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


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

NOTE: Do not capitalize the following:


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).

  • 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
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 11:53
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 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
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 12:25
  • 3
    @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. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 13:09
  • 4
    @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.
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 15:35

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 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
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 13:20
  • Even when used as adjectives, e.g. an Anglican priest?
    – dumbledad
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 7:21

Christian is a proper noun as well as an adjective. The reason why it is capitalised even when it is employed as an adjective is because it's based on the proper name Christ.


It is not just proper nouns this thread is talking about but active nouns and adjectives. Proper noun like Boston can be turned into an adjective, a Bostonian. The Proper Adjective also being capitalized. Boston is capitalized as proper name, not just common noun city, "urbanite Robert" as proper noun (Robert) modified by the common adjective urbanite. So urbanite not capitalized Like Bostonian would be. Bostonian being a proper adjective. The word belief is common noun "believer Robert" is belief turned believer as common adjective. But a specific belief or belief system like a specific city can be considered a proper noun. “Robert is a believer in Bostonism” (he say things like Boston Strong, is a Red Socks and Celtics fan) so Boston root turned to proper active noun. Buddhism (active proper noun) has no god and people can argue whether it is philosophy or religion. Platonism as proper noun is belief system. So a specific belief in no gods is specific belief system. It is not any belief or a gullible belief in anything your next acquaintance may argue for. Therefore just as Boston is not any city and Bostonism is not any common belief, Atheism is specific proper belief proper active noun. This can be rendered as proper adjective "Atheist Robert" from active proper noun Atheism. It is only old out dated and bigoted tendencies of religious majorities that caused/imposed old out dated cultural/government dogma (language rules as dogma) to denigrate others who do not share their beliefs.

  • Do not use the answer box to reply to other answers. This is actually a question and answer page, not a discussion thread. Each answer that you post in an answer box is expected to stand alone as an expert answer to the question at the top. Discussion is welcome at “English Language & Usage – Chat”.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 16:31

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