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My Take: Why some people hate God
March 8th, 2011
10:07 AM ET

My Take: Why some people hate God

Editor's Note: Bernard Schweizer is an associate professor of English at Long Island University in Brooklyn. He specializes in the study of iconoclasts and rebels, including the controversial writer and public intellectual Rebecca West. His third book is “Hating God.”

By Bernard Schweizer, Special to CNN

There’s a lost tribe of religious believers who have suffered a lasting identity crisis. I am referring to the category-defying species of believers who accept the existence of the creator God and yet refuse to worship him. In fact they may go so far as to say that they hate God.
 
No, I’m not talking about atheists. Non-believers may say contemptuous things about God, but when they do so, they are simply giving the thumbs-down to a fictional character. They may as well express dislike about Shakespeare’s devious Iago, Dickens’ scheming Uriah Heep or Dr. Seuss’ Grinch who stole Christmas.
 
For atheists, God is in the same category as these fictional villains. Except that since God is the most popular of all fictional villains, New Atheists – those evangelizing ones such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins - spend a considerable amount of energy enumerating his flaws.
 
But someone who truly believes in God’s existence and yet hates or scorns him is in a state of religious rebellion so perplexing as to strain our common understanding of faith to the breaking point.
 
Although these radical dissenters could steal the thunder from the New Atheists, they have remained almost unknown to date.
 
When it comes to God-hatred, a collective blindness seems to settle on us. First, we lack a generally agreed-upon name to refer to this religious rebellion. And anything that doesn’t have a word associated with it doesn’t exist, right?
 
Well, in the case of God-hatred, this principle doesn’t hold because the phenomenon does exist whether or not there’s a name for it. And in any case, I’ve ended the semantic impasse by naming these rebels and their stance once for all. My chosen term is misotheism, a word composed of the Greek root “misos” (hatred) and “theos” (deity).
 
Why do I care so much about them? They strike me as brave, visionary, intelligent people who reject God from a sense of moral outrage and despair because of the amount of injustice and suffering that they witness in this world.
 
At the same time, they are exercising self-censorship because they dare not voice their opinion openly. After all, publicly insulting God can have consequences ranging from ostracism to imprisonment, fines and even death, depending on where the blasphemy takes place (Ireland, for instance, imposes a fine of up to 25,000 Euros for blasphemy) and what God is the target of attacks (under sharia law, being found an enemy of God, or “mohareb” is a capital offense).
 
But I also care about these rebels because they chose literature as their principal medium for dealing with their God-hatred. I am a professor of literature, and the misotheists’ choice of literature as their first line of defense and preferred medium endears them to me.
 
Literature offered them the only outlet to vent their rage against God. And it was a pretty safe haven for doing so. Indeed, hardly anybody seems to notice when God-hatred is expressed in literature. Such writers cleverly “package” their blasphemous thoughts in works of literature without seeming to give offense in any overt way.
 
At the same time, these writers count on the reader’s cooperation to keep their “secret” safe. It’s like a pact between writer and reader.
 
Zora Neale Hurston could write that “all gods who receive homage are cruel” without anybody objecting that “all gods” must necessarily include the persons of the Christian Trinity.
 
Or Rebecca West could write that “something has happened which can only be explained by supposing that God hates you with merciless hatred, and nobody will admit it,” counting on the fact that, since nobody will admit it, nobody will rat her out for blasphemy.
 
There lies, in a sense, the awesome, subversive power of literary writing, something that had worried Plato 2,400 years ago when he required that all poets be removed from his ideal “Republic.” Interestingly, though, while guardians of propriety have put Huckleberry Finn on the list of proscribed texts because of its liberal use of the N-word, few people have declared Hurston’s "Their Eyes Were Watching God" or Shelley’s "Prometheus Unbound" or West’s "The Return of the Soldier" as forbidden texts because of the underlying misotheism of these works.
 
And even where the misotheism is overtly expressed, as in Elie Wiesel’s "The Trial of God" or in James Morrow’s "Godhead Trilogy," literature offers an enclave of religious freedom that is vital to the human spirit and its impulse to free itself of any shackles, even the commands of God.
 
