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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. Reader

    I take exception to the article's reference to Job as a misotheist. A careful reading of the book of Job shows clearly that he was in fact one who loved and worshipped God. The very first verse of the book shows this. When experiencing severe trials Job did question the rightness of God's dealings with him, but he later acknowledged that he spoke too soon and did not have all of the facts. (Job 42:1-3, 6) The book of Job actually points to God's enemy, Satan, as the source of Job's problems. If only the misotheists would make a more objective study of this book; they would see where the blame for world conditions lies.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bee

      I think the writer was referencing those who surrounded Job telling him to "curse God and die." He was using the book to support his idea of misotheism in liturature.

      You're right Job was good...so very very good.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  2. Michael Sawyer

    I wonder how many actually hate god, or are transposing their hatred of his followers onto him.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Cletus

    I like Job because Satan completely plays god for a sucker by goading him into a bet which allowed him to totally destroy Job's life with impunity.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Yes, it should be mandatory reading for Christians who use their religion to deny rights to others.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  4. mmarion

    Pleople hate god for the wrong reasons. He did give us freedom of choise. however, look what we diceded to choose. Just luck at all our wrong doing, who do you think is to blame here. The world is the way it is b/c we have refused to let him guide us. All form of Governace on earth have failed thay can't resolve the issues of the human race b/c they are human themself.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • RedRiver

      Remember kids - god gave you a brain like he gave you an appendix - entirely unnecessarily

      March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  5. Patrick

    People define God to suit their tastes. Two people worshiping in the same church for 50 years would give two vastly disparate accounts of God's powers, motivations, etc. So, hatred of God is defined by the emotional turmoil of the believer. God has what We give Him and nothing more or less. Hatred of God is hatred, love of God is love. With or without God we will continue to love or hate according to our nature. Many atheist are more full of love than many believers. Believers think love of God is the only salvation, while I think love, with or without God, will bring salvation to the individual and to humankind.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  6. tim

    HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO HATE SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT EXIST. I THINK RELIGIOUS LEADERS ARE GREAT CON MEN. WHICH I COULD GET IN ON IT BUT I CAN'T KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      I'm sorry, but the only thing I see when I read all caps is: I HAVE VOICE IMMODULATION DISORDER!

      March 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Ok We'll see who wins in the end. Life is so fragile...we do not even know if we will be here tomorrow. Just like the people that were recently surprised by earthquakes.....repent

    March 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  8. Mark

    I probably fit in one of Mr. Schweizer's categories. At some point in my adult life I gave in to a repressed hatred that manifests itself at different times. That hatred has given me conflict, since I have been very religious and still continue to practice Catholicism. How can I hate God and still pretend to at least want to love him? And then there's the issue of just how much I really know about this God in the first place. This is an area with chaotic amounts of "knowledge."

    It's possible that moments of God hatred are part and parcel of the wrestling match that is our lives. I don't know. I do know that I find myself very conflicted until I simply accept it for what it is – the truth. In doing so, I feel closer to Truth. Certainly God must know the human condition in its delicate relationship with "The Truth." And I do believe that there is something out there to know, and possibly love.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  9. mrgup2

    Hey folks if a GOD want TRUE love, how do you suppose he gets it? Does he cave to every wish and demand of the object of his affection or does he love them even when they dont love him? Does he do wast BEST for them instead of what they may WANT?

    This sounds like every example of TRUE love that I ever encountered. Why do folks think God is torturing us instead of finding those that TRULY love him. FAKERS will never approach him.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Observer

      If my son was about to die and I had COMPLETE control over whether it would happen, I would save him. That is love.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Why do folks think God is torturing us instead of finding those that TRULY love him'
      why does god need to find those people, doesnt he already know?

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

      Observer
      If you found your son sleeping on cold wet ground outside and he wanted to stay would make him go inside and get into a warm be that was better for him.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  10. Zane

    I believe in God, but I despise organized religion because it is a constant source of hate, violence and suffering. As Governor Jessie Ventura once said, "Organized religion is a crutch for the weak-minded."

