I like the gods. When I say that, I mean that I like the gods I worship, and the gods that associated with them to whom I do not pay cultus, as well as the gods of other cultures I’m familiar with, and all the other gods I know nothing about. I like them, I respect them, and I try to behave in a way that gives them honor.
None of that requires capitalizing the word “god,” mind you; to do so is simply wrong.
Capital letters serve exactly two purposes in the English language: they mark the beginning of a sentence, and also flag a proper noun, otherwise known as a name. If a word is neither of those things, it’s not supposed to be capitalized. Somewhere along the line that simple rule got rather muddled by the convention to avoid writing the name Yahweh in the Bible; the (possibly apocryphal) explanation is that it makes it all the harder to take the name of one’s deity in vain if one does not know the name of one’s deity. What seems to have come next is just referring to that deity as “god” since the name was forbidden, then treating “god” as if it were a name, which as far as I’m concerned means you probably shouldn’t be using it any longer since names are forbidden in that tradition.
Capitalizing a common noun by Christians — “god” — may have led readers to assume that it’s the holy presence which gets this word a big letter, since it’s clearly not a name. Then we get into caps creep: items and events associated with Yahweh (cross and crucifixion, for example), then verbs such as love, and even pronouns, which from the standpoint of grammar is the silliest of all. Nowadays, there’s all sorts of examples of capital letters being used to convey significance, taking a clear, concise standard and rather ruining it.
The names of the gods get capitalized, but the words “god” and “goddess” do not, at least in English. I understand that capital letter are less common in Spanish, but in German they add them to every noun; the latter fact is probably also a contributing factor to this confusion, since English has some Germanic roots.
Fair is fair, one colleague said to me a few months ago: if the Christians capitalize that common noun, why shouldn’t we? I explained that I won’t capitalize “god” even when referencing the Christian one, and she applauded my consistency (although I don’t think I converted her to my line of thinking). If I’m referring to Jesus or Yahweh, I’ll use those names. Even Christians and others find it awkward; it’s pretty common to hear someone say, “god with a capital G,” because capital letters have no sound, and thus any convention which does not have an audible component is decoration, not communication.
A rule of thumb I follow is that if it’s identical to a common noun, it is a common noun, and should not be capitalized. It doesn’t matter if the writer is attempting to convey a level of esoteric significance, either: we use context to do that job in English, the words surrounding the one in question. We don’t capitalize “circle” just because we cast it for magic; if we want to make that clear, write “magical circle” instead. Even “the circle” sets this off as special; do not underestimate the power of the definite article!
Another technique is the Islamic practice of adding phrases such a “praised be his name” whenever one makes reference to the god Allah. Arabic has no capital letters, and thus no visual cues for readers (and not listeners); this praising phrasing is a much more inclusive way to express that the writer is still referring to a deity, and further, that the deity in question is pretty awesome in the writer’s mind.
Capital letters are not a shortcut to clarity, because no one can hear the difference, and because there are no shortcuts to clarity. A Heathen colleague of mine calls these “emotional caps” (or “Emotional Caps,” because my colleague has some dry wit going on), based on the belief that folks capitalize words they think have emotional significance, and thus importance. Unfortunately because it excludes anyone who is receiving the information through their ears, this technique is disrespectful to the reader, and thus (when referring to divine beings) disrespectful to the gods, as well, since the accolades are completely missed by part of the audience.
In one of the Hellenic Facebook groups I’m in this question came up; after one member researched it and agreed that capitalizing “god” is incorrect, quite a few others joined in. One pointed out that capital letters were relative newcomers to the ancient Greek language, but another, while agreeing with that point, emphasized that it’s the rules in English which hold sway in English, and common nouns don’t get capitalized in English.
This is a tough issue, one complicated by the fact that a lot of really smart, really knowledgeable people assume they know how to capitalize although it’s not their specialty. I know that folks that add capital letters are trying to do the right thing, but I believe they are instead sowing confusion and creating a false sense of respect which others might assume is sufficient. It is not, and let’s not obfuscate that issue: if we want to demonstrate respect for our gods, let’s do it in a way that is understandable to eyes and ears alike.