Bear Growls: God, Cthulhu and the New Atheists

Thursday, January 7, AD 2016

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an admirer of the work of our bruin friend at Saint Corbinian’s Bear.  In 2014 he wrote an absolutely brilliant post bringing together God, Cthulhu and the New Atheists:


H.P. Lovecraft was a horror writer who invented a world much like ours, except undermined by unspeakable conspiracies aimed at the destruction of everything sane and good. Okay, exactly like ours. At the heart of his writings are ancient gods who shall soon return, bringing madness and mayhem for humanity.

The most well-known is Cthulhu, who lies in troubled sleep deep beneath the ocean. The interesting thing about Lovecraft’s gods is that they are not exactly evil as utterly alien. There are no points of reference to allow us to guess at their motives or judge their actions. At least one is literally insane.

We’re pretty sure the luckiest humans will be the ones who get eaten first.

Say what you want about Cthulhu, but Richard Dawkins would not pretend to know his designs and methods better than Cthulhu himself. (Dawkins would be existing as a brain floating in a Mi-go jar on Pluto in the Cthulhu mythos. Cthulhu does not suffer fools gladly.)

Dawkins advised God that if He really wanted people to believe in Him, He should appear at everyone’s bedside for a chat. Obviously, what Dawkins fails to consider is that perhaps God’s desire is not merely that people acknowledge Him as a fact. His methods may suggest other motives. Plenty of people seem to have no problem believing in and even having a relationship with God through faith.

How often it is the Herods and Dawkinses of the world who, sneering, demand a miracle.

Nobody wants to wake up to find Cthulhu squeezed into their bedroom, pulling down the bed sheets with his mouth-tentacles. (Nor Dawkins, for that matter.) Dawkins would not dare to play at knowing someone as utterly alien as Cthulhu. How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways.

Actually, that last sentence wasn’t about Cthulhu. (NABRE, Romans 11:33.) It takes a whole book of the Bible — Job — to say just one thing:  God doesn’t ask for our advice or approval, or tell us more than we need to know. He is Other.

It seems like 95% of the New Atheist arguments come down to some guy, perhaps with a string of failed marriages that testify to his own purely earthly incapacities, imaging himself as God, then snorting that he would do a better job. (The other arguments are the equally inept Orbiting Teapot, Flying Spaghetti Monster and Darwin. And believers are supposed to be the dumb ones?)

Sometimes the Bear wishes we all had a deeper appreciation for the mystery and otherness of God Almighty, and for our own limitations — especially those of the intellect and imagination. A little humility, if you will. When well-meaning clerics try to humanize God, to make him “safe,” they are robbing us of the reality they should be defending.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10.

We do not have to imagine God as Cthulhu (in fact the Bear discourages that) but we should have a healthy fear of the Lord. For one thing, there is a judgment that each of us will face, and the possibility that it may not end well for us. But more to the point, we must have the humility not to make our own assumptions about the infinite, eternal, and all-powerful Holy Trinity. “Fear” is more like “awe,” or, more completely, according to Rudolph Otto, the experience of the numinous. Otto was a Lutheran theologian of the early 20th century who influenced, among others, C.S. Lewis in his The Problem of Pain. Otto wrote of the “non-rational factor” in religious experience. (This is not to say irrational.) He called the experience the mysterium tremendum. It is a holy dread, a desire to cover oneself, yet also a fascination.

The Bear knew a very small boy who found himself alone in his father’s still and dimly lit office with an American flag affixed to the wall. This profound experience bore all of Otto’s freight of fear and fascination, and of being in the presence of a mystery. This is of course a shadow of the encounter with the Living God! Here is what Isaiah, the greatest prophet of Israel, wrote:

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said:”Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5 RSV)

We also know that while God may be more alien than anything we can imagine, He is goodness itself. He wants us not only to believe in Him — even the demons do that, and tremble (James 2:9) — but to love Him. He sent his Son to a shameful death as a rescue and a ransom. How reckless and wonderful! The Book of Revelation depicts Jesus as hardly imaginable, even frightening. How often does our reception of Our Lord in the Eucharist do justice to the holy dread and fascination with which we should receive the very Son of God?
“Who Is This Who Darkens Counsel With Words of Ignorance?”
         For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
         nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. 
         For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
         so are my ways higher than your ways, 
         my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8–9). 

