Thursday, September 10, 2009

The word "God"

The word: "God"

I must begin by giving credit to one of my sons for raising the points I'll discuss here. Most of the following was discussed in our conversation on the recent explosive trend by some currently seated congressmen for employing the word "God" at every available turn and for pasting the word "God" (and the poorly chosen national motto "In God We Trust") on virtually everything attached to an item of official government (at both the state and federal levels, no less). It was my son who pointed out the inadequacies between spoken words vs written language and the frequently misapplied substitutions of proper vs common nouns, violations of usage rules and basic no-no's of language, the combination of which almost consistently distorted the meaning one might draw from use of a single word. "God" is one of those words. Let me explain his thinking:

To be clear, I must begin by reviewing some very basic English grammar rules regarding words, and specifically to point out usages rules applying to proper nouns and common nouns. We can do this easily with examples by comparing the words "god" and "congressman" as they might be said and written.

The word "god" (little "g") is a singular common noun and it refers to any god, a god but not a specific god. Likewise the word "congressman" is singular and common and it indicates any one congressman, a congressman but not a specific congressman. Capitalized (big "g" and big "c") the same words are singular proper nouns which indicates that they refer to specific gods and specific congressmen - sorting out only one at a time from an array. While the difference may seem trivial at first glance, by taking a closer look at the differences raised and by recalling the law stated in the 1st amendment of the United States Constitution which binds our government to keeping church and state separate through not singling out one religion (or its god by default) for establishment over another, and in fact, by not establishing any religion at all (through idealizing its god or its scripture) the triviality quickly dwindles away to possibly becoming something of considerable magnitude.

It would make no sense to anyone, for example, if the phrase "In Congressman We Trust" were to become commonly used - "Congressman" indicating only a single person. "My goodness, which congressman?" might immediately be the question raised by a listener or a reader, wouldn't it? If, however, it was said, "In congressmen We Trust" and if the misuse of capitol letters was corrected across the board to make the sentence read, "In congressmen we trust," then we'd be serving ourselves to a better degree of understanding by knowing that in this case we're speaking of all congressmen. If the same sentence was spoken, however, we'd have no way of knowing whether "congressmen" was intended to mean big "c" or little "c". If the phrase was written "In Congressman Ron Paul, of Texas, we trust," there would be no guess work at all, would there?

You begin to see the point by now, I'm sure.

I won't press this English lesson any further but I'll raise this question for consideration: If clear communication is of any importance to us (and it ought to be) shouldn't we ask for it and demand that the meaning of our words be specific? I do imagine so, and I think it is especially appropriate for those acting as our public officials as well as for those keeping the public records of government in precise order to be picky on the subject. If our nation desires to advance the motto "In God We Trust" and if our congressmen (I refer to all or any of them here) have desires to banter about the word "god" for no better reason than to see it placed in the congressional record and etched on walls (Guess why!) shouldn't we at least be privileged to know precisely which god is being referenced and how that god is defined and by whom before anything is recorded into the record? Paying closer attention to the big "g's" and little "g's" might play an important part in our correct understanding of issues surrounding the word "god" and how it may be used publicly.

So... when the word "god" is tossed about by someone like Representative John Boozman (R-AR) or Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) both of whom are members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, out on the floor of the House of Representatives, it seems reasonable to ask, "Little "g" god or big "g" god?" ... "Is it Horus, the Egyptian Sun God, or Allah, the God of Islam that's being talked about?" ... "Is this a reference to The Holy Ghost, one of the four gods (including Satan) who are all recognized by the conglomerate of Christians, or is big "g" god indicating Yahweh, the God of Israel?" ... "Is it Thor or Zeus from the ancient Norse and Greek cultures in question, or is the god reference being spoken meant to identify Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Parvati, Umma, Durga, Kali, Shakti, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Prithvi, Shakti, or Ganesha or another of the hundreds of available Hindu gods?"

You do see the point, don't you?

Let's be more clear in the future, shall we? It is entirely valid these days to inquire, "Which god?" especially for the the purpose of discussions held by and between congressmen, so let's do that. Let's ask and ask always to know the details - to see the fine print before we sign on to anything. And for cases of big "g" gods, lets specifically ask for names.

And on that subject of print, who is the big "g" god printed on our currency? I wonder - officially, that is. Honestly, I'd like to know... especially since, without being effectively allowed a realistic voice of objection, my own personal opinion on the matter appears to have been decided for me in default - my liberty truncated - as expressed in the word "we" and said in the motto "In God We Trust". For the record: Personally I don't trust God (big "g") whoever or whatever that may be to other people, nor do I trust or have any personal god-notion; I find no reason to think that gods exist. I do, on the other hand, trust reasonable people of integrity; and I wonder lately, are there any left to the right side of the isle in the Congress of the United States of America? If so, I wish they'd stand to be recognized and to show their honesty by living up to their promise to protect and defend the constitution.

Realistically speaking, it's time to publicly de-emphasize the importance of our god-notions and to divest our nation of self-defeating obligations, of the mere feelings it has, that our country must continue to publicly display the ambiguously worded, belatedly adopted, poor choice for a national motto "In God We Trust" which now stands to divide us. It is, and it always has been, offensive to some, pointless (or at best) confusing to others, and here recently it has now become a de-harmonizing political and social weapon - a tool of divisiveness in party politics, a discordant civil rallying flag for some, an eye sore for some others, and worst of all, it is a growing threat against preserving the power of our democratic government to rule rationally and without interferences from and concessions to god-belief.

Think it over, folks... Congress. Are gods (little "g" gods meaning any god) so worthy of our adoration that we should risk so much to advertise them?

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