God, the Universe, and Horror
In a blog post last week, Christian blogger Mike Duran cites me to support his claim that H. P. Lovecraft and other "atheist horror" writers have created a world view that seeks to induce fear and horror by grounding their stories in an unkind cosmos whose defining feature is the absence of God:
"For the atheist horrorist, nothing but a 'monstrous chaos' without 'conscious purpose' can exist, godlike, at the center of the universe. This is true terror." (emphasis in original)
Therefore, the Christian should hold Jesus up as the "anti-Azathoth," the opposite of all things Lovecraft, the rejoinder to the "atheist" world view in which the great horror is an unending, meaningless void.
In this, Duran is wrong on several counts. First, "horror" is a feeling of fear mingled with repulsion. The Lovecraftian cosmos is more properly one of "terror," which is fear but fear without the repulsion. This brings us to the second problem. There is no fundamental opposition between Azathoth and Christian horror. Both aim to evoke terror--awe at the grandeur of the universe beyond humanity, the realm of forces and powers greater than mankind. The Christian may find the atheist cosmos especially frightening, but this is not because of anything inherent in Lovecraft's vision so much as it is the preconceived notions the Christian brings to it. At heart, Lovecraft's vast and awesome spaces populated by strange beings are meant to induce the same holy terror as the theist world he (and many modern readers) cannot believe in.
After all, what kind of atheist would be horrified that his ideology was real? And what does it say about Mr. Duran's brand of Christianity that the ultimate horror, in his words, is the fact that God really does exist?
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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