If you're creating fiction, is it wrong to write lines that take God's Name in vain?


Is it a bad idea?


like in what aspect, like some character saying “Oh my God”, or writing God on your work?


Like that, or saying God d*mn it, or such.


I would say yes if you could be easily telling the story without it. Meaning why is the author putting it there? Could “Darn it” work? If not, what about “shoot” or even “sh@t”?

Using the Lord’s name in vain just for the sake of it isn’t a good enough reason for an author to use it.


Making them into minced oaths doesn’t seem to me to diminish the sin of profanity.

To the OP: profanity is painful for me to read or hear and so I would soon put down your book and reject it as unreadable if it contained some.


Any type of taking the name of the Lord in vain should be avoided.

“Damn it!” still gets a point across without putting “God” in front of it.



Create intelligent fictional characters with a diverse vocabulary.


It’s a problem to wrestle with though - if you have a really bad - or even a decent but very angry character, they probably aren’t going to just say, “Oh, my goodness” or “Fiddlesticks!” so . . . I don’t know - there is the option of saying instead of quoting, “He cursed at her, to which she retorted, 'You know I hate hearing you take the name of God in vain!;”

Or there are dashes - I know, I’m not saying one should or shouldn’t - that’s above my pay grade. I’m saying get advice perhaps from a confessor or check several reliable Catholic writers’ sources. And read good authors and see how they have handled the issue.


I would say it depends on the intended audience.

To make a story realistic, characters do indeed sin. If its okay to write about a character who murders, lies, etc is taking the Lords name in vain any different? For example, a soldier crying out in agony isn’t going to say, “Golly jeepers that smarts!”.

So long as it doesn’t cause scandal to the reader, and the context fits, I would say it helps make the story authentic. Like I said, it depends if the intended audience is a mature one.

But I don’t know maybe I’m wrong :shrug:


I’d agree with this. As long as there’s nothing that would tempt the reader into such behaviour, and the lines of good / evil are kept clear, I think it’s still permissible within certain limits.

For example, in a story of mine, a cult leader (who is involved in occult stuff) makes a claim to divinity. Blasphemous? Perhaps. But if his words are read in context, the message is that those who try, through evil means, to be more than human actually end up losing their humanity. Context and intent are everything.




Short answer: yes. :slight_smile:
But really, I do agree with those who suggest finding a way around it. I have dabbled in prose writing, and when there are certain tough situations whereby it is necessary for a character to use less-than-polite language, I always ensure that the language is not offensive to God by taking His name in vain. :shrug: Personally, I think it is prudent to remain on the side of caution and either A.) allude to harsh language as a previous poster mentioned or B.) revise the language utilized.


We have got to avoid the spread of profanity and using the Lord’s/God’s name in vain.

As a working editor, I’ve read a lot of manuscripts and some writers think it’s OK to include a bit of profanity or words that are just plain inappropriate. I think, in some cases, they are just copying what they’ve read elsewhere and in some cases, they want the false freedom to use gutter language.

Part of my job is to highlight each word or phrase, write in alternative language or just write “out” and have the word or phrase removed. It used to be common in everything from comic books to movies and TV to have no such words. Entertainment is less entertaining when I hear/read all those words people shouldn’t say in fiction.

Err on the side of decency.

It could be as simple as “He cursed at her or his boss or the neighborhood bully.” Or: “You know it’s wrong to use God’s name in vain, don’t you?”

Writing, to be effective, needs characters the reader can relate to. I’ve stopped reading fiction, and I’m even seeing inappropriate language in some non-fiction, which, as of a few years ago, caused me to throw several books in the trash. I’m not perfect, but I think, “Don’t people have a sense of decency? Do they think their readers will just accept this sort of thing?” So, now, I screen even non-fiction more carefully.



Yeah, I agree with a lot of this. There are definitely stories where it isn’t necessary at all, of course, but somethings it’s just weird having people keep up polite language while people around them are being killed. Not every character, either, but some of them are bound to react.

It really depends on your character, too. I’ve got one who would curse if she knew the words, but instead she just uses the words “stupid” and “useless” with far more venom than usual. And that makes sense for her, because although she’s frequently really angry (and with good reason), she’s originally from a planet where emotions have been stifled, and nobody ever really thinks to curse anyone else. You have to think about what makes sense for each character- not everyone has the impulse to curse, and not everybody sees a reason to stifle that impulse, even without weird SF justifications.

I would say that you definitely don’t want to harm your story. Except in rare circumstances, minced oaths sound silly. Better to write around it (“he cursed”) or just write about a character who doesn’t use vulgar language. If neither is an option without sacrificing flow or realism, I’d rather read an actual “bad” word than a substitute (unless the substitute worked for some reason, like if the character is a child). That’s just me, though, and different things alienate different people. Vulgarity is mainly a question of not offending your audience. Even I won’t read something if vulgarity becomes constant- like if the narration is full of it, I have to put the story down. I just can’t do it, and there are a lot of other people like me.

