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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. Rosa

    It sounds very interesting. I'm a Christian, and I can sort of understand the temptation to hate God because of all the misery in this world. I choose to be more optimistic and have faith that there are things I simply don't understand, or that perhaps whatever God is out there doesn't really intervene in our lives the way people might think he does. I understand taking the anger about the unfairness of life and translating that into atheism, but it really is very interesting that there are people who for some reason do believe in a higher power, and then blame that higher power for the world's problems, rather than simply deciding that there must be no God at all. I'm torn between whether I think that makes a lot of sense, or not much sense at all....but mainly I'm just fascinated in general.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Colin

      roas, anger at god does not lead to atheism. If you are "angry" at soemthing, you believe it exists. A minimum level of intelligence, a good graps of science and the Universe and a courage to question what you have been told not to question are generally the three prerequisites require to achieve atheism.

      In its own way, it is a completely refreshing and exhilerating feeling, as those last vestiges of superst-ition vanish in small puffs of logic.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Jen

      I'm replying to Colin: Faith is the essence of holding as true something that cannot be proven. It is therefore unrelated to intelligence and intellectual curiosity. The two are NOT mutually exclusive and your misspelled condescention is not only offensive, but completely irrelevant and unnecessary. Those who truly embrace their faith are not concerned with your criticisms and find them wholly unrelated to the "faith question."

      March 9, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  2. Joshua Ludd

    Well, I don't believe in the Christian god, but if one reads the bible I can see how if one believed in that god to hate that god for being quite a monster.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. DAT

    religion back then is like facebook now.....its a snowball effect that consumes the stupid – that need a bit of meaning or purpose to their lives.

    and now its going to take something cooler to make them irrelevant.

    soon .....soon they will both be a thing of the distant past.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Bee

      again, history is not on your side

      March 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  4. julian

    We made god. He is our slave.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bee

      that's actually a really interesting way to say it.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  5. Peg

    I am a beliver in God.... I read the first 40 or so comments and would like to share my own insight. God is (to me) not of this world.... he resides in heaven. I feel satan walks amoung us and 'tries' at every turn to get us to "choose" his way. I have been watching the program "Beyond and Back" and those folks with near death experiences will tell you something. EACH one of them say they have a CHOICE – which path to choose. Do you choose the 'love and the light' or NOT. if you choose NOT you don't choose God therefore your choice is the opposite of God and Heaven which is hell.
    Why is there evil?
    We make it that way. God gives us free CHOICE in the matter.
    *jumps off soapbox*
    I believe!

    March 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      I feel so sorry for you. When did you turn away from the evidence of your senses and give it up for willful insanity?

      March 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Peace be unto you Peg.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Sally

      You're basing your entire life belief system and philosophy on a TV show?

      March 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  6. julian

    I hate god.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  7. Colin

    With 100,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy and 200,000,000,000 galaxies in the known Universe, does anybody really think something powerful enough to create the whole thing (and to still be alive 13,500,000,000 years later) would even experience human emotions, much less be "mad"at us for our behaviour on this planet?

    It is so completely clear to me that we invented the gods in our image and not visa-versa.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      And a poor reflection of man at that. All gods, when examined rigorously, are rather disgusting archetypes.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Really enjoy your thoughtful and reasonable posts, Colin. Thanks.

      It's also comforting to know that Christian wingnuts are not the entire population.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Colin

      Thanks Peter – I also recommend you read Adams1776. He is actually better (and a lot faster typer) than me.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  8. brindy

    As far as I know, the term "misotheism" and "misotheist" have been used at least since 2004 by Dr Jonathan Sarfati.
    http://creation.com/intolerance-and-fundamental-conceit

    March 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  9. Bubba

    Hate God? Which one? The burning bush guy, the airplanes into the building guy, or the one with the Noodly Appendages? The meditating under the Bo tree? Elvis? Dead blue guy in the volcano? It's like hating Donald Duck, or hip-hop. I hate broccoli. I hate Khadafy. But I don't hate old God, because He's a fig newton of your imagination.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • ???

