The Info List - Misotheism

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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 eponymous 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
Ancient Greek
: δύσ θεος "bad god"), the belief that a god is not wholly good , and is possibly evil. 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 joy."

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 conceptions of God
as the summum bonum , the proposition of God
not 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 deity.


* 1 Terminology * 2 Theodicy * 3 Deus deceptor * 4 Scripture

* 5 Misotheism in art and literature

* 5.1 Poetry and drama * 5.2 Modern literature * 5.3 Speculative fiction
Speculative fiction
* 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 belief that 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
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 the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft
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 God
exists, and that he wishes to be worshiped, or to be believed in. * Certain forms of dualism make the assertion that the thing worshiped as 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 Sethian , 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, Marcionites depicted God
as represented in the Old Testament
Old Testament
as a wrathful, malicious demiurge.


Main articles: Theodicy , Problem of evil
Problem of evil
, and Holocaust theology

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 that 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
(as 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
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 God
as "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 Theodicy (1982):

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.


Main article: Deus deceptor

The deus deceptor (French dieu trompeur) "deceptive god" is a concept of Cartesianism. Voetius accused Descartes of blasphemy in 1643. Jacques Triglandius and Jacobus Revius , theologians at Leiden University , made similar accusations in 1647, accusing Descartes of "hold 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 optimal God
but rather an evil demon "summe potens "> References to God
as wrathful or violent are more sparse in the New Testament
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.


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 Swinburne , Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston
, Rebecca West , Elie Wiesel
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 blasphemy.

Other examples include:

* Goethe
's Prometheus * the work of the Marquis de Sade
Marquis de Sade
* Emily Dickinson
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 approving God". * Mark Twain
Mark Twain
(himself a Deist) argued against what he saw as the petty 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
Adam Mickiewicz
's Forefathers\' Eve , calls God
a tsar .

In more recent times, the sentiment is present in a variety of media:


The characters in several of Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
' plays express dystheistic attitudes, including the Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon in The Night of the Iguana .

Robert Frost
Robert Frost
's poem "Design" questions how God
could have created death if he were benevolent.

In Jewish author Elie Wiesel
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 the 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 Hasidic 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 nature, including Salman Rushdie
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
Harlan Ellison
even described dystheism as a bit of a science fiction cliché. Ellison himself has dealt with the theme in his " The Deathbird ", the title story of Deathbird Stories , a collection based on the theme of (for the most part) malevolent modern-day gods. 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 amoral. 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
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 Yahweh
which is far from complimentary.

The Athar, a fictional organization from the Dborder:solid #aaa 1px">

* Atheism

* Criticism of religion
Criticism of religion
* Deontological ethics
Deontological ethics
* Divine command theory
Divine command theory
* Ethics in the Bible
* Evil
Challenge * Free will
Free will
* God
as the Devil * God
is dead * Problem of hell * History of atheism * Lawsuits against God
* Love of God
* Meta-ethics * Moral absolutism * Nihilism
* Religious fundamentalism * Religious extremism
Religious extremism
* Omnibenevolence * Theistic Satanism * Utilitarianism
* Virtue ethics
Virtue ethics


* ^ 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
Thomas Paine
(1819). The Political and Miscellaneous Works of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
.. R. Carlile. pp. 4–. * ^ Bernard Schweizer, Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism (2010). * ^ Iwan Bloch, Marquis De Sade: His Life and Works (2002), p. 216. * ^ Transcript of interview with Anne Provoost by Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers
for his "Faith and Reason" PBS TV series * ^ "Dear God", performed by XTC
(written by Andy Partridge
Andy Partridge
) * ^ "Blasphemous Rumours", performed by Depeche Mode
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