“Atheists Can’t Hate God, Because He’s Fictional”. Why Not?

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I’ve seen this in many places, especially in those lists about misconceptions about atheism (many of which are not misconceptions as far as I’m concerned). But one that baffles me is this: misconception = atheists hate god. How is that refuted? Well, we think there is no god, so we can’t hate him.

Erm, why not?

There is no real god. But there is a fictional god. And people can have real emotions towards fictional characters. We love them, we become their fans, we sometimes even have more complicated emotional relationship with fictional characters than real people (like, Walter White, Tony Soprano, Michael Corleone, etc). To me, that’s the whole point of writing and reading fiction, to exercise our emotions and to enrich our lives by “knowing” people who are “real” in our brains. Life seems kind of boring and tight-ass to limit your life and emotions only to the real world.

So yes, I hate fictional characters too. For example, I hate Joffrey Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire. I’d hate him even more if people started believing that he’s real, and that his word is morality, and started to live by his example. And to me, that’s the Abrahamic god – a viscous totalitarian genocidal hateful villain which represents everything that is wrong.

So yes – I do hate god.

 

About Kaveh Mousavi

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.

  • abear

    Fortunately for you (and me) he doesn’t exist or he would hate us enough to send us to Hell!

  • Al Dente

    I don’t hate God. That would be like hating Sauron or Valdemort or Iago or any other fictitious villain. It’s hard to hate a figment of someone else’s imagination.

    However I do hate religion and practitioners of religion. I hate how the Mormon and Catholic Churches use religion to justify their homophobia. I hate how Wahhabi Islam promotes quite vicious misogyny. I hate how Hindu fundamentalists promote censorship by claiming their religious feelings are “outraged” by books describing a different version of Hinduism than the one they prefer. I hate how Boko Haram is killing students who study anything other than the Quran and kill non-Muslims just for being non-Muslims. I hate how the Buddhist 969 Movement is demonizing Muslims in Myanmar. I hate blasphemy and apostasy laws being used in various countries to punish atheists.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      Why can’t you hate a figment of someone else’s imagination?

      • Schlumbumbi

        Because it is, as you said, imaginary. What we can hate, are the attributes a fictional character is composed of, because we know what these attributes mean to us, and we know why we depise them, irregardless of someone actually holding them. It’s all about what the character represents.

    • rapiddominance

      So yes – I do hate god.

      So what do you think of Jesus (Yeshua)? Regardless of whether you see him as a fictional character in a narrative or as a living mortal with an embellished legend, what’s your take on him?

      • rapiddominance

        This comment was meant for Kaveh, not Al Dente. I must have hit the wrong reply button or something.

      • rapiddominance

        Don’t get me wrong, Dente can answer it, too. He just wasn’t the intended recipient.

      • Kaveh Mousavi

        I’m not a fan of Jesus. He was a revolutionary for his time but there are many things I dislike about his philosophy.

        • rapiddominance

          Do you think that New Testament thought offers any improvements over Old Testament thought?

          • John Morales

            It’s been proven to be a popular if pernicious mythos, but the retcon wasn’t accepted as canon by the original fans, but it’s a much more insipid character than the original — more of a Godot than a God, actually. ;)

            (… and after that, the next retcon also became popular with a different set of fans and took the god character back to its original bellicose self, so now there are three different fan-groups)

          • Kaveh Mousavi

            Yes the New Testament seems to improve upon the old one in some major areas.

  • http://mushtown.blogspot.com Hoosier X

    My first reaction is that, yes, hating fictional beings is kind of silly. But then I remember that there are a few comic book characters that I really, actively detest.

    And the main reason I never watched Seinfeld that much was that I hate George Costanza. The rest of every episode was damn funny – I especially love Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine – but I quit watching after a while because I just couldn’t stand George.

    I still think it’s silly to hate a fictional being, but I do it anyway.

    • Holms

      And the main reason I never watched Seinfeld that much was that I hate George Costanza. The rest of every episode was damn funny – I especially love Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine – but I quit watching after a while because I just couldn’t stand George.

      WHAT? HOW DARE YOU! HE WAS THE BEST CHARACTER!

      Now let me write a rant-filled essay about why my favourite character must necessarily be your favourite character. Oh, you continue to disagree? Well then, I will use your incorrect fandom as a rallying cry to my fellow Castanzans to wage a Holy War Of Correct Fandom on your silly followers, resulting in national borders being redrawn on the basis of our mutual dislike of each others’ fictional character preferences.

