God as "He"
Posted: 16 November 2006 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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As a fellow atheist, I am thrilled to slowly discover that I'm not the only one feeling this way in this country. I enjoyed Sam Harris' book, but I have one issue with his writing: if Sam does not respect religion, does not believe in "God", how come he falls into the trap of giving respect by writing "He" (god) with capital H? Is he aware of this? Is this his subconscious? and also of course "God" with capital G…
Of course, if any of Sam's assistants on the website sees this, can you take this question up to him? I hope he thinks about this. And comments from others are also welcome.
Thanks,
Christine

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Posted: 16 November 2006 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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If Sam does not respect religion, does not believe in “God”, how come he falls into the trap of giving respect by writing “He” (god) with capital H? Is he aware of this? Is this his subconscious? and also of course “God” with capital G…

Using a capital initial when referring to God does not imply a belief in God any more than capitals in referring to Santa Claus makes me a Clausist. (Are there closet Clausists?) As a reader, wouldn’t you find it confusing or distracting if I started talking about santa claus? The significance, I think, in writing God rather than god is that it makes clear that I am referring to the (imaginary) Judeo-Christian God rather than any of innumerable other (imaginary) gods. That usage shows deference, not to any mythical being, but to readers who might otherwise mistake my meaning. (When I capitalize the initials in the personal pronouns referring to God, I’m being ironic.)

(Looking back on it, I miss my childhood clausism more than my childhood theism. The difference is that Santa Claus delivered.)

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Posted: 16 November 2006 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]Using a capital initial when referring to God does not imply a belief in God any more than capitals in referring to Santa Claus makes me a Clausist. (Are there closet Clausists?)

Actually, peering into closets was exactly what enabled me to debunk the Santa Claus myth. Perhaps that explains why, to this day, I am a little Claus trophobic. raspberry

The beneficence of Santa Claus has nothing to do with capital initials, and everything to do with initial capital. rolleyes

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Posted: 16 November 2006 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Would you really like to read it if SH had to be totally politically correct, and every time he mentioned the/a divine being/God/god/godess, he had to say

he/she/it/they/name who cannot be uttered

Try inserting that into every place where the word “he” is, and I think you will soon answer your own question as to why it’s simplified down into a masculine third person pronoun.

(It’s to keep the rest of us reading his book until the end instead of throwing it at the wall before we reach page 2.)

annalise

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Posted: 16 November 2006 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“krisz12”]. . . how come [Sam Harris] falls into the trap of giving respect by writing “He” (god) with capital H?

Excellent question. “God” would seem to deserve the initial cap, but capping pronouns is not “proper” in my opinion, unless you fear that your audience would reject the lower-case initial for Godly pronouns. Writers do need to be pragmatic at times.

If you e-mail Harris and get a response, please post it here.

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Posted: 16 November 2006 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Salty, your talent exceeds mine. I concede. I really need to slow down when reading here though. Initially, I thought you were peeing into the closet. (Note 1.)

There have been two interpretations of the original post: Why does Sam capitalize the initial in the word God? Why does Sam use masculine pronouns in referring to God rather than feminine or neutral pronouns? The answer in both cases is   <dramatic pause> T R A D I T I O N   !

We could duck the second issue by using plural pronouns, in honor of the Trinity. They created the world in six days, did They?

Note 1:

70-year-old George went for his annual physical. All of his tests came back with normal results.

Dr. Smith said, “George, everything looks great physically. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you at peace with yourself, and do you have a good relationship with your God?”

George replied, “God and I are very close. He knows I have poor eyesight, so he’s fixed it so that when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (poof!) the light goes on when I pee, and then (poof!) the light goes off when I’m done.”

“Wow,” commented Dr. Smith, “that’s incredible!”

A little later in the day Dr. Smith called George’s wife. “Thelma,” he said, “George is just fine. Physically he’s great, but I had to call because I’m in awe of his relationship with God. Is it true that he gets up during the night and (poof!) the light goes on in the bathroom, and then (poof!) the light goes off?”

Thelma exclaimed, “That old fool! He’s peeing in the refrigerator again!”

Salty, I do not apologize for the story. You brought it on yourself.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 01:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“krisz12”]As a fellow atheist, I am thrilled to slowly discover that I’m not the only one feeling this way in this country. I enjoyed Sam Harris’ book, but I have one issue with his writing: if Sam does not respect religion, does not believe in “God”, how come he falls into the trap of giving respect by writing “He” (god) with capital H? Is he aware of this? Is this his subconscious? and also of course “God” with capital G…
Of course, if any of Sam’s assistants on the website sees this, can you take this question up to him? I hope he thinks about this. And comments from others are also welcome.
Thanks,
Christine

Christine, I am a newspaper editor. The practice of upper-casing God and the pronouns that refer to Him is nothing more than an editing device.

Dower

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Posted: 20 November 2006 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]Salty, I do not apologize for the story. You brought it on yourself.

There you go again, Ted, blaming the victim.  LOL

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Posted: 21 November 2006 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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If I were referring to Zeus, or Hercules, or Attis, or Captain Ahab, I’d refer to any of these as “he”.  For the atheist, the Christian God is a character in a book—it seems right to treat a character in a book as any character in a book.

Of course, Mr. Harris may also be hedging his bets.  Time will tell.

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Posted: 23 November 2006 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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CenturiOn,

But then your editor would change it back to “He” before publishing.

Sam Harris is just hedging his bets?  Hmmmm

Michael
http://www.poohsthink.com

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Posted: 23 November 2006 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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From what Ive read in his books, articles dealing with him, and video interviews I’ve seen, Sam Harris would be the last one to “hedge his bets.”  And thats what should and seemingly is bringing him to the forefront of this issue.

I wasn’t quite sure of the use of your phrase “hedging his bets” so I went the route of looking it up on dictionary.com and I think this definition is mostly what you are refering to:

to protect with qualifications that allow for unstated contingencies or for withdrawal from commitment: He hedged his program against attack and then presented it to the board.

He is opposed to the scientific view that you can accept both science and religion.  He doesn’t seem to care about upsetting every religious believer. 

In short, he’s not going to appease the religious believers or make a decision on his writing based off others beliefs.

I agree with the editor on this thread.  And any other posts talking about how its just shorthand, its tradition, when we read the book we understand exactly what He and God mean.  That is effective and concise.

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