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. Jeremy Griffin

    I tried those Eggo waffles, but they just didn't do it for me.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  2. Satan Lucifer B.


    March 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  3. Satan Lucifer B.

    Oh jeez, they pulled the race card

    March 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  4. weszx

    I am a true believer in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Knowing the Father is not a matter of description but of belief and willing desire to know the truth. Anyone can find wrongness if you look and do the human thing, justify. It isn't up to you, me, the courts or nations to say God does not exist. Funny, our nation is built and established on the belief of God. If you do not know this, why are you still here? There are nations that do not beieve nor trust in the Lord, Savior Jesus Christ. But before you move there, you might wish to look at how they slaugher their own, burn and destroy. Also, why is it then when something bad happens to you, do you say "God help me!" Those of you who have not found Jesus Christ, you only want when you need. It isn't too late for you come to know the true Father. But this doen't happen overnite, or in a second. Are you prepared to pass on and at the last second say "God help me!"

    March 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything... just give him time to rationalize it.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  5. Stubbycat

    There is no mortal mind in human history who can understand enough of that which is called "GOD" to access it intelligently. What mortals hate, despise, reinvent, reduce and blame for their own troubles is their error which they superimpose upon their idea of the Creator. Because we accept mortality as our consciousness we inadvertantly expel ourselves from the goodness and glories of divinity. We imaginatively create GOD in our own image and likeness instead of striving to understand the Science that Creative Mind is the principle of the universe and that man is truly the spiritual, non- mortal,image and likeness of the one Mind. Stop acting like flawed animal egos and work out your freedom through the Science of Soul and you'll get better results from living because you will be a better you. This is the standard which the Master sets for humanity.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  6. Jeremy Griffin

    By the way, IHOP now has a chicken-and-waffle meal. Just throwin it out there.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  7. Satan Lucifer B.

    Jeremy: Good call

    March 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  8. Ted

    So if atheists are so great and believers (all types apparently) are so bad, then how come the vast majority of organizations that strive to help those in need are faith-based? Please do tell me about all the great works that atheists are collectively doing in the world. Tell me about the wonderful atheist organizations that you belong to. And don't give me some crap about providing intellectual honesty. I mean tangible goods.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      I'll take the products of science, engineering, medicine and reason. You take the products of faith and prayer. Enjoy your mud-hut as you slowly starve, praying for manna from heaven.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      I'm not sure why we have to do it collectively or advertise it to be good. If you really feel the need to put those who believe in God and atheists on a scale, I'm not sure why the organization makes a difference. And while I'm not an atheist, I'm also not sure that all the good that faith-based charities do off-sets all of the intolerance-based hate that religions allow to go unchecked. Do the Christian thing and turn the other cheek, go about living a good life and don't worry about comparing how good of a person who are to anyone else. And if you're not Christian, do it anyway.

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

      You wrongly assume that believers can't think or innovate. There have been many believers who have contributed much more to this world than you likely ever will. Ever heard of Newton, Galileo, Einstein, Pasteur, Maxwell, etc.? Your ignorance is beyond belief.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  9. Teddy Greene Jr.

    So Many prophesies that Are Rapidly being fulfilled ..Now ..Almost Daily...just watching the news...Liberals...You were Spoken to..By NAME...2,700 Years ago in the
    Bible...Isaiah Prophesied that ..When Christ returns.You will be
    healed...You are Truly

    Isa 32:1.......Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes
    shall rule in judgment. .............................
    Isa 32:5 ......The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the
    churl said [to be] bountiful..........................
    Isa 32:6.......For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart
    will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against
    the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the
    drink of the thirsty to fail. .......
    Isa 32:7.......The instruments also of the churl [are] evil: he deviseth
    wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy

    Isa 32:8.......But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal
    things shall he stand..........................................

    Written in Every Scroll..Including Dead Sea Scrolls...Billions of Bibles
    for the past 2,700 Years, In Virtually Every Language on Earth.
    Look it up King James Bible...Isaiah Chap 32..Verses 1-8...and much more
    information...All inspired words from God...

    March 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Dave

      Inspired by some dudes that wrote it down in the 4th century you mean. Not God. You are believing the words of men from long ago. Based on the same stories that have been passed down in other cultures.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  10. Jeremy Griffin

    If I was god, I'd make Anne Hathaway serve me waffles in bed.

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

    The author confuses trends in Misotheism with Maltheism. People progress through various stages of disbelief in God, but rational disbelief often starts with Maltheism- not the hatred of God, but the conclusion that God (I'll assume the Judeochristian one for the purpose of my illustration) is fundamentally evil. This is the question of Theodicy that has puzzled seminary students for millenia. Maltheism resolves the problem of theodicy. people move from maltheism (God is evil) to agnosticism, (doubting God exists) and even atheism (conviction that all 'gods' most likely do not exist), without ever 'hating God' (misotheism as described by the author).

    March 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  12. JAdams1776

    The profession of preacher has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man. But it is a lovely work if you can stomach it.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Name (required)

      Not all preachers preach on "a mandate from on high." In fact, very few actually make the claim that they have been ordained by God.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  13. Satan Lucifer B.

