Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Paradox of God Belief and God Hatred

This topic was an intriguing, but somewhat incomplete, idea to me since I found the first article through Belief Blog, confronting the reasons behind and the preponderance of anger towards God. The complement to this is the second more recent article concerning a scholar’s investigation about hatred of God. The first might be said to have just as much irrelevance to atheism, for instance, as the second. You can’t have anger or hatred in any genuine sense towards something that you don’t believe has any actual existence, except in the conceptual forms people have in their psyche. But even more bizarre is the form of theism coined as misotheism, taking the form of those who believe in God, but cannot bring themselves to believe that God is benevolent, unable to take the system of eutheism as their default. Instead, God is seen as cruel or even malevolent in its nature to some degree and thus is the source of deep hatred. Either being angry at God or hating God might be said to be just part of belief in general, since either of them can exist and probably do exist more commonly with believers in God than disbelievers. Any anger at God by atheists is towards a hypothetical image, so the outrage is more incredulity at how people could believe in such an entity rather than being angry at something and also saying it doesn’t exist to one degree or another. This actually relates in a way to my Atheist Alignments theory in that those that are angry or even hate God as atheists would probably fall under the Chaotic alignment in that God is seen as something that should be opposed even if it doesn’t exist for the simple fact that even its conceptual existence poses a problem since people behave under believing that this concept of God exists in their minds.

On anger at God, the investigation led by Julie Exline suggests that anger at God is prominent in two groups in particular; atheists/agnostics and the bereaved. The first doesn’t seem to make much sense in calling them atheists or agnostics, since they would probably be better translated as misotheists or dystheists, believing that God is by nature malevolent. Simply hating God doesn’t mean you believe the entity in question is necessarily evil, but that it is incompetent or otherwise incapable of doing things in an organized or coherent fashion. The idea that God has a reason for everything, for example, could inspire anger in a person, perhaps even hatred, in that one would say that there is some conscious entity that is arranging events in such a way that good will come out of people being raped, pillaged, and otherwise violated. It’s not so much of a problem when you just have people learning from suffering at the hands of fickle Fortune, even in the personified sense, because either way, it is in the nature of Fortune to be something unpredictable, random, chaotic. My experience of losing a beloved cat, our tabby called Tiger, to an unprecedented blood clot that paralyzed his hind legs and tail is that I learned to appreciate the other tabby we’ve affectionately called Whiney (guess why) all the more and pay attention to him more so that he doesn’t suffer the same fate or feel less loved by me. Similar things might be said for the bereaved in some sense, especially with those that have lost loved ones in the recent earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan. But the anger there is temporary in some sense. People who genuinely believe in God and have strong convictions can override their frustration and say that it’s all part of God’s mysterious plan. But people who are otherwise not convinced by this theodicy, explaining the problem of evil by such examples as saying God plans it or that God willingly lets people go free in the world to do what they will and thus frees itself of responsibility, would go into the subsequent category of misotheism, almost a kind of rebellious theism.

The grouping of people who actively hate God while simultaneously believing in its existence are those that defy classification and logic, even if we admittedly have a term for them as noted above, misotheism. The logical difficulty is more compelling an area of study, since one would ask, why would you hate something that you believe created you, or is at least commonly believed to be a benevolent entity that loves its creations? The answer might be in a similar vein to the answer an atheist might give as to why they do not believe in God at all and are more frustrated than hateful towards those that believe in God and then try to justify a world which this supposedly all powerful AND benevolent entity created. The response that lines up with the atheist’s, except in rejection of God-belief, is that the existence of such a God is an ethical affront of sorts. An entity that creates people with freewill and immortal souls and then sets them free upon the world for some test of choosing between loving God or loving “the world” could be accused of egregious and irreprehensible sadism and cruelty in its will towards bringing such a world into existence.