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said: Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance?” (Job 38:1–2). You can read the rest here, on the USCCB web site, or in your favorite Bible. It is a wonderful read, and speaks to the mystery that is God, a mystery that Catholics are privileged to participate in through His grace.

We began with H.P. Lovecraft, but, happily, will end with C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver attempts to communicate something Rudolph Otto might recognize. “‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.'”

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7 Responses to Bear Growls: God, Cthulhu and the New Atheists

  • It’s probably not for no reason that God’s true name almost looks like a confusion of letters like the name, C’thulhu.

    And it’s not for no reason we are told to have the faith of a child. The child fears the approaching needles and cries at the pain in his arm, but the parent knows that medicine must be delivered into the child’s body to make him well. The child cannot know the realities of germ and health, but must have faith that his parents do understand such things and permit such suffering happen to him because it is far better for his health in the long run.

    It is also why the God we worship must be All-knowing. If we were to worship Ra, he might intend our good, but he knows not what the plans of Sobek or Anubis might be and therefore direct us to act in what may be a hopeless cause or surprising suffering because the other gods lay a trap for him. No, our God is one who sees all. He commands us and we can have that childlike faith that He is commanding what’s best because nothing is hidden from Him. He cannot be trapped, He cannot be tricked.

    It certainly won’t always be easy, or safe, but we know it will be good.

  • Why would God leave us to seek Him through faith rather than through certainty? Well, we know that faith is akin to hope and love, all of which require the soul’s effort. We know through both experience and sacramental theology that faith, hope, and love are connected. You might say that faith is crawling, hope is walking, and love is running. They all involve movement toward the object. Knowledge of God doesn’t help us to build our muscles. As creatures stuck in time and space (unlike the angels) we have to grow to become what God intends us to be. Faith is the beginning of the process.

  • My own take on why God would require faith rather than simply reveal Himself fully to all is (1) we are simply not ready for it in our mortal state (or at least only a very rare few would be), and (2) it is like a rich man seeking true love – if he dazzled her with all his wealth, would she really love him for him, or for his wealth? Of course, being omniscient, God would know the answer, but for our sake – to give us the chance to truly love God for Who He is, and thus in a much deeper way, rather than out of fear (in the sense of being scared of Him).

  • I don’t really see faith and certainty being in conflict. Nor faith and reason. There are simply some things about God that cannot be reached through reason (e.g., His trinitarian nature, Christ’s resurrection), although much about God can be known through reason. Faith bridges the gap between what can be known through reason, and a more complete understanding. Much like physics vs. metaphysics. Broadly speaking, physics is limited to the realm of the causal, you need metaphysics to get to things such as will and purpose.

    The Resurrection is a perfect example. You cannot “reason” your way to the Resurrection. You either believe it occurred as a historical fact, or you don’t. You accept by faith the testimony of Scripture and its witnesses, or you don’t (much liike a juror ultimately has to accept on faith the testimony of a witness). Once accepted, you can then apply reason to work out the implications of the Resurrection, but the brute fact of the Resurrection requires faith.

  • but the brute fact of the Resurrection requires faith.

    I disagree. Christianity (as pointed out by the video Don posted awhile back) exists and exists all over the world. But when you look into the time it was born & spread, as JP Holding pointed out so well, there is NO reason it should have spread or survived at all.

    Yet here we are. The faith exists. Brute fact & reason of the matter is that some miracle must have happened in the 1st century for this faith to have survived at all. That a slain God-Man came back to life is the least implausible miracle explaining the whole thing.

  • This is a good post. If we really believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord God of all Creation, and we really believe that we eat His Body and drink His Blood at the Holy Eucharist, then we should fall prostrate at Confession immediately prior to reception, saying what the Prophet Isaiah said before us, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips.” Frankly, we should be scared out of our wits to receive Jesus.
    One quote above brought back a memory: “Dawkins would be existing as a brain floating in a Mi-go jar on Pluto in the Cthulhu mythos.” In a way, perhaps this has already been depicted:
    The Gamesters of Triskelion – maybe Dawkins was one of the three disembodied brains.

