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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. Matt

    I'd say there's a significant fraction of American Christianity that could be viewed as "hating God"; certainly, if Jesus turned up in their congregations demanding that they sell all their stuff and help the poor he'd be shown the door if not arrested for trespassing. One also finds these so-called Christians crowing about "spiritual warfare" and parading around like the Pharisees of the New Testament, apparently without regard for the strong instructions in the Gospel about such things...

    March 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  2. Justin Observation

    What if god is evil? Then all the people who worship god are worshiping evil.
    What if god is not a being, but something like consciousness or energy? Then all the people who worship a being god are worshiping an imaginary fictional character.
    What if everything is god? Then all those who love good things but hate evil things, are hating part of god.
    Maybe everyone should just not lie, and not say they know the truth about something they don't.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • SecularHumanist

      Very interesting, Justin.
      I have another riddle, the old paradox attributed to Epicurus. I quote from Schweizer's book Hating God: "God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot or can but does not want to; or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then, he is weak. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful. If he neither wants nor can, he is both weak and spiteful and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where do the bad things come from or why does he not eliminate them?"

      March 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • justincase

      it is difficult to understand the reason for creation but created everything was..
      and the Creator's gift for Himself and to those of which he gave life was FREE WILL..by giving ultimate choice to not Himself but to the creation allows the claim of Being a loving God...to create and have the power to control your creation, yet doesn't is the proof of why there is evil and good..collectively, the universe\nature\God has deemed the cause of good is better than the effects of evil and this is what gives us reason...

      June 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  3. Larry

    Again the selfish and morally irresposible blame God for the mess the world is in and the
    suffering they see. Just look at where we live as compared to the rest of the universe and
    it is easy to see this is not God's fault. Name one problem in life and I will show you that
    people are unltimately to blame for the situation, the same people who say they believe in
    God but then fight is principles for life by saying they are unreasonable and out of touch
    with modern day living. Our modern day way of living is the reason we suffer violence and
    oppression.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  4. df

    CHRISTARDS

    March 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • s2kMATTers

      Wow, aren't you intelligent?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  5. Chris

    I wish I could write articles about nothing so people can read them and feel like they wasted five minutes of their life. If someone hates God, isn't that between them and God? What was the purpose of this article?

    March 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Ed

      why did you read it

      March 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Ed: To find out what it's about.

      March 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  6. Reality

    Simply another book promotion by the moderators of this blog who get a cut of professor's book profit?

    March 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Nonimus

      yep

      March 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  7. Robin Bray

    It's like hating monsters under the bed, gnomes and the tooth fairy. Why waste your time on something that never existed?

    March 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Ed

    What I find interesting is how many poeple tell good to but and let us run our lives but when we do so balme him for the results. Man commits evil not God. God granted us free will many of us chose to use it poorly if he were to remove evil he would have to remove free will, and none of us want that. As for natural disasters these are neither good or evil they simply are a storm does not target a group it just happens. Can God stop it...yes but should he? As for the atheist complaining about the opinon it clearly states it is not an opinon of how antheist feel but beleivers who hate good. As for the person responding as God, you should be a little less arrogrant then to put your self on that level.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  9. TrainBear

    Atheist does not equal hating God(s).
    A true atheist doesn't hate God(s) because he//she/they don't exist and you can't really hate something that doesn't exist. You may not like a concept, but you can't hate it, as there is nothing tangible to hate. Don't water down the word "hate", it is strong, potent, and those that truly hate you will go out of their way to destroy you, your family, your livelihood, and possibly your friends just to extinguish you (see Nazis, KKK, etc.). Now, for what it is worth, I have met people who hate God and I have met angry athiests whose biggest problem is how God is used by many Christians (not all, just some very vocal ones that spread hate and violence). Of course, using reason to undermine those religious beliefs can be seen as an attack against God, what they are really doing is trying to show people that the dogma they are taught isn't necessarily true and that if they are supposed to spread a message of peace, love, and hope, then they are doing it wrong.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Ed

      good point

      March 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @TrainBear,
      Excellent point, which by the way, was also made by the author in the article above.

      "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. "

      March 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  10. dawkins

    why some people hate God ? because God hates them.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • IamJustOne

      You think God hates people? Have you never read - For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but TO SAVE THE WORLD THROUGH HIM. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Durr

      Yet god tricks/kills more people in the bible than Lucifer.

