Theism is from theos, the Greek word for “God.” Mal- is from the Latin and means “evil” or “bad.” So, maltheism is the belief that God, if He exists, is really evil. Maltheism would also see praise and worship of God as improper as it simply feeds His egomania.
There are no official maltheist groups or “religions”; however, there may be individuals who believe God is evil or that He has it in for them and has therefore treated them unfairly; some maltheists may even band together unofficially. (As of the date of this writing, there was a Facebook page for “The Universal Church of Maltheism.” The organizers state, “We believe that there is a god and he hates us all. His [sic] plays with us as a child plays with insects, confusing us, laying traps for us to fail and promoting our suffering.” As of 12/6/2021, that page had 20 followers.)
Maltheism seems to be most often proposed by atheists who say that, if God really did exist, He would be an evil God because of all the pain and suffering in the world and because of all the things that they consider to be evil that He does in Bible. For instance, in The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p.51).
There are really three possible responses to this kind of thinking. The first might be to put forward some of the traditional responses to the problem of evil or theodicy. These kinds of answers may be helpful to the honest skeptic or to Christians who may have some doubts about what God is doing in the world.
However, there are at least two other ways to address the issue of maltheism. One is to confront it head-on, much the way that God addressed Job when Job questioned God’s justice. Any time a person accuses God of being evil, that person is making himself the standard and judging God against it. God challenged Job with these words:
“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you” (Job 40:8–14).
This kind of questioning continues through the end of Job 41. God is God, and He sets the standard. To hold to maltheism—to say that He is evil—is to set ourselves up as God in His place. He made us; He sets the standard of right and wrong, good and evil, and we have to answer to Him. He does not answer to us. It would be normal to expect that we would misunderstand or disagree with many things He tells us. This is the essence of sin—doing our own thing based on our own standards.
Those who hold the view that God does evil things are often hypocritical. Many maltheists are also “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion. If a woman can kill her child because it is part of or in her body, why cannot God deal with His creation as He chooses? The truth is that God does have absolute rights over creation, and for that reason no human being, man or woman, has absolute rights over their own bodies. No one has the right to kill anyone else except in the situations in which God has allowed or commanded it. God gives life, and He takes it as He sees fit.
Another approach to maltheism is perhaps best used with those who are going through personal hardship that has made them think that God is against them. In these cases, it is good to be God’s representative, providing love and support—emotional, physical, and spiritual. In some cases, this may mean simply being there and meeting needs without trying to explain why the hardship happened.
Whatever God’s reasons for allowing evil and suffering, He is not asking us to do anything that He did not do Himself. In Jesus Christ, He entered the world of evil and suffered with us and ultimately for us. Whatever the reasons that He allows evil to continue temporarily, the cross proves that it cannot be because He is evil or that He is uncaring or unloving.