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Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism Hardcover – November 5, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schweizer, an associate professor of English at Long Island University (see InProfile in this issue), dissects the contemporary guard of angry atheists (Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris et al.) by placing the phenomenon in historical and literary context to show roots and development. He likes the term "misotheism" to capture the virulence of the god-haters and draws mostly from misotheists from 1800 onward, though he looks at the book of Job. Most god-haters (including Shelley, Camus, and Zora Neale Hurston, whose inclusion might surprise some) have used literature to articulate and disguise their briefs against a divinity they blame for suffering, catastrophe, and/or mass slaughter. Schweizer's textual readings are close and careful. Some figures he concentrates on are less than compelling choices; nobody reads Swinburne anymore except graduate students of English. This book provides a useful reminder that a long history of cursing God precedes the present vogue--and society has not yet collapsed from the corrosive effects of angry atheism. (Nov.)
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"In Hating God, Bernard Schweizer distinguishes between atheists---those who conclude from the arbitrary and cruel acts of God that he does not exist---and misotheists---those who believe in God but engage in a life-long struggle with his apparent indifference to the world he has created. It is misotheists, those who wrestle with God in the manner of Jacob and Job, who create the rich literary tradition Schweizer so persuasively illuminates in this important book."--Stanley Fish, author of The Fugitive in Flight: Faith, Liberalism, and Law in a Classic TV Show

"Bernard Schweizer makes a long overdue distinction between atheism -- the denial of God's existence -- and misotheism -- the morally inspired hatred of God, and, in the process, reintroduces us to some of the most subversive religious thinkers who have ever lived, from Friedrich Nietzsche to Gore Vidal and Zora Neale Hurston. Hating God is one of the most exhilarating excursions into religious studies that you will ever take!"

--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

"Schweizer skilfully plumbs pathology and pathos among real and imagined agonizers."--The Journal of Theological Studies


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199751382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199751389
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.9 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bernard Schweizer, an Associate Professor of English at Long Island University in Brooklyn (NY), is a widely respected writer and teacher. Originally from Switzerland, Prof. Schweizer believes passionately in encouraging a living interaction between literature and culture. He specializes in the study of iconoclasts and rebels, including the controversial writer and public intellectual Rebecca West. In his third book, Hating God, he explores the fascinating history behind the religious rebels he calls misotheists-that is, people of high moral caliber and profound humanity who cannot tolerate God's indifference or outright cruelty toward his creation.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rolando Monello on April 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Schweizer's book presents an amazingly new kettle of fish on the religious scene, which I have been studying academically for years. I wonder if the concept of "misotheism," which fills a gap in the system of religious classification, will spawn a following, one that either applauds the literati of his mentioning or alternatively stands up for their own views which, I surmise, may have been subconsciously tucked away. Mister Schweizer is shedding light on an area, which has surprisingly enough remained unnoticed until he blew some cobwebs from the book-covers of the classics and opened their content to a fresh viewing. Aware of the diverse emotions the misotheistic view may elicit, I hope the mere observation of an intellectual and literary stratum does not attract a negative response in defense of a deity, whose existence amazingly enough is not questioned but in a twisted manner reinforced by the misotheists. A believer in God may have a "problem" with Satanism as a form of opposition to her deity, but a negative reinforcement of God might be a worse position yet - and so the miso-misotheist would be born. I congratulate Mister Schweizer for the discovery of a phenomenon hiding in plain sight.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By QuestioningBeliever on January 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was immediately drawn to this book because it presents a completely new class of religious rebellion.
In response to the increasing attention being given to atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, this book seems to have found an emerging populace that have become increasingly more vocal about their feelings of discontent towards God.

In this book (which I have read and really enjoyed) Schweizer explains how this sort of god hatred has been around for many years, and because of the fear associated with expressing such blasphemous beliefs, was expressed primarily through literature. The book illustrates how literary giants such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Rebecca West, Elie Wiesel, and Philip Pullman all felt profound hatred towards God.

When I look at the world today, with increasing secularism, religiously motivated mass bloodshed, and considerable feelings of disillusionment in personal faith, this book seems to outline a lot of the sentiments that have apparently been around for a long time, but have not, until now, been openly discussed.

Check out the website as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hexameron on December 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rather than taking a holistic approach to the topic and exploring the cultural history and philosophical idea of misotheism, Bernard Schweizer spends a great deal focused on misotheistic ideas that crop up in literature. As a result, 2/3 of this book is saddled with literary analysis. That, in a nutshell, is my gripe with a book subtitled "the untold story of misotheism." This is misleading. "Hating God: A Literary Tradition" would have been more appropriate. Freethinkers and atheists looking for an expansive polemic in the vein of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Daniel Dennett will be disappointed. Much of the book is concerned with isolating and analyzing key passages by six authors who despised God. It's as if Schweizer uses misotheism as a pretense to write a book about these authors. That's fine, but the title and presentation of the book should make that clear from the outset.

What we get here are really two books. Part One is a chronological survey of misotheistic thought from the ancient philosophers to early 20th century thinkers. Part Two analyzes six authors whose works are misotheistic to some degree. Part One is outstanding. It provides compelling definitions of various strains of theism and contrasts them with misotheism. Schweizer supplies a useful taxonomy of ists and isms, distinguishing traditional atheism from new atheism and antitheism from agnosticism. He then examines the origins of misotheism, which is brilliantly traced back to Job's wife, winds its way through Epicurus and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and culminates in Nietzsche and Camus. Schweizer discusses several exponents of misotheism like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin, both of whom are especially intriguing figures worth reading about.

So Part One is great, but it's only 80 pages.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alexandre bish on November 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In ‘Hating God’, Schweizer demonstrates that attitudes towards religion and God are more diverse than most of us assume.
As opposed to atheism, anti-theism, or agnosticism, Schweizer defines misotheism as the outright hatred of God. As opposed to atheists who question the existence of God, misotheists acknowledge his existence but question his good will. Schweizer divides misotheism into three categories: agonistic, absolute and political misotheism. Agonistic misotheists, studied through Rebecca West and Elie Wiesel, struggle with the acceptance of a bad and careless God and seek to enter into dialogue with him, convinced of his underlying good will. Quite the opposite, absolute misotheists, like Nietszche and Shelly, do not wish to change God but rather completely dispose of him. Proudhon or Bakunin, as political misotheists, address their attack because of the socio-economic effects that God and religion have on the world.
Through this thorough definition of Misotheism, Schweizer skilfully brings the rigour and precision one would expect with the minting of a new concept, writing a book both addressed to academia and non-scholars.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, religious or non-religious, willing to explore literature through the pathos of great writers and experience an unfamiliar journey into human relationship with the divine.
With his coinage of misotheism, Schweizer has laid solid ground for further theological study of the subject but also for future scholars willing to approach great figures of literature in a completely new way.

An overall very well written must-read for those looking to have a sound understanding of religious rebellion through literature.
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