  • “We judge the Creator of All by our standards, and we do not repent, as Job did, for our blasphemous folly:”

    We wish to create God in our own image. We wish to have God on a leash so to speak. We wish a “personal experience with God.” We want God under our control for our benefit, a servant deity so to speak. Why do we do this? Because we do not understand the meaning of ‘God is Love’. Love takes many forms. God wants us to be like Him. We are not like Him. We are selfish and monstrous like Cthulhu in many ways. To become as God wishes us to be is generally a very long and painful process. God puts us through this process because He loves us. For many this is difficult to accept as love. God says do it my way, not your way. We should all be thankful God cares enough to do this for us when we are so reluctant, bitter and not gratefull about it.

Favorite Books of the Bible

Tuesday, May 5, AD 2015

Job and God



Since my parents purchased a Bible for me, at my request, for Christmas 1970, I have read a chapter from the New Testament and a chapter from the Old each night.  What a magnificent collection of books the Bible is!  Prophecies, histories, court chronicles, songs, gospels, letters, codes of laws and so much more.  The Bible is a boundless sea on which the human mind and soul can glimpse the eternal voyage.  Choosing one’s favorite books of the Bible is rather like picking one’s favorite children, but here goes.

In regard to emotional and intellectual impact nothing in the Old Testament moves me more than the book of Job where Man stands before his creator and realizes that God truly is I AM, the ultimate reality:

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

The longer I sojourn in this Vale of Tears the more I understand the truth and wisdom of this passage.

In the New Testament nothing can surpass the beginning of the Gospel of John:


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12 Responses to Favorite Books of the Bible

  • Your studious faithfulness to reading sheds light on your ability to daily offer these articles with a perspective of balance that must please God.
    Alas, since my reading is incomplete and inconsistent, I can only choose the two books that help understand the mind, power, love and presence of God.
    The Old Testament book choice of late years is II Samuel. David’s lyrics of thanksgiving tell the story of his amazing rescue with a special powerful verse: Ch. 22:19-20: but the Lord came to my support. He set me free in the open, and rescued me, because He loves me.
    The description of God coming to David’s aid is breathtaking.
    The New Testament book is Matthew for all the Wisdom and Teaching of Jesus it holds.

  • OT: Sirach. The best advice for any situation, and a perfect blueprint for a Godly life.
    NT: Revelation. We win.

  • Holy cow, Mac!

    We agree.
    I love them all but St. John is my most valuble Gospel. (MVG) Somewhere he teaches the overwhelmig valuable of the virtue charity, specifically forgiving all injuries, to our spriitual well-being. And, throughout is completely priceless.

    Job is very important to me. Here are some quotes I keep.

    “But as for me, I know my redeemer lives.”

    “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord and shall we not receive evil?”

    “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

    An OT Book that should receive more attention (I think) is Tobit. Some quotes.
    “Watch yourself, my son, in everything you do, and be disciplined in all your conduct.”

    “Seek advice from every wise man, and do not despise any useful counsel.”

    “Bless the Lord God on every occasion.”

    “Give alms from your possessions to all who live uprightly.”

    “Place your bread on the grave of the righteous, but give none to sinners.”
    I know! The peace and justice crowd will howl over the final two quotes.

  • My favorite’s are excerpts from many of the books; The Parables of Christ. ( The unjust steward / The great supper / The talents / The sower and the seed / Pharisee and the publican / and the Prodigal Son. Oh. From Johns Gospel 6:64 sum up the whole of these books; THE WORDS I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE.

    Old Testament “hymns of praise” mostly by King David. Psalm 96: 10-12 “You that loveth the Lord hate evil, the Lord preserveth the souls of his saints, he will deliver them out of the hand of the sinner. 11 Light is risen to the just, and joy to the right of heart. 12 Rejoice, ye just, in the Lord: and give praise to the remembrance of his holiness.

  • OT – Genesis, particularly the first dozen or so chapters. The foundation of our understanding of the universe.

    NT – I’m going to say Romans, but I feel bad not picking a Gospel. I attended a Traditional Latin Mass this past weekend, the first I’ve been to in a while, and I was marveling at the final Gospel, the passage you presented in this article. I was struck by the beauty of the passage. Yes, the theology, but also the poetry. Its beauty comes from it being the good news, the greatest possible human hope turning out to be true, beyond anything we dreamed of. I guess the perfect bookends would have been to choose the beginning of Genesis and the beginning of John as my favorites.

  • Nehemiah!
    1 and 2 Peter!

  • Since I am currently spending much time in these two, they are currently my favorites: The Wisdom of Solomon and The Letter to the Hebrews. At some point, if I am blessed, all the books of the Bible will become among my two favorites 🙂 .

