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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. Ron

    Perhaps it's not so much 'hate' god but rather, people hate what others 'proclaim' to be god.
    There is a difference between the two thoughts. As an example, personally, I find the concept of god proclaimed by conservative Christians and with the 'proof' of their bible, to be a being that is completely dysfunctional and no better than his human worshipers; something not worth my worship or time.
    Honestly, I think the issue, for most, isn't about 'god' but rather how some present and proclaim 'god' to be.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  2. Rich

    This guy is delusional.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  3. Anon

    There is no god. Your mind and consciousness is merely the result of biology; the simultaneous firing of millions of neurons. To presume anything more is childish and naive.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      To assume there is no God just because you find evidence lacking is just bad science. Poor conclusion.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Wrong, you could say the same for fairies and unicorns. When there is no evidence for something, it does not make sense to base decisions upon its supposed existence. Science does not try to disprove gods. It is neutral on gods. If evidence for one ever surfaces, it will be completely compatible with science.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  4. Nabucodonosor

    Because religions has tought people to hate God especially with their bad examples and lack of love. They only want our money.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  5. Brownie

    Religious people like this are akin to teenagers who watch too much star wars... "it's so cool man! It's so deep and stuff! It's got all of this meaning!" When really the people who wrote it were probably high

    March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  6. mady

    LEAVE US ALONE WITH GOD.

    REALLY THIS IS A PRIVATE MATTER.

    I TELL YOU WHAT I COULN'T CARE LESS.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Leave you alone with God? I would love to. It seems, however; God people are using government and violence against each others and the rest of us. Hey, get your God out of my life!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  7. God is real

    Peace!

    March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  8. humblepie

    I’m confused… So we have not even come close to discovering 100% of the earth, 100% of our solar system or 100% of the universe yet people say with confidence that something doesn’t exist?

    March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • ObammaAlabamaSlamma

      I think you forget that many Christians think that the earth is 6000 years old, dinosaur fossils were put in the ground as a test of faith, and it's the same with starlight that is (allegedly!!!!) millions of years old.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I have no idea if any gods exist. However, I have no reason to believe they do. Same with unicorns and fairies. They are pretty much equal at this point.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • memeplex

      I say with confidence that the god described in the bible does not exist, due to the fact that it has logically incompatible properties. One can't be all-knowing and all-powerful. If you know all then you know everything you will do in the future and cannot do otherwise, hence not all powerful.

      As for any other concept of god, I personally don't assert with confidence that none exists. I say that anyone who DOES assert that one exists bears the burden of presenting evidence or logical argumentation in its favor, and so far no one ever has.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Rob

      It doesn't matter what we have or haven't discovered yet. It's proper to believe in that for which you have evidence. We don't have any evidence for God (or, at least, most versions of God propounded by the world religions). So we are not justified to believe.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Andy

      It's not about saying something doesn't exist. It's about the claim that it does. The burden of proof always falls on those who make the claim. For example, "I say I can fly. You say prove it. I say, since you cannot prove that I cannot fly, I obviously can fly." Just saying you cannot disprove something exists does not make it so.

      See Bertrand Russell's teapot.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • humblepie

      I see, so is it safe to assume it becomes a matter of proof or sufficent evidence?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  9. ObammaAlabamaSlamma

    Adam and Eve were the first human slaves to escape the confines of Eden, a technological workshop where The First People created wonders the likes of which will never be seen again. When they escaped, they also sabotaged key structures, which led to the fall of Eden.

    But in our progenitors' hubris, they did not realize that The First People were preparing for the coming threat; the sun is the true deity, and it does will not suffer an ignominious fate.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  10. ThereisnoGod

    You can't see love yet it exists.

    Not saying God exists but just saying your comment is dumb.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      As you note, "god" is another emotion with no existence outside of our own.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  11. The Devil

    God does my best work. He creates living things from nothing. Then he sends the ones that are bad to hell.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      God.
      He brings bad things to life!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • numbnut

      Sounds funny coming from "TheDevil".

      March 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  12. ARCTIC

    Don't hate God, HATE Religion......