      ^ Actually really close to religion.

      Still though, George was great.

  • Seth

    This exposes a major flaw in religious thinking—it’s the triumph of the literal over the literary mind. Religious people are trapped in a box, wherein something has to be “real” in order to have any value whatsoever, and when anything is exposed as false, or allegorical, or metaphorical, the religious person is left bereft of any meaning they might have held in their belief in the thing so exposed. They are unable to entertain a contradictory or a fantastical notion. Everything has to be true to be valued, and everything valuable has to be defended vociferously against any and all challenge.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      I 100% agree.

    • smrnda

      This makes some sense, as you could potentially rehabilitate religion by making it mythology – I don’t believe in the Greek/Roman, Egyptian, Norse or any other pantheon of gods, and neither do most people who read the mythology, but yet people still read and gain something from the works.

  • exi5tentialist

    You can hate God but do you really, really, really hate God? Would you bend his fingers back in a fight, just for the satisfaction of watching him suffer? Or do you hate him so much, you would nail him to a plank of wood, then haul him up and let him die. Doing nasty things to God has great shock value. It’s all very theatrical, one might almost say melodramatic.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      This is a very clever comment. I applaud you for it.

  • John Morales

    Kaveh:

    There is no real god. But there is a fictional god. And people can have real emotions towards fictional characters.

    Well then, you don’t hate the real god, only the fictional god.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      Just the way I hate the fictional Joffrey, not the real Joffrey?

      • John Morales

        Exactly. What you hate is an abstractum, not a concretum.

        Obviously, goddists don’t believe god is an imaginary being, but rather an actual being — so the god you hate is not the god in which they believe.

        • atheist

          I guess that’s true, but I not sure why it matters. A person who believes in God believes in a mythological abstraction, even if they use their imagination to make this abstraction real, or have profound feelings about this abstraction. Mr. Mousavi is doing something similar, where he looks at the mythological abstraction of God, and considers the idea false, but also has feelings of hatred for God. Because God has mythological reality which means that God is a part of society. Therefore, Mr. Mousavi, a social being, is capable of a hate relationship with God, just as believers have a relationship with God. As to whether it is the same God, who can say? Even believers of the same religion seem to believe in different Gods, and expect very different things from God.

          • Schlumbumbi

            mythological abstraction

            That’s what YOU say, but that’s not what they think.

            Or to be precise: If you were to split the group of believers in 2 camps, you’d find that one of them thinks of “God” as an actual person, while the other group sees “God” as an abstract, maybe a concept, maybe an idea… only one of these groups is p*ssed when you “insult” their “God”, the other group is, if at all, only slightly phased.

          • John Morales

            I think it matters because goddists don’t think their god is imaginary, so that to them the claim “I do hate god” evinces belief in the reality of that which they claim to hate — that is, it makes them imagine such haters actually do believe in (the veridical existence of) their god and are thus being either disingenous or hypocritical by denying its existence.

          • atheist

            it makes them imagine such haters actually do believe in (the veridical existence of) their god and are thus being either disingenous or hypocritical by denying its existence.

            Point taken. Though I think you’re giving most believers too much credit for logic.

          • John Morales

            Thanks, atheist.

            I agree they probably don’t reason it out; in most cases it would be more a visceral intuition.

            I think that such a perception would be harder to for them to achieve if the sentiment were phrased either explicitly as a counterfactual subjunctive (e.g. “were your god real, I would hate it”) or unambiguously, e.g. “I hate your fictional god”.

      • rapiddominance

        Morales has talent, doesn’t he Kaveh?

    • http://almosteverythingsucks.wordpress.com Hank_Says

      John:

      Well then, you don’t hate the real god, only the fictional god.

      Which is exactly what Kaveh said. Isn’t it? Didn’t he close his post saying exactly that?

  • atheist

    “And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling over her objection. “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about – a country bumpkin, a clumsy bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain? … we mustn’t let Him get away scot-free for all the sorrow He’s caused us. Someday I’m going to make Him pay. I know when. On Judgment Day…”

    “Stop it! Stop it!” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists…

    “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

    “I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God.”

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      I love Catch-22 as well, although I have forgotten this scene. I need to read it again. Thanks for sharing!

    • Schlumbumbi

      Is that real ? Do people have feelings about ficticious characters ? I mean about the character itself…

      Is it possible that anyone has EVER lost a single moment of sleep over Voldemoort going after Parry Hotter ? Is it possible that anyone’s thoughts were consumed by fear of what Sauron could do to the little hobbits ? Did anyone ever phone in sick because one of his comic superheroes was defeated by a supervillain ?

