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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's the Goddamned Problem?

I wonder how many people that complain about people "taking God's name in vain" realize that "God" is their deity's name the same way "Person" is their own name?

What do I mean? God is a title, not a proper noun. Same with Lord and even Christ; all are titles, not names. Similarly, "The President" is not Obama's name, even when capitalized; it's a formal title and describes what he does, but that title can be applied to 43 other people in our Nation's history and isn't unique to him. The same basic principle applies to "god."

 The Biblical god's actual name is YHWH, or "Yahweh" in English. (And "Jehova" would be pronounced a lot like "Yahweh," not like "juh-HOE-vuh"; there is no J in the Hebrew alphabet) We know this because the "God" of the Christians is the god of the Jews. In the Torah (the original Old Testament, unadulterated and pre-translated), Exodus 3:14 reads: "I AM THAT I AM/ Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you/ YHWH God of your fathers/ this is my name for ever." This distinguish the god of the Israelites from all the other gods worshiped in and around the Middle East during that time. There are other names for YHWH too (like Elohim and Ehyeh), but "YHWH" seems to be the default name of the Judeo-Christian god. "Jesus" is an example of a proper name... though it's clearly a Roman name (since it has a J); Yeshua was most likely his given Hebrew name.

As an aside, the word "god" is actually Germanic in origin, a gender-neuter term to describe any deity. (This means the word "goddess" is superfluous.) So anyone calling YHWH "God" is actually giving unintentional homage to the Germanic pagans.

If you're talking about an entity above and beyond the Christian god, a sort of transcendent super-deity and Creator, the proper name "God" still doesn't apply very well... though it can work as a title. What need would the Creator (which is also a title and not a name) have for a name? Naming is a human thing, probably unique to our species. Nouns (proper or not) are a side effect of our having developed language, and are quite possibly the foundation of language itself. We need names because there are lots of other people and objects out there, and it's very close to impossible to communicate or enjoy complex reason without nouns. Our ancestors wouldn't have gotten far without developing grunts for "oh shit, snake!", "no eat poison berries!", "mammoth over there!" and what-have-you. But if there's just one Creator (and I'm inclined to believe that), then there's no need to it to have a name at all -- there is only one Creator, and the Creator just is.

What confuses and concerns me is that Christians still resist using "Yahweh," and insist on referring to their deity as the capitalized generic title. The true name of their demigod messiah is also largely unknown, and "Jesus" is used instead. I can understand the Roman Empire did that to "de-Hebrewfy" the god they adopted from the Jews, but why are people still doing that now? Is there still that much Antisemitism in Christianity? Or is it that not many Christians are educated about this? I know if I were staking my eternal salvation on a faith you better believe I'd try to learn as much about it as I could, and these naming inaccuracies seem like a really big things to miss.
 So, in short: Christians, when someone says "goddamn!" or some variation thereof, he or she isn't taking your god's name in vain, as it's been clearly established that "god" isn't a name at all. Same with "Christ almighty!", "lordy lordy" and so on. I could give you some actual examples of taking your god's name in vain... but my purpose here is to illuminate, not offend.

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