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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. Satan Lucifer B.

    Tellin you, look at the signs, the reason there are different gods, and blah blah blah, GODS ARE ALIENS!

    March 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Bee

      Aliens? you're sounding Mormon.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  2. Sam

    Some people hated, because there is no damn God. Every bibles are created by humans.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  3. Mar58

    This author is absolutely right. The true believers are getting fed up with their God.
    Being an atheist is simply denying the existence of any form of higher power. For atheists God does not exist.
    God is supposed to help us, instead of destroying us – so the truly religious is scared to ask questions and is confused. Thanks

    March 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  4. b4bigbang

    When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on Earth?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Colin

      When Santa Claus comes next year, will I have been naughty or nice?

      March 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Bee

      it seems like he won't find it in Colin.

      although there have been casualites, faith is an advanced form of living that has preserved humanity. it is hard to claim there would be much of a moral fiber to the world without faiths. If you think God is like Santa Claus, you should at least support faiths for the good of society.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  5. Jeremy Griffin

    God! Oh, thank god you're here! I've been having trouble finding my–oh wow! There they are! Amazing! By the way, God, since i have you here: is that Bennigans' waitress ever going to call me?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  6. Satan Lucifer B.

    In all honesty, look at the bible, the ancient scripts, the markings, it all points that god was an alien, In the bible verse (Don't remember off head) it describes god coming down in a space ship. N stories of the top of Mt Olympus lifting off and taking off, comon now, ALIEN

    March 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  7. God

    Jeremy, this is God. Your keys are in your other hand... now get to work.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  8. citizenUSA

    So, why do some people hate God?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      What kind of a god would leave the majority of humanity to suffer in hell? There is no majority religion on earth, and most religions teach that if one isn't a member of the "right" religion, one suffers eternal death, damnation, or Justin Bieber reruns. What kind of a compassionate god would make us GUESS which religion is the right one? God has the manners and morals of a spoiled child at best... and of a kid frying ants with a magnifying glass at worst.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Colin

      JAdams – it's me, your atheist wing man.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  9. Chris Haight

    Just read the scriptures carefully–especially the Old Testament–& tell me that Yahweh's a loving god. He aint. He demands scorched earth & genocide (the Amalekites). He purposely puts Job into Satan's hands to prove a point. He treats Saul with harshness & contempt. Judging by what he actually does it's reasonable to conclude he's an A–hole. The fact that he's dead's beside the point–when was the last time he talked to anyone who wasnt insane? His actions speak for themselves & condemn him. Why is this even a controversial perspective on Yahweh, the once powerful tyrannical but now poor dead deity?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent – it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Bee

      ancient writings are often misunderstood. it's one reason people hate God.

      and then there are other misunderstandings, like from those who think believers can't even see the obvious.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  10. Jeremy Griffin

    Satan, come on. It's my job here. Are you coming or not?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Bee

      we don't want to look at your blog because you are either selling something, spreading viruses, or desperate for ad money.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  11. DAT

    It is the year 2011 for crying out loud, religion is so 1000 yrs ago. it was created and recycled and twisted to suit every tribe or generation's needs (control-money-control). Back in the day people used to look up in the sky and see something shiny or some weather phenomenon that would happen and it would gee attributed to an all mighty being or "god". Now we know when we see the shiny stuff – that most likely it is a planet or star and when a tsunami or twister happens – it is something natural that happens all the time. we are much smarter now, why do people still refuse to use logic and thought and try to insert wonder?

    can we just must forward and be done with all the fantastic magical wanting stuff ???????????

    March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  12. JAdams1776

    The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by man is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not receive this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Capercorn

      I'm inclined to agree with you on that one. For the record, I believe in Schrodinger's God, and as to the question of why one should create the universe?

      Boredom. If you are the sole being in existence, you cannot feel love or sorrow, joy or pain, etc... You would create the universe, and divide yourself simply out of boredom; temporary obliteration of the self, for the purposes of gaining experience.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  13. Jeremy Griffin

    Okay, seriously, whoever took my keys better give them back.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • David in Corpus

      I done told you the Gremlins have them.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  14. educateurself

    I believe in God and that's OK. Others don't and that's OK. No one should be refused their personal right to believe or not. No one should be harassed or abused for their beliefs.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      For me it's not about abuse. It's about people trying to "debate" and then assuming facts not in evidence. It sometimes gets irritating.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Colin

      I agree that nobody should be "harassed" but whhen you go on a debating site like this one, you have to expect robust criticism.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      robust...I did actually lol at that. Thank you.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Bee

      I agree anotheralt/colin, good debate today.

      Now will someone do something about that Jeremy Griffin? He is desperate to entertain. Someone get him a microphone or something.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • David in Corpus

      Best read your bible, you are supposed to try and convert non believers, to not do so is against your gawd. Sinner! Ye shall burn!

      March 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  15. Satan Lucifer B.

