By Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
I hereby declare the phrase “Oh My God” to be from this point forward, for atheist use only. OK, I have no authority make this sweeping declaration. But common sense and logic are on my side. First, believers’ imaginary friend has made this phrase taboo for them. Second, as I will argue in a minute, the phrase itself uses god to express disbelief.
The third commandment (depending on which set of commandments you are looking at and for which religion) says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Your average stick in the mud preacher would interpret that prohibition to include things like “God dammit” and “OMG.” The American Heritage Dictionary (FFRF Honorary President, author, scholar, and professor Steven Pinker chairs the AHD Usage Panel) wrote a lovely little article about the words this prohibition has given us:
Among the many exclamations resulting from the taboo deformation of Jesus are gee, geez, jeez, jingo, and sheesh; the title Christ gives us crikey, criminy, and cripes, while Jesus Christ is transmogrified into jeepers creepers or Jiminy Cricket as needed.
We atheists need have no such “scruples.” In fact, to paraphrase a sadly under-celebrated 20th century atheist activist: Don’t use the name of the Lord in vain? You can’t use the Lord’s name in any other way. It’s almost as if the phrase were coined for atheists.
I spread the slogan around routinely, and with gusto. I don’t do it to express a belief in a god, but just the opposite. It is a phrase to express disbelief. We say “OMG!” when something is surprising or unbelievable, which really makes it the perfect phrase for atheists.
So there you have it. “OMG!” is part of the officially codified “canon” of atheism. Feel free to add your favorite heretical phrase to the comment section. But please, nothing disrespectful to those who actually exist.
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