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Capital ideas on capitalizing names of God and biblical topics

Should references to God be capitalized in published writings - either online or in print? What about synonymous names by which He may be called? And should upper- or lower-case lettering be employed by writers mentioning multiple subjects of worship, as in polytheistic circles?

Various style experts offer different guidelines on the capitalization question.

Originally, the Old Testament Jews did not mention the name of God, even omitting the vowels in written text, for the purpose of protecting the holiness and respect for the Divine One.

Today, the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (from the Modern Language Association) capitalizes all direct references to God. But citations of pluralistic deities, as in works discussing mythology, may mention gods. But those pointing to a monotheistic God employ the upper-case.

The The Associated Press Stylebook and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary use upper-case lettering for Christians, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims, but not atheists. Apparently, a claim of nonexistent divinity does not require capitalization. The Yahoo! Style Guide says little on the topic.

Here’s my take on capitalizing references to God and related topics.

Despite the casual capitalization practices of certain Bible translations, I personally agree with those who capitalize all references to one God. Thus, I’d capitalize any of these terms:

Almighty Father
El Shaddai
King of Kings
Lamb of God
Prince of Peace
Son of God
and other similar references.

Personal pronouns referring to God are also capitalized – at least, in my book, both proverbially and practically speaking. Along these lines, I'd say, "God is good. Yes, He is. His character is consistent."

Careful readers of Scripture will notice how different Bible translations may or may not follow this pattern.

Writers frequently capitalize the name of the Virgin Mary, also for honor’s sake. One might write about the Apostle Peter, but mention that he was one of the apostles of Christ.

Judeo-Christian writers and editors have long argued about possible capitalization of the names of the devil. Should Satan or Lucifer be capped, because those are proper names, even if the subject to which they refer may be deemed most improper? Maybe that’s a matter for theologians.

When it comes to rules of capitalization, certainly consistency is the key. Writers citing biblical topics may simply need to set their standards and stick with them. Perhaps that’s a practical lesson of applied faith.

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