Capitalize Names Of
Fictional Characters
Peter Brossy

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "peterbrossy"
Subject: Re: Help and feedback
Date: Monday, March 12, 2001 5:14 PM

The question of how to refer to the biblical god as a fictitious character becomes simple once we agree to see it from the writer's and an anthropologist's viewpoints. As a writer, I follow the conventions suggested by the major style sheets, and as an anthropologist would do, I keep in mind (and in print) the point that this belief system is one of many. As a philosophical and scientific standpoint, I remind myself and my readers that all we can agree, at this point, is that we're dealing with claims: we are not talking about the object of either the claim that gods exist or the claim that gods do not exit.

I disagree with Madalyn Murray O'Hair and others who think that the word God, when used as a proper noun (a name), ought to be set in lowercase. Many who do this admit that they're doing this out of spite, or, at minimum, out of disrespect. If I were to be self-consistent, I would need to set the names Santa Claus and Pinocchio in lowercase as well. (These tend to be the same people who always set the word Atheist in uppercase. I would like to see a move to urge, say, Encarta or Merriam-Webster's, to allow atheist to be set in uppercase when used as the name of a people group, just like both works allow the for the word Evangelical when used as a people group.)

It's much easier (and more disarming) to say "the Bible god" or "the biblical god" (biblical, as an adjective, is lowercase, but Bible, as the name of a book, is uppercase). However, once I've introduced a particular god this way, if that god has the name of God, I will, on occasion, revert to saying, "Well, since God said this..." -- but only after I have established that we're referring to that particular god, and only after I have established that we are dealing with an alleged god whose existence I dispute, and only out of convenience, to make the text read more easily. Sometimes I will enclose the name God in quotation marks, because this alerts the reader that I am using an unordinary meaning: "Well, since 'God' said...." Since there are so many different understandings of Jesus, I will say, "the biblical Jesus," or "the Jesus of the Gospels," of "the Jesus of Evangelical Christianity." Since Jesus is a proper noun, I can't think of a reason to set it in lowercase, any more than one would set the term Lou Gehrig's disease in lowercase, although other disease names, such as influenza, are set in lowercase. Ditto for the word Christian: the term Christ is commonly seen as a proper name, so I will set the word Christian in uppercase.

By balancing my insistence that all we can agree on is that Christians claim that "God" exists with my show of respect by using conventional English when making this insistence, I think I go far when establishing credibility for my positive message -- that atheists are not necessarily wicked, spiteful, vindictive, or otherwise undesirable characters. At least I show that we don't need to be gratuitously so.

As for books, I have listed almost all the books I've read in the Letters section. Since this is closing in on a thousand different files, perhaps it's time to put together a list of my personal collection -- which is only those books I've been able to track down for which I've justified spending money. Existing at or below the American poverty line, I must be careful with my expenditures.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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