    Most Christians I know just blindly follow whatever their preacher tells them because they are too lazy to study the scriptures and to search their own hearts and minds for the truth.

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

      Well if Jesse Ventura said that then I better change my whole belief system.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Fa shizzle

      Nothing wrong with organized religion at all. It is the idiots that do not do their research and follow a true church. Unfortunately, there are the preachers who teach "name it and claim it" and have reaped millions due to it. The mindless sheep who follow this should be ashamed of themselves.

      It drives me nuts how mindless people follow the theory of evolution. It makes me go Donkey Kong mad!!!!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  11. Readtolearn

    People, every day you have a choice to believe in fantasy or reality in life. Fantasy – going to the casino or a movie, Reality = mowing the lawn or doing your taxes. Fantasy if fun and reality is grim, boring, depressing. Religion is fantasy and it's fun, uplifting, and social, just makes you feel good. But religion is not reality. Reality is you become a human by a chance connection of egg and sperm, you try to live a life that is moral and beneficial so that people will remember you after you die and then when you die, that's that. Your body decomposes and turns back into dust, or earth or carbon or something. There is no heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana, hades, etc. No bearded old man sitting on a throne up in the sky. It's fun to fantasize about pearly gates and angels but guess–what that's not reality! To each her own. Whatever gets you through the night (John Lennon)

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

      I have a few problems here. First, fantasy isn't always nice or fun. If you think that, then you're not very creative. I don't think the distinction you draw between fantasy and reality is really all that useful. Fantasies are only non-realities until they become real. You can debate the likelihood of whether or not a fantasy is, or will become, real until you're blue in the face and it won't matter much. Religion serves a purpose for some people and so do fantasies. You, in fact, have no real way of knowing if there's a heaven or a hell, and neither do I.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rock

      Where did the sperm and the egg come from?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  12. FaithForThinkers

    Expressing rage against God isn't necessarily blasphemous. The Psalms are full of examples in which the psalmist shakes his angry fist at a God who seems to have turned his back on his own people. (See Psalms 44 and 88, for example. They're called "imprecatory Psalms".) In fact, there are so many recorded examples of this, that it seems the Bible actually encourages giving vent to those kinds of angry feelings, doubts and questions. The biblical message seems to be that God prefers angry imprecation to casual indifference.

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

      That's right–hot or cold; lukeward is spit out

      March 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Bee

      lukewarm not "lukeward"

      March 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  13. Dave

    @BL – Nicely put, from a Buddhist / Taoist. Namaste. 🙂

    March 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  14. aleksandrvin

    "Although these radical dissenters could steal the thunder from the New Atheists, they have remained almost unknown to date."

    And they still would be if you hadn't brought them up in one of the most pointless and uninteresting articles I've read in 50 years.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • barabbas2010

      hahahahahahahahhaaaaaaaa . . . . .

      i swear, no matter the topic, there is always one troll in the bushes.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Ed

      what exactlyis a 'new atheist'? if the old atheist didn't beleive and the new atheist doesn't beleive what's new. Its hard to have a movemnt about lack of something to move on.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  15. mrgup2

    I dont see any revealing conflict.

    The Bible says that "even the demons believe in the lord, and they shudder."
    Belief without faith is not of a follower of God.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Bee

      the bible definitely doesn't say that.

      Was that C.S. Lewis?

      March 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Bee

      No, you're right, James 2 says it. I stand corrected...

      March 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bee

      I like how you've separated Belief from Faith...very important. God-haters have lost their faith, not their belief.

      ...Lucifer...

      March 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Q

      Well, I lost my faith (about 9 or 10) when I read the command from God to slaughter children and infants. I stopped believing when I realized that the emperors simply wore no clothes. Either way, the Biblical God is cruel and capricious and the personality shift between the OT and NT just confirms the Biblical God is schizophrenic as well...