I probably wouldn’t have a character take the Lord’s name in vain unless it was plot-important, though (like if the character later gets in trouble for it with a religious institution). Otherwise, might as well just use vulgarity, right? I think “sh-t”, without a dash, gets across roughly the same emotions without any extra complications, even in the most dire circumstances. I wouldn’t include that in a story aimed anywhere below high schoolers, though. With vulgarity it really is a judgement call.


Dear Ed,

Cordial greetings and a very good day. Hear, hear, jolly well said.

Even within the world of fiction writing profanity can never be morally permissible simply because such undignified language does not comport with the Christian standard of language - “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt…”(Col. 4: 6) and by perfectly reasonable extention that can surely be applied to the writing of fiction also. The gift of language was given to mankind by God and so it should always be used positively and never in an unsavoury manner. Profanity, be it spoken or written, is not only uncouth, vulgar, impolite and downright offensive, but it also debases the dignity of each human being. Moreover, this has nothing to do with being ‘overscrupulos’, as is sometimes maintained by those looking for an excuse to use it in certain contexts, but is recognizing that such debased language springs from our fallen estate and shows a selfish want of respect for others.

It is sometimes argued, dear friend, that it is acceptable in a work of fiction because it is the characters who uttering the expletives or profanity, not the author. However, you cannot drive a neat convenient wedge between the real world and the world of fiction. A character using an expletive is still offensive and demoralizing to your readers, who might otherwise enjoy your storytelling. Authors have a responsibility not dull and blunt their readers moral sensibilities, especially if they are professing Catholics. A Catholic author using profanity in a work of fiction is disgraceful and hardly does much to commend our most holy religion to those outside the bosom of Holy Mother Church.

God bless and keep up the good work my dear brother.

Warmest good wishes,


In Christos


Dear Portrait,

You’re welcome and thank you for your well chosen words and the encouragement. Our tendency to be drawn to the sinful has been with us for a long time and temptation will remain with us until we die. In the late 1960s, I was there as artists, including writers, wanted greater ‘freedom’ to explore the human condition. Being a bit young and a little too trusting, I thought they were referring to things I could not yet comprehend. I was quickly corrected and realized that freedom meant taking private faults and putting them into books as entertainment. At first, things were alluded to or made plain but in such a way as to present unpleasant behaviors to the reader as something some people sometimes go through. As time passed, writers of fiction for books, movies and TV gradually became less and less moral and more and more graphic. This was followed by the anti-hero: part good guy, part bad guy. And the pattern was repeated. A character in law enforcement had a reason to not trust the ‘system’ and felt compelled to not only bring in the bad guy but to act as judge, jury and executioner - and it was obvious he enjoyed his being above the law. As of late, the good guy is just as brutal or a bit less so than the bad guy. Cold killing, like swatting a fly, became the order of the day. The lead character’s life had some value and he was just doing what he had to, but that’s false. It soon became violence for the sake of violence. The new ‘creative’ ideas were put into coming up with more inventive ways to kill the other guy.

And the language. Somehow, those books of fiction I read in the past could avoid all that language and present mystery, adventure and new things and make you sit back and wonder. I read comic books that featured nothing offensive and words that worked to advance the story. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s, that a few things were alluded to in comics that never should have been there. I consider it no coincidence.

Both young and old should have access to clean reading. Dynamic adventure, romance, fantasy or whatever you like, without being concerned that the writer will use a word or phrase that is just wrong. I recall small groups of seemingly disconnected creative types all going in the same direction, and it was toward - most recently - making people indifferent to profanity and blasphemy.

It is my sincere hope that young Catholic writers consider that as they create their fictional worlds that what they write does reflect on them. That is, if they find it permissible for their characters to use certain words, well, whose fault is that?

May God bless you and keep you in His care, dear brother.



Books are a form of art. Darkness and ugliness can be used to extenuate and elevate light and beauty. So if the character is evil or lost, I’d say go for it. Bleeps galore! It doesn’t glorify cursing. It does the opposite.
Or use it sparingly. If he drops the kettle a groan should be enough. If he is being fired on from all sides (literally, like, in war) I say use it. It’s realistic and the point of art is to convey truth, even when it is not always so beautiful.

That said I curse like a sailor so… :smiley:




Some of the posts above me have done so by writing it.


Nobody has taken the Lord’s name in vain, at least not without putting quotes around the words. How else are we supposed to talk about which words are OK?

A few other people (including myself) have used censored vulgarity to discuss whether it can be used as an alternative in dire circumstances, but since that doesn’t involve breaking a commandment, I would think it’s a separate issue. Most of us have said that even that should be used sparingly, and if possible not at all. :shrug:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.