    Blind guy: I CANT SEE!
    Alien: Ok well we fix this where i come from all the time, here

    March 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  14. Dave

    Well I think this idea is just one of the thoughts you have when coming to terms with being an Atheist. If God does exist, then he's a jerk anyway to let this much suffering go on in the world. Or if he needs us to all bow down to him all the time, that makes him an egomaniac or a narcissist. To me that doesn't make sense that an all powerful loving god, would do this or care about such trivial things. So combined with the fact I've never seen him or been talked to by him or met anyone that can prove to me that they have seen him or been talked to by him, there must not be a god.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  15. Brian

    You can not hate someone you have never seen.
    The idea of hating a god that created all things then just means you heard the wrong news.
    Misinformation abounds on earth and no matter the IQ/knowlege of man it can never rise to the wizdom of GOD.
    Even with the BIBLE in your hand you can not today say you are inspired. Most of those inspired by god go killing in the name of GOD. That is not revealed wizdom or truth to murder a person or people of a nation or race in the name of religion.

    Religion is man made and GOD is above all and rises above human knowlege and understanding. To truly comprehend would be to look at GODS actions and the things GOD has created and learn from those things be they an micro atom or macro universe. To learn of our surroundings we learn of GOD who created those things and parts that are seen and unseen. Science is the validity of GODS handiwork. Any war,famine,diseas is a human man made thing. Common sense will teach us many things but GODS wizdom is eternal that no man can change be he/she of any religion. To rise above human awareness above pettyness of the human condition.

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

      Leaving alone all of your other drivel, if one can't hate an unseen God, then how is one supposed to love an unseen God, as your Bible commands? Your god, as he is described in the Bible, is loathsome.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Christian


      March 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Brian


      Leaving alone all of your other drivel, if one can't hate an unseen God, then how is one supposed to love an unseen God, as your Bible commands? Your god, as he is described in the Bible, is loathsome.
      Investigate gods handiwork all around you. It is within you and around you. Do I have to speak in the tone of voice like Yoda or do you have to go watch StarWars again to get the simplistic view of GOD? GOD IS LIFE all around you it is.
      Not drivel at all. I can tell it is not something you think very deeply about. Think about it for another 20 years and if you come to the same questions then I question your schooling/train of thought.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  16. ryan

    Well if you just wanted to waste time, why not innumerate the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin? God is imaginary. This is not just a belief held by atheists, it is a fact to the extent of any other thing we would come to define as a fact. To believe otherwise is to reject evidence and practice self-delusion.

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

      Whee is your evidence to suggest God is imaginary? Just because you cannot see Him you think He doesn't exist? What about all the personal witnesses to miracles and the spiritual realm that we live in? Go to the hospital and tell that to the thousands of people who have had near death experiences and have risen from their bodies. You think there all self-delusional? Open up your mind and you might save yourself from burning in Hell for eternity. You cannot see wind but do you believe it exists?

      March 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • mr spockk

      Thank you Ryan. The world would be a much better place if so many people did not resolve all of their thoughts, actions, and lives around this inherited delusion.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  17. humblepie

    So I imagine this debate between both believers and non believers going to court... The believers presenting the earth (and all the things in it), the solar system (and the unique accuracy of distance) and universe (and its infinite size) as its proof/evidence (No bible). The Believers (in the scenario) are also the "witnesses" (describing personal encounters) and the judge is someone that has not been exposed to mankind or the universe (for good measure) at all, do believers have enough evidence to prove that there is a creator? Why/Why not

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

      Many of the things you included in the believers argument are items a non-believer would use in their argument.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Name (required)

      That's beside the point, isn't it? There is no "proof" of God's existence, just as there isn't "proof" of his non-existence. Matters of faith aren't susceptible to the courtroom. It's why when cases involving religious beliefs actually go to court, a fact-finder isn't allowed to question the truth (or untruth) of a person's beliefs-only his/her sincerity.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  18. Respect

    Understand something:

    The enrollment in the Catholic Church is at an all-time low. And what cracks me up is how the Catholic Cheerleaders are trotter out to examine all the "flaws" of atheists/non-believers or come up with some "spin" on why this is the case.

    People are starting to realize what many of us figured out long ago. God....is...Not...Coming...To...Save...You.

    You have got to do it for yourself. Make money, stay healthy, protect your property and your rights. Religion is nothing but a tool of enslavement and a way to exploit people.

    I've known two people with masters degrees who eventually left lucrative jobs to start a church, and they are making a killing. Not because they believe in a magic ghost who floats on the clouds, but because of how dumb people are that just hand over their money. Might as well take that money and do something good with it.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  19. trixen

    Interesting article about a boring topic.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  20. Jeremy

    It's not that I hate god per se, it is more like I hate that religion causes people to live their lives with rational thought neglect. And the ego of it all. The universe is NEVER ENDING. I don't think people really can understand that. So if the universwe goes on forever, we live on a tiny planet in a non-descript solar system. Imagine the ego one must have to think that they are so very important to the grand scheme of the universe, that when they talk to themselves (prey) their god is there to listen anytime anywhere about anything – absolutley loony concept, yet socially accepted because we've been brainwashed to think it's acceptable for over 2000 years now.

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

      Its not about religion, it's about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is too much evidence of a spiritual realm that exists all arounds us. To come to the conclusion that we are all hear by chance, by some explosion that was caused by nothing, is absolutely ludicrous. The bible has fulfilled over 2000 prophecies. Open up your mind and read it some time. It will save you from burning in hell for eternity.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
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