      March 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Dom

      James 2:19 says that!!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Andy

      James 2:19 'You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.'

      I do not agree with people's hatred of God but part of perfect love allows for rejection. When you are loved, you are not forced, you are given a choice. People can choose to hate God. This choice proves (to me) that God loves us and the perfect example of that perfect love is Jesus.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  16. joseph hyde

    I would characterize myself as a non-believing, god-hater. Meaning that I will not be surprised to find out after death that there is no god to judge me. However, if I'm wrong, and there is a god to greet me on the other side, my first act will be to slap him in the face.

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

      Wow... do you think you will get the chance to "slap him"? It might be best to seriously consider "WHAT IF". I was never a real believer and rejected most if not all of it from a lack of understanding.... that is until I felt the spirit... with that I asked questions and the answers were given. Now I am simply a sinner and and ask Jesus for mercy every day... try my best to keep his commandments and worship God as often as I can. All I can say is that spirits are real... we have one in us... it is best to study that and the best way to do that is to read the writings that have been passed down through ages.

      Jesus loves you but you have to believe in him. God Bless!!!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • XxAdamJxX

      That has to be one of the most idiotic things i've ever heard

      March 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • XxAdamJxX

      That was for Joseph btw

      March 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Teo

      That's just it. People invented God a long time ago to keep you in your place. An angry, mythological, old man watching you from the sky will keep you from rebelling and doing what you want. They thought you couldn't be good, just for goodness sake. They believed they had to keep you in line with threats and fear since free will would always allow you to choose evil over good. What pessimists.

      Now you are waking up and have the audacity to think you could slap God's face, exactly the type of courage they were trying to avoid. Even though God did NOT create those crazy ideas in the first place. Come on, would the creator of the entire universe need Earthlings to feed his ego? Really, he can do anything or make anything, but he is so arrogant that he has to create tiny creatures to worship him? A true god would NOT need an ego or humans for that matter.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I say we crucify him on sight!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  17. Newton Minow

    What's the difference how something came from nothing? It happened. It simply IS. Just live in it, enjoy it, be at peace with it, don't try to explain it. No one will ever know the truth of how it happened. 8 billion years from now when the sun explodes, the answer still will not be known. The real answer we need is how to live peacefully within what is. That is what spirituality is. Screw religion, it's all about death.

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

      I don't know why but this post reminded me of a quote, "Science never tries to determine the why, only the how." In that sense, there's no particular reason to just accept something; we just need to not confuse knowing how something works and knowing why it happened. Acceptance that something IS does not preclude wanting to explain it. I can want (and sometimes have) both.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • don

      Bingo!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  18. Aaron Klehn

    I was raised Christian, but by the time I was a teen I seriously questioned things. The bible didnt make sense.......jonah and the whale ? Noah put EVERY animal on a boat and survived a flood that covered the Earth ?? Every human is damned due to eating a apple ?? How can an omnipotent and compassionate God do this ??? I think all religions are man-made; the stories are good moral beacons but that is it. There probably is something beyond the life we know, but it is something we havent conceived yet.........

    March 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • CrustyOldGuy

      Yes, everyone has in the the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and, by attempting to control their environment, are cursed with work. You can be as GODS! was the serpent's lie.

      Discuss.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • CrustyOldGuy

      Yes, everyone has in them the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and, by attempting to control their environment, are cursed with work. You can be as GODS! was the serpent's lie.

      Discuss.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Aaron Klehn

      What kind of a perfect being would show anger and retribution against his own creation ? If he is beyond our understanding in terms of adavancement he displays human-like choices/behaviours.........

