Why Do You Hyphenate G-d?

This is maybe the most common question I get about anything I’ve shared on here so far. And it’s totally understandable because it’s a practice most people aren’t familiar with.

I type out G-d for a few reasons.

Here they are:

First, it’s About Keeping Sacred Things Sacred

Mine is a culture and a generation with more cynicism than religion, and more sarcasm than respect. We grew up exclaiming “oh my gawd” at everything and anything, and some of us took it a step further to start throwing about “gawddamn”s like we were scattering seeds in a fertile field.

Religion and sacredness are archaic things to most of us, and the reckless nihilism of our culture can’t stand a positive valuation of anything traditional, spiritual, or meaningful. We are meant to be a generation that is “in” on the joke of society, too witty for religion and ideology, and insufferably trapped in the status quo of realpolitik.

To hyphenate G-d in that world is first and foremost about reclaiming some sense of decency and respect. G-d isn’t a title or name to throw about, or to use carelessly. Hyphenating it creates a pause in my writing where intention can really be felt out.

Is this something appropriate to mention alongside G-d?

No one taught us to think that way. Again, religion is meant to be part of the joke we’re “in” on. To question appropriateness, assert decency, and create space for G-d to be sacred again feels–with no exaggeration–quite revolutionary sometimes.

The hyphenation of G-d, I believe, is an antidote to a culture that grew up chewing and spitting out the “God” Nietzsche proclaimed murdered by the Enlightenment period.

Second, It’s a Matter of Jewish Tradition

Chabad has a great primer on this perspective.

That said, this is probably the part of this practice I am still feeling out the most. I’m in favor of more traditional Judaism compared to a lot of directions the progressive Jewish movements have chosen to move in, but I’m no expert, and coming out of those progressive movements, there’s still a learning curve for me.

On the one hand, I risk being contradictory and seemingly haphazard in my approach here. (For instance, I’ve so far chosen not to hyphenate when sharing a blessing before posts that engage Torah). But on the other, I live by and large isolated from and independent of any organized Jewish community, so any approach I take here is likely to still appear alien to most encountering it in terms of the logic informing it.

For now, I’d like to just leave this explanation at: I’m exploring how to approach Judaism more in alignment to my values, and that may become a more active reason why I hyphenate or censor names of my Creator in the future.

Third, It’s About Metaphysics

“God” often feels too familiar. If anything could be deemed a god  by another person, it could likewise perceivably become their God  which they view a station above their other gods. G-d  creates an orientation to what I am writing about whereby our Creator is positioned unquestionably at the highest point in the hierarchy, above both other gods and other Gods.

While other people’s approach to the Divine, when cited here, complicates that matter, I can reassert that fundamental worldview behind my own perspective every time I choose to use the hyphen.

Like I mentioned in the second explanation, this is an evolving practice for me. It will likely change over time, and I may even go back and edit either this resource page or even past posts to reflect how I feel about later. No promises. No expectations. (Just creation unfolding).

At the end of the day, I hope you take from my work and my writing here that I value G-d. I love G-d. And I want to do right by G-d, especially when writing for others about G-d.