I refer to the story of misotheism as “untold” partly because misotheism tends not to be noticed even when it hides in plain sight. Another reason why the story of misotheism is “untold” is that nobody has bothered yet to draw the larger lines of development over time, beginning with the Book of Job and ending up with utilitarianism, philosophical anarchism and feminism. That story in itself is quite engrossing, but again it is not a story that has really ever been presented.
 
So I am doing quite a bit of connecting the dots, unearthing overlooked connections and making distinctions such as proposing a system of three different types of misotheism - agonistic (conflicted), absolute and political. Misotheism in its various manifestations is a dark, disturbing and perplexing strand of religious dissent. But at the same time, it is an attitude toward the divine that shows just how compelling belief can be.
 
If people continue to believe in a God they find to be contemptible, then belief is such a powerful force that it cannot be simply switched off on the basis of empirical data. Thus, in the last consequence, the study of misotheism is a testament to the power of belief, albeit a twisted, unconventional form.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bernard Schweizer.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Books • God • Opinion

soundoff (1,730 Responses)
  1. ch3251

    "We know that we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one."- 1John 5:19
    We are from God but there is a wicked one(Satan the Devil) that can turn us away from him and make us think that he doesnt exist. He tries to make us lose faith. But hes like a termite, slowly, secretly, eating us away.He may give us problems and makes us stumble and lose faith in him but if we keep putting faith in God he'll bless us.
    LEARN MORE AT JW.ORG

    August 24, 2014 at 1:28 am |
  2. Roxanne

    I too am a misotheist. It started after I had a NDE. It might seem perplexing to some that most people change and believe God esp after a near death experience.. But for me I started out very religious and prayed a lot. I was always sick for a good 15 years with a spouse that is demeaning demanding and controlling. I went thru abuse, an accident, a disease that nearly took my life,and life threatening situations. I have no family except a mother that has mental problems. I think taking God out of life may improve things.

    October 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Seriously Speaking

      I certainly don't Blame you at all how you feel, and it is Very Sad when God can be good to certain people. Why does he Punish the Innocent People like us?, and we will never ever know.

      November 1, 2013 at 8:27 am |
      • WASP

        there are a few answers to the "why me" question. either god doesn't care about his playthings the same as a child doesn't understand the value of a toy until it is broken, or there simply aren't any gods at all and our lives are just circu.mstances of the choices made around us and that we make in according to those choices.

        November 1, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • jentrocaso86

      What if i told you that is said in the bible that the husbands MUST love their wives? You know how God describes love and he went against God's word. It was against God's will cause he doesn't enjoy his children getting hurt like you! That's his fault not yours.It also says for parents to not bring their children to anger for is discourages them and Jesus says whoever harms these little ones are better to be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea! God's on our side but humans are usually not. God never had to point it out, sin speaks for itself

      June 6, 2014 at 4:11 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        God is imaginary, humans are not and they are the ones you are required to answer to in this world. If you can't face reality on your own, maybe you should in somewhere where they can medicate you and help you deal with it...supervised like children should be.

        June 6, 2014 at 6:20 am |
    • neverbeenhappieratheist

      I first want to say, stay strong Roxanne, and please consider this an endorsement of your statement.

      Next, to Jentrocaso86, "What if i told you that is said in the bible..."are you selling Ginsu knives as well?

      "34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." 1 Corinth 14:34,35

      June 6, 2014 at 4:48 am |
  3. Giancarlos

    People hate God because of the old sin of pride. When people are consumed by pride, they don't realize their sins and enjoy that to the fullest. This is a world where sin is being more and more accepted. The old sin of pride will do that everytime.

    September 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Albion

      How about the fact that maybe some people endure a great amount of pain and suffering in their lives and God never seems to be there for them, and hence bitterness sets in versus pride.....

      September 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • Roxanne

        You hit the nail on the head Albion. It's like enough is enough, when is the pain going to end.

        October 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • Ricky

        GOD is always by your side. Remember GOD gave control of the earth to humans & he gives you the choice to believe in HIM or not. In reading most of these post I see people hurting other people. It's not GOD punishing you.

        1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.

