Q: What is misotheism?
word means literally God-hatred, and it derives from the
Greek root for hatred ("misos") and deity ("theos"). The term "misotheism" was coined by the
British author Thomas de Quincey in 1846. The term was recorded in Merriam Webster's Dictionary of the English language in
1913. But it has not caught on... until recently. In 2002, Bernard Schweizer brought the word back to use in his monograph
Rebecca West: Heroism, Rebellion, and the Female Epic. There is now also a substantial
Wikipedia entry on "Misotheism."
Q: What is the difference between misotheism and atheism?
A: Misotheism is not the same as atheism. To be a misotheist, you first have to believe in the existence
of God. Thus, misotheists are never atheists, and vice-versa.
Q: But misotheists hate religion,
A: No. Most misotheists treated in my book are not enemies
of religion. But they are not theists either, insofar as they do not believe in the theistic doctrine that God is
the all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, and eternal creator of the universe.
Q: What is
the difference between hatred of God and hatred of belief in God?
A: Hatred of belief in God is almost
the same as hatred of religion or anti-theism. The anti-theist dislikes the God others believe in, just as he would dislike
a fictional character. The misotheist, by comparison, hates his God the way one might hate a parent—i.e. a figure that
both exists and is highly unpleasant.
Q: What about hatred of God in Islam?
A: This is a very dangerous topic for a Muslim to consider.
Being condemned as an enemy of God (aka being mohareb) is punishable by death under sharia law.
Q: How widespread
is God-hatred or misotheism in the West?
A: It is hard to tell because people rarely dare to voice this opinion openly,
either because they consider it a taboo or because they expect not to be understood. Even writers who put veiled expressions
of misotheism into their work (Zora Neale Hurston, Rebecca West, and Philip Pullman come to mind) usually don’t come
out to speak about their hatred of God openly. If even those who are in the business of writing conceal their God-hatred,
it can be assumed that “regular folks” will not advertise it openly.
Q: What are
some of the most pithy expressions of God-hatred?
A: Rebecca West (in an unpublished manuscript)
calls God “the master criminal.” Mark Twain takes a swipe at all gods as “celestial bandits.” Zora
Neale Hurston, though in fiction, says that “all gods who receive homage are cruel, all gods dispense suffering without
reason.” Percy Shelly, in his poem “Queen Mab,” refers to Yahweh as a sadistic projection of the human mind,
he calls Moses a murderer and identifies Christ as a “malignant soul.” And the French political thinker, Pierre-Joseph
Proudhon wrote the following curse: “God is stupidity and cowardice; God is hypocrisy and falsehood; God is tyranny
and misery; God is evil.”
Q: How do misotheists relate to
the Christian Trinity?
A: Without a doubt, Yahweh (the Father) is most frequently the target of misotheistic
tirades. By contrast, many misotheists will invoke Christ as the antidote to malignant Yahweh. William Blake put it like this:
““Thinking as I do that the Creator of this World is a very Cruel Being, and being a Worshipper of
Christ, I cannot help saying: ‘The Son, O how unlike the Father!’ First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the
Head. Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it.”
Q: What are some of the greatest works of literature that can be identified
as having a misotheistic undercurrent?
A: Rebecca West’s World War I novel The Return of the Soldier; Elie Wiesel’s play The Trial of God; Philip Pullman’s trilogy
Peter Shaffer’s play&movie Amadeus. Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God; James Morrow’s Godhead Trilogy; James Woods’s novel The Book Against God.
Q: Why bother to hate God if you could just as well ditch religious belief
A: Misotheists are people who are constitutionally unable to disbelieve. For them, God does exist and
they cannot abandon their belief in him, although that doesn't mean that they consider God as good, competent, or caring.
Q: Do misotheists hate God or merely the idea
of a God?
A: The answer to this
questions depends on the religious belief of the person asking (or being asked). If you ask a believer, he will say that the
misotheist is angry at God and therefore a sinner. If you ask an atheist, he will say the misotheist merely thinks he is angry
at God, but in fact he is only angry at the idea of God because God does not exist.
nothing else, this variance demonstrates that believers and non-believers do tend to inhabit different universes since they
will give you different answers to the same question.
is reasonable to infer from thoughts or dialogues of fictional characters that their authors are misotheists? For instance,
Shelley said he was an atheist not a misotheist.
A: Yes, Shelley was expelled from Oxford for declaring himself to be an atheist. But my contention is that
his declaration of atheism was temporary and less genuine and lasting than his expressions of misotheism in his literary works.
Because of Britain’s blasphemy law, Shelley could have been sent to prison for expressing God-hatred. Expulsion from
Oxford seems a lesser evil by comparison. But look at “Queen Mab,”
look at “Prometheus Unbound”—those are works of intense misotheism, NOT of atheism. Of course, you might
say, whatever misotheism there is in these works is only the view of characters, not of their author. Well, years of literary
analysis have shown me beyond any doubt that authors tend to entrust their deepest convictions and most private opinions to
their literary characters. This is the case with Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilych, with Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, with Rebecca
West’s Rose (In The Fountain Overflows), and the list of authors’ “alter egos” goes on and on.
If you want to look for the truth of an author’s convictions--especially
if those convictions are unacceptable in the eyes of society and perhaps even illegal--then you will find those convictions
in these authors’ fictional characters. But you need to take the trouble to look closely enough. There will be exceptions,
but it is the general rule. Moreover, my research into misotheism has demonstrated again and again that there is a close
correlation between what misotheistic characters say in fiction and what their authors say in their own words (the latter