Why I use “Yahweh” when talking about the Judeo-Christian god

I’ve been called on this a few times by religious types who think I’m either blaspheming or trying to show off my smarty-pants by referring to the Judeo-Christian god by its proper name, but there’s a strategy to my usage, and I’d like to spell it out.

When we’re talking about any other cultures’ gods, we refer to them by their proper names–for example: Zeus, Shiva, Ganesh, Quetzacoatl, Eris. The same isn’t generally true about the “default” god of American culture, Yahweh, who is usually referred to as “God” with a capital G. As someone who was once substantially brainwashed into a Christian mode of thinking and has since recovered, this strikes me as a nefarious, though likely mostly subconscious, way for evangelists to pull an end-run around the argument of which deity, if any, is the “correct” one to worship, and it represents a massive, mostly unchallenged bias in the American mind.

For example, take the question “Do you believe in God?” The capital letter there is important; it signifies that we’re talking about a specific god, and that god is Yahweh (though many of those who worship him probably don’t know that name; they may be more familiar with the old mistranslation “Jehovah”). The assumption inherent within that question becomes more apparent when one answers “no,” for then the believer will often ask questions such as “Who do you think created the Universe?” The assumption (beyond “someone or something had to create the Universe,” which is asinine for reasons I won’t get into here) is that Yahweh, specifically, is the only possible supernatural cause for existence to, well, exist.

See the illogical shortcut we’re taking here? It would be one thing to assume that a god created the Universe, but no, by referring specifically to “God,” which is understood to be the biblical deity, we’re skipping a few steps and positing that it was Yahweh who made the Universe–not Ame-no-Minaka-Nushi-no-Mikoto, not Apsu and Tiamat, not a cosmic turtle with a stomach flu–except we’re still referring to Yahweh by the seemingly neutral term “God” to disguise the fact and avoid disputes over which deity gets the credit for creation. Americans seem receptive to the idea that a deity created existence; that’s a matter to be addressed elsewhere, though I suspect it may be related to a problem with human thinking I mentioned in This Won’t End Well:

“If you don’t have any prior opinion or belief regarding a subject, you’re likely to adopt the first one presented to you—do I have it right?”

“Well, I never thought about it,” Sindy says, “but I guess so.”

Using the name Yahweh when referring to the Judeo-Christian god is a way to prevent giving worshippers of that deity a default victory. It forces the conversation to return to a point where Yahweh can be examined on the same level as deities Americans are more comfortable admitting are fake, and it forces believers to make the arguments for why Yahweh, specifically, should be credited as the one true god instead of skipping over the issue and pretending he’s the only option when it comes to godhood. In short, it exposes the false dilemma fallacy inherent in the way the Judeo-Christian mythos is presented in America.

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