        If you trust in GOD with your heart, I mean submit everything, he will show you a way out of situations. HIS mercy is unthinkable. Ask GOD to come into you life and change your heart and you will see a difference. Don't think of GOD as a Genie GOD. If I pray I will get three wishes. Have a relationship and trust in HIM and your will see blessing fall up you. This is a person whose heart is pouring out to you. My hope is you read these words and don't harden your heart.

        Jeremiah 29:11
        11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

        January 17, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
  4. HappyRyan

    There is probably no God, so don't worry about it, and just enjoy life.

    April 2, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  5. Jay says

    i have a very good reason to hate GOD, and i feel as bad as the other guy does. and i always wanted to find a good woman to share a life with, instead of just being alone and single today myself. i am a straight guy, that was very caring and loving to my wife too. i never mistreated her in anyway, and i was very committed to her as well. she cheated on me with another woman, and with so many women that are LESBIANS NOW, it did not surprise me at all. so many women are into other women nowadays than ever before, making it very difficult for us STRAIGHT GUYS looking for love again. GOD just created too many LOW LIFE LOSER WOMEN TODAY, which is the problem. so i have a very good reason to be so very bitter, as you can see. and going out a lot doesn't help at all, since i seem to meet so many very nasty women that are so terrible to talk too. they are the one's that curse at me, when trying to start a normal conversation with them. and i certainly can't blame myself for trying, since i would very much like to have a LOVE LIFE AGAIN. why would GOD give so many other people the LUCK to find happiness and not me? why are these people so very special? it is bad enough that i have to go to work, and then to come home to an empty house with no one there. and since so many VERY LUCKY GOD GIFTED MEN AND WOMEN that were very FORTUNATE to meet one another and have a family, they are the ones that have a very good reason to go to CHURCH and pray to GOD and thank him very much for having a LIFE that i certainly would have wanted too. and like i mentioned before, being alone and single now is very sad for me especially for the HOLIDAYS. i always wanted so much to have a FAMILY TOO, and there is no reason for me not to. i consider myself a very good, down to earth, very serious man that would want very much to have my life back.

    December 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Albion

      wow, I can relate to you. Single, never married, no kids, never played the field, serving in my church for over a decade, rejected by women in the church, yet I'm told often how good a man I am, how cute(attractive) I am, how God-fearing I am, yet nothing.....

      September 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Anne

    Recognizing that this is an old post, I nonetheless feel compelled to offer a brief comment. While I've selected a quote from one the earlier commentators, tonythemongoose, I don't wish to single him/her out, but rather illustrate the misconception that is twisted by those who actively wish to undermine God: "how much bad does an individual have through go through before God believes that the pain he’s inflicted on you is enough?" The misconception is the idea that God himself inflicts pain, when in fact we exist in a world set within the framework of free will. People will make mistakes, or hurt each other intentionally; natural disasters and illnesses occur without discretion. That is the nature of a world where God must allow things to happen–even those which at the moment are terrible–if we are to have the freedom to make the ultimate choice for ourselves: to accept or deny him. Grief and chaos work hard to push us to deny him, and many do. But always, it is their choice to turn away from him. Whatever is accepted as the catalyst for their rejection–be it abuse, the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, etc–the decision to turn away from God is always a personal discretion. We are not the only people to have lost a child to sickness, a brother or sister to war, or a mother to crime, and we won't be the last. The only promise that matters in this imperfect world is that everything will be worth it in the end if we believe, and if we chose not to believe, then the grief we suffer here is truly the only thing we'll ever know.

    I hope this comment provides at least some understanding to the ultimate nature of faith. It's not about rationalizing why things happen, so much as recognizing that when you accept Him, the world can lay the worst at your feet, and ultimately, it'll be okay. Tonythemongoose, don't trust me when I say this, but trust the feeling deep in your heart: you *will* see your son again.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  7. ALAN SAYS

    GOD has punished me enough, and all i ever wanted for a STRAIGHT MAN like me was to meet a GOOD WOMAN and have a FAMILY TOO, just like so many VERY LUCKY PEOPLE HAVE. i was married at one time and i was a very caring and loving husband that never mistreated her in anyway at all, but she CHEATED on me.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  8. nevaeh

    Some people hate god because they don't belief in mericales

    August 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  9. Name*

    Some people hated god because some people don't beilief in farytales.

