Why profanity isn't as big a deal as you think

Aug 24, 2013

The Christian ban on profanity is one of the silliest things over which we get our panties in a bunch. We may ignore it in small quantities during private conversation, but if a pastor starts throwing f-bombs from the pulpit, he’ll certainly make the news.

It’s a problem not just because we use all sorts of nonsense reasons for banning it, but because we use those reasons to blind ourselves from much more important things that are rampant throughout the church. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain

Ah yes, the good ol’ Ten Commandments argument. Yeah, well, read the fucking thing and parse what it says.

Don’t. Take. The. Lord’s. Name. In. Vain.

Does that say “Don’t say ‘fuck’”? No, it doesn’t. Here, perhaps The Message will make things a bit more clear:

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. (MSG)

Yes, you heard it from the old Moses man himself - going around saying “omigod” is more of a sin than uttering “fuck”.


We make light of a fucking powerful-ass being all the time because we’re too dense to understand a simple command. We need to stop invoking Him in every mildly surprising situation, in teaching our dogs tricks, I dunno, maybe in our money, and recognize how much of a badass He really is.

Do not swear

This one pisses me off almost as much as the name-in-vain thing. Jesus tells us not to swear, right? Yeah, but not according to our modern definition of the word:

And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ (MSG)

Whoah, man, I fuck up on that one all the time. I’m always saying “sure, I’ll do that” and never following through. I mean, I guess I don’t do the “By Grabthar’s Hammer, I will avenge you!” bullshit, but I’m still a miserable promise-breaker.


When we say we’re going to do something, we should say just that, and then do it. Don’t bring your mum’s grave into it, or any other dead people, ‘cause that’s like, pretty gross, man. Oh, also, calling someone “shitty McShitFace” is not swearing.

Don’t say bad things

Loosely summarized, this is the most popular argument online. Guess what?

It’s full of bullshit.

Look at the verses those pages are referencing. Yes, I expect you to do a little bit of reading and and a slight amount of critical thinking. What do you see? Here’s what I see:

  Me:         Output:
 -----         -----
| bad |  -->  | bad |
 -----         -----
 ------       ------
| good | --> | good |
 ------       ------

That is, the things I say are a representation of what’s within. So, the argument goes, profanity out means evil within, right?

No! No, no, no, no, that’s not how arguments work. Well, I mean, it is apparently working, since a bunch of people believe it, but that’s not how arguments are supposed to work. The key missing factor is the connection between profanity and evil.

Let’s look at two examples.

Example one: When hearing someone’s story of how Christ brought them out of a shitty life, I exclaim “Yes! Jesus is fucking awesome!”. Why is expressing joy at the work of our savior evil?

Example two: I show up to church and, while hanging out with my friends, say “Man, I hate John Doe. He’s just a mean old goat and I wish he would die.”. Don’t you think this garbage is the sign of something unhealthy festering inside me?

Now, not using profanity is can be important. It’s often required for being professional, or for being polite. Being impolite isn’t a sin, though - sometimes we are commanded to be painfully direct, like when a fellow Christian is starting down a path towards a lifestyle of sin.


It’s true the Bible tells us to pay attention to what comes out of our mouths, and more importantly, to treat the source. But the things we should be focusing on are gossiping, hateful speech, and shit like that, which frankly are a lot harder to self-regulate.

Closing Thoughts

I swear (modern definition here) to express emotion, and one of the things most deserving of my emotion is my god. I see no reason we should “clean” our emotions in front of Him - He can see it all anyways. Instead, we should focus on fixing the shit he continually tells us we’ve got wrong.

And boy do I have a hell of a lot of fixing to do.