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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. Jeremy Griffin

    IHOP has that All You Can Eat pancake special again.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  2. Satan Lucifer B.

    OK, Satan singin out leaven school

    March 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  3. alan

    Well...My mom died when I was 9 so if there is a god, when I die I will put my foot knee deep in his "its" rear.
    Sense there is so much hate and chaos I doubt there is a god. Look around and you will see there is no single
    anything anywhere, so there could not be a single god. The burden of proof is on the Mulha's not me.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  4. Jeremy Griffin

    You guys wanna grab some waffles?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  5. Dave

    It's not that simple. Would I love to believe that there is a god who loves me and who wants me to do all these things so that way I can live in a gold kingdom? Haha who doesn't want that, serously. If you don't want that you are lying to yourself or haven't accepted what you're own issues are. Unfortunately, I really believe that there is no God and at the very least he is a creator who moved on a long time ago to leave humans to their own doing. Even that seems like a stretch. I think we all need to just worry about creating a happy environment for eachother and worship WHATEVER we want in our private time. We worry too much from day to day about religion while the world turns to crap. Also, I really love getting people who say they've talked to god to try and explain it. It's all interesting stuff.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  6. Joseph A

    The choice to believe or not is a personal one. While there may not be concrete evidence to the fact that there is a God, there is more than enough proof for me that there is. When we learn about something from the distant past, we may not see concrete proof but there are signs of it and the places being talked about are real. Same with religion. The place they have written about and some of the things mentioned are still around. Just as with other things I believe in, I don't need to see God in person to believe in him. All I'm saying is that each of us have our opinions and beliefs and I prefer to keep an open mind. That is why I won't comment nor critique anyone on their own beliefs on or about religion.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  7. Casey

    I don't hate god(s). I just don't think god(s) exists.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  8. Jeremy Griffin

    You gotta wonder: could god create a stone that was so big not even he could lift it, and if he could, then how do I get Anne Hathaway to sleep with me?

    March 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Solomon

    This is the truth – God created Evil! He says so in the Bible Isaiah 45:7 (Of course He did, I already knew that, because noting can be the ultimate original creator of anything but God, everything else can only do what God has already made possible. Nothing can do anything that is impossible, and God is what created the possible, making it not impossible, therefore is the original creator.)

    God Created Good and Evil. God understands cause/effect * all infinite possibilities = God has ultimate control and nothing happens without His final consideration = Everything is exactly as is should be and will not happen if God doesnt permit it, but will happen if He does

    Here's the true definition of Good/Evil Good = within God's Grace Evil = outside of God's Grace

    March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Solomon

      cant finish posting... Keeps saying waiting moderation

      March 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  10. Wake up

    Hello folks, we didn't create ourselves nor do we determine when we die. What will it take for people to come to know God, and by God I mean the God who sent Jesus Christ on the Cross. You are totally missing out on a wonderful relationship with God. America just does not realize the Grace that is upon this country. But many will come to know God when these worldy systems continue and fully sink we shall see who you turn to....

    March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  11. Nick

    I don't hate God, I hate the irrationality that organized religion brings out in people.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Bee

      fighting against them just strengthens their resolve. better to join influence from within.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Jon

      "Amen" brother 😉

      March 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  12. MikeNY

    R. Dawkin's fan <======= this way, nuff said.

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

    The problem with this topic is that most people dont think outside the box or consider some very important truths. Thiking outside the box = 1. God created reality itself, therefore there doesnt even have to be good/evil, existence/life could be something totally different from any possible concept. 2. Evil is not necessary for God to prove anything. God is God, His power is beyond infinite, it takes a power beyond infinite to create infinity itself and God created infinity. Therefore, God could just as easily created humanity with free-will in a type of reality where there is no such thing as an evil choice, but all the infinite choices are perfectly good! He's beyond infinite, not limited in any way, so He could do that!!

    March 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Colin

      And by remarkable coincidence, totally immune to disproof the way you defined it. god is in my wallet if I describe it as a credit card.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      All concepts are a matter of definition. Solomon is just taking a fairly common agnostic view that God is unknowable and therefore undefinable. It doesn't provide proof of existence, merely reasonable doubt as to whether or not God can be disproven.

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

    I bet god would make the best waffles.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  15. Solomon

    Guess it was too long so I will break it up into seperate paragraphs

    March 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      *chuckle* Some religions count moderation as a good thing.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  16. Satan Lucifer B.

    Im tellin you, he was an alien, thats why people looked up to him cuz he could do crazy things.....

    March 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Solomon

    My comment is still facing moderation

    March 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  18. Jeremy Griffin

    Really though, I just wonder, what if god was one of us, you know? Just a slob like one of us? Hell, just a stranger on the bus...tryin to make his way home...

    March 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  19. kevin

    The reason why people mostly hate God is because they hear much being said of Him but there is lack of proof to them to believe in Him. Yet almost always in their deepest need, when none can help, people tend to believe or talk to the one they call God. I believe deep down in every soul their is that mustard of knowledge that they belong to a Higher Power. Many have prayed or done things in the name of God, many have and are trying to disproof His existence, whatever are role are on each side we cannot escape the reality that there is huge universe out there with billions of stars and planets. Could all those space not contain other intelligent creatures? Do we honestly think in such a exhaustively big universe one tiny planet called earth has only life on it? The real important fact is we all whether we believe or not have only 1 chance in this life.
    Whether we have faith in God or not, whatever decision we take will have its mark in each life. The best option is to believe in God and live the way He has asked us to live. If with time its so that He has not existed, you would not lose anything. Cause after all God simply asks one to have faith in Him, love Him and love your neighbor. If you have not believed in God and one day He does show Himself, you would have then lost everything. Everybody makes this decision. Its a choice. God is Love
    and LO-VE LOVE VENTURES perhaps we should take that Risk. IF WE DO WE WILL SURELY NOT LOSE ANYTHING.
    F.A.I.T.H FANTASTIC ADVENTURE IN TRUSTING HIM.
    God bless everyone

    March 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Up Your Rear Admiral

      kevin, you really need to read up on Pascal's Wager, which is really what much of your post is a restatement of. Your arguments for the existence of your god are old, tired, and failed.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  20. Claire

    I’m completely confused about the “villain” comment? Have you spent any time in His presence, what do you know about His character? Man has the freedom to make decisions and suffer the consequences of those actions. The world is corrupt b/c man is evil not God. He will not force Himself on you but if you open your heart to be healed from whatever wounds you carry you will find your life transformed through this love encounter.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Up Your Rear Admiral

      Claire, with all the nasty stuff in the bi-ble, including instructions purportedly by god to do creature sacr-ifice, ra-pe, tor-ture, and mur-der, and all the suffering in the world (all of which your god would have to be responsible for), Chris-tian god would have to be quite the evil azz-hole. Why would you wor-ship such an azz-hole?

      March 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Jon

      Let me rephrase the above comment:
      "Wait, I don't understand, why don't you believe in the same things I do? Don't you know that I am right and you are wrong? Trust me, I know what I'm talking about, I'm right, you'll see."

      And people wonder why views like this irritate the "non-believers" ...

      March 8, 2011 at 2:37 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.