One of my readers, the irrepressible Beetle, thinks not. Beetle writes: “The fundy stereotype of the atheist has the latter hating God. But that is absurd of course, because one would not waste so much emotion on something which one did not believe in.”
But is it really absurd? Not according to protest atheism. This is a type of atheism which affirms
(1) I believe God does not exist
Of course all atheists affirm (1). The protest atheist distinguishes him or herself by also affirming something like:
(2) If God does exist, God should not be worshipped.
There is more here than just a formal withholding of worship however. The protest atheist also likely holds something like
(3) If God does exist, God should be hated.
The most famous example of protest atheism is found in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov where Ivan the atheist relays to his pious Christian brother Alyosha a story of a young boy who was torn apart by hunting dogs in front of his mother. Then with a deep bitterness Ivan tells Alyosha, “It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket.” Ivan does not ultimately believe God exists, but even if God does exist Ivan makes clear that he wants nothing to do with him.
What is the source of Ivan’s anger? As the context makes clear it is the problem of evil. If there is any superintending divine intelligence that allows the world’s evil for some divine purpose, Ivan wants nothing to do with that God. Such a deity is worthy of nothing but rebellion. Not only does Ivan refuse worship to God (b) but in fact he hates God (c). Or, more correctly, if God exists then he hates God.
The concept at play here is quite simple. Consider the following analogy. A man comes back to his home town in Kansas and discovers that it has been wiped out. His first thought is that the town was destroyed by a tornado. But the man also concludes that if there was some intelligence behind the destruction of his town — e.g. an assault by Al Qaeda– then he will rebel against and hate those people who destroyed his town. But for now he believes the culprit was an undirected tornado.
That is like the protest atheist’s position on God. They don’t believe God exists but if he does exist they will refuse to worship him and will hate him.