• Complimentary Earplugs (Part 6 of 100)


    CJ Flesher is an autodidact, atheist, activist, and author of www.OddOklahoma.com

    So much of horror fiction is lost on many atheists. Don’t get me wrong, we can appreciate the writing, and for the sake of the narrative we’ll buy the metaphysical worldview. Still, the Exorcist will always be more frightening for your average Catholic than it is for most atheists.

    Catholics don’t have to ‘buy in’ to the premises of the story. It is starting where they already live. This is why I tend to be drawn to sci-fi horror, especially when it doesn’t venture beyond the plausibility of the current findings of science.

    The first couple of Alien films, and the masterpiece Moon, are some of my favorite examples of this. Moon isn’t usually listed as horror, but it has all of the elements I feel are important to the genre.

    The father of modern sci-fi horror is H. P. Lovecraft. He has had massive influence on writings and film makers ranging from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman; from John Carpenter to Guillermo Del Toro.

    Lovecraft’s writings are usually categorized into three types: macabre, dream cycle, and the Cthulhu mythos. The macabre stories are in the style of Poe. The dream cycle is reminiscent of Lord Dunsany. The Cthulhu mythos is something else entirely. What Lovecraft pulled off with his mythos is creating a universe that vacillates between indifferent to humans and outright malevolent.

    Lovecraft’s universe is essentially atheistic. It allows for paranormal elements, like telepathy and reanimation of corpses, but none of it is associated with the traditional concept of the supernatural. Instead, the so-called gods are more like hulking lumbering aliens that are worshiped and placated by ignorant followers out of fear and in the hope of currying favor. Lovecraft clearly holds a cynical view of religion in general.

    While most of Lovecraft’s stories are dated, and the racism can be hard to get past, they provide the foundation and tropes for later horror stories that atheists can clearly relate to.

    One of the criticisms of (for lack of a better description) the materialist worldview, is the idea that the universe is ultimately indifferent. It makes sense, therefore, that horror fiction that appeals to atheists is going to face this existential crisis head-on.

    For those interested in reading Lovecraft’s stories, his complete works are available for free in digital format.

    There is a podcast I can recommend as a supplement to any reading. The H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast covers almost all of the his stories, and does a good job of getting into the scholarly material on each one. The hosts are informed and easy to listen to. I’m currently making my way through the run, and thoroughly enjoying it.

    Category: Complimentary EarplugsFreethought in Popular Culture

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.