      March 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • jill

      First of all in the Bible it doesnt say Noah took all the animals it just said he took on two of each kind.
      Also you said in the Bible Adam/Even ate of the apple- It doesnt say that either, it says they ate of the forbidden fruit. So if you say you were brought up in the church as a Christian but then questioned the truth of the bible maybe you should read it again. I think it sounds like you were believing what someone told you rather than reading what the Word said itself.

      It always amazes me how people talk about how the bible is not true and the same people havent got a clue whats actually written in it.

      If you read it and then dont belief I get that, but I dont get how you say you dont believe and dont even know what it says.

      Just a thought

      March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Aaron Klehn

      My grandmother and grandfather were born-again christians and every weekend we had bible study so I do know the bible quite well. Yes; you are right...it was forbidden fruit but the point is that it was an act of denying an entire history of people salvation is akin to a three year old having a fit for not getting candy. Not exactly what you would expect from a superior being. I was surrounded by people of faith who "felt the spirit" or were talking in tongues,saw spirits,etc..............I waited for over 30 years and not once did I ever feel anything...........and I did want to.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  19. DGirl101

    Maybe its not that they hate god but that they hate the churches for what they've done to god; all the misinterpretations, assumptions, sneaking editing and rewriting of the bible; the whole solely patriarchal nonsense; the propaganda and falsification of evidence; and the crimes and murders committed in god's name. Simple case of transferral. Not sure what any divine being would think about all this, other than not liking it.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • mat

      You nailed it. I believe in God, but refuse to go to a church because of those very reasons.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • keeth in cali

      <- raises hand. Ditto.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • nancyb

      THANK YOU! That what people in many (not all) cases "hate" is not God (however one conceives of the Divine), but man-made religion being used as a kind of weapon of self-righteousness against others, and that God no doubt deplores the whole "religion" thing too, has seemed clear to me for a long time. Try divorcing God from religion and the religious and form your own relationship. God's will is love; there is nothing in that to hate.

      March 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Shaking my head

      You're exactly right. It's a distrust of man's whoring of God as a source of power and measure of control. When you accept the fact that man has abused the notion of God for his own benefit since recorded history and probably before, you begin to question your beliefs of what God actually is (since what you've been told comes from an untrustworthy source). For myself, I accept the Christian interpretations but with a wary eye of scrutiny especially toward the flavor of the day churches popping up everytime someone had a dream or more often, is irritated at their current church masters. It is what it is...

      March 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Aaron Klehn

      The rational choice is to seperate religion from belief; remove any name from it. Any church of any religion is a poor example of any type of deity. Perhaps there is something beyond this dimension but I think man himself has perverted and twisted his interpretation on the almighty, and of course used that power for his own good.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Michael

      Fence sitters who don't claim a religion but believe in God... Where, then, do you get your stigmatic dogma if not exclusively the imagination? Your certainly can not call yourself a Christian or a Muslim, or an associate of any Abrahamic religion. Perhaps if you were to claim yourself as a deist or a pantheist this would make sense.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • nancyb

      I don't think of God as a football team, and I don't feel the need to try placing bets on human notions of the "right" God, or the exact formula of belief that will get me on the "winning" side. None of us is qualified to make an intelligent enough wager on "who" God is. Find me a religion in which the ego and the human drive to "win" and be "right" are set aside (and which has never been used against others for power or material gain), and I'll consider signing up. In the meantime, God and I are doing just fine on our own.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  20. BL

    From the Buddhist perspective, the great cosmic joke, is that ultimately, we ARE God. There is no separation, since everything in existence is an expression of God's consciousness in form. The false belief that we are separate individuals in a world of separate objects is, Maya, the dream that we are imprisoned in.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Michael

      It's too bad we were "created" (rhetorical purpose only.) to desire a thing to be tangible and discernible without ambiguity in order for us to really know it exists. And it's too bad that what you're saying has just as much metaphysical evidence as Jesus claiming to be the son of God, or me claiming to be the deadliest ninja in all of history.

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

      From a " free thinker's" point of veiw, prove it!!!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:18 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.