In the Bible there is a passage commonly known as the Ten Commandments. In that list of basic civil law and religious philosophy, is the least understood, and possibly the most misused one of the lot; the one about taking the Lord’s name in vain.
When I was growing up in the WCG, aka Worldwide Church of God, aka Weasely Cult, this commandment was sacrosanct. To take Lord’s name in vain was to offend God, and that was something one just didn’t do. The obvious words and phrases like goddamn, Gawd, Jesus, Jesus Christ, etc, to express frustration, anger, or pain were deadly sins. So were the facsimiles like plain old damn, dammit, golly, gee, gee whiz. Just to make sure that one didn’t even use anything that may be connected to God, like bodily fluids words like, shoot, shit, poop, ass, asshole were also quite sinful. Using alternative made up words, or a yummy treat like “fudgsicle” was just as bad. Why? because it was willfully trying to circumvent what you were thinking, and God always knew what you were thinking….and those thoughts made God very angry.
Our church was certainly not the only Christian ones that has similar censure laws. It’s a dogmatic principle that has persisted in conservative Christianity for a while now. Not all have been quite as restrictive on church enforcement of this law, but the mindset has been consistent. That mindset has been that to say anything that may be considered to be offensive to the deity, or that would have god painted in any light but the dogmatic one of all-powerful, all-knowing, all terrifying.
Yes, that was the underlying, unsaid idea used behind this commandment. To use a word that could have the remotest chance of reducing god from his august state was to be avoided, or risk his wrath. The wrath of god is a common tool used to keep people complaint and vain words free. What was never considered was the other meaning of the word vain.
Ask yourself, when you see the word vain, what do you think? That’s right, egotistic, self-absorbed, the embodiment of narcissism. Think about what is being asked here, to avoid angering someone because certain words, are also used as proper nouns.
The trail of silliness gets even more whacked, when you consider that those who get all upset for saying “Oh my god” would never get upset if someone said “Oh my Shiva”. “Fuck me Jesus” is bad, “Fuck me Isis” is not. “Goddammit to hell” is bad, “Hadesdammit to the underworld” is not. Apparently its only the Christian deities that get all pissy about their ego being bandied about. The others don’t count, being “false” gods.
For some conservative Christians this mental panic attack goes something like this. “oh shit…poop…Oh, no…What if I pissed…irritated God when I said “Goddamnit you fucking piece of junk.” when I couldn’t put that fucking…fracking…froidinger…err, I mean annoying Ikea bookshelf together?”
Guilt ensues, and they feel the need to repent and commit penance for their crime. Meanwhile the Ikea bookshelf continues to mock them.
No one denies that respectful language is always a good idea, especially when talking to others, and considering their personal sensibilities. There are certain words and phrases that just aren’t appropriate in every setting. Avoiding using profanity, or deity linked words because of fear of angering a Christian manifestation of god whose ego is that fragile, is just asking for failure. and guilt, and trying to avoid failure by getting creative, getting guilty about that, then screwing up and…
It’s a vicious, useless cycle. But, then so much of modern religion has ideals that end up being more of a guilt, fear, and folly exercise than beneficial to anyone. Breaking such cycles can be the best thing we do for ourselves.