      The FSM will forgive your heresy...

      March 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Bubba

      I'll take alfredo sauce with my FSM, please.

      March 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • The Peach Fedora

      Who dares to ignore my vast power? May you be cast into the Hair Gel of Doom forever!

      March 9, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  10. internetlawyer

    A spinning sphere, its halves the same, glides through silent space
    in perfect orbit teaming with other planets screaming
    that their symmetry of shape and path has a source in something more than chance.

    In fact, this symmetry extends to every place
    from the very microscopic to the reach of the expanse,
    quietly declaring with a breadth quite overbearing
    that each whole is halves—each half alike
    in nearly everything that matters.

    Is it for matter’s sake
    that such symmetry flatters
    such quirky things as the fishy shapes of clams and stars,
    stingrays, whales and pike
    as well as coral, shrimp, anemones, manatees and gars?

    The forms of viruses and germs,
    and the parts, the whole, the half, and the path of every snake,
    the contour look of spiders, moths and gnats,
    beetles, flies and worms,
    and a billion other bugs that hide in dirt or share the skies
    with other symmetric creatures
    having halvish sameness aspect features
    like finches, terns and hanging bats
    or birds of prey,
    whether soaring, diving or even perching quiet—all say
    quite a lot aloud without a word about the symmetry they share
    with our selves and cells and fingers, teeth and lungs,
    our veins and ribs and ears and heels and tongues
    and even tears sneaking
    from and past each configured part of our very balanced faces, speaking—
    with drops of mist in clouds and fountains
    or as frozen flakes each alone
    or combined in colored spectral bows that display
    in each arching tone
    with each atom making either dust or mighty mountains
    as well as with the roots and stems and leaves and fruits of plants
    and in everything with legs or wings or DNA,
    its twisted ladder shape with every wave or bolt or spark
    of light or sound—
    a simple truth that’s quite profound:

    This common feature isn’t happenstance
    or the result of some explosion;
    nor is it an evolving growth or some fortune quirk of time and motion;

    it is rather—its uniqueness stark—
    a glorious and clever, clearly loving maker’s perfect mark.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      Every physical phenomenon you cite is what hydrogen atoms do when they have 14 billion years to do it in. Recourse to invisible sky friends not required. (And if you ask where the hydrogen atoms come from, I'll answer "I don't know." You'll say "God made them." I'll ask where god comes from. You won't have the guts to say you don't know.)

      March 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Colin

      So, the Hindus are right. Krishna is real. Or are you arguing for Allah, or for the supreme serpent diety of the Australian aboriginals, or for Zeus, or which one. Where does you leap from your observation that the Universe is complex take you. Let me guess, the Chriustian god. Of course. Spin the wheel and pick a god. Kock-a – doodle -doo, any god will do.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bubba

      You seem to have a childish faith in bilateral symmetry as a basic building block of the universe. Also your poem is too verbose, but the central conceit of God signing his work with bilateral symmetry is hard to support. Did the devil make radiolarians? Plenty of animals and micro-organisms are radially symmetrical, it's just that most land life comes from early amphibians who were bilateral. You mention worms and coral animals; sorry, radial symmetry again. It's an interesting theory but like most revelations it's only convincing to the person who had the revelation.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Critique

      I see Ykcyc is imagining himself / herself as an "internetlawyer" and giving us another excreble piece of poetry.
      Ykcyc, either speak clearly or find a rythm and meter for your junk and go fap to yourself in a corner somewhere.
      Free verse like that is neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. Try talking like you would to another human being or something.
      Your mishmash does not get my vote.

      March 9, 2011 at 4:40 am |
  11. NoGr8rH8r

    Is there a more ridiculous concept than GOD? Such Foolishness!

