Since the respect issue keeps coming up, here’s my two cents.
I mostly agree with Jan, but with a wrinkle. If one does not capitalize pronouns for God that does not show disrespect. That has been clearly established by Jan’s several posts. The reason this is true is because one is simply complying with writing and publishing conventions. However, as Jan also mentioned, there are some style manuals that go the other way. So for those that do require (or allow) capitalization of pronouns for God, we ask “why?” The clear answer is that it IS a way to show respect (& that’s the “wrinkle”). After all, the “rule” that allows this is called “reverential capitalization.” Furthermore, we can demonstrate historically that that is exactly why the practice developed.
Jan is correct that as a general rule we don’t capitalize pronouns in English but we do capitalize proper nouns. However, we do capitalize one pronoun (“I”) and, more importantly, proper nouns are not the only things we capitalize. We capitalize titles, acronyms, demonyms/gentilics, the first word of sentences and of direct quotes, and names of languages, the days of the week, and months. (These last two cannot possibly REALLY be proper nouns no matter how many lists they show up on & they are not capitalized in many foreign languages). Oh, and sometimes we capitalize for emphasis, as I just did because I’m too lazy to use the italics button. So, reverential capitalization is just another occasion when we (can) capitalize.
The biggest difference is that reverential capitalization is optional (& currently the minority approach), whereas the rules for other occasions are virtually mandatory. (Although, for example, there is variation in HOW to capitalize titles).
So the biggest question for many writers might be what if I know that not capitalizing is not disrespectful, but I’m afraid my readers might find it disrespectful? I think the Chicago Manual of Style Online hits the nail on the head:
Chicago Manual of Style Online wrote:Q. What is the proper pronoun form to use to refer to God? I was taught to capitalize the pronoun “He” when “God” was the antecedent. However, I checked a number of standard grammar handbooks and can’t find any information on this point. Have the rules changed?
A. Chicago lowercases such pronouns, but it’s not wrong to uppercase, especially if you are writing for a religious readership or anyone else who might take lowercasing as a sign of disrespect. In matters of style, in contrast to those of grammar, there are few right or wrong answers. Different houses follow different style guides in order to make their publications consistent.
By the way, reverential capitalization is not limited to pronouns or to God. So for example, when you see style manuals address “down style” vs. “up style,” most of what they are talking about is keeping or abandoning reverential capitalization. President/president, Pope/pope, Secretary of State/secretary of state are all examples. Plus, you can use reverential capitalization creatively in fiction or non-fiction. It’s not unusual to read of someone as “The Man.” Walt Whitman famously used “These States.”
OK, more than two cents. Again.