MISOTHEISM is the "hatred of
God " or "hatred of the gods " (from the
Greek adjective μισόθεος "hating the gods", a compound of
μῖσος "hatred" and θεός "god"). In some varieties of
polytheism , it was considered possible to inflict punishment on gods
by ceasing to worship them. Thus, Hrafnkell, protagonist of the
Hrafnkels saga set in the 10th century, as his temple to
Freyr is burnt and he is enslaved, states that "I think it is folly to
have faith in gods", never performing another blót (sacrifice), a
position described in the sagas as goðlauss, "godless". Jacob Grimm
in his Teutonic Mythology observes that:
It is remarkable that Old Norse legend occasionally mentions certain
men who, turning away in utter disgust and doubt from the heathen
faith, placed their reliance on their own strength and virtue. Thus in
the Sôlar lioð 17 we read of Vêbogi and Râdey á sjálf sig þau
trûðu, "in themselves they trusted".
In monotheism , the sentiment arises in the context of theodicy (the
problem of evil , the
Euthyphro dilemma ). A famous literary
expression of misotheistic sentiment is
Goethe 's Prometheus ,
composed in the 1770s.
A related concept is dystheism (
Ancient Greek : δύσ θεος "bad
god"), the belief that a god is not wholly good , and is possibly
Trickster gods found in polytheistic belief systems often have a
dystheistic nature. One example is
Eshu , a trickster god from Yoruba
religion who deliberately fostered violence between groups of people
for his own amusement, saying that "causing strife is my greatest
The concept of the
Demiurge in some versions of ancient Gnosticism
also often portrayed the
Demiurge as a generally evil entity.
Many polytheistic deities since prehistoric times have been assumed
to be neither good nor evil (or to have both qualities). Thus
dystheism is normally used in reference to the Judeo-Christian God. In
God as the summum bonum , the proposition of
being wholly good would of course be an oxymoron .
A historical proposition close to "dystheism" is the deus deceptor
"evil demon " (dieu trompeur) of
René Descartes ' Meditations on
First Philosophy , which has been interpreted by Protestant critics as
the blasphemous proposition that
God exhibits malevolent intent. But
Kennington states that Descartes never declared his "evil genius" to
be omnipotent, but merely no less powerful than he is deceitful, and
thus not explicitly an equivalent to God, the singular omnipotent
* 1 Terminology
* 4 Scripture
Misotheism in art and literature
* 5.1 Poetry and drama
* 5.2 Modern literature
* 5.4 Popular music
* 5.5 Modern art
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 External links
Misotheism first appears in a dictionary in 1907. The Greek
μισόθεος is found in
Aeschylus (Agamemnon 1090). The English
word appears as a nonce -coinage, used by
Thomas de Quincey in 1846.
It is comparable to the original meaning of Greek atheos of "rejecting
the gods, rejected by the gods, godforsaken". Strictly speaking, the
term connotes an attitude towards the gods (one of hatred) rather than
making a statement about their nature.
Bernard Schweizer (2002) stated
"that the English vocabulary seems to lack a suitable word for
outright hatred of God... history records a number of outspoken
misotheists", believing "misotheism" to be his original coinage.
Applying the term to the work of
Philip Pullman (
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials ),
Schweizer clarifies that he does not mean the term to carry the
negative connotations of misanthropy : "To me, the word connotes a
heroic stance of humanistic affirmation and the courage to defy the
powers that rule the universe."
Dystheism is the belief that
God exists but is not wholly good ,
or that he might even be evil . The opposite concept is eutheism , the
God exists and is wholly good. Eutheism and dystheism are
straightforward Greek formations from eu- and dys- + theism ,
paralleling atheism ; δύσθεος in the sense of "godless,
ungodly" appearing e.g. in
Aeschylus (Agamemnon 1590). The terms are
nonce coinages, used by
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin philosophy
professor Robert C. Koons in a 1998 lecture. According to Koons,
"eutheism is the thesis that
God exists and is wholly good, dystheism
is the thesis that
God exists but is not wholly good." However, many
proponents of dystheistic ideas (including
Elie Wiesel and David
Blumenthal) do not offer those ideas in the spirit of hating God.
Their work notes God's apparent evil or at least indifferent
disinterest in the welfare of humanity, but does not express hatred
towards him because of it. A notable usage of the concept that the
gods are either indifferent or actively hostile towards humanity is in
Cthulhu mythos of
H.P. Lovecraft .
