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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. pete

    This 'belief blog" stinks. All these lame articles do is teach unbelief. This is the blind leading the blind blog. Most of you morons obviously know nothing about the Kingdom of God or the gospel of Jesus Christ. But your telling everyone else how it is. Hey, sorry, I'm not jumping into the ditch with you. I'm calling you out. Give up your sin. Look to Christ and learn of Him. Get a new life. It's free!

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      "I'm calling you out" Don't you feel powerful as you extent you long bony wart infested finger.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Q

      "This is the blind leading the blind blog. Most of you morons obviously know nothing about the Kingdom of God or the gospel of Jesus Christ. But your telling everyone else how it is. " My irony meter exploded. How dare people question your particular interpretation of the magical sky daddy and his son/himself. "I'm calling you out." I see you're one of those new gunslinger evangelists! LOL!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Philo Cafe

      Oh, for the love of Pete!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Name calling. In terms of IQ A moron is 50-69, imbecile 20-49 and idiot below 20.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Reality Check

      I agree with LeeCMH. There is no need for name calling...nor referring to biblical passages as "1 Jibberish". Yes, we can see your other posts.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      I agree my post regarding "Jibberish" is sarcastic. My experience is that once a forum gets into quoting their sacred texts, any other discussion stops. It says in John... it says in Leviticus, but it says in my book something else. My translation says....

      March 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Tyhouston

    Oh I can sum this up.
    Q. Why some people hate god.
    #1 Answer

    HIS FOLLOWERS.

    I'd hate any fake being in the sky who preaches peace (well no he does) followed by intolerant chimps who think they are allowed to use violence at the drop of a hat and they just have to be "forgiven" so they can do it again.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Tyhouston

      No he doesn't heh

      March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bee

      Door swings both ways, with Atheists standing on the other side.

      Bad logic

      March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  3. bakertribunal

    The fact we live in a screwed up universe doesn't disprove nor validate the existence of a creator. People have demonstrated time and time again that they never do anything productive when there isn't something negative going on that they can point their finger at and laugh.

    At the end of the day, people only appreciate the wonderful things about the world because those things are continually contrasted against tragedies and day-to-day imperfections. There can't be light without darkness, and vice versa, etc.

    The fact that nobody seems to understand this basic concept is the reason all of you lack perspective in the first place.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  4. SadieKats

    I don't believe in anything I can't see.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Philo Cafe

      Well then if that's true, I bet you're really in a conundrum whenever you turn on your cell phone: not only can you not see the radio waves traveling to and from your phone, you also can't see the person whose voice you're hearing on the other end!! (unless, of coure, you have that new iphone with the camera thingy).

      March 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Reality Check

      So I suppose you are not a fan of dark matter, dark energy or radiation. Might want to rethink that statement. You don't believe in anything that you have not yourself experienced. But then that is problematic, too, because you've accepted the witness of scientists as to the existence of molecules, atoms, etc. Perhaps, then, you should say that you do not believe in anything that is untestable by science. But, then we are back to dark matter and dark energy which cannot be directly tested by science. We are getting into an epistemological quagmire here...

      March 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Luke

      I understand your point, but it sure is a poor way of stating it.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Philo Cafe

    @ Alex and others,

    What incredibly arrogant, presumptuous, uninformed and narrow-sighted views you posted. Individuals such as yourselves misunderstanding the point entirely is why the self-reflection of the so-called "misothesists" is done within the relative safety of brilliant works of literature. To put it another way, wombats don't read Shakespeare.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  6. Andrew Johnson

    I have heard of people “hating God” or blaming religion for many of the worlds problems. Many people ask “if God is good why does he allow so much suffering in the world?” I am a Christian and I believe the Bible is the word of God. It seems to me to be somewhat of a contradiction when people want God to stop all the evil and suffering in the world however they also do not want God to have control/ be a part of their lives. Many people want to be free to live their lives however they choose yet when others make bad choices (sin, hurt others, murder) there is the idea that God should have intervened to stop them.
    I believe the bible shows that God wants a relationship with humans, he created us in his image and with a mind to reason. The thing about a relationship is that it requires free will and choice. If humans could not choose evil then neither could they choose good. If good is the only option then it is no longer a choice; we would all be mindless slaves of God.
    In the bible there are several instances where God did intervene to save humanity from itself. In Genesis 3:22 after sin entered the world and separated humanity from God the “Tree of Life” was taken away from man (I believe) so that man would not live forever in an eternal state of separation from God. In Genesis 6:3 God limited the life of man to 120 years. I believe this was done because God saw that man was becoming “evil continuously.” (Gen 6:5) The longer people lived the more wicked they became. Also, in Genesis 11:6-7 God limited man again at the Tower of Bable by confusing their language. God has limited the wickedness of man in the past. However, because of our sinful nature our desires will always be mostly evil. To require of God a free will also requires God to give us the choice of evil.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      It says in Jibberish 12-15, "..."