      A true omnipotent god would not stack the deck against itself. Also, if there were truly an omnipotent god it would completely have the ability to prove without a doubt its existence to every single person in the world without question and would put all the wars currently being fought in its name to rest. Yet it lets humans go to war against each other in its name all over the world all the time having the people it 'loves' die needlessly at something it could easily prove. Yeah, if it exists I'd say it hates people.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Lee

    I think a majority of people hate God due to lack of knowledge, we may ask why did God allow tragedy to happen, that no one can 100% answer, or why does God allow violence and death. God gives everyone Free Will, we are not robots, so someone else's choice could effect our life or someone else's life.

    But the number one reason people may hate the God of the Christians is , due to the 'Church" (the Christians) a growing majority of Christians are quick to judge and cast the stone when they also are un-perfect. No one on earth is perfect. When I see fellow Christians doing this I put myself in the other person's shoes and I woul also want to hate God if a professed Christian who is supposed to be sharing God's love is showing nothing but hate.

    Anyway I know I got off subject!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  12. Giorgi

    Easy way to defeat many atheists in an argument...

    How do you define faith? - Faith is believing in something that can't be proven.
    How do you define Atheism? - Having no belief/having no faith in God.

    Can you prove that there is no God? -- No. Thus you have Faith... That's why Atheism is a complete joke. It's definition alternates from person to person.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Robin Bray

      How to defeat a god believer. Who made God? God always was. How can that be? Gee I don't know.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Ken

      Atheism is not a belief or a disbelief, it is the rational response to absurdity.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • RangerDOS

      Cogent argument – well done!

      March 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • s2kMATTers

      Agreed. It takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in a God who created the universe.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Durr

      Doesn't work like that.

      That's like saying you believe/have faith in pixies. You can't prove they don't exist so you have faith.

      Burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. Theists claim an invisible man in the sky with magic powers (god) exists. I reject that claim. That's not faith, that's me saying "Really? Prove it."

      March 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Brian

      You wanna know what alternates from person to person? The definition of God and his characteristics. Atheism has only one definition. Look it up.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Finch

      Can you prove there are no unicorns? No, thus you have faith in unicorns.

      Your logic is a joke.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • robot

      A fine example of bad logic.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Ken

      Logic and you have some issues. Lack of belief is not a belief. Claims need to be proven by the person making the claim, without this simply truth, nothing makes any sense.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Spaghetti monster

      LOL... you're a genius ...

      Can you prove that !#!@$!@$!@$ does not exist ? No ? Therefore !#!@$!@$!@$ exists.

      You should understand basics of logic before making stupid statements like that.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      Mocking people only throws up walls and your point falls on deaf ears...for both sides of the debate. The arguments presented could just as well serve the other side as they do your own. Since we don't definitively know the source of creation matter we don't definitively know that there is a God or not. Your absurdity statement is just as absurd to those who have had a personal experience with what they percieve or believe to be God. I think we are all a little arrogant in our statements being the non-omnipotent beings that we are.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • GiveMeABreak

      faith religious

      Faith is just the name for a condition common within religion, but not exclusive to it.

      Just cause I have faith I'll make it through this morning without my coffee does not mean I'm a religious dingbat...

      March 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • GiveMeABreak

      That first line was supposed to have a couple symbols that mean "not equal to"...

      Oh well...

      March 8, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Durr

      @Pine – Pointing out logical fallacies is not insulting the person making the claim. It's telling them why their claim is wrong.

      You're right, we don't know definitively if God does exist. But the same goes for Leprechauns. Lots of theists make the special pleading logical fallacy. For some reason it's perfectly logical for people not to believe in Zeus because there's absolutely zero proof he exists. But when it comes to Yahwe, it's completely different.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  13. gthing

    This was stupid. Just another author stoking the flames of hate against Christians.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Q

      Poor, oppressed super-majority. Spare us your martyr-complex.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  14. Kate

    I have never run across anyone who purported to actually 'hating god'. That includes a lot of forums about religion and atheism.

