Capitalization of "heaven"?

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Roymalika

Senior Member
Punjabi
Hi

A letter to a friend for condoling his mother's death:
..... I pray that God may bless your mother with heaven and save her from the hellfire.

(Note: According to the Muslim belief, "heaven" is a place where believers will reside after death.)

Should I capitalize "heaven" in the above sentence? Is there any difference between "Heaven" and "heaven"?
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My dictionary says 'often capitalised', but it's optional. I would follow whatever spelling is conventionally used in your religion.


    (Do you really want to mention the possibility of her suffering hellfire in a letter of condolence? It seems a bit insensitive to me.)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In religion "heaven" is not capitalized. Only "God" is capitalized. If a religion uses a different name for God, that name is capitalized. We do not capitalize every spiritual word (heaven, hell, angel, devil, etc.): only "God".

    The WR dictionary says that "heavens" is capitalized if that really means "God". For example someone might say:

    He will perish unless the Heavens interfere.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    (Do you really want to mention the possibility of her suffering hellfire in a letter of condolence? It seems a bit insensitive to me.)
    :tick: Moreover, at least in my culture, it tends to suggest that you think she was an awful person who might well merit hell. If you want to sound pious, can't you just say I am praying for her, without going into so much detail?
     
    Last edited:

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    In religion "heaven" is not capitalized. Only "God" is capitalized. If a religion uses a different name for God, that name is capitalized. We do not capitalize every spiritual word (heaven, hell, angel, devil, etc.): only "God".

    The WR dictionary says that "heavens" is capitalized if that really means "God". For example someone might say:

    He will perish unless the Heavens interfere.
    We normally capitalize proper nouns. "heaven" is one of them. We also capitalize the names of specific places. "Heaven" is a specific place which God created Himself only for believers. There is no other such heaven in this world.
    I am not sure why it should not be capitalized.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Some might, most probably don't.

    Why don't you follow your religion's conventions? If you believe heaven exists, is real place, and a proper noun, then by all means capitalise it.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I think those who believe that heaven exists capitalize it, while the ones who don't believe in it don't capitalize it. Am I right?
    I don't think so, no.

    I would capitalize it personally if I were writing it in any sort of religious context, but I woudn't draw any inferences from seeing it written in lower-case.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    :tick: Moreover, at least in my culture, it tends to suggest that you think she was an awful person who might well merit hell. If you want to sound pious, can't you just say I am praying for her, without going into so much detail?
    I believe that it is not up to people outside a faith to say what is appropriate content for a letter of condolence that is written and received within that faith.
    The issue is one of theology (In this example below I'm trying to make up an unreal situation so I won't look like I am disparaging any actual faith):
    Suppose cats believe that the Great Cat in the Ceiling decides cats' place in the afterlife. Cats who, overall, are Bad Cats will be banished to a carrying case and taken on an eternal trip to the vet. Cats who, overall, are Best Cats in the World will nap in a never-dimming sunny spot, with cans of tuna available on the side. 'Overall' is crucial here, because cats alternate on a daily basis between being Bad Cats or the Best Cats in the World, and their place in the afterlife is based on their overall behavior, not on whether at some particular point in life they accept or reject a belief. When cats die, the Great Cat in the Ceiling analyzes the record of their behavior during life and assigns them a place in the afterlife depending on which pan of the scales is heavier: Bad Cat or Best Cat in the World.
    In that situation, it would be perfectly in keeping with a cat's faith tradition to write to another cat: "May the Great Cat in the Ceiling bless your mother with a sunny spot and save her from the carrying case."
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think those who believe that heaven exists capitalize it, while the ones who don't believe in it don't capitalize it. Am I right?
    That's an interesting thought: I do suspect that more of the religious would capitalise it than others, mainly because the religious will come into contact with the capitalised form more often.

    If it helps, the Bible versions that I have checked do not capitalise it.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    It's interesting that Bible versions in English and in other languages don't capitalize it; I looked at different English versions of Matthew 5:20, since it uses the phrase 'kingdom of heaven.' By analogy with modern states, you'd expect the phrase to be capitalized, as in Kingdom of Italy or United Kingdom. But it's not. I did see one English translation that capitalized Kingdom (which I would guess is based on capitalizing King, Lord, etc. as titles of Jesus and God) but not heaven. I looked at some non-English translations and the only one that capitalized it was German (Himmelreich) which tells us nothing about special treatment of kingdom of heaven, since German capitalizes nouns.
     
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