Do Certain Usages of the English Language Foster Anthropomorphization of Plain old Reality?

I'm currently reading H.L. Mencken's The American Language. It just occurred to me that when the notion of gender is introduced as an adjective for a thing that is not a sexually reproducing creature, that thing gets a little bit anthropomorphized. Why don't we refer to God as "It?"


When you say that "he" or "she" did this or that in English, you are in fact subtly asserting that the subject or object of description is human or sentient, or at least that you are not describing an abstract concept. I'm no language expert, but I do know that in French and in Spanish, all nouns are of this or that gender: ("La" denotes the feminine version of the "the" in French, as "Le" denotes the masculine. In Spanish "La" is also feminine; "El" denotes masculine.)


For those who have never learned anything but English, this may surprise you. For those who've already studies these and other languages, consider the notion that in English, gender specification manipulates language to propel belief in a sentient entity, and a supernatural one at that.


In Spanish or in French, every object and thing is designated either as male or as female, but English is the exception among European linguistics. This matters because it helps to account for the above average degree of religious fervor in the United States. 


God has been and is still referred to as 'it' by many. Spinoza thought of God as more like nature, and some people's impression of God is more like physics. God could mean 'reality' or simply 'fate.' I think that some relate the notion of God to some variety of collective or shared intelligence. In English we would never assign a gender to nature or to physics, but in other western languages these ideas have genders. Sex is how you make people, and I won't be bothered with the endless varieties of related, contrived hangups.


To refer to a ship as 'she' or to refer to a hand as 'he' it utterly foreign to English monoglots, so I ask you to consider a language in which all nouns have gender, and consider if this 'misuse' may have approximated He and Him as this or that aspect of plain old reality?


This may help make sense of the spread of religion in varying European cultures.

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Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 2, 2014 at 10:46pm

In the English language, assigning gender to God does more to personify god than in other gender-rich languages. That's closer to the point...

Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 2, 2014 at 10:39pm

A variety of gods in ancient Israel?

Comment by Michael Penn on July 2, 2014 at 6:28pm

More to my point, I was saying that the American theist will tell you that god has more than one name. The reality here is that ancient Israel had more than one god. The scriptural re-writes here have all but covered this up unless you look closely, or view other sources for info.

The constant re-writing to make everything fit is something that our theists deny ever happened, but it explains camels domesticated before their time, the exodus that never happened, Joshua's battle that never happened, and so on. In fact, their is no evidence of Moses, Solomon, or David. They now claim to have found Solomon's 3 gates but the gate seals are all different and the timeframe is off if you go by the Bible. Archaeologists used to have a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other. This changed in the late 1960's and the shovel is the main tool today. Along with modern dating techniques much can be learned.

Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 2, 2014 at 5:14pm

Thanks for the post MIcahel. I'm not sure why you suspect that I was unaware that God had more than one name. The point of the article was really about gender attribution to facilitate personification in English. My bad for not providing greater emphasis.


Perhaps I need to roll this around and study language a bit more to avoid confusion.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 2, 2014 at 2:32pm

I see your point but you forget that the American theist thinks of god as "having many names." In this way they get around the fact that many gods existed in ancient Israel rather than see that there were territorial gods, late narrowed down into one -- and even then they had to make him into 3.

As for god being male, this also became a "given." God could not be it, she, or anything else with names like El, JHVH, Jehovah, Elohim, etc. The American christian tells you that god has many names and avoids the ancient idea of many gods. We "apologetisize" everything.

It must be very confusing to the followers of Islam as they only have Allah and his prophet. They knew Americans were crazy from the start.

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