      March 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Teo

      Quoting Genesis is like quoting mythology or fairy tales. Way back when men chose the stories for the bible they thought the Earth was flat and was the center of the universe. Cute story, but one that is pure fiction.

      March 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  7. JAB

    I find it really sad that people blame God for all the wrong that is in the world. When God created this world, he made it perfect. When Satan fell, he started corrupting God's creation. God is not powerless to stop Satan, but He lets Satan roam for a season. We as humans are free to choose who we will serve. In God's appointed time, all of this mess will be wiped away by God's consuming fire, Satan and his children will be destroyed, and the New Jerusalem will be established. And the children of God will praise and worship the Lord Jesus Christ forever.

    Now, if there were no struggle, if there were nothing from which to be saved, what need would we have of a Savior? If we had not experienced the bad, how would we appreciate the good? There would be no praise, no thankfulness, no worship if there was no salvation. However, we are all guilty of death, and salvation by the grace of God is extended to everyone. The only "catch" is that you have to accept it. Not everyone will, but the gift of salvation is to everyone nonetheless. And we who except it realize what we deserved and thank God that He saved us anyway.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Wiseman

      o really?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'There would be no praise, no thankfulness, no worship if there was no salvation'
      oh so god does it because his ego needs massaging.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Luke

      Cool STORY.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Teo

      God didn't save the dinosaurs, and He is not going to save you either.

      Satan – a convenient scapegoat for humans who make bad choices and need an excuse for being irresponsible.

      March 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  8. Dan

    From my perspective, I have met quite a few people who openly hate God. They all claim to believe, they just hate God and can not respect God. In my opinion in each of those cases the hatred was misplaced. They were angry because of the failings of other men's choices or organization's or some times even chance.

    I don't believe in a God that is constantly controlling everything and everyone, we each have our own choices and the ability to change our lives and the lives of those around us. God does not step into either take away a man's free will or to take away the consequences of another man's choice. God however is there for those that seek after him.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  9. LeeCMH

    It is hard to hate God when you've got to worry about His followers.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  10. willie

    Belief is the enemy. For people to simply believe something without any proof is delusional. Peer pressure is the only force keeping religion alive. There is no proof of god in any religion. Hating something that apparently doesn't exist is just as silly as worshiping it.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Andrew Johnson

      What you seek, you shall find. If there was definite proof of God that no one could refute then the free will to believe in God would not exist. This is my thought- one day I will be dead, everyone I know will be dead, one day the Earth will die along with our sun and eventually our universe. If one day everything we know will cease to exist (as science tells us it will) then what was the purpose of it? How can something that does not exist (at least in the future) have purpose? If you can show me how my life has purpose with out God then I will stop believing in him.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  11. Cancer spouse

    Hatred of God? Years of vomit, chemotherapy, pain, and shattered dreams can do the trick.

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

      true. Those who really suffer and believe know how easy it is to hate God...

      most of us will eventually truly suffer, so hatred towards God is a human problem

      March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Karen Saucedo

      I'm so sorry that you and your spouse had to go through that. It obviously was a horrible time. I don't believe in God and I'm not here to sell anything. I just want to wish you some peace as some point and that you are able to eventually get back to the happiest of memories with him or her.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Maybe

      @Karen Saucedo,

      Very nice thoughts from you. Thank you.

      @Cancer spouse,

      I wish you strength and peace also. I have been there, and it's... well, you know... oh, how you know.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  12. drow

    misotheism, the worship of miso soup

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

      I hate miso soup. taste like drinking ocean. barf

      March 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • RichG

      That was stupid!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Mi-So-Sleepy

      Miso-gyny, the aversion to women who worship in the Miso-soup faith

      March 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  13. SurelyUjest

    I think the author here has mistaken the group of which he speaks as being some stagnant group of "believers". What i am seeing is two groups some coming to "beleive" from a bad place or some going from "belief" from a bad place. There is NO set fact that this belief or lack thereof group of people exists as a stationary target to be proslethized or understood or include or excluded (the way he has excluded athiests). I say fine you noticed some people who are independant and write.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Philo Cafe

      My questions are, who is "Surely," and why is she jesting?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  14. Mr Mark

    While we're on the subject of the Greek word "miseo" meaning hate, I'd point out that miseo is the word used in the verses in Matthew where Jesus says that if one doesn't hate their family, they cannot truly love him.

    I point that out because apologists for gentle Jesus, meek and mild usually attempt to candy coat those verses, saying that Jesus didn't mean to literally hate one's family. Well, sorry, apologists, but the word miseo literally means hate, just as plain as our word "hate" means hate to us today.