* Maltheism is an ad-hoc coining appearing on
Usenet in 1985,
referring to the belief in God's malevolence inspired by the thesis of
Tim Maroney that "even if a
God as described in the
Bible does exist,
he is not fit for worship due to his low moral standards." The same
term has also seen use among designers and players of role-playing
games to describe a world with a malevolent deity.
Antitheism is direct opposition to theism. As such, it is
generally manifested more as an opposition to belief in a god (to
theism per se) than as opposition to gods themselves, making it more
associated with antireligion , although
Buddhism is generally
considered to be a religion despite its status with respect to theism
being more nebulous.
Antitheism by this definition does not
necessarily imply belief in any sort of god at all, it simply stands
in opposition to the idea of theistic religion. Under this definition,
antitheism is a rejection of theism that does not necessarily imply
belief in gods on the part of the antitheist. Some might equate any
form of antitheism to an overt opposition to God, since these beliefs
run contrary to the idea of making devotion to
God the highest
priority in life, although those ideas would imply that
and that he wishes to be worshiped, or to be believed in.
* Certain forms of dualism make the assertion that the thing
God in this world is actually an evil impostor, but that
a true benevolent deity worthy of being called "God" exists beyond
this world. Thus, the Gnostics (see
Ophites ) believed that
God (the deity worshiped by Jews, Greek Pagan philosophers and
Christians) was really an evil creator or demiurge that stood between
us and some greater, more truly benevolent real deity. Similarly,
God as represented in the
Old Testament as a
wrathful, malicious demiurge.
Problem of evil
Problem of evil , and
Dystheistic speculation arises from consideration of the problem of
evil — the question of why God, who is supposedly omnipotent,
omniscient, and omnibenevolent, would allow evil to exist in the
world. Koons notes that this is only a theological problem for a
eutheist, since a dystheist would not find the existence of evil (or
God's authorship of it) to be an obstacle to theistic belief. In fact,
the dystheistic option would be a consistent non-contradictory
response to the problem of evil. Thus Koons concludes that the problem
of theodicy (explaining how
God can be good despite the apparent
contradiction presented in the problem of evil) does not pose a
challenge to all possible forms of theism (i.e., that the problem of
evil does not present a contradiction to someone who would believe
God exists but that he is not necessarily good).
This conclusion implicitly takes the first horn of the Euthyphro
dilemma , asserting the independence of good and evil morality from
God is defined in monotheistic belief). Historically, the
notion of "good" as an absolute concept has emerged in parallel with
the notion of
God being the singular entity identified with good. In
this sense, dystheism amounts to the abandonment of a central feature
of historical monotheism: the de facto association of
God with the
summum bonum .
Arthur Schopenhauer wrote: "This world could not have been the work
of an all-loving being, but that of a devil, who had brought creatures
into existence in order to delight in the sight of their sufferings."
Critics of Calvin 's doctrines of predestination frequently argued
that Calvin's doctrines did not successfully avoid describing
"the author of evil".
Much of post-
Holocaust theology , especially in Judaic theological
circles, is devoted to a rethinking of God's goodness. Examples
include the work of David R. Blumenthal, author of Facing the Abusing
God (1993) and John K. Roth, whose essay "A
Theodicy of Protest" is
included in Encountering Evil: Live Options in
Everything hinges on the proposition that
God possesses—but fails
to use well enough—the power to intervene decisively at any moment
to make history's course less wasteful. Thus, in spite and because of
his sovereignty, this
God is everlastingly guilty and the degrees run
from gross negligence to mass murder...
To the extent that are born with the potential and power to , credit
for that fact belongs elsewhere. "Elsewhere" is God's address.
The deus deceptor (French dieu trompeur) "deceptive god" is a concept
Voetius accused Descartes of blasphemy in 1643.
Jacques Triglandius and
Jacobus Revius , theologians at Leiden
University , made similar accusations in 1647, accusing Descartes of
God to be a deceiver", a position that they stated to be
"contrary to the glory of God". Descartes was threatened with having
his views condemned by a synod , but this was prevented by the
intercession of the
Prince of Orange (at the request of the French
Ambassador Servien). The accusations referenced a passage in the
First Meditation where Descartes stated that he supposed not an
God but rather an evil demon "summe potens "> References to
God as wrathful or violent are more sparse in the
New Testament than
in the Old, but a number of antitheist speakers, notably Hitchens and
Matt Dillahunty have drawn attention to a number of passages.
MISOTHEISM IN ART AND LITERATURE
Misotheistic and/or dystheistic expression has a long history in the
arts and in literature.