    March 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  12. Colin

    Did anybody see the articel yesterday about "America's Top Exorcist"? Read that, and tell me Christians aren't delusional.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      It brings up an interesting question of where do we stop calling people delusional? We have plenty of irrationalities that are supported by our system. Relationships for example. We enter into loving relationships that can be supported by society; there are exceptions that I'll avoid derailing my point with. Is love required for these relationships? No, certainly not. But we still support relationships that are based on love. To date, we have no way of conveniently measure love on a general scale. We can say, "hey there's brain activity there and it looks like Love" and that's kind of it. It's so individual and and so specific to the person that we might rightly call anyone in love to be delusional based on test results compared to someone else. We still allow for it. Food for thought. Not sure it directly related to the existence of God. Just my mind wandering.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bubba

      "It brings up an interesting question of where do we stop calling people delusional?" Wearing a duck on your head isn't necessarily delusional. When I ask you why you have a duck on your head, and you say "Duck? What duck?" THAT is where I stop calling you eccentric and call you delusional. When you go from "I believe in God" to "God told me to kill you," I call you delusional. And when you get to "I believe in God. I believe in Glenn Beck. Therefore Glenn Beck is God," I call you delusional.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Blypht

      Amen to that, Bubba!

      March 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  13. Tom

    I cannot hate something that does not exist. I do however despise the way ministers have taught hatred, bigotry, violence, and ignorance instead of helping people come togehter, understand their differences and live practical and fulfilled lives. The people who have hurt me the most physically and emotionally in life were all people who "belived in God". People's delusional beliefs in the supernatural are destroying mankind and bringing harm to innocent people like me who only want away from the insanity of the world.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • some emo kid

      You see, black people are the Sons of Cain, and the black skin is the Mark of Cain, and that means they have to work for white people all their lives. Yeah, what a bunch of BS.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Haemisch

      Yeah, whereas atheist communists were so good at bringing people together (into concentration camps and gulags mostly.)

      March 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Haemisch

      Some Emo...Cain descendants all died in the flood. It is human evil that uses the scripture to justify its wrong-doing. They are the very people the Lord warned us about.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • some emo kid

      Haem, you talking about the Germans? They were Christians on a holy mission. The Pope was 100% behind the Final Solution. And "Communism" is a religion. Oh yeah, try arguing with a Communist if you don't believe me. Look up what happened to Lenin's corpse, or Mao's. They were enshrined and worshiped.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  14. ???

    I find it interesting when a Christian insists that they know everything about what and how atheists think while suggesting that an atheist is incapable of understand them.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • some emo kid

      Usually they say something like "I can't understand how atheists can believe that Nothing Created Everything By Using A Proton. Atheists sure are stupid to believe that, and I sure am smart not to believe that myself." But if you tell them that all Christians believe Mary was impregnated by Ezekiel and his wheel, they are insulted and horrified and want to tell you that you are lying!

      March 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Blypht

      As opposed to athiests who skim the interesting parts of the Bible (or the Qu'ran or the Talmud), or watch how people of religion are portrayed on television, and think they know as much about that religion as someone who has spent his/her whole life studying and learning faith? Narrow-mindedness & bigotry thrive at both extremes of the bell curve, not just as a statistical bump at one end of the scale.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Q

      "...and think they know as much about that religion as someone who has spent his/her whole life studying and learning faith?" I certainly can't quote scripture from memory any more than I can most other books I've read. Nonetheless, what Atheists and strong Agnostics claim is that despite, a "whole life studying and learning faith" (by which I believe you mean, immersion in bias confirmation), a theist's claim of supernaturally-revealed knowledge lacks any veracity. I don't need to spend years studying the Bible to know that someone who claims to know the mind of "God" by reading a holy book is engaged in self-delusion. Furthermore, one need only "skim the interesting parts" to understand what an abhorrent and cruel deity it portrays where a broader placement within the context of the whole does nothing to remove these traits (rather, only confirms their capricious and schizophrenic nature)...

      March 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  15. DAT

    religion back then is like facebook now.....its a snowball effect that consumes the stupid – that need a bit of meaning or purpose to their lives.

    and now its going to take something cooler to make them irrelevant.

    soon .....soon they will both be a thing of the distant past.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Bee

      history is not on the side of your argument

      March 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Haemisch

      Votaire said much the same. He was sure the church would be extinct within a hundred years of his death. He was wrong too.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  16. Jacob

    I think most of you are missing the point. This article explicitly excludes atheists.

