Swearing = Prayer?

Posted on 02/08/2011 by


I was thinking about that whole ‘don’t take the lord’s name in vain’ thing. And I’m not sure it makes sense to me. I mean, when someone says, ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ I guess they might just be using the phrases as random swear words, but the reason they’re used in those sort of circumstances is because religious people used those words as a call for protection, defence or blessing against whatever (think ‘saints preserve us’). That’s not ‘in vain’. I don’t know that I’d even call it swearing. That’s prayer.
‘Holy crap’ on the other hand seems vaguely obscene or appalling. Which is, I guess, why it’s an expletive that I call on when I want to convey that particular feeling.

So why do people get upset when those words are used that way? Is it just a kind of disdain for people whose only religious instincts are foxhole prayers? Or is it because using them in any way that they could be replaced with cruder swear words sullies the words themselves by placing them in the obscene category? But surely it’s by calling them swear words that they’re identified as obscene not by using them in moments or pain or panic?

I don’t know. What do you think?