One thing that bothered me after I became an atheist was that it was so difficult to stop using habitual phrases/swears like “oh my god!” and “Jesus!”. Why should I be swearing by things I don’t believe in? I mean, it’s just a little thing. They’re just phrases; they’re not meant literally. They’re comfortable words to express surprise, anger, incredulity, and other emotions. It’s (mostly) not the words that carry meaning, but the way they’re said. But such phrases are specific to culture and do subtly reinforce certain world views. “Oh my god!”, for example, carries the implicit assumption that there is one god (as opposed to many or none), and that this is the normal, default view. And these assumptions are rarely, if ever, questioned by the people around me.
I love to poke at assumptions like that. I intentionally define atheism as “not believing in any gods”, using the plural, explicitly for the purpose of poking at assumptions like that. It gets across the same basic meaning as the more usual “not believing in God” while at the same time containing a small poke at the assumption that one need only consider one god (regardless of how vaguely or specifically that god is defined) when considering the presence or lack of god belief. It’s like poking at the implicit assumptions of Pascal’s Wager to make it fall apart. As soon as you ask which god (Zeus? Allah? Yahweh? Vishnu? etc.), it becomes obvious that the options are not limited to belief in God or non-belief in God, and the possible outcomes are not limited to God exists or God does not exist.
So, yea, I really could not resist messing around with the way I swear just for the purpose of poking at other people’s unquestioned assumptions (and for my own amusement). I mean, as long as I can’t ditch the habit of swearing by gods I don’t believe in, I might as well have fun with it, right?
The easiest change was just to pluralize things where possible. E.g. saying “oh my gods!” instead of “oh my god!” or, likewise, “for the love of gods!” or “good gods!” or simply “gods!”. I can’t think of anything fun to do with phrases like “Jesus!” or “good Lord!”, though, so I’ve been trying to come up with new fun swears to replace them with, mostly with reference to the Olympian gods (I’ve been studying ancient Greek philosophy, and the gods do get mentioned quite a lot–they have very strong cultural relevance for that place and time period) or fictional eldritch horrors (Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn) or, of course, the Flying Spagetti Monster (r’amen). This leads to phrases like “for the love of Zeus!” or “great Azathoth!” or “Zeus, son of Kronos!” or “what in Hades?” or “by FSM”. For the most part, I can just pick a name at random and use it to replace a word or two from some other fairly standard phrase. Some of the resulting random phrases don’t quite work, though. For example, “good Cthulhu!” or “for the love of Cthulhu!” really, really don’t work (“for the fear of Cthulhu!”, perhaps?). So, mostly, I have to come up with phrases I like before I actually need to use them. Making up new phrases is a lot of fun, though, and occasionally I come across a really good one in other atheists’ writing that I steal or modify or use as inspiration for more phrases of my own invention*. Because, you know, I’m hardly the only one that likes to poke at unquestioned assumptions or subtly highlight the silliness and/or absurdity of this whole business of swearing by gods.
* For example, I fell in love with the phrase “for the sweet love of Loki!” after I saw it on Greta Christina’s blog, and I got the idea of swearing by eldritch horrors while reading Eliezer Yudkowsky’s fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (which I highly recommend! It’s got lots of stuff about how to think rationally/scientifically as well as being highly entertaining), and I’ve seen more people than I can remember swearing by FSM.