Of course, the response from eutheists, those believing God is by nature good, would be that misotheists misunderstand God or they have simply had a bad experience with God. But this only speaks to a presupposition that people who believe in God have to believe it is naturally good. Of course there are those in between that believe God is neither good nor evil, since those are human categories that God supersedes in some way, but this might be where the moral outrage and agony originates from a misotheist’s position. If you believe in such a being that is beyond any kind of accountability or responsibility; which can flood the earth, strike people dead for touching a holy object, and decree that people will go to hell for not believing in a particular type of theism (which supersedes what was an already primitive and barbaric system of animal sacrifices to appease said God) then a misotheist might very well just be in disbelief that such an entity is worshipped at all. The being in question would be still called evil, but admittedly from a human perspective. For one to try to see things from a God perspective seems absurd on its face, but it isn’t by necessity less compelling to view things from what is our default position, the human perspective.

With this in mind, the primary difficulty remains not so much in the common ethical impulse people have that such a God is problematic in any general formulation where it has consciousness and personality, but that misotheists feel compelled to still believe in the God as reality as opposed to merely accepting that people believe in such a concept as reality, which atheists more accurately have some kind of anger or hatred towards in any sense of the word. This makes one wonder how habitual belief in God is to people, either having been raised in it or having an experience that makes them unable to completely disbelieve in God’s existence, but admittedly that’s another topic entirely that I may confront in the future. In a sense, misotheists and dystheists do have interesting overlap with atheist and agnostic positions in that there is a common ethical outrage that makes them either think that God is only worthy of disgust or is not worthy of belief or consideration at all. A larger problem presents itself in that however much there might be common ground in ethical reaction to the idea of God, there will no doubt be disagreement nonetheless that misotheists and dystheists persist in believing in God, even if they share the belief with atheists and agnostics that God is on its face, to be frank and crude, an asshole, or more prudently, a sociopath. The bridge framework exists, so to speak, but there’s always some degree of difficulty in structural considerations of linking two otherwise disparate systems. But that’s where the real work starts. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.


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  2. Thank you for your interesting insights. In my view all semantic categories, when it comes to belief/unbelief are at best unstable, slippery things. I find I have layers of contradictory responses to "GOD", which are informed by so many different experiences. In the same day I can read of, for instance, an atrocity which leaves me with a "there is no God" position, all theodicies being inadequate. Yet in the same day a simple act of kindness, say, the opportunity to rescue an injured animal, can lead to a sense of the immanence or presence of "the divine" in existence. My own misotheistic tendencies I admit are often couched in a kind of angry petulance... I resist "GOD" as "He" is presented by intellectually diminished evangelicals and fundamentalists, knowing full well that Christianity (as with Judaism and most other religions) has a profound mystical tradition which opens up spaces for more nuanced theodicies. Here I think of Nicholas Berdyaev, a thinker many western Christians - and atheists - are regrettably unfamiliar with. I suppose in my case, I recognize that my "anger toward GOD for the scandal of existence" may be less a carefully considered philosophical position as much as a visceral rage. But equally I find the atheism of the Dawkins kind drearily smug, self satisfied and very much characteristic of a Spengleresque civilization in its moribund winter. I live in Africa, and each day am amazed and impressed by the vitality of belief, of deeply held faith (even if I do not share it), and it is noteworthy to see how such beliefs buoy people through terrible suffering and that there is genuine joy too. (I always wonder at how miserable Europeans look compared with Africans, a stereotype of course, but one I experience when interacting with people). Of course this is neither here nor there with regards the existence of "GOD", but I use this to illustrate the multiple textures of our existence which assail the confines of my own doubts, and the confines of my own uncertain faith

    1. A reply to myself:
      Joy? Divinity? Europeans and Africans? A fair amount of rambling in the subjective realm there. Apologies, no offense intended. Interesting article here:

  3. And now I see there has been no activity on this page since 2011... and I suddenly feel rather silly and lonely. But that is also a wonderful metaphor, is it not, for the sense of solitude we feel in the world, that, finally, neither God nor man is listening.