    Jesus taught hatred of family. Jesus was violent (he formed a scourge and beat people with it in the temple). Maybe the reason some people "hate" the god Jesus isn't hatred at all. Maybe it's that they see no reason to "follow" a person who teaches hate and violence.

    I call that a reasoned position.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Interesting. Aramaic being akin to Hebrew offers another viewpoint on this word "hate". Because Jesus was speaking to nationals, he was likely using Aramaic. Therein the word "hate" can mean "set aside" or "not favored". What is lost in translation in the Greek is this Aramaic sense. Your hypothesis that Jesus was teaching a literal hate of the family fails the contextual challenge. Though, Jesus chose to stay with his disciples rather than going with his mother and brothers, he also made sure his mother was well taken care of by John (even while he hung from the cross). This is far from "hate". Also, he healed the ear of a man who had come to arrest him. This too is far from hate. The forming of the scourge was due to his displeasure that the moneychangers and those selling items for the temple had 1) blocked the outer court making it difficult for people to come to worship and 2) that people were making excessive money off the worship of God. If you believe that Jesus is God's Son and this is God's Temple. He's just kicking them out of his house. That's the actual context of the event. What you are doing is called "eisegesis" and is hardly fair to the biblical presentation of who Jesus said he was or is.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  15. Anita

    Q- It wasn't indiscriminate. He saved 8 souls (Noah, his wife, his 3 sons and their wives) because they truly did care and listened to God's voice. You don't seem to understand the insignificance of your life. (or anyone else's for that matter) The issue is God's soverienty; whether or not he has the right to rule. Whether or not people need to listen to him or choose their own way to live. We surely can see where choosing our own way has got us. Mankinds rulership has done nothing but cause castastrophy and destruction for thousands of years. Don't blame God for bad religion. People are responsible for that. The Bible indicates that the people who have misrepresented him will face the same fate as the ones who died in the flood.

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

      @Anita – What, no mention of the Amalekite children and infants (and that preceding commandment NOT to commit murder)? What about the children and babies who drowned? Why destroy the entire world with a (purely mythical) flood to rid it of the wicked when an omnipotent deity could simply "poof" them away? Why the need for children and infants to suffer? I understand you'll continue to rationalize this away and make excuses because at the heart of it, you'd justify any alleged behavior of the Biblical God, no matter how obviously abhorrent, as righteous because you (selfishly) fear anything less won't let you live forever. Moral relativism at best, moral cowardice more likely...

      March 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  16. Lee Oates

    Bree, thats it in a nutshell.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  17. NwsReader29

    Here in the bible does it say that heaven is without evil? Did the war of angels start in heaven?

    I've heard satan created evil. God created Lucifer, God is all knowing, therefore God knowingly created evil. That line of reasoning is tested on any standard IQ test. Though I do firmly believe without evil, good would have no meaning. God or no God, appreciating your blessings is the whole point of this life.

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

      Truth: God didn't create Lucifer.

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

      But you're reasoning is correct...if God did create Lucifer–well, that's a theological problem. God really didn't create Lucifer.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Truth: God didn't create Lucifer.'
      then who are you suggesting did?

      March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • L in Seattle

      No one 'made' Lucifer evil. He rebelled against God of his own free choice. He chose evil over good.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Bee

      CedarRapids, that's a good question, and I don't really know. It requires faith to keep asking it.

      By the way, some things aren't created or made, and some things can't be destroyed.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  18. isaac mau

    I hate god, 🙂 and i'm proud of it 🙂 but thats my personal belief and in no way you are justified to go around attempting to explain anyones behavior when it comes from something as personal and deep as spirituality.

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

      Oh man. The S-word again. Spirituality.

      It has come over us like an epidemic. In the 70s people travelled in troves to the ashrams, there was New Age, people re-discovered old pagan rites and what have you... yup, some synapses in you temporal lobes fire and suddenly you experience "the proximity of a higher being"... some people have learned to stimulate those areas through thoughts and behaviour (prayers, rituals etc.) and get rewarded by those neurons firing again. In experiments the stimulation of those areas (near your ears) has lead people to experience "god"... so with the ever increasing cellphone use we should prepare ourselves for more waves of "spirituality".

      March 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  19. Peter

    Well if you read the bible or quran and how "god" talks of burning the unbelievers for not believing in him/her/it.
    I would hate god too.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  20. hate-sucks

    One can not hate something that does not exist.

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

      Ditto!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Luke

      Not the point. The point is they are hating what they believe in. I don't believe either, but I understand the point the author is making.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      I'm not sure that's true. I like to write fiction. I really hate some of the characters I write. Do my characters actually exist? It does seem rather unlikely, but I still think some of them are d-bags. Hatred is irrelevant.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Kirstyloo

      Yes, you can hate things that DON'T exist if things that DO exist give the stimuli.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:36 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.