      If any of that is actually possible, maybe that’s the reason why some people can be religious, and others cannot.

      • notyet

        Actually Schlumbumbi (incredible username by the way) there are delusional people that become so immersed in works of fiction that they begin to believe that the fictional characters and places are real. They do loose sleep over the perils of Parry Hotter. The problem is in some cases they become so numerous that we are forced to give them tax exempt status and guard against letting them get onto school boards. If one person can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy we call him/her insane. If millions fall into the same delusion we call it religion. Their belief in God does not make him real so if they can “love” an imaginary creature why can’t we hate him?

        • Schlumbumbi

          become so immersed in works of fiction that they begin to believe that the fictional characters and places are real

          Our ability to fantasize can only explain why some people might get stuck within a fantasy – but it cannot explain how an atheist, someone who has understood god as fiction, can at the same time perceive him to be non-fictional in any way.

          In other words: If it’s the dilution of reality and fiction which makes (little children and) religious people love their god as a “real person”, then how can the same “brain bug” be present in those unbelievers, who have understood god(s) to be fictitious? I thought that the 1st position was based on a shortcoming, and that the 2nd position requires to have overcome that shortcoming.

          But as it seems, I’m wrong. Apparently, some peoples’ reflections are not aligned in that way. To me, “fantasizing” means that I have to actively suppress the “realness evaluation” part of my consciousness. As soon as I stop suppressing that part, it’s all over, and my reflections re-align themselves automatically.

          I find it worrisome that this process isn’t as universal as I thought. Then again, this discrepancy explains so much that I should’ve figured that out myself :ß

      • rowanvt

        Back when I was in highschool, I was a giant fan of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and my favorite character was, and is, Iolaus. When they killed that character off, I spiraled into a depression like a beloved friend or family member had been murdered. I slept badly, had little appetite, stopped caring if my hair was brushed… I didn’t pay any attention in class and my grades suffered badly.

        I have always connected VERY strongly with fictional characters, even though I know they are fictional.

        • Schlumbumbi

          o,Ô .. amazing. Does anyone know of research which deals with this exact topic ?

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani J. Sharmin

    This is the same reason I get confused when atheists respond to believers’ accusation that “atheists hate god” by saying that you can’t hate god if you don’t believe in him. I absolutely love books, and I definitely feel emotions about fictional characters. That doesn’t mean they exist, but I can still have feelings about them.

  • http://themindisaterriblething.com Shripathi Kamath
  • Craig Pennington

    As far as I’m concerned, absent clarification, the term “God” in the assertion isn’t coherent enough to define anything worth hating. I don’t have a specific god in mind that is the object of my absence of belief. It is very much implicit in the assertion (“Atheists hate God”) that “God” is a sufficiently unique and well defined concept for the atheist and that’s just not the case with me. There are god characters that I find loathsome, god characters that I don’t dislike and many that are simply ridiculous. Absent clarification the assertion is nonsense.

  • twiddly

    Yes, I too consider the Abrahamic god pretty thick and sticky (viscous), but also fairly vicious :-)

  • http://Readit Mystic Chicken

    I find it strange that you want to put all Atheists in the same “you hate god basket”? When they say that they don’t believe in GOD. That’s it they don’t believe in God, end of story. All you are doing is making up Lies about them based upon your own prejudice thinking, your braking the ninth commandment. you know the one that you want to plaster up all over the place.

    Do you Believe in Odin Mythra or Apollo? Do you hate them? if you did why ? If not then that’s the way that Atheist’s think about the Biblical GOD Yahweh. Now if you think this coming from a “if they are not with us they are against us” attitude then you are wrong, they are coming from a i don’t want to hear about it then you are right, its just like Science in the classroom sometime’s the best attitude is if you dont want to knnow Don’t ask.

    • Kaveh Mousavi

      I’m not trying to say anything about all atheists. There are some atheists who find the god of the Abrahamic religions respectable. What I’m saying is that there is no necessary contradiction between not believing in god and hating him, because people are capable of hating fictional and unreal characters as well, and I hate the Abrahamic god for the same reason that I hate Joffrey.

      • Schlumbumbi

        May I ask you why you label this cognitive dissonance an “ability” ? Besides the fact that I lack this “ability” completely (as I described in my postings above), it seems to me the effects of that mechanism are rather detrimental, causing the individual to develop (strong) dispositions which do not reflect on reality.

