This is just a quick something-to-think-about that began as a bit of a pet peeve.
If you’ve been interacting with religious folk on the interwebs, you’ve probably run across comments from Jews that include “G-d” in place of “God”. A bit of investigating will reveal that this is a way of showing respect and avoiding the ‘sin’ of erasing or defacing the name of God.
When I first heard of this, I largely disregarded it as one of the various pretentious activities of the religious. Eventually, I gave it a bit more thought and the absurdity really started to sink in. Consider the following…
The Jewish deity has a name and it’s a sin to erase or deface this name. There are a number of names for this god (YHVH, El Shaddai, Elohim), some of which are supposedly unutterable, others are reportedly unknown (what happens if you accidentally deface one of the unknown names?) – but all are sacred.
So, observant Jews avoid typing or writing “God”, for fear that it ‘might count’ as a name of their god. The generic “god” is a word in the English language, made up of characters that evolved from other languages. The symbols that make up this word (remember, it’s the written name, not the spoken name – that one must be cautious about), are unlikely to be the correct symbols for any of the names of their god, as these characters didn’t exist at the time.
If modern English characters could be constructed to actually be the written name of a god, it seems that those characters might just as likely be “banana”, “porn” or “ghoti” – yet observant Jews don’t worry about morphing these words to avoid incidental defacement of the name of their god.
But, if we assume, for a moment, that “God” is a valid written representation of the name of the Jewish god, isn’t “G-d” a defacement of that name? Granted, we’re in the realm of word-magic, so it doesn’t have to make sense, but it certainly seems ironic to me.
Further, we’re really just talking about characters here that are used as labels for a concept. The label “god” is a non-specific reference to a type of being, “God” tends to refer to a specific being.
The value of a label is in its ability to communicate information.
By modifying the “God” label to “G-d”, the Jews have added information. The “God” label could apply to a variety of specific deities qualifying for proper-noun-status. The “G-d” label, because of Jewish usage, now has the added information that renders it a label that specifically applies to the Jewish god.
It has, by their alteration, become a more specific label that is far more likely to qualify as the “name” of their god than the less specific versions that started this mess.