Misotheism is the "hatred of God" or "hatred of the gods" (from the Greek adjective μισόθεος misotheos "hating the gods" or "God-hating" – 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: 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."
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 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 Richard 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.
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 a theological problem only 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 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."
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 [people] are born with the potential and power to [do evil things], credit for that fact belongs elsewhere. "Elsewhere" is God's address.
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[ing] 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 & callidus" ( "most highly powerful and cunning"). The accusers identified Descartes' concept of a deus deceptor with his concept of an evil demon, stating that only an omnipotent God is "summe potens" and that describing the evil demon as such thus demonstrated the identity. Descartes' response to the accusations was that in that passage he had been expressly distinguishing between "the supremely good God, the source of truth, on the one hand, and the malicious demon on the other". He did not directly rebut the charge of implying that the evil demon was omnipotent, but asserted that simply describing something with "some attribute that in reality belongs only to God" does not mean that that something is being held to actually be a supreme God.
The evil demon is omnipotent, Christian doctrine notwithstanding, and is seen as a key requirement for Descartes' argument by Cartesian scholars such as Alguié, Beck, Émile Bréhier, Chevalier, Frankfurt, Étienne Gilson, Anthony Kenny, Laporte, Kemp-Smith, and Wilson. The progression through the First Meditation, leading to the introduction of the concept of the evil genius at the end, is to introduce various categories into the set of dubitables, such as mathematics (i.e. Descartes' addition of 2 and 3 and counting the sides of a square). Although the hypothetical evil genius is never stated to be one and the same as the hypothetical "deus deceptor," (God the deceiver) the inference by the reader that they are is a natural one, and the requirement that the deceiver is capable of introducing deception even into mathematics is seen by commentators as a necessary part of Descartes' argument. Scholars contend that in fact Descartes was not introducing a new hypothetical, merely couching the idea of a deceptive God in terms that would not be offensive.
Paul Erdős, the eccentric and extremely prolific Hungarian-born mathematician, referred to the notion of deus deceptor in a humorous context when he called God "the Supreme Fascist", who deliberately hid things from people, ranging from socks and passports to the most elegant of mathematical proofs. A similar sentiment is expressed by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in reference to the temptation of Adam and Eve by God:
There are various examples of arguable dystheism in the Bible, sometimes cited as arguments for atheism (e.g. Bertrand Russell 1957), most of them from the Pentateuch. A notable exception is the Book of Job, a classical case study of theodicy, which can be argued to consciously discuss the possibility of dystheism (e.g. Carl Jung, Answer to Job).
Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason that "whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God." But Paine's perspective was a deistic one, critical more of common beliefs about God than of God himself.
The New Testament contains references to an "evil god", specifically the "prince of this world" (John 14:30, ο του κοσμου τουτου αρχων) or "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4, ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου) who has "blinded the minds of men". Mainstream Christian theology sees these as references to Satan ("the Devil"), but Gnostics, Marcionites, and Manicheans saw these as references to Yahweh (God) himself. 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 Christopher 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, 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, Algernon Swinburne, 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 blasphemy.
Other examples include:
In more recent times, the sentiment is present in a variety of media:
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 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.
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 [a God who can't get things right]", 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).
By the 1970s, 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'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, 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 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 tells Apollo that "Mankind has no need for gods, we find the one quite adequate." A later episode, "Who Watches the Watchers", depicts accidentally reviving theistic belief in a more primitive species as a negative thing which must be stopped. 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, after an imam accuses him of atheism: "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."
In the 2013 film Prisoners, Holly Jones and her husband Isaac lost their faith in God after their son died of cancer. Since then, they have been kidnapping and murdering children in order to make other parents lose faith in God and turning them into revenge-driven hollow shells of their former selves, i.e. spreading their misotheism to other people. As Holly Jones states to Keller Dover near the end of the film: "Making children disappear is the war we wage with God. Makes people lose their faith, turns them into demons like you."
Dystheistic sentiment has also made its way into popular music, evincing itself in controversial songs like "Dear God" by the band XTC (later covered by Sarah McLachlan) and "Blasphemous Rumours" by Depeche Mode, which tells the story of a teenage girl who attempted suicide, survived, and turned her life over to God, only to be hit by a car, wind up on life support, and eventually die. A good deal of Gary Numan's work, specifically the album Exile, is laden with misotheistic themes.
The output of Oscar-winning songwriter/composer Randy Newman also includes several songs expressing dystheistic sentiment, including the ironic "He Gives Us All His Love" and the more overtly maltheistic "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)", both from his acclaimed 1972 album Sail Away. In the latter song, Newman bemoans the futility of dealing with God whose attitude towards humanity he sees as one of contempt and cruelty.
The song "God Made" by Andrew Jackson Jihad proposes dystheism and has an implied hatred for God. More specifically, their song "Be Afraid of Jesus" is about a vengeful Christ although this could be a critique of fundamentalist hate speech.
"Godwhacker" by Steely Dan from their Everything Must Go album developed from a lyric frontman Donald Fagen wrote a few days after his mother died of Alzheimer's. "It's about an elite squad of assassins whose sole assignment is to find a way into heaven and take out God", he later explained. "If the Deity actually existed, what sane person wouldn't consider this to be justifiable homicide?"
American death metal bands Deicide and Morbid Angel base much of their lyrics around misotheism in name and in concept. Many bands in the black metal genre, such as Mayhem, Emperor, Gorgoroth and Darkthrone express extreme misotheism in their lyrics.
In 2006, Australian artist Archie Moore created a paper sculpture called "Maltheism", which was considered for a Telstra Art Award in 2006. The piece was intended as a representation of a church made from pages of the Book of Deuteronomy:
...and within its text is the endorsement from God to Moses for invasion of other nations. It says that you have the right to invade, take all their resources, kill all the men (non-believers) and make no treaty with them.
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