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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. Diane

    I don't believe- I know. To believe and to know are two very different things. All things are made manifest through me-when you see me you see a god as the world uses the word. That is know different for everyone else-if you choose to know. I blame religion for this belief system that has given people wrong Ideas about true life happiness. Remember don't try to name the creator of all things and its "pyrimad" effect on how things operates. How can you name something that was made from within itself. Hallow be thy name. People -think- do you love-then so does your creator, do you hate- then so does your creator- it is your choice as to what spell you manifest when you speak. So be careful what spell- you don't understand what you can manifest.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  2. margaret

    God doesn't care if you hate him or rail and berate him, only that you reach out to him.

    True Christians don't hurt people or deride people or condemn people for who they are. After all God created them and "God dont make no junk".

    Just because you say you are Christian or go to church every Sunday or even every day doesn't mean you are a follower of the Way. You must try to do no deliberate harm or deliberately cause pain to any living creature and to do the best you can, as you are, to help in what ever way you can, even if it is limited to a smile or a hello. Following the Way requires turning toward God and goodness. That's all.

    NO ONE CAN EVER know the truth of whether God really is, or what he is, or IF Christ was his son....we are too small... . If a grain of sand were a Universe we would be just a grain of sand on a planet in that Universe. But it makes life better for your self and your family and the world we live in if we believe the truth of our God.

    For all those people who deride Christianity because of the bad things that some so called Christians have done in the name of their faith try to imagine what the world would be like if there had never been a Jewish God, and a Christ the son, or a Muhammed the prophet. In spite of all the bad that some people perpetrate in the name of their religion, I don't want to conceive of a world with out the fundamental beliefs which even the atheists and agnostics have in their background.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Mark

      If your Christian understanding of God doesn't care that you hate him, why is one of the only two commandments given by Jesus to love God?

      I'm not sure where the "do no deliberate harm to any creature" mandate comes from in Christianity... that's more a Buddhist thing.

      I agree that no one can every truely understand the Truth becuase it is too large to great for us to comprehend... I don't think that's an excuse to stop trying though. As for Christianity, if it works for you then great. If it doesn't, that's hardly any reason to malign religion or the Divine, it's only one understanding among hundreds, if not thousands that are out there.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Brendan Murphy

      Margaret, You are quite correct to suspect that Agnostics and Atheists may have 'fundamental beliefs' perhaps shared in common with believers. The difference is that the enquiring Agnostic and Atheist go straight to the source of belief having simply done away with the middle man. Agnostics may eat pork, Atheists may eat any kind of meat on a Friday, Secularists may eat any kind of food during every day of the year. Such man-made rules are all that differentiate between the many sects of religious believer and yet this difference is what they all have in common – the arrogance to believe they can put words in the mouth of God.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Lanie

    You can not hate something that you do not believe in.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  4. Brendan Murphy

    Mr Schweizer, Why do you assume that creators crave worship from their creations? If my children ever got down on their knees to thank me for fathering their lives I would know I'd made a terrible mistake in their upbringing.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  5. Calvin

    This artilce made me realize the true comforts of being agnostic. To quote, religion is a good idea. If the billions of crazed believers of any religion let go of the belief, god knows how much strife and conflict would be disolved.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  6. sporter

    I can certainly see why some might hate God, especially all these little children who have been molested by all these disciples of God, specifically the sick, perverted, disgusting Catholic priests, who obviously hate God also. As a Catholic, I now question in my mind every priest I come in contact with. And now these 21 new ones. I find them disgusting, perverted and unworthy for any known purpose and I think they should all be put in prison for the rest of their lives. And I pray for those who have given up on God that theyfind their way back to him, as he is the only sure, complete and loving friend and Father.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  7. Brendan Murphy

    The whole debate is missing the fundamental distinction between a belief in God and faith in religion. Most of us are sure that an answer to the question of Creation exists (even if we may never possess the capacity to find it) and may even use the G-word to help pinpoint what exactly it is we’re talking about. What we object to is having to rely on the power of ‘holy’ men to guide the way. The human-inspired comfort clubs of churches, mosques and synagogues only obscure the ‘natural truth’ about what it is we’re seeking and should never be given the slightest consideration in the greater discussion about a Grand Design.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  8. Mr Mark

    Here you go, Melissa:

    "If any man come to me, and HATE not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:26

    March 9, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  9. Wallace

    "For atheists, God is in the same category as these fictional villains."

    FAIL.

    None of these other fictional villains were made up to make clergy a living off of other peoples' fear of the unknown. None of these other fictional villains take the credit for the good, but sidestep the blame for the bad. None of these other fictional villains hide their vanity and arrogance behind a veil of "omnipotence". None of these other fictional villains had to become more civilized as mankind became more civilized, in a thinly veiled attempt at remaining relevant.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  10. Scott

    Its not so much that I hate God, but its pretty obvious from my life experiences he hates me (and many others). And its not a normal hate... "oh I don't like that, I'll kill it and be done with it" No no no... Its more like a "pulling the wings off a fly cause I enjoy watching it roll around in pain" kind of hatred. Its hard to hold someone in high regard that obviously hates you.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Babineaux

