Politics Magazine

Atheist Deities

Posted on the 09 May 2014 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

HPL in Pop CultureAn atheist who created gods. That’s the basic skinny on H. P. Lovecraft. Perhaps all gods are thus created. I can’t know; I wasn’t there at the beginning. Among writers who failed to make much of an impression in their lifetimes, Lovecraft staged a remarkable comeback in his afterlife. Don G. Smith’s H. P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture attests to the fact that some academics are beginning to pay attention to one of Providence’s most famous children as his works continue to spin off new forms. With an almost Puritan devotion to rationalism, Lovecraft saw no need nor room for deities in the world. His most ardent fans claim the gods he created are mere aliens, voyagers from beyond.

I wonder why one has to be a theist to create gods. Part of the problem is definitional; what is a god? According to the three fifty-cent words in the explanatory section of my young-person’s Bible, the traits are being omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. Problem is, in the Bible God doesn’t really seem to fit any of these particularly well. The closest match seems to be omnipotent, but omnipotence leads to logical conundrums in reasoning, creating rocks so large you can’t lift them, and all that. Gods are, by just about any ancient standard, defined in relational terms—they are more powerful than us. That’s true of Lovecraft’s gods as well. They are so powerful that merely viewing them could drive you insane, eh, Ezekiel? (Perhaps Ezekiel is a good choice to compare, since his God comes down from the sky as well. Some would claim in a spaceship.)

Lovecraft survived because he understood what scares a person. Power, without feeling, is frightening. I’ve seen it in the eyes of both Christian and Pagan and it always sends me away shuddering. Smith’s book is more concerned with the survival of H. P.’s ideas in the media. It is a pleasant stroll, or an unpleasant stroll, depending on your perspective, through the descendants of Lovecraft’s monsters and gods. There’s no shame in calling them deities. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that some kinds of entities are inherently frightening.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog