An answer I gave about which personal pronoun to use for god was locked by a mod. The reason was my introducing statement that god is a fictitious entity, so that the question must be understood as one of language usage (not one of god).

That statement elicited a few negative comments. I assume that the few downvotes also are based on hurt feelings. (The answer was fairly detailed and generally well received.)

The question was probably locked because I reverted an edit by the mod, not knowing he was one then; he hadn't left a comment. I reverted the edit because the introducing statement was not gratuitous, and I felt someone was infringing on my text, so to speak. (It's funny how one gets proud and possessive over these little things, I know).

I have two questions.

  1. Is this site so pious that a — contextually warranted — statement "god is a fictitious entity" is considered too offensive ?
  2. What's the process to unlock it? In the locked state no normal user (including me) can edit it or vote or comment on it.
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    There's a logical disconnect here. You haven't explained why a god being real or fictitious has anything to do with whether it's a matter of usage or not, so it's hard to see how it's an integral part of the answer. (I am the opposite of pious and don't care whether anyone thinks any particular god is real or not, but I can't see how it's relevant here.) – snailplane Mar 3 '16 at 20:00
  • When a moderator locks a post, they can choose whether the lock will last for 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, or whether it will be permanent. I don't see any way to tell which option J.R. picked, but if he picked any of the first three it should unlock automatically within a week. – snailplane Mar 3 '16 at 20:01
  • @snailboat "Logical disconnect": For a believer, the question (necessarily, in my opinion) goes beyond language. The correct personal pronoun would be the one which reflects the true gender god has in my belief. What other people use would be either irrelevant, or blasphemic. Since the question would be about beliefs, it would not be a scientific question, and an answer would not be a scientific answer. The question "what's the proper pronoun for god" can only be sensibly asked, and answered, from the (at least the assumed) position of an atheist. Like so many other questions. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 3 '16 at 20:23
  • @snailboat And thanks for the technical part of your answer. The standard text says something about "disputes about its content are being resolved", so I thought there is a discussion somewhere or whatever. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 3 '16 at 20:26
  • @snailboat I can't help it, this anecdote seems to fit so well -- “Why is phosphorus trichloride (PhCl3) polar?” “Because God made it that way” (from a highschool test). It may well be invented, and I would have given the student a point for good style and humour; but it's not far from my argument, in particular if we discuss not phosphorus trichloride but god proper. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 3 '16 at 20:31
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    Supposing God to be real, the only way to properly understand God's nature is (in the Abrahamic religions that are in view here) by means of the books that reveal that nature. (This is, in fact, a fairly fundamental proposition in all such religions, as far as I know.) Supposing God to be made up, the only meaningful way to talk about such an entity's gender is based on the original books that made up the idea. So it stands to reason that your opening sentence was actually irrelevant. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 3 '16 at 22:50
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    And because it was asserting (as an obvious starting assumption) something that many would disagree with, it was also controversial at best. Throw in the apparently deliberate choice to avoid the long-standing English convention of capitalizing names (including some titles used as names, such as, yes, God) and it looks like a calculated insult, like saying "Well, we know that peter schneider is a non-native speaker, so of course…" That's not productive, even if that wasn't the intent. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 3 '16 at 22:52
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    I'm probably whistling in the wind here, but I have quixotic tendencies. Starting your answer with a statement that you know is going to provoke a folks is a failure to communicate well. How can anyone focus on what you're explaining when you've stated as fact an opinion that the majority of the world resoundingly disagrees with? You've destroyed your credibility with your audience before you've even begun. Incorporating your opinion into what you're teaching just distracts the student from what they should be focusing on. – ColleenV Mar 3 '16 at 23:48
  • Possibly relevant discussions: morally repugnant questions and a question about a verb for describing the action of making shit – ColleenV Mar 3 '16 at 23:55
  • @ColleenV You are not whistling in the wind ;-). I'm reading. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '16 at 1:29
  • @ColleenV But it is interesting in which context you put my remark "there is no god": genocide and feces. American readers apparently react stronger to such a statement than European readers would (assuming I'm somewhat representative, and you are American). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '16 at 9:42
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    I think you misunderstood why I felt those meta discussions were relevant. They're relevant not because of the subject matter of the questions those discussions are about, but because of the community's reaction to them. If you actually read those discussions and my contributions, you'll find that I believe that being overly sensitive is a bad thing when you're trying educate. I don't care about your views on religion, and you shouldn't assume you know mine. I care about ELL and the community here, and I'm attempting to help by pointing you to other similar community discussions. – ColleenV Mar 4 '16 at 14:21

I edited the answer after it had been flagged; I locked the answer after the edit was rolled back and it had been flagged again.

Yes, your answer has garnered quite a few upvotes, as you said, but it has also rankled a few feathers. I have trouble seeing how your opening statement ("Since we talk about a fictitious entity...") is really all that critical to your overall answer. By insisting your opening statement remain unmolested, one could argue that you're using this question as a chance to assert your atheistic beliefs.

In answer to your piety question, I'll quote from a famous Stack Exchange help page:

Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated.

With that in mind, let's insofar as we all can, let's focus on English, not theology.

I hope that after the question unlocks, you'll leave it in its current state.

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  • Thanks for the clarification. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 3 '16 at 23:09
  • God is, for all practical purposes, a fictitious entity. You can't ask God, or the Gods, or Goddesses, or Supreme Creators, etc., what they want to be called. The only thing you can do is ask people about their specific interpretation of God. It is critical to the discussion to understand this, because the answer to the question isn't absolute. Many, many, MANY religious people don't believe in whatever version of God some other person does, and their canon will therefore be different. So instead of demanding that one version of one religion be catered to, he did focus on the English. – MichaelS Mar 4 '16 at 3:04
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    @MichaelS Do you think that folks don't understand that you can't ask "God" what English pronoun they should use without the statement that someone believes God doesn't exist? Do you think asking me what pronoun I want to be called is informative on what pronoun you should use to communicate with the typical English speaker about me? The statement of author's opinion isn't needed for the answer at all. – ColleenV Mar 4 '16 at 14:31
  • @ColleenV: Yes, I do. Many people literally believe there is a literal, absolute truth about how to talk about their god, and they'll insist that their interpretation is the one and only possible way. As evidenced by the many answers on the topic in question that blatantly ignore differing religious opinions. The fact is that the Christian god is correctly referred to as "he", "He", "she", "She", "they", "They", "it", and/or "It", depending on the beliefs of the person you're asking. And, yes, there have been many debates on what to call a human who prefers a different pronoun. – MichaelS Mar 4 '16 at 15:00
  • @MichaelS Mentioning that the appropriate pronoun may differ based on the belief systems of the group that you're addressing has nothing to do with whether you believe God is real or not. You don't have to say "I think god is fictional" to say "what pronoun you use depends on who your audience is". – ColleenV Mar 4 '16 at 15:04
  • @ColleenV: Except he didn't say the one; he said the other. Unlike pretty much all the other answers given, that assume other religious viewpoints are automatically wrong, he stepped around that to focus on the English usage of the words in question. – MichaelS Mar 4 '16 at 15:46
  • @MichaelS - Actually, he said neither. It's one thing to say, "I think god is fictional" – that's merely stating a personal opinion. It's quite another to say "god is fictional" – which is presenting a personal opinion as an absolute fact. – J.R. Mar 4 '16 at 16:20

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