    August 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    God bless you.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  11. jack rabbit

    It does not require rocket science or a mystical explanation to understand the primary reason why some people end up hating God. They have learned to...and the most effective tools of learning are the multiple instances in their own lives when they have turned to the Almighty (as they are told they should by those promoting, advertising or preaching "the Good News") for guidance, provision, meaningful help, improvement, and real solutions to real issues, and have gotten little, nothing or worse for a reply...and especially if there is no additional or alternative door opened to meet the need or resolve the issue if the prayer is not answered or granted as prayed...what might have created simple indifference had religion, evangelicals, fundamentalists, parts of the Bible, and even Jesus himself not promised so much that hasn't and isn't being delivered to so many people in so many ways on such a frequent basis, soon gets fanned into a far stronger antipathy...its God's failure to answer the reasonable prayers of reasonable, well-intentioned, aspiring believers and seekers that teaches those same people that He, She or It can't be trusted, that "God's Plan" comes off as selectively skewed, negligent and even harmful in many respects, and that if what the evangelicals and fundamentalists tell us were really true they would put themselves out of business, because people would be beating down the doors of the churches trying to get in on this wonderful thing, without any need for preaching or promoting...

    February 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • tonythemongoose

      Jack Rabbit,

      Your article was very well written and informative, and to be honest I don’t consider myself an atheist, but I do believe that the Catholic religion I was taught as a young child truly makes know logical sense. I recently lost a 17 year old child to Leukemia, so we prayed and we prayed, yet my son lost his life not to Leukemia, but to an H1N1 shot given to him by a negligent doctor. Why have a child fight and win just to lose to an issue out of his control? I truly believe that individuals, who were believers as children, start to realize that fiction and mythology is one thing, but reality is another.

      At this stage in my life, do I believe there truly is a God? I couldn’t state honestly yes or no. So your opinion is right on, we’re all taught that through prayer and faith, that God helps those whom help themselves, and your never given more than you can handle, but how much bad does an individual have through go through before God believes that the pain he’s inflicted on you is enough? In my opinion, I believe that this is the very reason why, our society is losing faith in a much quicker fashion then say 35 to 40 years ago….The bright picture we were all told about as children regarding religion, begins to fade. I don’t consider myself and atheist; I just can’t logically understand God or faith, so I guess as this stage in my life I’d consider myself lost.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Albion

      Very well said...I couldn't have said it better!

      September 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  12. mehmet

    In short, beauty and fairness desire to see and be seen. Both of these require the existence of yearning witnesses and bewildered admirers. And since beauty and fairness are eternal and everlasting, their witnesses and admirers must have perpetual life. An eternal beauty can never be satisfied with transient admirers. An admirer condemned to irreversible separation will find his love turning to enmity once he conceives of separation. His admiration will yield to ridicule, his respect to contempt. For just as obstinate man is an enemy to what is unknown to him, so too he is opposed to all that lies beyond his reach, and love that is not infinite will respond to a beauty that deserves unending admiration with implicit enmity, hatred and rejection. From this we understand the profound reason for the unbeliever's enmity to God.

    March 30, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  13. juan carr

    meanbean your right about one thing the believers are diffinetly the sheep clueless. as I am a follower of Jesus of and I feel like theres not to many of us out here actually fittin the bill because my Lord has revealed to how much we take His word wrong this is the sinful nature part but does not excuse us for taking His rightousness as own huge mistake hence a this self rightousness and hypcriciy supposedly christians are known for church wee will all be held accountable this chirst like walk is to painful as we surrender our will daily that our will may not be done but the will of God and everyone sees how good thats working us sorry bean remember He died for you so you could follow Him not men you investigate His word for yourself your the only one who will reap the benifets thats how it works.put whatever faith you have in Him and you will see increase,as you can see what the world puts their faith in and again look how well thats workin for us,

    March 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Dragon

      Enlightening the world, one helpful alrtice at a time.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • faxqap

      tNSUCs qijwgofwbmwq

      January 26, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • vixrmsyxn

      NJtK3d pjzzlgnlyowa

      January 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.