Rational Russian — Withering Lies

April 7, 2008

Unprovoked Capitalization for Jesus

Filed under: god, religion — Tags: , , , — RoAleks @ 10:10 pm

I really enjoy reading opposing views, on any topic, but I honestly enjoy reading others’ religious responses. Oftentimes, I find their views to be lacking in a verity of respects (most notably, logic), but one item of interest regularly startles me: Capitalization of Regular Vocabulary.

Why is it that Christians, Muslims, etc., always capitalize words such as, truth, gospel, holy, word, and reason? There many other examples (feel free to comment), but why is this done? Okay, some capitalization is obviously necessary. Jesus Christ — first and last name. Lord — proper title. Heaven and Hell — names of places, albeit imaginary. Holy Bible — title of an old book.

But today, I came across a post of a fellow atheist where he displayed an example of an email that capitalized “Good News.”

Really? Good news is not a title of anything. It’s not a place. It’s not even a day of the week or month. It is, quite simply, the opposite of “Bad News.” Why does it have to be capitalized? Do all religious people have the god-given right to capitalize every word they want? The line must be drawn Somewhere!

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  1. “Good News” is just another term for the Gospel. Since “Gospel” is usually capitalized, people also usually capitalize “Good News.” In both cases, capitalization is a mark of distinction. When people see the capitalized words, they immediately recognize what is being referred to.

    Comment by Jason — April 9, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  2. Not everyone recognizes what it’s referring to, since not everyone is Christian. That’s the point.

    Comment by axr38 — April 9, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  3. The capitalization of “everyday vocabulary” is to show respect when referring to things that are due reverence. Good News is the specific “good news” of Jesus Christ (which, as a point of information, is not His first and last name, rather it is His first name and the English transliteration of Χριστός (Khristós), which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word מָׁשִיַח, which is Messiah, or “anointed one.”). I’d love to talk some more and explain the logic behind theism, Christianity in particular, as well as perhaps probe some of the logical fallacies presented in the naturalist argument. When you study the historicity of the Bible, it becomes compelling that it might actually be Truth (not to be confused with your everyday truth…) and worth the time to actually explore it, rather than write it off out of ignorance, or worse, misinformation.

    Blessings, my friend.
    You’re reasoning theist,

    Comment by Daniel — December 2, 2008 @ 6:30 am

  4. Daniel,

    With all due respect, anyone combining the terms “reasoning” and “theist,” and “historicity of the Bible” is wrong at the very beginning (and should really start at square one — perhaps a lesson in History).

    Perhaps I can give you some pointers about the value of Witchcraft (look, I capitalized it to give it proper reverence).

    The point of this post, is that “Good News,” deserves the same amount of reverence as capitalizing “Bad News.” Since it’s all religious dogma, I can tell you to capitalize any word in the name of Hashmid — and you shouldn’t be expected to do it, since I just made that up.

    Comment by axr38 — December 3, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  5. Hi,

    This conversation is a little old but interesting to me.

    On capitalization:
    It seems to be true that some people are confused about basic rules of grammar and so capitalize words such as gospel incorrectly. On the other hand, languages are dynamic and are constantly, if slowly, changing. The Chicago Manual of Style notes that common nouns can become proper nouns and vice versa (5.6, 15TH ed.) If a common noun begins to be widely used to identify a specific person, place, thing or idea then it might become appropriate to capitalize the word. In the case of the word gospel, which was correctly defined as meaning good news in the post above, it has come to be used almost exclusively of the Christian message of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. The nearly exclusive association of the word gospel (when used in the context of a message or news) with the basic message of the Christian faith may be causing the shift in capitalization. Can you think of the last time that you used the word gospel in conversation as a synonym for good news? You might say the gospel truth, or that you like gospel music, but I would argue that using the word gospel to refer to any good news is not common.

    It does not really matter if you are familiar with the usage or not. The fact that in the first post the author was noting the usage among people of faith is enough to indicate that there is a unique usage of the word.

    I prefer not to capitalize the word gospel. I think it is adequate and preferable to use the definite article to indicate reference to the Christian message.

    As to the last post that seems to indicate that theism is not rationally defensible, or that the Biblical documents are not historically reliable, I beg to differ. I think that the fact that the post sounds like a cheap shot and was never followed up with an argument of substance speaks for itself.

    Here are a few open questions:
    What is your working definition of “history” and “historical”?
    What criteria are you using to determine the historicity of an ancient text?
    What are the criteria used by modern scholars?
    What is your basic argument against theism?
    Which theistic philosophers have you studied and why do you dismiss their arguments?
    If you do not have honest answers to these questions, then what is you basis for claiming that theism is not rational or that the Biblical texts are not historically reliable?

    Comment by Charlie — April 2, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  6. Ah! An argument I can get my professional teeth into!

    According to the current Style Manual for Australian authors, editors and printers, the following rules apply:

    The word ‘Gospel’ certainly does take a capital letter. It is a once-foreign language word that has only come into common usage because of the Christian message, so it is considered to be a proper noun (name) of that theological message. If the word ‘gospel’ is used in any sense other than to do with Christian theology, it should not have a capital – though there would be little use of it in other contexts.

    Capitalising of the term ‘Good News’ is pushing the envelope a little, but there’s still an argument that this specifically refers to the Christian message, so it can legitimately have caps. Obviously, general good news relating to non-theological ideas would be in lower case only. The rule is that when a concept passes into popular use, it refers to a specific idea, so it can take caps. For example, the term ‘Climate Change’, – which is the agreed term that everyone now knows refers to more than jsut a general change in the weather of a certain place.

    As for pronouns like ‘His’, ‘Him’ and so on referring to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, it’s a matter of personal preference to capitalise the ‘h’. The Plain English movement says that both caps and lower case are correct in technical terms.

    Wherever a word is used to refer to a person, such as Jesus being the Word or the Rock – there’s no difference in the rules for secular or Christian writings. Any word that is designating a person’s name, or nickname or has come to define them should take a capital. There are numerous examples of this in the secular world – Anthony Mundine being the Man, for example. ALthough this is a self-conferred title, it still is understood to refer to a specific person, so it has a cap.

    It could be argued that quotation marks could be used instead of capitals for these words, though Christians wouldn’t use quotation marks because they often imply “so-called”, which could be taken as ironic.

    Of course, this debate has nothing to do with the rules of correct English. The first writer objects to the use of specific Christian terms being capitalised because of a personal grievance against Christians, not because of misused punctuation. So in addition to being technically wrong in his objections, he’s also being intolerant and disrespectful to other belief systems which makes him both technically and morally wrong!



    Comment by Ally — March 18, 2010 @ 4:09 am

    • Way to go Ally! I stumbled across this on accident when i was trying to figure out whether or not to capitalize gospel when referring to the branch of music. I think your post is spot on.

      Comment by Logan — April 21, 2010 @ 2:53 am

  7. Thanks Ally. I see it is a matter of semantics and I now choose to capitalize Gospel and Good News.

    Comment by Faceless Voice — August 11, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

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