Jews. However some religious Jews use the following "G_d" or "G-d" instead.

If one were writing for an audience with a pantheist belief system, I think it would still be correct to refer to God with a capital G, but maybe in the plural case. "Thank the Gods". Whether a single or multiple instance, you are referring to deities.

If you are worried about offending non-religious or atheist readers, do not use the expression "Thank God" at all. There are many alternatives.

  • 8
    "God" is only a proper noun when used as a name of the god of a monotheistic religion. Apollo, a sun god, and Thor, a god of thunder, are also gods, but you do not capitalize 'god' when referring to either of them. – oosterwal Mar 14 '11 at 13:02
  • I'm not so certain of that, @oosterwal Yes, Thor is a thunder god. If he were MY thunder god, I'd refer to him as Thor, God of Thunder. But I concede that my personal inclination toward observance of ritual may be biasing my response regarding pantheistic religions. And that you may very well be correct! Actually, believers in pantheistic faiths that I've known have referred to male deities as Lord e.g. Lord Shiva. – Ellie Kesselman Apr 28 '11 at 5:43

In general, if "Thank God" is offensive to a group or person, "Thank god" will be too. Conversely, if someone is is unaffected by or indifferent to "God," then "god" is likely to have the same non-effect.

I think @PLL is right that "Thank goodness" is both nearly identical in meaning, and (almost universally) inoffensive.

(I wouldn't call it "PC," though. "Politically correct" is usually used by more conservative groups or individuals to refer to the verbal and institutional corrections (or hyper-corrections ) by groups perceived to be over-reacting to the possibility of offending under-represented others or favoring historical majorities.)

As I say in my comment under PLL's answer, in my own usage, "thank goodness" has lost any connection to "god" or "gods", and it is an purely abstract epithet.


"Thank God", "thank god" and any similar deferment to a higher being is nowadays seen as trying to cajole the reader into such belief. In other words, insulting the reader's intelligence. If you're trying to express an idea of certain disbelief, horror, surprise or otherwise, why not say so instead of a catch all "thank god." Gone are the days of assuming everyone else is a sheep and will bleet in unison. I'm a reformed catholic.

  • 1
    -1 for turning this into a YouTube comment section. There's a difference between striving to use secular language and being insulted by a figure of speech. As an agnostic, "thank God" doesn't insult me at all. If a doctor saves your life and you literally "thank God" without thanking your doctor (most Christians in most countries are sensible enough to thank their doctors as well for saving their lives), then sure, arguably the doctor could be justified in being annoyed, but to call the phrase "thank God" an insult to one's intelligence is excessively combative. – Rei Miyasaka Oct 22 '12 at 2:28
  • Also, frankly, I'm really not interested in religious discussion here -- just the use of a phrase with a religious connotations. – Rei Miyasaka Oct 22 '12 at 2:33
  • It goes without saying that if there is a religious context, the use of the phrase is justified. Maybe I used to strong a set of words however, I was pointing out the abuse of those words. In general writing there is no excuse for using the phrase without drawing unnecessary attention to it and the writer. The motives must be questioned when one throws in such a phrase for seemingly no reason. I don't mix into my writing ideologies, I try not to anyway. I expect the same amount of respect in return. Otherwise it becomes mixed purpose writing. – Chris Oct 22 '12 at 21:58
  • There is no religious context; if anything, it's a cultural context. It's an English figure of speech, and like it or not, English is a language born in and predominantly used in countries with Christian roots. Preferring secular language as a general principle is one thing; insisting that there is "no excuse" for writers to use words with religious etymology borders on persecution. I don't care how right we as agnostic/atheists we may be about the nature of reality; intolerance helps no one. And again, I'm agnostic, and I use the phrase casually all the time. I have no ulterior motives. – Rei Miyasaka Oct 23 '12 at 3:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.