    There is no definition for God, so it's kind of like someone who hates ghosts, it just sounds like a drama queen acting up to me. A lot of fuss and emotion about nothing.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  15. RONNIE

    Most people do not hate God even if they do not believe in your God.I believe in God just not he God of the Bible.The Bible was written by men therefore it is flawed and most of it has been disproven through science,timeline wise.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Brian

      Hmm. Interesting. So you don't believe in the traditional "God" because it's been disproven by science, but you DO believe in your own, generic, version of "God", even though there is absolutely no proof of his existence at all. I'm an athiest, and what you're saying makes no sense.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Larry

      Obviously you are misinformed. Science in fact is the study of creation and
      the bible has never been proved scientifically wrong. The bible even stated
      the earth was hung on nothing a 1000 years before science did. In fact scientists
      were saying the world was supported by elephants or some other weird concept.
      Then the sun went around the earth etc, etc.
      Science eventually will get things right. Archelogists have for years relied on the
      bible when it comes to finding the accurate locations of older cities. They should
      take a page from them.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Brian,
      Good point.

      @Larry,
      Bad point. The Bible contains many statements that are scientifically incorrect such as,
      Earth formed before sun, moon and stars
      Plants existing before sun which plants need.
      Flowering plants (fruit bearing plants) existing before animals.

      ...and that's just the first chapter.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Finch

      Larry, you accuse someone of being misinformed when you mistake that the tortoise/elephant cosmology is from Hinduism, not from scientists. You fail reason.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  16. Chris

    Hey author, I think you forgot the "why" part of your article. You talked a lot about the term misotheism and who might have hated God, but never actually go to explaining why.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Q

      @Chris – Read closer, "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." In other words, the "misotheists" are simply at a "problem of evil" impass. Of course, this is were most atheism begins as well...

      March 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • bmarte

      right on the money Chris – he never got to stating why. I could tell that he wasn't ever going to and that's why i stopped reading the article after i got about halfway thru it!

      March 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  17. MaxFromNY

    Mr. Schweizer – I disagree with your characterization of why an atheist would "dislike" god. Nobody (other than my 9th grade English teacher) ever tried shoving Shakespeare down my throat.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • JCS

      Other aspects of life that are "shoved" down your throat: marketing of any form, corporately controlled media, politics, more specifically nationalism, sports, etc..All these things have something in common. They want your money and your attention. Broaden your worldview and you'll see the other subtle and not so subtle influences by which we are all exposed to.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  18. k

    @morons, read the article stupid. He specfically points out that mesotheists & aethiests are two distinctly different groups for the very reasons you just re-stated. Moron.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  19. Nonimus

    I disagree with the author on a couple of important points:

    "For atheists, God is in the same category as these fictional villains."
    God is not in the exact same category, although seen as a fictional character, no other fictional character holds sway over entire portions of humanity. Many non-believers struggle against irrational belief simply because the beliefs of believe affect their own lives through laws, rules, and social convention.

    "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."
    The author appears to assume that believing in God and hating him at the same time is irrational, but in actuality it may be the most rational response of a believer to a God that places them in an unwinable situation and then condemns them for not winning.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Pinewalker

      I don't feel I'm in an "unwinable" situation and I feel no condemnation from God. Like Charlie Sheen says "WINNING!"

      March 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Pinewalker,
      So you have no need of Jesus as your savior?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      It doesn't matter what I do or don't believe. You stated that we are put in unwinnable situations and that we feel condemmation from God. I'm just letting you know that I'm one person who does not feel either.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Pinewalker,
      The unwinnable situation is the inability of man (mankind) to save his own soul and have eternal life. God has apparently said that:
      it takes perfect adherence to His rules to achieve salvation,
      no man can adhere perfectly to His rules,
      failure to adhere perfectly to His rules condemns one to hell,
      therefore, all men are condemned to hell.

      Unless Jesus/God intervenes, man cannot save himself or be saved, i.e. unwinable situation.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  20. Lala

    People who hate god... lol do believe in god cuz they know about god. if you hear or heard about god then you believe hes real cuz you physically heard or hear and from others then it tends into believing it

    March 8, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Eric

      That logic is retarded.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Lily

      You believe everything you hear? Yikes.
      Hearing about god does NOT lead to belief in god. I've heard about dozens of religions, and remain devoid of belief in any of them.
      I've heard about imaginary friends too, but I don't believe in them either.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • TrainBear

      So you deeply believe in Zeus then? What about Cthulhu? Or David Koresh? You have heard of them, so you believe in them. right?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
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