    Wait, i found my devil grass, make it another 10

    March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  16. Rain.Here

    Someone in Texas is open-minded?! A rare bird you are my friend.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  17. Syndrome Zed

    I must fall in the agnostic misotheist category, then. I don't know, and really don't care, if there's a god, because I don't think any being at a level of omnipotence and omniscience that religions describe would bother with individual mortals' lives. I also don't see any reason to worship that being – he/it didn't do anything for me specifically, it did it for its own purposes, and I find it wrong to worship anyone based on the power they wield. So take away any supposed love for each individual, and take away fear of its raw power, and you're not left with any reason to worship.

    And what deity-level being would want worship in the first place? Asking for or requiring worship from others is nothing more than a lack of self-respect or a manifestation of pride in oneself – and do we really think God has low self-respect, or suffers from what so many religions consider a sin?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • sealchan

      Does God have low self-respect? I wonder how He felt after the flood...or after going in with Devil and testing Job. How did God feel after He watched His only Son be crucified...did he wonder whether His creation could stomach Him, did He hope?

      What is lacking from Christians these days is the faith to encounter the dark side of God, to express their fear, anger and anxiety to God, to hold Him responsible and ourselves responsible for the world where God seems to us to have let us down.

      Both Parzival and Jesus expressed a moment of doubt in God...we are human and we do not have God's understanding...to hide our anger and our perception of the evil in the world and have to choose to ignore or no longer believe in God as a result is a sad, sad end to a profoundly important human relationship.

      God can take our doubt and our anger so long as we are sincere and not using God as an excuse. In the end, the only real person to judge is one who can create the Universe with all its goodness and its evil...

      March 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      I've had similar thoughts in past, Zed. I've found that the best answer is to see God as the Great King. If I had the opportunity to be knighted and I wanted the knighthood I might have to kneel before the Monarch. It's just the way it's done. The Monarch is Royal within his/her very essence and cannot escape this fact. A human king can abdicate, but God cannot (this does not mean he is not omnipotent).

      March 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  18. Justin Summers

    Flawed premise, but i like the writing style.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Jeremy Griffin

    Philo: Satan is going to be here in like 15 to pick me up. You want a cream soda? We're going by the 7-11.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  20. Josh

    I am a well-educated scientist (predominately studying molecular biology and neurodegenerative diseases right now), and I CHOOSE to believe in G-d. Everything is a choice, albeit automated in many cases. Fact is, this entire world is a bunch of singular atoms, devoid of any innate color, smell, sounds, and so on. Our brains are built to perceive slight vibrations of the molecules as distinct sounds, refracted pigments as color, stimulation of tiny unmyelinated neurons in our skin as texture. NONE of this world is "as we perceive it", neither is G-d. Energy is not created nor destroyed, the human body is said to lose 21 grams of weight at the moment of death, and while we can explain conception/life biologically, we cannot explain what ignites the start of the function of the system as a whole to begin life (or even when it begins for that matter!). I choose to believe that we all come from a common source of "life" energy, which is dissipated throughout the planet/universe. That "source" is what I refer to as G-d... A sort of collective consciousness from which we are all born and from which we shall all return to (no distinction between heaven and hell, but I do strive to improve the purity of that source to better the future). Each to their own, but this belief gives me a sense of inner peace and a drive to be better!

    March 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Syndrome Zed

      Those 21 grams are the bowels evacuating themselves. 🙂

      March 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      Thank you, Josh. You are now my new internet geek crush. Personally, I like to keep my options open, be it God, nothing at all, or an infinite set of other possibilities; however, to each their own.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • MeditationDaily.com

      Couldn't have said it better. Good on you Josh.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'human body is said to lose 21 grams of weight at the moment of death, '
      That is one of those urban legends. Some doctor in the early 1900s did an experiment and based his results on 6 people, 2 of which could be ignored because of the experiment not being ready at time of death, and the other 4 all gve different results.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Capercorn

      The God of Schrodinger, eh?

      I'm inclined to agree with you on that.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • MPB

      SO WELL PUT. AGREED and REFRESHING TO READ YOUR INSIGHT.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Sockness Monster

      Josh, well written.
      I have felt this way forever but could never explain it so well.
      Thank You.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Andrew

      Always be aware of the scientist who uses "weasel words."

      When I hear the OP say, "the human body is said to lose 21 grams of weight at the moment of death" your immediate response should be to ask, "It is said BY WHOM?!?"

      There is no scientific evidence that our loses mass at death as much as some people would like it to be true (since it supports their belief in a soul, which is what they believe is leaving the body.)

      The OP's post was articulate for sure, but I smell an agenda.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Capercorn

      @Andrew: Ah... I see it too... Folk/Cartesian Dualism.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • louise jackson

      there are two scriptures in the Bible – 1) The fool (one void of wisdom) has said in his heart, there is no God. 2) The fear of the Lord (God) is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and understanding. It is unfortunate that this christain nation is moving farther from God and His precepts. Of course, it is we who will continue to suffer the consequences.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:35 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.