        • Kaveh Mousavi

          I don’t know, your reasoning sounded very personal, and I didn’t reply because I thought any answer might be insulting. To me, without fiction, I’d have absolutely no reason to live, I’d simply commit suicide. Reality is too boring and yet too painful to be tolerated by itself. Reality doesn’t satisfy me, I need to seek more, and imagination is the only place where there is a “more”. Also, my real passion in life is writing novels. How could I be a good novelist if I couldn’t treat my characters with real emotions and dispositions?

          Plus, why are those (strong) dispositions harmful, if someone does not believe they are true, and does not act on them as if they’re true? I hate Joffrey. This hatred does not affect my real life in any way, except when I choose to talk about it.

          But it can do many good things – it can be emotional exercise, mental experiment, entertaining hypotheses….. I have already written a long post about why literature helps you appreciate truth better.

          • Schlumbumbi

            (No reason to apologise or tiptoe around me, I’m not exactly the average FTB commenter, so I have no increased propensity to butthurt.)

            As I said, I understand the appeal of fiction and fantasy perfectly well, and I do all the things you do with it, but anything connected to a fantasy ceases to exist, as soon as I decide not to actively uphold the fantasy anymore. It’s a total on/off switch for me. While I can easily appreciate what happens in a fantasy, I would go to any length to ensure that the difference between fantasy and reality doesn’t get blurred.

            About the consequences:

            If you develop a strong emotional disposition towards a fiction, which then outlasts the fiction itself, how can it not have negative consequences on reality ? I’ve heard from the exact actor above (the guy who plays this little turd in Game of Thrones) that he was verbally abused on the street by people, because these people hated his imaginary character.

            That alone is already pretty crazy, and pretty bad for him, but imagine what happens if these emotions get a lot stronger ? Is it unreasonable to think that people who have very strong emotions could do much worse to him, maybe assault or even kill him? Is this not very similar to, maybe even the very foundation of, religious violence ?

          • Kaveh Mousavi

            You’re right about “the line between fantasy and reality being blurred”, but that’s not what I argue here. If I ever talk to the actor I’d salute him for his powerful performance, and I’m actually quite a fan of his.

          • John Morales

            [meta]

            Schlumbumbi @12.1.1.1.1:

            As I said, I understand the appeal of fiction and fantasy perfectly well, and I do all the things you do with it, but anything connected to a fantasy ceases to exist, as soon as I decide not to actively uphold the fantasy anymore. It’s a total on/off switch for me.

            No, you don’t, unless your earlier claims are knowingly false.

            If you develop a strong emotional disposition towards a fiction, which then outlasts the fiction itself, how can it not have negative consequences on reality ?

            Perceptions themselves are not fictional, nor are the feelings arising from them.

            (They can run the gamut from positively to negatively inspirational, too)

            PS

            (No reason to apologise or tiptoe around me, I’m not exactly the average FTB commenter, so I have no increased propensity to butthurt.)

            <snicker>

            Your ostensible charitableness rings pretentiously hollow, evincing your neediness.

            (You’d do better to try sticking to the topic, instead of trying to build yourself up by putting others down)

          • Schlumbumbi

            @John Morales

            In my first post I described what I falsely assumed to be universal. Of course I can perceive attributes on fictional characters, and of course I can reflect on these attributes and carry over these reflections to the real world (such as certain behavioural schemes, moral dispositions, interpersonal dynamics and so on). What does not cross over into my reality, is the assembly of these attributes in a (fictitious) persona.

            The more I think about it, the more I realise that this mechanism must be present in lots of people… they collect action figures or fan paraphernalia, put posters on their walls, do cosplay, go to fan conventions, and so on. They “identify” with the fiction behind these activities. I remember doing the same when I was young, but that all disappeared during the course of time and now it’s completely alien to me. I never spent much thought on that progress, so yes, I find that most fascinating.

            (BTW: Your expected personal attack – morbidly boring, but maybe closely connected to the topic.)

        • Kaveh Mousavi

          In case my comment sounded extremely assholish, I apologize. I never understand sports, it always seems strange and alien to me. But someone who’s an athlete will sure disagree with me. My life is fiction – producing it and thinking about it. So…. that defines my attitude, I don’t mean it in a way to disparage others.

  • doublereed

    IMO the picture of Joffrey makes the point entirely on its own lol


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