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  • OT: Psalms
    NT: Luke / Acts (considered as one book).

  • My favorites-OT Isaiah, who prophesized to Ahaz that “a virgin shall bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel”. NT- St.Luke 1:26-38.

  • Depends on which day of the week you ask me. I can never decide which Gospel I “like the best” (I don’t even care for that wording). Of the Letters, my favorite is probably Second Peter. As for the Old Testament, it’s a toss-up between Genesis, 1 and 2 Samuel, and Wisdom.

    Force me to answer and I’ll pick Luke and Genesis, but I’d cry over not having picked something else!

The Answer

Sunday, February 23, AD 2014

The Answer

We are in God’s hand, brother, not in theirs.

Henry V to his brother prior to Agincourt, Henry V, Act III, Scene 6

The thirtieth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here , here , here, here, here, here and here.


Kipling, as I have often observed in this series, was not conventionally religious. Any man who could refer to himself as a good Christian atheist obviously would never qualify as being conventional in any sense in regard to faith.  However, many of Kipling’s poems do deal with religion, and few more powerfully than The Answer. At first glance a brief and simple poem, it deals with immensely complicated theological questions involving death, innocence, predestination and trust in God, a poetic rendition of the same issues raised in the Book of Job.

This poem, like Job, I suspect can only be understood completely by those afflicted with grief. The temptation when disaster overtakes us in this Vale of Tears, particularly disaster not brought on by any evil on our part, is to rail against our fate and against God.  This is natural, and it is always a mistake.  We are the children of a loving God and ultimately our response to what befalls us in this life can only be that of Job when he stands before God:

[1] Then Job answered the Lord, and said:

[2] I know that thou canst do all things, and no thought is hid from thee.

[3] Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have spoken unwisely, and things that above measure exceeded my knowledge.

[4] Hear, and I will speak: I will ask thee, and do thou tell me.

[5] With the hearing of the ear, I have heard thee, but now my eye seeth thee.

[6] Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.

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11 Responses to The Answer

  • Off topic, Donald McClarey.

    The Brazilian presidente, Dilma Rousseff, after visiting Pope Francis recently, said openly in her flight back that if Benedict XVI were still pope she will never visited him.

    Rousseff has things against Benedict XVI because he condemned abortion during Brazilian Elections in 2010. Her party, the same as Lula’s (former presidente), defends abortion.

    Her words follow the method divide to conquer, I do not know how Brazilian Catholics will read that (despite I am Brazilian). Brazilians are very low information voters, and Brazilian Catholics do not know much about Catholic Doctrine and about the real difference between Benedict XVI and Francis.

    However, it could be great to see how the world will read this.

    The news is in Portuguese, but you can use google translate:

    Best regards,
    Pedro Erik

  • Yeah, Donald. This lady. Well done in remembering this.

    The worst thing is that Brazil (the biggest Catholic country in the world) does not care. People in Brazil are very illiterate regarding religion.

    But, Catholics in the world could send a message to this president and her demonic words.

    Many thanks.

  • Kipling uses his brush in ways that mimic the Masters. His oil are words. His canvass our hearts. The layers of oil bring to life what was one dimension, a canvass transformed.

    Thank you Mr. McClarey.
    I have enjoyed your ongoing tribute to Kipling.

  • I second Philip’s comment.
    While Kipling is not taken seriously as a poet by today’s experts, I have more faith in my heart and ears than in theirs.

  • Been thinking about The Gods of the Copybook Headings a lot during the past couple of weeks, with a lot of my usual favorite blogs praising “marriage equality”.

  • Predestination? I’m tempted to change…
    “We bound unto the task
    That thou shouldst might fall,
    and such an one should could ask.”
    Because we must beware of conceiving the immutability of predestination either as fatalistic in the sense of the Mahommedan kismet or as a convenient pretext for idle resignation to inexorable fate. God’s infallible foreknowledge cannot force upon man unavoidable coercion, for the simple reason that it is at bottom nothing else than the eternal vision of the future historical actuality. God foresees the free activity of a man precisely as that individual is willing to shape it. (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)
    But my change is not quite right either. Guess I need to study up!