Bernard Schweizer ’s book Hating God: The
Untold Story of
Misotheism is devoted to this topic. He traces the
history of ideas behind misotheism from the
Book of Job
Book of Job , via
Epicureanism and the twilight of Roman paganism, to deism , anarchism
, Nietzschean philosophy, feminism , and radical humanism. The main
literary figures in his study are
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley , Algernon
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston ,
Rebecca West ,
Elie Wiesel , Peter
Shaffer , and
Philip Pullman . Schweizer argues that literature is the
preferred medium for the expression of God-hatred because the creative
possibilities of literature allow writers to simultaneously unburden
themselves of their misotheism, while ingeneously veiling their
Other examples include:
Goethe 's Prometheus
* the work of the
Marquis de Sade
Marquis de Sade
Emily Dickinson 's poem "Apparently With No Surprise" depicts God
as approving of suffering in the world, relating the tale of a flower
"beheaded" by a late frost as the sun "measure off another day for an
Mark Twain (himself a Deist) argued against what he saw as the
God many followed in a posthumously published book, The Bible
According to Mark Twain: Writings on Heaven, Eden, and the Flood. He
talks, in part, about the African "sleeping sickness", malaria .
* Ivan Karamazov in Fyodor
Dostoyevsky 's 1879 The Brothers
Karamazov articulates what might be termed a dystheistic rejection of
God. Koons covered this argument in the lecture immediately following
the one referenced above. It was also discussed by
Peter S. Fosl in
his essay titled "The Moral Imperative to Rebel Against God".
* Konrad, the protagonist of
Adam Mickiewicz 's Forefathers\' Eve ,
God a tsar .
In more recent times, the sentiment is present in a variety of media:
POETRY AND DRAMA
The characters in several of
Tennessee Williams ' plays express
dystheistic attitudes, including the Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon in The
Night of the Iguana .
Robert Frost 's poem "Design" questions how
God could have created
death if he were benevolent.
In Jewish author
Elie Wiesel 's play The Trial of
God (1979), the
survivors of a pogrom , in which most of the inhabitants of a
17th-century Jewish village were massacred, put
God on trial for his
cruelty and indifference to their misery. The play is based on an
actual trial Wiesel participated in that was conducted by inmates of
Auschwitz concentration camp during the Nazi holocaust , but it
also references a number of other incidents in Jewish history
including a similar trial conducted by the
Rabbi Levi Yosef
Yitzhak of Berdichev :
Men and women are being beaten, tortured and killed. True, they are
victims of men. But the killers kill in God's name. Not all? True, but
let one killer kill for God's glory, and
God is guilty. Every person
who suffers or causes suffering, every woman who is raped, every child
who is tormented implicates Him. What, you need more? A hundred or a
thousand? Listen, either he is responsible or he is not. If he is,
let's judge him. If he is not, let him stop judging us.
Several non-Jewish authors share Wiesel's concerns about God's
Salman Rushdie (
The Satanic Verses , Shalimar the
Clown ) and
Anne Provoost (In the Shadow of the Ark):
Why would you trust a
God that doesn't give us the right book?
Throughout history, he's given the Jewish people a book, he's given
the Christians a book, and he's given the Muslims books, and there are
big similarities between these books, but there are also
contradictions. ... He needs to come back and create clarity and not
... let us fight over who's right. He should make it clear. So, my
personal answer to your question, "Should we trust ", I wouldn't.
The writing of
Sir Kingsley Amis contains some misotheistic themes;
e.g. in The Green Man (God's appearance as the young man), and in The
Anti-Death League (the anonymous poem received by the chaplain).
A number of speculative fiction works present a dystheistic
perspective, at least as far back as the works of H. P. Lovecraft and
Olaf Stapledon 's influential philosophical short novel
Star Maker .
By the 1970s,
Harlan Ellison even described dystheism as a bit of a
science fiction cliché. Ellison himself has dealt with the theme in
The Deathbird ", the title story of
Deathbird Stories , a
collection based on the theme of (for the most part) malevolent
Lester del Rey
Lester del Rey 's "Evensong " (the first story in
Harlan Ellison's much-acclaimed
Dangerous Visions anthology), tells
the story of a fugitive
God hunted down across the universe by a
vengeful humanity which seeks to "put him in his place". "Faith of Our
Fathers " by
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick , also from the same anthology, features a
horrifying vision of a being, possibly God, who is all-devouring and
Philip Pullman 's previously mentioned trilogy, His Dark
Materials , presented the theme of a negligent or evil
God to a wider
audience, as depicted in the 2007 film The Golden Compass based on the
first book of this trilogy.
