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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. Anita

    None of these comments prove that God is an evil, hateful being. The Bible says that he feels hurt at heart for all the suffering and wickedness that goes on in the world. There is a very logical reason he hasn't done anything about it yet. But it would take too long to explain here. Anyone who is really interested should get a copy of the book "What Does the Bible Really Teach". You would be surprised at the answer. You can download it from jw.org

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Q

      Pure BS, God specifically orders the slaughter of children and infants. You can rationalize it all you want with some 'divine plan' garbage, but hacking children and infants to death does not agree with your loving God.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      If God is omnipotent, then evil is to be laid at his hands.

      If your God is real, why did he create suffering?

      Because he is a SADIST

      March 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  2. educateurself

    The Bible says Religion will be destroyed completely by World Governments. It also says World Religion has been used for wickedness for thousands of years of human history.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  3. William Demuth

    When one is subjected to the brainwashing that is modern religion, an individual’s fears are manipulated at an early age.

    These fears, both of a mortal death and societal rejection are specifically designed to be quite difficult to overcome.

    This is why we often see emotionally troubled people changing religions like one might change his T-Shirt.

    The concepts of religion are so insidious that many can NEVER shake them off, leaving minds willing to accept the concept of their own damnation, rather than embrace the truths about human frailty.

    Our destinies are to live, to die, to rot, and to be forgotten. The crutch that is religion is just an attempt to avoid that simple reality, and shall be clung to by the foolish, the terrified, and the indoctrinated as long as they live.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Chanselor Jenkins

    I am asking scientificly (Forget religion for a moment) Where did the very first matter of any kind come from? That is the ultimate question. Everything else could be just a happy accedent like athiests believe. But where would the first matter have come from?

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • m

      Unfortunately the question "where does matter come from" is a little more difficult than basic chemistry has led you to believe. The fact that things "are" is a confusing concept for anyone to grasp. Matter actually can create itself and destroy itself, and exists in many different ways. The problem is we dont know, but in no way does that prove God. Its not necessarily wrong to believe in God, but there is simply zero evidence he does exist. The fact you chose this improvable belief isn't enough cause for the rest of us. We spend our time advancing real evidence, so that one day maybe we can find the answers.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  5. lar

    Someone who say they hate God hate a fictional character pushed on them by religous freaks. Nobody hates god. You are god. We are all god. This is a ridiculous article. God is "what is". the good and "the bad". I put "the bad" in quotation marks, because there is really nothing bad in this world. Just misperceptions.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bee

      you're wrong. "bad" is real.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  6. Holy Wars Rule Population Control

    We all know organized religion not only divides people but kills them in droves.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  7. m

    I find "hating God" incredibly illogical. Anyone else? If you believe in God, you're pretty much designed to love him... I mean the dude gives you eternal bliss for a mere human lifetime. What, you get passed up on that promotion and so now you hate God? My guess is these people don't hate God at all, but are starting to doubt their beliefs.

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

      lots of feelings are illogical.

      it is people's faithfulness which struggles when they don't get the 'promotion,' not their belief. Theology teaches that faith and belief are two different ideas.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  8. KritoLucas

    Religion is not something people should waste time hating it, or distorting it for there own purposes. Religion is for people to connect using a idea, it can make the weak strong, it can make haters, lovers, it can mead wounds, it can spot wars. But religion can be seen as one of the greatest weapons ever discovered, it can start wars, it can hurt people, it can kill people. Even though religion has its flaws, it is something wonderful

    March 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  9. spoo

    i do not hate god, i just hate people who believe in god and feel superior to others because of that. there is nothing more pathetic than god believers that end up divorcing their god because they did not get from him what they wanted, and now they hate him. grow up you idiots

    March 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  10. The Jackdaw

    I think that anybody who decides to believe in God just so that they hate him have some serious misplaced anger issues. They are professional putz-nuggets and probably don’t get far in life, which is why nobody has heard of them before. They are too busy living in their mother's basements eating peanut butter and watching the Price is Right.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Gustav Malloy

    It's odd how the people that state that there is no God are basically saying they have all the answers to the mysteries of the universe.

    Our universe is gigantic, it is only one of many universes, and something existed before the big bang. How can anybody pretend to know all?

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

      Saying there is not god IS NOT saying they have all the answers.
      That is silly.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • TheRealJesus

      What about people that say there's only one?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  12. Rich

    @Giorgi – This has to be the dumbest arguement I've ever heard!! Just because I don't prove something does NOT mean I believe it is so. Because I can't prove there is no Tooth Fairy does not mean I believe there is one. Just cause I can't prove there is no God does not mean I believe in one. Just because you have faith in one does not mean there is one. Try thinking before you speak (or write)!!!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  13. mb2010a

    I don't hate G_d, but I do sorta hate His followers...they have corrupted everything he represents.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  14. JC

    Whether there is a God or not. It would be nice to know that someday we will be in heaven with past loved ones.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • what the

      what you'd like to believe

      and what is actually true

      are two completely different things

      March 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • P0NDER0SA

      It would be nice to know that when I get home today I'm gonna have 10 Victoria's Secret models licking my balls. Stupid reality!!

      March 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • TheRealJesus

      *Spolier Alert*

      No gonna happen.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • P0NDER0SA

      ok... so no models... today... but after I die, I'll have them waiting for me right? :p

      Is there anything more selfish than the desire to get to heaven?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  15. Chanselor Jenkins

    It is impossible to prove the existance of God. It is also impossible to prove God does not exist.