    He is talking about people who believe in the existence of a creator and then choose to hate that creator. I think Satanists come to mind here.

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

      Assuming they're Christian, you might be right. Christians don't hold the monopoly on believing in a God.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Blypht

      There are satanists who believe in God, and those who do not; just as there are Christians (myself included) that believe in Darwin & Hubble.

      There's a wide selection of gods to choose from. We don't need to believe in one to love (or hate) another.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  17. Colin

    Mhhh, I wonder why, if god created life on Earth, he took about 3,000,000,000 years to make certain procaryotic cells become eucaryotic, thereby enabling complex life to develop? Sound a little more Darwinian to me.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  18. Texas

    God gives a lot of people good reason to hate him.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • KC

      Amen.
      "so perplexing as to strain our common understanding of faith to the breaking point" - my faith has been strained to the breaking point by God's refusal to grant even the simplest prayers. After 30 years of one soul-shattering experience after another - borne alone because God also refuses to grant me a caring mate - I have no faith left that there's anyone up there listening when I pray.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • jampalm

      Texas, It is people disobedience that caused them to hate , not Yahweh (God ) It is the incorrect interpretation of HIs scriptures that have people disappointed in God. Yahweh does not moves by one's emotion but by their obedience only. The God of Abraham Issac and Jacob, The one and only God . He is loving and caring. He allows things to happen at time that we just cannot understand but then He is Yahweh he knows why. We have to stop listening to these money crazy preachers with their false hope. I do not have a problem with Him.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Texas

      Jampam if god is omnipotent then he made man to fail intentionally just so he could punish them. Who do you blame the omnipotent power that forced the failure or the little naked ape that did as its omnipotent divine god compelled it to do?

      March 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  19. Robert Ray

    Five thousand children will die today due to the lack of clean drinking water.Sounds like god ia a serial killer of children and one sick puppy. go god

    March 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • JAdams1776

      Oh no... that's mans fault because it is bad. It's only when it's good does god get the credit. Religious people hate humanity so much. In their case, it is understandable, given their own reference is that of a believer in irrational voodoo and mindless chants.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Bee

      southern CA takes all the water, watering their lawns.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  20. JAdams1776

    Being a member of a church is a demonstration that you are willing to put unfounded belief at or above the evidence of your senses and reason. Thus, church members should be disqualified from voting on the grounds of willful insanity. Equally, they should be disqualified from jury duty, or any function which requires judgment or reason. If you strip away the magic 'religion words' and describe any religious person's belief to a mental health professional, they will be diagnosed as delusional at best.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Colin

      One person believes they talk to god, we call them a lunatic, a dozen do, its a cult. A billion do, its christianity.

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

      @JAdams1776

      Well put!

      March 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Bee

      it is clear you have not investigated the philosophy of faith, or psychology. Those that have faith have experiences that have influenced their senses which lead them to belief.

      Just because some haven't had those experiences, or because they think current scientific knowledge contains all-wisdom, doesn't mean it isn't a real experience.

      Just like believers attack non-believers, you view is evidence that it goes the other way too. Remove voting rights?! come on...

      March 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Bob

      I met someone the other day who believed that cosmic dust merged together over millions of years and formed the entire ecosystem, including water and the human body. They too should be barred from voting over willful insanity.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • qurgh

      @JAdams1776: Amen brother.

      @Bee: So someone has a psychotic break and believe that some magical sky-wizard is talking to them and we should all treat them like it did? No, people who believe in god are crazy, end of story. It's like claiming daffy-duck told you to worship him... So yes, no voting for anyone who get's signals from the sky-wizard.

      @Bob: LOL! Nice one. Although you can't really call it a belief when all the evidence in the universe seems to point that way.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • ???

      So, in your world, only members of the Atheist religion or Agnostics are qualified to vote? What about landowners? What about women? What about people whose skin color differs from yours? Oh, only people like you. I'm sorry. Your comment is simply un-American.

      March 8, 2011 at 4:39 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.