The original series of
Star Trek featured episodes with dystheistic
themes, amongst them "
The Squire of Gothos ", "Who Mourns for Adonais?
For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky ", and "The
Return of the Archons ". In "
Encounter at Farpoint ", the pilot
episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation , Captain Jean-Luc Picard
informs Q , a trickster with god-like powers similar to the antagonist
in the aforementioned "Squire of Gothos" episode, that 24th century
humans no longer had any need to depend upon or worship god figures.
This is an amplification of the tempered anti-theistic sentiment from
"Who Mourns for Adonais?", in which Captain
James T. Kirk
James T. Kirk tells Apollo
that "Mankind has no need for gods, we find the one quite adequate."
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine it is revealed that the Klingon creation
myth involves the first Klingons killing the gods that created them
because, "They were more trouble than they were worth."
In the film Pitch Black , anti-hero protagonist Richard B. Riddick
stated his own belief, "Think someone could spend half their life in a
slam with a horse bit in their mouth and not believe? Think he could
start out in some liquor store trash bin with an umbilical cord
wrapped around his neck and not believe? Got it all wrong, holy man. I
absolutely believe in God... and I absolutely hate the fucker."
Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein 's book Job: A Comedy of Justice , which is mostly
about religious institutions, ends with an appearance by
is far from complimentary.
The Athar, a fictional organization from the Dborder:solid #aaa 1px">
Criticism of religion
Criticism of religion
Divine command theory
Divine command theory
* Ethics in the
God as the Devil
God is dead
Problem of hell
History of atheism
* Lawsuits against
* Love of
* ^ Jacob Grimm: Teutonic Mythology Chapter 1. page 2. (Grimm's
Teutonic Mythology Translation Project.)
* ^ Richard Kennington (1991). "The 'Teaching of Nature' in
Descartes' Soul Doctrine". In Georges Joseph Daniel Moyal. René
Descartes: Critical Assessments. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 0-415-02358-0
* ^ Richard M. Kennington (2004). "The Finitude of Descartes' Evil
Genius". On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy.
Lexington Books. p. 146. ISBN 0-7391-0815-8 .
New English Dictionary , under miso-; also explicitly in 1913,
Noah Webster\'s Dictionary of the English Language.
* ^ "On Christianity As An Organ of Political Movement" (1846).
* ^ Bernard Schweizer, 'Religious Subversion in His Dark Materials
in: Millicent Lenz, Carole Scott (eds.) His Dark Materials
Illuminated: Critical Essays On Philip Pullman's Trilogy (2005), p.
172, note 3.
* ^ Seidner, Stanley S. (June 10, 2009) "A Trojan Horse:
Logotherapeutic Transcendence and its Secular Implications for
Theology". Mater Dei Institute. pp. 11-12.
* ^ Apparently coined by Paul Zimmerman in August 1985, on
net.origins referring to the misotheistic belief that
God was in fact
not a "Creator-God" but a "Damager-God".
* ^ Original
Usenet posting of Maroney's "Even If I Did Believe"
essay, 31 December 1983
* ^ Naylor et al. (1994)
* ^ See the example of Viktor Frankl in Seidner, Stanley S. (June
10, 2009) "A Trojan Horse: Logotherapeutic Transcendence and its
Secular Implications for Theology". Mater Dei Institute. p 11.
* ^ Roth et al. (1982) - Extracted from a review of Roth's essay,
in which the author comments that "Roth is painting a picture of God
as the ultimate example of a bad and abusive parent!"
* ^ A B C Janowski, Zbigniew (2000). Cartesian Theodicy:
Descartes\' quest for certitude. Archives Internationales D'Histoire
des Idees/International Archives of the History of Ideas. Springer.
pp. 62–68. ISBN 978-0-7923-6127-5 . LCCN 99059328 .
Thomas Paine (1819). The Political and Miscellaneous Works of
Thomas Paine .. R. Carlile. pp. 4–.
* ^ Bernard Schweizer, Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism
* ^ Iwan Bloch, Marquis De Sade: His Life and Works (2002), p. 216.
* ^ Transcript of interview with
Anne Provoost by
Bill Moyers for
his "Faith and Reason" PBS TV series
* ^ "Dear God", performed by
XTC (written by
Andy Partridge )
* ^ "Blasphemous Rumours", performed by
Depeche Mode (written by
Martin L. Gore)
* ^ "God\'s Song (That\'s Why I Love Mankind)", performed by Randy
Newman (written by Randy Newman)
* ^ From the educat