    If there is no god where did matter come from? I am not talking about the creation of life. Just wondering how something came from nothing.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Sirena

      If there is a god where did god come from? Either way something comes from nothing.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • what the

      if you can accept a divine being popped into existence out of nothing, then you could tranfer the properties to the universe and say the universe came from nothing

      if you can't accept somthing came from nothing, then something must have existed for eternity

      if god existed for eternity then take god out of the equation and just say the universe existed for eternity.

      Christians and all theists are hypocrites in that they preach that nothing could exist forever, or that nothing could just pop into existence, and then they take those so called impossible attributes and adhere them to a mythological bronze age being.

      God is in essence a symbol of everything theists simply cannot grasp about the complexities of the physical universe. It's scary to admit you just don't understand something, so instead they pretend that all the answers are there – god dunnit.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Raoul Duke, Jr.

      Then where did god come from?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Dave

      ok, let's say God created matter. that still leaves the question of who/what created the creator, and you are back where you started. if you posit that God has been around forever, then you must accept the possibility that matter has existed forever as well, with both of those statements offering nothing in the way of intellectual development either. Believe in God as much as you want, but know that the answer to your question will never be found this way either. Study science and together we can all pursue the truth.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  16. Ben

    It's interesting how atheists claim to be such a small, oppressed minority. Have you read the comments on these articles? The vast amount of atheists as opposed to theists is shocking. Should be called the "dis-belief blog".

    March 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • what the

      atheists are outnumbered over 3:1 in the U.S.

      it boggles my mind though how christians act as if they're an oppressed minority, claiming such silliness as "the war on christmas" when over 76% of the U.S. is christian

      March 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Fa shizzle

      I agree. First off this belief blog gets worse and worse because they have these wackos and there crazy stories about God and religion, and I am thinking where in the hell do they get these people. Then all these atheists or whatever get on here thinking this is some mainstream religion or belief. Not sure what the hell is going on.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Fa shizzle

      What the

      do you mean claiming they are christians, or people that are actually christians and truly believe it. I think some people generalize and think mormons or jehovahs witnesses are christians which is weird, because they are not.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Fa shizzle

      What the,

      faith explains all that buddy. Believing in man coming from apes does not. Get over it

      March 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Magic

      Ben,

      "the vast amount of atheists [commenting on these articles] as opposed to theists is shocking."

      It is not very acceptable yet for atheists and agnostics to express their views in society at large. Here, we have permission to do so. Yay! Things are changing. Yay!

      March 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  17. Non Hater

    "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."

    What a great way to remove responsiblity from mankind. It's all God's fault.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Raoul Duke, Jr.

      But god gets all the credit when good and "miraculous" things happen. So why not the blame when bad things happen? Also, no matter the bad things people do, people are not responsible for earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural phenomena that cause terrible harm. So people should not have to take "personal responsibilty" for those things.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  18. Semiotician

    Loving God and hating God are structurally equivalent insofar as they are both structured like psychosis. By "structured like psychosis" I mean that both impose an illusory order and coherence to an inconsistent system. Hating God makes perfect sense because of this similarity – they are both doing the same thing.

    If a horrible event happens in one's life, one can say: "I still love my all-loving God – this was just part of His plan, a plan that I don't understand." Or one can say, "How dare God single me out for tragedy? I hate my spiteful God."

    Both of these reactions, loving or hating God, despite being on opposite ends of an emotional spectrum, do the same thing structurally: they provide a psychotic crutch to inconsistency. In both cases there is a REASON for something incomprehensible happening. There is a story, a narrative going on. Both of these poles of belief say the same thing: "the world still make sense – the responsibility isn't mine to change it."

    The true testament to human will would be neither of these paths, and to say, rather, "This tragedy was an irrational event in an inconsistent world, but there are still things I can do. I can act, make decisions, and try to change the world in my image, to make it a less irrational place."

    This is interesting – thanks for letting me think about it, Bernard.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • KingOfErehwon

      That is an interesting perspective, and I concur.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  19. bmarte

    ok Q i stand corrected. i did think more reasons would be stated. and i guess i'm glad there wasn't.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  20. Matt

    This is actually a pretty good article. I'm an Atheist (and no, I don't hate God, I hate the idea that people actually believe in God or gods as a reason to kill each other or tell others 'you don't believe what I believe so you're going to hell'), but I do happen to know plenty of people who believe in, and hate 'God'. It's always been interesting to me to see how someone could believe in something, hate it, and be passionate about that hate. Hate doesn't do anyone any good, and can actually make you sick physically. I think God-hate must have something to do with depression, or a combination of depression and belief. In any case, I try not to hate on anything. I like the analogy that I may as well hate Shakespeare characters. In my mind, I can't very well hate something that doesn't exist. Do I hate God? Nope. Do I hate that the idea of 'god' creates massive global conflicts, and is used as a tool to control people? You bet I do.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Paul

      You words....
      "Hate doesn't do anyone any good, and can actually make you sick physically" and "I don't hate God, I hate the idea that people actually believe in God or gods as a reason to kill each other or tell others 'you don't believe what I believe so you're going to hell'). Which one is it man?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:33 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.