  • Also from the Encyclopedia, [Adequate] predestination refers to both grace and glory as a whole, including not only the election to glory as the end, but also the election to grace as the means… This is the meaning of St. Augustine’s words: “Prædestinatio nihil est aliud quam præscientia et præparatio beneficiorum, quibus certissime liberantur [i.e. salvantur], quicunque liberantur” (Predestination is nothing else than the foreknowledge and foreordaining of those gracious gifts which make certain the salvation of all who are saved). So the fallen Rose is a gift of grace, a præparatio for “such an one” to ask about.
    The reference to Allah’s will still makes me nervous, though.

  • “The reference to Allah’s will still makes me nervous, though.”

    Ah, but note how God refers to Himself as “We”, a clear reference to the trinity by Kipling. In regard to predestination, God knew before time began all His actions, and one of his actions in the poem is to will that a rose would fall to save a soul from Hell, just as God knew before time began that He would die on a Cross to save us.

  • Pinky: “Been thinking about The Gods of the Copybook Headings a lot during the past couple of weeks, with a lot of my usual favorite blogs praising “marriage equality””.
    This is about the free will act of sodomy. Being a same sex attracted person has nothing to do with any legislation. If the sodomites are going to insist that their free will act be legalized as though it were to define them as sovereign persons, they will have crippled the constitution. And themselves.
    It is simply wrong for militant gay activists to slander all same sex orientated persons as active sodomites. If militant gay-activists wish to secure the Blessings of Liberty for all, they need to differentiate between the homosexual act and homosexual existence, for the act is an offense against God and the existence is beloved by God.
    There can be no “marriage equality” if the gay militants, trying to in-culturate sodomy, include chaste, same sex oriented persons, without their informed consent or promise, to not marry opposite gender persons in matrimony. Chaste, same sex oriented persons who might marry opposite gender persons would put the lie to the gay agenda and to “marriage equality”. “Marriage equality” cannot be “equality” if chaste same sex oriented persons marry the “other sex” persons.

The Death of Willie Lincoln and God’s Purpose

Wednesday, June 5, AD 2013

[1] Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said:

[2] Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words?

[3] Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me.

[4] Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding.

[5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Job:  38:1-5

For any parent, I think the death of one of their children is the worst thing imaginable.  Abraham Lincoln would see two of his four sons die, Eddie and Willie, Willie dying on February 20, 1862 from typhoid fever, that great killer of the 19th century.  Mary Todd Lincoln would see three of her four sons die, and witness her husband  assassinated before her eyes.  Small wonder that Mrs. Lincoln had a fragile grasp on reality after so much sorrow.  Prostrate with grief, Mary Lincoln retired to her room for a month after Willie’s death, inconsolable in the immense anguish she felt, unable to bring herself to even attend Willie’s funeral.  Mr. Lincoln said when Willie died, “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!” Lincoln continued his work, not having the luxury of private grief in a time of such public peril.

Dr. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian church in Washington that the Lincolns sometimes attended, preached the funeral sermon.  I suspect this passage caught Lincoln’s attention:

His kingdom ruleth over all. All those events which in anywise affect our condition and happiness are in his hands, and at his disposal. Disease and death are his messengers; they go forth at his bidding, and their fearful work is limited or extended, according to the good pleasure of His will.

Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His direction; much less any one of the human family, for we are of more value than many sparrows.

We may be sure, — therefore, bereaved parents, and all the children of sorrow may be sure, — that their affliction has not come forth of the dust, nor has their trouble sprung out of the ground.

It is the well-ordered procedure of their Father and their God.

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Sunday, January 6, AD 2013

A great compilation of cavalry charges in movies.  Cavalry charges in reality were much grislier of course, with wounded and dying horses adding to the inherent horror of any battlefield.  However, it would take a heart of purest granite not to be stirred by the sight of a cavalry charge.  Job 39:  19-25 captures the glamor that has ever attended the cavalry:

[19] Wilt thou give strength to the horse, or clothe his neck with neighing? [20] Wilt thou lift him up like the locusts? the glory of his nostrils is terror.

[21] He breaketh up the earth with his hoof, he pranceth boldly, he goeth forward to meet armed men. [22] He despiseth fear, he turneth not his back to the sword, [23] Above him shall the quiver rattle, the spear and shield shall glitter. [24] Chasing and raging he swalloweth the ground, neither doth he make account when the noise of the trumpet soundeth. [25] When he heareth the trumpet he saith: Ha, ha: he smelleth the battle afar off, the encouraging of the captains, and the shouting of the army.   (Whoever the inspired author  was who wrote Job, I would wager that he had been a horse soldier at some point in his life!)

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