      Oh Scott, your post touches my heart. I read but often don't reply. I know life is a mixed bag of hurt, joy, struggle... It's hard to understand it all. When I look out, I am affected by all of what is going on before me – things that I (alone) can not change. I am going thru a most difficult time, as I am sure you and others may be... I KNOW GOD doesn't hate me or you. My prayer is that you will soon know that too. I discipline my child, Scott, though he doesn't understand but I love him VERY much. I create a wholesome environment for him, though it isn't supplied with the things he wants. I allow him to bump his head, "feel" the consequences of his choosing, be involved in situations that are not ideal... It is really something to raise him, to see talent in him, and nurture him in an effort to produce the right outcome (one that allows him to survive, thrive, be wise, love GOD/others and give back). It's REAL work that he doesn't appreciate. 🙂 Hopefully, "one day" he will understand, appreciate & love me for it all! (If not, okay. I have done what I believe is right.) I won't preach to you; I hope I have pointed out something you had not considered. I hope you see GOD, our FATHER, in a new light... and love HIM. HE treasures you. May GOD bless.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Some1IsWatching

      Please consider these:
      James 1:13-
      When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.
      Job 34:10-12
      10 Therefore, YOU men of heart, listen to me.
      Far be it from the [true] God to act wickedly,
      And the Almighty to act unjustly!
      11 For [according to] the way earthling man acts he will reward him,
      And according to the path of man he will cause it to come upon him.
      12 Yes, for a fact, God himself does not act wickedly,
      And the Almighty himself does not pervert judgment.
      1John 5:19-
      the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one.
      Revelation 12: 7-12
      v12 – Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to YOU, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”

      God is not the source of our problems. It is truly sad to see most religions today portray him this way. Satin hides behind lies created in religion and watches people become haters of God. Look for people that shows what the Bible REALLY teaches.
      Take care and may your life improve with accurate knowledge.

      March 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Mark

    We see conflict and struggle everywhere we look... and yet we have this idea that when it comes to the Divine, there is just one all powerful God. Existance is struggle, which means that if God/the Divine exists, it must struggle... however in that struggle/all struggle there is both grace and beauty. I believe that is reason enough to love God/the Divine and understand that there is no single aspect of the Divine that is all powerful or responsible for all the pain and suffering in this world.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  12. Barking Alien

    I have no problem with God....he just needs to save me from his followers.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  13. Honesty

    People don't hate God- they hate turbo christians

    March 9, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  14. CHANCEL WOODS

    THE WONDERFUL THINGS THAT GOD HAS IN STORE FOR US HAS NOT ENTERED OUR MINDS ,WHY WOULD ANYONE RISK LOOSING THE GIFS OF THE ALMIGHTY , HE GAVE HIS SON`S LIFE FOR ALL OF US.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Face

      Actually, he gave himself to himself....
      and your Pascals Wager argument is very poor... Why not research ALL the religions and find out which one is most likely the "true" one?
      Why are others religions getting "miracles" like chrisitanity? (Why and/or how are cancer patients or sick people being "healed" in other religions?)
      (unless they aren't, and are being biased or blind to reality............unlike YOU of course...who does seem to know that chrisitanity is "true")

      Watch: Betting on Infinity on youtube. this will take care of your Pascals Wager....3min video by qualia soup and thermin trees

      March 9, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  15. Cthulhu

    Why would you waste time and energy hating god? Just concede that he's not there and move on.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Stunned

      Why are you wasting time on something you don't believe in?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  16. Mao

    I think reading the atheists comments in here are great.
    It's helping me learn logical fallacies. There are many different types that I've seen on here. Equivocation, fallacy of ignorance, poisoning the well, etc.
    Now some will now argue that I would learn faster if I looked at the Christians posts, but I don't tend to focus on the Christian posts (sorry Christians). If you want to learn about fallacies this way, go ahead. I think it may limit the amount of posts when people actually stop and think about their own arguments. well... hopefully. In the mean time, I'll stick with the atheist comments.
    Cheers all!

    March 9, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  17. Richard Mavers

    Can we get writers from universities we've actually heard of? Maybe they'll have more to say then just "look- I made a new word."

    March 9, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  18. Mojoblack

    its not god i hate, its man and how perverted he made his image....... so in turn if man perverted the image of god, isnt it man we hate more then god??? asides those who need god, are the people who dont know how to act with out god... Someones always looking be good.........

    March 9, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  19. Mike

    I like to think god exists. However, I've finally learned not to take ANYbody's word for what god may be about. The downside to god is all the people with faith, who are absolutely sure they know how everybody else should behave, because somebody brainwashed them as a child – the people who want to make the world in their image of what god wants. Please. If they weren't so dangerous, they'd be the biggest joke in the world. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, they are that dangerous.

    March 9, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Mao

      Yup. Buddhist monks are pretty scary, but I still like their bald heads and they really know how to kick.. uh... bu-tt 😀
      They're so awesome!

      March 9, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Bob

      Mike, everybody already knows how everybody else 'ought' to behave. That basic mechanism is built into all of us. You steal my car, I get angry. I steal your motorcycle, you get angry. Joe steals Jerry's wife, Jerry gets angry (doh). We all have the same expectations about morality/ethics, especially in regards to others. We all react when someone steals, cheats, lies, etc. When people cheer when someone does something bad, we consider it 'BAD' behavior (remember the palastinians celibrating when the trade towers went down, killing 3000 civilians. Its the same reaction. Nothing new here, never has been. Ethics and morality in ragards to behavior has been around a long time, and hasn't changed all that much.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  20. doughnuts

    "If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people."
    –House

    Sometimes fictional characters make sense.

    March 9, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Brian

      I'd like to think I and most of my fellow believers that I know are very reasonable. Some are evolutionists, some are pro-gay marriage, some espouse many different views on many different subjects. In light of all this, true Christianity is based around the idea of love for one's fellow man. What's so unreasonable about that?

      March 9, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Mao

      It's sad when a person doesn't realize they're talking to a mirror.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:13 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.