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Maltheism (from "mal" meaning bad, or illness, and theism, from… well, theism) is the idea that God is just out to get us and that they are malicious, like a kid who keeps removing the pool ladders in The Sims. A maltheist, therefore, is someone who believes that a god or gods exist, and that they are evil, malicious, incompetent, or otherwise causing the suffering of humanity. In essence, Maltheism is the idea that God exists, but is essentially toying with us.

While just as conjectural and unproven (and indeed unlikely) as all other forms of theism, maltheism boasts the notable feature of solving the otherwise show-stopping problem of evil. Further, several other major problems with a theistic God, such as the propagation of several contradictory divine messages (with recommendations of holy war to resolve the dispute), God's failure to provide any clear evidence whatsoever for His own existence, the wasteful and sometimes incompetent design choices made in creation, etc. all become unproblematic facts of life once the maltheistic assumption is made — that God really is a deranged intergalactic Joker with a Stalinist streak.

As further proof of the fact that innate morals predate religion, however, almost no ethically serious person chooses maltheism over the far more fallacious — and, crucially, more wish-fulfilling — concept of (somehow benign) theism.

In religion and fiction[edit]

  • Most religions do not accept a maltheistic view of the world; however, many nonbelievers might argue that given the apparent capriciousness and insecurity of YHWH (especially in the Old Testament, but also in parts of Revelation), that the Judeo-Christian tradition is maltheistic at its core.
    • This is especially prevalent in fringe offshoots of these religions, which often take divine command theory to its logical conclusion. An example of this would be the Westboro Baptist Church, which believes that God predestines people to sin, so he can punish them for sinning. It should be pointed out, however, that these beliefs are only maltheistic from the perspective of outsiders; believers in this view of God honestly think that His arbitrary whims are always good.[note 1]
    • Maltheism has also influenced Jewish theistic thought in the form of Holocaust theology.[1] Holocaust Theology (named so as a result of the Holocaust) is the idea that the Jewish God is not entirely worthy of worship, and is not entirely benevolent.
  • Sethian Gnostics are semi-maltheistic, as they believe the material world was created by an imperfect, evil sub-god named Ialdabaoth.[note 2] Other branches of Gnosticism refer to this as the Demiurge.Wikipedia Sethians regard the true God who created all the non-material stuff as good, however.
  • The Cainites, an older Gnostic sect, held that the God of the Old Testament is essentially the Devil, and that Cain (who killed his brother Abel with the jaw bone of an ass and created invented murder) is the first victim of this evil god (called in Gnostic thought the Demiurge) who punished Cain. Cain is actually worthy of worship because by perpetrating murder, he allowed humans to reject it.
  • The Church of the SubGenius often has a strong maltheistic streak to its deities.
  • H.P. Lovecraft depicted a sort of maltheism where Azathoth, the creator "god", was too stupid and/or insane to pay any attention to the universe, and lesser gods like Cthulhu were essentially too apathetic to human life to prevent themselves from causing widespread death and/or insanity whenever they appeared.[note 3]
  • Maltheism is a philosophy mostly evident in Judeo-Christian thought and in Gnosticism (especially older Gnostic sects); it is also related in many ways to pagan faiths. Numerous stories from pagan mythology and semi-mythical pagan accounts tell of heroes abandoning their gods because they are not worthy of worship.
    • This isn't quite maltheism, though, as pagan pantheons are often full of deities who are not worthy of worship, and are worshipped anyway only because the worshippers know they will be stricken down if they refuse.
    • Note that Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160) saw the God of the Jews, whom he called the Demiurge, as an evil and possibly incompetent being who perpetrated the material universe while the God of Christianity was a higher being of compassion and love. This concept survives in the idea that the Devil is the "god" of this world, as outlined in 2 Corinthians 4:4.
  • The graphic novel Preacher presents a God who, while not exactly malicious, has a severe case of self-esteem issues. He psychologically needs to be loved. All of creation is an attempt to make something to love him and make him feel valid. First the angels, who were made to love him. The Angel War/Fall of Satan was orchestrated entirely to see if the angels would keep loving him after they had competition. Then came Earth and mortal man, and they were all intentionally made flawed, to give people valid reasons not to love and worship him, just to make it a bigger ego boost when they do. God is very likely to do generous acts of miracles, but he does them so he can say how awesome he is. Whenever he's questioned, he goes up in flames and pulls out several arguments — mainly that he's above questioning and all of creation is his to do with as he pleases. The main characters are less than persuaded.
  • It's a bit hard not to read fire-and-brimstone Christianity, as espoused (for example) by Jonathan Edwards this way.
  • In the Salvation War series, Yahweh is a massive (also in the physical sense) jerk on the line of the Old Testament, who, as people turned their backs and stopped adoring him, declared war on Humanity.[note 4] You can imagine how that ends when you consider his forces have Bronze Age technology plus powers that science can explain… and humans have nukes, jets, tanks, and other cool toys.

In other philosophies[edit]

  • Some atheist critics of religion take the position that if the God of the Old Testament exists, he is not worthy of worship, as he appears to be a moody genocidal nutjob. This position is called "Hypothetical Maltheism".
  • A position which is sometimes mistaken for maltheism is Misotheism. Maltheism is the position that God is not worthy of worship because He/She/It/Them/Other is a fallible being like humans. Misotheism is the active hatred of God.

See also[edit]


  1. See the Wikipedia article on Holocaust theology.


  1. The upshot of this is that these people can't use Pascal's Wager in their arguments. If you're damned no matter what, why would anyone follow your religion? The downshot is that believers in this have basically no reason not to behave like total dicks.
  2. Or Yaldabaoth, we’re not picky.
  3. Pop culture has bastardized this into malice, but the only god from Lovecraft's mythos that could be called actively malicious is Nyarlathotep.
  4. He was not alone on that, but this article is about YHWH, not Satan. Look in TVTropes (abandon all hope ye who enter there) for more.