11 December 2015

Borne from a change in usage

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a blog entry that contains one (obligatory) image and fifty words. The image has nothing to do with the words. I thank you for your attention.

Dear diary,

My steadfast and constant desire is to escape from all thoughts of religion and never again to voice another word on the subject, but something always happens that drags me back in to the melee… Yesterday I explained here on this dumbblog (not dumbbell: dumb-blog) that I met a religious missionary at the library, and then later I saw a campaign ad video which depicted a politician praying with his family… I started reminiscing about the different ways that I’ve heard people address their household’s deity…

This morning I awoke thinking about the same old stuff… The theological arguments that follow in the wake of religion are less and less interesting to me, but I am still curious about how words are used… The leaders of the cult that I grew up in, which calls itself Protestant Christianity, frequently referred to God as “Father”:

“O Heavenly Father, we ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
—I’ve heard those words conclude many a public prayer…

RE: “Father”: it strikes me that I’ve never heard anyone begin a prayer with the phrase “Dear Dad,”—though the word “Dad” means the same thing as “Father,” it feels informal, so people avoid it…

Without even intending to do so, people will cause a word to become set apart (incidentally, I think that this is what the word “holy” originally meant: something “set apart”—in the beginning, it didn’t necessarily have any religious or spiritual connotation to it)—simply by narrowing its usage, people can change the meaning of a word, or instill it with a power that it was not born with.

So if enough Christians begin praying to “Dad,” they might also, on instinct, stop using that word to refer to any earthly parent… then the word “Dad” will have gone the way of the word “God.”

A book that I recently read, which I mentioned in an earlier entry—The Rhetoric of Religion, by Kenneth Burke—builds on some of Sigmund Freud’s ideas about the biblical Moses: Burke speculates that the word “God” originally was a title that people would give to their society’s leader, like the word “King.” He posits that eventually something terrible happened to the leader (or “God”) of society, and this caused the people (again, on instinct) eventually to retire the use of the G-word… so that term became charged with reverence, when, over the passage of time, many tales about the subject were told and retold and then collected together: thus the notion of a superhuman deity was borne from a simple change in language usage.

Burke mentions that the title “King” seems to be heading in the same direction… Nowadays, many countries have a “President,” whereas few still call their leader “King So-&-So.”

On this note, if we returned to using the word “God” as a title for our human leaders, it wouldn’t take long for it to lose its shine, its holiness… And I think this is why some people object to the overuse of the word “Genius”—for if every single person who comes along is called a genius, the term no longer feels special…


How sacred words become commonplace—isn’t this a naive topic? Doesn’t everybody already know this stuff? I wrote to this point and then began to feel that I had wasted my time… I fear that this evidence shall be used against me on the Final Day: the Day of Judgment, in Heaven’s courtroom…

& “heaven” means “sky”; so: “heavenly god” means “sky president” …and: “our father who art in heaven” = “big dad in the air.”

I like to wonder about outer space… the darkness that surrounds our home planet… I was taught to expect a realm of light beyond the boundary of the Earth… the concern was with direction: “upwards” was Heaven, “downwards” was Hell…

But “upwards,” after a while, ended up meaning “outwards,” because our planet, it turns out, is not perfectly flat… so the Outer Darkness was discovered to be inhabiting the region where old Paradise was supposed to be living…

I gotta go now—my sweetheart just sent me a text message that says:

On my way……… xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

(In the above quotation, the exes stand for kisses, and the exclamation points indicate the level of intensity with which these kisses will be administered.)

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