    March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • jpdistef

      god, religion, it's the same thing. belief in the supernatural without reason or evidence.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  13. JDonaldson

    How could you not hate The God? When I was 9, all I wanted was a Hands Up Harry for Xmas 9google it...it was a cool toy)...and what did I get? Socks. That evil red-suited ba*tard left me socks.....I have never got over that, and harbour resentment against The God to this day.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  14. Cancer spouse

    @ Bee: Yes, I know all too well.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Bee

      Good luck. Nothing can be said to make it better, but I hear you.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  15. JB

    there was truth in my poop this morning. Any doctor or vet will tell you that. Notice that they always want a stool sample to help gauge your health....never ask for a faith sample. Destroy religion before it destroys us all.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  16. Nick

    Can't hate something that isn't real.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Shaun

      I sure can! But hate seems too mild a word for my feelings on the subject. Organized mass religion is the cancer of the human race.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  17. guest

    It does not matter what you think or what you believe. You cannot will GOD away or refuse to believe in GOD. He exist regardless of what you say or how many people agree with you. A girl I know was sitting with this lady on her death bed and while she was dying, she began to scream, "they are coming to get me, they are coming to get me". Of course, no one saw what she saw and she died saying those words. Ladies and Gentlemen, this thing is real and denying it does not change the truth. Open your mind and at least look into it before you completely reject Christ.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You base belief on the ravings of a dying old lady?
      OK.....

      March 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Wiseman

      lol you crazy for sure

      March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      If you think your story counts proof of anything other than the woman seemed to be upset by being chased, you seriously need more education. Lots of people are delusional. I have to assume you believe their rantings as well. Or do you just choose to believe rants that are convenient.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • jpdistef

      mr. guest, you're not making much sense. i could use the same rhetoric in reverse – "It does not matter what you think or what you believe. You cannot will GOD into existence or believe in GOD. He does not exist regardless of what you say or how many people agree with you." ridiculous. and then right before someone dies says "they're coming to get me" is proof of what? that someone was really coming to get them? ru insane? i suppose when the next person says "i see no one" before they die then that's proof no god exists?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Jason B.

      You say He exists...but you base it on the ramblings of a dying old woman. Any proof besides that?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • guest

      I do not count this as proof becasue I have my own experiences to know GOD exist. This is just a story I wanted to share

      March 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • numbnut

      That does not prove that there is a "God". No one can prove it. It is left up to individuals to believe, or not to believe. All that matters (and I truly believe that this is what the bible is saying) is that we are all responsible for our own behavior. We know what is right, and wrong. It is up to the individual to either do good, or do bad. It does not take God, or Allah, or Buddah, etc. to figure out the purpose of life. We need to respect each other, and for crying out loud, we need to respect the earth first and foremost.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Richard McCarthy

      They are coming to get her? They? So now you're saying there is more than one god, or more than one devil? Since you didn't see what she saw, there is still no proof either way. You can't have it both ways.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Luke

      Your evidence is a cherry picked anecdotal story? Why did you not choose the story where proof god exists because he told a lady to drown her kids in the lake? When evaluating evidence you can't exclude some just because you disagree with it. A dying old person or a personal experience tainted by emotions are not very reliable evidence. But either way, all this has nothing to do with the article which is simply about some peoples hate in a god they believe in.

      Kind of like talking about why people hate blue cars and you say "but there really are blue cars". Sounds sort of silly doesn't it?

      March 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  18. Charlie

    Charlie Sheen – real...god – not so much

    March 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  19. Donald Macdonald

    Silly debate. It presumes God.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  20. Nate

    Bree said it perfectly – this just sounds like a transition state between being a believer and becoming an atheist or agnostic for people who were raised with religion. I didn't really go through a "God-hating" phase – I kind of just slowly let go of faith – but I could see how some would, particularly if something tragic happened in their life that left them with a sense of betrayal.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bree

      Thanks. That was exactly what I was getting at.

      I remember a time in my life when I was little, I would pray every night for a sign that he was real. A dove to fly by my window, or some other sign that he was hearing my prayers. Obviously that never happened. The thing that really did it for me was finding out about all the hatred contained in the Bible, the stuff they never taught us about in Religion class. This is where the hatred, but still believing phase comes into play.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Stephen Frank

      Can athiest please stop pretending that their life has value, its scientifically impossible for a human living 100 at the best to have any value. You live in the same fantasy world the God people do.

      It will all be over soon enough and then you will be forgotten eventually. Your life has no value.
      That is freedom.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • ScottK

      Agreed – "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." describes nearly every agnostic I know just before they become an athiest. At some point you just stop blaming or hating something that does not exist. The final equation looks like this: God > all + Love / Justice = injustice & suffering = does not compute.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
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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.